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The Sole Search

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Preston knew she was a busy girl. She went from settlement to settlement to deal with a myriad of needs of the people. The Commonwealth was a tough land to reap from, hardened from war and despair. But hope bloomed where ever she'd gone to. He'd admired that. She fought for them, gave more than what was expected. Maybe they'll even get to celebrate Christmas with far more meaning to it this year with the way things were going.

He knew her as the girl with the short brown hair hair, well trimmed fringe, emerald green eyes, palest and the most pure skin he'd ever seen. Oh and that clean smile of hers. Never seen anything like it.

Somehow she managed near perfection while maintaining all the work she did for them and work hard she did. She had her own personal struggles to deal with, but seriously, the way she held herself was the main reason he made her general in the first place. Majority of the time, she'd gone it without question. A woman, two hundred years on, puts in the hard yards without breaking a sweat.

Life improved immensely. A beacon of hope and establishment, a will as strong as steel and the wisdom of ages. But then...

One day she vanished. By vanished in the terms that it'd been some time she'd contacted any of the Minutemen. He'd gotten Radio Freedom to try to reach out to her. But none of that even worked. He understood she had serious work on her own to do and it was normal for her to leave for days at it time. But...it had Preston greatly worried. Days turned into weeks...weeks turned into months...

Finally, five months had gone by. While no groups had located her, Preston had decided to head to Diamond City with Dogmeat. He was anxious and concerned, considering that she would take Dogmeat everywhere with her. Five months ago, she left Dogmeat with Preston as she had ''matters to take care of." Whether these matters had been dealt with already or not, he just needed to know she was okay. It wasn't like her to disappear like this. Even Dogmeat became depressed from it. With his weapon in hand and her armoured pooch walking alongside him, he took it upon himself and let the others know he'd gone to Diamond City to find out more.

She'd discussed this 'Nick', this detective she'd spoken with in the hopes of finding her son and claimed he took the matter seriously and honourably. But she never told him the outcome of it all. She'd rather assist the settlements than otherwise talk about it anymore. What if she realised what had happened to him and was too distraught to talk about it? Was he dead? Did she struggle to accept that fact? Preston only wiped the sweat off his brow as he looked over the horizon, in the glimpse of the old city before him.

He'd have to find out from Nick himself.

Preston arrived in Diamond City in the twilight of the evening. It was such a bright place, filled with people and chatter. He'd imagined it as such, with all the hype from the other settlers and their descriptions of the great green jewel. Whether or not any settlements could reach a status of significance wasn't something he'd thought often. He just wanted everyone to be happy, safe and healthy. Including his General.

Though of his past discussions with her, she mentioned that he'd been helpful and was recommended to her. A Detective, like the old prewar stories. Those of the inquisitive minds and sharp intellects. Sounded like someone she highly respected. He'd heard of him before, just never met him personally.

He'd gone down the alleyways and found the neon light sign directing him to his office. The feeling of anxiety rolled up his throat. He looked at Dogmeat, who tilted his head as he stared right back at Preston, who then took a heavy sigh.

"Well, it's better than nothing."

He wandered inside, seeing the desk in front of him, with a young woman sitting behind it. He scanned the room briefly, seeing the steel drawers and the paperwork everywhere. Dusty and old, he'd imagined the detective work would draw in the piles all the time.

"Hi." He stated awkwardly. He wouldn't have come here if it wasn't necessary. At this point, Preston considered all the options. He felt most comfortable with getting aid from an expert.

The young woman looked up from the desk and smiled at him.

"Oh hi! Nick's just out for a bit, come sit down, meanwhile tell me what you need. I'm Ellie, Nick's assistant."

Preston shook her hand and gave a quick nod as he sat down. Dogmeat sat down next him.

"I'm looking for someone." Preston stated. He'd expected they'd get that a lot. He was prepared to give as much detail as possible to help find her.

Ellie grabbed a pencil and paper, going into work mode to jot down details.

"Description?" She asked him.

He nodded and placed his hands in his lap.

"Young woman, short brown hair, pale skin, average height...ain't too tall, ain't too small. Can't miss her white teeth. Not a lot of people in the Commonwealth with those, especially with that nice smile of hers. Green eyes too."

His eyes were tied to the floor as his mind conjured up the numerous amount of times she smiled as they spoke. Despite the darkness they'd gone through, the woman's demeanour stood tall in the harshest breeze.

"Hm...okay...name?" Ellie asked. Preston looked at her face as the tone of her voice changed to that of realisation. Her brows had furrowed as she went to her drawer and pulled out several pieces of paper.

"Delta." Preston answered.

Ellie froze, then put the papers and her pen down. Her eyes drew up to Preston's as if she was studying him.

"Delta...the Delta?" She inquired. Preston wouldn't have doubted the fact she would have heard that name, let alone know the woman herself.

"Yeah. She's told him about this place before. I was hoping you'd seen her around lately." Preston told her.

Ellie shook her head.

"No...we haven't..."

Preston knew something was up just by her tone and body language alone. He wanted to peek at the other sheets as well, but she put them into a manilla folder and placed it on the tray next to her.

"But we'll help you find her. Can I ask for your name though?"

Preston nodded.

"Preston Garvey. I'm one of the Minutemen. Uhhh...Delta is our General. It's very disconcerting that she's been gone for about five months without reporting in and we're all just worried about her."

Ellie tapped the desk as she pulled her tongue and twisted it, as she became deep in thought.

"I see. Well, I uhhh would recommend you wait until Nick comes back. I'll get him to speak to you. He'll ask you more questions. Is that okay Mr. Garvey?"

Of course. Anything to find Delta and to make heads or tails out of this situation would prove beneficial in the search itself.

Ellie turned her attention to the column of drawers as they awaited Nick's return. Part of him knew better than to ask more but...he patted Dogmeat next to him to pass the time, thinking the poor animal was missing his partner dearly.

Not too long after Nick had returned from where ever he'd gone to. Preston turned to see the hat and the detective get up and almost jumped as he looked into the synths yellow, robotic eyes and machinations underneath the broken skin. He tried to not jump to conclusions to his surprise, but calmed down as he patted Dogmeat, surprised to see the dog even there. Nick's eyes met with Preston's for a brief moment, then paid attention to Ellie as she gave Nick the folder.

"One moment Preston..." She told him, taking Nick to the other side of the room. Preston could hear them whispering and the occasionally glance back as Nick took the folder and looking through the papers himself. He saw him nod before walking back over to sit in the chair to look at him.

"So you're one of the Minutemen hm?" Nick stated. Preston wasn't ensured by his face whether he was happy, sad or angry. His tone sounded neutral but...

"Yes. Helping out the people of the Commonwealth at a minute's notice." He responded with pride.

"Yeah so I've heard. From what I can see here you're searching for Delta?"

For a synth, he seemed pretty human to him. He wondered what Delta thought when she'd first met him too.

"Yes. She's been gone, for about five months now. It's not unusual for her to be gone for, maybe one or two weeks tops. I understand she's going through a lot. I heard her mention your name a few times. Which is why I've come to you."

There were times Preston wished he could read minds. That way he could tell what peoples intentions were. Nick was one of those he couldn't really read him at all. He's fought Synths before and from their shots and their phrases he knew they were the enemy, alongside all the horror stories he's heard about the Institute.

Nick's...entire self-image greatly contrasted what he'd normally expect from them. If they'd kept up conversation like this, Preston would forget that Nick was a synth at all. Preston wouldn't have even bothered with Nick if it wasn't for Delta's good word. And he trusted Delta's judgement. He wouldn't have made Delta General otherwise.

"I see. Heh...nice to see she put in a good word for me. She failed to mention she was with the Minutemen, although it wouldn't have been something we would have brought up in conversation unless we'd spoken about it directly or it was relevant. No matter, it's interesting to see and not all that surprising that she's part of it. Dame's a good role model after all." Nick analysed. He then looked at Dogmeat then back to Preston and pondered for the moment.

"Anything else you need from me?" Preston asked him. What's he said didn't feel like it would have been enough to go on.

"Seeing Dogmeat with you tells me I can trust you. Dog's have a keen instinct and can smell deception. This mutt was her trusty companion...our trusty companion into..."

Nick stopped before he said too much. He then clasped his hands together, as Preston examined one robotic skeletal hand and the somewhat normal hand as they clung.

"Has she told you anything else about herself?"

Some days, Delta and Preston could afford to relax for a while or too, especially when days it either rained or a radiation storm would force them to take point in shelter for some time. They exchanged many stories, especially her main priorities at this time.

"Well, I know she's 200 years old plus at least...from what she could tell me. Frozen from Pre-war. But no ghoul. Crazy right? I could hardly believe it myself. I questioned if it was true myself, but Delta had been nothing but honest...and when she told me about her son, her tears were evidence enough to prove it."

Nick nodded at that, and frankly, from Preston's observation, could see his shoulder's relax as he sat back and made a look at Ellie.

"I think we can trust the cowboy." He commented to her.

That puzzled Preston a bit as he furrowed his brow.

"Trust me? What makes you think I can't be?" He asked Nick.

Nick sighed as Ellie handed him the folder.

"Preston was it? Look, we've had several others come to me to look for her. All of them concerned about her well-being." Nick announced.

That puzzled him even more. There were others looking for her too? Odd. What had she been doing? Certainly Miss Popular these days from the sounds of it. Not that he bothered into what ever she did, she just told him naturally, like they were good friends after all.

"Delta had a lot of contacts. I mean, a lot. For her to just drop of the grid like that is extremely unusual. When there's a consistency in place and it disappears, you gotta find out why. All of you seemed to have that seem kind of consistency like...she had a schedule in place in what she planned and what she did. All on top of trying to find her son."

It made Preston think a lot about it. She had it planned extraordinary well, and juggled dozens of settlements daily. Made the route, made sure they had enough resources and if there were any issues she'd sought them as much as she could. That was in Delta's very nature.

"You think she found him and not told anyone?" Preston wondered.

Nick rubbed his chin and made a disagreed noise.

"Who knows. There's dozens of possibilities."

He grabbed another piece of a paper and the pencil and shuffled them to Preston.

"You Minutemen deal with settlements and so forth all the time. I need you to write me a list of settlements you currently help out with and their locations. I then will have to check out each one thoroughly."

Preston's eyebrows raised with surprise.

"You're seriously not thinking going into each settlement are you? A lot of the people don't take kindly to Synths." Preston warned him.

Nick chuckled.

"No...of course not. I just need time to quickly pour over the details. You know, research the history of these places and what not. The gals been everywhere which, in a way makes it easy and hard to find her. If she's been to nearly every corner of the Commonwealth and knows it's nooks and crannies, she could easily hide anywhere and in case of being discovered, move elsewhere."

That annoyed Preston somewhat. She wouldn't be the one to hide. Delta was a definite fighter. Which left two options...she was kidnapped...or she was murdered. He shuddered at the thought of the latter.

"I highly doubt that she's just decided to pack up and leave. Unless she's found her son. Even then, the Commonwealth was her home. There's not a lot that make's sense in this. Maybe I didn't know her well enough to know what she was trying to do." Preston surmised, feeling weak and confused. In all their talk, Delta would be the encouraging one. Even in the darker days, he could feel her confidence being more radiant..than...radiation? Silly comparison.

Or was it all a facade?

"I'm getting the idea Delta had more to hide than any of us. Out of everyone they've talked to so far they saw her as a helping hand and, going from what you've described as, wearing a clean smile. They may have mentioned her son but everything else about her is a complete mystery." Nick stated, looking through the papers.

That was true. Son. Vault Dweller. Dead Husband. If it wasn't helping people out, it was finding out more about her son.

"You...may have a point there. Alright, I'll start jotting down all the locations. You don't think she would have gotten kidnapped..do you?" Preston questioned as he grabbed the pencil.

Nick crossed his arms.

"That is a factor that I've previously considered. She's a tough gam. And a lucky one. If she's not dead that is."

Preston knew somewhere deep inside, that Delta wouldn't have been killed. The Commonwealth was a place where it could be easy to just die if you really wanted to. Even himself, but it commanded the will to do so. While society died out, the will to survive grew stronger and more alive with time that passed. That was the meaning of all of the settlements. Delta was that, personified.

Preston liked to think that, like was mentioned, a good role model. The ideal of the strength of the Commonwealth itself. Was everyone like that in Prewar times? He'd like the idea of a strong force protecting the weak. After all, wasn't that the idea of the Minutemen in the first place?

Sanctuary was their home. It had been Delta's home. It nearly broke her when she'd seen it in it's two century worn state. Alongside Codsworth. Her Mr. Handy.

Preston didn't mind his presence there. It seemed to perk her up occasionally. To give the illusion of normalcy. That of what she considered family that didn't die off or go away. Of course he wasn't human. He was that of which simply being there and having the voice of knowing where one stood. Especially when it came to Delta.

Before he'd come to Nick he'd asked Codsworth what she did normally and what she was like Prewar. He couldn't tell her much. He wasn't that old when the bombs fell. But from what little time they had together, he could already see the loving family before him and was blessed to be with them and was saddened when they had to run to the Vault without him. Mum...Nate...and little Shaun. Her world...gone in an instant. Codsworth's had disappeared for two centuries but never gave up hope.

Yet, there was something different he did note afterwards. She was perky, yes. Tenacious and brave.

She wasn't the same however. After she'd told him what had happened, Codsworth could only describe it as heartbreaking.

"Here you go. All the settlements." Preston explained, sliding the sheet over to Nick.

Nick picked up the sheet himself and quickly scanned it.

"Ah good thank you. Should definitely help. Ellie and I will try our best. But now you're here and from what you've told me, I already have a plan..the beginning of one that is." Nick replied.

Great, some action. No wonder Delta liked him.

"I don't know if this is a great or terrible idea. But I'll run with it as we go along. It's not perfect but if it works, I can almost guarantee we'll be able to find her."

Better than nothing. If it had a chance at succeeding, Preston would take it.

"Hit me." Said Preston as he mentally prepared himself.

"I want you to head to Vault 111. I'll meet you there with there in a day or two."

Shouldn't be too hard. It was disappointing to not know what the rest of the plan was.


Still, he shouldn't be doubting someone Delta trusted. He had to know what he was doing, but Preston didn't like to be in the dark about it. Too many secrets end up killing people. He'd follow Delta into the depths of hell if she needed to. He could trust her to bring them both out alive. She's killed Deathclaws and Super Mutants...the scum of the Commonwealth and still came out on top. With the cautious blood running through his veins, he took his rifle in hand and patted Dogmeat and endured his way up north.

He passed by Sanctuary on the way back, seeing the rest of the crew as he came through. Sturges was working on a generator. Delta had hoped to construct a decent lighting network throughout Sanctuary. Got a little dark at times. But Sturges ended up having to do the work in her absence. Not that he minded. Man always needed something to tinker with.

"Hey, any luck with Ol' Nick?" The mechanic asked.

Preston adjusted his hat.

"Yeah. Told me to wait it up at the Vault above. He says he has a plan to help find the General." He told him.

Sturges nodded. The mechanic usually went with what ever flow Preston had at the time.

"A plan's better than nothing...by the way, we've spotted several people walking up this way too. Not settlers just...I dunno...you know that feeling you get in your gut that tells you that something isn't right?"

All the time. Preston could barely trust anyone these days. But if you gave your word, trust became necessary. It just took its time to find that out the hard way.

"You thinking we're gonna get ambushed up here?" Preston wondered. He certainly hoped not.

Sturges shrugged.

"I don't like the look of it. I'm staying on guard. Told the others to do so as well. Mama Murphy said that it's nothing to worry about so...it's weird to hear her say that. I'm not, not taking her word...just taking precautions..."

He prayed that no one had slipped her any chems in the mean time. He highly doubted it, but as Sturges explained it to him, now his gut was getting unwanted feelings. Nick didn't seem to be the type who played games. Hell, he'd be the one to play the game to solve it, if all else.


In all honesty, Preston still was cagey about it. It began with the third week when he'd expected her to return and run checks on all the settlements, though at the start of the first week was when she'd left Dogmeat behind. By the end of the fourth week it was when he was really worried.

By the end of the fourth week he had Radio Freedom relay that message to the General. No response.

The settlements themselves, at least some of them, had been attacked by Raiders. Minutemen responded in kind to do what they could but none of them ever saw Delta involved in any of the fights.

Hundreds of thoughts went through Preston's mind. He looked at Dogmeat, knowing that she wouldn't have left him there without a good reason, it took time, caps and organising to ensure that routines were kept throughout the networks they carried. The provisioners, the resources and making sure the trade routes were kept clear.

Now that it had been five months, the reality just got stranger. What prompted Preston to take the jump was the pressure of maintaining the settlements. Increased Synth attacks, word of Synths kidnapping settlers and so on. Delta wouldn't have let that happen on her watch and Preston felt incredibly useless. He knew he was no leader, he had to do something about it before it became much worse.

So where the hell was Delta?

He'd readied himself with what he needed. Enough stimpacks, food, ammo and Dogmeat.

He told Sturges to keep an eye on the place and to get Radio Freedom to contact him if they needed anything. Sturges was happy to oblige but assured Preston he wasn't even going that far.

Preston adjusted himself and took a deep breath. He wasn't sure why he was so nervous about it all. He just couldn't take it on board like everything else. This was someone he cared about. Someone who could open themselves to him and let him be himself without worrying about the rest of the world around them. Dogmeat was great company no doubt, Sturges was alright but Delta spoke his language.

He wandered up the beaten track towards the Vault. Each step he took, he did it with nerve. He wasn't sure what to expect. He'd never been up here before... he never needed to. And Delta never took him there on their previous travels. Didn't stop him from being curious about it, nor scared.

Preston was a grown man though. But most of his decisions ended up with people dying. He couldn't handle the pressure. He had thought himself that the day he admitted it all to Delta, the fact that he didn't care if he died let a lot of pressure off his chest. He'd never told anyone else before. The fact that he held this much trust in Delta about himself made him realise that she never told him that much about herself. So while Preston trusted Delta...did Delta trust him?

He wished she was there to alleviate his broken thoughts. She could make sense of it, more than he could. He wanted to hear her voice again, to say it's all okay, even if it wasn't. Just having here there would make it just right.

He came to the top, where he could see a big gear shaped platform. He looked at Dogmeat who whimpered, clearly stating at how uncomfortable this made him. This was where she came from. This was her fate for over 200 years. Preston walked forward as they both stood on the platform.

Preston nearly jumped as he heard a grinding noise as the platform started to descend. He wet his dry lips with his tongue and paid attention to the rhythm of his own breathing, then gripped his rifle all the tighter.

This place made him slightly nauseous in it's design. He'd heard about the vaults. Where most of the Commonwealth seemed relatively normal in its damaged state, these places seemed to greatly go against the general aesthetic of what he was used to. A lot of blue, grey and the occasional yellow. As he wandered around, he felt a slight chill in the air. Stale and very still.

Dogmeat growled and took a stance. He could smell something else.

"Let's go Dogmeat, you obviously know something's not right here. Show me."

He followed the canine around the vault, which he treaded carefully. He could hear voices nearby, so he navigated around with his eyes peeled for any danger. He did come across an open room where the voices were coming from. He put an index finger to his lips for Dogmeat to be silent as Preston pressed his ear against the wall, trying to listen in to the conversation.

"Is he even coming?" Said one voice. Male.

"I'm not sure. He said to meet us here...now that we've come to that conclusion. You're both lucky I didn't shoot you down. Especially you Synth." Said another male, who's voice had more boom in it.

"If I was ordered to kill, I would have done it sooner." Said yet another, which had a monotonous tone to it.

"Well ain't you both peachy? If it got any cosier I would have brought some beers." the first voice spoke.

Wait? There were more down here. Preston had to be sure.

"Wait, I'm getting readings...someone else is here." The third voice announced.

Preston gulped. He hadn't even shown himself! What the hell.

"It's probably him on his way." The second voice suggested.

"It's not Synth...be on your guard." The third voice stated.

Preston could hear the sounds of guns being pulled out and safety's being clicked off. So much for being stealthy. If Delta were here she would handle this situation easily.

"Come out so we can see you!"

He sighed. He'd rather not provoke anything more than them to start shooting at him. He slung his rifle around his back and raised his hands as he got up and entered.

"Don't shoot." Preston pleaded.

The three men were very distinctive. First was clad in a white shirt, jeans, sunglasses and a black slicked up hair. The one in the middle wore power armour and from the emblem on the armour's torso, it was easily identifiable as the Brotherhood of Steel.

The one on the left was clad in black leather that Preston recognised as a Courser.

Three...obviously dangerous men in a strange place. Now a fourth had entered the deal.

"Who are you?" Asked the one in Power Armour.

The one in the white shirt smirked.

"Relax big guy, It's one of the Minutemen...Preston Garvey wasn't it?"

Preston had never seen this man before. He had the air of cocksureness about him though. It wasn't clear why. Dogmeat didn't seem to mind their presence. In fact he even smiled. In a dog-smiley way.

More footsteps made them cautious and pull out their weapons once more. All they could see was a shadow in the distance. Preston could smell the scent of a cigarette alongside it.

"So a Minuteman, a Railroad Agent, a Paladin and a Courser walk into a vault..." Spoke a familiar voice.

"The Synth Detective behind the bar says, sorry we got no Survivors here."

Preston pulled down his weapon slowly, as he saw the glowing, yellow eyes approach.

"Nick." Preston muttered with surprise.

The synth detective walked inside underneath the light, his form; glaring as his eyes trailed between all four of them. It made Preston's anxiety a fraction worse. He was willing, but uncertain where this would lead.

"Good afternoon gentleman, I've gathered you all here under...riveting circumstances. And I'm not talking about the desire to beat the shit out of each other."

No doubt. The fact that all four known large groups in the Commonwealth were standing in this very room made the tension quite thick. Preston wondered why he hadn't seen corpses already because of this.

"Before we get started I wanted to introduce everyone to each other and why we're here. Properly...and not with the damnable snarkness and the bullshit...I'm talking about you Deacon."

The synth continued, glaring at the white shirted man who appeared offended.

"Hey I haven't done anything...well, not yet anyway." The man responded in kind. Preston got the idea this one liked to cause trouble.

Nick smirked, then turned to everyone else as he fiddled with his cigarette.

"As I was saying, I wanted everyone to know everyone else first. I'll start...I'm Nick Valentine..."

"Hiii Niiick!" Deacon said with a drone, as if addressing a teacher. Nick just rolled his eyes.

"You all know me...and this happy, little fellow is Deacon from the Railroad, this tin can is Paladin Danse from the Brotherhood of Steel...and uhh..."

He looked at the Courser with a mixture of anger and confusion. Bad vibes were coming from everywhere.

"That's X6-88. A Courser from the Insitute...and that...well, Preston Garvey from the Minutemen. Got that? Good."

Deacon chuckled.

"I'm calling him Sicks." He stated.

The Courser had no particular reaction to that. Preston was still reasonably nervous about the whole thing. He wanted to ensure that in the case blood was meant to be spilled, that he was prepared to get out. Alive or not.

"So now, I'm actually quite surprised you haven't killed each other already...that being said, we are all here for a specific reason. To find Delta."

Chapter Text

In Deacon's mind, people sucked plain and simple.

But when it came to those he thought to be interesting, he latched on to them with nary a doubt.

Without the Railroad's guidance, or even their hospitality, he would have been lost to a world with everyone's lies and would potentially leave him to be tread on by absolutely everybody. Deacon was hard as concrete, but would have been preferred to be have treated like gold.

So, naturally, he would just go along with the lies that he knew and those he could conjure himself, to see where they went. Made the ride around life a lot more fun.

But, he knew all of the intriguing people in the Commonwealth. He knew all about them by just being undercover just to watch them. He knew their quirks, their habits, their secrets...some of them. But it made them even the more fascinating to watch.

It was when it had come to a point when a young woman by the name of Delta, who happened to have popped out of nowhere and joined the Minutemen. He heard the story of her fighting a Deathclaw in Power Armour and survived. It came alongside the small whispers of other riveting stories, yet she was elusive to him until he got a hold of her and made the decision to keep track. Where did she come from? He had to know. Deacon was the cat of curiosity.

So he followed her around, perhaps a small chance to allow to see her for what she was. He was an expert in the stalking but not actually stalking game. Maybe get to know her better. From a perspective. Conversations that he listened to; without her knowing he wasn't just some innocent bystander. She never even noticed that he followed her around a lot. But time passed and he became convinced the woman wasn't a myth after all. Rather a Goddess of War made flesh. Too poetic? Then in generic terms, she was just the woman who could just kick so much ass you could replace caps with everyone's derrieres. What a delightful image.

So, inevitably, it then came the time she found the Railroad all on her own. It was only a matter of time. She was clever and cunning, yet curious and inquisitive. With what knowledge he gained, he aided Des and vouched for Delta...in his own terms of course, to Desdemona who, while she'd always pick up on his tricks, saw his message for what it was. And it was hard to impress Deacon often. He fangirled in his own way as well, especially with the Silver Shroud business that he'd witnessed.

She helped them out with a smile, getting to know the story behind them. A life is as good as any in their line of work. Wasn't easy but it was better to hear better news evolving out of the bad.

Until two months went by without hearing a word.

Deacon understood that she had work with the Minutemen to deal with. That was okay with them. Despite Desdemona having a low opinion of the militia group, they weren't a threat. Hell, Deacon appreciated what she did for them more than Des did. The Railroad could be very narrow minded at times but their purpose was to have the synths best interests at heart. Since, by reasons that were often misunderstood, the rest of the Commonwealth didn't.

In the atmosphere of it all, especially after hearing about the work she did to find her son, it made him think a lot of his own past. It wasn't entirely storybook but rather that of your typical tragedy. Take ofit what you will. Deacon had his own strengths and weaknesses to worry about but it was as of it was Delta covering those weaknesses when ever they worked together and all worries ceased to be. Since bullets being lodged in ones cranium was more of a concern than what ever happened already.

Upon the five month anniversary of Delta's disappearance, Des had exhausted all options. She was reluctant to believe Delta had died, as there was no proof, no word. Just...poof...like a magician that had caught her with his tricks. Damn those death bunnies. But Deac's agreed with her, as she'd gotten to see the vault-dweller as Deacon did within the tasks she had directed to do without a lot of complaint. Questions of course, but otherwise a blessed competent like Deacon himself.

However in the failure of their own resources to even find so much as a single mention of her location, she had to admit to using the best...aka Nick Valentine to help find their precious Agent Whisper and had promptly sent him to the Synth Detective to see if he could have any clue.

Nick knew of Delta, as per previous discussions with Whisper. Nick got all the details he needed from Deacon (once Deacon dropped his act of course). He wasn't keen on asking Nick himself, but it was Des's orders.

PI Dick...uhh Nick at some point after their meeting, sent a message to the Railroad asking for their presence to Vault 111. Deacon knew that was where Delta had emerged from the frozen womb that gave birth to their agent. Not really, but the image was there and Deacon found it impossible to scrub it out of his brain.

He was the first to arrive at the Vault, noting how incredibly creepy it was. He was talking to himself of course. Like he did before he met Whisper.

He did miss the chats they had when they traversed the Commonwealth. She had to put up with all of his crap but at the end of the day, that clean smile made it all worth it. Made him feel like he meant something to someone. So when she left, it left an emptiness entombed within his cold...ish heart.

So now he's amazed he's still around, surrounded by a Synth, a Paladin and a god damned Courser of all people. With Preston's arrival, it started to make a little more sense. It was Deacon's amazing charm after all that prevented bullets being put into each other's heads. Gotta still be more attentive to ones cranium after all. Still, the mood was charged and one wrong move could release those tiny little pellets in no time flat. Surely the jokes could have lightened it a bit but he was currently dealing with the most assholy people on the planet.

"I totally called it." Deacon stated out loud.

Ignoring Deacon's manner, Nick continued on.

"We're not going to jump to conclusions on Delta's reasons for joining your respective organisations. I thought it would have been a great idea to get the people who knew her most to get their sides of the story as to the awareness of her vanishing. First question. Who was the last to see her?"

He turned to Preston first. Of course. The Minuteman. The idealistic cowboy. The one throwing all the orders.

"Last time I saw her was...what five months ago? Doing her regular duties as usual." Preston said to start off with.

Nick nodded, then turned to Deacon.

"What about the Railroad?" The synth asked.

Deacon shrugged. Delta must have planned this. It's far too coincidental. Or not. Who knew?

"Bout the same. We knew of her activities with the Minutemen. They would keep her occupied between jobs, so we never really asked her to do anything unless we really needed her help."

Preston looked at Deacon, who looked back from the corner of his eye. The man irked him a bit. He was just...so normal. He was like your average joe. So boring. Yet, it worked for him. He'd done his homework on Preston beforehand. He wasn't a bad person. Just. He wasn't so sure about him. Whisper worked with him and was his General. In fact Preston made her his General. Seemed pretty weird to promote someone to go above your status. Yet, Preston made her go on all these missions for the sake of the settlement's survival yet never did anything himself and just huddled up in Sanctuary like a coward. It made Deacon feel like it was a type of laziness and Delta was just being his yes-man in disguise.

"Yeah so ordering her to go to place to place while you sit in your comfy chair, sipping whisky all day long is your version of help. You had a real nice, tight and organised arrangement."

Preston's face twisted to anger. It was a nice reaction out of the boring man.

"She did so with the will of the Minutemen. She would not hesitate to help those people. That was her job." Preston corrected.

Deacon could only snort. The truth hurt more than the lies.

"Yeah. Your own commanding officer doing all the field work seems like it's hip thing to do these days. Except when her own subordinates sit around do nothing all day. Perfect life more like it."

Nick groaned. He had to know this was going to happen.

"We could argue who's the lazier one another time...but not now. Paladin, what about you?"

The Paladin seemed to simply observe the situation before him, refusing to make much comment.

"Like these two. Five months. After three months into it we also heard nothing. We got it that she had work to do and you two seem to have explanations as to why we hardly saw her. She'd usually report in once in a while, come in, work for my Scribe or my Knight then move on. I'd come with her on the occasional purge or retrieval. We hardly talked all that much but that being said, I confided in her, as well as unprofessional as that may seem, I felt comfortable with her. I ended up spilling more beans to her than she did to me. It certainly told more about her character than anything she would ever admit to. Until I heard about her son. If that helps with your investigation."

Deacon couldn't agree more. He might not like Danse due to his aggressive nature and his bored-in-prejudice against synths, but he was right about the way Delta was. Just that special vibe she had, the way she carefully worded her sentences that make her voice sound like silk in their ears.

Nick heard the same story three times now from three different people. He then turned to Sicks...or X6-88.

"Let me guess same scenario? Five months...smooth talker, great help in your ideals?" Nick asked the Courser with a bit more sting and a trickle of sarcasm than the others. It was obvious that nobody in the room were fans.

"I do not have permission to reveal a lot of information, but yes. Four is when we decided to act but it has now been five months. The Institute had discussed this anomaly, so we had search parties of a confidential nature. No leads. But records of you, Nick Valentine seemed to be that she had contact with you. Which was why we came to you in the first place." Sicks explained in the most horridly dull tone.

Deacon smirked. If there Synths he didn't like (of the Gen 3 kind) this dude was one of them. The cursed dilemma amongst the safety of the confused and helpless synths. He watched Nick absorb everything and pondered for the moment.

"Fascinating. So she stopped contact with everyone. I wasn't even aware she even had a pattern in her endeavours. Delta was extremely busy. I can see why it's taken a while to find her son."

Deacon looked at X6 grimly. That Courser was hiding something. His face may have been blank, but the Institute definitely had the know how on the son.

"I'm sure Sicks knows all about it, don't you? After all you did kidnap her son."

All eyes were to X6. Whether or not he'd spill or prefer to kill everyone right here and now. Deacon would suspect the later. Coursers were extremely dangerous and well developed and trained. He wouldn't want to risk his own death in all of this. But if he'd gladly take the fall if it meant Delta's safety. But again, the truth held more impact. The greatest assumptions about the Institute came up more often than not. Deacon knew better.

Deacon turned his gaze at Danse. Never had he seen a man so incredibly angry before. Besides himself on the occasion. The Coursers existence was an affront to him. He imagined the hatred running through his veins right now. The Brotherhood were trained to hate synths, alongside anything else that wasn't human, or anything that wasn't brotherhood material for that matter. The irony for that which beheld the attitudes and the appearance of a robot was not lost to him.

But X6 didn't seem to even budge at the notion, for all the lack of emotional responses he'd given out previously. Would he open his mouth or would he open fire?

"I was instructed to only give relevant data." X6 stated.

"All I can say that was she found her son. Her expectations were...described as surprised."

The room went silent.

Chapter Text

As their words set the nerves underneath his skin aflame, It was clear that Danse didn't like this one bit.

If the frustration that her having contact with the Institute didn't give him enough grief, because of the possibility that she could have switched sides, it was the fact that she preferred to save synths with the Railroad that made it doubly frustrating. He wasn't sure what he was more pissed off at.

The Minutemen weren't a problem. Preston seemed to have a good thing going in his mind. Though Deacon's words made him think that twice. Thoroughly. He wasn't entirely sure how the Minuteman system worked, only that they helped out people in the Commonwealth. Delta had explained that to him once before. In fact her being there was part of the reason he volunteered to be her sponsor. For someone to have some kind of leadership with the locals was a plus. You're guaranteed to have a level of competency involved.

Though once he'd heard her story, it changed him a bit. She was from Pre-war and she wasn't a ghoul. A perfectly preserved human being who had the clean smile and excellent combat prowess, that delivered sweet justice upon their enemies. Though, he became confused about her association with the preservation of the synths themselves. Their enemies. Why had she gone against his teachings? Did she bother to listen? Her silky words always convinced him that she was paying attention all along. Though it was Scribe Haylen's idea to speak with Nick Valentine, as he was an expert in finding people. She did warn him about him being a synth beforehand and desperately tried to get the point across. Do not shoot him...or what ever Danse thought needed to be dealt with. Haylen knew Danse to the extent of his tenacity when it came to Synths.

So he begrudgingly went to Diamond City against all virtue to find this synth. It wouldn't been the first time had to do a task that he didn't like. If it meant finding one of their most valuable soldiers, then he had take any risk to find her. So when he did come across this 'detective' he'd put on his usual front and made it quite clear to Nick that he didn't come because he wanted to, but because he'd only heard that he was the only one who could possibly help them find her.

Nick didn't like Danse either, he made that clear too. But in all their spitefulness towards each other, they'd come to agreement. Nick hatched his plan and that was that. All business...no casual wording. It was for the better anyway. If it wasn't for Delta, Danse would have most likely shot Nick down. Fate would decree otherwise. He wasn't a big believer in fate, but what ever it was, there was a reason.

Just like she had her hand in all four pies of the Commonwealth's oven of surprises. Reason or not, that was less than fate by more like being tripled-crossed. Had he been blind to it all? Was it all a lie?

And she'd found her son? Was that the reason? He couldn't wrap his head around it. Too many questions, not enough answers.

"So she found her son...then dropped us all?" Danse assumed. It couldn't be true. There was a type of logic that he couldn't process.

Nick tilted his head at X6, curious at his words.

"You said something about being surprised? Look I'll get the Institute will only tell you so much. We need to work together here. Synth to synth? If that's even a thing." Nick worded. In Danse's mind all synths were the same.

X6, again, stared blankly at Nick. Heaven forbid that Danse has the right amount of patience, self control and duty not to shoot these two. He was a man of a manner that had to give a level of respect to those who had known Delta beforehand. Better to leave the enemy to give enough intel and for them to become an asset, than to come back empty handed. He was certain Delta taught him that. If it was the Brotherhood, they would have already been killed.

"Delta had arrived at the Institute and was met with our leader Father. Our creator. Father gave her all access at the Institute. Explained our intentions. Our ideals. She joined."

Why? After everything Delta was told, the very nature of that decision, Danse just couldn't fathom.

"Did this Father persuade her to join with the lies that had been force fed to her? We know you aren't entirely truthful in any matter, given the suspected amount of synths scattered everywhere and we're left to clean up your mess." Danse said spitefully.

He wouldn't believe that Delta could be lead to believe anything that they would have done. After everything, she just turned into the pawn within a moments notice? None of this could be even comprehended at all. It was impossible to conceive, given her goal.

He recalled the times they fought together. Fighting raiders, ghouls, synths and super mutants alike. Each and every one she killed she had given the fair and same treatment to any other enemy. A swift death. Maybe some of them deserved something less painless but Danse knew he had troubled separating rage from a stable mind sometimes. The Brotherhood drilled a concept, a mental imprint that drives all of them to bring emotion into such decisions and yet still maintain a state of control. Through the hate and through the intricate thought patterns that intertwined, that lead them to kill their enemies that lead to the hate washing away for just a brief moment, until another enemy came into their sight. But their structure was so rigid and the boom in their voices as they spoke to each other, came a structured system that became efficient.

So Delta developed herself into that same system of efficiency. She was from pre-war after all. She'd told so little about herself and from what he'd told them about earlier was just something he'd needed to get off his chest to someone he could trust. It wasn't everyday you'd find someone as personable as Delta herself. Haylen was like that. She was like Delta in a way. They had their time together as soldiers but also as friends. Nothing wrong with that.

It was different with Delta however. The way that he felt more comfortable with her than anyone else, even Haylen, was...to his mind she technically shouldn't have gotten more special treatment from him than he would give to any other soldier. The level of trust he had with her, he had to admit, was the best feeling he could ever have.

So while they were on a schedule and the Brotherhood's way of doing order was rather restrictive and rigid, Danse did not fear of letting go when she was around. Wasn't exactly appropriate behaviour and he was going to be completely okay with her letting him know he had stepped out of line. But, she took it in her stride, gave a smile and let him speak his mind. The venting felt good each and every time because he knew, they could get back to work without another word.

Up until her disappearance, she seemed quieter. Her work ethic didn't change. Just her...manner, her very being. Danse didn't pull her aside to have a quick chat. It was in, out...and in again.

It was odd though. Maintaining the professionalism was fine but...

"Did the Institute show her that her son was alive? That they treated him like a prince and that they were actually the good guys with sunshines and rainbows and glittering fountains everywhere and wearing nothing but togas and happy endings..." Deacon spoke of sarcastically.

Danse thought Deacon was one of those...real oddball types. A type that would fit in with the raiders. But by the mans manner, the way he stood. Maybe it was the sunglasses. You could usually tell a mans intention by looking him in the eyes. Deacon was censored.

X6 turned to Deacon. Danse thought he was treading a very thin line with the Courser. He wouldn't want to touch buttons, but would prefer to just shoot him down now, if it weren't for their situation.

The fact that Institute held her son was nearly the bottom line for Danse. Only if they could have stormed in there, saved her son and gone out, before they burned the place to ashes with part of their long campaign and true goal accomplished. Hell, if Delta failed and was killed by those wretches, Danse would only be too obliged to enter it himself and to finish what she started. It would only bring her closure. And kill this Father. So many things went through Danse's mind as he watched X6 scan everyone in the room.

"Father only told her the truth. That he was her son." X6 admitted with stone cold emotion.

Now that's something Danse never even...guessed would happen.

Chapter Text

X6 was told she was a busy girl. He didn't have to deal with these...people. Why Delta bothered to have them around was a mystery to him. Not that he cared, it was just more inconvenient to deal with all these Wastelanders.

But orders were orders. Father had him investigate the matter at all costs and was more than willing to let information slip if it helped find his mother. He was put in charge to coordinate the resources necessary to help her.

Though the Courser didn't understand a great deal about emotions, there was enough drilled into him about the human psyche and how one would react to a number of conflicts placed in front of them. Some were incredibly resilient and others fragile. He wasn't told to care but how humans themselves could respond in moments of crisis such as this.

He'd witnessed the others anger and confusion at their loss. They seemed to have cared for her as much as Father did. Even more so. Mother and child bonds however, from what X6 knew were one of the strongest in existence. Like with animal kind, that they're meant to protect their young. In this point Delta had failed to do so. And they were teachers. Delta had failed to be one.

Love's factor puzzled him the most. A feeling that seemed more destructive and distracting of them all. Familial, romantic, sexual. The humanness of it all was one all big mess that left unchecked, could prove devastating. X6 pondered on the familial between the mother and son. He gripped the fact that unfortunate circumstances made it all the more twisted, but given the knowledge he had, he wondered about Father's motivations. X6 was a synth not made to question...but to wonder. Not to disobey but to contemplate the logicality.

The men who stood before him, even Nick the prototype, all had this loyalty to her that just...was abstract to him but in his mind it was them to her as he was to Father. He was taught expectations but they were much different to the scientists that he often spoke and dealt with.

Their reactions to his words became an interesting surprise. Delta hadn't yet to tell anybody of what happened. Confidentiality is the norm for the Institute. But if Delta really trusted them, wouldn't she have told them already? Then again, she had much her mind could debilitate and to absorb. Life stories meant nothing if it didn't aid to anything. Just told you how you lived your life. Not how you're going to live. The reality in front of him was more convoluted and he didn't like it at all.

"I...I don't know what to say." Spoke a stunned Nick, breaking the minute's long silence between them all.

Upon X6's examination, it was like, how the scientists describe, a kick in the gut. Certainly facts like that sure did force them to comprehend.

"Ouch...I uh...huh. That's gotta hurt. Sheesh." Deacon said as he scratched his chin. He couldn't even form a facsimile of his usual banter.

Were any of them expecting it? Then again...

Preston just shook his head. He seemed the most disturbed by those words.

"Her very son...leader of our enemy...that's not right." He commented with a sigh.

Danse nodded. He could detect the level of rage barely being contained within.

"I agree. You don't think Delta just...joined out of the sake of her son?"

X6 felt the stares dropping right at him. He was told this was going to happen. It was his job to carefully construct his sentences to ensure this would go smoothly and in the way the Institute planned it to. Revealing too much was a risk for sure...but their reactions told X6 that they weren't expecting it at all.

"I have not been told as much. He invited her. She accepted." He put it simply.

Nick leaned back against a nearby wall and took out a cigarette and lit it, while staring at the roof.

"The sins of the son cannot be blamed on the mother. I can't even imagine the type of conversation they would have had at that point. My gut tells me that she would not have made that decision lightly." Nick pointed out.

X6 was told to leave Nick as is. While the unexpected side effect of the garbage they threw was that it became a capable person that had the nature of a Pre-war detective, they came to the conclusion that he was simply to be observed, nothing more. They had plenty of synths in place in Diamond City to do that.

"Synth, let us know what Delta's job description and designation at the Institute." Danse asked.

The man held pure hatred in his eyes. The man had pure restraint, he could give him that.

"Very well. Delta gets allocated to Synth retrieval missions and data collection." X6 replied without pause. He noticed Deacon getting rather anxious about that.

"No...you don't suppose she'd been using the Railroad all this time to find out where all the synths have gone? What the fuck is going on?" The Agent spattered. Deacon was right to be worried. He glared at X6 from underneath those sun glasses of his. He was prepared for the man to attempt to shoot him. He had anticipated this type of friction ever since he realised what Nick had planned.

All in all, It appeared no one seemed to have gotten what Delta's motivations were at this point. Saving synths in the way both parties interpreted it. Except the Institute were in the right to take back what was theirs.

"We won't know until we get to speak with her. I'm almost certain she has her reasons." Nick iterated. Though his inflection seemed to indicate he was quite annoyed with that fact as well.

Deacon became a bit more peeved at the notion. If X6 was in his position, he too would know they would have been compromised. But Father allowed the help of the Railroad on this one, if it was a means to an end, if not a slight consolidation that the more they could find out on the operations of the Railroad, the better.

"Agent, we've put on hold all Railroad grievances until this investigation is finished." X6 explained, not liking having to say that himself, but orders were orders. It didn't seem to make the man all the happier. Nor was he expected to be.

"Yeah yeah spoon-feed me more of your bullshit. I'm hungry." Deacon said sarcastically.

Preston walked forward and raised his hand, in the hopes that a fight wouldn't start between them.

X6 was told to leave the Minutemen be. Though their insertion of Synths into settlements was part of an Institute project, it would be best to not have that discussion if possible. Could cause far more problems in the future.

"Hold up. Let's all get this straight. Synth, did Delta ever mention anything that was doing before she disappeared? I mean, if any of us saw her last, all we would assume was that she would have been scouring the Commonwealth, taking out Super Mutants, ghouls or heaven forbid Deathclaws or...saving synths." Preston commented, his last two words sounding low and his eyes hardened as the glimpsed at the Courser. X6 knew her schedule was tight enough as is but at least it had some kind of routine to it. They needed that.

Nick nodded in agreement.

"Preston's right. She was a wanderin' kind of gal. Did any of these missions go south at all?" He wondered.

X6 stood there, almost frozen. He traversed through any recent memories to find any mission that may have been relevant. He was disappointed...although at the same time, fine with not finding anything.

"Not that I can think of. Any time we went out, she was totally silent. Fine by me. I'd rather have her focused."

Danse grumbled. X6 theorised the very thought of travelling with the enemy would have made them a target. He didn't care much for the Brotherhood and their barbaric methods. Father always said he'd take care of them one day. How was the definite question as to what it would take to take them down. Now wasn't the appropriate occasion to plan. But any intel was always useful. No matter how small. If they could convince Delta herself...

"Sounds like Delta towards the end. We used to chat where appropriate but in the days before her disappearance there was a lack of...outside of combat communication. No lack in efficiency, that I won't even dare to question." The Paladin backed up. Didn't the Brotherhood live on that military momentum?

He heard Deacon chuckle. It appeared even he had to agree to that.

"Yeah same here. She'd used to laugh at my jokes but then she turned to stone. Or she turned into Medusa so she'd look at you and you'd feel like you were turned to stone with that glare of hers."

The Courser looked at Nick as he analysed their comments. Everyone had come to the same manner with her. The world of silence that she'd fallen into. That did not develop with him that was for sure. Her entire character...twisted...darkened. Her moods were dull and monotone. Perhaps a conversation between her and Father changed something within her. He would never understand human relationships in their full, complicated and distorted exchanges, however it was not of X6's purpose to study her past. He cared less than what already happened and was in the mindset of the Institutes goals for the future.

"Deacon, I might need your help with something on this one." Nick stated.

The man smirked. The Railroad for the lack of their well, far-reach of the Commonwealth, they were resourceful. Admittedly.

"Might?" Deacon repeated.

Nick rolled his eyes, as he obviously didn't take much pleasure in getting the Agent to do something. The Detective was far more of an interesting case of Synth development, even for a broken down prototype.

"Yeah. I've got contacts and Delta has contacts. We may have to bring some mutual friends into the matter..."

Chapter Text

 

Finding people was Nick's expertise.

What became more perplexing were people's motives...and Delta's motives were once clear as the blue skies; now they had become fizzy like a rad storm.

His idea to bring in the multitude of contacts to discuss the matter further was only because by sheer coincidence that they, in some strange twist of fate, became a matter of the third degree. They were all connected.

In one of the 'lazier' days, Nick sat with Deacon inside the Agency as they discussed how they were going to approach the investigation. The room was filled with a haze, in the depth of the gigantic amount of detail to run through, day in and day out and little time to do anything else. Besides eating of course. Deacon found that important, as poor Ellie found, occasionally having to clean up the scraps the slob left behind.
He wasn't sure of him just yet. Just because he ran with people who helped people like Nick didn't mean squat. Sympathy to synths was their only other thing they had in common. There was the other stuff, but that came out the most. In Ol' Nick's memories he did pinch a history of a guy he once worked with that liked to go undercover. Except that guy he could trust. Deacon? Not so much. Nick had little choice in the matter. He had to make do with a man with a reputation for smooth 'persuasions'. He was more useful for that anyway.

"You a readin' guy Deacon?" Nick asked the agent out of the blue.

Deacon rose an eyebrow.

"Depends on the genre. Or the person. Why do you ask?"

Nick's read plenty of stories. Fiction and non-fiction. It's not to say he got some of his ideas from a lot of the books...how few in number they were; but some described stories like those who get kidnapped and it ended up with the fair bunch of happy and not so happy endings.

"There's a tale about a phantom that takes people during the night. A local priest says it's Gods will, since a lot of them were prostitutes or addicts that nobody cared about." The Synth explained. Though the look on Deacon's face was priceless.

"Didn't imagine our Whisper to be that promiscuous. Go on." Deacon iterated. Though it wasn't the point Nick was getting at.

"One day a call girl gets taken away. High price, high class...high...sass." Nick stumbled. He was sure his not-memories recalled it correctly.

"Turns out she's the girlfriend of some hotshot from the military. He goes on deployment for months at a time, so she offers her services. Guy gets back, she's gone missing. Goes to the local PI who investigates. Finds out what she really does."

Going from the sly grin on his face, he had an inkling of the result.

"Something tells me he was either really pissed. Or impressed." He commented.

Nick waved his hand.

"Ehhh a bit of both. She was a doll no doubt. An extremely intelligent one. She turned out that she used her business to gather intel on the local mafia and fed it all to the cops. But the phantom doesn't see that..obviously."

He could see Deacon pondering his words, trying to get his angle as to what he was using this as a metaphor.

"You thinkin' Delt's was similar? I dunno. I've met a lot of people...like you. You know when they're a bit off. You don't say anything because you hope you're wrong. Then they let you down big time. Happens far too often. Boundaries need to be set."

Nick nodded. He couldn't agree more.

"We may have been all be blind to her truest intentions. But no normal person puts up with the type of crap that ends up being entirely emotional based and just runs with it. Take's in their stride like it was something they did every single damn day."

Deacon plopped a bunch of papers on the table and took another puff and breathed out slowly.

"You can imagine the minority of the decent getting crushed by the overload of assholes that like giving people so much crap. I mean, look at all these records. Before I even met her, the amount of shit she did was messiah like. You've got someone who's smart, compassionate and skilled. Tell me something Nick, were all prewar people like this?"

No, to Nick's disappointment. From what Ol' Nick experienced in his line of work, you'd always deal with the ones more than willing to pay you the hard yards in order to get the job done.

"Few. There's a line to be drawn in that nature. You may not see it but there are far more better days in the future than there were in the past. Let's just leave at that."

Deacon couldn't help but grin.

"Hah. I get it. What about that Priest guy? Did ever have any relevance in the story again?"

Nick pondered about that. What did ever happen to him?

Oh yeah.

"As you can imagine he was part of whole ordeal. He was the Phantom Kidnapper. It was obvious from when he ranting to the protagonist that his girlfriend was a whore and deserved to be punished. He really had it in for him...for some reason. It was a sequel to another book that had it in more detail."

Deacon looked down. It was hard to guess what the man was thinking half the time with those damn sunglasses of his.

"Did the girl survive?"

Nick nodded.

"Yeah she was fine. She was a stubborn one indeed...then there was another book after that I believe..."


He'd arranged with Deacon that one by one, over the coming weeks, that he would interrogate each person whom traveled or knew Delta. That way he could get into her head far more by getting bits and pieces about her and combine them into a general consensus of where she may have gone. He then sat at his desk with a cigarette between his fingers, holding a sheet of paper with a lot of the details he'd collected. His yellow eyes dashed through the text, attempting to make sense of it.

The three conclusions all had their flaws. Kidnapped? There's no ransom note, no major party playing funny with each other. In this type of scenario anyway. Unless one of them was lying, he needed more information. X6 remained a greater suspect in the scenario. He only had his word against the world that didn't want them there.

Killed? Just...Nick's programming wasn't meant to peer further into the human psyche than was necessary. But it happened. But was even more bizarre was the sense of instinct...no not instinct..something upon the higher platforms of thought. It was in between a feeling and a thought. Further than instinct.

To just...somehow know. Maybe on the silver winds, maybe in that of a daydream...what ever it was Nick just knew she wasn't dead. He knows when someones died. You get that cold shiver or that breeze from their souls on their way to say goodbye to the world and to those they loved dear. Nick was a synth of course but there had to be that sixth sense that was comparable to him.

To run away? There were several indicators of such a peculiar answer. Delta, like him, was pre-war. Her son, taken from her. She'd scoured, possibly the entirety, of the Commonwealth to find him. If in the case that she did, he'd understand why she'd flee. But. As he had traveled with her briefly...

Where in the case did he see any sign of it when she helped him kill Eddie Winter? Danse's story brought consolidation that on a level she cared for them. He could tell in her eyes, her voice, her heart that she wanted to help. A dame like that could only be found once in a life time. Or in Nick's case, twice.

There was a core about Delta that helped you click with her.

Deacon and Nick collaborated a list of those who they deemed the most close to Delta, the fact that they had traveled with her helped minimise the list. They each described a closeness, or a connection that seemed to speak volumes about her character.

That 'core' was very prominent. What Nick wanted to find out was the moment it went dark.

X6's story carved a small niche, a place in the timeline. She was dark when she was with him. So he was the last companion to see her overall. One that he knew of, anyway.

So one by one, he'd talk with these companions. Whether they'll cooperate or not was another issue. But, if they cared about Delta, he'd figure using her to trigger a response should get them to react a certain way. Cruel but it wouldn't have been the first time Nick's tried it.

He heard a knock at the door. Had to be Deacon coming back.

"Ellie let them in."

Shortly after, he could hear several footsteps approach and the stench of alcohol wafted in the air. Stale at best. He heard about this one. Tough as nails. He'd have to approach this with great caution.

"Better make this quick. I ain't done nothin' wrong." Growled a harsh voice, in a Irish accent.

Nick lifted his head up as Ellie came across. He knew one woman with that tone and ushered Ellie to get her profile sorted as he got up and walked over to her and smirked.

"Ah yes. The fiery-haired dame with the temper to match. Pleasure to meet ya." He welcomed in a Nick sort of way.

The green-eyed woman gave nothing but a scowl in response. Deacon, on the other hand, kept to himself but gave off a subtle grin. Nick thanked him and let him go on his way.

"Take a seat. Cait was it?"

Chapter Text

 

God knows fuckin' why of all people, the one to save Cait from her misery was a cheery ass, cheer-leading type.

But her personality. Normally it would make Cait want to punch their lights out. It was odd though. Cait couldn't believe this. Delta killed all the arseholes in the Combat Zone. Tommy's...dismissal of her made her furious. In the mess of it all, Delta took her on board with not a lot of reluctance.

To this day, it still confused the lass as to why she even bothered. Part of Cait still wanted to punch her, but Delta allowed her to vent by fighting as much as they could together. They shared drinks and got drunk together. They messed around together. There wasn't any holding back for Cait when Delta was around. She allowed her to be herself without so much as a second glance. Despite Cait taking jet behind her back when she was wasn't looking, Delta was still there and never spoke a word. In a way, it made Cait curious but angry like she wasn't even paying attention. But she was. Cait believed that she was just...waiting maybe? Still...there was no doubt that once all her mess was sorted, she started to find the fun in life again. They got along swell.

The question was...why?

The two were polar opposites. Goody-two shoes and a raging Chem-addict on the road? Sounded like some shite story. Same with this guy. Nick Valentine. Deacon? Deacon she could tolerate. Barely.

He found her at Sanctuary where she would be casually bitching about everyone there. She hated everyone there, but they faired better than the people she used to hang with. Anywhere was better. Took some convincing and close calls, but when he told her Delta was missing, something within her switched to some type of boggled feeling. The feeling that she wanted to knock some heads together and tear everything down just to find her. She never felt that for anyone else. She wasn't keen on taking orders from a synth sympathiser, but if they needed her help, they got it.

"I only agreed ta this is because Delta is the only god-forsaken person who gives a shite. I prefer not to converse with trash cans." Cait told Nick as she sat down.

Nick's eyes checked her over. She hated that. He was a down-trodden dirty synth. She didn't want to be here at all, but Deacon offered some caps in the mean time. Or else she'd be out there blasting through doors like no tomorrow.

"Neither do I. So...Cait. You traveled with Delta?" The synth asked her.

Smart arse. Cait wasn't someone who let her true feelings be known to absolutely everyone. She didn't trust Nick. She trusted Delta...but everyone else could go to Hell for all she cared.

"Yeah we traveled. Saved me from a life time of assholes. Probably not all of 'em but a fair few. For Delta to go missin'? I wouldn't have a fuckin' clue where she went off to." She explained. Cait listened and learned as she went on but if she was honest with herself, she hardly knew a lot about the woman.

Nick only hummed and harred at her. He didn't seem all too phased from her aggressive nature.

"Okay got that, but she ever talked you about anything? Any issues she was having or anyone she was butting heads with?" Nick questioned.

Nothing that Cait could think of. She wasn't sure if it was worth telling them the true story of how she helped cure her addiction. The way she treated Delta however.

She originally didn't get it. But the way Cait had treated Delta...she began to fear whether or not that affected her. Since a week after it all looked to be going up, Delta left Cait at Sanctuary as her new home. She didn't really like the people who were there. Like Preston who got on her nerves majority of the time. But the rumour of her disappearance shook Cait, unexpectedly. Shook like she never realized how much their friendship...icky wording but it was definitely friendship that had formed between them. Fuck...again, she'd taken this crap for granted without a second thought.

"Nothin' really. But that Preston...kept askin' her to do all this bullshit for him every time we caught up at Sanctuary. When she hadn't showed up for a coupla weeks, I did notice him in the dumps more often. We often drank together more frequently. So while I didn't see anythin' changin' in Delta, I could clearly see her not botherin' to show her damn face was affecting people. Far more than I would have seen otherwise" Cait stated. While the amount of fucks she could give were minimal and she preferred to keep her distance, she did observe all those at Sanctuary. She wasn't stupid. Just cautious. And self-admittedly anti-social.

Nick rubbed his chin. Deacon had spoken with Preston regarding whomever was at Sanctuary. A fair few were lined up from what he told her. Since it was her main base of operations.

"I see. Dame's out for a while, then the shallow mood gets darker the longer it stretches. Anything else?" Nick continued.

Cait thought harder than anything she ever thought about before. She wondered. She didn't want to say it...so she had to be certain. The Irish girl would never trust a Synth. But if Delta had faith in this piece of trash, who was more than Cait had expected otherwise, then to take that leap of faith as well had be carefully executed.

"So uh...bolts-for-brains. If I say anything else, will you promise me word doesn't get out to anyone else? If it does, I'll kick your arse to the Glowin' Sea!" She threatened.

Nick didn't back down, only smiling at her words. As a synth, he probably got that kind of language all the time.

"Everything is strictly confidential, my dear. Not a word leaves this office." He promised, his tone assuring.

Cait nodded and took a deep breath. Out comes the most muddled bullshit that would ever come out of her mouth. But all of it was true.

"I don't really know how to say this but...if you know me well enough. I have a hard enough fucked up life than you could even think about in that metal head. When you're kicked around all your life like a damn ball and treated like shite for as long as you can remember, it's the kindness you watch out for. You don't know if the person who's dealin' with ya is intending to do worse to you or not. I was keeping my distance with that for Delta for a long while. So...I was waitin' for it, ya know. Waitin' for the day she would come out the real reason she was putin' up with me for so long. But...it never came out. All I got in return was that fuckin' cheeky grin of hers I could never forget. Time passed and I began to...let me guard down. I knew I shouldn't have but what ever walls I had were blasted apart by her damn peppy personality. So...I took a pint with her. Let it all out. No judgement was passed...a blessing in disguise. So she...helped me cure me problem. When it was down to it, I was sick. So sick that I just took the hair of the dog to cope with it. But..."

She could feel warm tears rolling down her cheek. Stupid water works had to come out at the wrong time. Through her blurred vision she could still see Nick as he was writing something down on his papers, then looked back at her.

"Take your time..."

She wiped the tears off her face with her arm and took another deep breath. She had to admit he was kind of glad that he was taking this seriously and not taking advantage of her like others would. Or least that was the so called detective face he was pulling. She hadn't had real good relationships with people in the past, let alone, those synth bastards never came into what little picture Cait perceived as her world. What little emotion was on his face hinted to her more than she already knew.

"That fool had to listen to me. She took me down to a vault. Ya know one of those underground facilities, where I had heard a cure...no ordinary medicine could solve the problem of a slow death.

But this could; like a holy grail. So we went down. Found the area we needed to be after dealin' with punks that decided it was a good idea to mess with us. And you know what? After putting myself through mental hell to get myself psyched up to do it, even considering backin' out, she was still there through it all. She looked me right in eye as I was going through the procedure. I feared...fuck that sounds so pathetic...I feared she was going to leave me there to die. She instead stood beside me while I felt the shock through my veins. She said nothing until it was done. First words she spoke to me...after all the screamin' and carryin' on...she asked me if I was okay."

No one had cared this much for her before. It had to be a joke. She donned that stupid smile at her and said she was proud of what she did.

"My spirits...wow...I felt so..off but in a good way. Driven away the pain, leavin' a pleasant feelin' for the first time in me life. I had the belief that I was actually happy. Can you believe that?"

Nick only grinned. Odd but it was a smile nonetheless.

"Nothing wrong with feeling that way. A lot of people with those kinds of problems only have two choices. To continue on until it destroys them...or find a way out. Heaven or Hell's gonna be at the end of that tunnel either way. From my knowledge, there's no doubt she wouldn't hesitate to help people from what I've heard so far. I'm not surprised you weren't an exception. So driven she was. Even from my personal experience." He told, his voice warm.

So it wasn't a joke after all. Delta really did care. There was a small portion of doubt that clouded her mind...but... we both know now.

"Are you...are you saying she helped you too? Fuckin' hell. Why isn't this bitch a saint already? I don't understand why. She says like, oh it's the right thing to do. You're my friend. Fairy tale shite." Cait admitted. The world had no room for optimists. Perhaps it was a matter of time until it all fell down for Delta as well. From what she heard from Preston, the problems piled onto the woman one by one.

The Synth chuckled.

"Hah...I know right. Our true lord and saviour. A woman 200 years young, emerges from her tomb and performs miracles. I'm certain there's already a messiah but lets hope this one isn't dead."

They were about to wrap up their little talk when there was another knock at the door.

Nick and Cait exchanged glances. The Synth wasn't such a bad guy after all. He took her story seriously. It was nice to know that the rumours about him about being a decent person were true.

"Expectin' somebody? Deacon's probably here with ya next person. I dunno if what I said helped at all. But you better find her. I'm not letting the one last decent person in the Commonwealth go without a fight!" Cait strained out with anger written on her face. It wasn't hard for Cait to be angry...she knew that.

Nick smiled as he stood up.

"It's fine Cait. Thank you. Every little bit helps, I promise you like I promise you I'll find Delta."

Cait stood up as well and to her surprise, they shook hands. At this point, the unfamiliar feeling of positive determination ran through her. Nick told her to let the next person in to interview as she opened up the door.

She looked at the ghoul in the costume in front of her and gave a half smirk.

"Ah Mayor Cockhead. Good to see you." She said.
"Hey, no need for the pleasantries Cait."

Chapter Text

 

It could be interpreted in black and white terms:

Hancocks deal to life was to give and take when necessary.

To give; those who need it.

To take; lives that don't.

All in all, the integrity of his boundaries needed to stated. For all who lived in his dwelling, his haven, a safe place to let people be themselves. Although being yourself needed to ensure others weren't harmed otherwise. Balance had to be maintained or else along the line being careless meant that someone or something was bound to fuck it up along the way.

Hancock met Delta in Goodneighbor. He saw that brawny brunette arguing with of the scumbags he'd always hated, as they exchanged words one evening. Hancock just happened to have been outside, conveniently, at that same moment and eavesdropped on their conversation. That just made him groan in exhaustion and made his fingers twitch. People like him were the sole reason why he couldn't take the crap that people just dished to out to others for no reason. He had the choice to take him apart. Beautiful woman like that with the pretty eyes and clean smile didn't deserve that shit either.

Over the course of what ever day dropped by, he definitely picked her as one of the smart ones, especially after the incident with Bobbi became apparent and was impressed that Delta took it well enough. It became a kick in the balls though, as it made Hancock realise that he was getting far too comfy in his role and in the days to come, traversed the Commonwealth with the interesting gal that just wandered in his life one day. She understood the concept of a healthy balance.

She wasn't a weakling. Oh no...far from. By default, he offered mentats and so forth as a pick me up, what ever was the pick of the day. They became fast friends, not because of the chems but they happened to get along so well, so it was nothing from his version of kindness that he would give the gift that keeps on giving. Or not. She wasn't entirely sure what to do with them. Maybe once in a while she'll take them. Enough to keep her kicking. Made him happy he could share some. Get on a high. She never got addicted. She was smart enough to let her dosage be every so often. Especially when he felt that she may have been down. It also helped the Mayor find someone he actually liked to share the metaphorical red roses and just overall be able to just...be himself in those terms. So when Deacon came around with the message that she'd gone missing, Hancock felt ill. Whether or not it was guilt or she'd came across somebody who wouldn't take her shit either, he was pissed off enough to want to help find her.

Hancock knew Nick Valentine as well. The two greeted each other as normal. He didn't mind Nick. He was an exception to the scum of the Commonwealth to have an establishment based inside Diamond City. He didn't hide the fact that he hated coming back here, especially with the Guards that gave him grief while doing so. Deacon had smart aleck words with 'em. But all of them knew Hancock was not to be touched. In the guards consensus that they had to be cautious around the ghoul for various political and familial reasons. It was all hush-hush and secretive. All in all, the amount of fucks Hancock could give was equal to the amount of noses he had.

"Thank you for coming in on such a short notice. As you're well aware of the stakes here and I hoped Deacon discussed the matter at hand." Nick spoke as they sat down.

Hancock grinned and sat down as well, slouching over with his legs out wide.

"Yeah I know I know. A girl I could count on goes' AWOL? I'm not willing for that shit to stand. Just shoot the questions...I've got nothing to hide."

For a Ghoul hiding anything was nearly impossible. You just have a bad rep by default by the smoothskins.

"We'll see. So how was your relationship with Delta?" Nick asked him.

Hancock grinned. Girl was quite the looker. Chocolate brown hair and eyes that you could have pool parties in.

"Tough woman I can tell you. We could hang, chill...shoot some assholes. The usual hobby in the Commonwealth. You know how it is."

Another friendship established by not directing bullets at them. Nick just pondered that thought for a moment as Hancock judged from his expression.

"Seems the casual deal for a lot of people. But I want to know the nitty gritty of it. The inner sanctum of it."

Hancock laughed. Hancock loved beautiful women over all. They were close in the respect that in that same crisis over the difficulty in hiding it all, Delta responded with the secrets she often hide from others. That was their main bond.

"We weren't in that type of relationship but yeah it goes deep. There's only so many that you know before they turn out to be total dicks and you're forced to shoot them. I'm a Ghoul so you know that doesn't win you a lot of friends unless you're a ghoul yourself. Delta...man...how she put up with me I'll never know..."

He lost and gained friends and lost them again in more ways he could count. He liked those who couldn't give a shit, like Fahrenheit and just clicked. Friends that did stuff for other friends. No matter of appearance. She had a gun in her hand and nothing else was said. Not that she was a threat, she was glad to just be who she was. She thanked him for that more than once. You could take one look in those 8-ball coloured eyes of his and think twice about crossing them.

So when Delta treated him like that, it caught him off guard.

"You in love with her or somethin'? Is that it?" Nick queried with a bit of tongue-in-cheek.

Now that was an amusing thought.

"What? No! other than the occasional imagination working over time in the uhh..old noggin, Delta and I never saw each other in that way. No way she'd fall for a grimer like me. We treated each other like friends should. Like the good ol' days. You, me and her. Relics of a Golden age. Well, I'm no where as old as you two, I feel like a relic." He commented.

"Not to mention wearing one. She ever speak to you about her private life, or did she get you to divulge yours without as so much as an inch of discomfort involved?" Nick questioned.

Definitely. Not a lot to tell but enough to let Delta know where he stood and why.

"Not intentionally. While I told her my story at just the right moment, when we'd clicked over and over in a good way, nothin' suspicious mind you, she...how can I put it...never revealed a lot until I got her...uh...in a sweetened mood." Hancock answered with a hint of cheek.

When Nick's face fell, it told Hancock that he was disturbed by that notion. He caught on pretty quickly. Though he was more shocked about it really.

"What you thinkin'? You thinkin' her being down and taken some chems is some big sign? I wanna know. I wouldn't have done otherwise. She wasn't against the drugs entirely. I never ever pushed her. I get it. Everyone has their lil' way of copin' in this hellhole. The times she was down though, she took em' down, but from what she took, she thought about it for a minute. Then we continued to get high together as good friends do."

He watched Nick write all of this down. Had she not taken them at all had he not offered? A terrible wave of guilt piled in Hancock's stomach. He knew people. He most people. He knew Delta's people and who she hung out with.

"It paints a dark part in her pretty picture. We both know all wasn't well in her world. I know people's mind start to go a bit off put while in the influence of chems. Delta ever sort of spew any weird words while in that state?" Nick wondered.

Hancock understood the way one acted under the influence could rip off any restrictions in turns of what they had control over when they weren't under anything. It was what made Hancock what he was in the first place. The memories of Delta on chems was a sight to see.

"We took them usually before we'd go taking down raiders. Afterwards we'd take a break as she wanted to wait until the chems wore off. She was adamant that she needed a clean slate in order to make any deals. Though, I noticed her slip a grape mentat every time she went to buy somethin'. Gave her a bit more bravery when it came to buying supplies." Hancock replied.

Grape Mentats were pretty rare. Most people made it themselves. The recipes were often close guarded.

"For anything she actually said while we were alone together...if she said anything before taking the dosage, she was like, Hancock, I'm sorry, I can't cope at the moment. A trademark saying. Not always in those words but it was all in the inflection."

Nick nodded. The look at his face was more akin to disappointment. The internal guilt felt more like bile in his throat now. Hancock hadn't even taken anything today. Not yet anyway.

"She never mentioned this to anyone else. Yet she said this to you. I thought she would have been smarter than that. Unless she was taking them for another reason?" Nick theorised.

Hancock groaned. People turned to chems because...just cause. The sorry state of society could change people faster than rads ever could. People would take it because it would bring the state of mind anywhere but fixated on reality. But it could corrupt the mind permanently, force it to rot into nothing but a mess that acted like it was the only thing they could survive on, or be given the fear of death into them if they couldn't get what they wanted.

To Hancock, getting high was almost like getting drunk. But he's seen those fallen from grace due to chem abuse. You could see it in their eyes...those that turned to darkness and dullness as the shine wilted away, their cheek bones were more noticeble and their hunger turned ravenous or there was no hunger at all, leaving behind a mindless, walking carcass. Being a ghoul had it's perks. But he'd been doing this sort of thing for many years that he figured his body just became adjusted to the crap he'd subjected to it.

"Is there any other reason that to want to just forget everything temporarily? Perhaps to live off the false pretenses of happiness? I mean, if you could feel happy, then you do what you can to keep that happiness, even if you're giggling like a maniac because of some dumb joke or suddenly you find something funny for no reason. As they say misery loves company. I was there with her. I watched out for her. Then... "

Hancock stared blankly at the desk has he fiddled with his hands. This had to be his fault. He...he shouldn't have given them to her at all. It was just as bad a habit. What he intrpreted as a kind gesture...could have caused this to happen. A quick snap at Nick revealed that he was watching the ghoul closely.

"You noticed it was starting to go wrong didn't you? You observed her nature...yet, there was a point in your little adventures were she started to slowly slip down the slippery slope..." Nick spoke, his voice low. Hancock could also hear the spite in his words as well. Must have not taken the prospect lightly. The Ghoul sometimes forgot not everyone took too kindly to chems. He sat back in his chair and adjusting himself. He was starting to feel a lot more uncomfortable than five minutes ago. He pinched a brow and struggled to look Nick in the eyes.

"I...did notice something changing. I did take it as a sign. I know it affects people. You must understand that I was only doing what I thought could help!"

Nick's frown slowly turned to a minor scowl.

"You think chems would have helped just like a gun helps treat a wound or fire cleans your skin? If you knew that Delta's emotional stability was in decline..." Nick stated, before Hancock's growl interrupted him.

"I offered less in return as I became concerned that she may have been getting too much. I don't want anyone to get that bad where they became miserable with the chems. I know where to draw the line. Besides, any time it got too bad, we would just find somewhere quiet to stay and talk. She would vent it out which at the beginning it wasn't as bad. Me being the fine gentleman I offered her something to help ease the pain. She was...quiet until they kicked in. Then she started telling me her life story. Part of me didn't believe that she was over 200 years old. I thought it was the chems talking. So I joked about it with her when it wore off. Turned out she was serious."

Nick's expression looked like he already knew that.

"Shock to a lot of people. Doll's got the age of a ghoul but the body of a preserved synth but the genetics of a regular yet rad-free human. Dames got the package." Nick explained.

The world was pretty fucked up as it was. Delta was a lonely woman. Hancock hoped that within the world that saw itself as half empty, he wanted to her at least see it as half-full. That if it wasn't for the chems themselves that his own presence eased the loneliness a tad.

"She never went too deep into exact details. She said her emotional stability was being...compromised. So, naturally, I asked her, who was giving her the shits...she wouldn't tell me. Said if she said anything...'they'd' know." Hancock detailed. He knew she was being suspicious.

Nick became very curious at the aspect of 'they'. Normally meant the Institute but...

"I assume they is who were think they are?" Nick inquired.

This was where it became a bit odd to Hancock to grasp. It was hard to place exactly what she meant. He shook his head.

"Definitely...well, though according to her, it was not the Institute. She did warn of somethin' else peering over the horizon." The Ghoul worded.

He could tell Nick became more attentive. The Institute were norm property that were always the usual suspects in scenarios like this. If it was true, then they'd have to worry more about deadly synths on their ass.

"She ever tell you about her son?" Nick wanted to know.

Hancock nodded. He'd never forget that.

"Oh yeah. Some sessions and even non-sessions, she tattled on about how beautiful her son was. Then...she said she didn't have a son...not anymore. I apologised for the loss as any decent person would say...she said...oh God...what she said."

Nick leaned forward. A quick glimpse at his notes had a chock-full of paragraphs over everything the Mayor was giving him.

"I'm more curious as to where in the timeline this happened. Continue..." Nick muttered.

Hancock nodded. Though he wasn't entirely grasping Nick's meaning of a timeline, but he went on:

"Fuck..I thought it was completely out of character...her head must have been so up there it took a while to get back down...so part of that would explain what she said...but damn if it wasn't the coldest thing to come out of her mouth."

Nick clasped his hands together. For a synth, it wasn't hard to see the focus in those weird orbs of his.

"Go on..."

Hancock sighed. He heard Delta say a lot. At the beginning a lot of her words were mostly positive. It then degraded. Hancock didn't want the reason was because of him, but even so, now that he understood far more, her words...anything she said of a perky, cheeful nature were more hollow.

Phrases like, ''it's okay'' and ''I'm okay.'' sounded like at automatic response to a negative impact.

They evolved into..''shit happens'' and ''Don't worry about it''. That sounded like they had a bit more...hate to it. It had begun to crack.

"Imagine you're a parent. You want to provide for your kid. You want them to grow up, get married and have their own kids. Or at least, be happy. They are your future, your legacy. In order to do that you need to give the love and support they need so when they're adults they can take care of themselves. They leave for a while...come back. Suddenly you can't see an inch of you or the other parent in them anymore. It's not because they didn't meet your expectations. You wanted them to be happy. But when you see them, you feel a disconnection. A bond that, perhaps was broken along the way. What ever it is that they've done or said or have become. You hope that it can be mended. But Hancock...I never had any chance to give that to my son, to give him the love and support that a mother should have gave him as an eternal gift and see him grow so that perhaps in that lapse, it could have been mended. I've given him nothing but his existence. My maternal soul wants to reach out but. I've been left with a broken heart. I have absolutely nothing. Nothing at all. My family is dead. And I'm completely alone."

Nick was completely silent. Hancock wasn't a parent himself but with kids these days...he wasn't a fan but he was a kid like everyone else was.

"What were her last words to you that you can recall the very last time you spoke with her?" Nick queried. His voice was rather low and formal, as if still trying to absorb all of that...what ever it was.

Hancock looked away.

"As far as her sober mind was, she was...stable. Mentally. We must have traveled for like, a few weeks at that. She told me she was sorry for what she said. And that she had work to do. Then left. Never saw her since. Must have been about...what, two weeks ago, three weeks tops?"

In all honesty, that sounded more disturbing than anything else she'd ever said. Nick confirmed that in the timeline that it'd only been around that long since anyone had actually seen her, much to Hancock's dismay.

Nick had Hancock write up a few details of their traveling sessions together, including places they visited and times, including her little rant to him that day. All Hancock had offered Delta in return was give a chance to breath and a shoulder to cry on. He never understood why she would be like that though, after all the talk about her and her crusade on the Commonwealth. Hancock had his own so perhaps he did get it in a metaphorical way. It wasn't all sad though. He made her laugh and told her his own stories that seemed to make her smile even in the talk of her dead husband.

In the glaring clean grin before the cold grievances and episodes began to occur, she would talk about people she'd encountered and helped out in her instance. That had that much in common at least. At first she seemed pretty ordinary. While in the best interests of the people of the Commonwealth's heart did she fight for them, there was a small period where she'd left and came back with a blackness in her spirit. In her rant, he believed that was the case where she ended up finding him and became disappointed at what she saw. She never outright said it, but she said enough that hinted at the idea.

After Hancock wrote his part he got up and shook Nick's hand and for his sake hoped they could help find the son of a bitch who Delta away. From whomever 'not the institute but they' were.

"I know where you're coming from Detective." Hancock spoke in a heaved up way, as he had a hard time saying it.

"I'm sorry if this ended up making this shit even worse. That was never my intention."

Nick's lip twitched.

"It's not that. From my own personal feelings I have against such a act of carelessness, it's something I won't press further with. But admittedly, this could measure the tale as a starting point. And also, to the weird part, the most helpful piece of information that I could have gotten."

Hancock nodded.

"You really think it'll help find Delta?"

Nick closed the folder in front of him and sighed.

"I've been hearing similar stories from people I've spoken with so far. Yours seems to give a greater scope that I would have imagined. From developments that began with life, that seemed to have the darker line over the road ahead. Like an arc. You watch it rise...then it reaches it's apex. Then at some point it's gotta fall. Gravity take's it course. It's the depressing saga of the Commonwealth at large."

It didn't stop Hancock from hating himself for helping it happen.

"Sorry won't cut it. That's a given. But I swear to you..if I could help anyway to bring her back. I'll kill every last fucker that stands between us if it means seeing her safe and sound again. You have my word." He promised.

Nick did a subtle nod of acknowledgment.

"We'll need the whole damn Commonwealth looking for her if it comes to that. So I'll let you know if we need your services again Mayor Hancock..."

Nick thanked him for his time and walked out the door and into the alleyway near the Agency.


As he strolled outside, he could see Deacon standing against the wall in the alleyway, looking at the ground with his arms crossed.

"I told him the exact same thing I told you." He told the man.

Deacon remained motionless besides his subtle breathing. Like Nick, he wasn't none too happy for what he did.

"I'm still trying to guess what she meant by that. We came under the notion that, well according to the Coursers story that she 'found her son' who turned out to be the leader of the Institute. I don't see how 'they' would not be the Institute themselves. Yet you were the last one to see her."

Hancock shrugged. Though small chatter from numerous, unwarranted crowds came to mind.

"I've heard people...aka raiders talk about something suspicious lately. Some had the idea that the Institute were involved but the...MO was...strange. Only tell tale sign was the kidnapping but. I never got a lot of the raiders but it definitely has them scared all the same."

So Deacon didn't like the fact that Hancock was giving her chems willy-nilly. She didn't seem the type to become addicted either. Not that the ghoul cared too much about it at first, it was only when the picture became clearer to him that he attempted to put a stop to it, but it may have been too late, but he got the idea the agent didn't take that revelation too lightly.

"She didn't need the chems." Deacon told him. His voice was nearly as low as Nick's was. He was definitely holding himself back.

"Hey I only offered! I'm a generous guy!" Hancock defended.

Deacon's mouth twitched as he pushed himself off the wall, attempting to look tough in front of the ghoul.

"Chems make people do stupid things. Makes you stoop to a damned raiders level." Deacon criticized.

Only if you're stupid in the first place.

"Hey, I wasn't calling her an idiot. If you'd seen how bad this was affecting her, perhaps you may have...what, I dunno cuddled her? Told her everything was going to be okay?" Hancock berated. Everyone else just had to be far too blind to see what was really going on. They may have been entirely selfish towards her, only caring about themselves and their own well-being. He could have punched Deacon...he could have said fuck it right there and then and went on his own damn mission to find her. Whom'ever she's traveled with so far were pathetic companions over all. All those thoughts just made him feel much worse. He should have asked about her moral compass. If she was so high and mighty and pure. And he just fucked her up big time. Hancock couldn't think if it was already there though...or it was just part of Delta that was forcibly changed to the generic attitude in the Commonwealth. What ever it was, he just was unable to shake the feeling of being Delta's turning point. He was unable to believe it. But he shouldn't have been. He would have to constantly debate if he himself was the catalyst...or just another link in the chain in her descent.

He needed some jet, bad. But Deacon was in his face, eager to take him out. Although, they stopped as they heard footsteps halting before them: then looked at the man who stood there, curious at their banter. Hancock recognised that gear immediately.

"Oh hello gentleman. Am I interrupting something here?" He asked. The man's eyes were wide as they went between both of them.

Deacon backed off, which Hancock thought was wise.

"Ah the merc MacCready, good to see you've finally joined the fun." The agent spoke, his tone of the fake, jerky nature.

The mercenary adjusted his hat and popped his brows.

"Ah yeah...fun. Getting kidnapped. Yes. Loads of fantastic, grappling fun." MacCready droned sarcastically.

Deacon smirked. Hancock could see the exact same facade he put on like Delta, now that he thought about it.

"Right this way my man...word of advice, be nice to the good detective." The Railroad agent said, albeit condescendingly.

MacCready just rolled his eyes and looked at Hancock, who just smiled. MacCready was a good man. Didn't mind him. Saw part of himself in him somehow. Though a goon on loan, he was more than that. Hired his services more than once. Took down problems without an issue. Though the mayor didn't really enjoy that his presence there attracted Gunners. He was wary Delta had hired him as well. He had to admit to himself if the man had any real part to play, instead of just some sob story like everyone else had.

"What ever. I'm only here because I'm worried about Delta." MacCready stated.

"Yeah we know." Deacon and Hancock said in sync, exchanging surprised glances, before letting the merc through.

Chapter Text

 

Only the suicidal take on the world alone.

Not the motto that MacCready lived by, personally, but it was the way he had perceived the woman of impossibilities.

She happened to cross him in Goodneighbor and hired him for his services. She seemed blank as an individual but the smile she wore said otherwise. She held an air of beauty that surrounded her, not that he would admit it. She was definitely something else. For all those he'd met previously, the way she was, just seemed to contrast.

His work as a mercenary just held him by for the caps he desperately needed. Any sane person who wanted to travel the Commonwealth had to have someone watching their backs. Delta swung on by and proved his word. He would take this on just like any other job, like any other person who's ever hired him. It was supposed to be like that...but he didn't feel the way he wanted to.

Perhaps it was just...what ever it was, the way Delta was...calmed him. She was a talented woman that had taken on the Commonwealth alone before. But having the company wasn't the worst idea to her. Their talks lead to her revealing the smallest of details. They had a lot in common.

Dead spouses...and a son left behind in it all. But she didn't leave her son willingly. Mac didn't either but, he had those he could depend on to take care of Duncan. Delta's loneliness wouldn't let her avoid the chaos of the world for long. Especially when she was hunting down her son. You would definitely need a helping hand.

Within their travels, they blended together as battle buddies. They were on each other's six's and it felt good, rather than the boring people he'd aided in the past. His feelings betrayed him yet, he didn't mind it. The world was harsh, violent and cruel to the point the only part of it you clung on to were the people that existed to help keep you alive no matter how much you hated them and the reality of the Commonwealth before them. In truth, that one woman made it seem good again. Like Lucy. God...just like Lucy. He missed her dearly. In the breadth of his own self to ensure the standards were left dull, it failed miserably. Because Delta helped jump start the erase of his doubt of a light left in the darkness that made it all okay. It wasn't as bad.

Not that it mattered too much. It was just significant to him that was all. To be considered unique was a bonus in his book. Someone he could eventually depend on. When ever it was, they had become friends. The guilt bore into him when she told him her side. That she saved his son before her own. The complexity of her heart drove him made sometimes.

"After a while, I gave her caps back." He told Nick in their discussion.

"It didn't seem right."

Nick could write down the man's story. It seemed to only say the exact summary of Delta's ways.

"A parent's love. You and her know the importance of the child you helped to bare. Your gut tells you they matter. Their futures matter." Nick worded, like he was weaving a story of his own.

Mac couldn't agree more. He was surprised at such wisdom coming from a synth though.

"Right...yeah it meant more to me someone didn't use me as ya know, as a tool. Not that I mind. I prefer to keep distant to my clients. It was supposed to be more about the work, not the fu- not to spill out our personal lives." Mac explained.

Nick adjusted himself as he pulled out a cigarette and gave it to him, lighting it up for him as Nick got out another for himself. MacCready nodded in thanks.

"So the story goes. You get all close as tacks, you gave her everything. She doesn't judge..." Nick stated.

Man Nick was good as they say. He took a puff and his body seemed to relax slightly.

"Well y-yeah. I mean, who does that...they have this gift to gut your emotions. Like I said, would have been completely content without that being shoved in there. Dunno if being a parent had much to do with that..she lost her son. If I was in her position, perhaps I could have done the same thing for hers. I know you're a synth n' all. Like you'd expect from everyone you speak with, they aren't in my good graces. You thinkin' a synth took her?" He asked.

The Detective didn't even seem to be bothered by that comment. General Commonwealth standards didn't bring a lot of love to them but Diamond City treated this one far better than any he'd encountered in the past.

"Someone like me? Haha...make sure they include the warranty on that one. Gotta cause some scars for sure." Nick joked.

Still didn't make MacCready feel at ease. It was the norm of the Institute wasn't it? The way they just felt like they had the gall to come and take people when ever it pleased them. It made MacCready feel better every time one of his bullets took one out. One less synth mongrel to worry about.

"In all likelihood, it's a distinct possibility we're working on. We're all thinkin' the same scam. Though we're taking all points. So if it was them then yeah, if not...then Heaven help the poor bastards that did...they won't get away with it for long." Nick explained to him.

He knew it. Had to be the Institute for sure. Assholes. It was always them. If he could, he'd storm into their hidy hole and blast them all to the depths of the hell they made for themselves. They were like the Gunners. Those he'd like to just bury so damn deep that the devil himself would come to claim them. Speaking of the Gunners, MacCready shot up as he recalled something Delta and he discussed. It could have been important.

How could he forget one of their many adventures together. No matter the mark on himself, the way Delta acted was...incredibly strange. While they could joke and speak like ordinary adults would, much to MacCready's inner child's disappointment, a day that became so...unclear to him that he wasn't sure what he had to make of it at the time because when it was approached and done and dusted, it never ever came up again...and Delta turned back to normal after the initial awkward behaviour she showed. He knew something was up about a week later, when she no longer needed his services.

"While you're here...I figure I'd let you know...while the problems with the Gunners was fixed up, Delta and I found something on one of their terminals. Didn't seem important but the way Delta reacted to it, could be of some help."

Nick popped straight to attention. Yeah it was straight as they were taking one of their hideouts that this had happened. A lot of them liked to keep a lot of the data and journals on record. MacCready...if he'd wrote anything, he prefered ol' fashioned pencil and paper. Lucy'd always encouraged him to do that. Said if he needed to ever look back, he'd easily see how far he'd come. He advised Delta of the same.

"Delta has this..habit of going to terminals...hacking them. I personally thought and often spoke of how much of waste of time lookin' into those boxes were, but she was tapping with those fingers of hers, those eyes entirely focused on the screen. My priority was making sure those pri- the Gunners were taken down. I waited as patiently as I could, perhaps what ever she was looking for. It took time to do what ever you did with those things. So I waited, turned around. Then turned again a few minutes latter when it was all went deadly quiet. She went dark. I put my hand on her shoulder and asked her why it was takin' so long."

The Detective was writing this all down. Not sure if he actually had to be put every word down. Maybe the important parts but seriously...even his secretary was jotting everything down too so they could...maybe compare notes. What ever. Mac continued onwards.

"I moved around to the side to face her...it took me a while to realise it wasn't the glow of the screen that was making her turn a funny colour. It was the look of shock and disbelief. She was pale as can be."

Nick rubbed his chin, eager to learn more.

"Did you manage to get a quick glimpse of what she was reading?" Nick wondered.

MacCready recalled squinting and tilting his head once twice. He was just so curious would have made her react that way.

"What ever I glimpsed before she came to...some kind of message? Involving the Gunners talking about some group known as the Paragons? I dunno. Meant nothing to me. She said it was all good and spoke nothing of it again." McCready answered.

Nick froze as well. The machine had to be put back by his assistant after a moments quiet. Maybe the synth had an idea about what it was all about.

"Ring a bell?" He asked. His reaction seemed to suggest he knew more than he was letting on.

He watched as the synth was entirely focused onto a note pad and told himself to look that up later. He then turned back to MacCready, who was puzzled by it all. He'd asked Delta about it, but she repeatedly told him it was nothing. She'd become increasingly distrusting of Mac after that incident. He saw it in her eyes. Bullshi- It wasn't nothing at all! He felt the need to push, but he feared...out of all the weirdest of emotions, feared that he'd pushed Delta too far that she'd dismiss him and never say anything outside of business and casual banter ever again. She did dismiss him but...his reaction was mixed and the reasons for doing so...it was a mixed case of why. He didn't push that hard did her? He was...again, betrayed by the irritability of his emotional side, worried about her. It wasn't anything huge that she was giving away. MacCready could detect the subtle changes.

Then in the end, she told him to go in the most stone-cold way. Besides the emotion she'd been leaking out throughout the week before hand, she showed absolutely nothing. Nothing at all.

He hadn't seen her for five months after that.

"Hmmm...I can work with that. Look I think I've got enough for now. Let the next one in. Thank you for your help. I'll uh...let ya know anymore once we know." Nick replied. His tone changed slightly, but MacCready wasn't going to question it. He just wanted Delta to be safe.

He found it odd how a synth of all people were looking into the matter at hand. But he was glad someone was going to do it. Mac tried to take it as another case but it stuck into him quite painfully that he never could quite nudge it from his head. As Deacon found him, he wasn't expecting anything until he let her name slip from his lips. His eyes had taken head to find connection for what ever eyes were behind those sunglasses. The betrayal erupted. He knew this wasn't something that could be let go so easily, nor did he never change his opinion that this had been definitely larger than Delta claimed it was.

Something wasn't right at all. And now there was the proof that his instinct devoured on the very investigation itself. Nothing physical, but the hints were there. He was now, somewhat glad he wasn't entirely alone.

The same couldn't be said for Delta. Though from what he's seen so far, that loneliness has been far and few in between.

He reluctantly shook Nick's hand, doused his smoke in the tray and went outside. Nick would need his services again, that was noted. His heart skipped as he saw a short haired woman in a tartan shirt who grinned at him. It was more to surprise than anything else.

"Oh is it my turn yes?" She spoke with a French accent.

He paid no mind to the pretty woman and swirled his head around to answer her question.

"Oh, yeah. Definitely. Just give as much as you've got if you're here because what I think you're here for. If it's about Delta...I'm surprised. She never told me she had this many friends."

The woman's expression were more innocent than anything he'd ever perceived. Even with Delta who's face and manner held some experience. This one was far more perky. But this made Mac even more puzzled than before. Part of him didn't actually care for the fact, but...with Deacon, Hancock of all people (though he knew she'd helped him out at some point.) and partially others involved, the question that rang in his mind was the real purpose as why she'd hired him in the first place.

Did...Delta go through the same thought process as he? Maybe he was thinking too much into it, but...these people...Mac sensed they'd been close. She did not want them to get too close as what he was reading it as. Could be that. Could be anything. Could be related to what ever the f-, what ever that Paragon thing was.

The amount of caring was in level with the amount of pain you'd received the manner of a crisis.

MacCready knew that all too well.

He watched Curie go inside as Deacon approached him with a cigarette in his hands and a stupid grin on his face. Another one?

"Here's your smoke as promised. I never lie about deals like that." Deacon joked.

MacCready eyed him carefully as he took it. He'd rather get paid in caps, but everyone seemed anxious enough that a bit of old chemicals running through the veins seemed to make one react better than caps ever could. Caps would be better though.

"I'd rather get paid to lie. Not getting paid at it gets you the honest truth." He commented.

Deacon took out another cigarette and lit them both up.

"So...Delta paid you. You gave the money back. Were you paid not to care?" Deacon asked him.

MacCready answered by putting the cigarette in his mouth.

Chapter Text

 

Life had a cycle of love and hate. It only needed to be taught and the best way to learn was by example. But one would have to learn from one's own perception. That in the end, you would have to make your own judgement. The world to Curie was quite lovely. Even those who saw it otherwise, it was the air...it was the bluest sky, it was the faces of those she met that she loved dearly. While scientific pursuits were her primary purpose, the light of life became her hobby. To see if what she could offer would still be relevant to her purpose at the same time the joy of life, could still bring her new and exciting discoveries. Whether it would be diseases that still afflicted people in this day and age or to find out how to think. To find the kindness from others, their way of thinking...their way of being...human.

Madam Delta was one of the most kindest people she'd ever met. Therefore, Curie cared for her deeply. Though Delta would tease her on the occasion due to her being new to the whole wave of emotions process, there was nothing Curie wouldn't do for her. Since she was a Miss Nanny, Curie's always had this innate desire to learn and to grow. She was blessed when Delta gave her this opportunity to do so. So she was no longer being blind to the the truth of self and others.

They had dozens of discussions about the nature of humanity over all. She was..curious as to the wide range of people they encountered. The diversity was vast that Curie couldn't stick to one whole answer. For example, while Delta could fight, she did so with the noblest of intentions. When Curie would ask about it, she said not everyone can fight, so it's important we fight for them. Others fought for their own reasons, good or bad. Curie had compared it to her work. That others would rely on her skills for the same reason. Delta assured her work was valued and not to be looked down upon.

Part of the transformation on her own, the extraordinary blast of everything intangible and unexplainable was thrown at her, but to see Delta on the other side, to see that she still existed beyond her visual parameters, was something she had to get used to. Humans created her, they spoke and worked with her. Dr Collin's gave her a gift to challenge her programming. That of what the humans would call a soul. Though a robot, the way of thinking had to evolve alongside of it. For why? She never found out. A robot's life had purpose. A sentient had a soul. Would it still need purpose?

But the restrictions to her grew outside of her software. It was her hardware that needed to change. She'd often pondered over and over again about asking Delta the question about...becoming human.

That night, inside the Memory Den, with Doctor Amari and Glory and Delta being there to help her...the fears she had of nothing being real to her were put aside as she opened her synthetic eyes. That her...soul had only been transported from one vessel to another.

Delta only smiled. Her sensors did not lie after all. After all the data input became immense, that Delta was there to help sort it out, to bring the enlightened senses to balance. Poor Curie wouldn't know what would have happened if Delta hadn't been there to help her emerge and be reborn with a new outlook on life. That she became alive...truly alive for the first time.

In the drifts of the night, Curie would look at the stars, she would have the analytical data on stars despite not being a necessary to know. Her eyes would scan the beautiful sparks, but she'd longed to see the human from a different perspective. With one eye, she'd see Delta sitting there with her legs dangling about and her hands and fingers dug into the earth, staring up at them herself. She could see her green eyes dashing between each of them in the sky. Curie would watch her chest rise and fall, the look of wonder in her smile. It was what Curie discovered what she truly needed in all of her desire. The desire to express and that particular "spark." she always wanted. Humans loved using metaphors.

Of course, she wanted to learn as much as she could, but a lot of the data would have be sacrificed in the meanwhile. Delta joked about the ordeal but reminded her that the important stuff would stick in there as long as she needed it.

So when she had spoken with Nick about this, the detective seemed utterly surprised.

"I've seen and heard Delta pull off the impossible. But to transfer a mind over into a new body? That really takes the cake." Nick commented.

Curie rose an eyebrow. What an odd thing to say.

"No...I do not believe any cakes were taken Monsieur Valentine?" She said, confused.

There were those Nick had patience with. He'd be told Curie was a...special case he needed to take care with. Himself...mostly.

"You never know with those thieving sorts. Now, doll, I want to know details. Anything you can think of that might help us with this case." He said.

Curie tried to ponder. So much data she could divulge. She was more than happy to tell but most of the data she had was what ever they collected on the road. The world was distinct but filled with more than she could take in. She felt off-put from the overloaded senses, but given time and a bit of time to try to give birth to sense.

"Hmm let me think. Delta was very helpful in helping me interpret this body. I felt like, in my old body that there'd been no room left for any more growth to occur. She is very resourceful indeed." Curie explained.

She thought Nick was an odd man. Though she was taught not to judge, he seemed to in the same circle of existence as she, that of which was made artificial but the soul existed within, very clearly.

"So we've been told. When was the last time you saw Delta anyway?" Nick questioned her.

Curie bit her lip, closed her right eye and looked up as she tried to recollect any past encounters.

"Oh..must have been. Possibly like the others. Five months. I was in Sanctuary with the others at the point. When Preston presented to us that he was going to get help, that was when I was really worried." Curie answered, as she smiled at the memories they shared together. The way Delta both teased her and cared for her. It was appreciative that Delta had no issues dealing with Curie's naïve thinking of the reality around her. For her discoveries and wonderful marvels, she was more interested in the human psyche. The personality of others, the biological compounds of flora and fauna outside the vault she was found in. She always helped develop stimpaks too.

"Delta usually called me Sanctuary's cutest nurse. Though one time Deacon offered to find me a nurses outfit. Still hasn't give it to me."

The synth man was just as confused as Curie was with the matter. It would have been nice to see her again though.

"Any time she acted not like herself?" Nick continued.

Curie put her index finger to lip as she went through her memory banks. Delta had been hard pressed to tackle any obstacle in her way. Curie the curious, often would ask Delta questions regarding humanity and it's tenacity, it's complicated nature and the world in which it made for itself. Then it came to questions about Delta herself, over all was the most confusing aspect. She was never too clear. She wanted to think she was being honest, was it human nature to believe otherwise?

"Madam Delta did not like her past prodded. Things that I can see, touch, smell and taste are easier to understand. When it comes to the human behaviour is where it gets...troubling. I only know so much from books. I came across one which discussed the icon of love. Most emotions can be put into use in accordance to the way we react to them. Anger, happiness, sadness. Those are the basic functions of our own being. When it came to love it was...a feeling that was described nearly a thousand times with no real answer. You saw it in fictional stories but when it came to the non-fiction...Delta could only talk about how love could be good and bad for you. Her tone became...weak, like she didn't really want to talk about it. I wanted to know the different loves that existed because I for example could feel a type when I was with the scientists but not the love that maybe would have for their husband or wife...or their children."

Delta seemed to shy away from those sorts of discussions when Curie asked her about her family. Curie never had a genetic family, since her baseline of origin was obviously that to be programmed into her and let her subroutines develop and evolve over time. The awareness that she possessed wanted to cling onto why and how of life itself. Those who could help gave her what she needed. It wasn't long, however, that she needed to go out into the world to experience these for real.

From when Delta took her around, the experiences were more exhilarating and terrifying than she could have ever imagined. The sun on her skin, the taste of food on her tongue. How did people survive with such intense sensations?

"She was in a good mood when it was okay. It felt the moment I mentioned that I mentioned anything to do with the family that her mood turned. Sour? I don't know. Maybe I was getting it wrong again."

Nick eyed her. With scrutiny? No, but he was definitely scanning her, like she would with everything new she saw.

"Did she ever get outright angry with you? It sounded like you two got along well until you spilled the forbidden words." He questioned.

Not that Curie could recall. Just against her enemies but never to anyone who wasn't outright going to try and shoot them both. Even then, for people that left well enough alone, she could sense Delta's patience wearing thin. But the scientists she worked with often had that kind of relationship with each other. She considered it a norm of the human psyche.

"No. She would get...quiet. Or even ignore me. I'd ask her again then she would tell me to be quiet like she was listening out for something. Or even change the subject. People don't like to talk about certain things...but isn't talking about them supposed to help?"

Nick's eyes fell to the papers of the desk. It wasn't uncommon that anything she'd ever end up reading about would either contradict with anything else that she'd read or the reality showed her the exact opposite. Even when the truth would be revealed, the answer in the text would come up to prove itself at any given moment.

"The exact nature of human philosophy is hard to grasp. Humans themselves will be believe they're on the cusp of a grand discovery, only for a part of it to be disproven. Ones who will generate an idea or a hypothesis on the general scheme of things. There's always going to be parts that will never make sense. What you're experiencing is in accordance to the mind always tickin' away-that is, that it's constantly thinking things over and over again and occasionally you'll prop right up with what ever your mind creates. The mind will keep and take as it pleases based on several factors. If you can perceive it and your mind believes it, it will keep that very prospect and...well, your subconscious will make you a bit more comfortable with it. Or the exact opposite. You'll find that you, in some way that may or may not have a reason to explain it, you simply don't like it. It goes with everything you see or do. At any time you feel confused about something, someone, somewhere will feel the exact same way." Nick explained.

Curie blinked. So...she was confused at why she was confused about it? When over all it was okay to feel that way?

"So...Delta did not like to talk about it. In excess of that could hurt her more to say so than it was to not, disproves the very nature of the phrase 'talking to make it feel better?" Curie suggested. Maybe she was still missing the point.

Nick tapped his fingers on the desk in a slow and steady fashion. Curie hoped she wasn't testing his patience as well. Though his face was hard to read, his body language, in the position he was in, was that of what Curie could interpret as such.

"What you need to know is that everyone is different. As for what we are, we have to determine for ourselves if something works or not. We need to decide if the methods we're using are in the appropriation in the very context of the enquiry. We expect people to have a type of reaction. We may or may not like the results that eventuate. As a Detective, results are what I need. I don't have to like them, I just need them for the very purpose my line of work is meant for." Nick elaborated.

Everyone was indeed different. Perhaps the reactions Curie was looking for were being used in the wrong method, or even her state of mind on she approached. Oh no...was she stepping out of line?

"Oh...yes. As a scientist we would do that as well. Although we would need a satisfactory result in order to make it work. You're saying I should keep an open mind about it." She assumed.

Nick nodded. This meant she might have getting the concept now.

"No one is perfect. There are times where we'll get it so wrong, that you screw up so bad...but you then take it as a learning opportunity." Said Nick.

Curie's eyes wandered to the side as she pondered. It was more than that. But it was a very similar to her tests. Is that what this was?

"I didn't mean to offend her. I didn't continue to ask her unless it was related to something else. She'd still change the subject. She was cold but she wasn't angry. You don't think I pushed her too far?" She said with worry.

Nick smirked.

"Curie, you just don't seem the type that could have even remotely done that. You said she was nice to you. That she only seemed to change when you brought up the incorrect topic. But I don't think she would be outright angry to the point that she'd run away because of it." He answered with a humoured tone.

Curie sighed with relief. Thank goodness. She wasn't feeling guilty, she was just trying to help out as to why she could have left in the first place. However...

"She did apologise for being uncomfortable about talking about it. I told her it was I, who should have apologised. I have studied trauma before. I may not know a lot my own feelings, personally as I am still learning. I know that from what I have read and seen, that she only said she had a husband and son...a son that was taken away and her husband too...she never...never went further into detail. Mothers who adored their sons and loved their husbands. I'll assume it's never that way all the time sadly?"

Nick frowned. From what he'd explained, his silence told him all she needed to know. Science was much easier to discover. There were answers. Having sentience created all types of ambiguity and the general humanoid philosophy meant nothing was definite. Nothing was straight to the point and clean. It was messy and it rattled poor Curie's brain.

"The world would be easier to see in black and white. There's a lot of grey to be had." He commented solemnly.

Curie gave a weak smile.

"But the world is so colourful, monsieur Valentine. All the hues, the shades, saturated, over saturated that it could be so...beautiful, so immersive. All of the organic, artificial and all that in between. I see that now. Even people are like that. Delta was the shining rainbow. Not really, but I'm talking from a philosophical point of view. Am I getting that right?" She wondered.

The detective was enamored by the metaphors.

"Hey if that's your take on it, then yeah, she's a rainbow. Then you think, what makes a rainbow.?... a little bit of sunshine and a little bit of rain."

Curie's eyes widened. She never even thought about it that. She liked that metaphor a lot! Yes because sunshine symbolised happiness and rain symbolised sadness. Hence, an arc of wonderful colours. It made Curie smile just thinking about it.

"Wouldn't that make us all little rainbows?" She queried, pondering about the others in her life.

Nick shrugged, there was something that warmed Curie's heart when she saw him smile. It was when everyone smiled, Curie did too.

"Yeah...could be." Nick finished.


There wasn't much else that Monsieur Valentine needed, other than a brief summary of what Delta and her did together. They shook hands, then Nick brought her hand up to his lips, making Curie blush as he thanked her for her time. He too, had this spark from her own quick analysis and...a soul.

She wandered outside with a grin on her face, but almost stumbled into a Mr Handy robot that she recognised straight away.

"Oh Codsworth, my deepest apologies!" She said frantically.

The robot was barely fazed in the slightest.

"No need my dear, just off to see the good detective myself actually!"

Chapter Text

 

The folds of fabric, the gushing of water, the shrill of the kettle boiling...the cries of young infants; They were the sounds a Mr. Handy would hear very often. Within their subroutines, they would whittle down the chores with utmost enthusiasm. They would scan the faces of their owners daily and listen to their commands most eagerly. They would wave them and wish them goodbye as they went to work and greeted them as they returned with a cup of tea or coffee. They thrived for the noise, the sound waves of a busy life style. For the humans were important to them as the Mr. Handy line became a popular item in the Commonwealth.

Robots only have the expectations they were designed for. The complication of their apparent sentience came up for debate often, but it turned out they were more than glad to have a chirpy voice ringing throughout the house, even when their owners were in dire moods. There would be the occasional debacle as to the emotive needs, but not much else was brought to people's attention. The jolly natures of the majority of the models had...mixed to good reception.

Codsworth liked hearing the voices of Delta, Nate and Young Shaun. He became accustomed to the pleases and thank you's and the bubbly laughter around him. He became attentive to their needs and wants. Humans considered their lives not all the greatest, but for a Mr. Handy that had a loving family. It was all they could ever ask for. All he could ever ask for.

Sadly, developments were sent forth for what was never really planned.

Codsworth was more than happy to help find Miss Delta. Possibly the most enthused. Almost, possibly the most worried. The worst thing that could happen would be to lose family again. After all the longing and the waiting...he just wanted her safe...she'd originally left in such an unfortunate manner, Sanctuary Hills was the place to be, once upon a dormant time. It was meant to be the best neighbourhood to in for the whole Commonwealth, filled with respective people and their families. A house made a home for all who would enter it. That home would become dark between the blasts upon until he found Delta. Or Delta found him. He had to watch the tragedy unfold as the world turned to rust and as man mutated and changed for the worse. The first fifty years were difficult, as Codsworth protocols dictated that he had to be upbeat and chirpy. He tried. Tried with everyone as they came and went...as children were born and as they died. He was loyal to Miss Delta and her family but without them...he was bent on preserving what he could. Part of it must have impacted him far more than he knew of himself. The ways that churned his internal systems...the very kernel of it...into something he feared.

He lent out a claw to Detective Valentine as a courtesy.

"Ah Miss Delta has told me about you." He told the Synth. Now he was told Synths were bad from many a human around him. But, this one wasn't bad. Robots had gone a long way since the 21st century.

"I'm ecstatic to finally meet the person who helped find her young Shaun. I do hope you can find Miss Delta though."

He waited until Nick shook back after about a moment of stillness between them. Codsworth insisted on shaking Ellie's hand as well. To meet and greet was another one of his task he did with pride. Ellie was surprised, then went back to work.

"You're a bit different from most Mr. Handy's I've met. Huh...alright. So tell me, Codsworth. I would gather out of everyone she's even spoken with, you would know her more than anyone? Your profile says you came from her family?" He asked.

Ahh yes. The day he his eyes met with the young family that welcomed him into their home was one of his most happiest of memories. The smiling Delta, the delightful Nate and little Shaun. He was glad to be made part of it.

"Miss Delta was a wonderful mum and wife. I performed my duties to the letter." Codsworth commented. And not a lie to be had in that.

"Uh huh. Good to know. So...anything to note during those times? How was the woman we know different from then?" Nick inquired.

Miss Delta was beautiful. She'd been a busy woman, with all her work as a lawyer gave her.

"The work of a mother and a lawyer was never easy for her. She always said that. I told her she was doing astonishingly well. There were days where she'd come home so fatigued she'd collapse on the couch or even on the rug...I had reservations about the softness and how I had yet to vacuum, but she was so dedicated to her work that it exhausted her and exhausted me just looking at and the dark circles around her eyes. I could only imagine the amount of input she put into it. It was good to see that she could at least put that all aside, even momentarily, so she could focus on her family." Codsworth mentioned. Days could go by where she would stop smiling...but then she'd be smiling again with moments of settling down again.

Nick looked at another set of notes and flicked through them.

"The law is a fickle mistress of it's own...you had to chase it down or else it'd fly away, leaving with the utmost dissatisfaction. Moving on, Delta's also mentioned the time the bombs went off. Can you give me a brief explanation of how that went down?" Nick questioned further.

That was a day never hoped to bring back into his memory; that dreadful, awful and cumbersome day. Part of his circuits either malfunctioned, but it was the first time since he was switched on, that fear was something he definitely was experiencing.

"It all happened so fast. Miss Delta and Mr Nate originally had plans for the evening so I had planned to tend to young Shaun while they were away. Miss Delta answered the door and there was a man from Vault-tec standing before her." Codsworth continued, his voice with a touch of panic and stress.

From one of Codsworth eyes, he could see all the information being written down onto a sheet of A4 paper. He wondered how this would help find Delta but he was glad to share it nonetheless.

"I recall him making several attempts to talk to us, but Miss Delta had made the decision to sign the family up. Sir rekindled the remark that it was important to protect their family. Then, not long after, we heard the news about the bombs going off. It was all hush, hush and rush and...I dreaded to think of what would have happened to this wonderful family. Sir quickly grabbed Shaun as Delta and he had begun to make their way to Vault. All in the timing."

Codsworth just wanted them to be safe and healthy. Nothing more. He had been curious as if Delta ever told that story to anyone else about what happened that day. Just to ensure it was healthy for her to speak about traumatic events, as Delta was definitely not the same woman she had been back then, that Codsworth was certain of. Nick was increasingly interested in it however from pure observation.

"What about you? I'll take a swing and say because you were a robot, they wouldn't let you in?" Detective Valentine asked him. Much to the Mr. Handy's sadness, yes.

"The only thing I cared about was them getting to safety. Perhaps that in the wake of all the destruction, that they would come back home." Codsworth answered.

Nick's face fell. Was it that obvious?

"Yet you waited for over 200 years...to see Delta again..." Valentine pointed out, slightly perplexed.

He was right. It was worth seeing her again.

"She looked famished. She had been late for dinner. So I offered her to make her something quick, but mum wasn't entirely hungry. I understood." He said depressingly. He recalled the days gone by, trying to get rid of all the rust and the fortnightly floor waxing. Thought to be impossible, but the house just got dirty quicker than he could clean it. It was driving him insane. He helped others in the meanwhile over the years that wandered by. Overall, the lack of contact just prompted him to clean to ensure his hardware and software were up to snuff.

"Right...so, her husband...Nate. What he was he like?" Nick asked him, getting a new sheet of paper.

Oh sir! Yes. Good sir. He could never forget the day he laid his eyes on them when they activated him. He felt so honoured in given the name Codsworth, named after Nate's grandfather. Good man...good man.

"Oh Miss Delta and Sir Nate were a joy to be with. Their love for one for another could set an example for all others out there you know. A veteran and a lawyer...defenders of peace and justice. A match made in heaven, I might add." The Mr. Handy said with glee.

All up until Delta returned of course. When he sensors caught a glimpse of her form returning to Sanctuary, he was relieved. He was so concerned that something had happened to them, but she came back. It looked like that Vault-tec representative did the right thing and that the vault they'd gone in truly saved their lives.

He wondered where sir and Shaun had gone off to. Delta said they had gone, but his programming wouldn't let him believe. He had sworn that everything was still normal. He wanted to grasp onto that slight chance that they could have been a family again. Shaun could have still been alive...but Delta had to take him into the vault to prove that sir had...indeed left his world in an untimely manner. His eye appendages sunk down a tad.

"When Miss Delta...showed me sir's body...I could scarcely believe. I saw it in her eyes, the way she had changed. Oh Detective Valentine if you have seen it yourself. A woman who'd lost everything..." Codsworth spoke of sadly. It was painful to recall that he almost felt physical pain from thinking about it.

The synth nodded.

"But she had you. Were you not family?" He asked.

His eyes perked upwards as his aperture widened.

"Of course! I...Miss Delta means the world to me. I just want her to be happy. I understand that what ever was had over 210 years ago can't be brought back. If she could have moved on...maybe found new love."

Nick's glanced to his side, at a nearby wall. Did Codsworth touch a nerve?

"Love is complex. She's never given any signs of moving on. None that anyone told me, anyway. If they had that good a relationship, it's the heartache that she would have gone through. No one comes out better for seeing their spouse getting shot. Trust me on that one." Nick stated, his voice low and on the verge of trembling.

Love was love to Codsworth. He thought that Delta and Nate were a lovely couple and that what they had for each other and for Shaun were the best examples. He was unable to peer down the deeper paths alongside it. It was far too messy for him for his programming to give him a clear answer on. He only knew what was enough and that was the love of family. The worst part however...

"But...you could at least hold her. I have the inability to do so. I am only so charitable with words. Sir and Delta used to hug each other on the couch while they watched the television together. My sensors could only adore it. But these days I...whether recent circumstances have made me see it for what it was...from books that I've read to those brief moments in Concord from the remnants of the citizenry there..."

Nick made a face. Codsworth wasn't sure what the face meant but a small smirk and eyes that read something indescribable puzzled the bot.

"You're talking about physical intimacy? You...want that?" Nick asked, a bit confused himself in the matter, but his tone suggest he was more amused with the idea.

Codsworth middle eye rose up higher.

"Of course not! I wasn't suggesting that for myself! Heavens no! Haha...I wasn't even designed to hug. I wouldn't mind it though if my form even allowed it, unless you want to be charred, scared or maimed. All three if you really push my buttons."

Nick's grin grew wider.

"So you merely wanted to gesture to Delta...that you cared. Nothing wrong with that, my friend." He elaborated.

Codsworth sighed. It was really hard to describe it. But..he really did care for her. Even back before the bombs hit.

"Not clearly enough as sir did. He himself was a very busy man. He may have retired from being from the direct front lines, but to head a small army himself demanded a lot of dedication and hard work." Codsworth commented. He was similar to Delta in terms that while the days ahead of them called out their names constantly for their attention, at the end of the day, they could come home to each other, to give that attention amongst themselves.

Nick lifted his his chin.

"Nate lead a small army?" He asked him, his voice a little higher but softer.

Indeed he did. While the military didn't need his services, Nate still wanted to fight for the Commonwealth.

"Yes of course...he was their commanding officer...on their little, super secret duties. I'm certain in old...possibly and most likely destroyed records, that you'll find his name amongst the old ruins of...what was that place called? Oh...I don't think he ever mentioned it. He only told Delta that it was situated in a place only few knew about. And that his meetings would run very late at night."

Detective Valentine wrote all of this down as well. Wasn't sure what sir had to do with this. Unless it affected Delta in any way.

"I could...maybe. Not everything's burnt to a crisp. What ever helps. What was his full name?"

Of course the full name! Names always helped if they were plucked from the registrar, owners names were often pre-programmed into their software before they were turned on.

"He was Corporal officially before he was discharged...but then it changed to Captain Nathan Nier, unofficially."

All of a sudden, Nick froze. He held the pencil above the paper. Codsworth lowered his middle eye close towards Nick, curious as to why he stopped like that.

"Detective Valentine, is everything alright?" He remarked with worry. Perhaps his internal runtimes suddenly went dead. Probably just needed a reboot.

With an achingly slow pace, Nick placed the pencil down, then looked at the Mr. Handy. Hm...much to filter through, Codsworth thought. He hated that when that happened. Only when so much data had to be processed. Self-diagnostics were very useful when that occurred. He must have placed about...20,745 requests within 210 years when glitches would cause him to act out of his limitations.

Much had to be altered...system resets, code replaced, code removed. Code moved around, added, subtracted. All the usual administrations that came with being a good version of the popular model.

"No I'm..it's okay. Just...had a bit of hiccup that's all." Nick explained. Codsworth felt unassured as his eyes refused to focus on his own, but rather not trace anyone at all, besides the wall, floor, desk and roof. The synth stood up, then his eyes eventually met with one of Codsworth's. His face remained...dull. It wasn't hard but it seemed stiffer than it was before. He leant out a hand.

"I appreciate taking the time to see me on short notice. I'll get Deacon to take you back home."

It was odd to see Nick's manner change within a microsecond. He should ask Curie how synth runtimes work. He often wondered what it would be like to be a synth, but he had others matters to worry about other than the trivial curiosities of an aged robot.

"My pleasure Detective Valentine. Oh and did you receive my package? I asked Deacon to bring it along, thought it might help with the investigation."

Nick nodded as he looked at Ellie who went to grab the crate nearby.

"Yeah. I did. Filled with books and holotapes. These Delta's?" Nick questioned.

"Why yes. I thought it might have be useful to utilise. These are what Delta had collected during her travels. Last time I saw her, she handed one back to me. I've thought of keeping it, but...it might also help."

Nick watched as Codsworth brought something out of his internal storage. He held a holotope in his claw and handed it to him. It was the one holotape that sir had told him to give to her when she needed it. First time she heard it as she played it from her Pip-Boy, she cried.

"I saw her...two months ago. She looked dreadful. I wanted to help. She...she said she was going away for a while. She didn't say where or why. But..that tape was the last remnant...the last fragment of her...what she had."

He could see Nick judging him from his words, like why he didn't mention this before. Delta made him promise not to tell anyone, but...what heart Codsworth had, it was breaking...and no normal diagnostic run time could fix it.

"Codsworth..." Detective Valentine muttered with empathy.

"I'm sorry...I broke your promise Miss Delta..." He cried. He absolutely hated doing this. He made a distinct bond with her that she had hardly shared with anyone else alive today. He had to remain strong for her. For everyone. He grew accustomed to Preston, he grew accustom to Cait of all people...sweet Miss Curie too. He dedicated his time in assisting them as hew grew to care for them as family too. As with Dogmeat...the family pet...but his relationship with his owners would be strongest he'd ever had.

Nick pursed his lips, then checked out the holotape labled 'Hi Honey.' and handed it to Ellie.

"I'll make a point to listen to it later. But...really Codsworth. Thank you. I take cases like this very seriously. So I'll get her back no matter what."

He'd left the premises, thanking Detective Valentine. As he exited into the alleyway, he saw a young woman he'd hoped was Delta, but this one wore a red jacket. She had the short brown hair that seemed to be around Delta's length, but her face didn't match. She also wore a hat. Delta didn't like wearing hats.

"Oh Piper! Hello my dear! How's the presses going these days?" He asked the young lady in his usual chipper tone. It wasn't hard for Codsworth to bounce back. As much as he thought he could, for his state of mind.

The woman smiled at him. She was a nice woman that Delta had introduced him to once before. If Diamond City was the green jewel, then Piper was the red one, from Delta's previous description. From what he'd seen for himself so far, majority of the people became closer to Delta as a result of her enigmatic personality. Just like the clients of the old days she mentioned would buy her lunch or dinner for the knots they'd gotten themselves in. It was normal for her to attract the right kind of people. It felt like she rubbed off on him, now that those Delta called friend had somehow...in a weird way, became family to him.

"Oh you know how it is Codsworth...I'm pulling all stops to get Delta back like everyone else. Like Nick, I'll need everyones thoughts on the matter, even put in a few bobs worth myself." Piper replied with gusto.

Codsworth could only simulate so much into his life. He'd hoped he wouldn't lose more of the family he gained.

Chapter Text

 

A son lost in time, a woman on the endless hunt, day and night. Sounded almost storybook. There hundreds of stories to be shared in the Commonwealth, dozens at a time in Diamond City alone. Her life, threatened over the the pursuit of truth, no quite a dilemma quite as sad yet fascinating as this had to come to her before.

She could have gone through so many questions but had to squeeze them down to the relevant and important. She needed her feelings on the matter, the sole perspective of the vault dweller. She also helped her get back into Diamond City one day, so that's always a bonus.

Nat and her tried so hard to get the right minds onto their platform. It'd never always be fun and games, however. Still, someone had to get others to see that the tough and broken world could always be repaired. You just had to get their heads on straight and for them to realise they could do so much more for each and themselves. Every letter typed and every copy publish had meaning to it. Piper would never write anything that didn't have an important message in it.

It was also because that people were so concerned regarding their own survival that they would often forget the trouble others, outside and even inside. Sure, they had their own rhythm, their own pulse that helped the heart function day in and day out, but sooner or later, they would need to open their eyes to see the outlook as a whole and be prompted to question everything they ever came across.

Nick Valentine was one of the fare few that had the heart, even for a synth, to enact any changes. It was ironic for those of the minority to speak out against the tragedies and willing to do damn thing about them, only for the majority to have to help solve their issues. Everybody gets so damned whirled up in their damned self centred states that to unroll them,it would take a huge amount of tenacity and effort to get people out their closed up states and to open them up against the norm.

It would never go without struggle, but be damned if Piper didn't have a say in it, because she knew it would be for the greater good.

She poured all the resources she could into finding their Blue. She shared intel with Valentine in the hopes that perhaps it would be able to be cross referenced or to even bring up the percentage of a chance of a new possibility or revelation. As the months had passed, it became more frustrating to pinpoint anything definite and that if they didn't get a starting point soon, they were never going to find her. All Nick could share was with those he'd already interviewed, and they all told the same exact story about her. They would pick the parts that they would believe would be evidence of a sort and to conjure a timeline of the events that preceded her disappearance.

A lot of the stuff Nick had discovered shocked Piper as she read through his notes, her eyes scanning through a lot of the key words and phrases, like she possessed a clean smile. Their attitudes towards her always warmed up to a fire of friendship or close to, and originally turned from colder hearts. Hancock's report became the most disconcerting, regarding her usage of chems and the overall outlook. It saddened Piper to see that at some point in time, Blue's personality went from the cheery, perky type, mother of the sun, to the silent cold, mistress of the night.

"Woman loses her son. Only to lose herself in the process. Don't tell me this is the case now Nick?" She asked him.

He shrugged his shoulders and clasped his hands together. They'd work alongside each other in the hunt for the truth. Both had their investigative qualities and shared notes with one another to scope down the harder parts between the lines. They were missing a big chunk. It could have been staring them in the face for all they knew.

"I've been told so far is that what she had was real. A big heart to share with everyone. But then a descent of darkness brought on from that same heart being torn to shreds, everyone taking their own piece until there's nothin' else left to share. Happens to a lot of good people who are corrupted by the rad-filled seeds of the Commonwealth. Maybe it was a matter of time before her idealistic ways were overrun with the growth of despair that replaced the heart she once had." He answered in sombre.

Piper frowned. A lot of people had fallen to that before. The days of their fresh young smiles that warped into a dense front of hardened souls. Too much devastation in such a short time.

But Blue didn't seem to be fit the mold in that regard.

"You're right. I've tried to suss more of her out. I ended up spilling more to her than she to me."

As if Nick didn't already know. She'd already gone through his notes before. Each person she'd spent time with all had the same story.

"She's really good at that. and from what I personally witnessed when we travelled together for a short time. Codsworth's given me some holotapes and journals, I've only gone through a few, but some of those were preserved from her early, pre-war days. All that's scouting is her days studying to be a lawyer, meeting and marrying her husband, up until the birth of Shaun and Codsworth's...uh...adoption."

Nick commented. He seemed to have phrased it as Codsworth coming into the family. Typical Blue.

"Other than that, there's nothing obvious to be found. The holotapes are just old, collected stuff she's scouted the Commonwealth for. I dunno what her obsession was. Could have been anxious to cling on past relics. Only one that I think had any relevance to her was the one given to her by Codsworth originally."

Piper rubbed her chin as Nick placed the tape on the table.

"A message from her husband Nate and Shaun. The final one." Nick continued.

It saddened Piper to think that this was a message she would have held on to for a long time. Unable to let it all go. She recalled Blue's croaky voice as she spoke to her about her crusade to find her son , the wells of water that twinkled in her eyes and her hands that wouldn't stop fidgeting as she spoke to her about it and clung onto the pant legs of her blue vault suit.

You saw all of it laid to bare. Part of Blue you saw was a tough woman out the outside, with the cavalcade of weaponry she clung to herself and the armour she wore as she ventured around the Commonwealth. She knew Blue was a Minuteman and it was part of her duties to ensure the safety of the settlements scattered across it. If she ever had opened the mouth to tell her story, it made Piper discover the tough front she put across was a shell to protect herself even if she wore her heart on her sleeve while doing so.

Even filing through the work Piper would have discovered that she did eventually find Shaun...just not to the way she'd hoped.

"I don't know if anyone would be prepared for the shock of a life time. So the pressure of what her son had become, prompted Blue to swing to Hancock's chem offer. I don't like the look of this at all, especially with the Coursers attention to detail in the matter. I still find it hard to believe that while the Institute had its hand in it, that they might not actually be the definite reason. I don't even know what to think." Piper continued.

Nick tapped the table with a finger as he leaned on his strong hand and tapped with his skeletal one. When Ellie came around earlier for her help, the woman did tell Piper that he'd never seen Nick this stumped since Delta's missing son. She could tell he was slightly annoyed with it as well, with so many variables to count for.

But as Piper looked closer at the timing of Hancock's report and X6s, as she leaned over his head with her hands on the edge of both sides. His report was from before and after the discovery of her son. Her eyes widened as she looked at Nick and pointed towards the two.

"So...the theory is, that maybe the path of darkness was after she...she went into the Institute itself...found her son...who was leading them? That I'll never get over...uhh..."

Nick grumbled at those words.

"Yeah yeah I know. What ever was runnin' through her head...if she could think straight. I dunno...the Courser said she worked with the Institute after that little surprise." He said.

Piper rose an eyebrow. That she couldn't bare to think about either. After all Delta had done...she'd just turn on a whim? Delta had to be better than that. She just had to.

"Could she have been undercover? If she's working for the Brotherhood from Danse's report and...the Railroad, from Deacon's report; She may have been getting valuable intel." Piper assumed. Though Hancock's report seemed to suggest otherwise.

"The Ghoul was the very last to see Delta herself before her disappearance as well as Codsworth before that. Only if she told him where she was going. He was the last point of contact. And there's absolutely nobody else we can talk to about it...though Deacon told me about a Super Mutant? I found that hard to believe." Nick explained.

A-a Super Mutant? What the hell was going on in Delta's mind indeed. She definitely had something going on in that head of hers. It left Piper dumbfounded, though the more idea congested in her brain, the more it...in a way, was something Delta could do.

"If Delta could befriend a Super Mutant, then who knows...we may not know her true potential. Or if ever the Super Mutants had a rep. Funny to think about it. But according to Deacon that Strong was lookin' for something. I've got him trying to take him in as well. I have no idea how that'll go down...but..."

Piper watched as Nick pulled out MacCready's file alongside Codsworths.

"So we know Codsworth was told that the dame was going away for a while. We don't exactly know where. Inside the Commonwealth or out...I don't know. But! I have noted something...extraordinary interesting. Two pieces of the puzzle that...well I can actually put together. I just need a second pair of eyes to see if they can help me out."

Piper rose an eyebrow at that, ultimately interested in something that could possibly make a bit of sense. If anyone could do that, it would be Nick. She stood up and crossed her arms, eyeing him closely.

"Shoot it Nick. We'll use anything at this point." Piper noted, hungry for intel.

"I spoke with MacCready, whom Delta traveled with down the line towards the end. Seems to fit in after she'd been dealing with the Institute. My gut says we may be looking down the wrong trail. It could still linked to them in a way, but not directly." He said.

This made Piper puzzled at the notion. Usually the Institute were the go-to group for anyone who went missing. And with their infamous synth lines, majority of the accusations were the easiest to justify.

"Another idea hard not for me take seriously. If thats what you think then Nick, then I'll take your judgement for it." Piper noted. If anyone could find out anything different, it had to be Valentine to spot the odd thread.

The synth nodded.

"MacCready and Delta were traversing in gunner territory when Delta had one of her moments with a terminal. Not unusual for Delta. MacCready became impatient with the matter, but eyed off Delta specifically for a reaction she had to some of the text. What he saw made me feel the same exact way when he mentioned it. He mentioned something regarding the Paragons." Nick explained.

The Paragons? Piper had no clue what Nick was on about.

"Enlighten me Nicky V, if it had Delta shocked then it's something I need to know about." She told him, looking at him with scrutiny.

He took another folder from a draw and splayed on top of the other paperwork, its age apparent with the dust spreading everywhere that Piper waved her hand to shoo it away as she coughed from the scatter. The reporter wasn't sure what to expect from this but if it helped, then it helped. But he seemed to have a confused look on his face as well, as to think that this part stumped even more than the truth with Shaun.

"So...it's strange because I only had these documents stored away because they were part of Ol' Nick's memories. Part of it was disturbing but I'd never expect it to even pop up again at all. Like it, was literally so far back at the cabinets I wouldn't have cared that I would lose then. I'm glad I didn't." He said, although he didn't sound so keen to find them.

Piper would just wish he would get on with it. And to tell it to her straight as he went through the papers.

"Back in the Prewar times, Private Military Contractors or...PMC groups were popular. Think mercenary groups like the Gunners except prewar versions. Fancy equipment brought with fancy money. Hired goons...that was their deal. Often these groups were made of up retired and discharged soldiers who either couldn't shake the bloodlust off after they were made to leave or that they felt they could still do more for their country...just not officially. They worked for the highest bidder and the methodology used...was not always the morally wisest one." He spoke as he tried to find something specific in the files.

Piper still wasn't getting it. Unless...

"You think the Paragons have returned? Pff...geez Nick who would pull off an organisation so old that no one beside you have even heard of it..."

Piper paused for the moment, a pulse of realisation coursed through her body.

"But Delta...if that strange reaction was prompted from that, then Delta also knew who they were...you...don't think she was part of the Paragons? Wasn't she a lawyer?"

Nick shook his head.

"I dunno. But you're right in saying she could have known them. That is to say she knew of them, I'd even say..." He said, lifted his head as he finally found the paper he was looking for and showed it to Piper, who's eyebrows shifted as she examined it. It was like a profile of a man, with short black hair and wearing black gear. He looked young with a dull expression but his eyes...looked cold as steel.

"MacCready's single mention of them set off alarms that I couldn't get my head around because logically, I thought it wasn't even physically possible. I linked together Delta's reaction to it, which prompted me to find out more to confirm that Ol' Nicks memories were not tricking me. I know because he had a case with them at one point that fell through...but...he remembered that mug. He couldn't forget a face like that."

Piper smirked. This had to be a sheer coincidence however. Could have been the Gunners looking up old records for what ever the reason. If she knew exactly what Delta had been looking at, then it would give her a right idea. But the look on Nick's face told her he had more to say, as he tapped his index finger repeatedly on the mans file in front of him.

"Then...it clicked. Codsworth mentioned Delta's husband. I...sort of had a systems malfunction from it, because I didn't even..."

It was becoming clear to Piper that his disturbed him far more than he let on. This...Paragon's group...this man. It was easy to see what ever they had been up to was...definitely, absolutely, positively...no good. At all.

Ellie came around as she noticed Nick becoming quiet again.

"You alright Nick? You want me to get someone to take a look at you?" She asked him, rightly concerned as she rested her hands on his shoulders.

He shook his head.

"It's fine doll, really." He responded weakly, getting out another cigarette.

He then eyed Piper with an expression she could never forget. His yellow, robotic eyes that held so much more emotion in them than they ever did...then Piper had ever seen since she first met him.

"I know I had my problems...Ol' Nick must have...absolutely hated them with a passion. It wasn't just instinct that told me to keep the damn profiles of the men that served in that god-forsaken group. Memories keep coming back of the affair that went on with them...god they're horrible..."

This was hurting Piper just looking at the synth being nailed down with horrific recollections of an event he must have had so deep down in his mind, that the trauma was listed as forgotten. Piper had her own problems to deal with but this made her ill just to witness it as he buried his head into his hands. She rubbed his arm as he tried to shake it out of his own system.

Piper thought in a glimpse that perhaps this was far too much for the synth to handle on his own. She needed to know what the actual link was. She knew the group was nasty going from Nick's break down alone. That didn't need to be said ever again. But...if she could just possibly get a little more out then she would leave him alone.

"Nick..." She muttered.

He remained quiet as Ellie tilted her head, saying to Piper to look over the file again.

She only had a brief look the man's face but didn't look that far into his profile.

She blinked.

"Captain Nathan Nier. Commanding Officer of the PMC group, Paragon. Note: Members were occasionally called Paragons." She muttered to herself.

"Status: Alive. Married. Next of kin; wife; Delta Nier."

She herself froze as a result of even reading that. Now she began to understand why Nick had been stumped over this. This entire piece of paper was an ancient report made by 'Ol' Nick himself over what ever atrocity the Paragons had committed. She read on.

"Paragon had been hired by numerous corporations that had ties to the tensions between America and China. They've been accused of war crimes. This list includes...oh god..."

This was why Nick had broke down. This was what he had been looking into.

"I was called to look into several places of interest that had refugees camped out throughout the Commonwealth. Not unlike the settlements that you see today. Back then it wasn't that much different from Pre-war. It was Hell...except it was before Hell was made flesh." Nick squeaked out, finding his stance once again as he got out of his stupor.

Piper often forgot of Nick's rare sought after pre-war intel. Her desire for truth and data clashed with her morals on the dilemma as it was a Nick Valentine's vision of the world but not the Nick standing before her. She'd heard about Delta assisting him on an old case that continued to cause him anguish. It was like a part of Nick that couldn't be shaken off. A guilt that was carried on, like everything else. A burden shared, like father to son, even if in the technical side of it all that it wasn't quite that, but that's what it felt like. That was how Piper saw it.

"These companies didn't like people living on their land. Thought they were nothing but spies sent to sabotage them. How much of that was true laid below the amount of money Paragon was given to them in order to take them out anyway they could...assassinations..."

Piper's eyes were drawn to Captain Nier's profile again. She saw the word, 'sniper'.

"Accidental fires..."

Next words that caught her were 'Suspected Arson'.

"And..."

He sighed.

"The worst part was when they were hired to torture. I...Nick..had gone to some of these refuges to find some of the corpses had been...cut...and when Nick saw the smaller bodies..."

That hurt Piper the most. He didn't need to say anymore than was necessary. It was more than obvious now, what the worst part of it was. She rubbed his arm again. She didn't mean for him to go through this again. It made her think of Nat and wanting to run home to hug her for hours on end. The dreaded image of her in the scenario drew a tear to her eye. Then it filled her nerves with rage as it ran through her body. How could Delta not see that for what it was?

Was she too blind to see that she had married a monster?

Maybe... there were still much missing in all of this. They had facts but not explanations.

And none of this was going to help find her at all. Other than in the off chance that it was possible that the Paragon group had returned, it wouldn't tell them where to start or where to go. No trails left behind. This began to infuriate Piper even more and now she was practically starving for the truth! Though the more she thought about it...perhaps it did lead to some...rather startling assumptions that she had mentally put together.

"Maybe she did find out." Piper spoke of sadly, as if the anger suddenly wilted away for that brief moment, exhaling with a near shaky breath. More sadness rained down upon her as her mouth opened wider and her breathing becoming short and laboured.

"The chems...no...she couldn't."

Nick grabbed Piper's hand with his 'normal' one and tried to get her to regain focus.

"If you're thinkin' she...I don't know. It doesn't sound like Delta. I see where you're coming from. If Delta discovered...no this still doesn't make any sense. It makes it look like...what we think it looks like, more of a...no...can't be."

A warm tear ran down her cheek as she sniffed.

"Her son didn't turn out the way she wanted him to be...then finds out her who..."

Piper looked through Curie's profile again, having had an extremely brief examination of it earlier. She wiped the tears from her face with the back of her hand as she caught hold.

"Curie did say she didn't want to talk about family..."

She then looked at Codsworth report again.

"Codsworth said she was going somewhere."

Then Hancocks.

"The increase of chems..."

Piper had the impression Nick still had trouble of even thinking of the concept. Didn't seem true. But now it had become extremely likely. His brow furrowed however as he rubbed the back of Piper's hand with his thumb.

"The selflessness of a woman...warped from the ordeal that had convinced her to try and find another way to right wrongs. By changing the lives of those around her. If she knew all along...she must've known..." Nick muttered. His words sounded like he'd finally come to...

The reporter eyed off the holotape on the corner of the desk. There wasn't enough proof for them to see but from eyes of those she traveled with and cared for. She wanted more though. She wanted so much to see from Blue's perspective. Then she eyed the crate that had her old journals, then looked back at Nick.

"Blue's journals never had any detail regarding Nate's personality beforehand? Anything that you saw at all that was worth pointing out?" Piper inquired.

Nick filtered through the crate and grabbed a black book out and flicked through it.

"Just looked like any other woman's journal. In fact that it was far too normal. I might have to check through any of the details that could be hidden in there. We both know she's smart. She had to be smarter than we thought she was...wait...what's this?"

Nick took out another holotape that he previously glossed over. He squinted at it, then handed it to Piper.

"What do you make of this?" He questioned.

Piper took the holotape from Nick and had a look at it herself. It was labeled as Nate's Resume.

She rose an eyebrow. A resume on a holotape?

"From my understanding, if you really wanted to impress employers, you'd send them a digital copy of your work history. I dunno why I didn't think it was important..probably because a lot of people did that back in the day. It also says where it was allocated to in the first place. Call it a massive if not significant coincidence that it had been sent through to somewhere that's now Gunner territory."

Piper and Nick exchanged glances.

"The same place MacCready and Delta went to when she found the terminal. She could have taken the holotape with her when she finished looking at it and kept it for safe keeping. If we look at the tape itself, it could give us clues."

It was better than nothing. They'd need to borrow a terminal to even have a look at it.

"I've got one donated. I'll head to my joint and have a brief look."

Nick insisted on coming with her and trying to convince Ellie that he'd be fine, despite the the malfunction he had prior. She really praised his insight as no one else would ever have that brief glimpse into mental time travel like he did. Only one other had that ability, and she hoped like hell that she was still around.

That holotape could be their only holy grail in this whole, depressing mess of things. It just didn't seem blueish enough for her to just...give up like that. But the world Blue was in was gone, and the overall mentality, the mindset of society had died along with it. She had preset expectations and her mind would have had to force itself to cope to with what was the average daily life in the Commonwealth, but was complete and utter devastation to her.

She sat down in front of her terminal and inserted the holotape. Nick stood behind her and watched Piper as she scrolled down through the detail. So much was written down as Piper navigated through it.

"Okay let's see her. Well, what ever's written down here confirms the profile Ol' Nick had on him was accurate. We could be able to figure out when it was last updated. Hmmm...I have an idea."

Nick leaned in closer.

"What is it?"

Piper chuckled nervously.

"Okey dokey. So...did you bring MacCready's report there with you by any chance?" She asked him.

Nick fumbled to bring a manilla folder out of his jacket.

"I've got all of their reports. What do you want me to look at?" He asked her.

Piper nodded. She just had to be sure of it.

"What was the date MacCready and Delta went to that Gunner's reserve?"

Nick got out his report and scanned through the detail.

"Ah here we are. 3rd of June, 2288."

Wasn't that long ago. But the date that was listed on the detail was much earlier.

But...

"Can you figure out when this was last updated?" She asked him.

Of course he could.

"Sure. Unless the Gunners used the terminal themselves and were savvy with hacking, some holotapes are locked in order to be prevent any further alterations, leaving them in a read-only mode or a password was required before anything could change. Let my tinker fingers go at it." He said.

Piper moved out of the chair and let Nick do his thing. Part of Piper thought this was silly and out of whack but the information written on there looked odd, even Nick agreed with his ahahs and hums that were slipping out of his mouth.

"Let's see here. So you think the detail explaining that being a True Hand of God in the commonwealth is not some ol' insane Nate working his magic from beyond the grave? Gotta be a joke...oh.."

Piper eyed him carefully.

"What is it?" She asked.

Again, he appeared stumped as he leaned back slightly.

"Last edited...18th of May...2288. Not even a month before MacCready and Delta found it. How..." He muttered, trailing off again.

That didn't seem right. Nick's theory of the Gunners having somehow grew a brain and managing to hack and update the details of a dead man as part of partial boredom was the actual answer, the truth could also be as deceiving.

Piper was almost left speechless.

Nick became shaken by this. He bit his lip and pondered as he brought back old, aching memories back.

"The trial...the profile. He was known as a bit of a...jokester amongst the Paragons themselves. Yes I see it now. If this...no...this isn't."

He was doing it again. Piper had to get him out of there and fast.

"Detective please don't. You've done enough already. Please..." She muttered to him, concerned for his well-being.

She stood him up, then yanked the holotape from the terminal.

"I'm...I'm sorry. But...beyond all logic. This should be impossible. But...unless it was..."

Piper shook her head.

"It has to be a joke like you said." Piper reminded him.

Nick's head fell as he looked to the floor, unable to look Piper in the eye. It was a dull for a moment as they collected their thoughts. He then focused on her again, making her feel uneasy.

"Then what do you believe, Miss Wright? All the parts tell us a story that ultimately has two endings. You know this. We need to find out what actually happened."

And neither ending sounded good from what's being suggested here. Ultimately, she wanted Blue alive at the least but the ultimate theory would have to end up also have the worst part of it revealed to them.

This...is the ultimate question.

What happened to Blue?

Chapter Text

 

Perhaps it was from a bygone era from his people's initiative, but all in all, Super Mutants were basically not even shadows from their former selves.

Strong could barely remember his own past, nor did he care much for it. Anything that even remotely resembled a memory was broken into parts that his mind never ever even bothered to put back together.

Strong only only ever knew two things. Strong was Strong. And to be Stronger, he needed the Milk of Human Kindness.

The way he knew Delta was that she was a woman worthy of working with him. He hated, his own instincts told him to hate the way she did things. Most parts made of him make him dislike how she had to take complex activities that could have been resolved by smashing them. But she wanted to be complicated. She wanted to be so damn intricate. It took everyone ounce of his will to restrain himself.

His instinct was violence. One of the highest of all priorities. But deep within, it was that of the bloodshed they loved to spill as a species, could often been seen as mindless. Often they fought amongst themselves over everything that just pissed them off. They were a powerful people but the general perception of them as a whole were just idiots who liked getting themselves killed.

Strong wanted to be smart and find that milk to make himself reign supreme of all other Super Mutants.

Humans made them that way and they were going to pay, but not before they were to become the ultimate in all that would make them superior.

He traveled with her for some time until she left him at the Castle. According to her, his strength could protect the place from nasty enemies, all the while this...Ronnie would keep him check. Heh, silly human, thinking that anyone could control him.


One day, this weak human approached him with claim that he'd come from space came up to him He was...confused, then angry. Then the human mentioned Delta's name. A name that triggered another feeling within him. He mentioned the strong human was missing and with great nerve that they needed help finding her. Her name also sprung to mind a package he received from her. Told him when the time was right, that he needed to take it to Nick Valentine. The man mentioned that name too. So, naturally, he went to get said package, locked in a small wooden box and strapped it on his back. The Black Glasses Man said it was the largest package he'd seen a Super Mutant carry. This made Strong confused once again.

In other important matters, Strong honestly had no clue. Strong didn't know where she was. He didn't know what the package contained, but the human still needed his help however...that he may be rewarded for his time. Strong didn't care about a reward. He still had ask Delta so many questions that hadn't been answered. So many questions that he didn't know to ask.

Rex would tell him about the fancy words that went into his head. Humans had these words that they used all the time and they hurt Strongs head. But...if Strong heard more, then then he would be tougher than all the others. The milk would strengthen him.

So the human took him back to Diamond City and told him to keep close...but not too close. The human feared that they would get shot? Bah. Strong wasn't afraid of pathetic humans shooting at him. He would just shoot back if they ever dared get close.

But the word of Delta. The discussions. He remembered them. He remembered their adventures together, killing ghouls, synths and other humans. Delta was indeed a strong human in his eyes. Not an inch of fear shown in front of him. He didn't understand the objections she had when he offered her food, though.

They were travelling back to Diamond City on the regular path, on the look out for anything nasty heading their way. This human didn't talk much. Which was good. He didn't like those who talked too much.

He then heard gunfire. Lots of it. The black glasses wearing human took point as they examined the battleground. Couple of buildings, humans in black armour and clothing, shooting at...another one in black clothing. They were on opposites sides of the road, as they took refuge in the broken down structures.

He heard the Black Glasses human talking about this man being Sick. Or something. Strong didn't particularly care, but they went on to fight alongside the Sick Man.

Then went to the building, all the while trying not to drag the attention of the ones in black armour. Strong could take them easy.

Black Glasses Man mentioned something about about being ten of them. Strong noted that there were two with miniguns and in power armour that he hadn't recalled seeing on any of those Steel Men he'd come across.

Once with the Sick Man, he would explain to them their current problem.

"They seem intent to kill me." Sick man said.

Black Glasses Man chuckled.

"You don't say."

Silly Sick man stating the obvious. He didn't look sick. He actually had the same stupid black glasses as the other one. Humans wore them because the sun hurt their eyes. Weak.

"I'm glad you both came along when you did. I was just about to talk to Nick myself about some data Father was letting me share. Help me shake these guys off. But be warned, these are not anyone kind of foe I've ever faced. They're not Raiders or Gunners or even Brotherhood of Steel."

Strong knew what each group was like. Raiders were just...unorganised idiots. Gunners were organised idiots and the Brotherhood of Steel were idiots with bigger guns who liked to think they were more organised than the former two. Strong didn't mind foes who were smarter. He liked the challenge.

Black Glasses Man and Sick Man facilitated a plan that would take them all out. Strong would draw their fire as they would take fire from the windows. Strong didn't like it. He was not a meat shield! Still, he'd last longer than their stringy selves. Not worthy of eating.

"RYAAHHH STRONG MAD!" He roared as he burst through the wall with gun in hand.

He could hear those in the black armour, those who cowered behind their gas masks, making panicked noises as the Super Mutant opened fire on them, while Black Glasses Man and Sick Man made their move from their spots.

They were right to be scared while Strong would fearlessly took them out one by one. He felt a few bullets go into his limbs but they felt like nothing to him. He laughed manically as he melee'd a few of them as he stormed through them all. He went upstairs, seeing the pair of those in the power armour quake in their boots.

All Strong did was smirk as he tore into them, pulling off the plates of their armour one by one. Perhaps one of them even wet themselves. He didn't like the smell though.

Even so...the battle ended quicker than they anticipated...

Strong returned to the other building across the road, dusting his hands and laughing in triumph.

They were no match for Strong!

"Thanks mutie." Said Black Glasses Man.

Strong grumbled.

"Meh...Strong more hungry after that. Let us hurry to Delta."

The men looked at one another.

"Yeah we'll get to that."

They walked out into the street, fully prepared in their next quest. Strong had important cargo to take to Nick. He wondered if Sick Man was just as quiet. He'd never met him, but to tolerate more than one human was bad enough...two by his side was just. Irritating. Ugh.

Even if they weren't there...it was easy for Strong to go on his own. He didn't need those two.

He recalled the days he and Delta would go across the Commonwealth and taking on all kinds of enemies. Over time, Strong begrudgingly respected her as well as Rex Goodman. Though, he liked Delta better. Rex was a coward in combat but his words could hurt more than his bite. Delta's words hurt as well as her guns. That was what impressed him more. In time, perhaps more Super Mutants would follow the same path. Where the words themselves could take down foes. Less blood that way. Less food though. Maybe he was wrong. Then again...it ultimately depended where the words were being focused. Against other Super Mutants? Then just use the normal method to kill the humans. There was so much to plan once Strong got the milk. He actually looked forward to it.

Oh what he could do. He could take on the world as the King of all Super Mutants if he tried! No..he will be!


As they began their trek back to Diamond City, Strong heard a whistling noise, then a pain in his forehead.

He could see Sick Man and Black Glasses Man in front of him, looking upon Strong with surprised faces...bloodied faces. His head hurt. Then his vision went blurry. Then...

Chapter Text

 

Rain. The sound of it hitting the tin roof at it's fast paced dings. Nick didn't like it when it rained. It wasn't because it would force Nick to take a guess of what part of him should malfunction first, since that was the least of his worries. It was because of it reminded him of when Ms Lands passed away. All of these emotional triggers. Nick did himself well to contain it all but dreaded nature of humanity always put him in like for the brunt of human's worst and best experiences.

All the people perceived the thunder and the lightning flashes and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood at a distance.

So when they had taken out Eddie Winter, they arrived outside in the sunshine, knowing the deed was done but his own mind was the one that was clouded. Delta stood as the rays before him, the wave of doubt washing over him as she dried his spirit, to where he could almost feel the warmth within his circuits. Symbolically, obviously. His discussion with Curie about rainbows still lingered. They had the rain, but left with no sunshine. It took all sense and drowned it in the fury of the flood, as to why she had been taken from them. But Codsworth...did mention that she had left willingly. So it's so much that's not considered to be taken...but stolen. Stolen from her routes.

Delta was a busy girl.

But they...they had stolen from her what they had...and in the light, she echoed. Born and lifted, then the fall to die then live again as the big star rises. Wasn't right...didn't feel right when it stayed dead. The world that took from her didn't stop her from giving so much herself and that she was used to those who could take. He still...didn't know enough about it all. All the stories that changed the lives of those around them. A hero of heroes. The dame was entrusted with many hearts that were tamed in time. Was that her purpose? It was selfish to think so. The light of her heart and clean smile...

He sighed as he stared at the papers, thinking...wondering. The picture was unclear. The unspoken words were left blank in his head.

The agency was filled in the dull smoke, light and emptiness of the soaked night.

The one note was the descent in the silence. Did Delta tire of the aid she gave to others?

Hancocks' conversation and detail did state she had taken drugs on the occasion. Not a lot, but only when Hancock felt she needed it.

His talk was the only time he could see some cracks in her nature. Though how much of it was true was only vouched by the Ghoul himself. Though it was mainly mentats and who knows what else. Meant to make you feel smarter. So it wouldn't have much to do with a depressive state. Unless Hancock was lying about it.

But his story was one of many he accounted for. None really answered his question. But made him understand her psyche a lot more than before. And the Paragon connections? It was by far the most perplexing part of the whole case. She was married to Nathan Nier, one of many scum to exist in the 21st Century. Delta wasn't known for her poor judgement, so there had to much more to that story than Nick picked up from ancient records.

"What's the word?" Ellie asked as she filed some paperwork away.

Nick just sighed. The issue buzzed in his mind like a bloatfly that wouldn't leave.

"It's just puzzling that we still haven't gotten any closer to jotting down anything definite. All it says is that Delta was a kind, determined, smart and skilled woman when you get down to it. Someone who's lost and found their son. X6 didn't have a lot of info, but it boils down to him and ironically Codsworth of all people. Yet she married a man that makes the Institute look like Goodneighbor."

X6 said she found her son, who was in charge of the Institute. He also said that Father was...Shaun...her son. Hm. Odd but it had been likely.

Nick theorised that in the confusion of what ever hell Delta was going through, she found what she was looking for and did not like it one bit. She'd been given the expectations that what ever the Institute was; they were the boogeymen of the Commonwealth. Nick would love to know what went on down there these days. But if she also found out about what her husband was up to, it made her even more confused, severely pissed off even...or extraordinarily depressed.

All he could recall was the very faint process of his original awakening and eventual tossing of his prototype body out. It would actually be Piper would kill to have any type of intel on them. If she and X6 met, she would prefer him tied down and would just blabber question after question. He had his reservations about the Synth as well, but until the investigation finished, he would have to tolerate the Courser. He needed his link to the case...his link to the Institute. For all they knew, the edited resume could have been some kind of sick joke ushered on their end. It made Nick synthetically sick.

He heard a knock at the door. Ellie ushered them inside. It was Deacon.

"Did you bring in our green guest?" He asked the Agent.

Deacon shrugged. He seemed slightly...out of it. His face was paler than normal but the way he held himself was, from Nick's astute glance, a combination of a normal holding up and a man who barely dodged the steam of death.

"Strong was killed by mysterious forces." He admitted in his usual, slyful way.

That was hard to believe. He'd hoped Deacon wasn't the one of to have done it himself or if he was just being Deacon. But...it turned out the agent wasn't lying.

Nick was curious.

"What happened?"

Deacon told him about how they were making their way back to Diamond City, as he was the last to be interviewed, as they found out through Preston that there was a Super Mutant who traveled with Delta for some time, could have intel, no matter how small it was. That if Delta of all people, could manage to even befriend one, that it was extremely useful.

"They weren't Institute. Big guys in black suits, they wore helmets that obscured their faces, like gas masks. He was taken down by one that we didn't even see.. They never spoke a single word to each other. All I could tell of them was an odd symbol on their shoulder pads. Looked like a pair of wings."

Nick knew what the Institute's symbol was. Still could have been a subsidiary they weren't made aware of. Or perhaps if it was what he his gut was telling him...then the oncoming flood would be made real.

"What makes you think that still wasn't them?" He asked

Deacon looked down, as Nick could see him with bits of blood on his shirt. Must have been a hell of a fight.

"Sicks was fighting the guys when we found them. There must have been like, what, ten of them? Eight scavver types the other two were in the power armour. He'd been holding them off, when Strong and I...while I would like to see that guy be taken down a peg or two, I had to skimp on all logic and aid the guy. Cause, you know, given our little shared problem...so things were going swell...then next thing you know, Mutie's gotten his head blown off by a sniper. Made for eleven, the extra one was never accounted for."

The Courser? And the pair of wings? Sounded suspicious. And they'd lost their Super Mutant contact. Too. Dammit. The dreaded feeling in his stomach was feeling more right with every minute.

Ellie got a pencil and paper and placed it on the desk.

"If you don't mind, could you draw the symbol?"

The man nodded as he sat down and scribbled it. Took about a minute, then slid the paper to the synth. Nick tilted his head as he examined it.

It was a circle with a pair of hard lined wings inside and a star above the wings.

It was exactly what he suspected it to be. But none of what it was made any sense. It went against all that he knew as himself. He'd have to dig up data so old that it would only make any relevance to two people.

Delta and himself.

"Oh...oh dear god..." Nick muttered in disbelief, burying his head into his hands. There was really nothing left to doubt anymore.

The Paragons had returned...and they'd released the flood.

Deacon sat down and placed something on the desk. Strong's Package.

"And, as if that wasn't enough, as Sicks and I were examining Strong's body, we found this on him. It's addressed to you."

Nick moved his hands away as he looked at the small green box in front of him. He furrowed his brows as he slowly wrapped his fingers around the top, scratching the surface with his skeletal ones.

His eyes bounced on the words, then looked back at Deacon, who shrugged again.

"We checked it...it's not rigged. Open it."

He looked down at the box and slowly took the hinges out and lifted the lid a tad. He eyed Deacon again, who was deathly still until Nick lifted the lid off in it's entirety. Inside was a...familiar, dusty screen on a brown device with a few knobs and buttons.

"Is...is that.."

Deacon turned his head away.

"Delta's... Pip-boy?" Nick muttered with disbelief, his voice heavy with despair.

He wasn't so sure why this affected him so. The effect of the Paragons must have had a larger influence on Ol' Nick than he would have wanted. Another, unable to let go.

"There's somethin' else inside as well. I...uh... didn't want to listen to it." Deacon commented dryly, thumbing his lips.

Nick placed the Pip-boy on the desk, picking out the holotape on the bottom of the box.

"To Nick." it said.

Nick dreaded the thought of what was on that tape. He almost didn't want to listen to it. But...he knew he had to. He had to put all that was part of Ol' Nicks feelings on the matter on the side and put his own feeling into it. He was a Detective...but.

Delta and him discussed the matter of what was his. But that became theirs. Not Nick's and Ol' Nicks, but Nick's and Delta's. What had become developed in what Nick thought was his own, became the emotional link to Delta as well. While Ol' Nick had been connected to Jenny, the future Nick saw was with Delta, once a client, then a friend. But even so, a lot of the time Ol' Nick's presence forever lingered as part of the memories that influenced his psyche and his subconscious. One could never erase such a commodity as Nick would run the risk of losing himself entirely. He wanted to put aside that which made him what he was and give birth to him, to the him of now and not the him of whom he never really was. Just a carbon copy.

But the people of now became what Nick claimed to be those of what Jenny was. Those he truly cared for. Ellie...Delta...and many of those in Diamond City that tolerated him...and those of the lives he had saved and absolved those who had died.

He put aside the heartbreaking aspect, as he had done so before and took the holotape and put it into the Pip-boy. Turning it on, he wasn't sure what to expect. Once he fiddled with it, he eventually got the holotape to play.

"Hey Nick, it's me. If you've received this holotape, that means Strong's managed to get far enough to converse and not attempt to blow peoples brains out. If Strong's there, thank him for me. Or not. I doubt he cares but do it anyway. Better that it hurts him to learn."

Nick and Deacon exchanged short, stern glances. It really didn't need to be said. All Nick was glad to hear was her voice again, even if it was only pre-recorded.

"I've got a long of things to say and not a lot of time to say it. First off, thank you. You helped me immensely and words cannot convey the amount of gratitude I have for you. And for everyone else who helped me along the way. The road was long, hard and...painful. You and I, are similar in the regards of our desire to know the truth. And I found it Nick. Then I found out much, more than anyone would have anticipated."

Had to be regarding her son, no doubt.

"I want...I want everyone to know...it's not their fault. It's no one's fault. But my own. I was blinded. By ignorance...desperation...want... survival. All those powerful enough to consume me without me realising it."

Regarding Nate...just had to be. But this couldn't have been her fault.

Then came the sobbing...it drove dagger's into Nick's synthetic heart.

"I...it was never meant to end like this... I'm fighting my own way but it's taking over and I cannot...I can't stop it. But maybe you can."

Deacon remained motionless as he continued to stare into the endless void. That man was hard to read sometimes but...Nick suspected that this was possibly, in the slight chance, that it had affected him as well as it did to Nick. A cold rush of pain that flowed through the nerves. Why this woman had melted into the hearts and made herself stuck there...so in the impact that she had somehow drifted away for good, that it would make it extremely hard to let go. The rain had turned to ice.

She was good at that too.

"You...you all need to help each other. I know all of you well enough that in the road ahead that one way or another, it'll evolve into an Inevitable Conflict. But you need to seek past that stage. If you don't, I swear...I swear..."

Her voice croaked as she wept through the speech. It was becoming a bit more heavy by the moment.

"This is the last thing you want in the Commonwealth. The last god-forsaken thing you want here. I don't give a shit...I don't give a fuck if you all think on opposing wavelengths..."

That surprised Nick greatly, as it did to Deacon as his eyebrows shot up faster than rockets.

"Learn to work together. Please, I'm...I'm begging...oh...oh no...-"

The recording cut off abruptly. The coolant running through Nick right now didn't run through quickly because of sadness, but more now because of rage. He eyed Deacon sternly.

"She's right you know. Last thing you want is these slimy bastards to have a foothold in the Commonwealth. They were made up of the most dangerous assholes back in the day. Ripped of sympathy and empathy and in their place, in the place of their cold hearts lies a darkness left unrepentant. We need to have a plan." Nick urged.

Deacon agreed.

"Oh yeah. I've never heard Delta so desperate before. Obviously when it wasn't revolving around her son."

No...it sounded much worse than that. Especially that ending...

"Yeah. Where is X6 by the way? We'll need Paladin Danse and Preston down here pronto, we're gonna need their respective properties to work together on this one." Nick asked. If Delta was willing to fight, then she needed all the help she could get. He would doubt all parties would play nice irregardless, but if they all rallied under the Rainbow of Delta, then they would create a formidable force to be reckoned with.

"He had to head back to...where ever in Hell he was needed. Probably telling his daddy that their plan worked." Deacon explained.

When the Institute is the near damn cause of all the hassles these days, it was so easy to blame them. X6 was far from human. He could be programmed without guilt, or shame. Just to know the words to say when it mattered. When they could manipulate...Nick would forever be on his guard while he was around.

"Sounds about right. Heh...hm. I'm thinking we all need a get together. Nothing fancy. I'm thinkin' if we talk to Preston, we could all meet up in Sanctuary, you know, for an important meeting."

Deacon smirked.

"Hah you got it my man. So, want me to send word?"

Within the next week he called back the original four to clarify a few things. He knew that in the scheme of things, he would definitely need what ever they had found out as well. Hell the investigation itself was not the neat and tidy he'd like it to be. But now alongside the original four, he needed all those he'd previously spoken with to talk alongside them. To share what they knew.

Gonna go smoothly? Hell no. Nick's only wish was that no one was going to kill one another. He predicted yelling. So much yelling.

Nick and Deacon became a busy team.

Chapter Text

 

The work continued, ever onward at Sanctuary, as the settlers battled on with the duties despite the downpour. It reminded him too much of the bad times. Not mention the inconvenience of getting soaked. The rain dropped like bullets and pulled tension in his ears.

The shack they'd made was already a work in progress by the time they had to organise the meeting. While Deacon had sent word ahead, Preston wanted to make sure he had it all set up, a metal building allocated on one of the cleaned up pieces of land. He could hear Cait swearing and Curie condemning her for the foul language, to Preston, he wondered how Delta put up with them.

It wasn't for a lack of trying, Preston tried to be nice, but Cait hated it when people were nice to her. Curie tried so hard and with great effort continued to try, but it had almost come to the point where Marcy was nicest woman on the block. But at least Marcy could try at least be a better person. Cait was almost unbearable.

It was Delta who could put that harsh woman in her place. Supposedly curing her addiction. It wasn't the chems she was addicted to now, but the booze. Traders would come and go to Sanctuary as per the trade routes they'd established between the settlements, but Cait'd be the first one to grab all the good stuff before anyone else got their hands on them.

Curie was, no doubt, the most quiet. She was allowed to do her experiments in her own time as Preston would come over on the occasion, curious as to what Curie was doing. Anything she ever said would end up flying over his head, but he thought she appreciated someone taking an interest.

MacCready wanted to lend a hand as well. He came around at some stage, after getting a quick word around. Preston offered caps in place for helping out, but the merc declined as he knew the problem was worth more than cash. He then tried to talk to the man, but MacCready wasn't really in the mood for a chit chat. Preston understood and left him be. Cait seemed to get along well with him...there were more like minded in moralities and choice of drink if that was anything Preston felt comfort in.

It wasn't long for Preston to feel on edge. Mama Murphy had warned him of ever looming changes...not just for him but for everyone.

Times like these made Preston come to believe that good could come out of tragedy, it just took a lot of work to get around it. Life was fine when he joined the Minutemen, but...

Quincy became the storm that became the catalyst.

Within the downfall of the Minutemen, Preston became anxious about what was going to happen next. He didn't lose in faith, he was disappointed. Then angry...then depressed. It forced him to feel great shame after he recognised his apathy of dying would put those he had dedicated himself to in danger. Even when the numbers fell short, he wanted to uphold the noble intentions until the very end.

Until he met Delta.

Maybe he was being foolish to think Delta hadn't run away. For the amount of people she'd put up with, it was amazing that she survived at all, dealing with their problems, even Prestons. Deacon had been right, though. He did put his General through a lot of crap.

"Ahhh mother fucker!"

Preston had every right to take a breather as he went to investigate. He wandered over to the shack and saw a table on it's side, and Cait on the chair, examining her naked foot as it rested on her other leg.

Preston furrowed his brow.

"What happened?" He asked, his impatience barely voiced.

The look on Cait's face was that of a woman who'd been through hell and came back for worse. Her red hair a tangled mess and the odd cut and bruise here and there. But that was Cait by default. Delta most likely felt pity on her when they first met and pity was what had Delta cope with her brutality. Somehow Preston thought it didn't seem like Delta at first, so he justified it with a load of patience and the occasional drink herself.

"Damn thing slipped through me fingers and whacked my foot as I was carrying it. Doesn't help when it's wet. Makes it freezing cold and hard to carry by the legs. Now look what happened to mine."

Another deep breath. He put his musket down on a nearby table, then knelt down before her as he look at her foot.

"Alright, we'll just get Curie to look at it. Does it hurt?" He asked her, as any normal person would.

Instead, Cait just groaned.

"What do you think? It feels nice. Nicer than a needle in ya eye!" She said sarcastically.

Just what he expected from her. Over time it became somewhat easier to deal with, but there were days he was so close to giving up. His mind would turn to Delta on that, reminding him to never do so.

"We don't need her, just wrap somethin' around it...but I doubt I'll be helpin' ya out for a while..."

She stated.

Cait did this often. She would either pull or fake an injury to get out of working. But if Sanctuary was ever attacked, she'd get up on her feet and deal with the issue with nary a complaint. Preston kept his cool, kept his sanity in check. It wasn't like she wasn't doing absolutely nothing. But she would do absolutely nothing and still complain.

He wasn't falling for it.

"Listen Cait, I understand you're not really willing to do this. You know how-"

"Fuckin' oath, I wanna find Delta like the lot of ya's, I just don't see a meetin's gonna accomplish anythin'" Cait interrupted.

Preston pursed his lips as he turned his eyes away from her, trying to think of something to say in response. He instead stood and dragged one of the chairs across and sat down, slouched over slightly with his legs open. He wasn't one for any nifty, uplifting speeches like his General. He was aware of how boring he sounded. His charisma wasn't entirely great, he knew that too. He'd gone from feeling the weight of his world on his shoulders, then feeling his heart on top of it.

"Just...please. I've..."

He had to say it. It just needed to be said.

"I've put up with the behaviour, Cait for a while. I might be able to cope...barely, but these people are gonna help us find Delta. We all gotta chip on our own. You're great on the defensive when it's in need, but Delta helped us put those turrets there for a reason."

Cait just laughed in his face.

"A coupla' of human eyes on the horizon doesn't hurt now does it? You do it all the time!" She pointed out.

Preston popped his hat up as he scratched his head, then put it back on again.

"I'm actually a Minuteman doing his duty. I'm the only having to relay with all of our scouts and provisioners and other Minutemen. I don't just, walk around all day doing nothing. Unlike some." Preston pointed out. He was treading on barbed wires but it was worth it.

Cait rose an eyebrow, amused.

"Oh wow...lovely comeback, love. You know what...perhaps I could smash all of those shiny turrets, then I could working on the perimeter all day...how's that?" She said with snark.

She wouldn't dare. Though Preston's inner thoughts into getting Sturges to reconfigure the turrets to track Cait as an enemy was tempting, Delta wouldn't approve. He'd even surprised himself thinking like that. If Delta could read his thoughts, she'd be stunned too.

"You could certainly try. But for now, there's work to be done. Just promise me you'll keep your cool?" He asked.

She chuckled.

"Only if there's a cold one at the end of it."

Preston bit his lip.

"Fine. Just...for the love of God see Curie about your foot. I can only deal with you whining about one thing at a time."

The early days consisted of Preston being slightly afraid of Cait. Only slightly. He had no real temptation to shoot her unless it was absolutely necessary, but her terrible attitude continued to grind him. She was only ever half decent if Delta was around. Delta was the only one she even remotely respected. Preston dreaded to think what she was like before she was cured.

As time went on, it became more...developed. Preston's skin grew thicker and his tolerance may have wavered and while he still had to be careful, he knew he could bribe her with alcohol. He just didn't want her getting too drunk. The other settlers were wary of her too so it was up to him to ensure no one hurt each other. Or kill each other, for that matter. He would send Codsworth to check up on her. She hated him too but knew he was Delta's property so she wouldn't dare touch him.

Cait had begrudgingly went to Curie to help out with her hurt foot, while the rest of the room was cleaned up with more chairs, tables and lights for the meeting. Preston went to speak with the settlers to ensure they kept watch while they were talking.


Nick arrived first as Codsworth welcomed him inside, then Piper shortly after, then Deacon, Hancock and Danse. The Mr Handy had authority to make sure no one would carry anything inside. Danse wasn't too happy but if they were going to solve anything now it wouldn't be with violence. Not yet. So Codsworth kept their weapons and what not safe inside a locked box, guarded by Marcy. No one wanted to cross Marcy.

X6 had yet to arrive but apparently sent word ahead with Deacon that he still was tied down with Institute duties, which Deacon groaned about.

Nick stood in the middle all as they all sat in a circle, (Cept Codsworth of course who floated). The presence of many influentials in the same room made Preston sweat a bit, but he managed to keep a straight face at them all. Even Danse had come out of his power armour, as per the neutral agreement of non-aggression and left it with the settlers outside.

Mama Murphy sat inside as well. She had insisted on contributing as she could have a few things to say, given what she had told Delta when the first met. She had even told she could feel the anger and the distress between all parties, and that Delta's 'energy' could be detected on all of them.

Preston watched and swallowed as Nick looked across the room with his hands behind his back. He wasn't entirely certain how this was going to go down. No one really wanted to be here from what he saw, all faces, all stern and hardened. Their eyes, focused and fierce.

"Thank you all for coming. You know I have been speaking to you all over the past few weeks about Delta's disappearance. Our favourite smiling gam, may not have been all smiles, so it seems." Nick started.

"Gotta be the Institute. Why else would that synth not be here?" Danse stated.

Ah the Brotherhood and their intensive ways. They try to act smart, but really, they're all just a bunch of brutes with fancy guns. Nick just eyed him with scrutiny.

"We'll get to that. But based on the evidence we've found so far, we've come to the conclusion that might make up part of the problem. The larger issue at hand is another party is involved. A fifth party. I'm not ruling anyones respective groups out of the loop just yet."

Preston noticed him look at MacCready, who's eyes just darted between them all, then went wide as he realised everyone else looking at him.

"Woah...woah I haven't done anything! Don't know why you're looking at me." He defended, as he felt wrongly accused.

Nick shook his head.

"No...no what you told me has nothing to do with you. Only from what you saw."

By that point MacCready's tongue was almost hanging out of his open mouth, his eyes still wide as he looked blank for the moment, before snapping back.

"Oh yeah...something about the Paragons?" He assured.

Preston never heard of such a group himself, not did Delta ever mention it to him.

Nick nodded.

"Yes. Turns out they're the likely culprit. They're a hugely dangerous mob that are definitely not to be taken lightly."

Danse just groaned.

"How do we know they're not Institute?" He pointed out, his face wrought with anger. So much hatred from one man that could barely keep it together.

Preston's attention was then turned to Deacon who coughed.

"Because this...not institute was busy shooting at someone from the Institute. And they knocked off Delta's Super Mutant contact." Deacon contributed, his voice almost condescending.

Preston's eyes widened. Why didn't anyone tell him Strong was dead? MacCready was left stunned, as Cait snuffed and slunked back in her seat.

"What the? Why the hell would Delta even bother? That's so much bullshit that I can hardly believe it. They're such ugly assholes...the lot of them." She commented.

Preston sighed lightly. She had a point, but still. If anyone could manage to accomplish that, it just had to be Delta.

"Good riddance. Don't need a disgusting greenskin on the possible verge of eviscerating people based on random chance." Danse noted.

The Paladin also had a good point. But, to the Minuteman's better perspective, Delta had to have had a good reason to do so. He'd still thought that when she told him about him being there. He was originally fearful of the possible chaos that could occur, he'd know his general could handle it with no doubt.

MacCready leaned over and pressed his fingers together.

"I knew Strong back at the Castle. Me and Ronnie would keep him in line. But he'd go on and on about this whole idea of how kindness was supposed to take down his enemies. I'd take a gawk and suggest Delta was trying to teach him. To suggest that not all Super Mutants were the same." He spoke, as Preston became aware.

"Hah good luck tryin' that out! He could have shoved a mini nuke down your throat while you slept." Cait joked. And Cait's jokes being morbid became the norm. Unfortunately.

"Now there's a frighting thought." Piper muttered, pretending not to be anxious.

No one cared much for Super Mutants and with good reason. To most, seeing one dead was a message of mercy and luck to live for another day. Or you'd die from the thing that killed it. Either or. But in Preston's stomach, and his heart, they wrenched and twisted. Delta somehow caring for a Super Mutant was beyond all sanity, all known logic. Then...

"Lawyers were known for fighting for monsters." Mama Murphy popped out of the blue.

Preston turned to her. He'd forgotten about that.

"It was in Delta's interest to defend a Super Mutant? I find that even more hard to believe." Hancock quoted.

"She gave him her box of tricks. Now what level of trust do you need have with someone if they had needed to get a message across...oh I know...it's exactly the same as putting the trust in a Deathclaw..." Deacon snarked.

Delta had to have to have some part of her brain frozen, no doubt. Preston really didn't want to say anymore on the matter...until.

"Actually, crazy story here kids, so get ready to hide behind your blankets. So one time, we found a Deathclaw Egg. Without bragging too much, Delta took the egg back to it's nest, and I was scared shitless but Delta wasn't worrying much at all as we stared into the face of Satan himself. But once she put it back...it stopped attacking..." Hancock explained, with the amount of expression he'd put into it, he wasn't exaggerating.

But again...only Delta would dare to do so. Stupid decision but...she pulled off the impossible. Twice.

"Don't tell me I have to invite this Deathclaw for questioning too?" Deacon asked with a fake strain.

Nick shook his head.

"No I think we're done realising how Delta tries to deal with dangerous people. Moving on. Because I really need to explain this. The Paragons were from Delta's time, like a more cunning version of the Gunners. Worst of all, her husband, Nate, was their leader. Captain Nathan Nier. A bastard if I ever heard of one. Murderer, pillager. The worst kind of scum you'll ever meet. And good God was he good with words. If Delta founds the means to marry him, it was because he was blessed with charisma." The synth stated.

Preston wasn't sure what to think. A group from two centuries ago, brought back from the dead. His thoughts will filled with all sorts of ideas that could have happened. A grudge maybe? Nate was dead but perhaps someone from that group survived, a ghoul maybe, had Delta in his sights and decided he wanted Delta to die as well, by revenge proxy.

"A storm is coming over the Commonwealth. I'm not talking about a rad storm either." Mama Murphy commented.

You didn't need the sight to see that. MacCready was officially pissed off.

"Why the hell didn't she tell me? Fu- far out. We could have taken them out if she had just said something!" The Merc ranted.

It was something Preston wished she could have shared with everyone. It was liable that she held onto those secrets for far too long. Then it ended up eating at her at the end.

"We've all got own veil that we lift up to only a secluded few." Nick replied.

Preston saw Codsworth lifting a claw.

"I saw though, not even sir would talk about his duties. They were both busy people, even in the 21st century it was all on that so called ''need to know basis''. Hmpf, tomfoolery I'd say..." The Mr. Handy stated.

Cait crossed her arms.

"Yeah even the tin can has no fuckin' clue despite livin' with the man. What gives?"

Codsworth was considered family. Preston found him more than willing to help. But matters like these..his level of intelligence and sentience was a lot coming from a robot like him. He trusted him like Delta, but it was apparent such ranks were in dispute.

All heads turned to the entrance of the shack as they heard splattered footsteps and a silhouette in the door frame.

"Hey it's about time you got here Sicks. Sorry we had to start the party without you. I'll promise to leave you some cake okay?" Deacon joked.

Preston examined the Courser as he entered in drenched, his coat dripping wet. But he noticed splotches of blood everywhere, including his head.

"What in Gods name happened to you?" Nick stated with surprise and even wider eyes.

X6 held his arm as Curie piqued, shooting off her chair and heading to his aid to check it out.

"I'd gone back as per orders to warn everyone...turned out they were in there before me...it...it was a massacre."

"A massacre?" Curie muttered. "Sit down...relax. I'll administer some stimpacks."

X6 nodded as Curie offered him her seat. It was surprising to see a synth so...human when they were hurt. Even for one as robotic as X6 was, it was the only emotive you could get out of him. He appeared more exasperated and...a bit distraught even. No prizes as to guessing who didn't really care. He watched as Curie tried to examine as she went along.

"They...they'd gone in there...I was too late...they killed Father."

Chapter Text

 

Deacon had no real opinion on the weather, other than your average person disliking it for common reasons, although his was within the range of 'this shits gonna ruin my wig.' It wouldn't really, but he would have preferred to make up stories to people, telling him that rain had traces of jet in it from the the war because of some...weather modification project. He was certain that was how the Children of Atom started now that he'd come to think of it.

All in all, They could have done well without X6. He was a synth for sure, but he wasn't one to sympathise for one more than willing to die for an unjust cause. Des would have reprimanded him and played twenty questions as to why either Deacon or X6 weren't dead yet.

When Deacon told her his connections with Delta and with all the Institute data come to light, their fearless red headed valkyrie reacted like everyone else. To her, however, Father would have deserved to die, no matter who's related to him.

X6's appearance and announcement of the infamous leaders death brought shock and astonishment, not to mention the new game of twenty million questions that would need to start at any moment.

Part of Deacon expected it would have had to occur. In his mind, it would have been Delta, but recent discoveries twisted that fact on it's head. It was in Delta's court. Would she have killed him or left him alive?

Deacon never had the chance to have kids so he wouldn't have known how it would feel to justify killing your own son, who's set of morals didn't match your own. Whisper was one of those who preferred to keep it all bottled inside, until it would inevitably exploded like a shaken bottle of Nuka Cola. On a horrible rainy day.

All the man could do right now, was watch Curie, another synth, take care of her own like he was just another member of their team that needed to be taken care of. He doubted Curie would have had the amount of hatred towards him like everyone else did. She was pure enough to cope with just about anybody.

"Does any one else this is far too coincidental that, while the mutie was killed by mysterious men in black, then the leader of the Institute just happened to die...by another set of mysterious men in black? Cause that's just crazy." Deacon iterated in his own brand of sarcasm.

"If the Paragons killed Strong, who was connected to Delta, and Father, who was her son, it's no doubt that they're after Delta. But her last recording indicated she was in the middle of somethin', and got caught out. Problem is that was before they'd died. X6, are you able to tell us what happened?" Said Nick, who sat against the table and tapped it with his index.

Deacon kept a keen eye on the synth as Curie gave him some stimpaks. He had to admit, he looked far worn than anyone else who would have been faking it. Deacon knew when people were faking it.

"After the incident with the Super Mutant, I'd returned to the Institute with what was known. That these Paragons were going to be a threat. Father ordered me to stick around until he needed my help again. He...he'd wanted to help. But he'd refused to personally deal with the outside to look into it himself, instead preferring to investigate the issue on his own, with the Institute on his back." X6 Answered, trying to compose himself. It was an odd sight for such a heartless creature.

Deacon would have snapped, but kept his cool. Should have known there was some other agenda on hand.

"Would they have done a bloody sweep across the Commonwealth?" The Agent asked. The Institute always liked to do it all their way. Whether it or not it'd cost them a corpse or a hundred corpses, if they got results, that's what mattered.

The pair looked at one another. It was obvious to everyone that who was going to play by the rules and who was going to subvert them. It was like a game of chess. Most games of chess didn't really involve killing each others kings at the first turn however.

"I would not have known. Coursers most likely would have skimmed the Commonwealth. If Delta would not have been found within a certain time frame. Father would have ceased the search and declared Delta KIA." X6 continued.

Deacon witnessed Cait losing it. He was glad somebody was.

"What the actual fuck? Wait, wasn't Father her son Shaun? Her own god damned son would have given up? Delta searched this whole place for him, sacrificin' everythin' so she could find him, then he would just...given up? Ungrateful bastard." Cait yelled, the anger in her eyes forth telling.

In Cait's mind that would have seem illogical. But they were talking about a guy raised by reapers.

Alongside a differing amount of factors. Deacon was certain however, Delta would not have been the type to give up. Or murder her own son in that matter. But...given from what had been discovered so far, he was up in the air on her own decision making processes.

"Take it easy Cait, that's not what we're aiming at. X6, how did Father die?" Nick asked him.

While it would have been easier to accept the Institute suffering to it's fate and perhaps while not straight away, the Commonwealth would have a better time sleeping at night. But given time, there may be no real need for the Railroad. But their services would still exist well after they've gone. After all, synth prejudice still stands. As long as Deacon could pop some remainder synth heads, he himself would tolerate the down pours.

"I was on allocated duties until I heard the evacuation alarm go off. All Coursers were ordered to go down to the bottom floor, as Acting Director Ayo had announced that the Institute was under attack, so we went to defend the scientists, by the Paragons, as they began to tear the place apart. Ayo had told me, specifically to go up Father's office. I fought my way up, but the time I'd gotten there, Father was already on the floor. I tried to use several stimpaks, but he managed to whisper one thing in my ear before he passed on.

It was a mistake."

Everyone in the room looked at one another, trying to decipher that very sentence.

Deacon pondered for that moment on his own. How did the Paragons manage to enter the Institute, anyway? They helped Delta originally when she teleported there the first time, even so...that device they built is well-guarded at the Mercer Safehouse...or at least he thought it was. An ill wave of thought flowed through him.

"For all we know they could have built some magical teleporter to go in there." He stated.

Nick eyed him. There were fair few that knew of the teleporter. Nick included.

"Ever see Delta in there?" Nick asked X6, turning his attention away. Deacon would suspect that they would have a stern word, shortly.

"No. I didn't. There were too many that were inside. I had taken down the one that killed Father but didn't have the time to get to see who it was as two more entered the room. I was about to shoot them, then suddenly I was flung out of the Institute before I could have done anything."

Someone else teleported him out? Interesting. All the while, to Deacon, for the Institute to lose control like that was satisfying at the least. The bottom of the barrel of mystery, having to fight a new mystery that tore them apart.

"They could have done that with the other Coursers for all we know...where did you end up?" Piper wondered. The Reporter was a double edged razor for the cause. For one, warning the Commonwealth for the Institute's nasty doings but for two, noting that synths were ill-favoured monsters. Not all of them were, so it was important to protect those who would have preferred to not know they were synths at all, that their hearts were as pure as those that belonged to the authentics. Well...some of them anyway. Purity as in, like, uncorrupted by Institute...bah, what he really meant were those just those they believed could be saved. Very messianic.

Curie stood away as she finished patching him up, as Sicks stood back up again and cracked his neck.

"I did not see anyone else. Luckily enough, I was taken nearby. As if whomever got me out of there, wanted me to be here." He said.

That had to have been Delta no doubt. No one else would have done that. No one even had to say it.

To be anyone else, would be a far greater mystery that they would have perceived. Delta would have been that resourceful, like she always has.

"Well now, that means our delightful Whisper is more than her code name suggests." Deacon praised. He would not have cared much for X6 living through it. Coursers were tough, but Delta had taken one down before, proving that the Institute could not mold a perfect soldier no matter how hard they tried. She seemed to be closer to this one on far nicer terms. Nicer being the closest terminology for it.

"So we may still have them to blame however. Father's telling of the words he muttered to X6 indicate some kind of hand. Yet, you wouldn't know, would you?" Nick wondered.

X6 stood there with as much emotion as a statue. Deacon wanted to read into it, but he was smart as it wear glasses like he. They had that in common. Maybe X6 was smarter than he looked.

"No. It wouldn't have been any of my business to even know." X6 replied.

They were at an impasse however. They could have continued to make assumptions all day.

All they knew so far was that Delta's husband was a dick merc who lead another group of dick mercs that were somehow linked to the Institute and yet X6 was saved by Delta...supposedly.

Would she have still have been there now?

"There is hope yet. Miss Delta could still be very much alive!" Codsworth exclaimed.

Deacon would consider Codsworth to be the most amusing Mr. Handy, maybe second most, but understood how much he meant to Delta and over time, realised why. Now that, 'why' would be considered the utmost important to her. If his shenanigans with the Railroad taught him anything, that 'why' would need to be protected. No...beyond his shenanigans. Further from.

Now that the 'why' of Father was out of the picture. If Deacon could even get more a clue to the Paragons themselves out of him, as he was their only real link. Unless X6 had been lying the entire time. If so, shifty and cunning were part of his programming for sure.

"Codsworth, I know this is gonna sound strange, but you're...Delta's family...right?" He asked him.

The bot was only too happy to oblige.

"Of course we are. I was always at the service of the Nier family." He acknowledged.

Thats what Deacon dreaded.

"Okay, right...cool. So no one's gonna get the idea that they might go after Codsworth next? You know, well he's a robot...he's not important as the brains in our heads or the food in our stomachs?"

The Agent could see Danse's brows furrow.

"To protect the Mr Handy robot? I don't know if that's necessary." THe Paladin noted.

Deacon crossed his arms and rolled his eyes.

"Pff of course you think it's not. It's like a synth. It really has no soul, no real family. Despite it, ya know, speaking, havin' memories. No real monster fights either. They're like puppies. They're idiots but they're so damn cute!"

The reaction the Paladin gave, fed the ego of the Railroad Agent; as Deacon licked his lips.

"Enough of that. If you want the Brotherhoods input, we're taking this threat very seriously." Danse told them, as he put himself on the defensive.

"Family is family Danse. Doesn't matter what they're made of, you protect them." MacCready stated, putting his two bobs in.

Deacon wasn't sure what to think of the merc. He didn't overtly like or dislike him. Intel would state he was similar to Delta. Lost spouse and child. Though the child was accounted for. And...a certain somebody helped him out.

If he'd come across Deacon out in the open, having never met, he would have just disregarded him as another scavver. His history with the Gunners once worried him, but Deacon determined if one left the gunners on their own terms, they were smart. Usually. It was hard to tell with those types. If you had a conscience you'd leave. Or a brain. All Deacon cared about was that he was more than willing to help out Delta. That was enough for Deacon to tolerate. Perhaps share a beer with.

Danse was just one you'd wish you could tolerate, but his bludgeoning way with words made you wanna just down several beers to drown him out. Or force his Power Armour to rust in the rain.

"I'm aware of that. I wasn't even saying that it wasn't important to protect it, I was just saying that I have my reservations about guarding a robot that would take up an unreasonable amount of resources that could be spent elsewhere. You clearly know Delta more than I, and I respect that. If it were up to me, I'd keep it safe, for Delta's sake. But the Brotherhood wouldn't even bother to do so. They'd take him for parts or if I could convince them, work for the Brotherhood. I'd vouch for it like I vouched for Delta." Danse integrated.

There was this line, no...lines that connected all of these people. While they would never partake in activities with each other as they all had their goals and agendas to worry about, when it had come to Delta, any action including her had some kind of exception or special case allocated to it. It became an amusing prospect that Deacon kept in mind.

"Very sweet of you, Danse-Pants but we're all forgetting something. Even if we tried, if Delta's been feeding them information about the Commonwealth, those sons of bitches are gonna go everywhere. They've started with the Institute, and that's a big warning that they're mostly gonna target the big names. And they're gonna target the small ones" He explained, looking at Codsworth.

Nick agreed.

"Deacon's right. The Paragons found their way into the Institute, once thought to be incredibly impossible to find and access. If Delta's with them..." He muttered, with almost a subtle shiver at the end.

"Hold up...Delta couldn't switched sides. That's not like her." Said Preston.

Deacon chuckled. Preston, while noble, was so naïve. Deep down Deacon would have known Whisper to be better than that. He'd seen it. He'd watched her as she scoured the Commonwealth, hungry for answers and for the truth. She'd been directed to the most capable people he'd would know she'd visit to aid her and all that between. Part of him felt in the noise of being swamped with more than what she had desired, she'd become deaf to all else, and tuned in to a far worse party.

There were definitely still parts that didn't aid up, however.

"Hey but think about it. She joined the Minutemen, she joined the Railroad, the Brotherhood and the Institute. I like Delta as much as the rest of you, but who really knows where her loyalties lie..." Deacon suggested.

Delta's intentions were...unseen for the most part. If one were really to look into it, she was more of a yes woman, doing what she was told and occasionally asking a question. After all, you'd have a lot of questions after being asleep for over two centuries.

"But Monsieur Deacon, was it not Delta that sent the Courser here?" She pointed out.

They never really nailed that down as fact. Just an assumption. But again, it was rather a larger coincidence. He looked at X6. Part of him just wanted to torture the questions out of the synth, Des would agree, but Glory would object. Or it was the other way around? Coursers were part of that which the Railroad sort of agreed on that they were definitely synths that needed to be destroyed. No one even broached the subject of rewiring one. They were just synths scouting around for the retention of other synths. Des made it clear that they were those who truly had no soul. Built for the lack of its containment.

"He isn't lying. Though I could feeling the wading energy on the courser. I can't tell if it's Delta's or Shaun's aura. They're the same." Mama Murphy stated. Deacon faked being a psychic once. Convinced a guy he was gonna get rich in caps. Turned out he got himself killed by a barrage of bullets from a reprogrammed turret. He got his caps alright. Deacon didn't care though...it was only a raider.

But her words were those that could mean anything. Familial influences at play from the sounds of it.

"Are you able to teleport back to the Institute at all?" Nick questioned.

X6 remained still and emotionless...as per the spiritless protocol.

"I tried. Not available. The signal emitting the encoded data has been cut. Unless the code's been changed, there's no real way inside the Institute."

Deacon looked down. He should have known this was coming...the day that all had to be let loose. It couldn't be kept a secret for much longer.

"But, I think. Hm...Delta's Pip-boy."

Nick tilted his head.

"What about it?"

Thank goodness.

"Delta came down to the Institute on what was a one way ticket. While everyone else was on edge as Father, for what ever reason, decided to let her roam the Institute on her own, checking out the different areas. It must have been to let her see what our work was really like down there, in the hopes she would have joined our cause."

Piper became slightly irritated.

"So somethin' must've appealed to her then? Ugh...Delta why? You could have come back to me!"

The Reporter was known to dig deep into the Institute paranoia. All for the sake of the ultimate truth. Spreading the word would have made things worse, once Deacon thought about it thoroughly.

"Yeah, then Diamond City would pump it's security up even worse than it already was. Dictatorship evolves with draconian methodology." Hancock commented. The Ghoul knew a lot in that regard, that Deacon could respect.

Nick ignored them and picked up Delta's Pip-boy from the box behind him and examined it, displaying it for all to see.

"What once was Delta's crucial tool to serve her was she traversed the Commonwealth, may be the only thing that can help us find her. Don't you all see? She wants us to help her..no not just her, but everyone. If I have to play that recording for all you to see that, then I will. I understand your respective objections, policies, opinions and stakes but this doesn't just affect us. It effects everyone. If Delta was willing to risk her life for a foreign land then we cannot let her fight alone. The Paragons are our enemies here, not each other." Nick pleaded.

Everyone, including Deacon, had their own goals in mind in how this was going to be handled. He wasn't surprised that Nick was fed up with their shit. The Institute took a huge blow without even so much as an massive indicator, so no news, no noise into any way shape or form that there were even being invaded.

The last Deacon even heard of such a thing was when Whisper went in her herself. Then there was no word. He sighed. Maybe it was time to reveal the Teleporter.

"You don't think Delta let them in herself do you?" Deacon pitched in.

Nick's eyes drilled straight at him. He knew exactly what he was going to say. The Railroad demanded utmost secrecy and Nick would promise confidentially free of charge. He knew what the old synth was thinking. And yes...he was sure.

"Let's just say the Railroad does not have a teleporter. And that said teleporter was not constructed on behalf of Delta herself." He announced, as he braced himself. He allowed the storm to come to pass.

First it was Danse. Of course it was. Oh boy did he rant, going on about how Delta should have gone to Brotherhood and they would have got it constructed themselves, then sent in a whole platoon in there to take them all down, then it was Piper who couldn't even conceive the idea of Delta holding out on them, then Preston of all people, as they poured their words directly into Deacon for withholding such a secret. It felt like hailstones on his shoulders as they spat. Even MacCready got in the action. It took X6 charging up to Deacon and wrapped his fingers around his neck and pushed against a nearby wall, tumbling down chairs and forcing Curie and Codsworth out of the way, uncertain of what just happened.

"You...you let them kill Father?" Sicks said cooley. You could hear the tension in his calm yet heated voice.

Deacon didn't fight back. He smiled. And laughed. Though having a palm over your adams apple did make it hard.

"Oh sure. I let in a big scary batch of monsters into your precious dungeon. Like you've never invaded peoples homes." Deacon said as he bit back.

Then it all fell silent at the prompt of a whistle.

"Hey hey! X6 stand down! Let him go this instant!" Nick yelled.

"Yeah Sicks, let me go, even a prototype synth has more sense than a full-production model." He mocked.

The look on his face was like a calm ocean but underneath that synthetic skin he could feel the heat radiate off him like a rad storm. Sick's grip was shaky and went tight briefly, as he bared his gleaming clean teeth before dropping him down. X6 adjusted himself as he walked to the other side of the room and sat down, like nothing ever happened.

Deacon rubbed his throat and adjusted himself as well. He could see in the corner of his eye that Cait became very amused by these change of events. Well, she was aroused by violence in general. So that wasn't new.

"So I see my words flew right over your heads. Anyone who doesn't want to help find Delta can leave this room, right now. I don't need delinquents running the show. I need adults. Or close to." Nick ordered.

It was fascinating how the sound of rain could block out the deafening mute room. Deacon could see everyone looking around awkwardly and almost ashamed of themselves. These people were impossible to bargain with. No wonder Delta dropped them all.

Nick examined them all like the real daddy of all of his kids. The synth was hardboiled at ever. He could have handled much worse though.

"Aaaasss I was saying, Delta came to the Railroad to build the teleporter. I don't think the Minutemen were even able to build such a thing without the synth spies in the settlements alerting their masters or the Brotherhood even being able to contain their...'excitement and lust' for the device. I could have seen it, on one end you're looking at bloodbath and the other, a bloodbath. How ever could she choose?" Deacon questioned.

Piper rose an eyebrow as she eyed him carefully.

"Yeah...so the Railroad could do any better?" SHe pointed out.

Deacon chuckled. The idea was insane, improbable even. Des was impressed that Whisper even got a courser chip in the first place. So with the help of Tinker Tom and Delta's 'mysterious' contact, they made something that had the power to help destroy the Institute once and for all. Effects not-with-standing.

"Yup. We did. You see there are tricks to being subtle. You use words others would normally say to mask over the real meaning or you just have the skills to be able to withhold information. That is my art ladies and gentlemen." Deacon said with a bow.

Nick just let his face fall into his hand. Piper do so as well. In such a short while, they grew to Deacon's antics. Not in a good way, unfortunately.

"But if thou must, we could pay the area a visit. Dank and dangerous and riddled with turrets, though so I wouldn't want a lot of us heading in there. Unless you want to get yourselves shot. Up to you, I won't be held responsible if they don't like you."

He could see Nick sighing.

"If it's still operating. You know it'd be a one way trip from the looks of it. Anyone wanna volunteer?"

Deacon stood beside Nick on this one as did X6. Slowly, but surely, so did Preston. Both men who had once worked closely alongside Delta. Institute and Minuteman priorities and all that. Delta was their valuable asset.

"She's our General, it's only right for the Minuteman who put her there, to get her back." He commented. There was no fear in that mans eyes either.

Nick acknowledged his contribution.

"Thank you Preston. Anyone else?"

It must have taken about a minute, but it was the longest minute they ever had. Or was in thirty seconds or less? To Deacon it felt like an eternity. After all, they were asking to go into the deepest depths of the unknown. Territory left unexplored by the common man. If they were to venture forth, they might guarantee that they'd get out.

But...it was partially the Railroad's fault for even placing consideration into the teleporters construction. Des was so eager to get to the centre of all their opposition that nothing else mattered. The hate and the fury all had towards the Institute substituted all meaning. For they rescued the poor, innocent synths from their evil clutches. Like it was taking babies from their wretched, maddened, result driven mothers...

Oh...

Woops, that metaphor went somewhere horrible.

But it was a point he could hold on to for later. Perhaps bring it up with Nick or Sicks.

In that...bizarre length of time, only if Deacon had a watch...it was only the slap of heavy footsteps that made their approach.

"I'd like to go inside. Not for the sake of the Brotherhood...but because Delta is our friend." Danse admitted, his form filled with even more seriousness than it could possibly contain.

Of course the Brotherhood would love to get their hands on all the juicy tech and hoard it all to themselves. Of course they would. Oh he could imagine Elder Maxon getting a massive hard on from just stepping inside. Creepy bastard.

Keeping it away from those who'd abuse it. Pff...as if...just like Raiders hoarding jet so normal people won't subject themselves to it. It was stupid to think otherwise.

But Nick wouldn't push away help. Not with a team like this.

"Is that so...huh...well, I guess if the rest of you aren't so keen, I understand. However that doesn't mean your roles here are to be forgotten. I want you all to keep yourselves safe. If the Paragons come to Sanctuary, I wanna make sure it's well fortified. They can prop up anywhere, at any time. We know that now."

It became another half hour that passed that the group worked out the plan. Deacon was surprised by the others who didn't really want to go in there, but it was understandable, given their circumstances. It was a suicide mission after all, delving into the depths of a white hell. Piper and MacCready stated familial reasons. Cait pretty much said fuck that in no way that was ambiguous, so Preston gave her the role of protecting Codsworth instead. Deacon found it odd how she didn't want to, given she would do more than kick ass. In fact, it should have been Preston of all people who should have stayed and Cait going in his stead. This became far more fascinating to Deacon than anything he'd ever observed far. He'd have to keep an eye on this development, provided he survived the dive. Hancock had to return to Goodneighbor but swore he'd send help if they so needed themselves, but otherwise allowed those who were left behind, safety in Goodneighbor if it came down to it.

Dogmeat would also help out...such an adorable pooch. But he stayed with those remaining in Sanctuary for now.

But for now they had a plan. For all those good and willing, left the safety of Sanctuary, as Deacon lead them to the Mercer Safehouse.


It was one of those old houses on the coastline, Croup Manor. Delta, as kind and sweet and darling as she ever was, 'cleaned' it out for them to start housing. Didn't make sense originally when Delta suggested that she needed to build something there, but it was the only non-Minuteman settlement that could have been used and not tracked so easily by unwanted third parties. Although it was used for the Railroad's special needs, it was heavily guarded which was enough. All had been sponsored by Delta however.

She was a weird one though. Unique. Special. Defiant. Deacon had warned her about the words of others. If she had listened to him or not, she was making it painfully complicated indeed. Deacon loved riddles. Though, the last time they were at the Safehouse was when she left to go the Institute for the first time. Tinker Tom had given her the last thumbs up as she was set and ready to go. She assured it was only a one way teleporter not a two way. There would have no way that would have been dangerous. But Delta had her word.

Deacon had a funny feeling in his stomach that wasn't from a spoiled salisbury steak. One that emerged from nowhere. It wasn't fear for himself, but for the fear for Delta.

He hadn't felt that way since Barbara was taken from him. Sure that was a long time ago but the pain was still somewhat raw and bloody. A massive mess like a brawl was taking place in his gut. Whether it was from the expectations of what the Railroad had given, in terms of the unlikelihood of any normal person gaining access to an abnormal place. She knew it was one way, yet, she got out. Again, being resourceful was her strong suit. The cleanest suit she wore.

Her pretty emerald eyes shone with determination. Any reluctance she had disappeared that day. Clad in her vault suit and makeshift armour. As her companion, he would have gone down with her, he would have gone to fight the good fight and fought for the happy ending.

When it rained, the endings were never good.

It rained that day too.

He didn't want her to die. Not when they'd just become good friends. Within those last moments with her, he realised how much their friendship meant to them and told her about his past.

Whether she believed him or not, he was astonished that she continued to put up with his stories, those false and true. He taught her the overestimated value of trust and yet, they watched each others backs. Being on the same side helped, of course. But the breadth and width of her tolerance was stretched as far and wide as he could. So he'd admitted their friendship, but Delta knew that it was there all along. Deacon was a bit slow in that department. It'd been too long since he'd recognised anyone as a friend. Even in reverse, everyone in the Railroad treated him as an asset, simply because he was good at what he did. Why in his heart did that cause him to doubt?

Out of screwed up emotions and a heart filled with new burdens, he wanted to try and hold on to her as much as he could. He just couldn't let her know that however. Man's gotta keep his reputation on balance.

Now he realised how foolish it was. That if anything happened to her, it'd be like Barbara all over again. The mourning was something he'd hoped he'd never suffer through again.

Maybe that was why he was so...distant. With the lie after lie after lie he wanted nothing and desired nothing. To become more robot than synth so on command he'd just...lie. Become the lie.

The more he lied, the more of the truth of his ached self changed. To run away from that self, and never knowing it any of it was real. Jokes, he'd always known it was never real in the first place.

But when it came to part of it that was real. Deacon had two options. Let the real go and disguise it as a construct of fiction, or acknowledge and put it aside. Deacon had not a lot to risk basing himself on the falsehoods he made for himself. He could discard it and make a new one when ever he wanted to.

Though Delta seemed to see all through that. He wondered if all she ever wanted for Deacon to just admit his truth, or. Or worse yet, she continued to see the truth inside of the lie. That became way too deep for Deacon to even consider.

In all the rusty, dirty, twisted and crunched up vows of confusion, she came through with that clean smile. Just the same one before she entered the teleporter. He envisioned body parts disappearing because it wasn't made right. His mind had decided on that moment she had left of all the funny scenarios that could have happened because they missed a few digits here and there. With Tinker Tom that was nary impossible of course. Part of Deacon was just...wanting it to fail so she could stay there and stay safe. To forget about going to the Institute and to stay to continue to fight in their own way. Just...why did it have to be her?

She was more real than Deacon ever would ever see himself as.

She was very old. She wasn't a ghoul; that would could have given off a slight hint of cheapness, but the stories added up perfectly. The real deal. The tears in her eyes as she talked about Shaun. Official. The clean smile. Undeniable. The way she held herself in battle. Priceless. Given time, she would have been nearly as perfect as Deacon...still..

The world was cruel for the honest ones...

"Here it is..." He said with forced enthusiasm. The Manor was just ahead and still perfectly fortified with the metal walls and the dozen or so turrets that circled it.

"You seem very proud..." Nick noted with sarcasm.

The five looked upon the structure as they got closer. Part of Deacon would have been very curious as to really wanting to know what was inside. He spoke with one of his representatives who seemed...somewhat stunned at the collected group of individuals he'd attained. Deacon had to make sure the guy didn't wet his pants when Deacon gave them a brief explanation of what they were doing. Then told them what they were really doing.

"I'm chickening out or anything, but...I'm getting chills just lookin' at that big monstrosity." Preston commented, looking at the tall structure before them.

"I'm certain we'll find bigger and more monstrosities once we're inside." Danse pointed out.

X6 went over to the console to make the configurations. When Deacon mentioned on their way over to the site, that it would normally take one person, he said he was able to fit it for all of them. Though, if X6's courser chip didn't work normally, he wasn't convinced that this...primitive toy was gonna work either. They'd need the Advanced Systems sector to work on it, in order for it to function properly. Deacon then proceeded to put a gun to his head and noted that he needed his head to function properly, before Preston put a stop to it.

After X6 finished adjusted the systems, he stood himself in the middle, where, supposedly the connection would be the strongest and the others were to surround him and the device. The fun part was when they had to hold hands to make sure no one was left behind. Clearly, by the looks on everyones bar Deacon's faces, they were only barely tolerating it as is. Deacon was enjoying himself already.

"Anyone wanna say any last words before we're sent down into the unknown?" Asked Nick as the machine started up.

"Yeah, I should have had a beer before this." Deacon joked.

"I wouldn't have minded a bourbon..." Danse continued.

"Bourbon? Actually...wine would have done me." Preston stated.

"Would have probably made you do somethin' more stupid. But...I dunno what's stupider than this."

Then in that next instant, all thought focused on Delta as they disappeared into the light.

Deacon wished it rained beer.

Chapter Text

 

The weather wasn't Danse's forte. Sure it had the ability to provide h20 everywhere but overall it was a nuisance whenever there was a downpour. Though once there was technology that could predict it, there wasn't a lot they could do to manipulate it. Not a lot that they could use anyway... The scent of mud that went up his nostrils, mixed with blood and goodness knows what else. Even within the power armour, the combination of oils and sweat, which Danse eventually got himself used to, were overpowered by the rotten perfumes of the wasteland.

The scent quickly changed as they were dragged away from the drenched Railroad outpost and planted...somewhere.

After the loud thump from the weight of his power armour, Danse clutched his laser rifle tightly, after landing in a darkened room with only a light in the distance.

Once Danse turned on the torch on his armour he could see the dust particles gently wafting through the air. The smell was not quite sterile as he could see the near polished floors and actual white and not yellow white walls he was used to seeing. If this was a version of cleanliness, this room was once that. It was almost blinding.

He looked around, noticing the others hadn't been transported with him. It baffled him. He called their names one by one as he wandered across the room. Much to his dismay, there was no answer. No Preston, no Deacon, No Nick, No X6. This was very suspicious.

Still, he had to push on. This wasn't going to be an obstacle. Part of him felt better without them, though if it came to it he would have preferred the back up. Preston maybe. Nick perhaps. X6 or Deacon? He really couldn't care. Although, his feelings after their little rendezvous in Sanctuary churned a lot in Danse's opinions.

These were people Delta cared about. Whether they were human or not. These were her...associates. confederates...friends. She must have been good with her tongue, as it waggled the words in her mouth, convincing them in a peculiar way that, perhaps, influenced their livelihoods with the creature comforts of..well, being a good companion.

He should have seen it though. Danse had his emotions swirled around like soup, bringing a type of warmth and ease in her presence. If her allies felt the same way, it would justify everything about her character, not to mention the slight change in his heart rate when ever she was near.

Recent events wanted to pick at the perfectly painted picture of Delta, instead her impact left a kind of mark. A stain. Though a stain could be seen negatively, part of him just nagged and was unable to be negotiate for him to see...that maybe Delta was not all she was. That she was stained but functional.

Danse was no stranger to psychological warfare. They would induct that on those who they deemed to have valuable information regarding the truth of circumstances that brought attention to their investigations. Whether or not Delta had training on it or not, Danse could have been blind to it all if it she indeed have such affiliation to a skill. He wanted to remain cautious. He had to. There was a lot at risk.

So he decided to investigate this place for the meanwhile, shining his torchlight on the walls themselves. He could see red blotches alongside scorches marks spread across as he ran over the surface with his steel fingers. What ever happened here, it definitely wasn't pretty. His eyes were peeled to scan for anything worth pumping cells into.

The atmosphere reeked of the Institute though. This wasn't just random abandoned and broken down building. Oh no. His entire current behaviour automatically became accustomed to it. His breath was heavier and he walked slower. He wasn't afraid. Just...cautious.

It must have been a maze of corridors and navigating through those without making as so much as a whisper or a screech from his armour made Danse's paranoia rise. If he had proper back up...it would be more to alleviate him...to make sure he knew he was grounded in reality. The reality he knew made noise. No noise made him hear far worse. The pulse of his heart ran in his head, and the little gasps caught his his ears. His armour would protect him physically. But not mentally.

The battlefield would have made more sense. He could see the enemy. Twenty yards and Danse would hiding behind a rusted down car, looking upon a raider made fortification. The raiders, beacons of filth that often targeted those of the innocent and those needing respite. Those were the foes that with no doubt in Danse's mind that needed to be taken down for the scum they were.

Even when it was raining, even if there was a rad storm, Danse could tolerate and brace himself as to take on the plight of the world by himself. Maybe...maybe he was kidding himself.

A bravado evolved from Brotherhood influence. Made the world white as day and black as night.

But the rain...the rain made it grey.

Ghouls. Screaming ugly, twisted, misshapen forms of humanity's nightmares. Hiding in a subway. Delta, holding her weapon close, clad in her vault suit with make shift armour, as Danse caught a quick glimpse of her expression. Scrunched, tight, tongue sliding on her lips as her green eyes locked on to her quarry. The real Delta, not created by icy hands but that forged by the heat of battle.

You heard the common story of armies being swept in an already losing battle. Fifty, or a hundred soldiers. Dead.

Then there's the Knight. If anyone could weave their way in or out of anything, it was her.

"Hello? Is anyone there? Please respond." He called out. If it called attention to anything at least. His trigger finger was getting anxious as his unseen enemy was nothingness.

He passed by an open room, seeing sparks fly from bits of machinery. The smell of spent ammunition and burnt plastic fumes should have been something he was used to. But...

Going inside, he decided to have a look around. If there was any technology that was worth salvaging, it had to be here. Even if it was damaged. The Institute, or what's left of it, would have decided to repair it irregardless.

There was an operating terminal in smaller, adajacent room, not locked but there was a holotape inside as Danse checked it out.

The fingers on the power armour made it a tad difficult to type, but he managed.

His eyes scanned over the text that popped up.

Madison Li.

His eyes widened. Wasn't she from the Brotherhood originally? He'd never met her, personally. But she was a big name back in the day. To turn up in the Institute of all places came to him as quite the shock. She had several entries listed. Danse decided to read for any clue as to what was going on.

When Father told us that a special guest would be arriving soon, there was a lot of talk. I mean, a lot of it.

I savoured a guess of who it was, since it was discovered that Kellogg had passed on due to...unfortunate circumstances.

I'll keep it to myself for now.

Danse went on to the next entry.

I don't believe in fate. But Father must have been planning this for a very long time.

The man's never been married yet, the irony still stands that...he's brought his mother...very young mother, back to the one he loves.

We're all told to be on our 'best behaviour' but in other words it's all part of his big, big plan.

Several later entries were corrupted and unretrievable, Until the last one.

He didn't know this would happen? It wasn't just me who thought this was a bad idea. Several of the other heads thought he was being far too...sentimental. All because of his plan. I'm very well much aware of his illness. It's not that hard to see why he was planning all of this. He's a man that's never seen the scratch of the surface world that he was born in. Any of that he could have remembered.

But this was, by far his greatest foolish mistake he'd ever made.

I should have stayed with the Brotherhood.

Hmm...so this...Father had something planned. And it involved Delta. He was also ill, which Danse thought was an interesting point. Dr. Li must have come here for her own reasons and part of him was glad to see that she herself, had grown to see her own ill-conceived decision to join such a horrendous cause.

However, there was one last entry, tilted differently than the others which had dates.

This one was simply tilted, Thank you.

You're not wrong for thinking that Dr. Li. I guess not everyone's insane after all. But you're all the same, bunkered down in your unnatural habitat, living and breathing in the  falsehoods. Why would you think any of it was a good idea? A man's alive until he's taken away like everyone else.

Now who am I talking about? The Institute or the Brotherhood of Steel?

Think about that for moment and reconsider your choice.

A foreboding feeling rose up in Danse, as the anxiety threatened to spill like the sweat from his pores. No...they couldn't be targeting...what the hell does the Brotherhood have to do with all of this?

He swallowed as his nerves twitched. He snapped to attention as he could hear groaning metal that echoed nearby. Normally if he was on the outside it wouldn't have bothered him. But...

His breathing became heavier as he moved around, hearing voices around him.

What the hell?

The whispers seemed to call out to him.

Danse?

He bit his lip.

"Delta is that you?" He called out.

He ran out of the room, focusing his torch on absolutely everything. No. It was nothing...

There was one day when they were out though, when they took a breather at one of the settlements that Delta helped defend. Nordhagen Beach. She had insisted on the letting him see the sights for himself. Especially of the Prydwen.

Everything seemed normal. The sun was out, bright enough that it was almost blinding and the sky was clear enough without making you think there was anything even wrong with the world in the first place. He was aggravated that his power armour was slowly sinking into the sand though...

Come on out Danse, surely you'll get tired of being inside of that thing every once in a while...

He scrunched his eyes as his vision began to blur as well as his head had begun to throb.

I don't know why we're here. Surely we've got more important matters to worry about.

He removed his hood from his head and slapped on it on a nearby table, hissing as he rubbed his head, hearing his own voice in the murmurs. The headaches normally came from when he was sleeping...or at least...attempting to sleep.

As he opened his eyes, he could see Delta smiling at him. It was pleasant.

I came here once with Nate. We weren't really supposed to, but we liked seeing the planes fly in and out of the airport.

There wasn't enough air going in his lungs as he panted, and the wretched pulse of agony continued to beat in his head like a drum.

That's an unconventional hobby.

He scrunched his eyes again as he stumbled about but then forced them to open as he had hold of his rifle and hastened to find out what the hell was doing this to him. He couldn't see anyone or get a hold of any target.

I wonder how many pastimes were lost in the chaos.

He went back to Nordhagen Beach again on his own accord some weeks after that. It was first overcast, then it rained. The Prydwen was overshadowed by the heavy downpour. He was trying to see what Delta saw in the sight.

He should have gone back on a better day.

Danse then traversed into another hallway, desperate to get out of what ever hysterical mind frame he was in. The headache lessened but the Paladin still felt sick. He squinted his eyes as his torch picked up something at the end of...what ever this desecrated place considered considered a hallway, with the top of the walls near the roof, bent and papers scattered all over the floor.

Upon closer inspection, it was a body in white coat.

He imposed extreme prudence, as he paced towards the body itself. He knelt down, as it's back was turned to him.

It was female, with bullet holes riddled through her torso and her blood creating a pool of crimson around her. Nothing that he hadn't seen before but every time it still shook him to his core. It was nearly every time he would become a bit more numb, but this seemed far worse than anything else he'd seen.

Men and women on the battlefield, killed in the line of duty. This...this pour soul...appeared to be a non-combatant. He shuffled through her pockets and found a holodisk and listened to the recording through his power armour.

"Knight. Why do I have your esteemed company tonight? Haven't seen you in months actually, what have you been doing? Huh? What's with that gu- ARGHH"

That voice...no...it couldn't be. Besides the obvious sounds of guns blazing, the swearing, he knew that voice anywhere.

"Elder Maxon..." Danse muttered in disbelief.

"What the hell do you think you're doing?"

There was a long pause between words as bullets continued to fly in between.

"Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures."

THAT voice...no...it couldn't. The semi-gravely tone that once brought joy to his ears turned into a sour note in a split moment...as the one final shot sounded like it it sealed the Elder's fate.

"No..." Danse whispered.

"No...can't...that's impossible..."

What's the matter Danse? Can't stand the sunshine?

He stood back again, with the pace of his breath quickened as if he'd ran a hundred miles on his own. Sweat dropped from his forehead to his cheek. Or was it his own tears?

No the sunshine's nice. I would prefer not to get sunburnt though.

It just had to be the Institute toying with him, like always. That was not Delta. It may have sounded like her, but it definitely wasn't. The idea was inconceivable! Improbable! She respected the Elder just as much as she respected Danse. It was a Synth Delta! Yeah. They had to have grabbed Delta and made a synth copy. One that could imitate her clean smile, her dancing hair and her emerald eyes that he always admired.

Danse couldn't give up hope though. He made it unto himself that he just had to find her. They had her here somewhere, he just knew it. He furrowed his bow and nodded, psyching himself up to continue the search.

Shame you can't get better protection...

He turned around, but then his light hit something black as something whacked him in his neck. Something sharp that penetrated the skin.

I've got the best protection possible.

He couldn't get a good look as his vision became blurry again and his mind falling to a haze.

I was being sarcastic.

"What...the..." He garbled before everything went black.

Chapter Text

 

The family stayed in on rainy days. Miss Delta would often read through books or case notes, depending in the type of urgency while Sir Nate watched TV with Shaun.

They were peaceful times. Codsworth didn't mind it too much. Though it hindered on days he wanted to do gardening. He had a weekly routine based on what needed doing on what day. It was, quite annoying in the case that if it decided to rain on Wednesday or Sunday. He became accustomed to it, going to find something else that needed doing. In the over two-hundred years he waited until he saw Miss Delta again, he recall the lovely couple playing with Shaun in the lounge room and watched with delight as he heard him bubbling and cooing, with Nate making baby-words and contemplating what Shaun would grow up to be.

These days it's become more a misery than anything. For what ever his self-diagnostics forced him to change his perspective time and time again and to forever wonder about the rain and sunshine that seemed to conjure such beautiful rainbows.

That he got from Curie. Metaphorically.

But he'd come accustomed to the settlers themselves that seemed to whine about having to either remain indoors or by any chance have to make sure the crops wouldn't be absolutely flooded with water. Routine would always make Codsworth check the crops, on Wednesdays and Sundays.

Today however was just another odd day, spent cleaning the shacks and buildings for the settlers. His mind was forever worried about Delta and her compatriots that had gone to look for her.

He saw Cait relaxing about in the lounge room of Delta's old house, sitting on the couch, with a beer in one hand and her tired eyes looking at the wall nearby.

"Hey tin can, let me ask you somethin'." She said, breaking the silence.

"Yes Miss Cait?"

The red-headed irish woman smoked.

"What was like Delta like back in the day? I mean, she owned this place. I've never known anythin' about the 21st century meself, never gave a shite. But now, I'm a curious little molerat."

A lot cleaner, that's for sure.

"Delta was just a mother and wife doing her daily duties, whether it was tending to Shaun, working or being a lovely wife. Only if I could sure you pictures of how spotless this place once was." Codsworth replied with pride. He had said pride in how well he made sure the house was in good condition.

"But...alas. As a Mr. Handy I can only do so much I'm afraid. I could never find the materials no matter how hard I tried to get rust out. It's impossible, you know."

Cait chuckled.

"Figures. Only if Delta was my mother...she could have taken care of me far better than my own sorry excuses for human beings."

Now Codsworth was the one who was curious.

"If you were say, several years younger, she would have also told you to keep the feet off the furniture." He commented, all three of his eyes leaning towards her great big dirty books on the coffee table in front of her. Cait only rolled her eyes and obliged.

"Fine fine, if you were human, you'd find that comfy. Though it would become a force of habit."

She noted a she sat up and took a swig of her beer.

Humans were fascinating creatures. Created by humans, for humans. He was grateful to serve. Not a lot of Mr. Handy's could have finer people to work with. At least he'd hoped. Mr Gutsy's were more obnoxious than he desired. You couldn't just hold a decent conversation with them without them mentioning that they wanted to dismember you. It was incredibly rude.

"I do not have habits, I have protocol." He told her.

Cait just shrugged.

"What ever you say, at least your protocol isn't naggin' me all the bloody time." She noted.

Ah yes. Mr. Garvey. A nice young, ambitious fellow. As Delta paraded the Commonwealth, He would get orders from the Minuteman to help around Sanctuary. Of course, given the situation, Codsworth would only have been too happy to contribute. Far more than the dullness. Traveling with Delta would be what the flesh folk call, exhilarating,

"Mr. Garvey is only doing his job. Like we all should be." Codsworth noted.

The young woman groaned and spat. Codsworth detected a slight connectivity problem between the two.

While Mr. Garvey had pseudo authority while Delta was gone, he was just one of many in the same boat and was just trying to survive like everyone else.

"That's just what make's it so frustrating. It's all about work with him. Never leaves himself time to relax. He's all pent up. He needs to grow some wings and let himself flutter about." She complained.

Codsworth's memory servers put a time where either Nate or Delta would come home entirely frustrated and exhausted. Their line of work kept them on a tight, busy schedule. He didn't like it when they argued, but they would then apologise to one another and would end up cuddling each other on the couch. Which was sweet, considering the amount of noise they often made.

"It's a stressful situation indeed. Always keeping an eye out for those in need. Delta even told me to look after him, as she too was worried." He said.

Cait rose an eyebrow.

"What? She was worried about Preston? What the hell for?" She wondered.

He wasn't certain. He only had Delta's words to go on.

"I don't know. But she was like that. The well being of all she knew concerned her greatly." He explained.

It caught Codsworth off guard as to the way Delta acted when they traversed together, it had been nothing like he'd seen before. He'd hoped it would come back and part of it did, as he would analyse her relationships with other people as they seemingly flocked to her, hearts and minds divulging personal secrets and Delta treating them with utmost confidence.

Humans were creatures of habit but also creatures of change. Maybe all that Delta was doing was just fitting in to survive.

"Well, could've been she cared too much, that it all ended smacking into her face. I don't blame her. People are fucked. Always gunnin' ya for caps or worse. Been on that side of the fence before."

Cait commented.

Humans could be cruel. When you have a few dents to show for it, it's utilised as proof.

But...Delta had dealt with cruel people before she left.

"There isn't such a thing Miss Cait. Kindness is a lost value these days. Think of the state of the Commonwealth now if we weren't always angry with one another." Codsworth noted.

Cait shook her head lightly.

"Ya have a point. Unfortunately we're not in that type of fantasy. Ya come across everyone who has an agenda or secret, then when they're done with you, once they've gotten every shiny cap drained from your bleedin' corpse, they'll leave you for dead for real."

Not everyone was like that as she would have found out.

"You think Mr. Garvey himself has plans secretly laid out?" Codsworth joked at Cait's expense.

"What? N-no? I don't think he would. Look, I know he has people at their best interest. He doesn't seem to be the schemin' type." She commented further.

Codsworth middle eye rose slightly, as it examined Cait closely.

"What kind of type do you think he is then?" He queried, unusual for a Mr Handy to ask such a opened question.

She blinked, puzzled.

"Preston? Pfff I wouldn't have a clue. Guys just as bad as Delta was. Attemptin' to make peoples lives a bit easier. Nothin' wrong with that." She answered.

Another eye examined her closely.

"Then maybe what he's trying to do is to get you to contribute because he finds that you can help others just as much. A little bit doesn't hurt." He pointed out.

The woman just groaned.

"Me? Help? I like to fight. That's all I've known. If he wants me to guard that's fine. Since Delta shoved in those turrets Preston's taken me off of it. Says my time could better spent doing other odd jobs. I'm like, what? Seriously?" She whined.

Amusing to Codsworth, irritating to Miss Cait. Codsworth had seen this behaviour before.

"Mr. Garvey is simply being a gentleman." He stated.

Cait just chuffed as she took a larger swig.

"Gotta funny way of showin' it."


They talked with one another well into the afternoon. While Codsworth got used to her usual profanities, it was nice for her to be calm for a change and willing to talk about herself. Even Delta wasn't that revealing. There was no doubt for what they had was nothing but mutual respect for each other, he didn't like how Delta obviously had to bottle everything for the sake of others.

If she had finally broken, if she had somewhat decided to go because she couldn't cope with a world without her family, would cutting ties with her past altogether make it all better?

Unlike her, Codsworth had time to change and adapt to the ever changing scenario. He didn't adjust his dislike for the rain however, seeing the drops of water coming from above and the pools beneath them.

To see how man devolved into a totally different state of themselves. He hadn't expected to exist for as long as he had at this point, but like Delta, he too had to change himself to survive.

His eye cocked behind him as he noted the knock on the door. They hadn't expected anyone to come to them anyway. Couldn't been a settler, asking for help or warning of Raiders. Stuff like that happened all the time.

So he traveled his way and opened the door. He saw a tall man, drenched black hair and blue eyes and wearing a blue vault suit and some bits of armour and leather scattered across. He knew that man. Last seen over two hundred years ago. Last seen exiting the house they were in.

"Codsworth."

Codsworth's eyes widened at the sight.

"Sir?"

Chapter Text

 

When ever it rained at the same time Cait needed to focus, she would inhale some jet and watch the tiny particles float downwards. Or sideways. Or diagonally. Or what ever the direction was. It ironically brought a sense of calm. For all of what her body could entail to take, like the chilling breeze on her skin and the echoed drops of water on the ground, were increased tenfold, with rows of goosebumps popping up all over her body, with the liquid often mixing into sweat, blood or worse...the smell wasn't exactly alluring but the visionaries were always nice to look at, especially when she'd sat down and stared at the darkened skies, as the dropped around her, surrounding her in a liquid cage. It locked her into herself and out of herself as she closed her eyes, feeling each individual patter like a soft bullet.

Post-addiction Cait didn't really need it. Rain on Cait's terms of time made it much easier to shed the anger and the fury when on her own, without the mass of entangled senses when it came down to it. Just listening to the average sound was enough, as it rung through her ears, becoming a weirdly, comforting white noise. It was a pain in the ass when she had to go outside though. The chill didn't clash when her skin heated due to her heart beating faster than normal, so it just ended up being plain cold...she began to hate as well when it made the rain a thousand times worse to deal with.

Like, right now. The steely coldness had struck, as it ran down her spine, nearly freezing her nerves.

She watched as Codsworth let a stranger, not a settler she knew, but a stranger into their midst. Handsome actually. And wearing a Vault suit, not unlike Delta. Cait detected a peculiar oddity.

"Oh hello...sorry Codsworth didn't realise you had a guest." The man noted. That tone of his didn't do him any favours. He seemed soft. Less hardened to an extent but seemed to have traces of something that occurred. He had lovely blue eyes and smiled in their presence. Why the hell would she think they were lovely, anyway? The man had bad vibes written all over him, somehow.

"Not at all sir! I'm...I'm stunned but happy to see you alive and well!" Codsworth responded with such joy. She'd never seen him this excited since...

It took Cait a while to realise who he was, as her eyes widened, bringing out her gun and sneering at him as red rage filled her body enough that jet would help, but then it wouldn't. It brought a warmth to her, just...not in a nice way.

"Don't pull any fast moves. Codsworth, warn the others...I'm not letting him get away." Cait called out, furious about her target. How dare he be in their very sight after what had been discussed earlier? Part of her was being filled with something indescribable.

"What? Put your gun down I'm not gonna hurt anyone! I'm just here to help out." He said as he raised his hands in defence. He seemed so offended yet saddened by her sudden negative approach, but appeared calmer on the surface than anything else.

Cait wasn't fooled. She knew the soft and innocent approach was used a lot as the lies poured out of his mouth.

"Bullshit, where the fuck is Delta you prick!" She roared, her teeth clenched.

The man rose an eyebrow. He held the air of a gentlemen. Must have been that stupid mug of his.

"Well you're looking for that lovely wife of mine as well? Seems we have a goal in common, friend."

Everything was put to a halt. Cait didn't know what to do. Her instinct was screaming at her to shove a bullet into his lodge and to watch his brain be smeared all over the room. This man was a monster. Asshole deserved to die. Despite looking down the barrel of her gun however, he was awfully calm about it. Something definitely wasn't right here.

"Don't call me friend, shithead. I would never let you put your hands on her again! I'd shoot them off before ya even got the chance!" She threatened.

He face distorted into more of a tired expression.

"Ah that old story. Look, instead of shithead, call me Nate instead and we call talk about this, like 21st century civilised people used to. I find talking saves more lives than you think." He commented, dropping his arms.

She grumbled as she looked at Codsworth. Poor stupid robot was probably still rigged for loyalty or somethin'. She wouldn't hesitate to shoot him if that ended up being the case, but her conscience made her think otherwise.

"Righteo then, Nate. Where is Delta?" She asked, mocking him.

Nate smiled and rubbed his hands together, like he was anxious too.

"Like I said, I don't know where she is. I woke up inside the pod we were in and she'd disappeared. She had Shaun with her too." He answered as he lifted his brows.

Cait blinked as she looked at Codsworth. Bot knew more than she. Obviously.

"Oh Sir, Delta mentioned that Young Shaun was stolen. But we've cleared that mess up apparently." The Mr Handy told him with a cut of sadness.

This was wrong. So very, very wrong. Cait tried to see through his guise but the man put up an excellent front. He was scarily like Delta in that regard.

"Well I'm willing to sit down and have a chat about it then. I can tell you what I've been up to and you can tell me what's been happening? Seem fair?"

No.

"Oh certainly sir, I wouldn't mind hearing your side of the story so far, I've been hearing some negative things which I hope you would clear up...I'll whip up some tea shall I?"

God damn it Codsworth!


Cait hated this. Her blood boiled at the sight of this...this...

How could he just waltz back in without care and think that they could just talk? Delta would have done the same but only if she could see him now. She must have known what was going on and for all that it's worth, the very thing they were preparing to avoid ended up just knocking on the door, pretending everything was okay.

They sat down on the couches as Codsworth explained the situation. Cait remained silent in fury as she watched the man react in differing ways to a lot of the events that had happened so far...she inhaled and exhaled the stale air in subtle motions. Containing herself when it involved Delta became a hard case to manage. Her attention was fixated on her reactions while they talked. His face hardly warped with emotion except subtle smiles and frowns. Nary a gasp or a tear shed with the hard shit came.

So when he mentioned Shaun's fate. She was left leaning on the other side of the couch with her legs crossed and her arm across the top of it and her other arm on the armrest, as her fist made silent, impatient thwomps. She had to fiddle. Or else she'd lose her mind completely.

"No one could have made that call other than the Institute for raising him like that. Just...I feel awful. Delta must have been devastated."

Cait squinted, wanting to poke at his mind for a bit, to see what's inside.

"What about you? Your son is dead, not only that, he grew up to be an asshole who liked to use scare tactics and kidnap people in the middle of the night. I wouldn't call him my son..." She told him.

He either had really good training on maintaining his emotions or he was being legitimate...but the way his face fell impacted Cait somewhat, like a pulse of minor sympathy ran through her. She cursed it. She never pegged herself as the caring type.

"That was...regrettable. They'd taken Shaun from us and we couldn't do anything about it but watch as we remained on ice." Nate continued. He clenched his hands as his entire head looked downwards.

"My path took me several places after I managed to escape the vault. The world was definitely a land scorched by hate and revenge. I'd spoken with a few locals, caught up with the times, and was left dumbfounded. It's still a little hard to accept but little by little, I think Delta's work could be continued."

Cait was on edge. None of this made her feel comfortable. At all.

"So hold on, what about that lil' story of you in the Paragons? What was that shit all about?" She snapped. He still hadn't mentioned that.

Nate lifted his head and smiled at her. She hated that worse than most raider's shit-eating grins.

"Oh that. There's a lot of misconceptions that surround Private Military Contractors. Must have watched far too many shows. Seriously, there was a lot of PMC negativity from the media alone. I wanted to start a group that changed that. Sure, there may have been allegations and we were taken to court over heinous crimes my group didn't commit, but I stood against each and everyone of them, as their Captain. My one true goal was to set an example for everyone. But we all preferred to stab each other in the backs. I was a busy man."

It seemed like not everything was glamorous in their time either. People would talk about how great the prewar was, but a lot of that was from ordinary people who must have only got stories passed down, as some darker stories came from the surviving and everlasting ghouls.

"Sir might I inquire, Delta said you were dead inside the vault...shot exactly. How on Earth did you survive?" Codsworth asked.

Cait had a hard eye on it, annoyed on how Delta hardly ever even mentioned the way Nate supposedly died.

"Me? I didn't get shot at. Though it explains the sore feeling in my chest when I got out that I may not have remembered, or it would have been from an old war wound. All...all I saw was Delta getting shot as they took Shaun from her."

What? The look he had was...indeterminate. Was he sad or just apathetic?

"Oh...Delta never mentioned getting shot herself." Codsworth pointed out. Cait never recalled that either. That rain sent chills down once again.

Nate nodded as he tapped his fingers on his thigh.

"That sounds like her alright. Delta never wanted people to worry about her. What ever the Institute did may have scrambled her memory..or...from what I've been told, she might be what you guys call Synths?"

Cait's heart skipped a beat. No. That couldn't even be possible! Not at all! And he worded it like it wasn't the worst thing to assume, to someone so justly as Delta.

"Fuck no! I call bullshit on that one. No way Delta's a damn synth!" She shouted.

Nate scratched his head.

"So that one synth out there that told me that you guys were in here was friendly enough...who knows, Delta might be the same."

This was absolutely deplorable. How could he even speak about her like that? It made Cait sick to her stomach as she shot up from the couch to glare at him.

"How can you just sit there and talk about Delta like that? What the fuck is wrong with you?" She roared.

The man sighed at her attempts to plough a straight answer. She was this close to pulling her gun out. Or a knife. Gutting him up would set a great example.

"It's just an assumption. When you ask around and get an overall consensus as to what's what and who's who around here, you get a collected idea of what to expect. You take as much advice as necessary and build your own perspective. We all know what Delta is like right? Something changes...a dramatic change...so first point to assume is that she may have been replaced by a synth." He explained, using his hands to gesture a lot.

Fuck. Deep down into the pit Cait's gut she knew he was right. But he had to be wrong. It wrenched her heart to think of the depressing possibility. Damn rotten synth, but...

"You really think Miss Delta's been replaced by a synth sir? I...I don't even know."

Codsworth wondered. Cait could tell he too, was heartbroken by that distinct matter.

No one wanted to think that. Since if the time came and they came to kill that synth Delta...would she have really been a synth all this time? Why did Cait doubt this so much? Was it because she trusted Delta in such confidence...or was it because of something else that made her believe she was still around. She couldn't grasp the true reason...

"Just...just an assumption guys. I could be wrong. After all, we would need proof. Delta was a lawyer...she'd know all about the evidence structure. It has to be undeniable to be considered the truth." Nate assured. Though not by much.

Delta was tough. Cait remembered the times they took down enemies together. The fleeting downpour that came from both of their weapons. She had such grace and poise that Cait was entirely jealous of her skills, even if this super woman herself praised Cait for her own combat skills.

They were such devastating killers in their field. Two dangerous cats, purring in their kills.

Yet, when it came down to it, Cait was just a drenched kitten, drowning in a pool of despair, until she was taken by the teeth of the wise Matriarch with enough claw marks to prove her wisdom.

It wouldn't have called to Cait's attention otherwise, when an idea that's so damn ingrained in your head it's impossible to scrap out, but you wonder if it was the whole purpose. To stay in there that you would swear your life on it.

Until something else came across to eventually pop it out. Cait needed that evidence. She need to see for herself if Delta had been replaced. It would cause her utmost anger and despair.

She noted those green, emerald eyes, much shinier than hers, with more of that idealistic shite that seemed to radiate from her, even in the darkest of days. Even from the moments they were focused, they never faded as they would much around and get drunk together from time to time. Much to Cait's dismay, she missed those shindigs greatly.

At night, they'd sit around a nice fire at one of the settlements and have a few beers. It was nice to relax, you'd feel comfortable and assured, instead of the usual fear and disarray. Where in this fucked up world would you even begin to imagine the feeling of the reality that once accustomed to, was near impossible to get out of? It was warm, it was enticing, the way that the fire danced in Delta's eyes as she glanced at the amber glow before her.

It was after a sunny day, where they'd taken down some Super Mutants that had been threatening the settlement. They deserved all the delights they could get their hands on. It felt good taking those vomit-skin assholes down. Always felt like you could take on the world a little bit more every time you managed to kill one. Especially if you could avoid and kill the ones with the mini nukes.

They clinked their bottles together, blessing one another for another day of survival. Before every day was a curse. Now every day was a gift. That Cait would feel like she could tell Delta anything without thinking twice. Though, the same couldn't be said for Delta's own worth.

"You know she barely spoke about you." Cait told Nate, her sneer obvious.

That caused Nate to pop an eyebrow.

"Really...heh. I'd imagine her keeping herself...well, to herself."

Men have come and go in Cait's life. Some she loved and some she fucked for shit's and giggles.

This was someone Delta had once loved and lost. If Cait had that kind of stability, she'd probably go nuts.

"So what are you gonna do? Continue to find her?" She asked him.

Nate rubbed the back of his neck.

"If you don't know where she is then I'll have to keep looking. I'll scout the ends of this damned Commonwealth if it means I'll see her again and avenge Shaun. Thanks for the chat. I've learned a lot. I'll keep in touch."


He left without as so much as a fuss or anything that seemed to outright state he was up to any type of mischief. Part of her screamed to shoot him and every vein in her body was telling her to just pull the trigger. She was either being strong for not doing so or being weak for not doing so. It was hard to tell which was which.

"Should we have told him about the location of the Institute?" Codsworth asked her.

Hell no. Why the fuck should they?

"No. If he's back, then I'm not so sure. But he's right you know. And I hate him for it. What if Delta was killed and replaced by a fuckin' robot...no offence." She replied.

"None taken. Miss Delta is irreplaceable as the air you breath."

But Cait just couldn't ignore it. She could not let it stand by and not let anyone know who'd returned. She needed to tell someone...

Perhaps she could tell Piper. That reporter could spread the word faster than anything. She was useful to an extent. Pretty woman with enough punch and style. She needed a bigger brain to help her suss out. If anyone could find out the truth, it'd have to be the nosy reporter.

"Codsworth, hold the fort...I'm headin' to Diamond City. I've got some snot nosed press to beat some sense into."

The Mr. Handy didn't seem to keen to let her go as he grabbed a green coat from the floor and shook it a bit.

"Don't forget to cover yourself Miss Cait...wouldn't want you to catch a cold." He said as he handed to her.

Cait smirked as she took the coat and wrapped it around herself, check her gear and left without delay.

She frowned as she left though. Shit had really hit the fan. It was only going to get worse.

Chapter Text

 

Another day, another wet, rainy and dreadful day.

It was hard enough to make sure that the printer wasn't gonna get soaked. It left Piper and Nat finding buckets for every leak then finding the caps or resources necessary to help clean up those leaks. Happened all the damn time.

Part of her was more worried about those who had gone down into the Institute. Nick Valentine, Deacon of the Railroad, Paladin Danse of the Brotherhood of Steel, Preston Garvey of the Minutemen. Goodness knows if she gave a crap about the Courser. How Delta bothered with him was anyone's guess.

But these were people Delta knew and allied herself with in her quest to find her son.

Now that Piper sat there, staring at a blank piece of paper for hours on end in the dull light, she leaned back and tilted her head backwards, stretching her legs as she rubbed her face from frustration in the summary of her discoveries thus far;

Two century old woman goes on the search for her son. Finds son is leader of the very people she was vocal against. It was like the seasons of the world screaming fuck you on an ever escalating scale.

Part of that which Piper didn't like tell to the truth about. It would ruin Delta's reputation. Though it was part of job to prove a point and a little blackmail didn't hurt once in a while if it ended up being beneficial for the majority...so a person's rep could be ripped apart with the strength and deadliness of a Deathclaw...but those...those people deserved it. Delta didn't. There was so much to her story that needed to be strung out before she would even consider it. Like a tonne. Or two.

She, personally, like the others would know Delta had no real role in raising her son. But the truth being that how would Piper put that into words that people would understand? It would require a dozen articles to pump out and even so, she doubted absolutely everyone would take such words into consideration and so they would jump to the wrong conclusion every single time. Public consensus and opinion was a double edged blade. When you were seen as the nosy reporter, your own reputation get's shot but you gotta know you were doing your job.

Around Piper's desk were scrunched up papers with writing that had been fiercely scribbling out. It drove the reporter madder than a junkie out of chems. She'd come across hurdles like this before but...it'd be the first time in ages that she'd had so much trouble trying to find the right words in without jeopardising everything. It wasn't poetry. Just...average journalism that felt harder to do these days than surviving.

"Piper?"

The soft, innocent voice of Nat echoed behind her. She forced a smile.

"Yes?"

The young girl stood next to her sister with a concerned look on her face as she dodged the piles of scrunched paper on the floor.

"It's almost time to close. You still haven't got anything down for tomorrow? You barely had todays article finished as is...why are you procrastinating?"

Piper blinked. Speaking of chems, yesterday she jotted down fragments about a new chem on the market. Something called BR-210. She'd spent months trying to figure it out. She'd spoken with Solomon regarding it, and he said it based on an unknown mixture that no one's bothered to tell him about, rather it was a injected and stated to be similar to mentats in theory, perhaps stronger but rumoured to have weird side effects. Nothing immense in detail since Solomon was trying to see if he find some since they're rather rare.

Piper wasn't huge on chems. A Nuka Cola and a cigarette did her just fine, as far as addictions would take her. They were more...addictions with an added functionality. A purpose. Like some chems, they all have their bad side effects. BR-210 is around but unable to be examined. She wanted to make sure people knew. But everything was good in small portions anyway in her opinion...as long as you didn't take enough that you'd go banana's over it. She wouldn't mind a banana if they still existed. Old Ghouls said they were legendary. She often wished for a banana...or a banana like chem.

"I'm sorry sis. You know it's a difficult process when you know you've got somethin' so big even It's hard to for me to even wrap my own head around it." She said, her voice tired. Wouldn't be the first time but still...

They almost jumped as they heard loud bangs at the door. Nat and Piper exchanged glances, as the door had three thumps yet again. Nat just rolled her eyes as she went to go answer it, leaving Piper to continue to stare at her paper.

"I'm sorry, we're closed at the moment...you'll have to wait un-"

"Yeah yeah what ever...not interested. Need to talk your bigger sister."

Piper sat up. Oh God... she got off the chair, sitting up as Nat grumbled alongside wet, plonking footsteps. She put her hands to her hips as she analysed the drenched wild-haired red-head in front of her, amused by her status.

"Heh...wow...you actually knocked for once." Piper joked. A few screws were forced loose last time.

Cait just wiped her nose with her arm and sniffed.

"Mind your own... had to wake you up anyway. It's urgent."

Cait was one of those...how could Piper describe it, a raging wild-fire that the rain could never put out on it's own? Yeah somethin' like that. Her own thoughts on the woman were mixed. Sure she could handle herself in a fight...always need someone like that at your back. But you never sure if that same back was gonna be stabbed for caps, chems...what ever one could ever get their grimy little hands on. Especially Cait's. Who knows where they've been.

She could tell by the scowl on the woman's face that she really didn't want to be here. But if Cait was here for any reason, it would have to be extraordinarily important.

And most likely related to Blue. Probably the latter.

"Look I dunno who else to turn to, all the good people are gone and bugger if I was gonna go to the others...they're all dense mother fuckers when it comes to good ol' investigatin'." Cait stated.

Piper was amused as she crossed her arms.

"Aw I'm flattered Cait. But seriously though, I don't mind the bargin' in and spreading water and mud everywhere. It doesn't take that long to clean up anyway." Piper said sarcastically.

Cait grumbled and shook her head, shooting water everywhere as Piper flinched. Not to mention that Cait did smell like wet dog.

"Well let me lay out the red carpet for ya. Since this is worth a few caps no doubt."

Of course...always about the caps. So Cait could do her dirty work like she normally did day in and day out.

"Just...spill Cait. I'm sure I'll be able to compensate you for your time." Piper responded with a drone.

Cait nodded and grabbed a chair, swung it around and sat on it backwards as she leaned on the back of it with her arms. Piper rolled her eyes and grabbed her paper...might as well. It was better than the gigantic big nothing that was leaking all over it.

"Ah that's more like it. So...the 'scoop' or what ever ya call it, is that, ya know Delta's husband? Well, he's alive..."

She delivered rather nonchalantly.

Piper froze, prompting her to stare Cait. What was his name again?

"W-Wait, didn't Bl- I mean, Delta say that he was dead?" Piper stuttered, stunned.

"Bugger if I know...she's up shite creek without a damned paddle if ya ask me. I was ready to put a bullet in em...thinkin', this had to be some kind of joke...or he was a synth. Either would have been fine..."

Knowing Cait, that's exactly what she would have done. But she sensed this story had taken a different direction than predicted.

"But...I didn't. He was exactly like Delta. Calm...charismatic. I was with Codsey at the time and like the stupid robot he is he was more excited to see him...so...I stepped back."

Codsworth had been part of that family picture too. And a personality similar to Delta? Piper contemplated if that's why they married in the first place.

"But the strangest part was that...he knew his son was dead. Though he was probably a shitty father anyway, deadbeats...the lot of em."

Part of Piper felt a pint of rage fill through her veins, but kept her cool otherwise and remained a stable stance with ladette. But the former was indeed strange. Perhaps he was similar to Delta in the lack of impacting grief from the response. It wasn't like Delta to be completely emotionless...just stunted and restricted from the more intense depths. Or she wasn't really that well varied in the emotional spectrum.

"Did you see where he went?" Piper asked her.

Cait shook her head.

"Nah...I was...ya know...so damned fucked up about it. My head was spinnin'. He was lookin' for Delta as much as we. I asked a settler who we had guarding the entrance to Sanctuary which direction he was headin' in, all she said that he headed south. That's all I can say." She responded.

South. Not much of a given there. Could mean anything. Could have headed in any direction once one was out of the settlements site. But still stunned Piper to expect the unexpected. The resurrection of a dead man, suddenly drifting back into the fold as they investigated Delta's disappearance. It was a story to be written up for sure but to Piper it was far too coincidental.

Delta never really spoke about her husband all that much. When they travelled together, it was about Piper, Piper, Piper and her desires to cleanse the world with the ultimate truths. Those truths that saved the innocence and incriminated those who deserved it with imprisonment or worse. Truth bought justice...but it never really seemed to give peace.

Even when interviewing Delta, Piper herself had a vendetta to clarify and hoped like hell she would given credence to the fact of what the Institute were doing all along. To those who doubted her articles, thinking them nothing but scare tactics and fear-mongering amongst the citizens themselves. Even the allegations towards the Mayor being a synth left scathing reviews. But any publicity, was good publicity to Piper. She saw between the lines quite clearly.

But to Delta...even when she spoke, the voice...the tone...the words she used were so well cultivated with meaning and feeling, like rain-soaked silk that wrapped around you and causing a chill to shoot up your spine. Each tear drop caused the lines to blur the more, the more that Piper thought about their interactions together.

The clean smile that she wore...nothing more than a reverse umbrella to hide the shame. To hide the darkness. But you couldn't see it. She hid it so well that it's only now when everything else decided to come to light that it was...nothing more than a shield to cloak it.

"You didn't see it either. But you felt it." She spoke lowly to Cait.

Cait rose an eyebrow.

"See and feel what exactly?" She asked.

Piper rubbed her nose and sniffed.

"You would have thought that it was okay. You would talk to Delta. You wouldn't have seen it directly, but in the corner of your eye...within your peripheral, you could see it. But we all chose to ignore it."

The red-head had a perplexed expression on her face as her brows furrowed.

"You're suggesting we just...plagued her with our problems without giving two fucks? Even those she was just givin' words of wisdom on her own?" She inquired.

The reporter bit the end of her pencil as she pondered further. A wisdom built on educated words. An unfought psychological boost.

"The death of her son...and the rebirth of her husband. An unequal butterfly effect." Piper muttered as she wrote it all down like no tomorrow.

"Fucked up is more like it. I...I just couldn't do it. Fucked up me just...could not pull the trigger."

Cait commented, her voice strained and weak as she leaned her head further and lightly bit into her arm. Piper thought she was punishing herself for letting a potential madman wander freely. Though whether or not killing him would have really solved everything...or made it all for worse.

"Time will tell if your instinct or lack there of will screw us over Cait. If we could all swarm him, bring him to his knees and force the answers out of him...we'd have to ask Delta for that kind of permission. Doesn't seem right for any of us to do it for her."

Cait rolled her eyes and leaned back, gripping the back of the seat as she spat.

"You'd like that for your little story, am I right? If he turns out to big the ugly little fucker behind all of this...if it ends up erasing all the doubt and wiping it clean. I'll tell you...I would disappointed if I didn't pull the trigger fast enough."

The problem was that there wasn't a lot they could do really. Searching for..Nate...yeah that was his name...could just be as bad as looking for Delta herself. He could be anywhere like her. It's not as if she would coming storming into Diamond City, announcing her glorious return and just saying she needed a break and apologise then everything would suddenly be back to normal. Nah. That's a silly dream. She bit on her thumbnail briefly as she lit up a cigarette. They were getting nowhere.

A sudden boom shook the entire building, with dust and drops falling from the roof and scattering all over the floor, with the clanking of the drawers to Nat suddenly coming back inside and slamming the door shut and short of breath. Piper shot up, through out her smoke and ran towards her sister, putting her hands on her shoulders, then moved a hand to her cheek, greatly worried at the distressed look on her face.

"Nat what the hell was that?" She asked, eyes piercing.

The young girl shook like mad as she breathed heavily.

"I...I dunno. Huge explosion at the entrance and...there's smoke everywhere!" She choked out.

Piper embraced her sister as she wrapped her arms around her and put her head on her shoulder and watched Cait pull out her shot gun and put on her war face. They heard gun fire echo all round them, even a few clinks from nearby were heard, suggesting bullets were being ricocheted from the outer walls of the building. Cait then went to the door herself. Piper felt like she was going to take on anyone outside. She was brave...hopefully not as stupid as Piper perceived her.

She looked at Nat and cautioned her to hide. The girl fled behind her as Piper focused on the ruckus outside.

Cait opened the door up a light as she peered out in the supposed chaos going on.

"What can you see?" Piper whispered to her as she pulled out her own gun.

Piper felt her stomach drop as Cait's eyes widened.

"Shite. There's a load of em. All in black armour...all wearing gas masks." Cait whispered in response.

Piper's eyes danced left and right as she tried to recall the description that Deacon gave about...

"Do they have that weird symbol? Like the one with the wings?" Piper questioned.

She watched as Cait squinted through the small crack.

"Oh...oh fuck...you think it's the Paragons?" She theorised. It was the first time Piper had heard Cait's voice quiver with an ounce of fear. It made Piper feel a flush of cold sweat. What the hell were the Paragons doing in Diamond City? She went over to the door herself, attempting to look through the crack as she went underneath Cait as she looked out with one eye.

"There are good people...well, mostly good people. They decide to make extravagant fireworks for their entrance. That will take more caps than you'd think to patch that up." Piper worded. So much for the glory of the jewel.

They could hear the footsteps of the the supposed black soldiers walking around the city itself. Security was shitting itself as they at least tried the heroic approach. The one nearby had his gun handy, but he was shivering like hell as one walked up to him.

"Hey...don't you dare! I'll GAH!"

Piper had to cover her mouth as she gasped, watching as the black soldier pulled out a gun and shot the guard in the head. The rain silenced the piercing noise as they both watched the mans body drop to the ground.

She closed the door and locked it, sliding down as she looked into the void, stunned as to what was happening to their beloved city as Cait growled, her fingers itching to shoot something herself as she stood above Piper and glared at her with her eyes and grinding teeth.

"What the fuck as we supposed to do now? Wait here for certain death? I say we go out there in a glorious blazing gun fight. Haven't you had felt the rush of killing an onslaught against all the odds?" She muttered, barely attempting to keep her voice down.

Maybe with Delta, for sure. She kept her breathing and heart beat under wraps...though when it came to traveling with Delta, you always fought with confidence and when the weather on the brain brought clarity, you felt like you could take on the world. It only ever seemed to be the case with Delta though.

She wanted them to fight together. That holotape recording nailed that idea into her head but it would take a lot of work to enact for real, given all the mistrust between all parties. She glimpsed at Cait with uncertainty. She hadn't had that trust with Cait...it was rare of her to trust anyone besides those she allowed close and to those valued contacts that still had her back.

Piper stood up and dusted herself, trying to think of a plan. She's had worse but this gave her worse chills than a Super Mutant invasion.

"Alright it'll be fine. We just need to think of a plan. Firstly, why are they here. What are they after? And secondly, how can we get rid of them all?" She wondered as she rubbed her chin, attempting to sound calm.

"Who cares? We go out there, nail every single god damned one of them." Cait suggested, her tone at it's usual aggression again.

No...they couldn't do that. These...Paragons were a dangerous bunch. If what Nick said was ultimately true then they could be far more lethal than the Brotherhood of Steel and Coursers combined.

Piper sighed.

"Yeah for sure Cait. Then we'll get our heads blown off for sure. We don't wanna end up the way of Strong and the guards. These guys actually know how to aim properly."

Cait bit her lip and growled.

"I'll take point if you need me to...I can aim better."

That's a switch.

But Diamond City wasn't one for random cover like the ruins were. You always had some wall or broken down rusted old car or otherwise to take point behind if necessary. Always helped. Fire, drop, reload, fire again. Simple, effective strategy. Out there...

In Diamond City the inner part was completely exposed. Other than Power Noodles that offered little, the rest was just a massive target. You would be best to flee to the outer circles of the city itself if you were to attempt to hide...or best to stay inside the buildings and to lock the doors to be the utmost safe option. You'd be forced into lockdown for a while but it would buy you the longest time.

Cait would think you were a piss-poor fighter to hide like that.

She would first take a quick look outside, scouting for any of these black armoured soldiers. Outside seemed to still pour with rain, lessening the visibility. They kept themselves low as Cait slowly, but surely, slid her way out. She waved her hand at Piper, confirming that it was safe to come out.

Piper examined the damage before them as her heart fell. Corpses of the guards were strewn across the muddy and bloodied ground. It was not meant be like this. It wasn't meant to be like this at all.

It was fine when it was just her. She could handle herself with her quick wit. But seeing this struck a chord. It was so close to home...her home. Part of her felt like she failed for no trying hard enough to protect them with the truth.

"Fuckin' monsters." Cait whispered, her voice cold and sharp.

"Look at this mess. At least I pick my battles with those that have had it coming. This...this is just sickening."

As they looked around some more, Piper saw a gaping hole up the top of steps, at the entrance to Diamond City. It...made her...so damned furious. She felt violated. Diamond City wasn't perfect but it was still home.

The Market area was empty, barring Takahashi who's body was left on the floor. Piper gasped as she ran towards him. The beloved icon of Diamond City culture...was okay. It just appeared that he was tipped over as he kept repeating his usual catchphrase. He was glitchy as all hell anyway, but he just as part of them as anyone else.

"I swear I'll make them pay Takahashi..." She whispered as she tried to get him to at least sit up. The robot was heavier than she expected as Cait rolled her eyes and dragged herself over to help her out. Both of them struggle, but they managed to get him standing at least.

"I don't like him staying here. He should be fine. He's withstood far worse believe me." Piper told Cait.

The other woman just groaned.

"He's a stinkin' robot. You caring for his well-being is worse than caring for damn synth." Cait told her.

At least a Protectron could easily be reprogrammed to be nicer.

But the inner area of Diamond City was empty, like...everyone had vanished. Though they managed to catch wind of Arturo hiding behind the table at his shop, as well as Myrna slipping through the door to make sure it was all in clear.

Piper took on the responsibility to make sure everyone was okay, while Cait pretty much just told everyone to stay inside. A few other citizens happened to have wandered by, gasping at the bodies littered on the ground before them. They couldn't leave them there, but they had to make sure that those black soldiers weren't coming back.

She then quickly interviewed several others who had caught sight of the soldiers heading towards the lift and going to the mayors office.

Piper pursed her lips. While the two were never really on amicable terms with one another, if that was the horrific way that they were going to approach him then it became clear that the pair of them had to go there. Immediately Piper would have preferred to deal with their current issues with civility; far less bloodshed that way but...if it came down to it, like every other time she was forced to, there would be far more noise to bring it down, harder than hail stones.

The rain itself hadn't let up, in that just mention. The two headstrong women looked one another, not knowing the unknown path that they were about to tread. They could take care of themselves but...

This was a conspiracy to say the least that had no real...certain facts or reasons to it. Facts to made were the more obvious like their ranking of lethality and risk to the Commonwealth were quite high, but...she wanted to know their motives, their drive...the sole point of everything that they've done so far.

What was Delta doing? What was Nate doing? What truth was there to be had that they just couldn't see? Yet, they were following that road. The road to a destination that had no real end to it. Just...pure frustration that perhaps the answers were either closer or further than they would expect. Piper was dedicated to finding it out. She could solve the mystery but could she solve the problem?

So she can pull her own weight in a fire fight. But when the weight itself becomes too heavy for her to bare, that's when she needed back up. It always helped to have someone to count on when things got too hairy. When she traveled with Blue, it made going around the Commonwealth a lot more bearable and tolerable than being alone. Maybe when Nat was old enough the pair could have gone across the Commonwealth in a nice, sisterly fashion. It was Piper's passion to pursuit fighting a war with ink and paper, rather than blood and steel. It would have made her happy to know that they could have been like that in a few years.

For now, Piper had been content just to have the opportunity to travel around to get all the juicy gossip and intel that meant saving lives. Even if the paper and ink she used as a weapon was still the same tool she used to write down all that mattered, all that needed to be jot down to be used as ammunition in the oncoming storms. Even if she had admitted that more than once used to watch Blue as she slept, in the innocent terms of course, and wrote down what she had felt about the dwellers crusade across the Commonwealth to find her son.

If she could still do that she'd do it in a heartbeat, watching Blue's every movement, every tear drop and every smile, clean or otherwise.

Cait was a hard nut to crack and a hard case to follow. She had no real goal in mind for herself, other than getting pissed and itching for a fight. The bloodlust was obvious. Though, in the general scheme of things, knowing that Blue had influenced her to cut the jet addiction, Piper could have been dealing with far worse issues than if she had still had that problem. She praised Cait hadn't gone to the lengths to pickpocket her caps or shoot her for it...yet. Either way, she was dealing with it pretty well. She's had worse shit happen than just a foul-mouthed irish chick.

"Well, we go up there. Shoot these assholes. How bout it? You and me deal with em, the ol' fashion way." Cait asked her. Her smirk indicates her eagerness to get up there and rip them to peaces not for revenge or anything, but for her general satisfaction.

"I don't hear any further gunshots. So either everyone's dead up there or they're actually...negotiating. But...I agree about going up there. We just need to be super cautious. Only draw fire in self-defence. Got it?" Piper ordered.

The pair agreed to make their way to the Upper Stands. Cait made sure the coast was clear as she didn't see any of the soldiers hanging around the top, though they could see silhouettes from the window of the mayor's office. Ambushes were never fun. Though the groans from the lift's motion made Piper hiss as they made sure that no one was going to hear them.

"We should have just climbed up. Much more fun." Cait commented. Always the dare devil.

Though Piper wasn't amused.

"Then risk falling off? I don't think so." Piper replied.

Cait chuckled.

"We'll fall or get shot. We're gonna die from one of those options. Let's just choose the easiest and get it over and done with."

She had a point.

"See the lift already croaked anyhow. So if they didn't hear that...we're fine."

When they got up there, the duo checked around the reception area. Piper's eyes scoured to see any sign of..well, anyone. Cait wandered a bit, as Piper put her index finger to her lips to usher her to be silent. The door to the mayor's office was closed, however the reporter heard muffling from that direction. Geneva, McDonough's secretary, was missing as well. One would automatically assume she was stuck in the same position as he, but prompted not to say anything.

They literally tiptoed towards the pair of doors as Piper put her ear against it, trying to listen on the voices on the other side.

"I can hear McDonough...sounds distressed." Piper whispered.

"Can't see why he wouldn't be." Cait muttered back. She cocked her shotgun and by the look on her face, smiling deviously, she was more than prepared to gut anything that came rushing out of those doors.

"So you storm into my city, kill off the guards and demand that I help you? I can't believe you have the gall to even ask me that!" McDonough stated with shock. Their conversation was audible enough for Piper to focus on.

"We're doing this for greater good Mr. Mayor. I hate using that terminology as it sounds...cliche, but I know who you are...I know...what you are..."

Another voice that Piper couldn't pick, but from a previous check of the guards that entered, it must have been one of them speaking through the gas masks.

"What are they talking about sir?" Said a female voice.

That must have been Geneva.

"Uhhh nothing my dear...nothing at all." McDonough stuttered in his attempt to assure her.

Wait...if that's what...Piper thought it meant...oh god.

"Oh of course he wouldn't tell you. The poor, pretty, competent assistant is always either the first or last to know. McDonough, it's a shame you don't trust easy." Said the Soldier.

So the Soldiers suspected it...or they somehow outright confirmed Piper's theory. Maybe her investigations never went to waste after all.

"There's a lot of work to do for the sake of the city itself, I'll have you know." The Mayor pointed out.

Piper hissed as she heard a crunch from the other side, sounded like a punch.

"We don't need lies Mr. Mayor. Propaganda is a load of shit. We're not aiming to skimp the details if it means that everyone is left well protected. It's a shame that after all the this time, Miss Wright didn't rub off on you at all."

Piper covered her mouth to prevent herself from gasping with shock, as the soldier mentioned her. Either this person was a local or they somehow were purchasing her paper. Either way, they'd been doing their homework. In any other situation, she would have been flattered.

"Miss Wright has nothing to do with this! You...you leave her out of it! She's a citizen of my city and be damned if you end up killing her. She has...numerous contacts." McDonough responded in kind, his tone having some kind of false bravado.

Though rose an eyebrow at the strange notion of McDonough defending her, he was smart enough to realise who she knew and what damage she could pull. Even when he had tried to exile her, she always found a way back into the grove. It was an interesting game they played. Again, he could just be sucking up to them like he did to everyone else. Piper should have known better for him to change.

"I have nothing against her. There are so few in the Commonwealth that are worth sparing in this screwed up world. Those who are more than willing to channel themselves into a new era of peace, without the nasty hidden terms and conditions hidden in the fine print. Those who aren't willing to put up with the bulllshit of every day life and have the wool pulled over their eyes and are left unable to see why they had put up with it for so long." The soldier told him, their voice stern and structured.

This caused mixed reactions within Piper. To see things how they really are. Reminded her of one of the rare conversations with Hancock and his views. This one had a strange vendetta. One that could partially be validated but it still didn't warrant killing. Or the way they had shown themselves...or not. The Paragons weren't making the best impressions.

"Then what have the guards ever done to warrant their execution? For what, doing their duties, following their orders to border the city and keep everyone safe? There's no logic in that all!" McDonough stressed. Piper couldn't help but agree.

Her eyes flung up to Cait's as they heard heavy footsteps.

"Geneva...your Mayor has had goals in mind for Diamond City. Not for his people...but for the Institute." The soldier revealed.

She knew it.

"Sir...is that..."

"NO IT'S NOT TRUE!" The Mayor yelled, interrupting Geneva who, from the sounds of it, was left gobsmacked.

"But it is. Tell them Mr. Mayor...tell them how, one by one, you replaced all the guard with synths. Been doing that...for what, the last few months? No one would have known. A process that obviously takes time. They would have a had a hold on everyone eventually. I would have given it another five months or so." The soldier spoke so..surely, so confidently and mockingly. She wanted to make sure that it rained hell on McDonough before all else. She wanted to see him humiliated...it explained why they decided to kill the guards and not anyone else.

"You...you knew?" McDonough muttered with astonishment.

"See Geneva? There's your cold hearted mayor prioritising truth for once." The soldier told her.

Piper couldn't believe what she was hearing. They never even bothered to check the guards' corpses for any evidence. She would have to see it for herself. To see if this soldier's words bore any sense themselves. She heard Geneva crying with despair in her sobs. She was in the same boat as McDonough though any ill will was generally because Piper was trying to push her for info. Plus she was the pompy sort that Piper accused of sleeping with Mayor. Whether that bore fruit or not, it was pressure put on for display.

"What do you want then? I'll give..I'll give anything you want just...don't say this to anyone else. I'll pay you...give you free reign in the city...just please..." McDonough strained. Piper thought it would have been amusing to see McDonough pleading and begging for his life and his reputation to be left unstained. But it was sad. Really sad. They were up against an unknown that to Piper's perception, knew a lot more of what was going on in the Commonwealth than anyone else even bothered to. It plugged daggers into her chest, more than what she had expected to be her reaction to it.

"We already have free reign. You just have to do every single thing that we say. No one has to die. That's not our intention, but the way your guards flipped out at us. I get it. The Institute tried to route up it's last defences before it all turned to shit. I guess they were just the last chords of the symphony they played out to stop us." The soldier said with certainty.

Piper could hear McDonough breathing heavily as well as something...sounding like a body, hit the floor.

"Geneva! What the hell did you do to her?" He roared.

"Nothing? Seriously the lot of us are still standing here. She probably just...fainted from shock. In that case, we'll take our leave for now. We'll be sending our batch of security guards. I want you to do what you do best then. And uhh...take care of her. Tell her we're sorry for scaring her." They told her as Piper listened in on various clicking noises. Sounded like the safety was being turned off.

"Wh-what's that?" He asked, petrified.

"Whip up a real good story. A heroic story. Of how, the Paragons saved the city from the Institute. Hell, even say you had no idea what was happening until we came in, guns blazing and conclude on how we'll be ensuring the safety of your people. How does that sound?"

This soldier was doing really well to get into McDonough's head. Almost tell well. Points for him trying to make do with the 'don't deal with terrorists' kind of nonsense.

"What if I refuse?" He asked.

Silence. Besides the thunder now roaring in the background as the rain hit the tin roof's as per the diegetic sounds to the scene behind the door, but other wise there was a lack of response for about a minute. Piper grew anxious but curious at the same time. She heard more footsteps but nothing heading towards the door from the the same amount of volume from it.

"You're like somethin' out of old times McDonough. Plucked from the very scripts themselves. If you ever had an original thought, I'd appreciate it as contribution to society. Otherwise, you make your own damn answer to that question." They responded, though their tone was far more aggressive that before.

"I'll put it to you clearly then. I can either being your greatest ally, or your worst enemy. Take your pick."

Piper's mind rustled about what was at stake here. The Paragons had already taken over Diamond City. She had to ensure Nat was safe however. In the depths of her own common sense, it nearly screamed at her due to the level of doubt that clouded her mind regarding this ancient, resurrected merc group. How the hell did they get this well organised? Made little sense that made Piper's hunger for the truth rise up again.

She looked at Cait once more, who was antsy over pulling off a few shells into some skulls but...the reporter shook her head and slunked away from the door with caution as she took Cait away from the door.

"We gotta go to Goodneighbour...and fast." Piper whispered to Cait, who furrowed her brows.

"Honestly think we don't stand a chance here?" Cait muttered back.

Piper just bit her lip, part of her was riled up and ready to fight but they had no real idea of who they were actually dealing with. They need a plan that would let the least lives be lost. Including their own. Hopefully.

"If we had Blue here...maybe a higher chance. Not that I don't have faith in you Cait, we need to know more of who we're dealin' with...let's go."

Cait was none too happy to the fact that they couldn't even barge in there. Piper knew better than to get fully involved just yet. They knew only of the basics of this infamous group and their links to Delta, and now that her husband, their 'gracious' leader had returned, so it was somewhat easy to see that he was definitely involved with it. Oh only if Blue were around to give them what they needed. Her instinct would have guided them one way or another. Her words would have definitely helped in this case.

But now Diamond City was under Paragon control. Piper was just as unhappy but she had more sense to ensure the safety of it's citizens than to risk more death than what had just been witnessed.

So many questions...like, how many Paragons were there? What was their real purpose as well as flood of other confusing and perplexing conundrums. It was worse than the broken mask incident. Far worse.

Goodneighbour was the only place Piper could think of that wouldn't have taken the same amount of shit. It wasn't exactly welcoming to a lot of people but if you played your cards right, you'd be made right at home. She needed someone she could count on to protect Nat as well. None of the Settlements could be considered safe either, for it was also possible he had total control of the settlements too. There was plenty of room to doubt so that itself wasn't entirely conclusive but if they could prove it, the world would let it.

But given the amount of people Delta had trusted, they weren't all bad. They were individuals themselves, including Cait. They were people who called Delta their friend and if that Delta wanted them all to work together, it take an indeterminate amount of time to build and gain trust, with such a vast and colourful conclave of characters.

One that included yet another Mayor...her second least favourite.

Nat wasn't entirely keen on leaving either. Piper and Cait had snuck down back to the office to retrieve her and told her to grab her things. When they'd mentioned about heading off to Goodneighbour, she was against it. Fair enough, no one really liked going to a place when one would either get stoned or stabbed. Blue had contacts there. It should be enough. If they made it through the downpour.

They snuck out in the drifts of the night as Cait scouted the marketplace as the citizens had begun to pile the corpses of the supposed, synths guards. Piper looked up at the stands as more of the Paragons, from the looks of their darkened clothing and armour, begun to head down. They had to move quickly.


 

Once out of Diamond City, they took the dangerous road to Goodneighbour. Piper kept Nat close and assured her that she was going to protect her no matter what. Nat wouldn't have minded the travelling from previous discussions regarding that Diamond City had become a bit of a bore, but it'd just be like old times before they made their home there.

There hadn't been much on the roads to Goodneighbour besides the usual views of the broken-down buildings. It often made Piper wonder about how Blue would have seen these in her time. She would love to see it cleaned up and the streets filled with people and those, 'cars' actually functioning and not rusted scrap material. Made her think of another interview, one with Delta describing in much bigger detail of the world around her over 200 years ago. Ghouls were nice but Piper felt Delta's memories would feel that much fresher and raw within her mind.

Even when travelling with her previously, their discussions never amounted to much. Perhaps all that Piper knew was that of indulgent rumours from said ghouls or passed down from surviving generations, the words in books or the pretty pictures in paintings. It's one thing to be told or to see interpretations of the past, but to see it with ones own eyes. They beheld the ultimate truth.

Once at Goodneighbour, they headed towards the Mayor's office. Piper knocked on the door and was greeted by the merc, Fahrenheit, who's smirk was more akin to spikes into your skin then anything worth comforting. They'd met once before, but not exactly on friendly terms.

"I need to speak with Mayor Hancock immediately." Piper told her.

"Business or pleasure?" Asked the merc.

Piper rolled her eyes, and was about to open her mouth when Cait went in front of her, getting into Fahrenheit's personal space.

"Oh blow it out your arse bitch. We're not here for anythin' else than to speak with your mayor. We don't draw our weapons unless we have to. Got that?" Cait told her.

Fahrenheit laughed.

"Relax Cait. Hancock's already given me a list of asses I shouldn't kick...yet. I'll take you to him."

It made Piper nervous for the safety of her sister, but the reality was clear to her that choices were dwindling fast. While she could have 'saved' the rest of Diamond City from the Paragons clutches, they weren't going to outright 'kill' everyone, if that soldiers held it to their very word.

They weren't like raiders or Gunners when was like it was gonna rain bullets and shells and the occasional mini-nuke, but in their intentions to supposedly 'save' it on their own. Their first impressions are to gun down then to plead for others to live. There was a lot going on in the background that was for sure. They weren't just more lethal, but they were far more smarter.

Fahrenheit took them up stairs, seeing Hancock sitting on a lounge. He lifted his head up and smiled at the three.

"You come baring gifts? You shouldn't have." The ghoul iterated. Seeing three, four if including Fahrenheit, lovely ladies always gave our happy smiles. Both literal and figurative.

Piper never was really fond of Hancock, though he was related to McDonough and by happenstance just happened to be a mayor as well, the two greatly contrasted. Piper appreciated Hancock's stance on when the ghouls were evicted from Diamond City, that she praised, but everything else, felt like it was an offshoot by blood. She looked down his chem promotions. However this could be a given opportunity to possibly talk about BR-210 alongside their current problems.

But to Piper, priorities were priorities.

"Sorry it doesn't come with sprinkled with mentats. Can we chat for a bit?" She asked.

Chapter Text

 

When it came down to it, it wasn't the worst thing to happen. The nature of the beast was like a whirlwind that could take you anywhere. Survival was up either left up to chance, or you were more than prepared to brace for it.

Most days it would all to come past in an instant...others, it would appear to last forever. But he'd be buckled down in God's know what, either shooting up, shooting down or the usual day to day work he'd usually hate. There were days where there was all three. What ever worked for his 'busy schedule'.

The song of rain was mixed, dependent on how how high he was. The conflicts that swirled around him were ordinary and to be expected. They wouldn't stop just because you wanted them to. Simply the calling of fate or the type of bull people would expect to let on and let be. He was just there to make sure everyone had cover to buckle down under. There were days when it just felt good as it trickled down the skin on his irradiated face. Part of the reality that still felt tangible no matter how sane or sober you were. It would always fall. That he would prepared to grasp, even though part of it would still slip through his fingers.

Though it hadn't rained when they'd met one day. He'd been down with the people, checking up on everyone, catching up to make sure no one was up to lesser good than usual. Then it came to that dickhead Finn who'd been harassing newcomers for the last few weeks as well as a few casuals.

It was all in good fun at first but then it just got irritating and old, real fast. The day was almost out as the sun set on the clear night, enough to see the buildings cradle the sea of stars and the birds flying off to rest.

So his mood was neutral. Stable. Mind had to be fresh for what ever the day had given him thus far. He had yet to take his nightly chems so his plan was to do one last right before heading back. It's when he saw her. The young, brunette with the pretty emerald eyes and the tight blue vault suit. He hadn't seen a dweller in such a long time. He first watched from afar, seeing how the woman handled herself, until she'd told him to...well, 'shove it'.

She didn't deserve that shit and neither did anyone else. He'd had enough as he went up to Finn and dealt with him just like every other crazy mother fucker who dared to cross the line. It wasn't for the show of power but for the need to make a point to others that there is crap in this world you don't have to stand for.

Given the incident with No-Nose, it was clear this gal was much more than one willing to take orders. Rather, just to see where things went and went it got too hot to handle, that they were take the measures to dowse the flames.

It'd given Hancock a kick in the ass, forcing him to realise that maybe he'd been sitting on said ass for too long and not going out into the real world after cosying it up as Mayor. It was the opposite for what he had claimed the position for in the first place.

So, travelling with Delta made him see that world for the nastiness of what it was. When he wasn't tripping that is.

In the last literal trip they had it was when he'd seen a some type of change. The heart of the woman, once someone he admired to fight for the better days, had turned to an obscure one, fighting for the days that were just benign. He'd given her his fair share of chems in the past but he always knew she really wouldn't take them, since he'd somehow find them in his pockets once again.

In the end, that he'd seen her, in front of him, taking the mentats himself didn't really affect him besides the fact that it would have been part of the norm. People in Goodneighbour who were down to party with Hancock loved getting the chems to break the daily chore of reality. Then he'd slowly begun to realise that Delta was just...beyond that. Beyond needing it. Hancock considered his work charitable. He wanted to see people happy, either from being drunk, high or just making it through another day of living. Not everyone needed it like that though. He genuinely believed he was doing it for the people. So during those days when the weather went bad...that the covers he provided them did their job properly.

When Delta went missing and he'd gotten the message that he was needed to help for the investigation, a million thoughts rained into his head. One was that he should have known something was wrong when she even considered taking the chems and using them. Given Hancock's generous nature, he didn't even think twice before making the connection. Whether or not it was because of the chems, Hancock's guilt began to rise. What if it was his fault? It struck him like thunder consistently since he left Valentine's office.

His observations when they were in Sanctuary discussing the situation and the revelation regarding the Institute, his first thought was, "this would have fucked Delta up immensely." like when McDonough went through in forcing the Ghoul exodus, the messed up rage that ran through him forced him to do stupid things. Fucked up...just like him. But nothing could compare to the strain in his throat from worrying about it.

He needed to think about everything that had happened so far, when the group of the smoothskins and the courser made their way the Institute. He'd gone straight back to Goodneighbour to figure out his own thoughts on the matter, to see where his mind laid itself. He couldn't afford doubt to affect his judgement and for no reason should he let any that come to surface. It amounted to the same core rage for his brother that unforgettable day.

Occasionally, it got too much for him to think about it, so a simple intake of jet helped slow things down a bit. Talked with a few of the people in the 'Watch, made the aware of the oncoming possible matters they may have had to deal with down the line. It wasn't going to be pretty, and Hancock had to ensure that they had enough stocked in case that he needed to provide cover for himself. It would only be a matter of time before things really went to shit.

He hadn't left with the others not because of fear, but due to the way he needed to protect things on the surface. The people of Goodneighbor needed their leader to ensure that while it's suggested the Institute's gonna be awol for a while, that he was their anchor in case the darker suns arose over the horizon. Him, like everyone else involved, had that gut incentive that they just knew. Whether or not it was because the Paragons felt like worse dicks than the Institute, Hancock grew anxious...which was rare of him. So it let up to an increased intake of chems and getting drunk at the Third Rail. More so than usual.

When Fahrenheit brought up three lovely ladies to him, he thought it was the jet doing him a favour, when in reality, it was just the paparazzi, a fucked up irish woman and...a smaller girl. Hm.

He allowed them to take a seat, though the smaller girl felt awkward being there. Strange enough to bring a young child of all people to Goodneighbor, the last place you'd wanna bring one...unless circumstances were dire.

In Piper's case, it was.

"Diamond City sounded like it tightened up it's security. How do we know that these Paragons aren't the good guys? They went in, knowing what they were up against, then forced McDonough to kiss their ass? I like their style. Though still doesn't make me comfortable. Which, I'll take a shot at and suggest you don't like it either." Hancock iterated.

Piper nodded. Girl had a hankering for trouble when she was looking for it, or not. Normally to her taste if she truly believed she was doing the right thing.

"Not a bit. I'm all for procedure and of course the occasional putting it on the line to save everyone, but I don't even know how much of what they said was true." She explained.

There were ways of doing things. The Institute were pieces of shit like that, sneaking their people in without a second guess. Piper was right though. Was it really that ALL security were synths?

"We didn't even get time to look at 'em. Check it out. Miss Sneaky here wanted out, straight away." Cait pointed out, sounding agitated. Though for Cait, that also, was normal.

It needed to be said, in the fact that Piper and Hancock talked after the meeting in Sanctuary. Not that they hadn't met before, it was just that what ever Valentine told Piper after his interview, she was most curious about his story and relationship with Delta. So much for the respect of one's privacy.

Though Piper insisted that she was helping Valentine out, Hancock had his doubts. She had a habit of screwing people over. He didn't mind people being ridiculed and called out for outlandish deeds that Hancock himself didn't condemn, but when it came to him, he really didn't want her stringing him out like meat and putting it out on display for all to see. Ghoul's gotta keep in steady in his town.

Her assurances didn't make him feel any better either. She called on the fact of feeding Delta chems may or may not have done anything in the long run, but were definitely signs of something darker arising, that it was merely after the catalyst of whatever warped her.

That itself could have been it. Delta's emotional strata being drowned in the flood of all things considered, in the depths of the shit she had to deal with, that if either the mentats making her think clearly or the jet just calming her down. She never showed exact, definite and crystal clear indicators of change, instead being tiny drips falling off her that he never noticed.

"Trouble is whether we should wait until we see if the Paragons are far out of line like Valentine said they were. Or take the synths word for it and drive them off the usual way. I don't want Goodneighbor wrapped up in it though. I made sure to inform the boys of what was going on and to keep their eyes peeled for anything suspicious. Or if they came charging in the way like they did in Diamond City. I really want to think Goodneighbor could stand a chance with that kind of firepower...but common sense says different. I don't want that kind of bloodshed here." Hancock continued.

It was normal to have disputes in town. Caps, chems, weapons, various supplies. Just like every other place in the Commonwealth. It all wrapped down to how one dealt with it. Though the one with the bigger weapon would win majority, but you could always win with astute cleverness.

But most problems were solved with a bullet to the noggin.

"That's unusual for you to say. I thought you loved it." Cait assumed.

Hancock could have either killed Cait or gotten someone to do it for him. He didn't mind that she was tough, but rather she had a potential to be a pain in the ass. He used to be in talks with Tommy from the Combat Zone and would supply copious amounts of chems there. Cait would be the 'favourite' customer with her affliction with psycho to pump her up. Things then got messed up with Raiders, forcing Hancock to cut off ties but always had in mind to take out the girl with guts tougher than most guys he hired himself. He was always the gentleman with the ladies, however.

Probably why he never bothered to take out No-Nose. Not that his hand hadn't before to kill some before, it was only if they ever really deserved it.

Recent events forced him to change his perspective. Once you find out someone has connections to the most dangerous vault dweller this side of the millennium, (baring other potentials) it forces to rethink your strategy. Many times he was forced to pulled his gun down over trivial feelings, in the end he wondered if it was worth doing it.

"Bad vibes are all I need to tell me when someone's out to get you. You don't need chems to see that." Hancock responded. Though they did help.

In the end he may have to pull the trigger...just...not who he would want to pull it against.

"Don't forget the small matter of Delta' husband coming back from the dead...no ghoul either." Cait said to Piper.

A weird feeling pulsed through Hancock.

"Don't tell me you'd been taken psycho again Cait?" He asked her.

Her face changed into something fierce and discouraging.

"No way! Not after what Delta did fa' me. The temptation was there when what happened charged me up but not once did I take anythin'. I was already fuelled with rage."

"I don't suppose the men workin' down under are aware of this?" He asked them.

Piper shook her head.

"No...we can't even contact them. We're aware that Delta's husband was a perp back in the day and the Captain of the Paragons..."

Her eyes trailed off to Cait's, who was just still in a state of total disillusion.

"But he's damn Vault dweller too! Says he saw Delta get shot and her son getting' snatched, to the probability that she's a synth." Cait berated.

Delta a synth? She definitely smelled real, she sounded real enough (despite the lack of a nose). No synth could ever hope to be constructed to such an impossible liking. A genuine hard ass is developed through tragedy, frustration, mistakes and successes. It takes so much to make someone. You're born fresh, pure...then tainted by the stink of society and you wear those scars from every bad part of your life to show others you made it through the worst.

No synth could ever compare.

"Never seen any other vault dweller parade my streets so far. Another update for the men...for the record." Hancock told them.

But it could fuck them over. Big time.

"He's searchin' for her too. But I don't know how legit his story is. The hardest part was decidin' whether to kill 'em, but he's Delta's own male mirror. The way he had with his words could make you do anythin'." Cait continued, making her sound more in awe of the man, if that was any indicator.

He wanted to make sure they got to her first. Either they above ground or those sent down below. Either way, he definitely wasn't feeling it. It wasn't right. Interesting though how he'd never even met the guy and it made Hancock ill just thinking about it. Time will tell if his gut would prove it.

And his knife.

"I feel awkward for asking this of all matters, but I need somewhere where we can stay. So Nat can be protected." Piper asked.

Hancock eyed the girl. Goodneighbor would be for some, but for the little ones...

"Piper do I really have to stay in this smelly place?" She called out.

He smirked. Nothing held back.

"Don't worry Uncle Hancock will take care of you. It's a dangerous world out there." He told her.

She rose an eyebrow, then glanced at Piper.

"I don't have to call him uncle do I?" Nat asked her.

Piper shook her head, then glared at him.

"No, you don't." She replied.

Their discussion from their departure at Sanctuary detailed contingency plans in case stuff like this ever happened. Hancock felt that, given their coincidental connections, that they may have to end up doing what Delta asked of them; to work together. Both of them, were, good at having connections with important people they deemed valued associates. Piper was one at grief with the idea, while Hancock needed as much as he could get his hands on before it got too ugly.

"Haha...so Uncle Hancock, I know what I want for Christmas." Cait joked.

Oh brother.

"If it involves you sitting on my knee, I'm not gonna bother giving you anything." Hancock told her.

This was gonna stick for a while, he could tell.


Hancock made arrangements for Nat to stay, including having a bed at Hotel Rexford and ensuring that girl would be on the 'Watch list for protective reasons. Piper gave her some paper and pencils to write down a potential article or what ever. He could tell Piper was nervous about leaving her there. Of course. She was family. Family should be worried and made to look out for each other. Not to try a game of stab in the dark to see who screws up the most lives, including each other's.

Meanwhile the three had gone to the Third Rail for a few drinks while they'd discussed their current dilemmas in the VIP area. Hancock could do with a few.

"Hey Hancock, just a quick question, not to mention random but...I'm investigating a new chem on the market called BR-210. Heard of it?" Piper asked out of the blue.

Hancock had think about it for a bit.

"Maybe. Why you want some?" He asked her.

Piper just groaned.

"N-no...no not that. I meant like, what is it? I've been told it's somethin' like uh...mentats but a lot stronger. I know there's like different varieties but this one is new? I dunno."

Hancock nodded.

"Yeah it's notorious for being difficult to get ya hands on. Even my boys have had trouble nailing some dealers down. Though it's been said that only one guy down south supplies the stuff. It's like a damn game. You find him, you get a batch. Though what he asks for in caps is quite expensive. Not sure what the big deal is with them though." He noted

Cait grumbled.

"Wow...there is finally somethin' you haven't tried? There is a God." She stated sarcastically.

It wasn't for what Hancock had taken, but from pure word and rumour. He wouldn't mind having some if it was stronger than Mentats however. But everything that's occurred within the last few months has made the resources for scouting rather scarce.

"But it's like they popped out of nowhere. I personally don't know anyone who's tried them. Only from different stories from different guys. I don't even know if they're real. If they aren't, someone's really getting' a kick from it. I mean that in a non-chem way." He admitted.

Piper rubbed her chin.

"All I've gotten so far from people I've talked to is that, yes they are stronger but have weird reactions to it. Thoughts?" She asked him.

Hancock tried to recall all the talk he had with copious amounts of people regarding it. One story did mention aggressiveness.

"I'm certain one tale did involve a person who was just...stronger in themselves. Not to say that mentats don't do that already but in a way that just made them seem...meaner." He told her.

The look on her face made it clear it wouldn't have been made for ordinary people. Even for someone as well versed in chems as Hancock it was difficult to make it a certain attribute.

"Meaner huh? Sounds like someone mixed in psycho." Cait suggested.

While that could be part of it, it was the matter of actually getting a batch and testing it out for real.

All of them looked to the entrance as footsteps echoed in the room, prompting them to look at the man with the bullets in his cap.

"Someone mentioned psycho?"

Hancock smirked. His favorite merc.

"Ah MacCready. Take a seat my man. We could use a little help here. We're all...supposed to be friends I recall." He said.

It was what Delta wanted, after all. There was a lot of hesitation, dirty bug eyed looks and heated faces from their little get together in Sanctuary. No one wanted to be there for any other reason than to realise what little they had in common ended up being the most important matter between them.

"Don't mind if I do." MacCready replied, winking at Piper, who rolled her eyes.

Hancock and the merc met up once they had returned to Goodneighbor, given that their newest, well, 'friendship' prompted Hancock to keep him close, given their ties, like with Piper and Cait as well. Four of them huddled together seemed like a mistake and could potentially leave blood smeared all over the walls if all else, it was easier for them to just talk instead of wasting valued ammunition. Plus they could talk on nights where it was warranted, exchange opinions on the walks of life they treaded on.

Hancock watched with amusement as he sat near Piper, not too close as to warrant her to either shoot or whack him but just enough distance to cause minimal grief.

"We were just talking about BR-210 and whether it's real or not." Hancock told him. He knew MacCready enough that Hancock would trust him on the details. Judging from his expression, he seemed to know about it as well.

"Oh that. Yeah. Been thrown about from person to person. I've heard of it...or seen the words of it beforehand. Like when it had been written down somewhere, just can't remember where I saw it." Mac stated.

Written down? Piper was interested to know more, as Hancock watched her shift position.

"A note? Like an order or something?" She asked him.

Mac shrugged.

"I dunno. It's hard to say. Never seen the stuff myself. Just the word on the street about what it was capable of." He replied.

Anything that was jotted on paper normally meant a form, if that's what Piper was suggesting, though Mac would have a rough idea in his mind.

"Anything else?" Piper wondered, hinging on anything at this point. It'd be sad if they took out the chem in production before even trying to see if the product was good or not.

Mac's fingers tapped the top of the couch.

"Uhh...lesse...on a terminal. Yeah. On a terminal. Definitely. Which one...can't say."

Hancock chuckled.

"Really? Here's me thinkin' you hate the damn machines." He assumed.

MacCready spat.

"I was never good with them. I'd lose my patience with operating them. Heck I'm sure if I ended up putting a few holes in em from time to time. Even as a kid, I'd let the other kids deal with that stuff. I had more important duties to attend to." He said.

Hancock understood Mac had his own Mayoral ways in the Capital Wasteland when he was much younger. Much to the ghouls amusing thoughts of children running their own settlements. But if they could hold and fire a gun to defend themselves, it was better to learn early then grow up to be a weak, cowardly sack of crap. Like a certain other Mayor.

Piper snuffed.

"Really? You had things to do other than having caps on your mind?" She mocked.

Mac just gave her a flirty smile, half-lidded and everything.

"Oh I don't always have caps on my mind." He told her with all deviousness, then his face changed again.

"But in all seriousness, if you do chuck a few my way, I could always pop into the Memory Den and ask to find out what was on that terminal."

Ah Mac, never change.

"Really willing to go that far for something so trivial?" Hancock inquired.

"I might as well just give somethin' to help you remember..."

Mac shrugged.

"You could. But I have a feeling that there was something else on that terminal that was just as important. I just can't put my finger on it. Could be very important." He told them.

Hancock rubbed his chin. Most people had visited the Den to visit happier times. Irma normally does have select clients. Hancock had gone less and less over time when harsher memories became too painful to be put through. It made him angrier rather than more depressed over the images. To forget would have been an option but he wouldn't have been able to use it to back up most of the issues he worked so hard resolve in this day and age. Getting drunk would just out the memories to aside, leaving them to be used for important tasks.

"Doctor Imari can pinpoint the more potent parts... So maybe if you sort of...god I don't even know how she works it, but focus on anything else as part of it." Hancock pointed out. The technology used was not anything Hancock would care to know about, it's just how it would operate on parts of the brain or some magical stuff going on in the background or what ever it did. It just worked.

"Ya really gonna go that far for a simple matter? Probably better than taken' the chems I guess." Cait commented.

Weird for her to say that, Hancock thought.

"So what would you do with the information you need then Piper? I wouldn't mind knowing if there were any caravans supplying the stuff without my knowledge. You know...for reasons." He wondered. Of course Hancock would have other agendas.

Piper chuffed him.

"Hah so you can have your own supply? This stuff could potentially be dangerous. Could be that it might blow off your head and why we've never really seen it." She suggested.

She knew him too well.

"What if this ends up being a waste of time? We really should be trying to wring Nate up, and force him to tell us the truth." Cait stated, as she became noticebly impatient.

Mac furrowed his brow. He didn't like this info clearly. He'd forgotten to mention that. Hancock was rightly curious as to what Nate was really like. If what Cait said was true, he'd either like to hate him, or hate to like him. A character akin to Delta herself. What type of conversation would they have, he wondered. And if like Cait, would feelings arise to attempt to stab the man or share a beer with him? A wonder left to the ages.

"Nasty piece of work. I think I really am regrettin' lettin' him go. Reckon' Delta might be disappointed in me?" She inquired, her voice saddened slightly.

If Hancock knew types of people, he knew those who would be complete morons would die early and those who were smart enough could manipulate their way out of anything, upping their chances of survival. The Commonwealth had both passive and aggressive ways to kill you. Survive both...well, you would have the potential to live to a ripe old age. Or become a Ghoul. Same thing really. It was all to the beast in the end.

In the note of Nate and his work with the Paragons, Hancock had talked with ghouls that had survived the two centuries worth of crap thus far, so they could still have had a part of that past still stuck in their rad-filled heads and whether or not they had even heard of the Paragons. Daisy was old enough and still sane enough, but even then she'd only heard bits and pieces that wouldn't have helped out anyway.

But he thought, someone else must have known. He'd have to try a little harder.

"Delta could be disappointed if you did. We don't really know for sure unless we ever get the chance to speak to her again." Piper told her.

Hancock may have killed him. As he looked down the neck of his bottle, his thoughts rustled as to the expectations of such an encounter. If he was a smooth talker, he could have at had at the ready, as soon as instinct washed over of him he'd take him down without a second thought. But for some like Nate, who was said to have be trained for war, it would have been a fight to the death. A fight he wouldn't mind having.

"Assh- guys like that need to be shot. Speaking as a former gunner I can tell you that groups like that are plagued with those types. They have no true morality...not a single care that innocents may die in the name of the most stupid reasons. Some valid but ultimately stupid." MacCready stated, putting his two cents in.

Hancock watched as the Merc's eyes widened.

"Cap for your thoughts?" Hancock asked as he took another swig.

Mac squinted and motioned his hands a lot more than previously.

"Funny how you mentioned Delta and...Nate was it? So he was the leader of these...Paragons? It's ironic how I think that the terminal that I mentioned the seeing the text of the chem on...could have been on the same terminal. Coincidence right?"

The others looked at one another. What would the Paragons have to do with BR-210? A mysterious, legendary chem of recent times?

"You're...making that up aren't you?" Piper inquired, as her face screamed skepticism.

The mayor looked at Mac. The man was desperately trying to remember what he saw as he banged his head with his fist, albeit softly and he gritted his rotten teeth, then lightly rubbed his nose twice and hissed and made all types of subtle gestures like tapping his boots on the ground and scratching himself, not mention lightly cursing himself for not being able to think that far back.

"I'm good with actions...but when it comes to words...key words I'll have in my head. But actions...as they say, speak louder than words." Mac continued.

Cait grinned and waved her bottle.

"I'll toast to that!" She acknowledged.

It killed Hancock not to do anything more to help Delta. She was one woman, but one helluva woman. One you would definitely follow to hell and back. There are leaders that would just let people do their work for them but to take it all under your wing and to outright set an example for all to see took dedication and hard work and a fuck load of a strong will. If at the end the day Hancock had to do it, he would definitely take it all into his hands.

There were those rainy days like today however. The days that made it hard to see clearly that wasn't being promoted from being high. He tried so hard to not be a dictator and encouraged people to be themselves. But if being themselves included being that much of a dick to people that it had started to affect them on a scale of such negativity, he would have to play the role of a much larger dick to save them.

The costume would show people that he stood out. So when Delta, funnily enough, decided to play the Silver Shroud, it proved a point of his, even if it was entertaining, is that those willing to make themselves know through appearance alone, that they were willing to risk their identity and their being to make the world less assholish than it seemed.

These people...these people Delta influenced and helped develop in the recovering world...they had their own identity. Their own distinctive beings and characters. No wonder they were attracted to Delta. If becoming something that would give and take on equal terms on a massive scale just suddenly happened to being wandering the Commonwealth and actually giving a damn what happened to it, no wonder people would flock to you, like you were the messiah of a new age.

They were her disciples. Those who were afraid. They would go far. But not far enough. They would need someone to push them to be better or at least be able to relay themselves to someone who just take them as they are and allow them to become far more than what they expected themselves to be.

They would stand in the rain just as tall as they would on a clear day...if she stood tall with them, as they fought the beast together.

He looked at his hand. A hand that had saved and taken lives far more than he could with his fingers. Good...or bad. He could still do his part in all of this. If it would alleviate the guilt far easier than any chems could ever hope to. It made him feel worse just sit on his ass and do nothing while the other men were sacrificing themselves to Hell itself.

He put his bottle down then turned to MacCready.

"Coincidence or not...it's a lead. We could twiddle our thumbs all day long or we can actually start doin' somethin'." He told him.

Cait rose an eyebrow.

"Really? Going through the murky merc's dodgy mind. Dunno if that's a good idea." She noted.

Piper chuckled.

"I agree with you Cait. But! For Delta's sake, as well as the sake of the story too, a little bonus I'll add, we'll just have make to do with what we can use. What do you say?"

Mac was left his thoughts for a moment, then nodded.

"Alright sure. I uhh...don't see why not. But just make sure that we don't through any memories...especially the private ones." He warned.

The irish girl grinned widely.

"What's the matter Mac? Afraid of tainting your ego?" She joked.

Hancock detected MacCready's ire, but the man ended up taking it lightly.

"There are things that just don't need looking at Cait. I'm certain you definitely have moments you never really wanna share with everyone else."


 

The quad squad ended up heading towards the Memory Den when they'd finished up their drinks. Their agreement to scout Mac's mind was, for the past, an unplanned idea originally but the sheer timing of the fact that Piper's anxious desire for closure on her story mingled in with the same problem they had co-currently. Hancock just felt better that it could possibly help find Delta alongside it.

He talked with Irma and Doctor Imari in terms of what they needed and what was requested. He hadn't personally used any of the machines for some time but he was glad he never had to use them again. MacCready could be trusted and Hancock was actually slightly thankful for him giving them the chance to get a type of perspective of Delta while she traveled with others because for some reason, he always had an inkling of the way she acted around certain people. Just the types she hung with, especially those she had general companionship with, held great contrast with one another.

With rough types like himself, Cait and MacCready, Valentine to a point and asshats like Danse and that Courser. Then you had the more genuinely good spirits like that synth Curie, the Mr Handy servant, that little smilin' mutt Dogmeat and the all-around do-gooder Preston Garvey. Piper could get mixed up with anyone and hell only knows why she would hang around someone as mysterious as Deacon. She had variety, he had to give her that. Even that Super Mutant. Not everyone could call one their ally.

He would definitely nominate her for Mayor in any given...but the title of General suited her more. No many leaders would outright go into the field with their fellow men and women of war.

So he watched on as Doctor Imari helped MacCready into the pod and got himself organised.

"So sit back and enjoy the show." Hancock told him.

Something...just something had to come out of this.

It was their only real lead on the outside.

Chapter Text

 

Oh how he hated the rain. Loathed it. Made travelling around much harder and heavier than it should have been. Mostly with drenched clothes and soggy smokes. At times when the weather was a tad warmer, it would also get uncomfortably humid. Then it when it got cold, it got real cold

Mac had returned back to Goodneighbour, where all the switches in luck, began. Mayor Hancock needed someone Delta trusted.

If it meant somethin' in caps, as well as helping find Delta, he wouldn't mind it. In the long run it could do him real good. Meant being one of his lackeys of course, but it beats runnin' with the Gunners and all their bullshi- uh, all their nonsense.

But he'd look into the overcast skies, wondering if the clouds above were to cast the downpour or just ending make it look like it wanted to. You hoped it wouldn't...then it would. As was mother nature's prerogative to make it all miserable as it was during the evening.

The unpredictable nature of humanity was the same. Though experience would tell you otherwise, that human nature could be valued under what ever scale of a system was in place. If you ended up dead or alive in the call of misplaced trust or sheer stupidity. The system made the world grey. Trust was as just the same way. But people would trust value. If you put a value on something, it would be made to be sought after or ignored, dependent on the type of value placed.

Memories were of a weird sort. Given the history of the Memory Den itself, a lot of people would irk on it's ability to bring back images of ages past. Popular with the Ghouls who couldn't let go of the supposed, good ol' pre war days. A lot of them had the perception of a life beforehand as the stories went on. It would only be a matter of time before they'd lose all sense of self (then losing other stuff) falling to the rads and end up becoming feral.

He despised the ferals with good reason. When something so much as a monster that was once human take down the one you love, you find less reason to trust regular ghouls, but to Mac he was willing to take chances with those who still had rational thinking in their heads. His gun would answer to their calling if it ended up going in that direction.

It could explain why he'd left the Gunners. Groups willing to take down monsters but end up becoming monsters themselves. It took a lot more than caps for him to take down regular human beings. It took them pissing him off enough to take to stepping back and seeing the smeared blood on the wall that belonged to the man or woman standing in front of him. They never screamed. Their eyes did the screaming. All they wanted to know, especially why, desperate before the light faded from them altogether.

Monsters have a glint, but you can tell that they lack the soul within, giving nothing more than a false front to prove their point. You can pretend, but the truth would always end up pouring down eventually.

So more than physical discomfort was the reason he hated the rain. He mirrored it with the monsters that would hide behind the noise. Just like when they tried to hide from it, it found them. And they paid for it.

He'd sat in the pod in the hopes of finding out more about the terminal Delta had read that day. He only had a quick glimpse himself before Delta realised what he was doing. You couldn't blame him for being nervous as everyone watched on. Memories were a private value and to put that on show to everyone would make them lose their worth. But...if it ended up helping out, then like all things once treasured but not exactly worth keeping for life, it would be a necessary sacrifice.

After all, it wasn't exactly something worth keeping a secret for, as it was just something that stuck out on a regular outing, like with all merc he'd done for people. It was easy for him to separate work and his personal life, although when it came to Delta, within given time it merged.

He forced himself to relax and to let go, as Doctor Imari had found the memory. Within moments, he could the flash of the now disappear, then reappear elsewhere, like he'd been teleported back in time.

He was outside, with the sky a nice blue and the eastern sun shining on them. Must have been a good morning to start that early. The southerly, weak winds brought in a stench, slight, but otherwise it was really stale. But the sun was good on his face.

They were in the streets that MacCready recognised as Quincy...aka known Gunner territory after the incident with the Minutemen. You'd either have be insane or be Delta to even bother going there these days. Man that day he was incredibly lucky to have the latter. Not that it mattered too much to luck...just skill...and the know how to take those bas- them down. He'd then heard voices nearby. It was them.

He saw himself strolling with her, subtle step by subtle step, into the midst of the town. Clad in her blue vault suit with numerous belts that kept the scattered bits of metal armour and pockets all around her, mostly filled with bits and pieces she'd scavenged. He remembered the conversations they'd had about the numerous variations of armour that were around but...she'd collect and worry about them at a later stage. She wasn't exactly skinny-skinny, as a lot of people were, but she wasn't exactly fat either. Enough for an extra layer of padding, but her face was nicely structured enough. Lucy was the same after Duncan was born; with the slight increase of weight. He also noted her weapon, a short-barrelled combat rifle...Overseer's Guardian...yeah that was it.

They walked past, as Mac looked at her face, construed as a combination of that with youthful vigour and that of what reminded him of Lucy: the motherly expression that showed a type of radiance only mothers wore but also the partial stresses, indicated by the small dark circles under the eyes that were covered in a lot of make up, to hide the tiredness with the hint of wrinkles, though Delta's wasn't heavy, just enough to know that it was there. Had to preserve a lot for it to last. Not that Delta was one that always tired herself...but if she ever was, she never really showed it. It didn't surprise him in the least, given her normal 'heroic' like nature. Although there were times where they'd eat and she'd have to wipe something off his face as he chowed down steak and chastise him for eating like a pig. Going from past experiences, it was more a motherly nature than a heroic one, if he had to be honest.

Her eyes that twinkled in the sunlight. Those, pretty emerald eyes and that chocolate straight brown hair that waved above in the slight breeze, with the fringe cut off above the brows and normal hair above her shoulders...and of course the lips that defined an era ran rampant in rosy red. Given it's rarity, he would have imagined Delta wearing perfume. The aroma? God...anything flowery was a given. Or serious. He hated perfume but for some reason Delta could have worn it back in the day. He just never bothered to ask her.

"Only would you of all people, willingly go into the Deathclaw's den to find somethin'. I hope it's worth getting shot over. Figuratively speaking." The Memory version of MacCready said as he let his fingers run across the barrel of his sniper rifle. Truth be told he wasn't keen on heading further in but he felt comfortable with Delta with him, a partial influence to uplifted courage. She had that effect on people, he realised.

"Somedays it's easier to kill a Deathclaw. Hardly any guilt over killing them rather than your fellow man." Delta replied with earnest, her voice ringing in his ear. Present MacCready however just felt better to hear her voice again, even if it was just his own head repeating it.

"Pff really? Come on...you really don't think that?" MacCready asked her.

She was like that...maybe it was that, ultimately, skilled at showing different sides, making up various parts of Delta. The Motherly Delta and the Heroic Delta. Similar in how they care for others, just the way they approach the numerical amount of ways to care for others was vastly different.

"I was a lawyer. I was just like any soldier, in that I would help defend people and I would take people down. Only, with words as my sword and my shield...and evidence to provide sustenance in battle." Delta continued.

In all honesty, MacCready also hated metaphors, if they had to go down the list of dislikes. It drove him crazy how Delta could feel like she could make herself sound all poetic like. There really was no need. But he didn't mind her voice. Just what crap was poured from her mouth. Especially when it came to talking with individuals that she always ended up doing stuff for free for. She could have gotten caps for her hard earned work, but she didn't seem to care if she did or didn't. There would have to be a time where he could have said ''told you so'' but he never bothered to speak up about it himself, as he stood behind, with disproval each time she would have aided someone for free. Merc would be outta work if that continued. That being said, people would end up giving her caps anyway, just needed to ensure that it was equal to the amount she would do for them.

"Yeah yeah I get the point. So...tell me...everyone you've had to kill so far since coming out of that vault. Any guilt what so ever?" Memory MacCready questioned.

Present Mac knew to himself that at the end of the day, if you've killed to survive, that's all people need to know. If it was to kill for caps then...

Her face fell.

"So far? Besides the normal bad guys? It's not like a whole wave of regret would smack me in the face at any given moment. I do what I have to. Everyone does."

It really was hard to tell with her. A do-gooder Minuteman that...not all of the time was the exact angel he would have perceived her to be.

"Is that really it though? Because you have to? Who tells you...you?" He wondered.

Delta chuckled. She was her own woman. Made her own real decisions in life and was her own leader. She picked and chose what she wanted out of the circumstances relevant to her. Because she never had that chance previously.

"Of course. You get a lawyer's instinct when you're in the game as long as I have. When you've got enough evidence to justify your beliefs, you wanna make sure that it's going be enough to pull you through."

Memory Mac rose an eyebrow. You don't feed yourself on beliefs. You choose to fight to survive, there was no luxury in sitting back to have a Nuka Cola...unless you were in a sea of caps, you had to earn it the way everybody did these days.

"What kind of evidence do you need?" He wondered.

She smiled at him and patted her stomach.

"My gut, at the base point where nothing else would provide." She said.

Present Mac smiled. Gut feelings were a usual way to get yourself out of trouble, although it could get you into it as well. It made sense for it to be the last resort option.

"I'm certain you didn't need to give me the run around to that kind of point where you would always use your gut...everyone does." She replied, as if trying to get him to think that was just a generic current-worldly concept.

To kill or not to kill, that was the question. Actually, it was whether or not she was capable of feeling anything like guilt or regret at all.

"Be truthful with me boss...do you feel...anything?" Memory Mac inquired.

It wasn't particularly something he wanted her to fully reveal. It made sense to keep things to yourself, unless they were hurting you in a way that made it affect you and to anything you would perform.

She stopped in her tracks and adjusted her grip on her combat rifle, staring deep into Mac's eyes.

It'd been some months and Mac had almost forgotten how deadly her eyes could be, the way they would drill into your own and the ways that those aforementioned twinkles could disappear in an instant. To this day, he still didn't know whether or not he'd pressed the wrong button.

"I feel like how a sane person could feel at the appropriate occasions. Sad when someone dies, maybe angry. Regret? Maybe a feeling of failure because I didn't try hard enough? What about you? Do you feel anything when you shoot people?"

At this stage, Present Mac felt immense guilt on his own terms. He shouldn't have asked that question.

"It gets easier. That's all I'll say." Memory Mac answered as he forced to detach his eyes from hers.


They did encounter numerous gunners eventually. It was mostly unimportant memories, so Doctor Imari skipped the gunfight, flipping the scene to when they were inside one of the buildings. Present Mac remembered this part as they wandered into the desolate, dust filled rooms after taking out the gunners around them. The fun aftermath of scavenging for weapons, ammo and all else was in place.

Mac heard the thunder outside. Strange. It had been blue skies earlier. Might have been a rad storm incoming. They'd be there for some time, waiting it out before leaving. You could always tell by the stranger booms than a regular bout of thunder.

They hadn't finished, but he noticed Delta noticing a terminal nearby. Mac couldn't help but groan at the sight of her tapping away with those pieces of junk.

"Do you really have to?" Memory Mac asked.

It was this that made Present Mac note that he might not have been that patient with her then he would properly recollect.

Delta smiled.

"Only because you hate me doing it." She mocked.

Yeah she definitely tried his patience. Memory Mac's thoughts on the matter contained details of her working her magic with all sorts of peculiar jobs that he'd always considered something on the blurred line of black and white:

She's done things better than I could have. Those fingers of hers. They can do anything. Pick locks, pull triggers and hack terminals. Oh not forgetting basic mods and construction. What the hell did they do back in the pre war days. I'm no fan of eggheads...but...goodness knows what else those fingers could do.

Present Mac went down right red in the face as he bit his lip. Sh- why did he think that there and then? Egh...Piper already thought he was a joke.

"Fine, fine...just don't take so long."

It took perhaps...five minutes before he was over it. He'd paced up and down the room when he was done with what he wanted to do...and it sounded like the rad storm outside was beginning to clear up.

He tried to pass the time by cleaning his sniper rifle, replacing and checking the ammo. But, that was something he did often and given his sequence of do so, it never took that long, maybe about two minutes? He wrinkled his nose as he walked towards Delta.

"Yeah just a sec..." She told him.

Mac turned around and stared at the wall. Yeah...nice wall...

Moments go by as he got fed up with it, turned back as the room went deathly quiet. He knelt down beside her as he put his hand on her shoulder, then caught a glimpse of the opposing expression.

"Hey boss, think you could hurry up...why is this taking..."

Her face had fallen, her eyes darkened and mouth left gaping with barely any noise from her breathing. She had been shrunk and frozen in place. His own eyes followed hers, trailing downwards to her left arm, then looked at the screen.

Imari froze the scene as MacCready stared at it from the other side, trying to get a good eye on the text.

"Tell me what you see." Imari spoke, her voice echoing through the simulation.

He skipped through the lesser important parts as he read through it as Imari would pause and unpause whenever Delta scrolled down, as if briefly rereading what she had just saw. But the words came out of the terminal like something from a holotape.

"I thought they were a myth...these Paragons. They used to be nothing but fairy tales from cowardly ghouls. Though I heard from scuttlebutt that they've returned. All I know from them is that they're not to be messed with. At all. Prewar group, made up of special ops soldiers from the military. Some discharged but still kicking to do their bit for their country. Man they were deadly. A lot of us could learn from them. One of the boys said he'd spoken to a ghoul who was once part of the Paragons. How much of that is true and how much is bullshit is beyond me. Says that one of his exploits included an invasion of a enemy held fort, planting a bomb in the central part and blowing the place up without a hitch. Said fort was riddled with turrets and huge amounts of security. How in the world did he get into it...I asked him. He just laughed at me, and all he said was they were after a chem known as BR-210 that was being dispatched at the facility and where they were being made was left a complete mystery. I've heard rumours of a chem like that lately. Maybe that's what they were referring to. It was a legendary drug that made you feel like you were God. I wanted to shoot the Ghoul, but if we're to find that chem ourselves before these Paragons do, we'll need the ghoul to help us locate them. We're hiding him in one of our operating centres until he decides to talk about their secret stash."

Delta warmed up as her body shook itself, then she turned to Memory MacCready and smiled weakly.

"Oh it's all good. I'm done now. I need to drop this stuff back at a settlement. You know the routine."

Mac's thoughts were that she wanted to believe it was all fine. Her voice inflected with anxiety and unwillingness to worry him. She wanted to worry about other people besides herself, her Motherly self defiant to all reasons and why's surrounding her. No need to concern yourself with smart n' sweet Delta, we'll just be heading off to help other people.

He didn't want to say anything as she got up from the chair. She just gripped her gun and headed towards the exit, puzzling MacCready to no end.

"You got it. Let's move!" He replied.


Most of it was formal when he left the pod. By formal, it meant only acknowledging the important stuff as he shuffled himself out of it. Their faces were neutral as they stood around, waiting for him to say something.

"Huh...so the Paragons have their own little stash of the magical dragon chem. Coincidence huh?" He stated, albeit nervously and adjusted his hat.

Cait grumbled as she crossed her arms.

"So what now? We gotta find this stash?" She inquired.

Yeah Cait would be eager...like she always would have been. Though rumoured' been she'd been off the psycho entirely. Girl could always fall back in something else showed up.

"The text mentioned a ghoul that's been with the Paragons that's still hanging around. The Gunners would have to have him still locked away in one of their hideouts. If he's still alive..." Doctor Imari spoke.

Piper nodded. She'd better pay in caps and/or more after this. He just hoped his dignity was left in tact. They didn't seem to pry anywhere else so...

"Yeah. Let's not hold our breath. But where would we know where to start?"

MacCready only had limited knowledge of where the Gunners would have forced the ghoul to stay. Over the years they would change location's consistently. Though one place he could think of was one where he knew they had heavy fortifications.

The Gunner Plaza, their headquarters.

"Could start where the head honcho sits. Gonna need a tonne of ammo though." He suggested.

Hancock smirked.

"Count me in. I've been waiting to deal with those assholes for ages. I know they cramp your style but they cramp mine too. Them and their militarist bull." He said.

He didn't doubt that. One of the things he had grown to hate was that the Gunners felt like they could replicate the armies of old but really, they were more like a well organised version of raiders than anything worthy of holding authority. They always had a type of grudge against everyone. So either feed them caps or else...they were known to raid just about anything for the right price.

He felt the same way but MacCready had higher standards.

"Me too. I wouldn't mind knocking some heads in. Been like that since leavin' Diamond City." Cait commented., eyeing Piper off.

She just sighed. The reporter didn't feel keen on going all in, but...

"You could always just go back to Diamond City if they made it all the more homely." Mac joked to her.

Piper was just disgruntled.

"Nah Nat's safe here until we can really figure out what the Paragon's deal is. Maybe getting hold of this ghoul will tell me all I need to know. If they bother to speak that is."She said. 

Hancock waved his knife about and pointed it to her.

"Don't worry your pretty little head about that Miss Wright. Ghouls are just heavily irradiated humans. Like all humans, they'll break with the right amount of convincing."

MacCready knew that Hancock understood that much. It was in his business to take out the troublemakers that actually made far more trouble than the regular ones do.


So they'd agreed to head to the Plaza in the southern parts the Commonwealth, in the hopes of finding out what the hell was going on. Who was this ghoul? What was this particular chem's real purpose? To feel like a God? Heh...it was like it was meant to spruce overconfidence or to obtain and megalomanic attitude to life. Who knows? He didn't care much for it like Piper did, but now they'd confirmed it was linked to the Paragons, who could have been using the stuff and not bothering to share it.

The fact that Nate had returned was also partially disturbing after all that was heard in Sanctuary. He'd rather Lucy dead then to have her betray his trust like that...to that extent to which she would have to fallen so dam- hard from the tree that it would warrant to make him shoot her. That would have been the last thought in his mind and it made him feel ill from just thinking about it. So he got got himself organised, went and saw KLEO and Daisy for supplies, then prepared for the trip to the Plaza.

Then hopefully, the rain would let up.

Chapter Text

 

Ah condensation. Without it, the world would have truly suffered. For Curie loved the rain. The way it sent goosebumps on her skin due to the chill skimming the surface with every drop, to the way it brought in fresh water to revitalize and what not...also good for her experiments.

Most of the other settlers were sheltering themselves, waiting for it to pass. Yes it could also been an inconvenience in some ways. The thunder and lightning were natural and it could be understood that people could be afraid of it. Storms had their bad omens from that which has been disturbed, becoming from positive, to negative then to clear the way for the positives once again.

Water on it's own was an amazing substance. Something with such a simple compound had a million one uses. To drink, to cook, to wash, it made up rivers, dams, tears and a very make up of organics. Yet, it could also be hazardous. Too much could kill you (as well as too little could also kill you), you could drown, choke, burned by hot water, poisoned and made sick by dirty water.

Like life, while it can be treated as mostly beneficial, it must also be treated with respect. The same life dependent on other necessities like food, shelter and protective clothing. And the odd weapon here and there. Curie didn't enjoy violence, but understood well enough that it's part of life in this day and age, whether she liked it or not.

She grew to be dependent on others, like they gathered the rain that fell, they also absorbed those seeking to do anything just to get by in life. Curie was more than happy to aid them. The settlers here came to her when they needed first aid. All in her little lab come consultation room.

"Curie?"

She turned around. There was a lady with her dull brown hair tied up and coddled in blue jackets and on top of other, warming layers, fingerless gloves, denim and boots. Preston hardly let Cait do most of the guarding, given the woman's dedication to firearms, but she wasn't the one making the decisions so she let it be.

"Ah Sandra, you never come see me! What brings you to my abode madam?" Curie wondered.

You have amazing people that you work with, like Delta who had done so much for Curie that the former Miss Nanny could never fully repay, then you have Preston who's one of the kindest people you'd ever meet...Cait was a fiery girl whom Curie admired for her passion, Codsworth who always made her smile...then you had the ordinary settlers whom, were special in their own way.

Sandra was one of the more quiet ones, sent to guard the bridge to Sanctuary in her lonesome. She was one of their...scouts was it? She never really ever interacted with everyone else, but was more than happy to do her job. She'd often come to see Preston to check in with him, letting him know that she'd spotted potential dangers.

Yet, for all her guard work, she never really came to Curie like all the others. Surely the woman would like some company, whether it's Curie or someone else, but Sandra didn't mind it one bit.

The woman smirked.

"I uhhh well, didn't know who else to turn to." She told her. She had eyes like Delta's, but not as shiny. N-not that they weren't at all, but Curie liked the woman's simplicity. She wasn't as much a tease as Delta.

"Is someone hurt?" Curie wondered.

Sandra sighed, tapping her right thigh with her fist. A signal for shaky nerves, no doubt.

"No, no one's hurt. It's the Provisioners. They're acting strange." She said.

They were those Delta had entrusted to ensure supply lines between each settlement. Some would come to Curie when ever they'd returned to Sanctuary for any ills or or minor injuries. Psychological prospects were an interesting subject ever since she was elevated to a synth. Acting strange would require a lot more detail and analysis if this was a matter to be concerned about.

"Oh? In what way?" Curie asked.

Sandra bit her lip.

"I uh...dunno. From my scouting position as you know I uh...see everyone enter and exit Sanctuary. You recognise the faces, greet them with a..a subtle wave. There's the monogamy of the normal cycle. There's something not quite right with them from their last visit..."

If it's anything that a lot of these settlers had in common, it was paranoia. She understood that they just wanted to make sure that they were going to look out and protect one another. Some was justifiable and required a Minuteman to scout the perimeter to ensure nothing disastrous lay on the horizon and if that came to pass, that it would be dealt head on. (Leading to numerical patch ups). Super Mutants, Ghouls, Synths, robots, bugs...and raiders. Curie abhorred the violence but there really wasn't a way to get through to them, much to Curie's dismay.

"They could have seen something on the road. Or at worst, spoiled eating. If they needed any assistance at all, just send them to me." Curie assured her.

This woman felt uncomfortable with that notion judging from her facial expression alone. Sandra'd always been one of the anti-social ones but efficient.

"I've just got a bad feeling...in my gut. Not..not from anything. I'm just raising awareness. I just knew, that from looking in their eyes that I could see. An unnatural level of focus. I'm really hoping that they weren't replaced by uh...Institute synths ya know..."'

Curie had always heard of rumours like that. People being taken away and in their place a carbon copy, with goals unknown, would needle themselves into their ranks. How much of it was true was decided by the hierarchy, aka Delta and the rest of her compatriots.

"Could be from a long day of walking. Travelling can take a lot out of people. If any of them suffer from fatigue, it's to be expected. I could recommend them just taking it easy and rest for a bit before heading out again." She explained.

The other woman rubbed her arm.

"All of them?" She pointed out.

It was getting dark. A natural response to a days worth of exercise would indeed prompt heavy eyelids. Sleep would be all they needed.

"But of course! It's so nice of you to be concerned madam."


Curie had invited Sandra to join them for dinner later that night. Her and Codsworth helped cook up brahmin and tatos and served a nice warm broth to everyone as they sat in a circle around a nice fire, sheltered by the steel roofs and listening to the rain. It saddened Curie to see that Sandra's seat was left vacant. She did this often, didn't make Curie any less guilty for it.

"Codsworth, did Delta ever exclude herself from her daily activities with people?" She asked him.

The Mr Handy was more surprised by her question. She would come to him for any advice just as much as anyone else, but he knew more of the modern world than she, and he was more happy to guide her through the quirks of the current.

"People need to have a bit of 'me' time. That is, to say that one's own company, can often be one's best company." He told her.

The synth looked into her bowl. The sensation of the warmth from the bowl to her hands felt nice, exquisite for a cold night like this. The look on the other settlers face's, even Marcy's, created a major contrast between everything so far.

"It is odd. I've spent many years in isolation and found happiness in the crowd of friends. So when others decide to, detach and sail away...it just means that they like being lonely no?" She theorised.

Poor Codsworth remained silent for the moment before he finally responded.

"It's a healthy task to recharge one's social batteries before throwing one's self into the accord. People can be a bit much I'm afraid."

Curie needed to be with people. She would be left to her own devices as she went along with her own work, that was okay with her. But for pure loneliness. She'd had more than her fair share.

"Delta's own isolation included her just...leaving the house for a walk. That kind of activity can be spent alone or with others for example."

To share was always nice. Whether in that total loneliness was part of that which could still be enjoyed, in joint terms perhaps, made it even better.

"Interesting. So if a person decides to be alone and never even converse at all?" She inquired.

Codsworth hummed.

"Nothing wrong with being your own best friend." He explained.

Curie sighed. That sounded far more troubling.

"So that explains why I find people talk to themselves. How curious." She reacted.

Vault 81 rendered itself to Curie in a way, that she too had somehow, become her own best friend. Talking to one's self mitigated the dreaded silence. But the voices of others, especially as she heard Delta's that fateful day, sounded like pleasant singing to her audio receivers.

"Why I catch you talking to yourself all the time...do you not find comfort and ease?" He asked her.

Curie pondered. Trickles and drops fell onto her mind.

"I do. I find it helps with my work. It was a force of habit developed in the vault. You do not like it?" She replied.

Codsworth chuckled.

"It's not that my dear, not like that at all. Understand people have a preference and a level for their social needs...are you...are you pertaining to that scout near the entrance again?"

Curie blinked and was taken aback by his words, her eyes wandering over to the empty seat once more. Then was reminded by the downpour outside and worried about the settler greatly.

"Mon dieu! Well, she's not here for dinner. I'd hoped she'd come on by."

She then looked at Marcy who grumbled.

"Ah let her be. If she doesn't want chow then let her stand in the rain like an idiot and make herself sick then that's her decision." The other woman mentioned as she ate her food.

The former Miss Nanny felt horrible over a single thought over realising where she was. She'd become accustomed the natural sound of the rain hitting the roof and not connecting the idea that Sandra was still out there, doing her daily duties...in the dark, cold and wet.

Delta would reprimand her for just leaving her out on her own however.

"I'll be back."


Curie made haste as she ran out of the shack and towards the entrance of Sanctuary. In the light of the globe she made out the figure, standing at her post, gripping gun as it was pointed towards the ground, looking towards the south. She had her hood on, didn't make her any less soaked however.

"Sandra?"

Sandra turned around to see Curie holding a bowl of food, covered in a rag to protect it from the rain.

"Curie...what are you doing out here?" She asked, stunned.

The woman smiled. Sure she was getting drenched but it was nothing a bit of warmth by the fire couldn't fix.

"I saw you weren't there for dinner. Codsworth and I made it. Want some?"

The look on the brunette's face was hard to make out in the darkness, brought on by the obscurity of the rain drops but it was clear to Curie that Sandra hadn't really expected anything.

"You didn't really have to...it's fine I'm uh..."

"Want some company? Otherwise, I understand if you like being alone." Curie interrupted.

Sandra frowned. Humans were confusing. Thought Codsworth noted that it's normal for them to for be by themselves, it would have been awful if Sandra caught a cold under Curie's watch.

"Thank you Curie. Look, what I said earlier...I know a lot of the people in a lot of the settlements come and go. Some don't even come back at all. I'm only here because Delta found me on my lonesome in the Commonwealth and insisted to stay. I uhh...agreed to do simply because she invited me."

Typical Delta, saving more lives without even having a medical degree.

"Doesn't mean you have to split yourself from everyone." Curie continued.

Sandra smirked, then her face fell again, then she looked around herself.

"Heh...it's not about that at all. How bout we get out of the rain so I can explain myself properly..."

Settlers usual had their own stories of hardship and trauma throughout their entire lives so when an opportunity arose for them to at least be given a chance at hope, they would grasp at it. It took Curie an ample amount of time to understand the velocity of the world's situation, given the teachings from not only Delta, but also Codsworth, Preston and even Cait that she could obtain unique perspectives of what was ever changing around her. She considered those the ones Delta counted on as well as herself to be the leader charges of those who had nothing else to go on.

They'd gone into one of the empty house next door, where Sandra was occupied with a few other settlers. She had own corner with candles next to her bed on a stand, and on her bed was a unique plush toy Curie had never seen before. It was like a type of wolf-come-dog, coloured a darker shade of brown with red sewed on eyes.

Sandra blushed with embarrassment as Curie sat on her bed.

"Oh it's such a cute doggy. Can I touch it?" She asked.

It puzzled Sandra but she'd obliged.

"Uh sure."

Curie grinned as took hold of the plush and started petting it on it's head.

"Does he have a name?"

The settler tugged on her gloves, quite anxious.

"Uhhh...Farkas. His name is Farkas." She told her.

Fascinating name. Curie thought.

"That's Hungarian for Wolf I believe. Clever!" She noted with glee.

Sandra brought a chair over to sit on, smiling nervously as she sat down and slouched over.

"Uh yes thank you Curie. I uh...it's been with me for many years. Brings me luck." She explained.

Not many people had valuables that were worth any caps these days. As she travelled with Delta, she noticed that she would pick up bits and pieces that didn't really hold a lot use, then realised she only got them for scraps to help out the settlements. Unsanitary however.

"Good for you Madame. It's adorable." Curie commented, putting the plush back on the bed.

She noticed Sandra's expression of discomfort related more to her normal anxious display. Curie would continue to smile in the hopes of just helping her alleviate it. Codsworth was probably right though. On her own was where she shined. Curie didn't think it was right though but she had to give boundaries their respect.

"Yes thanks again. Look, the reason for what I said before is because I'm hearing a lot of rumours about Delta lately. Stuff like she'd gone to the Institute. Is that true?" Sandra inquired.

Delta would only discuss matters that were relevant the current situation, anything else, especially anything private would be kept behind closed doors unless it had fallen to the point where it would have affected everyone around her. To hear rumours of Delta going to the Institute...if Piper's role was left to the imagination then she would have thought it would have slipped out eventually. It would have been a matter of when. Curie didn't know a lot about the infamous group, other than the source of her current vessel. Reporters were known to suss out the truth, that much hadn't changed since the 21st century.

"Do not doubt Delta. She may be absent but I've yet to be told of any relevant to the investigation. We have our best people trying to find her. Do not stress." Curie explained

Sandra bit the nail off her finger.

"Yeahh yeah...I trust her people to find her. That's fine...it's those she's commanded. The Provisioners."

This again.

"They still make you uncomfortable?" Curie wondered.

Sandra shrugged.

"Yeah-yeah...I've seen some of them talk ya know. Talking about BR-210. Sounded like synth talk to me." She said.

Curie blinked and tilted her head, perplexed.

"BR-210? What is that? Some kind of robot?"  She queried.

The settler nodded.  Must have been its code name.

"I dunno what it is...they were exchanging words...and packages! There's something going on...I'm fearful that we may have traitors living among us!" Sandra stated with worry.

Curie furrowed her brow. Piper always seemed to have that same discussion about the 'synth' duplicate rumours. She didn't think it would seem that bad. It'd be like having a twin.

Though she'd just have to go with what everyone else was thinking for the sake of it. There was still too much of the new world she had yet to discover.

Institute equalled bad guys. That's all she had to know. Oh and anyone who tried to shoot them. Bad guys too.

Though there wasn't a lot Curie could do. She'd speak to Codsworth but then again, would he know? She'd have to ultimately wait until the others came back to Sanctuary. But it would definitely help Sandra in some way find relief from her anxiety.

"I'll keep it in mind. I'm not exactly in charge around here and I'm sort of still new to a lot of things. You'd have to patient with me." Curie admitted. She'd rather be honest.

Sandra managed to form a minor smile.

"That's fine with me ma'am. I just thought it'd be worth putting my observations in as all...I don't really have intentions to worry others but I figured it was out of the ordinary in case you ever approached the Provisioners. Or I could...if you wanted me to." She told her.

Now it was Curie's turn to be anxious. She didn't want to hold such responsibility in case something went wrong or people got hurt in the process. Negotiations weren't really part of Curie's utility set.

She just shook her head.

"No no Madam...I...I'd just wait until Cait or Preston return back. You can trust them to sort out the other settlers. I don't want you to overexert yourself. Relax...and eat your dinner."


Curie's heard of mothers feeding their children, no matter what species you were, it was a natural instinct for parents to take such care into their offspring. Curie had a similar case that it was just part of her processes to look after people. Leadership? No. Codsworth and her had similar regards to such a concept. Made sense, since they were designed to serve after all.

But the term BR-210 bugged Curie after Sandra's mentioning of it. After helping the woman out, she returned to her workbench. Delta was kind enough to let her have a shelf and found out any medical books that she'd found on her travels, those that would aid her in her pursuits.

She'd press a finger to their spines repeatedly as her mind jacked back to the book she was thinking of. At first, BR-210 could have been a type of machine though the more Curie had pondered about it, it made her realise it that it wasn't, that it had properties of a chem instead.

A book labeled, "Glidewell's Products" caught her eye. A man of pre-war times who aided in a myriad of discoveries, albeit considerably minor. She snatched book and splayed it on her desk as her eyes scanned it. He was an ambitious man, going by his description. She went through the contents and checked for anything in particular.

A chapter, labeled, Drug Chemistry, was relevant as she flicked through to the page and again, dabbed her finger down the pages to pinpoint anything important.

And there it was.

"Aha...BR-210...designed by Glidewell in 2069, it'd been used in trials by the American Government. It's prototype was tested alongside American Troops to make them smarter, tougher although it showed signs of headaches, migraines and in small cases, had psychotic tendencies and a one percent chance of a blood clot, forcing a stroke. A second prototype was developed and funded by Vault-tec to use in one of the vault programs in Boston."

A surge of an off put feeling flushed through Curie, as if she detected an anomaly. As a Vault-Raised, she knew how conflicted her approach towards them was. She, personally, wouldn't have known...couldn't have possibly of known at lot of details regarding them. Delta had emerged from a vault. But...

As Curie ran through her medical profile of Delta, she was from Vault 111. The cryogenics vault. Couldn't have possibly been the same vault that might have organised it. Vault 95 perhaps? No...she ran through Cait's medical profile...although it was chem-focused, it didn't seem apparent that any newer one's were shuffled through. All Curie knew were the common jet, psycho and mentat...and the odd other here but nothing that was called BR-210. Unless it was the protoype of those or an alternate name.

Any other Vault that Curie possibly knew of from her conversations with Delta...Vault 95 was the only that made sense. Any time she'd attempted to speak with Cait regarding her history with psycho was met with brash objections and harsh language.

Poor Curie couldn't do anything until any of them had come back. For now, she would have to observe the Provisioners AND the settlers with utmost care.

Chapter Text

 

His eyes had opened in the breadth of the darkness before him, then checked to see that only no one else made it there with him. In that note, he recognised the unfamiliar atmosphere, the way that it made him pace his breathing and wrap his fingers around the trigger of his musket, eyes darting from side to side as he immediately knew something was wrong.

He was one for ideas, but wasn't very well at executing them. The air made him ill just wanting to enact it. After Quincy, it made it quite hard to maintain the facade of pretending everything was alright. Disasters befell him and the survivors, then he witnessed death after death; the stench of corpses piled around him, rid the air of the oxygen he needed. He would have preferred the stench of manure but the sight of death rid around him made him anxious, especially when it would have been his indirect fault that they were there.

He didn't understand it. His heart wanted him to believe in the Minutemen cause. What was wrong with it? What was wrong with wanting to protect your fellow man and watching each others backs? It was sourced from defending those darkness in the hearts of raiders, the fleeting instincts of ferals and the non-negotiable nature of Super Mutants and Synths just made it nearly impossible to exist these days.

But they were there because they clung on their wills so hard that as long as they had the last breath that had yet to escape their lips, they would continue to fight for the last man, woman and child.

This place...the way the walls were, the way the floor was...it was unnatural. He curled his tongue in his mouth as he peered around nearly every door and room he came across. Empty, if not for the desks and chairs that he went through. It was far cleaner than any place he'd been too. Abandoned but it wasn't as if it had been for long. Whom ever was here, had vanished completely without a trace.

The only things to note were the normal laser weapons. He'd entered one room and found one, still warm. It'd have to have been fired recently, to his suspicion. Preston sighed.

You're not gonna like what you see...

They were the last words from Mama Murphy before they left Sanctuary. He'd taken to her visions although disliked her usage of chems to do so. He trusted her because there was not much to go on besides hope, will power and ammo. It wouldn't change any time soon.

He'd only trust those who would pick up a gun to defend one each other. A dream to rebuild a better future. Mama Murphy saw that heart within him and said one day you're gonna come across another survivor like yourself. It came to him whether or not if he knew at the time that when he saw that emerald eyed girl in Concord that he had Murphy's vision in mind or he was just feeling desperate. To just reach out that single piece of hope and you see...

But the beast inside of Preston always slumbered. It left him alone. It left him to preach and pray every damn night to the stars. He finished crying long ago. He didn't want to anyway. But the mixture of everything in his stomach messed up his emotional capabilities and left him to become nothing. He used that nothingness to continue to fight. To continue leaving with a free mind, able to think and perpetuate the next plan.

One day...it become solid. Definite...certain. A world growing like it used to and the way you'd always dreamed of. A prayer answered and a hope proven once again. Yet, in a way, that beast never reawakened. Not that Preston ever dared to try, it was far too weird.

There's a whole lotta hate in this world. So few attempt to suppress it.

Her words continued to ring in his mind to this day. It was clear that he would have to continue with his mission, no matter the cost.

The silence beckoned him to call back horrible memories as they left things to his devices. He understood why Delta needed people to be with her. Maybe she needed to silence the voices in her head to rid of the old, ancient parchments of regret. In telling of that, it would have been why he continued to carry on with the words that normally would get you irritated...but those voices were real and told you that you were still alive and forced you to put everything aside for the sake for the now.

His ears twitched at footsteps nearby, licking his lips and gripping on his musket harder as he focused in on them. He couldn't see, since there wasn't a great deal of lightly, only from the dwindled and broken globes on the walls and the roof. Preston then came to the end of a hallway, his ears telling him that the footsteps were just around the corner. They became louder and louder...

but then they became slower in sequence. Damn...they must have known. Preston wasn't being quiet himself, taking a deep breath and squeezed his eyes briefly, knowing what ever was around the corner could also take him out. It was time, as he promptly cranked his musket...

A shout escaped his mouth as he pulled around the corner. Only to stop when he saw a man with black hair, sunglasses and a white top and jeans and a gun that aimed straight for Preston, .also shouting. He then instantly pulled back and chuckled.

"Jesus fucking Christ Preston...scared the living daylights out of me! I suddenly need a change of pants..." Exclaimed the man in the sunglasses.

Preston sighed. It was Deacon of all people. Funnily enough, he just felt relief from seeing a familiar face.

"Man...could have blasted you. Where the heck are we?"

Deacon had this way of beckoning you into his smile yet it was just sheer coverage over the amount of crap that oozed from his mouth. A paradox of expressions that told you all you needed to know about how screwed up their situation was with only the forced grins.

"I was gonna say a bakery,...look's like it went bankrupt...just wasn't making enough dough." Deacon explained. Man could shovel out enough without cracking.

Preston wasn't stupid enough to fall for that. He just went with it and pretended that his answers meant something else.

"Right. Well, it certainly feels that way. Really though...the Institute certainly does match the vibe it gives off...all creepy and quiet like." He said.

Deacon nodded.

"Yeah definitely the light of the party. Wonder what kind of non-alcoholic drinks they serve here? Water or water? Take your pick."

There's only so much Preston had seen and heard about the Institute. Most of it based on rumour and conjecture. A lot of people grew paranoid that at any given moment, they would be whisked away here. It frightened Preston more that he wasn't able to grasp the unknown, but now that they were here, perhaps a lot the mysteries could be sanctioned and understood.

"What's your take on synths anyway Garvey? What I'm not supposed to tell you is that you could already have a bunch of them in your settlements. Pure speculation of course." Deacon told him, as they walked the hallways of the unknown.

Synths? He didn't know a lot. Institute's lackeys that others would perceive as spies or out to murder everyone. Again a lot of the whispers were from ala the settlers themselves. He could have met a synth and talked with a synth and not know it.

"I uh...I dunno. My main concern is the safety of the Commonwealth and to protect it from the scum. If that scum happened to include synths, then by all means, they would deserve what's comin' to 'em." Preston answered.

Deacon nodded, as Preston knew his work with Railroad held importance somewhat but held on to their secret ways.

"Really. So...I'm a synth right...what do you think of me? Would you shoot me right here and now or would you just...go on your way?"

For some reason that irked Preston somewhat. A question brought on out of the blue. He never really talked about synths in such a way that they really, really pissed him off. From memory, he hadn't had incredibly bad or good experiences.

"You seem like an amicable guy. For who you are. I have no reason to shoot you unless it was in self-defence or to the defence of an innocent." Preston continued.

And it was like that for everyone. If you're willing to work for a better Commonwealth, you'd gain Preston's trust near instantly, no matter what species you were.

"Amicable huh? Nice sarcasm. Shame you're not with the Railroad. Don't get me wrong, I like the idea of the Minutemen. Just something about given a whole bunch of men power that can go wrong, specially all the shit at Quincy. Far out...I'm stoked that I'm even talking to you. How do you pull through after something like that?" Deacon wondered.

Preston went mute. He tried so hard not to think about it. A downward spiral into destructive storm, where men turned into monsters and you had no idea why. Then there's the men who let evil pass through sheer ignorance. You could blame radiation, chems or the lack of supplies to churn a type of madness from the depths of one's soul. Or something more.

"You fight." Preston muttered.

Deacon winced, detecting that he'd accidentally touched a sore spot.

"Like Delta?" He compared. "I hear she saved your asses. Not from her of course. You know how she loves to make up those crazy stories. Like there was one time, she gave a Deathclaw mother her egg after it'd been stolen and not scratch on her. Like how bullshit is that?"

You shrink further and further in and cover it with more and more of a protective layer to pretend you're somebody, rather than a failing nobody in the hopes that you would become that which you had pretended to be.

"You're left wonderin' if Lady Luck gave us a visit one day. We could have held out...no..not really. It would have been a matter of time until we were all dead." Preston continued.

Deacon rose an eyebrow and wrapped his arm around the Minuteman.

"Yee of little faith my man" He said.  "Here's me thinkin' you're a bucketful of sunshine..no...more like a barrel of rainclouds but no rain."

Preston smirked.

"I like to take my job seriously unlike some. You never know when a beastly threat could come knocking on your front door." The Minuteman warned.

Truth spoken like none on other, gathering from Deacon's expression.

"Yup. Armed with a Fat-Man in your face and asking with one of those Stepford smiles 'Hi honey, I'm home after a day of huntin'. What's for dinner?'" Deacon stated.

The amount of craziness sounded about right.

"The world can be filled with horrible things. Which is why we gotta protect the opposite." Preston noted. His head fell thinking about all the lives he could have saved and as the guilt poured in, a noise in the distance popped him out of the stupor.

"Figured we weren't alone. You think you are but you always suspect." Deacon muttered as the both kept their eyes peeled.

The noises sounded like quick footsteps and the familiar sounded of cluttering armor. Someone had been following them for sure. It was foolish to think a place like this didn't have dozens of secrets in it.

"Could be a Courser. In that case it's always viable to run or to pretend to lay down and die. Or if you're like our dear ol' Wil'o Wisp, just...let her kill them instead." Deacon suggested in a dark, comical whisper.

They came into an open room with desks toppled over and chairs, paper work and all sorts of lab like equipment scattered everywhere. Nothing new compared to all of the abandoned buildings. Except the lack of dust was more unsettling than anything else. Dark patches could be seen everywhere: The walls, the furniture and the floor. What ever happened here, left no survivors. Preston watched Deacon wander over to what appeared to be a body, albeit white. A synth?

Preston crawled over and examined it himself. He'd seen something like this before. No...he had seen this before.

"A Gen 2. Creepy to look at it but no where as as the gen 1's." Deacon commented.

"Don't get me started on the gen 3s."

As Preston turned and scanned the room, he noticed more of these gen 2 synths scattered about, lying either limp on the floor or arched on broken furniture. He took a deep breath. Worry clouded his mind though he couldn't afford it to.

"This firefight was done before it was even started. No other body types in the room." Preston told him.

Deacon stood back up and looked around as well.

"Or they shot themselves. Consider all options with these ones. Their programming was rather primitive, like they were from the dark ages." He said.

It didn't make Preston feel better about it. He didn't like being left in the dark.

"We're talking something nasty aren't we? Don't you sense it too? Like we're about to be ambushed?" Preston told him as he froze at the sounds around them, like they were getting closer.

"As much as I want to hold your hand Preston, I won't. You're a big boy." Deacon joked.

I'm not the hugging type.

"Makes me wonder...what happened to others..." Preston noted, concerned about them.

Deacon shrugged.

"Beats me. I'm your ordinary loner bout...say eighty-five percent of the time. You need someone to watch your six in a place like this. I'd rather shack up with Super Mutants then be here on my own. Pity the poor suckers...but I wouldn't condemn them to the mercy of being consumed by the belly." He said as he rubbed his nose.

Humans always had a fear of the unknown.

A single click snapped Preston to attention. For what ever reason, his eyes met up with wear his ears heard the sound and like a satellite, focused on the source. All in those microseconds he saw the barrel of the gun in the nearby doorframe and jumped out of the way as bullets started flying everywhere. As well as Deacon cursing under his breath.

He found cover behind one of the desks as the bullets clunked in rapid motion nearby, sparking off the metal-clad piece. He had his musket close to him, but instead he looked to the other side, seeing Deacon squatting behind a bench with his own gun. It was too dark to tell, but he looked okay.

"How the hell did they get the jump on us?" Deacon yelled from across the room.

Preston had no idea. Instinct saved his life however.

"No clue! These aren't those courser guys are they?" He queried. Deacon was right. But they should have had their guard up. They knew they were being followed and yet...

Preston turned his head around the corner, to see what he was looking at. The firing had halted as he looked into the doorframe where they'd come from. He squinted and determined that they'd disappeared.

"We're screwed one way or another...got any explody stuff?" Deacon asked.

Preston reached for one of his pouches. He had a few frag's just in case.

"Affirmative. I dunno though. If they're jumping around like that, I would waste it." Preston commented.

Deacon growled. "Or they're hooked to Stealth Boys. God damn assholes stole my rep! How dare they!"

Invisible enemies. Made it all the worse. He remained vigilante in the silence and tried to focus any any noise around them, though it made his rapid heartbeat bang on in his head. He'd rather listen to gunfire.

"I'll go up and investigate. Stay there." Preston offered.

Deacon nodded.

"No problem...just uh...I'll be here, sittin' pretty. Not that it's hard."

The Minuteman took a deep breath before swerving around and aiming his musket at the entrance, his eyes peeled for any foes or any sign of them. He licked his lips and slowly approached the door frame, then pushed through quickly, finding himself in another open room. Darker than the one before it. It made it harder for Preston to focus on where they were. Though he couldn't even tell if it was more than one person. Could be one, two three...God know's how many. It made Preston open his eyes.

They were definitely toying with them both. He couldn't hear, see or let alone smell anything; a point that created a combination of anger and anxiousness that ended up boiling in his blood. If they were going to kill them, they would have certainly made sure of that by this point. He eyed an operating terminal nearby.

"Hey Deacon..." He muttered.

Moments later the other man came by, grumbling all the way. He must have felt the same way.

"We're nothing but prey to what ever creature lurks nearby. I heard from Strong once that stress makes you stringy so if we're lucky we won't appear appetising." He commented.

Preston then pointed towards the terminal on the desk nearby.

"We might be able to confirm where we are. Handy with tech?" Preston asked.

Deacon smirked and cracked his knuckles.

"Presto my man terminals are like beautiful women. Complicated but once you press the right buttons, you can get them to do what ever you want. Like, you have never seen them play a mean game of Poker? I've lost so many times to their wiles. But totally worth playing against if you're looking for a challenge."

Preston made a quiet sigh as he let Deacon through, then followed him as he sat down in front of the screen and let his fingers do their work.

"Lesse...okay...nope...nope...ye- nope not that either...aha! Pathetic!"

Preston leaned in to see what had appeared on the screen.

There were several entries from the looks of it, from several dates. No real name, however;

They'd referred to themselves as Blank. Deacon then pointed out the files could have been corrupted or...changed on purpose.

"Father's newest favourite person is our new benefactor in a new exciting project we're about to start. We're hoping that the outcome is a new kind of super soldier. Or at least that's the depiction. Their goal is to create a chem designed to make one stronger, faster and smarter. Subject Zero is the first one to given the first dosage for the new program. We're hoping at least a ninety day trial but according to the benefactor the prototypes they designed previously often had the effect appear within a few weeks. So it shouldn't take long. The subject was hesitant but assured that we'd be monitoring them for any negative side effects, given what happened last time."

Next entry.

"Day 7: Zero hasn't been showing many signs of change. We've tested their strength and their intelligence: Minor increases but nothing drastic. Other scientists suggest either pure luck, or Zero's just been exercising between dosages."

What ever they were doing, it definitely wasn't good. A shiver went up Preston's spine.

"Day 15: Between over two weeks. Still no drastic change, though given the theory of the program we really shouldn't be expecting so much in such a short time. We've let them do their thing on the surface for now but we'll continue to track them through the Courser as noted. Suggested to let Courser travel with them but they'd declined. Courser was told to keep a distance."

Deacon bit his lip. They had a vague suspicion about that particular Courser but couldn't outright confirm it.

"You're thinkin' what I'm thinking..." Preston muttered to him.

The Railroad Agent adjusted his sunglasses.

"Good to know we're both not really surprised and you're not a total ignoramus. Don't believe everything you're told. If they sound too convincing, you know it's bullshit."

They went to the next one.

"Day 30: It all seems to be extraordinarily minor, like increases in percentages of 0.005 each day. Only now certain negative side effects have arisen. Zero's lodged complaints of being unable to sleep. Others have given permission to use sleeping tablets that shouldn't interfere. And just like the prototype but on a much lesser scale, Zero's been showing more frequent signs of higher aggression."

"Would you also be feeling another tiny idea being lodged in your head right about now?" Deacon asked him.

Preston nodded. It was far too coincidental, so an idea in his head was far better than a bullet.

"No objection from me. Although I am still curious as we may still not know." He said.

Deacon pointed his finger at Preston and clicked his tongue.

"Never assume you've got it all under control. But with all this here...I think we may have been way over our heads here."

They proceeded.

"Day 47: We've made some alterations to the project and constructed a third prototype with the help of new materials in the hopes it would speed up progress. We've also taken blood samples from Zero and we've confirmed there's a secondary factor. It wasn't the sleeping tablets but a common product found in the Commonwealth: Mentats."

Preston was left more than a little confused.

"Mentats? What the...so this Zero, was taking like a cocktail of chems? That's...that's nasty." Preston noted.

Deacon rubbed his neck and lightly gritted his teeth.

"Yeah but you would think they would have known that before they started giving the dosages...for scientists, it sounds like yeah we're good to go this one's fine even if they have an obvious packet right next to them it's nothing, really."

But what they read next had made to make it appear worse.

A lot worse...

"Day 70: We're almost there though partially we've come across unexpected developments. I've been told by Father that we're allowed to start trialling the product with more subjects. Although they would be the one to choose the subjects. They figured if Zero wasn't going to be amounting to much, they would need people to testing on a broader scale. The mentats issue was taken care of and Zero's been isolated. Only problem is that they've been much, much more aggressive."

So it wasn't just the one. There were a lot more. This was far worse than they initially feared.

"We are so screwed..." Preston worded.

"More than you know. Like a mole rat heading into lava screwed. Though it would have been me kicking said mole rat into the lava but same analogy." Deacon responded.

"Day 75: Zero's escaped! Turns out the intelligence factor worked after all! They've snuck out of their containment and proceeded to wiped the floor with several working synths and Coursers! For goodness sake they took down five Coursers! I was assured by Father that they wouldn't be a problem. I can still fix this. Other subjects are showing fantastic signs, far faster results than Zero however so we can still work. Father fears that Zero could cause issues on the surface. Not that he cared too much about the chaos they could cause up there but it could compromise the Institute as a whole!"

"Nice knowing you man..." Deacon told Preston, the breath in voice sounding very much like defeat. But Preston wouldn't accept this type of fate however...there was much more to the story, he was sure of it. They couldn't give up on Delta, not now...not while there were bullets left.

"Day 80: The other subjects frighten me a little bit. Especially when you know what they look like. They're obedient little soldiers, rid of fear. The Benefactor's quite pleased with the results but would still prefer to have Zero back. Zero's a psychopath! Why the hell would they want them back for? Father's up to something I know it. The others share the same concerns."

Even within the heart of the Institute, there's a profound lack of trust that seemed to be spread over internally. But they had unleashed a beast upon the world. If anything, they needed to take this Subject Zero down.

"Day 90: This is the last entry...the trial period is over. We're done. Thank God.

If anyone's reading this...please. Kill Zero. I know now. I know. I snuck into their quarters and read through their notes. Why didn't they tell us who we were working with? I mean, yeah we knew who Zero was but the Benefactor...they- FILE CORRUPT."

"You can't make out that last part?" Preston wondered.

Deacon tried to see what he could do, but every time he tried, it didn't work.

"Unfortunately not an option...conveniently for them, that part remains a mystery. But there is one more entry...lets...oh come on!"

Preston squinted to see what the little amount of text was.

"Time passes, and little by little everything that we have spoken in falsehood becomes true."

The two exchanged glances; they found out a great wealth of information from this terminal alone. But something was nagging Preston like an itch he couldn't scratch. Deacon was equally frustrated but did well enough to hide it. They knew they weren't alone yet they didn't really know where to go. Would they leave? They couldn't. Preston wouldn't have expected to leave out of here alive and intact but with at least confirmation that Delta would still be alive and kicking and he would be content with that. But the Institute was pretty much was he had suspected. A monster, hiding in the depths. He watched Deacon grip his gun tightly as they stood back up. Though now their mission had changed, their goal hadn't.

"The Institute were always a bunch of dipsticks who liked to play with the natural order and make it unnatural." He noted as they prepared themselves for the outright worst.

But that left Preston puzzled.

"I thought you were a Synth Sympathiser?" He asked him.

The other man rechecked his ammo.

"There's a tiny little word called risk. Think about it." Deacon suggested.

Preston's eyes fell to the floor, unable to look into Deacon's own. Although he was never really able to. Damn sunglasses. But Preston wasn't able to perceive what he actually meant by that however...he really was just trying to understand him.

"What ever you say..." Preston said.

Their ears twitched as they heard more footsteps and stood there with hard grips on their selected weapons. There was an unknown emotion, one Preston couldn't describe but it was like, he felt like someone was watching, waiting...deliberately trying to drive them crazy. It made no sense to shoot them then run off.

"They feed off of fear." Deacon told him, as they went back to back.

There were several doors around them, lit up but the hallways that followed were awfully dark. Preston wouldn't have turned on a flash light in the jest of getting himself killed randomly.

"This isn't funny anymore. Never was. Whomever is doing this needs to just stop." Preston announced.

Deacon smirked.

"Yeah they're just gonna come out, apologise and offer us tea and biscuits. Then it turns out it's just warm nuka cola and snack cakes." He said with same jest.

Which way would they go though? In an area, deathly white, had no maps, no colour, no indication of the safest route to get out of.

"I think we should split up, we could find Delta faster that way." Preston suggested.

Deacon turned to him.

"Are you serious? We need to watch each other's backs." He said.

This amused Preston slightly, a curve forming on the side of his mouth as he kept his eyes peeled.

"Afraid of the dark Deacon?"

His facial expression contorted greatly at the accusation.

"How...no. I am the darkness! See these sunglasses? Not just for show. Allows me to see past it."

Preston just blinked. How did Delta put up with this guy?

"Uh yeah I'm sure. But what do we do though? We need an outlay map or something of the Institute. Since no one else has been here, who knows what we could bump into." He reminded him.

Deacon shrugged.

"Sicks obviously. But sly bastard managed to sneak away from us. How stupid we were into thinking he was actually on our side? Well not me personally. I could have killed him, if I had the chance. And a missile launcher." He admitted.

Not that he knew a greater deal about the Railroad, Preston only knew that Coursers meant business. Literally everyone did not like him and they were only forced to work with him due to Delta. If it wasn't for her, X6...well, X6 would have either killed everyone or if sheer tenacity pulled through (and luck), X6 would have been dead.

Delta better have a damn good explanation for all the running around.

Another click called them to attention as they immediately brought up their guns from the left side.

"The Classic Grim Reaper returns! Instead of a scythe you have a gun. And instead of bullets you have lasers. I'm thinkin' of a new comic book staring a Futuristic Grim Reaper." Deacon joked.

Was he always like this under duress?

They jumped out of the way as red flashes streamed everywhere. The people here seemed to have a mixture of weapons. Preston looked over to Deacon and saw blood splattered on the floor. The man had his hand over his shoulder and appeared to be in pain as they hid behind pillars.

"You alright?" Preston asked him.

"Nothin' a little stimpak can't fix. Stings like like a shot of straight up vodka." Deacon replied as he reloaded his gun.

A firefight ensured. Preston could not seem to sight them as every time he went around he saw nothing but pure darkness. Like Deacon had mentioned, they could have been using Stealth Boys.

Preston grunted in frustration as he would see the shots fired but never from their source.

"There once was a man named Preston; who looked like he was from the ol' western. His friend Deacon was shot, but Preston was not, so Deacon just said, 'use the damn fragsten!'" Deacon shouted at him. Now really wasn't the time but he did have a point...though the rhyme was horrible.

He'd pulled grenade out, then scanned around for any notable sign. Anything that indicated where their target was. Invisible targets weren't really a daily enemy, so Preston's heart raced as his eyes were entirely focused on just...anything! His hand pulled the pin and held it for a bit as he could have sworn he'd seen something out of the norm. Distorted movement was seen in the distance, so in that moment, Preston threw the grenade and shouted to Deacon to get down.

The explosion echoed briefly through the room they were in, as they relaxed slightly after it was set off. Dust fell from above, as Deacon used the time wisely to inject a stimpak. Preston listened in to any known noise, then quickly shuffled himself over to Deacon and squatted beside him. The pair nodded to each other in acknowledgement, with Preston peeking around the corner, hoping their quarry was down.

Sneaking around desks, benches and chairs, Preston navigated his way towards where the explosion was, which had left a huge black mark in its wake. A body laid there, still intact but marred from the grenade. Now they could get a proper look at it that defined their foe: Black bodysuit with a black metal armour...and a gas mask...with that notorious insignia that Deacon groaned at once he came to, shuffling by to have a look himself.

"Unless it's a coincidence, that may or may not have been the same type of soldier that took down Strong. If not, then the Institute's fashion designer may need a talking to." Deacon iterated, as he squatted down beside the corpse.

Preston wasn't sure what to make of it. They'd taken down an elusive foe. Problem laid in what they had feared earlier. How many more of them were out there?

"See if there's anythin' on 'em that could give us a clue; I'll be certain that we're not out of the woods yet." Preston warned him.

"Yup...there's a still a bear or more, after the damn honey. What is it with bears and honey?" Deacon replied, shuffling through the pockets of the fallen soldier.

Preston watched as Deacon stifled through and hoped he could find...just anything that would hint at their enemies agenda. Besides a broken Stealth Boy, he did find dog tags.

"What do you make of these?" Deacon asked him, as he threw him the dog tags.

His hand grasped onto the chains, then released his fingers as he had a better glimpse on them.

All that was written on them was D6-77.

"What's this mean anyway? D6-77? Looks like X6's name in structure. Are they related?" Preston wondered, ultimately curious about the similarities.

"That my friend is a synth's official name. When ever the Institute decide to give birth to yet another synth in their little brigade, they stamp 'em with a code name." Deacon explained.

Like cattle. These were no names...these were products. It was then Preston realised the extent of how horrible the Institute must have treated their creations...if he'd walked with synths to every day of his working life, he wouldn't have known.

"I'm starting to understand why you guys help them..." Preston told him as he frowned at the thought.

"But does that mean we're up against highly trained synths?"

Deacon stood up, with Preston giving back the dog tags. The Minuteman could see the confused look on the Railroad Agents face, meaning there was more than what he could possibly conceive.

"Yes and no. Weird though. Synths don't have dog tags. Go up to someone and go OH hi D6 is it? Oh you're a synth? How's that going for you? Is it just a weird cult like everyone says it is?" Deacon stated.

It'd be a while until Preston could ever hope to understand the complexity of the entire system.

At this very moment, he still felt anxious and puzzled. Deacon knew a lot more of the Institute, but Preston didn't mind. At least there were people who knew of the goings on than he did and that deserved respect. A lot of the settlers would share horror stories of synths and others...well now that Deacon had at least inserted an idea that the settlements could be invaded with these labeled ones...he wasn't entirely sure who to trust. Maybe he was ignorant or entirely blind to it. Nothing really ever went wrong internally despite minor mishaps and arguments that never really exploded into a worst case scenario. But any plans he had if and when he returned to the surface, would have to put on hold. Good enough for Preston to figure out how to produce his own, honest opinion on the matter.

"We should keep going. Don't wanna sit on one place for too long." Preston continued.

"You read my mind. Lead on." Deacon replied.

It was disappointing that Deacon had found little more than dog tags on the bodies, but they knew more than they did previously. They were definitely up against synths. Super sneaky and powerful synths. A frag did the trick but he only had so many on hand and using them inside posed incredible risks.


The next area was empty as well. Yet another room, but filled with drawers in rows, most likely filled with numerous documents and texts Preston was unlikely to understand, as well as broken down terminals with them. Unease filled the air once again, as noises were minimal, which made Preston feel a lot worse about their situation. Like they were being watched.

Ears rose at the sound of footsteps nearby. Another had entered the game with their mind-boggling tactics. Again, they needed to focus. Preston almost froze at the sound of multiple footsteps as he spun around frequently in different directions trying to find the source.

"Killing one spawned several more. Absolutely the one thing I needed today." Deacon commented.

"I ain't flying several frags if that's what you want..." Preston told him...the very idea was absurd.

"Nah it'd be waste and we'd end up more cooked then they would be. Shoot anything that moves...or anything that doesn't. Your call." The agent continued.

Preston's eye trailed down the barrel of his musket as they cautiously went around the room. Distortion had come up in his view as he fired the first shot in the many of their firefight.

The pair went back to back as they heard and saw their charges bounce off or hit several known targets as they moved about. Preston surprisingly became accustomed to the general signs of a Stealth Boy user and aimed and shot profusely until a blackened body hit the ground. They didn't realise until the last moment that they were in fact the middle of the room and shooting at the Paragon soldiers.

What disturbed Preston the most however, is that none of them even talked. Even when shot, none of them made any noise, especially on death. Kill or be killed...there is no between. Synths were...really robots after all.

"These are things pretending to be human?" Preston shouted at Deacon as he cranked his musket.

Deacon sighed.

"Don't tell me you've become a hater man? I'm happy to answer all as your Master, but his apprentice must wait until his current assignment is done, then we do the lecture."

The fight had gone on for some time, with fears that they would run out of ammo before long. They'd have to loot the Institute weapons of the fallen soldiers when they were done.

Eventually, the firing had stopped, leaving them able to catch their breath.

"Thank god! I was getting a cramp..." Deacon complained.

Preston shook his head and took a deep breath. They'd shuffled around the corpses once more, however, they both froze as they heard another set of footsteps...they looked at one another.

"More?" Preston whispered. They couldn't see them but...as Preston listened in, they were on the other side of the room.

"Their footsteps are...lighter?" Deacon muttered back.

"Shh...just..."

The pair hid underneath a desk each, namely the ones between the drawers, that were opposite each other. Preston shuffled further back, praying for his heartbeat to stop beating so hard while the footsteps were...slow, light like Deacon said. Their faces were at each other the entire time, but...they never even noticed as their ears were so busy being attuned to these odd feet.

His eyes disconnected as they wandered to the floor, his face scrunching as could hear another sound.

Were they humming?

The tune was hard to make out, but staying alive required all their focus as Deacon's face turned to down the other side of the room. Whom ever it was, they were coming down their aisle. Preston gulped and bit his lip. Shit.

They'd gone down in a slightly slow pace, as the light gave their shadow away. Preston covered his mouth as he noticed he'd begun to breath heavily...then jumped as a leg suddenly appeared in front of them. But...it was bare...with a red high heel...then another leg with it. It must have stood there for a while. It also looked like..she? Was it a she? Wore some kind of cape? Oh...

The humming gave it a way. A feminine hum that echoed throughout. They wandered forward past them, then knelt down near a Paragon and ripped it's dog tag off.

Preston and Deacon risked it as they moved their heads around as they got a better look. They could only see the back of them, namely, the black cape with the Paragon symbol imprinted in white, that came off some interesting pauldrons. The head was hard to make out, but from what little Preston could see, they were also wearing a gas mask. Next they'd took the dog tags off every soldier, from the sounds of it. The look on Deacon's face suggested he was just as confused as Preston with this strange...woman. It made his heart race all the faster. Why did he fear them so?


Given within the five or so minutes after they were done, they left the room without a word. He wondered when it was safe to move again. It was hard to say. It wasn't entirely comfortable underneath the desk, but it was a safe assurance they hadn't been found yet.

Deacon put a finger to his lips, then motioned his hand and nudged his head to the side to move again. They had to be extremely careful, as they left the enclosure of the desk and moved out, grabbed some rifles and left in a hurry into another area, all the while not speaking a word.

It was a bizarre and off putting experience, leaving Preston still transfixed on the ordeal. It wasn't over yet, but there were so many questions that still needed answering. Whether it was just from being savvy, but Preston somehow knew that must have been one of their leaders...or something like that.

The next room was empty, just another place filled with work benches and desks. Preston had put away his musket as he strapped it on his back and took the time to know the Institute rifle as they checked around for any valuable resource. He'd gone to one of the desks, finding a stimpak in it's drawers. He nodded as he put it away, only to see a gun pulled into his face.

"Woah...dude...it's just a stimpak..." He told him as he raised his arms.

Deacon's face barely showed any emotion as remained still with the gun in his hand.

"Why do I get the feeling you're one of them?" Deacon told him, his voice cold.

Preston furrowed his brows. Why was he acting strange all of a sudden?

"What? A synth? No why? How could you think that? After all we've been through?" He called out.

Deacon gripped the gun all the harder.

"Sorry Garvey...can't take that chance..."

Preston scrunched his eyes. He heard a gunshot, then felt something wet on his face. He reopened his eyes shortly after, though he didn't feel any pain...then saw a gaping hole in Deacon's forehead. His arm fell down, then right after, his entire body. He was then taken aback with the woman behind the pistol.

It was...her. She was wearing one of those rare to find red, glittering dresses, dog tags and armor on her arms, on top of ripped brownish gloves. And...just like the soldiers and just like before, a big black gas mask. Preston was left speechless, but then his face scrunched in anger.

"Satisfied with your kill?" Preston asked, in an awfully calm manner. Though deep down inside, an furious passion swirled within his core, like his beast had awoken...though he couldn't use it.

"Satisfied? Never. I'd rather you alive, Garvey." She spoke. Her voice echoed in the mask, but the tone was neutral and had an unusual allure to it.

He could kill her. At any moment he could bring up his weapon and at least try. Though she still had her pistol in her hand and would be definitely be quicker than him, much to his suspicion.

"Funny, I could have sworn those soldiers were trying to shoot me." He mocked. Looks like part of Deacon rubbed off on him, as he looked at the corpse briefly on the floor.

"Deacon was a threat. Pure and simple." She told him plainly. She wasn't satisfied, but she certainly didn't sound sorry about it.

The Minuteman just glared at her. All the anger, pointed towards this...woman that it had almost clouded his mind.

"What makes me you think aren't a threat too? I don't even know you and yet, why do I believe you're the one leading this strict group of soldiers hm? Like...I dunno, you could be the leader of the Paragons?" He roared at her, as the beast spilled from him briefly. Or maybe it was Deacon rubbing off on him. Someone had to fill in the banter.

The woman sighed and put away her pistol and crossed her arms.

"You're stuck in a whirlwind of controversy and it is not your fault. In this day and age, who can trust who? A war rages on in the Commonwealth and it might not be the one you're thinking of." She said in odd terms.

"It doesn't have to be that way, yet, time and time again I've seen the heartache of loved ones lost, people cheated and just the generic misery of human existence. Come with me Preston. I know you have a lot of questions as to the whys and hows of everything you've come to know."

It was a lot to think about. This woman just shot one of Delta's allies in the head and yet, in all of what he'd seen, Deacon seemed the most dedicated into bringing Delta back. But even Deacon himself made him question the loyalty of others, even those who's lives he helped save. Or not.

Maybe he hadn't done enough to save the Commonwealth. If Delta had truly passed, then who else was there to take up the mantle? This woman was right though. The Commonwealth, the world...was in a messed up state. He understood people getting by just to survive, but to what extent? When raiders come pillaging settlements they just want resources the only way they know how.

"I don't care if I have to die...just tell me...you're not the enemy here. Cause I'm sure as hell have no clue what is going on. If you're gonna explain..." Preston continued.

The woman rose her hand. Her body language pretty much stated she didn't like him saying that.

"Your work with the Minutemen is a valuable commodity. We need leaders who just want things to just be and will be willing to work hard enough to protect a way of life that's worth living for. I know you're sick and tired of all that work being nuked down the drain. Our work is your work." She worded.

Part of Preston knew better. All of this...just didn't feel right. Though he looked at Deacon...a man he barely knew yet was notorious for lying. How many falsehoods had been drilled into his ears already?

"Gotta funny way of showin' it." Preston commented. "I don't even know your name."

There was an awkward moment of silence that followed that made Preston feel strange.

The woman lifted her head.

"I'm the CO of the Paragons but you can call me Commander." She responded.

Preston rose an eyebrow.

"Right...right...Commander..." He muttered, perplexed.

She chuckled.

"I'm not at liberty to point out all of our secrets. As Paragons, we lead by example. We bare no name but role in our league. It's better not to question that...unless it's important."

Still, Preston did not feel at ease at all.

"So the synths you work with then; all labeled as strange code names? Like the ones the Institute gives?" He pointed out.

Judging from her slightly slouched stance, she was amused. It was sad he didn't know more from what Deacon was...or wasn't going to tell him. He'd learned a lot in such a short time.

"Don't worry the Institute is long gone. In their place, we stand above their ashes, reborn. Though that's really dust, rubbish and random debris so I'm sorry it's a bit of a mess at the moment but I assure you we're working on it, as well as it's kinks as we discover more of their interesting toys. But I promise you, we will put them to good use. So..." She said with pride.

Preston watched as she leant out of her hand. Soft, white with delicate fingernails. He eyed her closely.

"It would make all of our lives a lot easier if you did indeed join us. You can have full use of our facilities...those you find that might be of some use to the surface you're free to take up...unlike those Institute morons. I can teach you so much and even give you your own equipment! We'd have to go through all the rules and regulations, yadda yadda yadda..."

The decision weighed heavily upon him. So much left to the unknown and that the rage factor boiling within him had nowhere to go but to subside. This...Commander was just in the clouds of secrecy just as the Institute was. Then again, so was the Railroad, from the sounds of it...

If it was to save the people above...and maybe he could use them to find Delta.

"I don't have to wear a gas mask do I?" Preston asked.

She laughed and shook her head. Part of that laugh disturbed him somewhat.

"No no...you're not a Paragon Soldier. You're going to be you. And only, you. The only way we're going to work is to let people be themselves. Without harming each other of course. Then otherwise, don't be yourself."

The Commander was placing a whole lot of faith in him. Strangely, with each sentence, her voice became much more assuring, to his dismay. How? He couldn't say. Part of him relaxed, but another told him this was a definite trap. Or was it his anxiety? To play along could be an option, to see how far he'd go until she thought he was a nuisance that needed to be put down. Her goal was noble on the surface, but there was still far too much left in the dark to go on and it still chewed him up inside. If he could save lives, sure. He was no investigator like Nick Valentine, where ever he showed up. Preston could really use his expertise right now. Though we no one to turn to, as well as his life at risk and the fact that Delta had yet to be found, he relented and took her hand.

"Sign me up... but no funny stuff." He told her.

He suddenly felt ill to the words...as he could sense her smiling underneath that gas mask.

Chapter Text

 

A sunny day in the Commonwealth could herald anything. Monsters could attack in the day as well as the night. At least ones vision wouldn't be compromised. Unless their local solar resource would happen to could a type of impairment, but that was irrelevant.

Whether it was to fight off the hordes of what ever was told of him. The usual suspects would come to play. Everyday he'd walk out of the Police Station, clad in his power armour and mentally prepared for the challenges over the horizon. What ever they may be.

Some of the challenges were easy. Some...required a bit more nerve and cunning to get through. Namely, individuals. Killing was easy when it was something that was considered the scum of existence. A world born of beasts and men with nothing in between. But when you come across the darker, extruded pathways that made you question your beliefs, Danse came to wonder...which was he?

Beasts didn't have to be vicious. They just had to be considered inhuman, devoid of feeling and parasites of society that needed to put down before they could do more harm.

Part of Danse tried to balance the emotional capacities of his own feelings, deeming them unimportant and actually quite troublesome when it came to critical thinking.

"Normal ghouls aren't that bad once you get to know them..." Delta told him.

The pair were on route to one of a few various locations that required purging, with guns in hand, walking down the open roads on a gentle like day. Danse didn't understand a lot of what Delta conceived as part of Brotherhood Regulations. She came to respect him, Rhys...(despite his harsh view on Delta) and she especially got along well with Haylen. Elder Maxson was an odd encounter but nonetheless she did what she was supposed to and that was all that was really required to ensure the Elder deemed her an exemplary soldier, one whom all could aspire to be.

"What if they turn feral? There's a malignant issue with letting those things wander around like that." He responded in kind.

The hate to fuel the flames of his inherent passion. However, Delta's viewpoints always seemed to clash. Working with ghouls was an insult, an abhor way of thinking. Partially they'd take down ferals occasionally, keep the Commonwealth clean. But they'd come across ghouls occasionally, like those of the settlements Delta assists (and insists) with looking after. Danse really didn't have the patience or tolerance to deal with that and often remained mute on those encounters.

"They're not like synths Danse. They don't even try to hide who they are. They're just trying to make do like the rest of us. In a way they know they're not entirely human...but it doesn't mean they weren't born as one." Delta continued.

Every ghoul was human at some point. But they needed to be put our their misery. How could they deal with such a life as such? Knowing what they had become.

"You don't see them as a burden?" He asked her.

She chuckled. Delta was a melting pot of assorted goods all wrapped in one. She could fight, but she room for a nature that contained humour, a gentleness, a kindness whisked up in viciousness, tact, cunning, efficiency and dedication. To a fault.

"Some of them may be even worthy of joining the brotherhood. The amount of ass they can kick is just as good as any normal human could kick." She replied.

Danse just rose an eyebrow.

"It's not the amount of kicking one's posterior that worries me. It's whether they'll take the opportunity to corrupt others...their radiation levels are something we cannot risk." He warned.

The Vault Dweller rolled her eyes.

"Oh so that's how it is. Heh...things never change...even several hundred years later." She commented.

The fact that she was well over two centuries old still dumbfounded him occasionally. A perfectly preserved human from before the war. Fresh and untainted. It was lucky for the Brotherhood to even grab such a specimen. Like all, curiosity would always bite when it came to relevancies such as pre-war knowledge.

"You had ghouls in your time?" He wondered.

The woman shook her head.

"Not that I know of personally. I actually mean prejudice was ripe. The tensions between all the parties at play...when I saw the bomb go off I knew..." She replied.

Danse looked at her eyes as they went dull. Her face fell. The Paladin knew that expression well enough. A lot of well-worn soldiers wore it...

"I can't even imagine what you went through. You don't talk about it much." Danse noted.

She suddenly snapped back and turned to him, her eyes hardened yet...

"There's not much to tell that you already know. Husband. Dead. Son. Taken. Frozen for a few hundred years. On the hunt of said son. Almost like an interesting story." She said, rather with a lot of exasperation.

"What about the end?" He inquired, the beast of curiosity taking another bite.

Delta looked forward into the distance.

"Dunno just yet. Still a lot to consider as to what note to end it on." She replied.

Danse nodded. Some people never really had much choice.

"Looking for a happy one?"

No reply as she kept on walking. Part of that worried Danse greatly. Delta had a habit of dodging a lot. Everyone had their own goals in life. Hers just to happened to be to find a way to bring her son back. Everything in between was obscured and overshadowed. He hated to not be able to differentiate.

The Commonwealth...and the Wasteland in general, never really had it's stories end in a positive note. You expected something bad to have happened and eighty percent of the time you're guaranteed to have it end badly, what ever would warrant the course of action to anything even remotely happy. It just meant you had to work harder.

They suddenly stopped as Delta looked into the sky as birds flew over. Danse was enamored with the way the light reflected on her emerald eyes. What they would seen back before everything went to hell in a hand basket...

His brows furrowed in confusion as he heard a lot of squawking from above. A whole flock of birds had been circling them. Danse pulled out his laser rifle just in case, but Delta seemed entranced by the suspicious display. He had to have been paranoid but something about it just felt off.

"I stood at the edge of the world's end, tipped over to neither side. I woke up to no sovereignty, but the rotten corpse of society. I walked over bones, ashes and rust. The decay was always there...it took an artist to finally create that vision." Delta muttered, much to Danse's perplexing thoughts on the text.

"Is that a quote?" He pondered.

Delta hardly budged as the birds continued to circle her.

"I know where I finally stand. Heh...took me a while to get it. I can't do anything but sit and watch as the embers continue to flicker. There isn't any hope left; long gone since there was any. The only way to save anyone..."

What in the world was she talking about? This wasn't like her. Not at all.

Worst of all, that smile of hers...it creeped him out more than it once comforted him, made him feel warm and valued. Now...

"You feeling alright? You're talking nonsense. Want me to get someone to check you out? I'm certain someones slipped you a chem." Danse announced.

Her giggles sent chills down his spine. Danse normally wasn't afraid. No...he didn't understand. He couldn't. The birds suddenly multiplied within the last few moments, which made him fearful for his own situation. He wanted to grab Delta and run far, far away from here...what ever was going on was definitely not right and within that current moment he was proven correct, as the birds, out of no sense at all, dived down on her all at once. The screeching was unbearable as he tried to shoot them off of her to no avail, worried that he was actually shooting at her instead.

"DELTA!"


He shot up in a cold sweat. It took the Paladin a moment to gather his surroundings. His heart was heavy as he tried to get his breath back, his lungs desperate for air. It was just a bad dream.

The room was small, but brightly lit room with white walls and a blue floor. Surprisingly clean in this day and age. Looking down, he was on a bed, clad in white clothes. His power armour was no where to be seen, causing to almost panic. Danse willed himself to be calm and went through various thought processes as to what he could remember.

A dark figure and random sting to the neck was the last patches of memory he had before waking up. So he'd come to the conclusion he must have been knocked out and whomever the dark figure was, was at least kind enough to leave him alive with fresh, clean clothes, namely another jumpsuit that was half white and half grey. It was rather unusual, to be there like that.

He pulled the sheet off the bed, swung his legs around and got back on his feet. There was barely anything else in the room sans a generic set of drawers. He quickly scoped through them, then became disappointed when he couldn't find anything of use or anything to have at least given him a wider scope of his situation. Once at the door, he couldn't open it, no matter how hard he tried. It annoyed him greatly that he didn't have the smarts like Haylen that could have opened it.

Calling for help didn't do him any better either. No one listened, no one responded. It was just him in this room, for no apparent reason. Danse wasn't defenceless, he could still fight with hand to hand combat, though having a gun would at least up his chances of survival. It just aggravated him more than he literally do anything but stay isolated in this tiny little place, waiting for anything.

The waiting wouldn't kill him, just...it gave Danse to think and to listen to nothing but his own thoughts. It was literally the only thing he could do.

Thinking too much touched base with old, discarded and unwanted memories. Sitting down on a nearby chair, his mind wandered on it's own and reached out to that which he'd rather forget...and those he remembered fondly...


They'd slept the night at one of the settlements. Danse wasn't entirely keen with resting alongside the wastelanders, fearful that one of them could end up killing him. Or an attack from the common ill's of the Commonwealth would wrest their peacefulness. Delta said it had happened a lot. Danse wasn't the least surprised.

"I'm not entirely impressed of these pitiful defences." Danse called out. He was brutally honest at times but he felt it was necessary.

The pair hung around in front of a fire in the dwindling hours of the night, Delta sitting down with a bottle of gwinnett stout in her hand as she leaned back. Danse refused to get out his Power Armour, a fact Delta always chastised him for.

"Don't you feel incredibly sweaty inside that thing?" She asked him.

The jumpsuit provided excellent insulation. But again, didn't really stop absolutely everything, especially the chafing.

"Trading comfort for safety has a priority." He responded in his usual serious tone.

Delta smirked and downed her drink. She had a more relaxed attitude outside of anything Brotherhood related. Danse would take the time...if he had time to chill. She'd insisted multiple times to let him just be.

"Worried a bit of down time might make you slack?" She mocked.

He shook his head.

"No. I'm just more worried about being prepared at all times." He answered.

The woman rose an eyebrow.

"For goodness sake you come out of the suit to sleep. You should be well-trained enough to know that if we're end up being attacked, the first noise of gun-fire, your instinct should be get in the armour and shoot. You don't even have to have it that far from you." She pointed out.

She didn't have to tell him what he already knew. Danse's soldier structure required him to remain battle-ready at all times. Any kind of "lax" behaviour just felt unacceptable. But looking at Delta made him feel a tad jealous he wasn't able to afford to "just be" as she'd put it.

"The Brotherhood of Steel is the same as of the armies of my time. Gun-ho and no show." She told him.

Having a military basis was important. It required tenacity, discipline and dedication, as well as loyalty and tactical abilities. You'd have a long service and life if you'd pursued these traits and welcomed them. Without such restraints, you'd be nothing more than the vile, disgusting monsters that laid in the Wasteland.

"Then why stay in the Brotherhood if you think of them in such low standards?" He queried.

Delta placed the bottle on the ground, then sat back and rested her hands on her stomach.

"I'll believe in a cause if it works for a good reason. I'm all for taking down ferals and synths...that's not the issue. I understand all the necessary requirements that might make a good soldier. Emphasis on might. The longer you're in this...mode as you call...the longer you have the inability to see how much you've changed. You've become what you've always hated."

A monster?

"You're talking about Elder Maxson?" He assumed.

Delta just shrugged.

"Maybe. Maxson's hatred has the potential to blind him. I'll follow the orders he gives within good intentions. I've yet to get anything that might give my morals a good kick in the ass. I see it in him though...in his eyes."

Maxson did have his flaws but no one in their right mind would dare disobey an order. The Brotherhood acknowledged as a welcomed leader with good history to back it up. The Brotherhood had achieved so much so far and they were getting closer to achieving their goals because of him and those who follow orders to the letter.

"I don't understand how this connects to me though." He admitted, notably puzzled.

Delta rolled her eyes as she stood up and approached him. She was obviously shorter than him while he was in his suit but the way she looked up at him. Those strong, eyes and stern mouth.

"Call it the mother in me reaching out to you; You're a good person Danse and I know it. I just...fear you're going to grow further into something you shouldn't be...you just give the impression that you just need a bit of TLC."

As he stood there, staring back at her, she took her hand and cupped his cheek, and caressed it, just like a mother would. She wasn't wrong about that part...though he wasn't a child. She then took her hand back, then wandered off to one of the free shacks to rest for the night.


Danse still recalled the warmth of her touch. Part of him was still troubled over her words. She held concern for him like she did over her the wastelanders. Why she would still care for them and scum was beyond him, though partially through her influences, he begun to understand why.

A larger conflict flamed up inside, making him question everything he knew so far. He's fought alongside dozens of soldiers both living and dead and they never raised any matters outside of their scope. Though since travelling with Delta, complex thought patterns arose. It didn't affect him at first though given the time spent travelling, but given time and experiences they shared, she'd managed to nail ideas into his head. It wouldn't entirely convince him, but it made sure he went out there with both eyes open.

Once he'd got himself out of that state of memories, he focused on trying to escape. There could be dozens of reasons why they forced him in there and he'd get them all wrong, going from past incidents. Being a PoW was a common occurrence as Danse put in all effort from his training days.

Firstly, he could get in contact with his captor to understand where he was and why he was there, that he would formulate a plan to escape. Most say collateral damage would be inevitable but with intel intact, he would abandon all pacts to race back to back to Brotherhood to figure out what was going on.

But...going from what he heard from the holotape. Maxson couldn't be dead. They could have made up some kind of tactic to whittle down his confidence and morale. A way to weaken him and possibly by extension, the Brotherhood. So if Danse could survive long enough to escape, he would continue to examine his situation carefully.

Delta was a priority, but in that sense, despite previously pooling in with the others and the fact he tried to do so with the Brotherhood as well, the search itself would warrant him to work with others he could trust all-knowingly. It was just like Cutler all over again. Danse dreaded to think if Delta suffered the same fate, if not worse.

A knock on the door snapped Danse to reality. He watched as the door opened, revealing a familiar face.

"Synth..." Danse muttered in spite, standing up against the leather-clad individual.

"Should have known this was going to happen."

X6 remained still, a reminder of why Danse hated Synths so much.

"A betrayal? No. Not our intentions. The Commander simply wanted to keep you safe."

The Paladin rose an eyebrow.

"Keep me safe by imprisoning me? A quite ironic statement...and this Commander...your superior officer?"

The synth had all the exterior hallmarks for a human, but his nature was clear enough to say anything but.

"They are aware that it seems confusing. They also said to say they are are not Institute. Far from it. You would also not believe it, no matter how many times we'd have to convince you." He continued.

Fury boiled within him, souring his mood greatly.

"Their expectations are accurate. I'll need confirmation that this is correct; as there is no other reason I should trust you besides your connection to Delta." Danse continued.

X6 bowed his head.

"Yes. All I need to say is there is a hidden war, born from the ashes of the Institute. What side you are on will be determined if you're willing to aid us."

The only war Danse's ever known is what ever group the Brotherhood have decided to wage it against. Anything that comes out of the Institute would have bad blood with them because of it.

"You think that I'm going to join your group out of some necessity? What part of no do you not understand? The words of a synth are like poison." Danse called out.

To Danse's words, X6 remained silent and scarcely affected by a notion. Danse already knew that he was hiding something, like they usually do; it came as no surprise.

"A common perception. The Commander understands the obstinate headed Paladin would hardly budge. So they've allowed me to take you around the place to try and convince you. They had hoped it wouldn't come to at least try and get you to see reason but in the end, you've given us no real choice." X6 continued. Danse swore it sounded like he had attempted to sound sad in those words. Key word; attempted.

"Around the place? Here? How about I take you down first...then maybe I'll speak to your Commander myse- AHH"

A shock flowed throughout his body as Danse writhed on the floor in pain, feeling the electric pulses up to his fingertips and toes. He then inhaled deeply as the shock subsided, coughing and spluttering as he got off the ground from the haphazard attack, coming back from the initial strike.

"It's disappointing you're meeting all of our expectations at this point Paladin. I would suggest going against your instinct and just listen. You might live longer." X6 pried out.

He knew he was okay, but the amount of anger that swelled within him could barely be contained.

"You foresaw my own rebelling nature. What, did you steal my psyche profile or something?" He asked, curious.

"It's called observation. It's what we do." X6 answered.

Synths were known to do that, to Danse's dismay and previous knowledge. This group really had themselves prepared for him, he hated to admit. But it didn't mean he was going to bow to them completely.

"You think that I'm going to submit to you after that? Perhaps you need to observe more." He told them, his tone strong and firm.

X6, as always, remained motionless and unaffected.

"We do not ask for total submission. Just an understanding. I suspect however, knowing wholeheartedly, that your general reactions to obviously confounding evidence to the contrary, may affect your outlook. The Commander asked me to put you on a short leash for a reason."

Great, now he was nothing but a dog to them. Danse had never felt more degraded and humiliated. How could this get any worse?

"Given you've already shown power over me with your aforementioned leash, I'll allow you to show me what you have. Just don't get into your head that this is something I'm going to be agreeing with."

X6 nodded.

"Good to know. Now. Follow me."


He trailed the Courser out of the room into a hallway. A brightened corridor alongside two other blackened individuals. He eyed them closely. Part of their image, namely their gas masks, piqued into his mind. They were unsettlingly tall and they weren't even in power armour, though close to the description that Deacon told them about.

X6 lead them down the hallways but it was...unsettling to hear nothing besides their own footsteps and armour clanking about. No one said a word. A soldier stood in silence out of respect and discipline, though part of him expected banter at least. No. The chill of the dreaded quiet void ran up his spine.

They came to an elevator that took them to a lower level.

"This only came up in the last month or two. We weren't allowed as synths to ever come down here. But as the Commander herself discovered it, the truth was forced out into the open." X6 explained. Though it would have been Danse just over-thinking it, he swore that X6 himself felt unnerved by even mentioning it.

"So the Institute were clandestine with their experiments, even to their own. This is what you get when you deal with untrustworthy supervisors." Danse clamoured, albeit not really keen himself.

Once they arrived, Danse felt a chill in the air. The drop of temperature was similar to that of Vault 111...then he saw why...

They passed through rooms that had rows of cryogenic chambers identical that of Vault 111's. Eight in each room with four on each side with a path split in the middle and each chamber had it's own little pad and at the end of the room, were small steps to lead up to a desktop with a single terminal. For every room he passed, he caught a glimpse of a person inside, their faces obscured, but even such little shots made Danse fell slightly ill. It made him a bit anxious as to what X6 was bringing him to. But down here was heavily guarded by these 'soldiers.', supposedly the Paragons, from what Danse could assume by checking out the emblems they wore.

He remained vigilant and psyched himself up to prepare for what ever they had in store. What could they possibly show him that they had unofficially deemed startling? X6 never said it was such, though from body language alone told Danse enough to sense it, to prove something. It was uncertain, but it just had to be that. With such vigilance, he required the patience of a sniper, to truly determine his routes.

As such they stopped abruptly as were outside one of the rooms, with X6's head falling down. He then lifted it up, then turned to Danse, looking at him for a brief moment, then looked to his side, away from the path.

"We're here."

Danse furrowed his brows as he looked down the room. He took one last look at X6 who refused to even show a shred of emotion but...even so, Danse could feel something emanating from him...though indeterminable. With one foot in front of the other, Danse walked passed each of the pods, until the last one on the left caught his eye.

He rubbed fogged glass to better look at it. Black hair, stern face and...

Danse stepped back. No. No it couldn't.

"This...you made a synth of me?" He cried out, becoming furious.

X6 walked up to him slowly.

"No. He's your original. They all are originals. Every single person here...taken from the surface and synth copies made."

Conflicted emotions flooded his body. That...that was impossible. The man inside the...chamber was him? It made no sense.

"How do I know you're not falsifying this?" He roared, unable to believe anything the Courser would say.

"I could kill you right now and take out the Component to show it to you, like every gen 3 synth has, but killing you would defeat the purpose of this exercise. The only proof you need is staring at you." X6 said coolly.

Danse turned back at looked at himself. It seemed. Too surreal. It was like looking into a mirror.

It just reminded him of his trader days...he just looked so...youthful...this...didn't happen just now like they were definitely toying with him. Just from the face alone he could tell. As well as the clothes he wore, black jacket on top of a white shirt and jeans. He hadn't worn anything like that in years.

"I..." The only word that could ever manage to escape from his mouth, as his mind ran a million thoughts at once.

"I'm not under orders to do so, but I can seek to release him from the pod if necessary. To prove a point. I can give as much evidence as you need...just how much would you need to see the ultimate truth?" The Courser asked him.

The Paladin fell to the ground. So much disbelief swirled within him, as he looked up at it. Right now he felt like a machine too, as every conceivable function seemed to shut down.

"I don't think I really want to know how...I want to know...why?" Danse choked out, unable to gather strength to get off the ground.

"The secret of the Institute is just that. How is not the hard part to figure out. Why is the end question that nobody ever seems to know. All I know from your records is that your real name is M7-97." X6 revealed.

It was getting harder and harder to get air into his lungs, as he clutched his chest and scrunched his eyes. It was getting too much...it was akin to getting shot in the face. Except...worse.

"I don't...he doesn't deserve this. He should..." Danse stammered.

A black hand covered his shoulder as Danse turned his head to it. He then smacked it off...not wanting the Courser's pity...he then noticed water dripping from his face. Tears.

"Careful. Don't strain yourself. Not everyone get's the opportunity to see this. Not every synth has survived this long to understand." X6 continued.

His training...his own teachings screamed at him...

The visions came to him. Kneeling with his hands behind his head with his steel eyes drilled in the ground with all-knowing of the ultimate out come, located at the front deck of the Prydwen with Elder Maxson, standing right behind him with a gun against the back of his skull. No exceptions, he would mutter in such a distasteful way...but the image warped...the vision was different. It wasn't the Elder. He would...he wouldn't do it himself. Not outright. Who would it be..

The vision blurred Maxson away, replaced by another figure. The woman in blue. She had the gun in her hand. It wasn't raised but it was by her side, with the safety off. Danse couldn't see her face, but she imagined it would be one with as just disgust as Maxsons. He taught her to hate...and to fight with the hatred of a nuclear beast.

What would she say? After all has been said and done...would she still pull the trigger for what he was?

No...he couldn't...he didn't know. Instead, he took a deep breath and tried to compose himself. A hand slapped on to something to grip as Danse slowly rose up to exchange glances with X6, his entire manner restricted just as he's. A soldier had to continue to fight onwards, no matter the cost.

"You would free him?" Danse asked him, without pause or pain.

X6 bowed his head.

"The Commander believes in freedom for all. No one deserves to be unfairly imprisoned. Though, would they be able to accept it? What if they're all released...they return and see their synth counterpart...their real selves Some know their role...some don't. It would risk far too much bloodshed, confusion and distrust. While the Institute would favour much of that, as per previous expeditions. The Commander...does not."

It was still far too hard for Danse to swallow it all. At worst, his headache decided to return, prompting him to rub his left temple with his thumb.

"Your Commander thinks themselves above everyone else. Maybe worse than what the Institute could manage I can't say. I'd just be more than a disgrace and a machine to the Brotherhood by this point. So I'll assume you're actually not giving me much choice to decide on where I want to go with this...blackmail is not something I deal with often. But tell me, Courser...despite everything you've shown me and told me...you've still given me no reason to trust you. We headed down here to find clues on Knight Delta's disappearance, instead you give me...you give me this..." He told him out right, pointing towards the Danse in the pod.

X6, as always, was unaffected.

"I never said our original goal wasn't the point here...only...the reaffirm what I told you earlier. That we are here to protect you." He replied, in his usual, monotone way.

The edge of Danse's mouth twitched with annoyance as he approached X6, closing in his face with his, causing the two Paragons to walk forward, only for X6 to raise his arm and hand to caution them back.

"How do I know that? How do I know if anything you've told me so far has the slightest amount of truth in it? You're not confirming anything to me! How much bullshit do I have to go through before anything clear, definite and indisputable comes to the surface! TELL ME!" Danse roared into his face, with fierceness of the creature within.

X6 lifted his chin.

"We can either return you to your cell, where we can forget we even had this conversation...and you can mope into your own little world of pretending everything is...how people say, right as rain. I kill this...'Danse'. Is it the original? Or is it a synth replica? Who's to say what's the right answer...then we continue with our work unabated, one soldier less. OR...or we can move forward. What's it going to be?"

Danse growled and hesitated for a moment, before headbutting X6 and taking his weapon, much to the Coursers surprise. To Danse's instinct he ran, while he heard gunfire behind him as he sprinted down the corridor, hearing X6 shouting at the soldiers. He took cover behind drawers as he fought them off but to what he avail he wasn't sure if he was hitting anyone, but he took the opportunity every time they reloaded to run further down the endless stream.

He panted as he pressed on the button to the elevator at the nd desperate to find anywhere that would take him back up the surface. This was...foolish, running down here without having any damn idea what was going to happen. They'd all been played in a wild goose chase that just ended up making Danse feel more miserable than he'd originally been.

Holding on the institute rifle tight, he aimed at the doors, as if expecting one of the soldiers in there. As the doors open he'd fully prepared himself to open fire...but a flash of red made him give pause and a gaping mouth at the vision he didn't expect.

It started with the red heels, with the seemly white legs, then up higher was the red dress, pauldrons with what appeared to be a cloak then to her arms a brown tattered gloves underneath the armour on her arms, then towards the top a black gas mask that covered her whole head.

She strode towards him slowly, her hands strongly by her sides. Her fists were lightly clenches but she had a type of strut as Danse pulled the rifle's end towards her. She seemed almost taller than him if he had to be honest.

Her head tilted downwards, examining the weapon, before shaking her head, as if...disappointed.

She snatched the gun away from him, much to his consternation and utter surprise at how this woman held so much power over him without him even trying. She simply threw it to the floor, as Danse hopelessly watched it spin around to a stop as it hit a nearby wall.

Dread filled his veins at this point. He wasn't sure what to do. Perhaps only realising he made a terrible mistake. Before he even got to open his mouth to explain, her right arm shot out, wrapping her hand and curling her finger around his neck. Danse's reflex was to at least loosen the grip, but his eyes almost popped out of his head as she picked him up with such minimal effort and took him to the wall behind him and slammed him against it. Her clasp around his neck tightened as he choked. Like X6, she barely moved as she watched him wiggle about, trying to wrench himself free from her unbelievably strong hand.

It gave Danse time to look at her. There wasn't much to look at besides the gas mask that covered her entire head, though tried to imagine the stare she was giving him at this moment. A glare? A smile? What the hell...was she?

She'd pulled something from behind her. A 44' pistol from the looks of it. Not Institute material obviously.

"If you..you want to kill me...just do it already. I'm not up for these theatrical shenanigans anymore!" Danse squeezed out.

Weirdly enough, she dropped him, but remained close...then felt her put the gun into his hands, but she never let go of it, only lightly holding the end of the barrel. Danse watched as the woman achingly rose the barrel and Danse's hand slowly, towards what must have been her forehead. Then she curled her fingers around it. It was very perplexing for Danse to witness such quaint behaviour.

"If you want to kill me. Just do it already." She echoed in response, her voice distorted by the mask.

Temptation sprung up before him as he caught hold of the weapon and put his index finger to the trigger. Continuing to look at her with a lowered expression. He could do it. He should do it.

But why wasn't he?

"Paladin Danse of the Brotherhood of Steel. A beloved figure...so sworn to taking down vermin across the Commonwealth. How does it feel knowing you're that which you hate so much?" She asked him.

Fuck. He grunted in frustration as how much he just wanted to explode but...he still couldn't pull the trigger. What was stopping him?

"You've shown me nothing more that I already haven't seen. I've heard enough from your Courser. You're just as bad as the Institute ever was!" He called out.

She chuckled...but it wasn't just any chuckle. It sounded...seductive.

"Oh Danse you're funnier than Deacon sometimes. Let me tell you something...Paladin..." She started to mock, as she literally ripped the weapon from his hands again, without effort, and started to twirl it on her finger as she paced around the room...once more leaving him stunned for words.

"The Brotherhood, from my research, held noble goals. Goals that one could aspire to. That changed when Elder Maxson came into control. Then it became nothing more than to burn anything down that wasn't considered human...even to that which thought it was human. I understand feral ghouls...I understand Super Mutants...normal ghouls like Hancock fight for the rights of his people. Originally human but turned for the sake of being an example. Super Mutants? Few show redemption besides perhaps the one you call...Strong I believe? Maybe their vicious tendencies could be curbed somehow?"

Danse's eyes widened. This was disgusting...but it then made him remember.

"Then your people shot Strong. He was bringing valuable intel...you..."

Oh no...

"You know what he was up to...you know don't you?"

The woman stopped twirling her gun and halted in her tracks.

"...I never ordered that. Hmm...though it does explain why I can no longer track him on the surface. I suspect that's what happened. I'll leave the grievances for later...but..." She rescinded.

He grew tired of tiptoeing around...he wanted the truth.

"You're looking for her as well, aren't you?" Danse asked abruptly.

The woman crossed her arms.

"Hm? Oh the one you call Delta? Heh yeah. I realised as X6 came down here and made me realise we're all on the same page in what we're really after. Which is why I brought you down here in the first place." She replied.

What? After all that nonsense?

"You could have saved time by saying that." Danse pointed out, quite irritated in discovering this new piece of information.

"Sorry...but I wanted you to see. I have a habit of making things far more complex than they need to be. But it's justifiable. Truth is never truth until you full experience the reality of the situation. The Institute is gone and in their place lies the Paragons. Our truth lays in setting an example for all!"

All that he could respond to that in kind ended up having Danse just roll his eyes at it. Again with the unwanted dramatics. Though he partially made the connections.

"You think Delta's the one to set that example?" He wondered.

She shrugged.

"Perhaps. With the Hidden War in it's infancy I suspect she still has her part to play. I will need your help however. I just need you to know this involves the Brotherhood...I do not wish to kill more than I need to. You care much about it. Those in it. Like Haylen-"

Her name triggered a response in him that made him want to punch her, but he refrained...

"You better not do anything to hurt her!" He told outright.

A shake of a head, was all that was really needed.

"I'm not going to touch her unless it's completely necessary. Even so, she's not really needed for my plans anyway."

Finally, something good...for what it was at this point. Though from the sounds of it, Haylen would be the least of his worries.

"So what's your plan?" He inquired.

That chuckle of hers really gave him odd feelings. Whether it was just something so wrong about it or not...he couldn't tell. Danse watched as she walked over and grabbed his hand, rubbing her thumb over the back of it.

"Relax Paladin...relax...my dear child... I'm still making some preparations. Just come with me...I will ensure your safety." She told him.

"Feel free to call me Commander."

This was wrong...

Very wrong...

Chapter Text

 

In accordance to most missing persons cases he's ever undertaken, whether him personally or something gauged in memory lane, this was one of the strangest.

Old cases like the Paragon case especially, had taken him down a darker street, complete with blinking street lights, dark, cloudy skies with the scent of tobacco and alcohol in the air. All sorts of nasty, disgusting scum that roamed the city in its entirety. Dealing in God knows what...but it was always the same with people who want to taste of power, to let others know who's boss.

Instead of traversing the streets, it was in a darker alley, left underground. Far from the dwells of the surface. He wouldn't remember what went on, but like the majority, you knew it wouldn't have been too good anyway. Even Nick's memories from Prewar were more vivid than what ever the hell went on down here.

Another hallway. Though well-lit, it had evidence of being clean until recently. The dust was minor and the floor looked well-intact, save for the fallen tables and trashed desks. Any trace of the work that went on down here, no matter how large or small, appeared to have either been moved or destroyed. Nick had a suspicion it was both for parts of it; what ever did happen down here, definitely did not want anything to remain or be found.

He held onto his gun tightly, as his glowing yellow eyes scanned the room for anything relevant...besides the doors nearby. His artificial gut was telling him more than he could anticipate in regards to the Institute...thus far. It was by every nook and cranny of this place that didn't make him nervous, rather, it made him see it as alien in nature. They weren't chislers like Raiders or Gunners...they were skilled eggheads that just had their own unique way of causing trouble.

Before they'd left, Nick had to ensure anything he'd left behind was taken care of, especially Ellie. Though given that he'd come back from far worse, he wasn't sure if even Delta could get him out of a jam like this. She'd pulled off the impossible before. To her, perhaps this wouldn't be any different.

He liked the fact that she wasn't entirely brutal in nature, rather to use words to convey. That's how people of the old days did deals. In a world of dimwits and bad hats, it was nice to see a person who refreshed him on the way things should have been. You'd be foolhardy to believe absolutely everyone was decent, though you'd hope they would have some light in their hearts, no matter how dark they were.

It was the beast of the Commonwealth that often got it's dirty claws into people. It forces people to change. It took a lot for Nick to hate people; you just had to push the right buttons to make him do so, such as being just a downright piece of junk that had no qualms about the horrible things they did.

Nerves, or those the Institute substituted for nerves, wasn't part of Nick's current dilemma regarding where he was. He never got the feel of familiarity like he did on the surface. Everywhere seemed clean and perfect...that perfection would only ever be skin deep. As part of his wandering process in the dreaded silence, it forced him to recollect old events. Even synth brains were designed to make your mind wander...


2075. The Paragon Trials. The Court room was filled with your typical group of lawyers and all else. Nick had read up up to date details that were given to him regarding the mess they made. Everyone was dressed in suits, their tongues waggling in big words of the law, making it seem a structured script that they would read to relay their point. Never caring for such a thing, Nick sat with the Prosecutor, a middle-aged man with nicely styled brown hair, as they pointed out evidence to the case to the Judge on the other side of the stage, looking down upon the case in direct scrutiny.

It was about dead women and children, caught up in their acts of violence. Their names. And a small bottle of BR-210.

He looked over to Nate, sitting there with blank eyes. Definitely unfocused and inattentive to the situation, while his lawyer did all the talking. It made Nick have chills by just looking at him briefly as he crossed his arms.

It disappointed Nick, because he knew they were there for a noble cause. Old soldiers who still wanted to fight for their country but were discharged for one reason or another, could still do their duty in doing so. Nick wasn't against that. It was just the perpetuating rumours and a dead woman that sent them into a downward spiral. Nate was only because he was their CO...and refused to give the name of the individual who did it due to the PMCs privacy policies.

It took a lot work for Nick himself to make sneaky work of the case. There was one that had connections to the murder. Another woman who held grudges against the deceased, presumably for affairs with her husband, who was also killed as part of the matter.

More incriminating evidence was the Paragons work with a chem producer, testing their product on the Paragon Soldiers. Of course they'd discussed the side effects, namely that aggressive behaviour was noted on the female soldier at the time. The Prosecutor stood up and presented the manner of his accumulated words.

"The child, your honour, a young boy killed by this woman as he was a witness to the crime. This sole 'female' mercenary had come into their house, completely chem'd off her head and killed Mrs. Dare in the crime of passion. The weapon used was a .44 pistol, modified with a suppressor as if not to alert the neighbours." He explained, going to pick up the weapon itself and presented it to the jury.

Transgressions such as these were unfortunately common. Medical reasons were often cited as an excuse to lessen the impact of the verdicts though, given Nick's quarrels with dealers, it was a shame that consented use of it was hardly ever taken into consideration.

But Nate never said a word the entire time. The Lawyer and the Prosecutor bantered with each other the entire time, forcing the judge to put the order into things. Nick believed he must have known that without the clearest evidence saying that it was this, particular female that did the crime, there was no way that they would ever get caught doing it. Nick did find among the scheme of it the notes that were found, such as results regarding the usage of BR-210 in a cluster of soldiers and that aggression was noted in a lot of them, however it was mostly the gun that was used. A lot of people could get hold of pistols and the worst past was that it wasn't registered to anyone.

Nick was dismayed that the case declared the Paragons not guilty, but the coldness festered as he continued to do his work to solve this mystery case, even after it was declared otherwise.


He'd found a nearby terminal and became ultimately curious, shuffling over to it to decrypt its contents. It was locked of course, but it didn't take him long to get into the meat of it.

Though, not much of it was relevant. Just old data that Nick didn't care about, mostly results of synth tests. Must of have fallen into a part of the Institute that constructed them. Nothing seemed to awaken any type of memory that had been taken away, though, it was the nature of having the mental construct based on robotic subroutines and not humanoid, organic ways of thinking, even when he ran his fingers across the walls, the triggers he would have believed to have supposed to exist, weren't even doing anything for him.

He fell into a stance upon hearing numerous voices, whipping out his gun as the sounds filled the air. The digitised noises that called for him, well, not him specifically...could only mean one thing.

Nick definitely wasn't the only synth in the room.

Synths like the ones the Institute regularly churns out he felt nothing of, if not the strangest symbiotic reaction of not exactly caring like they wouldn't, though each of their faces reminded him that he was supposed...no, he was exactly like them. But their very nature and pattern were definitely not human. They were the ones everyone else feared more so.

Hiding around corners, Nick had to discern how many were out there. He could hear the clattering of footsteps nearby. Must have been several, to Nick's observations. But that corridor seemed longer than he expected as they crept closer. It forced Nick to come out of hiding to barrage them down, one by one. It wasn't like he hadn't done it before, as he took them out without much fuss. Though you'd think that within the passage of time their upgrades would have made them shoot a tad straighter. Technology like that you can never really work out all the kinks.

All these gen 2s. All of of their dull faces that lay scattered across the floor as Nick checked for anything on their bodies. Nothing to note of, which was what he would have expected, but in this day and age you rack up a habit that's kind of hard to shake off.

Before the war you'd only hear such a thing from the homeless as they struggled to survive. Otherwise the morality of it changed. The beast of man developed into something far more sinister. You would arrest a man for robbing him of another's dignity. Now, no one so much as a bat an eyelid.

The Institute felt like it bounced between the pledges of the old days and those of recent times. The tech was fresh, new, though partially reminded him of when he had his brain scanned...the day the synth Nick was theoretically created. No...he was born. An embryo frozen in time and sent to become the literal brainchild of future synth life.

Every room Nick ventured into had both signs of life and signs of violent activity. A struggle definitely occurred down here, but what ever happened left everything in shambles, unable to pieced back together again like ol' humpty dumpty

"Figured you'd be sticking your nose around where it doesn't belong..."

Nick turned to see a dame in red and felt off-put by the gas mask she was wearing.

"I was just trying to find a fresh snout since the old ones fallin' apart. What do I have the pleasure of your presence?" He asked her in a more disdain way.

Her entire figure seemed...ominous. The gam was lit up from the neck down but her head? Very cult like. No worse than the Children of Atom however. She strode towards him, then looked around at the synth bodies on the ground.

"War Nick. Just...war. Defining who is friend...and who is foe." She responded, waving her hand about.

People tend to beat around the bush. Sure it frustrates him greatly, like he's supposed to figure out puzzles like this. Yeah he's a detective but not a mind reader.

"Culling the ranks from above huh? Something tells me you're not from the Institute though..." He called out as he rubbed his chin.

The woman nodded.

"I didn't even need to say it. The Institute was wiped out entirely. Leaving the remains of a civil war between two enigmatic forces." She replied.

He immediately recognised the faded symbol on one of her gloves.

"You're a Paragon. Been tryin' to find out who's responsible for this mess ever since one of our own went missing. You might know her." Nick stated. He theorised that just by her figure alone that she held a lot more than one might have expected. She could have all the answers, but preferred to shade the truth to what ever end she desired.

The woman lifted her chin. She certainly held the air of superiority, no doubt.

"Yeah I know. Delta Nier. Listen Nick, what ever you might have heard about the Paragons..."

Her words cycled something in Nick's circuits. Old, darkened memories...and the hatred and sickness that came with it, even as she said the name so casually like it was common news. It was but still...they were more akin to throw away words.

"I investigated your kind over two hundred years ago. The work...the horrors you inflicted. Either you are just taking up their name without researching the truth or you're part of a sinister plot. Which evers the answer, it's a name that's stained with a bloodied past. You better explain yourself." Nick requested with scorn, his eyes fixated on her form.

"Yes. That I know of. The name was once thought of as noble... I believed the name had noble intentions. This...this group I lead is far from the ones you would have looked into that long ago. The group you're searching for is the one we lead the war with; a splintered faction that are called the Renegades." The woman surmised.

Didn't make Nick feel any better. How much of it was of a partial truth was yet to be seen. He'd never even heard of these Renegades, not in any documents he'd sifted through.

"What's with the mask though, you're definitely hiding stuff from me and I don't like it when people hide stuff from me when I'm in the middle of an investigation...though I do find out eventually. Just makes it easier when you can just give without hassle or bullets in each others heads." Nick sanctioned. The woman seemed reasonable.

She chuckled however...that disturbed him somewhat.

"Oh Nick I haven't even shoved a gun into your face. I'm not hostile-only to those who deserve it."

She responded, in a way that seemed far more cheery than when she first spoke. Hmm...

Even her body language was lax, as she slouched like a drunk and her movements were outright flimsy and careless.

"I noticed. But that doesn't answer my question." He asked again, annoyed by her behaviour.

She knocked on the side of the mask twice with a fist.

"Some secrets are worth keeping...some...worth sharing. Those that I consider...trustworthy in my eyes. The Commonwealth's always had this...instability, this disgusting, unholy trench of deception. Does the World make a man who he is or does the man make the world for what it is? The key is in who you know...but ultimately...it's about who has your back...no matter what."

Partially true. The world is hardly kind but those who dwell within it aren't that much different from the harsh rotations, the gruelling part of the reality that simply won't let up. But it let Nick know the cusp of what she meant.

"So you're not going to tell me unless...I can guarantee some washed up notion of loyalty to you?" He wondered.

She clasped her hand and made some kind of noise resembling glee. It was hard to discern.

"Clever boy. But yes. Detective Valentine, I'm offering you a deal of a life time! But you're thinking. Really now? Does this fucked up whore really going to think that me, honest, sweet natured Nick Valentine is going to side with you?; because somewhere along the line, he did his homework and found out the even more fucked up side of the Paragons and the very thought of joining them all together is the ultimate ironic piece of a shitty arrangement on this side of the god damn Commonwealth, lead by Queen bitch of the Commonwealth? Really? Oh laugh with me Nick...it's a funny joke isn't it?"

He didn't even know what to say in response to that, rather still reeling from her disturbing laughter.

Few words escaped his lips.

"Yeah I guess."

She suddenly got closer, faster than he could perceive, and clasped his unused metal hand with both of her own fleshed ones.

"So tell me...what would it take to get you to trust me? What could Valentine want from lil' ol me?"

She asked him in a peculiar accent.

"A room in an asylum would be out the question. So how about taking off your mask?"

He replied nonchalantly.

The woman absolutely howled in laughter as she let go of him to let herself choke it out. Nick stepped backwards a bit to distance himself. He was right though; this woman was insane.

"You crack me up. But...you're being serious aren't you?" She inquired.

If Nick was honest with himself, he wouldn't actually care too much. He'd be able to identify the woman herself but if she ended up as a nobody, wannabe Paragon who looked up information on a terminal somewhere and pretended she was former, Gunner wannabe big shot then he would want to make sure he was dealing with a legitimate, not just some lunatic hooked up on God knows what and landed down here in the Institute like the rest of them. It wouldn't hurt to know however...perhaps he could humour her for more answers. Although she did actually know a lot more than she would let on, stating that she actually knew of Delta, perhaps this woman was linked in a way Nick never even imagined.

"Y-yeah. I am. You want to trust me then fine, I'm all that and more. However, given you like to play your own little game here, I want to know if I can trust you. You yourself pointed out that I wouldn't be able to join on the basis of me joining a potentially criminal organisation. It'd be like me joining the Institute. Unheard of." He told her.

Without even seeing her face, he could already tell she was quite conflicted with the ordeal. It amused Nick that she tried to hide herself, in order to make it difficult for Nick to read her, though if she'd let her guard down, he'd be able to read her like a newspaper.

"Savvy Nick. Savvy. Given the very effect information has on people can send them into a certain amount of...emotional digs. Not my fault if you wouldn't be able to trace it down to a nitpick. But I think...that you being the last on those I've already encountered and recruited, I savoured you for last. Get it, savoured? Seriously though...I've been a very busy girl and I'm already getting comfortable with the idea of it. Just...takes...time..."

Emotions swirled within his synthetic noggin as to what she was getting at overall...if he had to nitpick, he would guess that she thought he wouldn't like what he would see. If anything else, it made him even more curious.

"I've seen worse, believe me. But unless you get rid of the mask, I'm not gonna tag along in your little group of misfits." He commented as he crossed his arms.

She giggled.

"Oh believe me...you already have."

He watched as she slowly put her hands on the mask, with her fingers that drifted over the casing, as Nick watched her take it off.

What he saw...wasn't really what he expected, though given the circumstances, should have expected, though it honestly didn't look right. He knew something was off but...would he just have to realise the entirety of it?

The brown hair, tied up in a ponytail, with the minor bangs to the side the framed her bony, gaunt face. The deep, dark circles that plagued underneath her dull, bloodshot green eyes and the pale skin of her cheeks and less than lush lips.

"Delta...no you can't be..." Nick whispered in disbelief.

She bit her lip, then looked down as she smirked.

"You would be right. I am not Delta at all. I am...a synth...like you. Though of course a newer model but otherwise birthed from the same mechanical womb."

This...devastated Nick but it also made him feel very conflicted. A synth Delta...

Where was the real one?

"Explains a lot. You know what happened to real one?" He wanted to know. He really did. Some theories went around the Commonwealth as to what happened to the original humans before they were replaced with synths. Any investigations Nick ever did, always came up with the same answer. They went missing. With this common scenario in mind, it filtered him with dread to think of Delta falling to the same fate. But he just had to know. He had to hope.

Synth Delta shook her head.

"I don't know. The Institute had made various experiments on me which could have included wiping out a lot of memories."

Similar to him. Just the same damn story as he.

"Bastards. Look, Delta I understand what you're going through..."

Then, in a swift motion as she dropped her mask to the floor, she pushed him to the ground with the ugliest, most twisted form of anger on her face as she hovered over him.

"DO NOT CALL ME BY THAT NAME...I DON'T GIVE TWO SHITS ABOUT THAT NICK. I DON'T WANT ANYONES SYMPATHY...I..." She yelled, before turning her head to the side.

"I only care about saving Delta. I...I..."

She pulled him back up again, then oddly enough started to dust his jacket, her focus on a spot on the floor nearby as she did so.

"Sorry about that... I don't know what came over me..."

It was then he realised she wasn't focusing on the floor...but his weapon. He put it away, in response to the answer to her own request.

"It's fine. What do you want me to call you then?" He asked her.

It was fascinating to see the part of this process that was developed within the Institute. Delta herself was never like this by chance. She'd mostly keep all of it to herself and fight the good fight in reasonable amounts of fearless combat. Stupidity wasn't in her genes...just generally a numbness she could hardly escape from, no matter how hard she smiled.

Though...what if she finally fell to all the pressure? Would this be the result?

"I've taken to the name Commander. I'm in charge of the Paragons here in the ruins of the Institute, scouting night and day for Delta's where abouts. So far, I've gotten no leads..besides the Renegades who are my competition. It may rest with them as they look for her as well. But for all we know, the assholes may have her in custody and we don't even know it. They're out for anyone who was in contact with her."

This made a bit more sense.

"So you're getting all the people in that she knew and worked with. Funny way of doin' it." He assumed.

The Commander smirked. Even with the rest of it have the general aesthetic of Delta herself, everything about this synth was wrong like they ran a different mind of her inside this replica. Worse, she appeared ill.

"Dear Nicky I must be meticulous or else the other player on the board might get a move on. All of Deltas valuable resources could be at his disposal. I just need the best pieces to win." She told him, returning back to her unusual perky charm.

That must have meant all the people that had gone down here. Deacon, Preston, Danse, X6...

"I see where you're playing at. Genius actually. Main question is; what's your next move?" He wondered. The real Delta would have a plan at play without actually saying what the plan was. She was exactly the same when they encountered Kellogg.

"I cannot be forgiven for what I am and for what's been said and done already. Though I'll continue to move the pieces separately. For now...assume you'll have to full cooperation of the others...though I'm saddened to think that some...those still above will never accept me."

Nick thought about the others...Curie, Cait, Codsworth, MacCready, Mayor Hancock...

"You wanted them to come down here too huh?" Nick queried.

The Commander sighed as she turned around, going to a nearby desk and placing her hands down as she leaned forward as Nick examined the cloak on her back. Wouldn't have though of her to become something so odd with a strict moniker like that and giving off the vibes of the most strange sort.

"Should have known. Curie and Codsworth, both I doubt will be a problem. The others..."

Delta knew the minds of those she traveled with. If their adventures with her were anything like theirs, it was that they were able to open their hearts and minds to the dame, like they had given each other what they really needed, as a mother to their child.

"From a point of view yes. You knew...you knew how Delta saw these people, so in a way...without making it too complicated you know these people just as well as she did." He commented, though a bit puzzled as to not to force any triggers on the woman. He'd probably get it eventually.

Her head fell.

"..there's not a lot I can do...I'll try what ever I can...for now, I'll make do with what I've got." She said, doused in melancholy.

She must have really thought this through. Or not. Given Delta's methods she would normally go straight into the fray herself. The synth could have been altered in that line of thinking. But how far gone can you go before you really lose it all...Delta had no such pretences.

She turned around and picked up her gas mask.

"I was told about Strong by the way. I assure you...that was not my order. It would have been him."

Strong? Ah yes. The Super Mutant.

"So you're saying it was these Renegades. Might as I ask who he may be?"

Nick queried.

The Commander grabbed a nearby chair and sat down, putting the gas mask on a nearby desk, the running her fingers against her scalp as she spread her legs and slouched over. A sign of distress?

"Delta's husband, Nathan Nier. He's back. I...I dunno how. Whether or not he was brought from Vault 111 or...it's a synth replica I don't have a clue. I've been searching the Institute for weeks for a full record of synth creations but nothing's been found. I figured Father may have wiped them out when we clashed here."

It automatically twisted the detectives artificial heart as he recalled the discovery about Father being the very son Delta was searching for. How could fate be so cruel to one so kind.

"I'm guessing he's dead now..." Nick stated, needing to clarify X6s words.

The Commanders leg began to bounce erratically. The thoughts and feelings, especially those of contradicting compounds, would likely fry her mind if she wasn't careful.

"Regretfully...I...I know...Nathan Nier needs to die." She croaked.

That they could both agree with.

"But...why would Delta disappear Nick? Why would she leave?"

Nick took a chair himself and sat in front of her, carefully analysing the synths state as she had strained her words, giving off the feeling she was rather desperate.

"Not sure. Hoping you could answer that for both of us." Nick answered.

"Technically you would have all of the answers. But if the Institute tinkered with you, they may have forced you to forget everything that transpired."

She snorted.

"That's true. I've been wracking my head for weeks but nothing's come up. Others say that in the sense of Delta's supposed, altruism and blessed personality, she may have finished her work and went on to...I dunno...do better things elsewhere. I know...I should know. I should know but I don't and it's killing me."

Given the original Delta was raised in a way that she would have never expected to things to turn out this way, although the Commander still held signs.

"Don't blame yourself...it was out of your control." Nick told her, though it felt like he was on the borderline of a rather dangerous situation. But he didn't push to risk it, he wouldn't get any further...even if he was at the moment in the midst of a glare from the enraged woman across from him.

"All she wanted was to find her son. She figured it out. Then her husband comes into the picture and even he refuses to explain himself, rather than to steal a whole bunch of synths and to smear the campaign further with the Renegades in an attempt to get Delta for goodness knows why. As revenge? He already thinks I'm a monster. Whether or not you believe what I am...is up to your own damn interpretation. All I want to know is that Delta is safe and her horrible beast of a husband is taken care of. Is that too much to ask?"

To Nick, he'd wager if he got to speak with Nate himself, he'd be able to find the ultimate truth in all of this...what his motives were...why he was looking for Delta. It would finally bring him that closure from two centuries ago.

"I'm up for finding him. As you know it's my speciality. If it helps find Delta as well, then yeah why not?"

The Commander looked down at the ground again and was eerily still. Nick got back up and extended his hand to her.

"Delta wants us to work together. You're already doing the hard work for her. She might not know you personally, but from what I've heard she already knows it's important."

Her eyes travelled from his hand to his face. It felt like a stare of death, but she pondered for the moment before grasping it, then got off the chair.

"You're right. She would. I'm happy to answer what I can, but I have other duties to take care of. Right now the best place to start for you would be back on the surface. I'm hearing word of Nate's meddling. I need you to make sure he doesn't sough the seed of discord...if he hasn't done so already." She replied in kind, grabbing her gas mask.

"You need me to do anything in particular? I'm not entirely sure what you expect me to do. I don't really have as great relationships with any of her companions as she would have either...so..." Nick spoke, curious.

The Commander nodded, and gave off a sneaky smirk that drove wedges in him.

"You're charismatic enough to try." She spoke of slyly.

He found that amusing.

"Well doll when you have years of experience with these sorts of things, like you, you gotta find out who's your pal and who's the bucko you watch to make sure that he doesn't stab you in the back."

She smiled. Or what was construed as a smile was aimed towards Nick, who in the depths of his circuits, felt part of Delta in there. You couldn't get rid of absolutely everything, after all, even if it's not the whole Delta...he could see her.

"First things first, before we fall into sentimental crap. I need her Pip-Boy. I've been told Delta had sent it so she's currently without it. If any one asks just say you might be able to find something in there. Technically true but not a word of me understand?" She told him outright.

Nick understood that much. Wouldn't want to compromise things. Even so...this...Not!Delta as she insisted on not calling herself had a type of intelligence that interested him greatly. Though partially her emotive state did worry him. He wanted to imagine to revelation or at least the phase she'd gone through when she found out what she was. A world tumbled towards into the abyss, tainted by anger and fear...and regret.

"Done and done. First thing though...how am I going to get out of here?"

The Commander's unhinged smirk reappeared.

"Oh yes I almost forgot..."

She pulled something out of her glove. A small chip, if you will.

"I've got a little toy that the Institute uses to get people out and in of the Institute. A little toy that Coursers use..."

Part of Nick didn't really need further things to be shoved into his cranium. Last time that happened, a ghost of ages past nearly threatened things.

"You're giving me the ability to teleport? This'll probably be the first hardware update I've had in years."

He joked.

"Old hardware usually lasts longer if you think about it. Tougher too." The Commander noted as she walked around behind him to tinker about in it.

He remained still as she fiddled around back there. Logic would have said no, as who knows what the Commander was actually doing back there, but Nick was inclined to trust her no matter what state of mind she was in. Doubt should have been clouding his mind, in fact, a lot should have been on his mind.

"Annnd done...good. At least Delta had the decency to be good with tinkering." She commented as she dusted her hands, then went to stand in front of Nick.

It was just like days gone by with mods and the scavenging for parts. She took her gas mask and placed it back on her head, giving back her mysterious air.

"Once you've gotten the Pip-Boy intact, bring it back to me straight away. Should give us enough data...if not, there's always holotapes. Which brings me to my next point. Holotapes. Anything useful, get them too. Never know what you might find."


Nick suddenly found himself flung out, then dropped off in some part the Commonwealth.

As he recognised the statue nearby and the broken wooden bridge in the distance, underneath the morning sun, he was near Sanctuary.

Though he had to absorb the scope of what just happened and how the others would actually take to this...Commander. This new Synth. Honestly, given time, Nick wouldn't have cared about what she was. As long as the Commander gives enough decency to herself to become her own person, if not to curb her inner beast, then, for sure.

Though now he was allowed out into the open, it simultaneously started giving him unknown feelings towards it all. How much did she even say was truth...there were parts of her he didn't even recognise weren't part of Delta in the first place. Whether to go with gut instinct or just to go with the flow of reality was the real question. It would be in character for Delta to at least try. Or if the synth was in denial that she herself was real. It disturbed Nick greatly to know he once thought that way. Now another synth was going through the same issues as he.

Did the Commander realise that too? Another question for another time as he went towards Sanctuary.

The face she made at me was probably meant for a smile. Whatever it was, it beat me. I was afraid she'd do it again, so I surrendered

Chapter Text

 

A Mr Handys job is never really done. Not at all.

With all the tomfoolery going on and with no real direction, Codsworth did what he could while the others were far away; tending to the usual, daily chores.

Time could pass him in an instant, which left no space for him to think otherwise. It was heinous to even that he could such a thing, as humans designed him this way, though it's not as if to say some of the programming itself had glitched once in a while, but but by jove didn't it give some twists and scopes throughout the two hundred years.

Humans forced him to feel, though in the general scheme of it it was meant to work alongside his job, it was supposed to get him attached to his owners and all those associated. It wasn't like he couldn't get angry, it was a lot of the conflicting protocols that made him do the oddest tasks and act strangely.

That anger was not meant to be felt for long; Wouldn't want to risk overheating the CPU that way. All the cool, stable feelings that were meant to make him last longer. Being dull wasn't exactly exciting, but it kept him functioning for this long, unlike a lot of the robots.

He didn't think of himself as a unique model, just like all the other Mr. Handys., the ones that were still around course. He knew of the ones in Goodneighbor and Diamond City but never even met them, let alone had the pleasure to do so. It hadn't been part of his systems to be curious and the desire to met others of his kind never arose, but it always made him wonder how the others fared in the days of rust and dust.

Though seeing Detective Valentine on the horizon did make his day a little as he approached the synth, glad to be snapped out of a negative thought trail.

"Oh Mr. Valentine! Didn't expect you to be back so soon! Hows the search going?" He asked in his usual chirpy way, like literally nothing was wrong with the world.

"Good to see you too Codsworth. We have...few leads that we're workin' with. I'm not here for long, I'm here for Delta's Pip-Boy and any of the holotapes she had with her."

It was in Codsworth's nature to help out as much as he could. Irregardless of what others would think.

"Of course! Of course! We had it sealed away safely in the home premise. Follow me!"

Ah Pip-Boys. One of Vault-Tec most interesting creations. He happily escorted the synth to his owners blue house, reminded that they had placed it in the safe in her room. Codsworth once imagined it once as pristine and clean and in that the coming years of Delta's re-arrival, he'd struggled to keep it that way. Though, once she returned, it was in the case of her managing to get her life back together as if no time had passed.

He watched as Nick examined her room carefully. The detective types were always so...methodical, going from what shows the Nier's used to watch. As he wandered over to the safe, Codsworth remembered Nick once told him one's own bedroom was a story of their life. Even if Codsworth himself couldn't understand it.

They'd agreed that any information regarding Delta, as well as anything important once belonging to her, was to be sealed in a safe until anything else was needed. Her room, sighted of a simple bed and drawers, with a reconstructed fan on the roof, the safe was nudged in on the other side of the bed.

Few shared the numbers to open it however. Codsworth was the original keeper, who then in turn told Nick. Why he wasn't authorised to tell everyone was...strange, though in a way, smart. A safe wasn't safe if everyone knew the combination. After all, isn't it why they call it a safe?

"Codsworth, has anyone else been in here?" Nick asked him as he opened it up.

Besides himself? Only to make sure it was clean each and every single day.

"No one I recall. Why? what's the matter?"

Nick shuffled himself out the way, to reveal the Pip-Boy was no longer there. Only the box full of holotapes and a slightly annoyed expression on his face.

Codsworth was beside himself. Stolen? On his watch?

"Oh my...I swear Mr. Valentine I would not have a clue where it would have gone. I could always ask Miss Curie."

Nick nodded. Still, Codsworth felt like he failed to prevent it from happening, despite Nicks subtle non-verbal assurances.

"She been around here?"

Not that Codsworth would believe Curie would have any reason to be here. Nor would have any of the others to note of as they tended to their daily duties. Unless...

"Hmmm no no...though she did mention another settler and her, had gone down to Diamond City to get supplies, other than that..."

He didn't get to finish his sentence as Nick abruptly stood up, his face changing...to something disturbed.

"Does Curie usually leave Sanctuary to get supplies?" He asked.

Curie is an odd sort. Going from a former Miss Nanny to a humanoid form did do a number from her, as Miss Delta did inform the Mr Handy at the time that he would need to keep an eye on her and to ensure that if she did have any questions regarding anything resembling a human action, to be best inform her. Or better yet, to ask another settler...oh.

"Not a lot I'm afraid. But now that you mention it, it's quite the fascinating tale. She'd mostly go to Delta to let her know she was running out of certain ingredients for her work, but once the communication department started to slack off, she relayed most of her concerns to Mr. Garvey, though he couldn't make heads or tails of what she wanted. She tried once with Cait and I don't think she even wanted to know about it, the rude girl."

Codsworth berated. He felt bad about not reporting this earlier, however.

Nick nodded as he brought out his notepad.

"Heh...so out of all the logical options...it had to be a random settler that no one really got in much contact with. Do you know the settlers name at least?"

Codsworth knew all the names of all the settlers. Kind of hard not to since they all had to work together. Not that he minded the company.

"Yes, her name was Sandra. From my best observations...she was quiet, worked the defences near the bridge. Saw everyone who ever came in or out of Sanctuary. Distanced herself from others. Whether it was on purpose or...she was just rather shy is unbeknownst to me."

He continued, although regretting not getting to know the woman better, even with all the other settlers.

Nick continued to scribble down his notes, with Codsworth hoping that he had some idea in mind. But he silently criticised himself for not noticing anything earlier. Though, he was honest in saying he wouldn't have seen anyone, let alone a settler wander in and take something of great value. Though he could always ask Sturges if he'd seen anything...that man was honest enough.

"You think Sandra took the Pip-Boy as well as Curie?" The Mr. Handy wondered, theorising a guess.

Nick tapped the pen on his notepad and thought for a moment.

"I'd take it as under our utmost suspicion. You wouldn't mind taking me to where Sandra sleeps?"

Sandra had slept in the front house, conveniently for the watch woman's case. Her room was cosy enough, to see the plush wolf on the bed itself. Codsworth watched as Nick picked the toy up.

"This seems...relatively new. Too new. Handmade? Hard to tell." Nick explained as he examined it thoroughly. Possibly to see if she was hiding anything, one would assume.

"Would you deem a toy a tad suspicious detective?" Codsworth asked, curious. Though toys these days were often possessing wear and tear like everything else, but for something that may have been preserved well or made recently...he watched as Nick shook the toy itself, hoping to find anything that might be inside, but to no avail.

Nick put the toy back on the bed and continued to check the settlers room.

"Unless the toy contained a key, no. I'd rather do some research this...Sandra...why she would have taken the Pip-Boy and Curie is beyond me. I wonder if the other settlers would give me insight."

Codsworth felt a bit useless in this situation, not to mention a bit guilty as to thinking that he should have had someone guard the Pip-Boy. There was little he could do to ease the situation.

"May I ask why you're looking for it sir? Is there anything I may be able to assist with in anyway?" He offered, wanting to be of some use to the synth.

Nick looked underneath the bed, finding boxes that were filled with clothes, bullets and caps but not much else. He froze for a bit, his glowing, yellow eyes escaping into the distant as he spoke to Codsworth.

"You know I don't really know either. Let me ask you something...did Delta ever have...a dark side?"

A dark side? Codsworth was puzzled with those words.

"That's as if to say if she...was evil?" The Mr Handy queried, horrified.

The Synth continued to look through drawers.

"We often see the side of people that they want us to see. For appearance purposes. Then, when they're alone or with people they feel comfortable with, they can be their real, crappy selves."

If Codsworth could do so, he'd shudder at the very thought of Miss Delta being as such. The only images he had was her sweet self and the way she interacted with Nate and young Shaun. To think of it like that was...inconceivable.

"None that I ever saw. She was a lawyer, that I knew. Unless you go with the whole, lawyers have no soul routine going." The bot answered.

Nick smirked at that remark. Very few people would still get that joke two hundred years later. The world could do with a defender of rightful justice. If that justice was carried well on if society didn't decide to crack at a moments notice.

"She ever get real angry at you or Nate? Like, of course they were married. Not everyday was an absolute honeymoon." Nick wondered.

Arguments? Few. Over jovial things, but nothing that really stood out to him from memory.

"You would be right in thinking that. I can't seem to perceive them as ones that would outright lash at each other over petty civil disputes. Minor things like taking the trash out, which I ended up taking up the role for once I was bought. Some days they forgot that I was there to do half the things I was made for until the realised they could use me."

Then it became a normal routine in the end...just when they were getting used to it.

"Hm...unless they did it while you weren't around. Never mind it then. I'll have to speak with the other settlers, get their opinion and anything they could note in particular."

It still posed an odd question to ask however. Delta was different from when she'd come out of the Vault but she still proved to be at least someone he could to relate to within the two hundred year period. He couldn't understand the pale, worn expression on her face as she returned to Sanctuary after so long. It was her but...it wasn't her. It only took a period of time for him to understand...not everything but to know that she was still the family he'd awoken to.

Maybe she never showed the dark side to him because...she never felt comfortable? But...they were family! How could she not show him anything? Was Nick correct? No. Codsworth refused to believe Delta had a darker nature...unless Nick saw something he didn't? He'd seen something...

Somewhere in Codsworth's circuits sparked a horrible notion. It made him confused, conflicted.

He didn't want to imagine Delta deceiving him at all. Nor could he...

It just had to be Nick being the good ol' private eye and asking all the necessary queries to find motive. That had to be it.

The bot watched on as the synth interviewed the rest of the settlers in Sanctuary, from if they'd seen or heard anything and to questions about Curie and Sandra. From the Vault-Tec Rep, whom returned after major convincing from Delta. He was chirpier than from when they'd last met. The Longs, who seemed to equal parts aggravated and anxious from the whole thing. Sturges was honest and confidently said he had no idea.

After Nick was done, Codsworth observed as he was making his wait out of Sanctuary. The synth was minorly stressed with no clues as to what had actually happened, muttering under his breath as he shuffled through his notes.

"Any clues Detective?" Codsworth queried, hoping that anything that they mentioned, would have helped.

"Nothing worth noting so far. Your note about them going to Diamond City was the most I could get out of it. I'm mildly concerned that Sandra might not be what we think she is. Or how she's connected to all of this." Nick answered with a worried look on his face.

Oh dear. At least they had a small lead. He was certain, however, Nick would get what he was searching for. Especially with the Pip-Boy involved.

"The others did mention about how quiet Sandra was as well. Kept to herself most of the time. Hmmm...only lead is Diamond City... I'll head back there. So Codsworth, if you could me a favour; I need you keep an eye on things here for me if you can. I'll come back if I find anything or need to ask any more questions."

Nothing would bring Codsworth more joy to do so. He humbly agreed to such a prospective task, like he always wanted to see what a detective was like...or how the life to be one was.

"Can do sir. I'll even keep looking for clues here!" He said with jubilation.

Chapter Text

 

Sometimes you find good company. Sometimes you find bad company. Sometimes, company is not much where you find good, or bad. It's those you know, who aren't going to stab you in your sleep.

Piper never agreed to the matters that concerned herself, rather, the message of the story, proven to her that for all the disgusting scum in the world, the beast itself was...quite unique.

Now the beast of the Commonwealth was in definite slumber. It awoke during the wars and fell into hibernation shortly thereafter. It's not as if to say it wouldn't awaken any time, but it is longer overdue as it stirred in all life in it, waiting to strike its claws into its nearest victim.

A ticking time bomb, if you will...was the company she found herself with. An Angry red-head, a trigger happy merc as well as a cosplaying ghoul. She was sure she was most level-headed of them all, but if any of them decided they weren't going to place nice, Piper could turn things nasty in an instant...it wouldn't be the first time. You'd have to crawl deep underneath her skin to truly annoy to a point she could explode but a deep breath and a muttered mantra often did the trick to cool her off.

Speaking of things going nasty, in their humble travels to the Gunners Plaza, on the tip-off of a particular ghoul they needed to find, they'd gone past one of the settlement Delta once looked after, namely, Jamaica Plains.

Piper didn't really wanna stop, but Cait's insistence for a drink dragged them there anyway. The other three didn't seem to mind either. The reporter felt a lack of caring drifting in the air, as the noon sun beamed down from above, as Piper adjusted her cap, while they went over to the makeshift bar and ordered what ever crap they could muster. It was really counter-productive if it wasn't intuitive on their part.

She surmised a break in their long trek to the Plaza wouldn't be a bad thing, if it weren't for these three preferring to drink their problems away instead of facing them. Alcohol would also impact their ability to perform in the field properly. How Delta put up with them...she really must have had the patience of a saint. Hell, even Danse knew the proper soldier way, their weird code that demanded that their focus on the mark the entire time. Cait could only really tolerate so few people.

They then conversed with of the local settlers, asking around for the latest gossip. Normally, Piper would more than love to hear rumours and stories. But today was a day she was impatient and anxious to get moving. The settlement itself was a hell hole before Delta came to pass, fixed up defences and made it a decent place to live to anyone looking to find somewhere to stay. Like most of the settlements Delta helped set up for the Minutemen, over time they found their own groove and became interlinked with the functional trading network she'd assisted in creating.

The amount of tales that had gone around when ever Piper had to do field work, did boost sales numbers more than once. But to see them for herself, for every dirty, sweaty, worn down man and woman would something that was better than nothing, even for the work of a complete stranger. They had the basics of food and shelter...a way to find a living.

Not all of it was perfect. Given the amount of settlements Delta had to handle was immense and wondered how the woman handled all the pressure. Given the complaints about the lack of food, water or beds. Somehow, in whole ordeal, Delta found the time micromanage everything at once. Even for the small amount of time the two hung around together, Piper scribbled down most of the comments she'd made in the meanwhile...


Several months before her disappearance, Delta met up with Piper in Diamond City Power Noodles just for a catch up. The better part of curiosity caught up with her, and shamelessly admitted into scrying the settlements themselves. The pair sat at the table together, underneath the lights and steam, as they slurped down the noodles. The general atmosphere of the night was calming, if not a nice contrast to the noisy, clattering hustles of the day,

"You can't help yourself can you?" Delta joked as she smiled. The woman whisked back a rogue hair behind her ears and the gleam in her eyes rarely dimming.

Piper shrugged. People knew what she was like.

"Hey, you're a big seller these days...on the plus side it makes politicians nervous. My query is, how do you even manage them all?" The reporter wondered.

Within all the nonsense that was ever piled upon Blue, this seemed like it was completely natural to her.

"Experience. Before I decided to change careers, I was actually a manager of quite a few manufacturing and wholesale companies in the Commonwealth and other places." Delta revealed.

Piper's eyes widened.

"Really? Why do I have find that so hard to believe?" Piper pointed out as she stirred her bowl with her sticks.

"It's what happens when you're in the family business. I'd be the woman going from factory to factory, checking up on things...dealing with issues. The amount of complaints we got from sloppy health and safety checks and vending machines either being faulty or empty...you don't wanna know." Delta continued.

It was difficult, but then without thinking too much about it, it made sense. A job like that sounded like it would need a type of tenacity without forcing one to go bonkers. People were people who would actually inundate stupid requests just because they thought they could. Explained the guards though, once she thought hard enough.

"I wasn't a CEO. That guy happened to be my father. He made me do the hard yards until I met Nate."

The ways of romance, true romance, would have nearly been lost had it not been for old, discarded yet still readable books. Piper yearned for the day a nice lover to come to her with with a rose. If they still existed. Hubflowers wouldn't even compare.

"Oh, Blue became smitten? Was it love at first sight?" Piper said in a mock, dreamy tone.

Delta chuckled and shook her head.

"Perhaps for him. I was consumed by my work in one of our offices to even notice, not until one of my assistants came up to me and said to me that one of our clients had come around earlier, checking the merchandise and was staring at me intently the entire time he was there and had to repeat herself twice...even three times at some points."

That sounded like Blue alright. Right down into the entire core role of it all. It made her curious whether or not anyone she'd hung around with felt a similar way. Would make for a interesting, if not exactly integral journalism. But the smile on Piper was all the wider.

"So what did the deed for you then huh? What convinced you to let him scoop you off the ground and carry you away?" Piper wondered.

Delta bit her lip as she pondered, tapping her stick on the bowl repeatedly. Whether she thought of fondly at the time or just bizarre, it was hard to read her with her current ambiguous expression.

"I...I'm not even sure. I guess we eventually started to talk to one another. Went out for drinks. He...never did anything was overtly over the top type of stuff. Despite the work loads, it worked. Eventually he...proposed to me...right here."

Piper rose an eyebrow.

"Here?"

Delta blushed briefly at the thought of what ever she recalling. Definitely was a fond memory for sure.

"Nate took me out back when Diamond City used to be Fenway Park. The same lights looked down on the field...the ground beneath us...that which I would call, the original great, green jewel. The night held a charity match for an orphanage: Nate's old platoon against another old platoon. He invited me to the match and, I didn't realise at the time, but he got me a good seat. Somehow, towards the end of the match, on the other side of the stands, he'd gathered a few people to spell out marry me Delta? It was clever...if not a bit embarrassing."

These that would be considered a novel type of proposal, one that Piper would kill for if anyone did that for her. If she had the time and patience for such a charade.

"Obviously you'd said yes. So why did you change jobs?" Piper wondered.

Delta rubbed her head, slurping more noodles down.

"Nate wanted a family, a nice, wholesome bunch of kids. With my line of work, I would never have the time. In between getting married and having Shaun, I resigned and decided to take up studying a law degree. Wouldn't hurt. Still, it was a pain to do so. My father wanted me to wrap up the list of jobs I needed to take of first..."

Sounded hectic.

"Man that would have been a nightmare, trying to juggle all that. How did you cope?" Piper inquired.

Delta's eyes traveled to the centre of her bowl, as if noting the near emptiness of it.

"Like I managed everything else. I had Shaun before I graduated, then found part time work at a firm not long after, so...as a really late wedding gift my father got us a Mr. Handy because he knew how busy we were gonna be, with Nate's own work..."

Explains why they had Codsworth.

"Heh...Codsworth must have been a Gods send..." Piper commented, reflecting on the chirpy robot's eagerness to help his master. Delta only grinned at the thought and sighed with relief.

"Oh definitely...definitely was. He was good with Shaun..." Delta muttered before trailing off.

It was then Piper noticed how despondent she suddenly become, her face telling her that she'd fallen off the rails into melancholy in the dire, unwelcomed thoughts.

"Up until you got frozen..." Piper continued on, slightly frowning. Simply being in Delta's presence as the womans mind clung on the images she possibly tried to forget...or repress.

A slight smile escaped from Deltas lips. It was one that Piper knew was partially forced under a tainted joy.

"Yeah that did put in a dent in our plans didn't it? Lucky for the Commonwealth, the gal who couldn't stop survived two centuries on and is making the world work again..." She said with pure, true blue sarcasm.

Piper nudged her, noting the remark.

"Oh don't put yourself down like that, you've done more than most people would have in those two hundred years gone."

Delta shook her head. Modesty was her middle name.

"Look who's talking Miss hot off the press." Delta teased.

Suddenly Pipers cheeks felt warm, feeling flustered at that remark.

"Oh...I uh. Someones gotta do it...ya know...did it just get warm all of a sudden?"

Blue just pushed her bowl away and leaned back.

"I can't work unless I have the cooperation of those I work with...their strengths, their weaknesses...I'll support them all. If I fight for the needs of the people, they'll give back the same if not more in return."

Piper tilted her head.

"Sound more like Mayor Hancock if anything else." She noted.

Delta nodded, amused at that statement.

"No offence to charming ghoul, but I don't need a high to do what I need to. If I can carry on, I will."


A simple premise, if that. The entirety of willpower to push matters along in life was the strongest source to have. If that nasty Commonwealth beast didn't you first.

"Anyone listen to that blue guy who's been stompin' around, claiming the General's nothing more than a fraud?" Spoke the man in the beige suit and hat. It snapped Piper out of that memory, if not for the sheer infuriating tone of it. This was the other blue Cait mentioned...this blue reigning over the Commonwealth? Badmouthing their blue? Piper wouldn't stand for it.

"That snivelling mess Nate? Makes me want to puke." Cait spat, her face turning with ire.

As it turned out, the settler described the description of Delta's husband in the weirdest sense. Though coming from Cait's story regarding him, he was something pulled the oddest dredges, talking shit about Delta but...

"He's also looking for her...though he mentioned the Delta we knew was a synth. Is that what he meant?" Cait continued.

The female blonde settler in the red tartan top nodded.

"Apparently. A lot of us didn't really know what to think...but he told us to send word to the provisioners to tell him if we've seen her."

MacCready sipped his beer. The merc wasn't entirely pleased with the whole ordeal. Like a majority of those, especially those in Diamond City, he was outright hateful of them. But given his own feelings towards Delta, ever since seeing his memory and outlook of her, of course he was going to be incredibly conflicted and disheartened.

"So you all believe what this nutjob says? You're thinkin' the General of the Minutemen is nothing but a synth?"

It would be very difficult to envision...but it would be harder to stave off the Institutes usual MO regarding synth replacements. If Piper were to get anywhere, she'd need to know the entire story about synth creation. If only she would have chosen to go there with the others.

"My gut says she's not. Whether or not someones tried to ''improve'' her recently, she's upped the chances of survival for everyone...including ghouls, monumentally." Hancock commented, making sure the other side of controversy and prejudice was being covered.

But yes... A fighter of the people, for the people. Blue was perfect for a role like that. Part of would waive off the heroism and stick to her plain, old optimistic visions.

"Though kinda makes you wonder if the Institute made Delta to become the saviour they wanted her to be? What if that was their goal the whole time?" Cait wondered with a drastically unthinkable assumption.

"The Institute creating a good guy? That's a first." Mac mocked, his distrust, visible.

He seemed to forget Valentine though. To Mac, the reality was the same.

"What do we do though? What if Delta really is a synth? What if everything we've been lead to believe is nothing but a huge lie?" The blonde settler cried out.

Deep down in Piper's heart and from the despondent look in Hancock's face, they knew otherwise. They would have had to know for certain of their Blue was truly a synth creation lead to bring hell on Earth once again. When...was going to be ambiguous...

What of Nate...and his Paragons...too many unanswered questions.

"Did...Nate know?" Piper muttered, as she stared at the ground in deep thought. She became frustrated with the developing ideas and was rightly disturbed.

"Nate know what?" Cait asked her.

The Reporter sighed and rubbed her bottle.

"The Paragons took over Diamond City. For supposedly our own protection. Nate must have always known..."

As Piper looked at Hancock, who's face became horrified at the idea, he too, began to understand the implications. Why, Hancock of people, had similar minds to her in the sense of the wider scope of things. From his story, it often took those of the unwatched, the unheard to be the unseen and observe everything around him and to know how screwed up the situation was. His report noted that of his guilt, his wrenched heart in the very belief he turned Delta to the shadows of despair...that lead to her disappearance...

From the saddened expressions alone, she realised she could trust Hancock. The ghoul sighed as he eyed down the neck of his bottle.

"We're makin' too many guesses at this. First off, fuck this guy. We don't know him at all. Your General has no real reason to betray the trust of anyone."

The male settler grumbled.

"She had no real reason to help us either..." He muttered

The blonder settler rolled her eyes.

"Because it's the decent thing to do? When was the last time we ever thanked her for saving our asses from Raiders, or Super Mutants?"

At least someone had decent logic there. Though, in the make up of a Synth Delta, none of that actually made sense. If anything didn't logically make sense, it was the synth guards at Diamond City that concerned her more than anything else.

"I get what you're all trying to do. If Nate had come around sprouting this bullshit in your faces, you'd be downright idiot for believing him. He's Deltas husband, you'd think he would want to be on her side. But if it's a Synth Delta and he's looking for the real one, we trust the Delta we've always known. We can't back down even if it is the truth. I'm sure she has reasons. We just need to find out why." Piper stated to them, desperate for them to cling on to some kind of reason here.

"So if we saw her one day and walked up to her and said, hey guess what, we know what you are and she plays the fool and tries to deny it...do we assume-" MacCready started, before being whacked in the face by Hancock's fist. The male settler and Cait grew cautious of the ghouls sudden bout of anger.

"You're outta your fuckin' mind..." Hancock muttered lowly, and fiercely, defending Delta's honor, then turned to the red-coated girl.

"Miss Wright...you've done your research on synths. What's a good telltale sign if someones a synth...hm?" He then asked sarcastically, though in a way, Piper knew what he was trying to do, but was a bit taken aback as Hancock glared at MacCready, who'd almost fallen off his chair with a stunned look on his face. Not to mention Piper's eyes widening expression at Hancock's sudden outburst. Mac took time to recover as he glared at Hancock.

"What the f- why did you do that?" The merc chastised, as he looked ready to pounce back.

Hancock made a minor growl.

"Because then you become like everyone else not lettin' others have a chance at livin' just because of what they are. Synths aren't the only ones who cop shit every single damn day..."

Again with the inclusions.

Cait furrowed her brows in frustration.

"That's because ghouls were once human. Synths never were. They're just clones that wish they were for the fun of it. To fuck everything up, in front of our very eyes."

Piper would agree, although it teetered the line a little bit when it came to synths she's dealt with before.

"Before we all throw a hissy fit and end up smearing each others blood on the wall, let me answer Hancocks question. Synths, from my understanding and research, have signs small and large. Small being their obvious synth component that you can't get out unless you kill them...large being changes in their behaviour...like hello, has everyone forgotten the Broken Mask incident?" She questioned as she waived her hands about. She didn't realise she was dealing with such children.

"Well that gives us all the more reason not to trust them! It's common knowledge." MacCready stated, watching for Hancock this time in case he decided to give him another. Hancock, instead, just shook his head.

"So you're saying we should kill Delta then find out whether or not she was a synth all along? What good will that bring us? A dead ally. No...a dead friend because we let something that never wanted to be in the first place even existed. And if we're wrong, we just made another fuck up that we'll forever regret. Imagine, for every person you suspect is a synth, what's the percentage in the off-chance they are? You might as well not trust anyone." Hancock continued, his voice elevating.

Though, that reminded Piper of Deacon's antics, from previous conversations.

"Hah. You don't anyway." Cait interrupted, chuckling.

"People fucking suck regardless of their kind. A crazy world like this? Unless someone's been real good to ya' without having any sort of agenda for it, we're takin' her friendship for granted over the fact she might be a synth?"

Hancock grinned.

"Now you're makin' sense. Delta's done absolutely nothing to make us think otherwise. We're just used to assholes that we forget there's actually legit good people that exist."

Now it was Piper's turn to glare at MacCready. His dislike of synth kind still prevalent and whether or not it was worth taking him on board to save the very one who saved themselves.

"Do you trust Delta...or do you trust a man we're only heard of that prefers to spite her name?" The reporter asked, spiking the question directly.

It made the man grumble.

"I never said I was against her. I just wanted to know, whether she was lying to us the whole time. That will determine whether or not she'll stay in my good books."

Now Piper wanted to punch his lights out. The nerve of him! But she had to make sure her beast was left quiet until a dirty firefight started.

"We'll never know unless we get the full story. MacCready...listen...Delta and I have had this talk before. Her experiences...her story. Not one bit did I suspect anything about her...if anything it made me more curious. It's not every day you met a young looking 200 plus year old person who's not a ghoul but a mere...non-irradiated being. A history, fresh in their minds like it was only yesterday. Because to her, it would have only been yesterday."

Because sowing discord amongst all those Delta had ever met and spoken with in the scramble of crisis, it's like untangling a well-defined web...a well organised web. Woven from the silks of determination and sacrifice. Nate's purpose himself is another story...something to be greatly suspicious of, in her mind. What was he really trying to accomplish?

But as a whole, the talk made it a bit awkward between them all. She'd thought of Hancock differently in the way he refused to let MacCready be swayed by pure rumour. Whether Mac decided to believe the story or not, Hancock's guilt was easier to see...in the way he would feel like he'd make it up to her to bring her back safely...but Piper imagined it wouldn't have been the chems that screwed things up. It just couldn't have been chems...or chems from Hancock. The BR-210 chem was the one they wanted to find out more of overall and whether or not that told more of the story than any chem she knew of. But like everything else she'd ever investigated, it would take time and persistence to even get just a tangible answer.

They'd left Jamaica Plains in utter dead silence that lingered in the air. Even Cait remained silent, but to Piper, it was unclear that Cait herself was on MacCreadys level or a reasonable level despite of what she said. She seemed like the woman who could easily fall into the cracks of disillusion and no longer seeing the only one she could only trust fall so far from the pedestal. How far...not known...that's if she's ever fallen at all.

In dissent, they made their way to the Gunners Plaza to find this Paragon Ghoul and hope that in the respite, the beastly Gunners hadn't got to him yet.

Chapter Text

 

Cait was eager to fight. Whether or not Delta was a synth or not...

Her smarts weren't her strong suit, though she could always count on her instinct. Her gut and her soul...as well as her fists and shot gun. They always helped.

In a long game, a person could be read easily, from the tiniest hint in their body language, you knew where you stood with them. Even when staring down Nate's eyes you could see the immense...emptiness from them. Perhaps he was a synth designed to take down one of the craziest fucker's she's ever met, who really knows? Synths were designed to replicate humans, down to their worst traits.

The beast wanted freedom to take down those who deserved a number spent in their heads. It served Cait extremely well over the years, taken down sorry louts for ever daring to step into the zone with her. They were just met with fists and bones and spit. Irregardless of species, all would go down before hell would dare take over.

It felt like it was only MacCready who had doubt clouding his thick skull and that he felt the same way as she, despite that with their current situation, they were going from what his so called 'memory', suggesting he had a major hard on for their trusty, determined woman. She'd imagine she'd smack him one, Cait would urge her to do so, just to see him taken down a peg or two. Men were disgusting... She'd sooner pop a few in him if he decides to try anything funny, though since no one else commented on his dick-inspired thoughts in the meantime, Cait decided to remain mute on the subject, instead of falling through the idea.

Instead their minds entirely focused on their current goal: Delta. Synth or not...would it matter? No one likes a synth; she wasn't even fond of Nick, but given time, it was Curie that she was getting used to, despite her french gob yapping about supplies half the time and her stupid experiments. To a level, Cait could tolerate her. Perhaps even more so than Preston, if you were to compare the two.

Mentioning the merc, he'd been here before with Delta. The Plaza served as some form of hub for the Gunners as of late, a former news station from what's been told. It wouldn't surprise anyone to think a new crew had made its home there, intent to still claim its resources and convenient standing in the Commonwealth. They just be prepared for good fight.


Once they'd arrived, they could see a bunch of green armored bastards skulking around with their big guns. MacCready took out the automated turrets as Cait went in there, guns blazing, although she heard Piper sighing, for what ever reason, as well as Hancock who'd thrown himself into the fray as well. Despite their differences, Cait was glad she had back up...to those she would only ever consider allies in the matter. But right now, she could only ever really trust herself...and her shotgun.

The same shotgun, while it blew the heads off her enemies, she'd peered down the very same barrels that peered into her like they had their own dark eyes, fighting off the beast of depression that looked right into her face. Each time, she fought it and won for herself, if not for the aid of her only true 'human' friend Delta. But the others kept it up as well. MacCready was no doubt with his sniper, while Piper and Hancock had their fare share of collective fights as time and talk would warrant.

Once they'd taken the exterior, they worked together to make sure no one was left hanging, even as Cait wandered around to put another point into each fallen body, they'd taken any loot they could muster as MacCready lead them to the entrance, explaining the interior of the building from memory.

Cait and MacCready took point, as they looked around, while Piper and Hancock watched their six's when they entered.

Once they were inside, they navigated their way to the main room, seeing more of the Gunner insignia as they traveled further in. They came into the circular, open area where a bunch of fresh Gunners happened to be patrolling about. Any commotion outside must not have traveled inwards, leaving MacCready to take first shot and Cait holding off any stragglers up close.

Surprisingly, despite their differences, they fought well. Experience in the real world allowed them to make up their own instincts in gun-filled combat. To survive in this fucked up world, you had to at least know and possess a gun. To survive to old age...you had to be skilled.

They shouted each others names as Gunners tried to flank them, but to no avail. They'd gone down corridors, scouted for more, took them down and pushed on. They were simply no match.

Though MacCready bitched about Piper making him waste bullets, Hancock just simply told him to shut up and collect shit from their bodies. Cait wanted to make progress, eager to find this fucking ghoul twat.

Her mind may be clearer, but it only just slightly diminished the beast within Cait. She still fought with ferocity only matched by Deathclaws, but she at least fought for the purpose to ensure her livelihood, no longer to match the desire that she'd die fighting and that one day someone would take her down when she wasn't looking. It would have been a quick and painless death, but...

The beast within her changed. It wanted her to live to rectify the mistakes she'd previously made it life and to ponder what ever the hell she decided to do with the rest of her life.

Sanctuary wasn't ideal but it was something...a starting point. If it required her to sit, stare then fine. As long as at she got to shoot something in random intervals or else she'd just be ready to explode at the nearest ghoul or raider or what ever unfortunate soul crossed her path.

Though it was really just Preston who pissed her off majority of the time, ranting off about some type of shit now and then. He was honest, though...to a fault. Same with Curie and Codsworth...just something about do-gooders that rubbed her up the wrong way. A line had to be drawn between the niceness and giving others their due. Cait couldn't afford to be soft.


So, eventually, the quartet came across the big man and put him and several of his lackies down with a bit of effort, though once coming out on top once Cait slugged bullets into his balls, forcing Hancock and MacCready to look at one another wince in shadow pains, the irish gal smirked and chuckled as they beheld in messy victory.

Piper eventually found a key, which meant that the Paragon Ghoul had to be nearby. Cait took point, as she wandered them around unvisited corridors, making sure there wasn't any spare gunners left as she waved her gun about, her keen eye checking on any sudden, unwanted movements. When they clarified that the coast was clear, they'd gone into a random room eventually, with a makeshift prison, seeing a ghoul sitting there, wearing black clothing, similar but far more dirty and scratched than the average Paragon armor.

He grinned as they approached him, sending minor chills up Caits spine. Fair few could ever do that. Piper was the one who went closer to the door, when the ghoul got up and went towards it as well. The bad feeling didn't make way, pushing Cait to put a few in him as it took all her willpower to restrain herself.

"Hey you..." Piper spoke, breaking the silence.

The ghoul smirked as he looked up and down Piper, obviously pleased in what he was looking at. It was men like this that Cait abhorred. His eyes were black like Hancocks, but the way he stood didn't feel like he was someone of authority, but rather, like Cait, he was someone who couldn't give an ass about his situation. Only mysterious intent that poured from his coal, dead eyes.

"Typical...typical..." Muttered the Ghoul.

"Bout time someone took care of these morons. They only got me because they're dirty. If they saw the Paragons in this day and age..."

It was only thirty seconds since they'd met the guy and Cait already wanted to punch his brains out.

Lucky for him she had other agendas to take care of.

"No one gives a shite. We're only savin' you cause we need you. A bullet in your brain would suffice otherwise." Cait berated as she stood in front of the cage door

He chuckled, then looked at Hancock.

"Mayor Hancock, surprised to see you here big fella. How's Goodneighbor these days hm? Still reaping in the goods day to day?"

Hancock himself wasn't exactly enthusiastic either, but the pair knew each other.

"Rory Dare? Still sticking around like shit on a shoe? I knew I should have recognized that smell as soon as I walked in here." Hancock spouted.

Cait needed to know one thing however...from what she and Piper had witnessed in Diamond City.

"I take you know what happened in Diamond City?" She spoke, hoping to push a few buttons. Rory just looked at her and his entire manner changed to one of minor displeasure.

"My dear, I know a lot of things. Tell me, hows Sanctuary Hills these days?"

A cold flush ran through her body as she gripped on her shotgun all the tighter, her eyes focused in a rising rage.

"Sanctuary? Why the fuck would I care? I just protect the damn place. What do you reckon?"

She spat back. Though something told Cait that he too, was trying to press buttons.

"Just answer the damn question Rory. Wouldn't want any more blood spilled than necessary. Unless you have no use for us." Hancock threatened, which Cait admired slightly.

Rory just grumbled and crossed his arms.

"Fine, fine...don't let me have my fun. Diamond City, if you must know, was not authorised by our previous Captain Nier. It's that pretender Commander Synth and her army of like-minded bucket of bolts."

Cait furrowed her brow. Wait...so... weren't Diamond City Security supposedly all synths?

She was certainly perplexed. Going from Piper left scratching her head, she was also.

"That makes no sense...why the hell..." Cait muttered, to begin with.

"So...this Commander...lead synths to killed Diamond City Security with...synths?" Piper continued, completing what Cait had intended to say.

Mac and Hancock were just as puzzled.

"This isn't the Railroads doing is it?" MacCready wondered.

Rory shook his head.

"Hell no, those pussy's wouldn't have the guts to do so. I'm happy to go through a lot of the details, but you need to let me out first."

This was where it would usually start. In order to find out more, an exchange of assistance was needed. Cait knew this was an extraordinarily, bad idea. It just ran her up the wrong way...so many wrong ways. She then pulled up her shotgun to his face with her eyes, piercing right through him. Her veins were on fire, desperate to get out.

"Not until you explain why the Gunners want you so bad. Yes, we know you're with the Paragons. Yes we want answers." Cait demanded. It was better to make him beg to get out, though given from this mess, it wouldn't be easy, as the ghoul raised his hands in defence, though his devious grin returned once again.

"Oh my red-headed flower, so delicate in mind. The Paragons have knowledge of a stash of powerful chems..."

"BR-210." Piper called out from behind.

Rory was amused that they knew of this

"Haha...you're not as ignorant as I thought. Yeah the BR-210. It was located in a Cache, stored away somewhere in the Commonwealth."

"So the Gunners wanted you to find it for 'em?" MacCready queried.

Rory nodded.

"Yeah...they needed me alive. I never told them where it was..."

Cait would lose her patience in an instant if he didn't tell them, so she pushed the end of the barrel further in his face.

"Tell us...tell us where it is..." She spoke rather lowly, the sting of her stare poking at him.

He tilted his head as he watched her, already she felt slimy all over from it.

"Careful Cait..." Piper warned.

She knew what she as doing. Rory instead lit a cigarette, inhaled, then breathed the smoke into her face. She wasn't afraid of a little smoke and refused to be intimidated.

"You step into the lions den, m'lady. All I know is what I've been told by a young woman who helped me out of a jam. Although, I kinda wish she was there to prevent me from being captured. Although, I have a feeling that it could have saved my life as part of the bigger picture." Rory continued.

Caits upper lip twitched as she lowered her gun a tad.

"A woman you say? So she knows the knowledge of this supposed Cache?" Hancock pointed out.

Rory shrugged.

"Yeah, nice brunette, smooth pale skin...rather humble in approach."

A dark feeling began to ooze out of her stomach, threatening her stance. No...couldn't be.

She stepped back and exchanged glances with Piper. Couldn't be...

She turned back to Rory, keeping her aim steady.

"What was her name?" Cait demanded. She had to know...it couldn't be a coincidence.

"No idea. But...she said that the Cache was in a secret vault that required a Pip-Boy to open. So even if I did tell them where it was, you would have to have a Pip-Boy to get in there."

That...no...the Pip-Boy was back at Sanctuary. What if...

There was so many ideas and theories that were swimming around in Cait's head right now, like all these sorts of things connecting together in the most thought-defying way. It made Cait ill, not wanting to even consider the possibilities.

"That's all for now...lets take him back to Sanctuary. We'll pry more information from you alive than if you're a corpse. Cait, here, open it." Piper announced.

Cait was hesitant, but she watched as Hancock and MacCready had all intents and purposes kept their focus on the Paragon. They were just as anxious as she was. It was ripe.

She unlocked the door as they kept their guns on him as he exited. Once he showed no signs of trying to escape, they agreed on heading back to the settlement.

Cait hoped, in that regard, that somehow, her theory would be proven wrong.