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The Silver Bullet

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October 22, 2077, day before war. As the Halloween neared, people started to decorate their houses and yards with different decorations. Concord was already full of pumpkins, children planning their tricks and designing their costumes. Sanctuary Hills, as any other military base, had rules for holidays. Limited amount of decorations were allowed and tricks were absolutely forbidden at the area. Even during Christmas time, everything was limited. Strict order and discipline. That was U.S Military for everyone. Not fun allowed.

Muscular woman wearing peaked cap, leather biker jacket and jeans stood front of large, two-storied house. As an ex-soldier, her stance was still straight and steady. Andrea, 31, stared a house at other side of the road with her dark brown eyes and tapped her fingers against her arm, smiling suddenly as she heard her father cursing at the vestibule. 60-years old Air Force General was not really happy about upcoming holiday. He disliked it. One of the reasons why he still lived at the base.

”When you guys are supposed to leave? Game will start soon,” Jonathan Adams asked while checking his watch. Andrea turned and saw him watching her with his tired, ocean blue eyes. She found them mysterious but his subordinates found them frightening. Silver hair and wrinkles gave him more frightening appearance.

”You know them, dad. Nate is always ready, like soldier is supposed to be. Nora, in another hand, is always late which is bad for lawyer and now Shaun with them? It will take forever,” Andrea answered. “Dad, why are at home? It's tradition for you to be somewhere else than here when Halloween comes.”

And there was actually good reason for it even without kids with tricks. Her mother, Natasha, died last Halloween in car accident.

”It's my day off.”

”A day off? You’re having day off?” Andrea laughed but then narrowed her eyes. “Wait, did you crack a joke? What is this?”

”No, it wasn't a joke.”

”You know, there is something common with you and Roger,” Andrea said. “You two never have a day off or whatever it is. You both live and breathe military. Always working.”

”Now you sound like your mother,” Jonathan Adams said, smiling sadly after it. It made Andrea suspicious. He hadn't talked about his wife after her death, not even once. It had been his way to cope with it. Andrea opened her mouth to comment his behavior but sound of honk interrupted her.

”Andy! Are you leaving or not?” Nate shouted while Nora put Shaun to backseat.

”You guys are really taking a baby with you to watch baseball game?” Jonathan asked from his neighbors as he walked next to his daughter.

”Of course. I’m trying to raise Shaun to support Red Soxs, sir. And as you know, upper stands of stadium are sound-dampened.”

”No. Absolutely not. He will be supporting Washington Nationals one day. Right, Andrea?” Lawyer directed her question to Andrea, adding little smirk. Andrea snorted amused.

”Nah, I can move into DC. but there is no way I’m betraying Red Soxs.”

”Speaking like true citizen of Boston. C’mon hun, we will be late,” Nate added, saying last sentence to his wife as this was mirroring herself from wing mirror. Andrea shook her head amused while listening their arguing -playful arguing- but felt Jonathan stopping her by touching her shoulder, feeling strength of his hand. It was funny. He had been out of field decades but had still great amount of strength. Even for his age.

”Be careful, Andrea.”

For some unknown reason she memorized those words. Woman frowned even more after her father kissed her forehead and narrowed her eyes lightly, looking him thoughtfully. This wasn’t anything like him. Was he dying or something?

”Dad... we are going to watch baseball game, we are not returning back to Anchorage,” Andrea stated, still wondering what caused her fathers strange behavior.

”I know, ” he answered, turning his head at his neighbors as old engine of Mitsubishi Galant Sigma roared at the other side of the road. ”Have fun, Bo Peep.

Andrea smiled, though she hated that nickname, and performed forehead salute. “Yes, Sergeant, sir.”

However, she still felt his eyes on her back as she walked towards Nate's car. Knowing something was going on. Jonathan Adams was acting strangely… no, whole goddamn country was on the edge. Conflict going on between biggest nations. Of course military was on the edge. They had declared martial law around the country, cities being literally being now commanded by U.S. Military. Every corner of the city now being filled with checkpoints. Trying to find spies.

No. It wasn’t her problem anymore. She waved at her father before opening car door and sat next to Shaun.

”Huh, whatcha looking buddy, hm?” Andrea asked baby. Shaun stared her for a moment and then giggled. “Oh, you remember your godmother? Good.”

xxxxxx

Nora cried out loudly when Washington Nationals lost their lead. “This is not happening. Did they really come all way from Washington here to lose?” Nate laughed as a respond.

”What is our sore loser whining? There is still game time left,” he answered. “And of course they're here to lose, they're playing at the Fenway Park.”

Nora rolled her eyes and leaned to watch how Andrea and Shaun were doing next to Nate. “You are really good with him,” she stated. Baby chuckled loudly while staring his godmother.

”Shaun is only baby who understands my humor. Hey, your boy is smiling because Red Soxs are winning,” Andrea said but then she heard a loud cheering from Washington National’s fan base and glared score board. “Or not. Traitor.” Andrea moved her eyes back to baby.

xxxxxx

But Shaun had his limits. About fifteen minutes before game was supposed to end, he began to cry. Andrea was surprised how fast Nora was able to tell what was wrong with him as Nora stated he was tired. Maybe it was those mom instincts.

”I’m going to take a little walk with him. I’ll be back soon,” Nora said and put Shaun into pushchairs before kissing Nate. “I’m not going kiss you,” Nora whispered as she noticed Andrea staring her and Nate.

”Too bad. I think Nate would like it,” Andrea whispered back, narrowing her eyes. Nate raised his eyebrows and looked both women confused. Women chuckled at his reaction. After Nora had left, Nate opened his mouth finally, sounding more serious.

”I thought VIP stand would be full of members of town council, politicians, officers or other higher ups?” Andrea hummed agreeing and glanced empty stand. They were there all alone which was new. After all, baseball was popular at the Boston.

”And dad is acting strangely. And I can’t get in touch with Roger. It's driving me crazy. There is something going on...”

”When you last time talked with him?”

”Two weeks ago. Before he went to Mariposa with Colonel Spindel.” Two weeks without hearing a single thing about him. No emails, phone calls, messages... nothing. Maybe that one person truly isolated whole base from the outside world.

”What about your father? Could he help you to get connection with them?” Nate asked and Andrea shook her head as an answer. “Shit.”

Andrea watched people at stadium. Cheering and having fun. “These people… they don’t know how truly close we are another war. Or they don’t want to remember it. Sometimes it sucks to be part of U.S. Army,” Andrea said and run her hand through her black hair. “I hope Roger is okay. I just… wanted to hear his voice.”

”He is fine. He is strong and tough son of bitch,” Nate said, trying to encourage her.

And her mother-in-law was actually kinda bitch. Anti-military Vanessa Maxson had never liked Andrea because she was so called military brat, and -still- didn't like her. Ten generations of Adams family had been in army so she wasn’t best choice for being Mrs. Maxson daughter-in-law.

”Me and your brothers wouldn’t have let you marry him if he were total loser,” Nate continued.

”Always a big brother, huh?” Andrea stated, punching his arm gently. She had already four big brothers, all in Air Force like their father but she ended up into U.S. Army with Nate. Since their childhood, they had been inseparable. Best friends.

”How are you really doing?” Nate asked randomly, giving her piercing look.

”Fine,” she answered shortly.

”Fine? You begged lay-off shortly after the Yangtze. What happened?” Andrea murmured something as an answer, but Nate could not hear it.

”I… I just did want to leave from military. I can’t live without army, but I don’t want to be there at the moment. Pentagon is sending me messages, requests and orders about coming back because they need me to do their dirty work but I told them ’no’. Nate… I’m tired of being used. Dad stated I’m wasting my skills…”

”Andy, if you hadn’t been part of that… experiment, you'd be dead by now.” Andrea rolled her eyes. He was right, but…

”They just… think that I’m ready to do anything what they ask after-” Andrea wasn’t able to finish her line as she heard Nora coming back. Duo turned their heads to look at grinning woman.

”What did we do now?”

”Stop grinning, we know Washington won,” Nate murmured. Shame on Red Soxs for losing a game at Fenway Park. Though their conversation broke Andrea's enthusiasm for game. “Should we return back home? To celebrate this victory?” Nate asked his wife, stressing word victory.

”Willingly. I think Shaun needs to sleep now in his own cradle. And don’t sound so bitter, sweetie. Red Shocks will win their next game...” Nora grinned, piching man scarred cheek.

xxxxxx

Before Andrea opened front door of her childhood home, she looked across the road, seeing Nora closing the car door and Nate taking pushchair from car boot. Andrea was happy for him. For them. Though he was good soldier, Nate belonged here with his family. Mrs. Rosa, their neighbor, had told Andrea about Nora, how lonely and afraid she had been when Nate was gone. While he was with her and Roger at the Anchorage. But now Roger was somewhere in New California, Nate with his family and Andrea… Andrea was lonely and afraid. Afraid for Roger.

”Hey, Andy!” Nate called her and saluted. ”Goodnight Captain!”

”At ease, soldier. Goodnight,” Andrea answered and Nora performed salute too. ”Sorry, cannot command you, civilian. Wait, I cannot command you either.” Nate waved his hand at her and escorted his wife inside their house. Andrea opened the front door and noticed house being empty, realizing that her father was not at home. Maybe he got tired of Halloween after all and left to their cabin.

How good it felt when she was finally able to lie down to the her old bed. Fenway Parks chairs weren't the best to sit, especially for long time. She sighed, staring white roof above her for a while, thinking a conflict between with U.S. and China, why her father acted strangely… But most of all, she thought about Roger. God, she missed him. His stupid jokes, his ’always military man’ appearance, his icy blue eyes, touch of his beard on her skin when he kissed her. Maybe soon she could see him. Maybe she should leave Boston and fly to New California tomorrow. Or right now. Or maybe she should sleep couple hours before that...

xxxxxx

”Why Major Barnett wants you there?” Andrea asked suspiciously from Roger while leaning against door frame, watching him packing up his military bag. Military transport aircraft to NC was supposed to leave from Adams Air Force Base tomorrow, October 8. He was leaving her alone, again. Fucking Army and Pentagon. Fucking Barnett.

”I don’t know. Spindel said it’s because Pentagon wants to raise security there. There is something wrong at Mariposa,” Roger said and closed door of closet. Andrea frowned again.

”I think there is something wrong with whole military,” she said sarcastically “They could use their funding money for… better aircraft's for example, instead of using it in some... research.”

”Says daughter of Air Force General.”

”Who ended up into U.S. Army.” Andrea stated, staring Roger as he walked front of her, dropping his bag down to floor.

”Yeah, I know that I was fabulous reason enough for you to join Army.”

”Oh really? You can wipe that fabulous smirk from your face because I joined into Army before I even met you,” Andrea grinned.

”True. But only you had balls to punch commanding officer in middle of Pentagon?”

”I guess I was fabulous reason enough not to report about our little incident. But maybe it saved my career and yours,” Andrea reminded him. Roger grinned before pulling her to kiss. She loved his intense, rough kisses. Loved how rough and overbearing Roger was, but still caring.

”I wish you wouldn't have to leave,” Andrea whispered after breaking up the kiss. She couldn’t stop him. He loved military. Roger looked at her and smiled a little.

”We know the risks, you know that? For me… it’s better me to go. I'd complain to higher ups, even to your uncle, if they'd have ordered you there. There is always small change that something might happen...”

”That's a reason why I should come there with you. Chinese or even USSR might try to break into facility if they know about its existence. What would be better place to attack than U.S. Army’s scientific research facility-”

”Andrea,” Roger murmured with serious look on his face. “It’s better this way. I do not want you to go near that place. You are even more valuable to me than you are to Army. I don’t care how good you are in a battlefield. You are my wife and I love you,” he added. Andrea swallowed and glanced floor underneath them.

”And I want you go to Boston while I’m getting used to my new job at the NC. You can come there later, so we can settle down to our new home. I did manage to talk with real estate agent. That house is ours by the end of the October.” Andrea smiled widely. That sounded like a plan. Plan what Secretary couldn't ruin. “Go to see your father, Nate and our godson. And don’t forget those tickets you bought to Red Soxs game...”

Roger grinned at her as Andrea punched his shoulder. “There is always reason go to Boston and it’s baseball,” Andrea stated, man chuckling at her answer. Pair stared each other for while in total silence. Andrea could stare those icy blue eyes for eternity. Suddenly Roger put his hands on her tights and lift her up.

”Oh, I know what this means. You up to this? Aren't you too old for this?” Andrea grinned while man carried her to bedroom.

”We will see about that, honey,” Roger said smugly and woman chuckled.

xxxxxx

Andrea woke up from a dream. Or was it a dream really, it had happened couple weeks ago. Reality or not, she missed him even more now. After rubbing her eyes, she glanced the clock. 0500. Pondering how still -after six months- she lived with military routines. Getting up early and doing routines. She listened house for a while. Her father had not returned. Only thing what she heard was neighbors barking dogs.

Civilian life was pretty boring, watching television and exercising. Andrea kinda missed the action, her body missed the action. Sometimes she felt that her body was on fire if she didn’t do something. Andrea missed it. Battlefield. But she had made up her mind and wouldn’t return there anytime soon.

’I won’t give up. He can keep his-’

Her thoughts were interrupted when she heard car tires screeching further. She stand up immediately, seeing two black vans parking front of her father house, feeling her heart beating faster than usual when five men came out from cars. Men in black suit and sunglasses. Typical government agents. ’What the fuck?’ Andrea though but went straight to front door and opened it before men could reach it.

”What happened?” Anxiety took over again. Something was going on.

”Mrs. Maxson, ma’am. You need to come with us,” bald agent said. Andrea frowned and saw Nate at their front door, watching them. As she clearly hesitated, agent told they were here to pick her up by her uncles orders. That she must come with them immediately which made Andrea snort.

”Yeah sure, I’ll do what ever he wants. How about if you guys tell me what's really going on?”

When she didn’t hear an answer, she opened her mouth. ”We can stand here until Judgment Day but you are not going to take me anywhere before you tell me what is this?” And they knew. They couldn't take her by force.

”At 12:03 am this morning COMPACFLT reported three unidentified submerged submarines, possibly Chinese, at California coastline. Three hours later US Air Force spotted unknown aircraft at high altitude, near Alaska,” agent stated. ”IONDS detected four nuclear missiles at 9:13 am. Four minutes after that NORAD confirmed them. We have been given order to escort you into Vault.”

Andrea closed her eyes. Fuck. Not now. When she opened them, she looked at Nate. ”I’m coming with you but with one condition. They are leaving with us.”

”Ma’am, I’m not sure are we able to...”

”Then fucking call your boss. He has to make that happen because if he doesn’t, his pride will die when war starts,” woman ordered furiously and walked past them, straight to Nate. Nate looked at her, worrying look in his face.

”What is going on?”

”War is happening. NORAD confirmed four unidentified nuclear missiles. They are here to collect my precious ass, thanks to my uncle,” Andrea said and glanced agent, who was talking in phone, probably with devil itself. Nate swore immediately. Which he didn’t do often.

”Fuck.” Nate swore again as seeing Nora holding Shaun behind him. After seeing Nora's face, Andrea knew she had heard their conversation.

”So what are we doing now? Shaun...he is…,” Nora faltered and looked at her baby. Shaun was about to cry, maybe he sympathized with her mother. Because Nora started sobbing. “Please, Andrea. Take Shaun with you. Please… take him to the Vault with you,” Nora begged. Andrea was speechless first.

”Nora. For first time in… five, ten years, I asked a request from my uncle. I’m taking you three with me to Vault or I’ll die with you guys. Those are his choices,” Andrea said evenly. Nora nodded, her shoulders still shaking.

”Ma’am.” Agent was walking towards her. “I spoke with your uncle. He gave Jensen's a permission to enter Vault. We are leaving now.”

xxxxxx

Vault wasn’t faraway from Sanctuary but government agents escort them through gates where U.S. Army soldiers maintained an order. Many civilians tried to get into Vault, but there was not enough space. It made Andrea's stomach twist when she thought how many would die soon. It was miracle that she was able to get permission for Nora and Nate enter there.

Agents escorted them to entrance of Vault and Andrea made sure that Nate, Nora and Shaun were with her whole time, standing there with her. There were about seven other people at entrance with them. Andrea concluded they were either politicians or other important persons. Sanctuary Hills belonged to military after all and government didn't really give shit about civilians, not after they started this war. War. She gasped, remembering Roger. If he was still at the Mariposa, he would be save. Facility was strong and well-secured. Andrea was thinking her father and brothers when they heard something loud and saw huge nuclear mushroom somewhere southwest. Damn Oppenheimer and Project Manhattan.

”Get it down now!,” one of the Vault-Tec employer shouted. Elevator came to life and they were able to escape nuclear blast just in time, Nate and Nora shielding Shaun from blast.

xxxxxx

A way down was long. Andrea swallowed as she heard young woman next to her crying. Woman stating it was all gone now and people above them were dead. Andrea resisted urge to cry herself. Roger should be here with them. With her. For her surprise, Shaun wasn’t crying anymore and Nora thanked her. About getting them here. Lawyers usually firm and confident voice was now whimpering. Her eyes were red from crying but she tried to smile.

”Anything for you guys,” Andrea answered before they reached their destination. Group of survivors walked through main door of Vault. Place was kinda dreary. It reminded Andrea of some kind military bunker. They saw Vault-Tec employees standing a little further, giving people vault suits and telling people to follow man with lab coat.

”Vault suits will give you a little resistance against radiation and energy. Just a precaution, you guys really don't need to fear radiation here,” Doctor Pierce told, while leading new residents to decontamination area.

”Yeah that’s what they say before shit hits the fan,” Nate said and Andrea hummed agreeing. “Andy, I should really thank you for... this.”

”I couldn’t leave you guys there. Actually we should thank my uncle, I wanted it or not.” Andrea put her long bangs behind her ear and stiffened little bit when Nate hugged her suddenly.

”Well, good thing is I know that is platonic hug,” Nora said more cheerfully. ”I don’t want to tell Roger… ” Lawyer looked suddenly ashamed and apologized. ”Oh... I’m sorry, Andrea. I just-”

”No it’s okay. I’m about 90% sure that he was at the Mariposa. I think… I hope,” Andrea faltered quietly, thinking how she could get to him.

”You remember what I told you yesterday? He is tough son of bitch. There is no way he could die like this. Not now.”

”Yeah, I know.”

xxxxxx

”This is the place were you enter into these decontamination pods, which is important before entering into actual vault,” Pierce said and gestured pods, then towards a door behind him. Andrea glared their surrounding. Somehow place looked more like research facility than Vault.

”How many people are there?”

”About forty,” Pierce answered. “Not many but enough us to survive. Now, put on your vault suits so we can continue.” There wasn’t suit for Shaun so they give him a permission to have his old blanket and jumpsuit. Andrea was changing her clothes when she heard papers falling to the floor and Nora gasping.

”Oh I’m so sorry.”

”No it’s okay. It’s my first day at work, so I’m little nervous,” girl said and picked papers from the floor. While holding Shaun in other hand, Nora helped girl.

'Goddamn lawyers,’ Andrea thought. They could handle any paperwork, regarding was there a child, dishes or coffee cup in their other hand. Nate offered his help and took baby from Nora while she helped girl.

After everyone were ready, Doctor Pierce gestured them to step inside pods, employees directing new vault dwellers into them. Andrea glared her pod and stiffened little bit.

”Claire, can you check whose pod is this? Is someone missing?”

”It’s says Jonathan Adams, doctor,” woman answered while checking terminal. “He didn’t show up.”

Andrea dropped her gaze down and stared a floor, trying not to think her father or Roger. ’Where did you go, you stupid old man, if you had place here?’ She thought, squeezing her hands into fist.

”Well, there is not much we can do now,” Doctor Pierce said. Andrea glared her pod for a while before going inside, feeling her throat dry. This pod made her anxious. Like pod would want to swallow her. ’Get a grip on yourself, woman.’ Something was telling her not to go there. Telling her to exit whole Vault and find her way to California.

”Are you okay?”

”You know, I’m not just fan of these… pods,” Andrea answered to Nate's question. “I’m fine.”

”Well it’s over soon,” he said cheerfully which made Andrea smile.

”You are so positive, you know. Always, even now when world has ended.”

”It is easy to be. My family is right here. You and Nora. Don’t worry. It will be fine,” Nate added behind her, sitting inside his own pod with Shaun.

”You and your positivism.”

”What you'd do without it, huh?” Nate smirked. Andrea rolled her eyes and saw pod's door closing. Doctor Pierce telling it would take only one or two minutes to complete decontamination. Sooner or later, it would be over. Feeling claustrophobia taking control over her, Andrea heard machine starting and told herself it would be over soon. Before realizing, she felt dizziness and then… darkness.

Chapter Text

“This is the one.”

Andrea flinched awake when she heard someone speaking and grunted lightly. Damn it was cold. Like she would have stand inside freezer for hours. Last memory she had was Nate saluting at her before everything went black. Opening her eyes slowly, she realized that she was still inside Vault’s pod. And saw two figures standing front of Nate’s pod.

”Open it,” male figure said. Nate’s pod door opened, he coughing little bit after waking up.

”Is it over? Are we ready to continue?” Nate asked and figure in strange suit stated she could take baby. “No, I got him.”

”It’s okay, I can help,” woman reassured while taking Shaun from him. Help? Help him by taking baby by force? “Come here, baby.”

”I’m not giving you him!” Andrea felt her heart beating faster when bald man, with strange armor and outfit, grabbed by his 44. Magnum and aimed Nate with it. She wanted to yell but voice didn’t come out.

”Let the boy go."

”Go to hell. I’m not giving you Shaun!” Andrea flinched little bit after hearing single gunshot. Nate fell back into his pod, bullet wound on his chest. Blood on his vault suit. Empty gaze in his eyes.

’You son of bitch!’

”Goddammit,” bald man sweared while mysterious woman took crying Shaun. ”Take baby out of here.” Andrea hoped that they would accidentally open her door, so she could kill all of them. Without mercy. She had no strength to open it herself. “At least we have a pack up. Freeze her,” man said turning towards Andrea and left.

’Come back you fucking asshole, you’re so fucking dead.’

Freeze her? Where they were taking Shaun? Backup? Andrea looked back to Nate and wanted to cry or yell. She bet Nora wanted too, if she saw all of this.

xxxxx

”That act of yours was… stupidest idea what you have ever done in your life,” Andrea scolded her childhood friend and gave bedridden Nate worried look, who was stationed in U.S. Military’s hospital after being seriously wounded. ”But… you saved four soldiers and lost your leg during your rescue mission. And lived.”

”It did felt right decision that time. And it still does. I would do it again,” Nate answered and touched her hand. “How are those soldiers?”

”Grateful and alive. Even private who lost his eye,” woman told. ”I should have been there...”

”No, Andy...”

”I promised to Nora look after you. And I let this happen...”

Nate shook his head and smiled. ”You were at the headquarters when this happened. You can’t be in two places at same time. And I’ll get used to this leg. Army already promised me a prospect leg. I think I want… golden one. You know, Nora likes gold. Or maybe wooden one.”

Andrea grunted frustrated. “Why do you always turn everything into joke? You almost lost your life.”

”Because you’re so sober-minded. You need to relax. War is over,” Nate said but frowned after seeing her face. “Or is it?”

”No. I was ordered to Yangtze, I’m leaving tomorrow. I guess... this war will be never over,” Andrea almost whispered. “I… I came here to see you. To say I’m proud of you,” she smiled and squeezed his hand.

”I should be there with you.”

”No, you return back to home. Your wife and newborn son are waiting for you there. And it's better this way. You have so much to lose and they almost lost you. I don’t… have that much. I have Roger and you. But not a child waiting for me at home. Go home, sergeant. Your fight is over.” Andrea stood up.

”I know you don’t belong to church anymore but… do you want to become Shaun’s godmother?” Nate’s question made her turn around and ask if he was serious. ”Yeah. You’re closest person to me after Nora. And we thought that you and Roger would be great parents if... something might happen to us.”

Andrea smiled widely. ”Of course.”

”Good. Now you have much more to lose than just me and Roger.”

xxxxx

And she just lost two of them.

And others… they were all dead. Right after her pod opened, Andrea went straight to check on Nora if she was okay. She wasn’t.

Andrea didn’t know how long she sat on the floor, front of Nate’s pod and cried. She was soldier of U.S. Army, no, she was more than soldier. A war hero. But she wasn’t sure anymore. She wasn’t hero what they claimed her to be. Being not able save her friends or others, not even Shaun. She was actually one who brought them here, to die.

But nuclear war would have killed them anyway. No. This wasn’t time for this. She had to find Shaun. After all, Nora wanted Andrea to take Shaun with her to vault. He was her godson. His safety was now her responsibility. Now after his both parents were dead. Andrea stood up, staring Nate through pod’s window and exhaled deeply.

”I'll find Shaun and I'll kill those who took him. Those who killed you and Nora,” she kissed her fingers and touched his pod with them. “I love you both.”

After that she left, picking up her dual 10mm pistols from the floor and went to Vault’s main entrance.

xxxxx

Andrea didn’t really saw anything before her eyes get use to the light after elevator reached surface. Sun was too bright. When she finally saw around her, she gasped and covered her mouth. World had changed so much. Everything… everything was dead. No birds singing, green leafs or grass, no flowers. Behind her, she saw rusty cars and power armors lying on the ground. Skeletons still inside.

’Is there anyone left? How long it has been?’ she thought while making her way back home. It was pretty quiet. It didn’t surprise her. What could live here? She swallowed and resisted urge not cry anymore. ’You’re soldier, goddammit.’ A soldier with feelings.

She finally ended up to Sanctuary only find that everything was destroyed or looted. Checkpoint of base was collapsed and abandoned. Ripped up flag of U.S. still in the pole. Not finding anyone from the old base, expect big flies and mosquitoes. ’Fucking radiation.’

Her childhood home was looted too. It was almost empty, few burned pictures and books left on the shelf, broken furniture and trash on the floor. No signs of her father. For her misfortune, sun was settling down. Andrea really didn’t want to know what kind of nights this new world had to offer. It was time to make a fire. Time to put those survival skills to test.

xxxxx

A lone survivor sat on the floor next to campfire, thinking where Shaun, her father and Roger were now. She throw book into fire and glared it before turning gaze to Pip-Boy. Andrea wasn't really good with computers and technology but managed to figure out how it worked. After all most breaking it.

Then she saw it, feeling something sinking inside her.

Screen showed a day and year. October 13, 2287. Andrea stared screen with wide eyes. She couldn’t believe it. Year couldn’t be fucking 2287. There is no way that she had been inside Vault over... 210 years. Running her hand through her hair, gazing into space, she tried to think logically, logically as she could. She had been in cryo, so she could have been there longer than a few years. There were skeletons everywhere. Cars, houses and equipment inside Vault were now rusted piles of steel. And the radiation? There was no way that radiation level could be this low… after few years.

Then most important and saddest thought came into her mind. Roger. 210 fucking years. He was gone. Just like everybody else.

She had lost all of them.

”Roger… Oh, god.” He couldn’t have survived this long. Everybody was gone. Her father, her brothers, Nora, Nate, Roger… Feeling anxiety attack closing, she exhaled with gasps, sobbing uncontrollably. Feeling her heart thudding in her chest, chest growing tight as she realized what had happened. She wanted to get out. She had to get out. Without knowing what she was going to do, what she was going to do with her life, Andrea took the pistol next to her and stared it for a moment, feeling panic attack easing. It was so obvious. It felt easy. Closing her eyes, she felt tear coming down and lifted pistol against her chin. Andrea didn’t know how long she hold finger on the trigger and felt barrel against her skin. It could take only one press and it all would be over… Then it hit her like a lightning from the clear blue sky.

Shaun.

Andrea threw pistol away from her. ’What the fuck you are doing, soldier?’ Roger would ask. He and Nate wouldn’t never forgive her if she committed suicide. But she could do it. To be with him. With her family. Andrea sobbed again and fell down to floor.

”I’m sorry...” Seeing flashback from a moment when she last time saw him. At the Adams Air Force Base. Roger looking at her before airplane hatch closed. ”I’m so sorry, honey...”

xxxxx

It did take her more than few days before she finally made decision to leave from the base. There wasn’t anything for her anymore. Only memories. Spending her days scouting surroundings of the area and tried to find something to eat. If she could eat. She almost had lost her appetite after realizing she was in future. But she had to eat and shape up.

Not to mention how German Shepherd, which had appeared into base a day ago, did cheer her up. It had greeted her friendly and licked her hand after probably sensing how downhearted she was. After that, it followed her everywhere.

Before leaving, she went to Jensen's house, finding Shaun’s old cradle and pushed mobile slightly. Nate build it for Shaun. Sturdy one as it was still there after two centuries. Woman stared cradle and saw something underneath it. A baby rattle. One which Jonathan Adams had given to Shaun. She had to find Shaun. For Nate and Nora. Dog and his new owner walked to checkpoint and Andrea turned around to look at pre-war military installation last time. Leaving it behind. To face this new world with her new friend.

xxxxx

Following duo’s victory against mosquitoes and spiders which were huge as her new friend was, Andrea and her canine friend went to Concord to find ammo and loot. Only thing what she found was bunch of raiders and helpless civilians at the museum. German Shepherd attacked immediately hostiles and there wasn’t other choice but to kill those bastards. Like her ammo wasn’t low already. Andrea heard strange voice, noticing man at the old museum’s balcony. Firing hostiles with some kind of laser rifle.

”Hey, you over there! Help us, please!”

Andrea raised her eyebrow as man went to back to inside. ’Well this is classic trap,’ Andrea thought but heard gun shooting from the inside. Her canine friend ran to the door and barked a few times. ”You want me to go inside? Great.”

Immediately after stepping inside the Museum of Freedom, she smelled mold and saw class all over the place. The second and third floor above her had been collapsed and roof made from class was now history. She remembered her only time when she visited this museum with Nate and Roger. Nora and Andrea had ended up in nearby coffee shop after spending only fifteen minutes with history nerds. Her thoughts were interrupted as Andrea heard a gunshot and successfully avoided a bullet which was meant for her.

”There is another one! On the first floor.”

Andrea ran into room next to entrance and continued her way into second floor, dog behind her. Dealing with raiders along the way. German Shepherd wasn’t useless either. He was capable of handling raiders as well. Shepherds weren’t popular in army and police force just for their looks. They were fierce, loyal and strong dogs. Andrea always wanted one but Roger was allergic to dogs. Ironic, now she had one. When he wasn’t there anymore. Andrea shook her head.

’Think him later, you have a situation to handle here.’ She heard three raiders behind the wall. Two of them had pistols and one of them had a knife. Kicking the door, trying to get through it. Andrea glared raiders and then looked at her new friend. ”Psst. I have an idea.”

Plan was to lure raiders away from the door and make them come close to a door on the hallway. Andrea stood behind door and gave a dog command to bark. Dog barked angrily as he stood at the hallways other end, glaring raiders with his furious brown eyes.

”Oh come on. I don’t want to kill that. I like dogs.”

”Well, it doesn’t like us. Stay there. I can handle this.” Andrea kicked door open when hostile was on the right spot and pulled him into the another room, taking him down. She heard another raider power walking and swearing in hallway but he was attacked by German Shepherd. Dog being smart enough to bite hand were he held his pipe pistol. Man cried and tried to cut himself loose with no luck. Shepherd’s bite force was unmatched. Man with a knife was about to attack the dog, but Andrea knocked him down by throwing him with a hand-to-hand combat move. Raider landed on his back and was paralyzed by pain and hit. Shepherd did let go of raider as woman kicked hostile down from the catwalk.

”And that’s that,” Andrea said to dog and heard door opening. Same dark skinned man peeking outside. Shepherd ran into the room straight away, like he would have knew him already. Andrea glared inside the room, seeing few other people inside. “What happened here?”

”We were ambushed by those raiders when we came town to look for shelter and some food, but… these bastards surprised us and killed few of us,” man answered. He looked tired. Andrea could see it from his eyes. “Our group escaped into this old museum. We lost one of us just outside of this place. We thought we're done for, but then you showed up. So thank you.”

”Hey, it was something what anybody would do, right?” Andrea asked but doubted the morality of people in time like this.

”I doubt that,” man finally answered after thinking and Andrea scratched her nose. It was habit for her to do when she was in awkward situation.

”So, who are you guys?” she asked and man introduced himself and his company. Preston Garvey, Colonel of Commonwealth Minuteman. That explained his outfit, wearing colonial duster and hat.

”Great. I thought I was living year 2287, not year 1775.” Preston raised his eyebrow at her statement. Andrea raised her hands as a sign to forget what she just said. “Where are you headed?”

”Mama Murphy saw a large settlement with brick fence near here in her visions and we thought it could be place to settle down.”

”We?” Marcy Long stated sounding pissed off, and tired. “We are here just because Mama Murphy found some Jet during our way here and saw this settlement. You know Preston, I’m tired of this. And we don’t even know where our General is!”

”I know, Marcy, I’m tired too but we couldn't stay in Lexington either. Damn, General would know what to do,” Preston said quietly. Marcy didn’t say anything anymore and murmured something by herself while pacing around. “A month ago, there was twenty of us when we left our town, Quincy. Yesterday there were eight. Now, only we are left. And we don’t know where our General is now. She left to Burlington few weeks back but hasn’t returned back. We do fear the worst...”

This place was merciless to people who tried to survive.

”There is a large settlement with brick fence just near here. You can go through Concord, northwest. After bypassing old gas station and forest, there is place called Sanctuary Hills. I just.. looted both of them, so there should not be any nasty bugs.”

”Sanctuary Hills,” old woman said. “You have history with that place, memories, sad and happy memories. So probably that’s why you don’t wanna come with us there?,” she continued, watching Andrea with sad eyes. How did this old woman knew something like that?

”How... you know...” Andrea faltered. “...what?”

”I saw your dark past, saw you leaving that cold place, coming into this new world… and you’re still learning how to deal with all of this. But don’t worry,” Mama Murphy said sadly first. “You will find your faith again. You will find a person you’re looking for and you will meet him again.”

Before Andrea could ask what woman meant, she heard Preston swearing at the balcony and coming back inside. “More raiders. You seem to know how to fight. I know this wasn’t your fight but you did still come to our aid...”

”You want me to help you?” Andrea smiled a little. ”Don’t worry, Preston. I can handle them.”

”I will help you from up here. Sturgers, what is situation with power armor?”

”It’s ready. I got that fusion core from downstairs. There is pre-war T-45 power armor on the roof with crashed vertibird next to it, minigun mounted onto it. I hope there is still ammo left somewhere,” Sturgers explained as Andrea took fusion core from him. “Have you used a power armor before?”

”Long time ago.” She was about to leave but did stop when dog whined sadly. Woman smiled a little, stating she would return and patted his head.

xxxxx

After opening a door, Andrea saw still intact power armor standing in the rain. Just like U.S Army used to advertise, power armors were made to withstand different conditions. There it was still standing, after 210 years. Hoping it would still work, she put a fusion core into power armor and twisted a hatch’s handler. As it opened, she grinned.

Ripping minigun from the vertibird, she jumped down from the roof with loud thump. Preston was already shooting raiders from balcony with his… strange gun. It looked like a musket from 1775’s. Shit, this guy was serious with his Minuteman stuff.

First raider tried to attack her with a baseball bat. Andrea watched as raider hit chest plate with a bat. Clank. Andrea rolled her eyes under the helmet. Well, raider was dedicated, she gave her that. After dealing with raider, she saw few pile of ashes on the ground. Maybe Preston wasn’t that bad combatant after all, just desperate. Desperate to survive and protect his group. He was only with a gun. He was dedicated. After a few good shots with minigun, there was maybe two or three raiders left, hiding behind buildings. ’Tsk, waste of ammo.’ Maybe she should just finish them bare handed.

As she went closer to the end of main alley of Concord, she heard growl from maintenance hatch. It had been used for pipeline maintenance in previous life. Whatever was under there, wasn’t there for pipelines. Clank. Andrea's eyes widened as she saw huge, ten feet tall... T-Rex coming from hatch. And it was angry.

”...the fuck is that?!”

”Deathclaw!” Preston answered back. Andrea disliked this world even more now.

”A what?!” Andrea shouted, staring monster as it chewed last raiders into pieces. After it was done with them, it turned its head and glared Andrea with furious eyes. It growled angry and ran towards her.

”Get out of there!” Preston yelled at her from balcony. Andrea was about to tell him ’easy for you to say from up there’ but fired minigun instead. It fired a few rounds but then it stopped.

’Tsk. What I just... Waste of fucking ammo.’

She had her 10mm pistols -with twenty bullets- and knife left. Mission impossible. Dodging quickly beasts attack as it tried hit her with claws. She was fast but not in power armor. Claws almost ripped off power armors armory. Deathclaw attacked again with another hand and Andrea stopped it with her hands. Thanks to her strength training, adrenaline and power armor, she was able to withstand and hold back a huge amount of pressure. For limited time. And Andrea didn’t want to test her luck second time.

Moving away from Deathclaw's was, before losing against it’s strength, Andrea picked up her 10mm pistol and shoot bullet into beasts eye before it almost hit her with another hand, but now it was swinging around furiously. With her luck, it hit her with tail and soldier fell down to ground. Deathclaw turned to look at her with its only good eye, roaring angrily. It prepared to attack her again and Andrea picked her 10mm pistol from ground and shot it again. This time bullet hit its already damaged eye, bullet going this time deeper, probably hitting a brain.

Deathclaw fell into ground, silence landed to Concord following it. No more growling or raiders. Andrea sighed out loud, lying on the tarmac while trying to calm herself. She really didn’t like power armors, being at her best without it but this time she was relieved to be in it. Glaring beast for a while, she kicked it after standing up. She almost died. How she was going to survive in this world? She was trained to fight humans, not… monsters.

”Damn, that was… unbelievable. How you did that?” Preston asked her with impressed look in his face after getting out from museum.

”I just.. got lucky, I think.”

”Lucky? Do you know how strong those guys are?” Preston gestured Deathclaw.

”I do now,” Andrea said. “But remember, I was in power armor and I only stopped it for few seconds to move away from its hand.”

”I have seen Deathclaw's throwing people who were in power armor.” Preston told. “Believe me, it can do it.”

”What is this thing really?”

”You don’t know?” Preston asked.

’No, I’m just wearing this vault suit and Pip-Boy for fun.' She wanted to say it out loud but then remembered that Preston wasn’t sarcasm-lover. “No, I don’t. I just got out from Vault. About three days ago.”

”Well, if you have lived your whole life in Vault… and fight like that…,” he faltered. ”Anyway, some people say Deathclaws are mutants of pre-war species called chameleons.” Andrea frowned as she remembered those little color-changing fellas and glared Deathclaw.

”I hope I won’t meet mutant of scorpion.”

”Actually, there is one already...” Preston said. This is just what she needed in her life.

xxxxx

Preston’s group had moved to first floor, just next to main entrance. They gathered together as a Preston returned back to them, telling them happy news. Their new friend, as Preston called Andrea, had cleared Concord from raiders and Deathclaw, so they were ready to continue their way. ”You sure you don’t wanna come there with us?”

”Like Murphy said, I've history with that place. I don’t plan to return there anytime soon, probably never...” Andrea said before exiting from power armor and turned to look Sturgers. “I think I will leave this fella with you.”

”You sure you don’t want to keep it?”

”No. I’m better without power armor. I think you guys should keep it. Maybe you will need it more than I do. Thanks anyway.” Sturgers sure looked happy.

”Are you absolutely sure?”

”It would just slow me down,” Andrea answered confidently. German Shepherd barked at her, like trying to get her attention. “Oh, don’t worry boy, I haven’t forget you.”

”Dogmeat,”Mama Murphy said suddenly. “It’s his name.”

”Is he yours?”

”Dogmeat doesn't belong to nobody. He stays and helps those who deserves it and now, he's staying with you. He's a good dog, try to take care of him.” Mama Murphy said. “There are people who will help you and those who will need your help.”

Andrea wasn’t sure did older woman even know herself what she was talking about. She didn’t believe witchcraft stuff but at this moment, she was ready to take any information.

”Murphy,” Andrea started and kneel down front of her. “Do you know anything… about baby who was kidnapped from a vault?”

”Only thing I can see is… Diamond City. The Great Greenjewel of Commonwealth. But that’s all I can manage now. You should try to find answers from there. Of course, if you bring me more Jet...” woman explained exhausted but she was interrupted by Preston who called her with scolding voice. ”We will all die someday, Preston,” old woman murmured which made Andrea smile. It was a fact.

”Diamond City it is then,” Andrea said and stood up. “Where I can find it?”

”Downtown. Biggest settlement around here. You can’t miss it. It's build inside old baseball stadium,” Sturgers told her.

”Fenway Park?” Andrea asked surprised. A group stared her oddly. They didn’t recognize the name. Of course they didn’t. Last time it was Fenway Park, it was about 200 years ago.

’Its a whole new world. Get use to it,’ Andrea thought.

”Don’t try too hard. Try to take care of yourself, dear,” Murphy said. Andrea was trying. Trying not to cry, get angry or get nuts with this place.

xxxxx

Night had started fall down quickly as they returned outside and Andrea gestured a way to Sanctuary. Sturgers was happy with his power armor. Too bad, they had only one fusion core. Andrea thought maybe she could bring them more if she finds any. ”Anyway, thanks all of this,” Preston said. ”It would be great to have you in Minuteman.”

”You know, Preston. I’m honored about your proposal, but I think I’ll just stick as a… friend now. This all is… just new to me. But if I’m around and any of you are in trouble or you need my help, I will try my best.”

”That’s understandable. But if you change your mind, you'll find me from Sanctuary. If it’s good place to settle down,” he said with a smile. Apparently, he was feeling a little better now. “I hope you’ll find your godson.”

”And I hope you'll manage to get things going on. Setting up a place to live must be hard nowadays.”

”It is. But if everything will go smoothly, I can begin to rebuild Minuteman soon enough. We were scattered around Commonwealth after Quincy, but hopefully we will find each other. If General returns… no, she will return and we'll be back in business.” He even sounded a little more optimistic now. ”Hey, you didn’t told us your name?”

”Andrea Maxson.” Feeling again something sinking inside her while saying his surname. Flashback of Roger crossed her mind and Preston gave her a questioning, maybe pondering look.

”You said you are from Vault, right?” A nod from woman. ”Well, then it is just a coincidence.”

”What is?”

”I’ve heard there is some kind military at the Capital Wasteland. Your surname just reminded me of them.”

”Ah, of course. What would we do without military messing around us?” Andrea murmured. That was exactly what she did need in her life. Not.

After farewells, Andrea hoped they would find place to settle down and try to live normal life. Instead of leaving straightly towards old stadium, she decided to sleep overnight at old church. Only an idiot would travel during nighttime. Before entering into church and setting up the traps, she felt eyes on her back. Slowly, woman glared around her, seeing nothing more but dead Deathclaw and darkness. Disliking this world even more.

Chapter Text

”...Now it's my turn to go AWOL, if that concept even applies anymore. My armor's fusion core is burned out, so I guess my soldiering days are done. I'm heading to Boston on foot, to see if my sister survived all this. She's got an apartment on Boylston Street. This is Mike Daly, signing out. Good luck. And God bless America. Or what's left of it.”

Vault dweller sighed. ’Yeah, whatever there is left from that glorious America.’

A brand new day in a brand new world. Andrea and her canine companion continued their journey towards southeast, after finding something to eat and tinkering some equipment. Weapon holsters more precisely. She couldn’t carry dual pistols all the time.

Checking her Pip-Boy’s map, Andrea noticed they were closing Lexington. An old industrial estate. They might be able to reach town before night and maybe find nice place to stay. Find good loot and... food. Two cans of pork and beans (or whatever it was) didn't make hunger go away.

”We had a deal, Trudy. Hand over the goods.”

That sounded like a trouble. Seeing three figures arguing at the old Drumlin Diner, Andrea thought about leaving, it wasn’t her problem after all. But she was still soldier. Wanted to help people. This world did not need selfishness. It was full of it already.

”You piece of shit!” older woman yelled. ”Selling this junk to my boy wasn’t part of our deal, if you call it one.”

”Like I said, it’s not our fault if he wanted to buy them… whoa whoa!” man pulled out his pistol after seeing dog and vault dweller. ”Easy there Vaultie. This doesn’t involve you.”

Andrea could disarm both of them easily but old woman and her son were in line of fire. ”You stop waving that gun in my face or at them, or it’s gonna involve me.”

Maybe it was her military appearance and firm tone of voice which made them stand down. Being a officer in army required good charisma, determined and strong voice. Though that didn’t matter anymore.

”Okay, okay. Take it easy. Just don’t do anything crazy,” man said as duo lowered their weapons.

”Now get the fuck out of here. Both of you and don’t come back.”

”Are you fucking kidd...” he started but shut his mouth as Andrea narrowed her eyes. ”Fine. Let’s go, Simone.” Andrea chuckled little bit as they ran away, in hurry.

”Well, this was just what I needed. Thank you,” Trudy thanked her as Dogmeat went to see boy and licked his shaking hand, like trying to help him somehow.

”Not a problem. Is your son okay?”

”He will be. Drug addiction is not easy overcome but we will make it.”

”Do you have any addictol?” Some soldiers used Jet and other drugs during Resources War and there was small chance that addictol was still obtainable too. Addition to drugs. Andrea had found her favorite drinks, Nuka Cola and Gwinnett Stouts, from this wasteland. That’s how people called this place now. People could find anything from this land. Everything was free.

”Not right now but Carla, our traveling trader, should come here back soon as she can with supplies from Diamond City. She left about two days ago.”

”Maybe I can find some before she comes back. Or maybe I can find those two assholes and make them give their addictols.” Andrea smirked. ”So... is there any place from where I could find addictols or drug addict raiders?”

”Hmm. There is a lake southwest from here, " woman pondered. "My son told me that raiders have ’secret’ drug lab there… Are you sure about this? I don’t really want to ask you-”

”No, you didn’t ask. I want to help. If I find some addictol, I will bring it to you.”

”Thank you,” Trudy said. Andrea nodded and turned around to leave diner. Dogmeat on her trail.

xxxxx

Lake wasn’t too faraway or what was left of it anyway. Andrea faced wild dogs on her way there (or if they were dogs anymore). They acted like a one, barked a lot and attacked with speed and teeth, but they were more like…

’Skinned dogs. Zombies. This place is hideous.’

While Dogmeat took care of one of them, Andrea killed one with her knife and murmured something by herself. She really didn’t want to kill dogs, even if they were skinned and angry ones, but she had no choice. Glancing around, hearing how unearthly quiet the forest was, Andrea thought about finishing her job before the dark. She had saw battlefield before, seen horrors of it but this place was different. As humans were predictable, monsters of this world weren’t. Funny how things turned out. Animals were top of the foodcain now.

As duo approached old lake slowly, Andrea saw man leaning against fallen tree, stalking someone or something through his scope of rifle. Man had body length jacket, held together by belt with several pouches, had cap on his head with two rifle rounds strapped to the brim by the sweatband. He looked like a mercenary but not bad as that asshole back in the Vault.

Andrea glared man thoroughly as this was too focused on sniping. She glanced Dogmeat next to her, telling him to stay behind and approached man slowly. Though grass was dead and dry, her footsteps didn’t make any sound. Stealth Steps. That’s how her comrades had called them. Ability to move without making sounds. Taking her pistol from holster, she aimed it toward sniper, touching his head with it. ”Put that rifle on the ground and don’t move. What’s your business here?”

”How I am supposed to put the gun down and not to move at the same time?,” man stated nervously.

”Don’t test me.” Man sighed and put his rifle down to ground. ”Now answer my question.”

”I’m just here to do my job. You know what job is?”

”Yeah, that’s why I am here too. You with the raiders?”

”No, I am trying to get rid off these fu- freaking raiders. I don’t care if I have to kill some raiders for the caps. Or you,” man stated again.

’Caps? Why would anybody do anything for the caps?’

”Is there drug lab down there?” Man shrugged as a answer and Andrea hit his head with pistol, not hard enough to knock him out but enough to make him talk. ”Next what will hit your head, will be the bullet.”

”Okay, fine. I was hired to kill these raiders for… my customer. Those raiders owe him caps and drugs, but they didn’t listen him. So here I am, trying to do my job... until you came and ruined it.” He was talking a lot for a man who had gun pointed against his head. Or maybe it was a reason why he talked a lot.

”Sure. You’re sniping them from the outside? Turn around,” Andrea said before going back few steps, just in case of surprise. As the man turned around still holding his hands up, she frowned. ’Jesus, he’s just a kid,’ Pair of blue eyes glared back to her.

”Oh great, I was surprised by vault dweller, again. Maybe I need to train my scouting skills more.”

”More like ’mind your surroundings’ training,” Andrea lectured. Boy rolled his eyes. ”So, let’s see. Maybe we can take them together?”

”Are you stupid? You just sneaked up on me, hold me up, ask what I am doing here, then... you're asking me to work with you,” boy laughed, trying to think was she just naive or retarded. ”And anyway, I don’t think you have even caps to buy my services.”

”Always doing it for cash?”

”When you’re good at something, never do it for free,” boy stated blankly but saw a little smile on woman’s face. They didn’t know how long they stared each other, thinking how to get out of this situation or how to negotiate. Or how to kill each other.

”Hmm. You said they owe drugs and… caps to your customer, right? They probably have all those things at their lab, yes? What say you if we go down there, kick their asses and you can have all of their property, including merchandise that doesn’t belong to your customer, as a payment of your service for me?” Andrea suggested. Man frowned and continued glaring her.

”You don’t want anything?”

”Only thing what I want is an addictol.”

”Why do you need an addictols? Are you high or something,” he frowned even more.

”No. Son of my customer needs it,” Andrea said determinedly. ”It’s like... killing two birds with one stone?”

This kid wasn’t a bad guy. Of course he was mercenary and Andrea knew mercenaries (she had worked with them before). They couldn’t be trusted but this kid was different. She noticed his empathic look when Andrea said she needed medicine to help someone.

”How do I know I won’t end up with knife in my back after we are done?”

”You don’t. You know the risks as much as I do. But if we want to finish our tasks and make our customers happy, there shouldn’t be any problem or I swear, you will end up with knife in you back.”

”Or you will end up with .308 bullet in your head,” boy stated firmly.

”Andrea Maxson,” she offered her hand. It hurted her deep inside to say that name, but she shook her head again mentally. Sniper frowned even more. ”What?”

”Are you from the Brotherhood of Steel?”

”No I am not. What’s that?”

”Military. Bunch of idiots collecting technology and messing with people lifes. You just… share surname with that fu-freaking idiot who runs whole circus,” sniper murmured. Andrea recalled Preston telling about them after hearing her surname. ”You’re not his family member?”

”No, I’m not. I don't even know who they are. As you can see, I’m vault dweller,” Andrea answered. ”Just call me Andrea.”

”Robert Joseph MacCready.”

”So, RJ, how do we get in?” Andrea asked him and gestured towards collapsed building at other side of the small lake. ”They have that secret lab of theirs underground?”

”How did you know?” MacCready asked.

”That building was a gift shop long time ago, not a laboratory. They probably did set their lab into employees premises... which is more secure.”

”Well, you are right. I’m not a fan of going there guns plazing, so front door is not an option. There are presumably traps too,” MacCready said. This kid wasn’t stupid. ”Can I take my rifle now?”

Andrea nodded. ”Make sure there are no ’vault dwellers’ sneaking around,” woman whispered and grinned.

”Oh haha. You’re funny,” he murmured as woman whistled quietly, low enough so Dogmeat could hear it. Soon, dog came to her, waving his tail. ”What is this? German Shepherd? Is he with you?”

”Yeah, he is my backup.” Andrea stated and patted Dogmeat’s head. ”He is capable of handling raiders on his own. Why?”

”You just remind me of someone...” MacCready said as he glared both of them and returned to look through his scope. ”I can’t see anyone outside at the moment, but I see a fat pipeline with a hatch. Maybe that’s their another exit?”

”Let’s go find out,” Andrea said with smile.

MacCready wasn’t still sure what to think about her. Woman wasn’t ordinary scavver. Her black bob hair was smooth, clean and well cut. But she wasn’t a vault dweller either. She had this 'military appearance', strong and tough voice and apparently knew something about combat. Either they had small army inside Vault or she has connections with that circus of tin cans.

xxxxx

Pipelines hatch was shut tight but Andrea was able to lift it up, letting boys go first, Dogmeat ahead of them, sniffing around. He could sniff bad guys easily. ”Do you have a handgun?”

”I only use my rifle. I’m best with sniper rifles, no matter where I am shooting with it. I have a knife though,” he said and pointed his knife under jacket.

”Maybe I should watch my back, I don’t want to be stabbed with knife either,” Andrea said with little grin.

”Don’t worry. I will use my rifle is something comes up. It’s less painful,” MacCready answered smiling. Water was flooding inside the pipeline and it made sneaking harder. Pipeline had also couple traps on the floor, so they needed to be extra careful. Suddenly Dogmeat started to growl quietly and duo heard people talking.

”When next delivery is coming, boss? Billy is getting anxious. There isn’t enough components to prepare this new drug...”

”Soon. Wolfgang and Simone are trying to find some. I hope they will succeed with traders.” Andrea frowned. Didn’t that jackass in leather outfit call his friend ”Simone” back at Drumlin Diner?

”I hope we can trust those two, boss. They are associated with Goodneighbor. Mayor of that shithole doesn’t really like us.”

”Hah. He has a reason for that. But he doesn’t have influence here either. So fuck him,” this boss person said. Trio inside the pipe approached big hole on the side of pipeline and took a peek. Three raiders inside the cave, one sitting on the seat, probably the boss man, second standing front of him. Third person was leaning against wall,cleaning his fingernails with knife.

”Did you saw others?” Andrea whispered to her new companion.

”Yeah. There was four of them outside before you showed up. So, we have about seven guys opposing us.”

”Probably more. I actually managed to scare this duo, Wolfgang and Simone, away few hours ago. I wouldn’t be surprised if they came here.”

”Or they returned back to Goodneighbor. Those two aren’t really raiders but it’s good to know they fraternize with them. So, how do you wan to do this, boss?” sniper asked.

”You call me boss even though I haven’t give you any cash yet?”

”My reward is there, hopefully. If not… then I’ll steal that Pip-Boy of yours after you’re worm food.”

”Unbelievable,” she said while grinning. ”It’s your choice, partner. Rest of them will hear us no matter how we approach them. We could try sneaking but place is too bright. Good thing is, we have their boss in line of fire. But rest of them are still a problem. Guns plazing?” Somehow she had waited for this. Sniper rolled his eyes and snorted.

”You’re the boss, boss.”

”Of course I am,” Andrea smirked. ”You stay here. Snipe coming raiders while I’m trying to bluff them.”

”You're going there?” MacCready asked and gestured raiders. Another raider had showed up in cave and was now talking with their boss and woman.

”Don’t worry. Not my first gunfight. And don’t forget, there is payment waiting,” Andrea stated lightly, releasing safety of her pistols and got confused look from sniper.

This woman was crazy, stupid or both.

xxxxx

Was this woman crazy, stupid or both, it was still unclear. But this she wasn’t rookie. Right after she had left pipeline and alarmed raiders, she shot two of them without hesitation and used hand-to-hand combat on raider boss, besting him in seconds while he himself killed two raiders right after they showed up in doorway. MacCready had never saw grown man losing to small woman that easily. More raiders were send out to investigate gunshots. Trio encountered total ten raiders, as they reached the main floor and the lab, with minimal injuries.

Chem laboratory itself was motherload. Full of drug stacks, from Jet to Buffouts and lots of bags. Full of cash. Bottlecaps Current currency of Wasteland. Andrea gave all the bags to MacCready as he stuffed them into his backpack. ”Are you sure that your backpack is going to hold all that weight?”

”It’s made from leather, of course it will,” MacCready said and gave a addictols to Andrea. ”You sure you will manage with only those?”

”That was the deal. So it’s done now. Hopefully our customers will be happy now or we did this for nothing.”

”Well, if this was wasted trip, it was funny one,” MacCready said. ”You know, I’m still wondering why did you ask me to help you? You knew I was a mercenary but still... you asked my help. Even gave all this stuff to me. If I had been someone else, you would have been killed immediately after you first time turned your back on me. But still you did it.”

Woman hummed pondering before answering. ”Saw your expression when I told that I was looking medicine for someone. From that moment I knew you weren’t a bad guy. And you're pretty good with that rifle, kid. I shouldn't piss you off.” Andrea stated smiling. MacCready had someone who he cared about… but she didn’t want to inquire about it.

”Not a bad guy, huh? You know, I kill people for living.”

”So do I, now more than ever apparently,” Andrea said, saying it more to herself. ”But we all have reasons, right? As long as you don’t kill innocents, you’re okay.”

”Nobody is not innocent nowadays,” MacCready said firmly.

”I meant children or pregnant women, kid."

”Smartass.”

xxxxx

”So this is were we split up. Thanks,” sniper said and offered his hand this time after ’partners’ exited the building and disarmed all the traps. Like Andrea had thought, sniper wasn’t idiot. She smiled a little and nodded.

”It was pleasure. Are you sure you can continue traveling at night?”

”I shoot and move better at night. Daylight is what I hate,” MacCready told her.

”Like a true sniper, huh?” woman chuckled a little bit. ”Don’t get yourself killed there, kid.” Man gave her scowl after she called him kid, again, murmuring something about mungos. Whatever that meant. Andrea and Dogmeat watched him leaving before returning back to Drumlin.

Trudy was closing the shop and looked relieved when Andrea returned with addictols. ”Thank you. Again. You can stay here overnight. Wasteland is pretty dangerous at night. And here is your payment,” Trudy said, giving Andrea a bag of caps. Her first caps.

”Thank you too. Um, I would like to sleep outside if it’s okay. I would like to have some own time.”

”You can use this,” shop keeper said suddenly and took a sleeping bag from the shelf. Andrea thanked her again and turned to look her son, Patrick. He was still shaking and murmuring something by himself. Damn drugs. Andrea still remembered how it felt to be ’high’ from drugs. How feeling of pain and hunger were gone, making everything… simple. When effect of morphine stopped, pain came back and… She could only imagine what Patrick went through.

Imagine what people went through two hundred years ago.

xxxxx

Wasteland. Country what for she fought and gave everything, turned into this wasteland after world leaders decided to blast everything into pieces. There wasn’t nothing left. Expect remnants of mankind fighting over loot, homes and family. Only one purpose in mind. Survival. Andrea pondered what people did in order to survive after war? What he did after bombs were dropped? Touching her tags while walking on road, she glanced her name on pre-war dog tags.

’NO’ on the tag indicated that she had no religion after Sino-American War. And not especially after this. Who could believe in anything after all this? Andrea let tags drop down and lifted her gaze up to the sky. Stars were still visible, against the rising dawn. Stars had not changed after the war like everything else had. Thinking, what Roger had told her about starlight. That stars were place where souls resided. Was he there too now? Watching her now? Three thousands miles and two hundred years between them.

Lexington appeared behind the hill and Andrea turned Diamond City radio off before entering into city. It had to be full of raiders. It was always raiders. She went into first apartment, finding Nuka-Cola, cigarettes, two packets of .38 rounds and some food, stuffing all her loot into her new backpack.

As Andrea and Dogmeat exited the building, she heard familiar but alarming sound. It sounded like whistle first but then she heard big explosion and felt ground shaking little bit. She grunted as she saw an elevated catwalk between buildings and power armored person with a Fatman.

’Great. Hostile with a fucking Fatman. Thanks a lot General Brock and his group for developing this so-called greatest weapon which U.S. Army ever had, and for what? So these jackasses could nuke shit out of this town? What is this person even shooting at?’

Andrea narrowed her eyes as she tried to identify targets. People running around and swinging their arms. But their behavior was unusual. Dogmeat growled when one of them came near enough. During that moment, Andrea saw a feral ghoul first time. This… zombie, or what the hell it was, didn’t have arms anymore. Its skin was rotten, clothes were shredded and it acted more like a zombie than human. It sniffed air, ate stuff from the ground and moved around without destination. Soon it had more company when others wandered toward Andrea and Dogmeat. Andrea crouched, trying to avoid their line of sight. After a few minutes, she heard whistle again and saw huge explosion in Lexington’s downtown area.

”Yeah, let’s get the hell out of here. I don’t want to have a mini nuke in my ass,” Andrea stated to whining Dogmeat and turned around slowly, cursing again guys of Fort Strong for developing Fatman. She missed the days when only military had overpowered weapons.

xxxxx

Old car landfill was full of huge rats and radiation, making Andrea retreat immediately when her Pip-Boy warned about radiation coming from warehouse. However, machine started to beep again as they were closing Boston’s downtown.

”Tha hell?,” she thought aloud and checked machine on her left arm. Diamond City Radio and Classical Radio stations were still available but there was now yet another radio frequency on the list. Military frequency AF95.

Maybe it was old and forgotten frequency from time before war, playing over and over on loop. Andrea shook her head, imagining how Nate would lecture about her pessimistic view of life, which she called ’realistic’.

’Nate would probably say something like ’ What if it’s old and forgotten? It would remind people about long forgotten U.S. Army. It would be an eternal memory of our existence. As long as it will be on the loop.’

She chuckled herself and turned frequency on. First, all what she could hear was static as Pip-Boy tried to decode frequency, but sound came more clearer after few minutes.

”This is Scribe Haylen of Reconnaissance Squad Gladius to any unit in transmission range…. sustained casualties and we’re running low on supplies. ….port or evac from our position at Cambridge Police Station. Autom...”

It sounded like this message was new. Andrea didn’t recognize term scribe or unit Reconnaissance Squad Gladius. Message had to be post-war. Cambridge. Area had changed a little bit in 200 years but she could still recognize Cambridge next to highway. It wasn’t a faraway and she knew where Police Station was exactly. Dogmeat whined and turned his head with questioning look in his eyes.

”What do you say, buddy? Should we go save some lives? Again? Maybe food or caps waiting us there?” Andrea asked from Dogmeat who barked and waved his tail. ”If there is anybody left...”

Lecturing herself again about being pessimistic.

Chapter Text

Sounds of gunshots and freaky cries echoed through side streets of Cambridge, and the closer duo went building of old police station, more freakier voices sounded. Andrea concluded that voices belonged to those zombie creatures and pulled out both of her 10mm pistols from holsters. Her eyes widened little as she witnessed herd of these mindless zombies running around and attacking someone inside power armor at the front yard of Police Station. Recognizing power armor as a T-60, she thought how and from where man got it. However, Andrea returned back to reality when Dogmeat went to help this power armored man. Barking furiously and killed one of the zombies with ease.

”Civilian in the perimeter! Check your fire!” man's voice commanded while Dogmeat continued his killing spree, showing his true abilities in action as a German Shepherd. During the fight, one of the zombies got too close man and woman at the front door. Andrea picked her knife from her boot and threw it toward creature, knife piercing its head, making it...crumble. How much she disliked this place. After making sure duo at the front door were alright, she returned back to fight.

”Stay still,” woman said firmly as a man winced. ”I cannot patch you if you swing around.”

”I’m trying. It’s hard to stay still when there is herd of feral ghouls at our front yard,” man stated murmuring and woman glanced trio. Amount of feral ghouls were decreasing, thanks to trio’s effort.

”Don’t worry, they will handle it,” woman said a little smile and took a stimpak from first aid kit. ”Don’t move. I don’t want to inject this into wrong place.”

Eventually gunshots stopped and duo glanced their protectors, seeing power armored man scouting the area and woman in vault suit was doing same. Probably. She was more like her dog, listening environment before holstering weapons. There were approximately dozens zombies laying on the ground and even more at outside. Man inside T-60 walked towards stairways to barricaded gantry and stopped after reaching body of fallen comrade.

”Rest in peace, Knight Keane. Ad Victoriam.” He stood there a while before returning back to their helpers. Glancing sternly muscular woman with black straight, asymmetrically cut bob hair, dark brown eyes and heavy freckled face. Right next to woman sat her canine companion, adult German Shepherd. “Me and my squad appreciate the assistance, civilian. But what’s your business here?”

”I picked up your SOS-message at the Lexington and I came here to check the situation.”

”Are you from local Vault?”

”I left Vault about six days ago,” woman answered and man frowned again.

”I’m surprised, not many could admit that they are from the Vault. But judging from your outfit, you don’t even try to hide it.”

Andrea hummed agreeing. ”Um… who are you people?”

”My name is Paladin Danse of Brotherhood of Steel,” he said and looked at his company. ”His name is Knight Rhys and young lady next to him is Scribe Haylen.” It was Andrea’s time to frown and she crossed her arms.

Brotherhood of Steel. Same military which Preston and MacCready had mentioned. Their leader sharing same surname with her. She wasn’t thrilled about it. About military lurking around here.

”I beg your pardon but if it’s okay to ask, what are you doing here? I imagined there would be more soldiers with you?” Andrea asked politely again. It wasn’t really her business but it was something what bothered her.

”We’re on recon duty, sent here to search technology and pre-war documents. But our squad got ambushed. First by raiders when we arrived the Commonwealth, losing two Knights on same day. After that, we attempted to resupply by investigating Airport and Fort Strong, but we’re surprised by super mutants. Scribe Haylen detected odd energy readings coming from somewhere Commonwealth. We tried to report to our main chapter about our findings, but Police Station main antenna is broken,” Paladin explained and gestured towards huge antenna.

”Later, these feral ghouls attacked our stronghold. While Scribe used our communication gear to send out a short range distress call, our remaining squad tried to fight off the ghouls. You saw the rest.”

Andrea found of that these zombies were called feral ghouls and there was... super mutants out here. Whatever they were, she didn’t want to know. And then there was this unlucky squad. “I’m truly sorry about your losses. That was unnecessary to ask. I apologize.”

”I appreciate your apology, civilian. You wanted to know who you helped.” Andrea scrutinized his light brown eyes and scars on his face. His facial expression was firmly and observing. Typical military officer.

”Excuse me, sir, if I may?” Scribe Haylen talked suddenly, Paladin giving her a permission to continue. “I’ve modified the radio tower on the roof of station, but it isn’t just enough. We need something that will boost the signal and I think I found a solution for our problem. Some pre-war documents mentioned facility called ArcJet Systems. There is a chance that this facility contains device called Deep Range Transmitter, designed for long range communication. Company completed project in 2077, just before Great War. It could be exactly what we need.”

”Chance? So you’re not hundred percent sure?” Knight Rhys asked annoyed.

”Well, document is over two hundred years old, Rhys,” Haylen answered. ”It may still be there or someone may have taken it.” Paladin grunted and rubbed his bearded chin, like thinking their options.

”You said ArcJet Systems?” Andrea asked from younger girl. ”I know where it is. It’s northwest from here. I can help you infiltrate the facility and secure transmitter. If you allow me to help you?”

”So it is settled,” Paladin said and Andrea saw small glimmer of hope on his face. ”Haylen, take Rhys inside and bind rest of his wounds. And Rhys, when you’re ready, I want you to bury Knight Keane.”

”I’m on it,” Rhys said.

After Haylen has taken care of your wounds, Knight.” Rhys nodded and duo headed inside the Police Station. ”All right, civilian. We're going to unknown area and we don’t know who we will face there. Head inside and resupply yourself, then let me know when you’re ready.”

”But if you’re running low on supplies-”

”You helped us to fight off feral ghouls and now you’re willing to help us secure the transmitter. It’s a least how I can repay you. Without you... you two...” Paladin faltered when he remembered German Shepherd. ”...this could have been end of our squad.

xxxxx

”There it is… ArcJet System,” Andrea stated after they finally reached top of hill and covered her eyes from the sun. “Are you ready?”

”Should I be the one who asks the questions?” Paladin asked in turn with firm tone of voice.

”I was just checking. I’m ready,” Andrea said with a little smile. She didn’t know what they might face there but she was eager to go. Eager for action.

Facility was completely dark, empty and silent. Lights worked only in certain rooms and they had to rely on their flashlights. First it seemed there wasn’t anyone else inside the building but someone or something had taken care of building's security. It made Paladin concerned.

”Someone got here before us,” he stated, meaning four destroyed Protectrons on the floor. ”We have to be careful. Facility's security is taken care off by someone or something, but it doesn’t make our job any easier. Follow me,” Paladin continued.

Andrea looked around, trying to find something to loot but saw only documents, broken machinery and parts of Protectrons. Trio arrived into lab control room and she went straightly to terminal, snorting indignantly as she watched terminal screen.

”Is there something wrong?” Paladin asked.

”If you happen to be coincidentally MIT level hacker, then nothing isn’t wrong,” Andrea murmured and glared another terminal on her left. ”Well, here goes nothing. I hate technology.”

After numerous wrong guesses, she sighed and heard Paladin grunting while he tried to open a door with force. ”Any luck with that terminal?”

”No. What do you know about this place?”

”Scribe Haylen told me this place was working on nuclear-powered rocket during 2075's, according to documents we found. She also mentioned Mars Shot Project and deep range transmitter.”

”They wanted to fly to Mars. Did Scribe mention ArcJet System CEO's name?” Andrea asked curiously.

”No, I don’t think so. She only found one name from documents… Dr. Rory McCellan? Why?”

Andrea frowned as she recognized the name. ”He was scientist who worked for U.S. Army before he was hired by ArcJet System. He said that working for military was ’horrible, never-ending grind of broken promises, slashed budgets and ridiculous deadlines’.” Which was true.

”How do you know about it?”

”I did read about it,” Andrea answered and wasn’t sure did Paladin believe her or not. She had heard about ArcJet System and XMB booster engine from her father. And she had read about it too. It was on the news before War. Woman straightened her back, glaring terminal again after failing numerous times. There had to be way in. How about this... it's a long shot but.... ”I’m in! Fucking piece of shit.”

”Outstanding. What did you do?”

”Password was name of XMB boosters satellite which McCellan created. They told about satellite’s launch...” Andrea answered but closed her mouth. There wasn’t news or television anymore. “...I can now change passwords. Just a moment.”

Paladin glared her as she changed control rooms password. ”Did you read about that too?”

”If we do get out of here, I will tell you,” Andrea said. ”I believe it’s not the time.”

”What do you mean?”

”Like you said, we are not alone.” Paladin turned to look behind him as security doors opened and figures attacked them immediately. It wasn’t raiders this time but some kind robot. First robot ran through the door, staring trio with its yellow eyes and Paladin shot it with his laser rifle.

”Multiple synth targets! Take them down!” Even without Paladins suggestion… or command, Andrea picked up her pistol and shot three incoming synths with Paladin.

”What the hell are those?”

”If we do get out of here, I will tell you. Now we must get moving,” Paladin stated and continued towards hallway, Andrea murmuring silently before following him. Typical military officer.

xxxxx

”Okay. I cannot wait until we get out. What are these robots?,” Andrea asked as last synth fell down, repeating ‘systems offline’ and turned towards man. Thanks to their effort and pretty good teamwork, even Dogmeat was able to coordinate with their moves, hostiles were defeated pretty quickly after Andrea managed to activate test chambers powers. Power armor prevented Paladin being vaporized by laser shots and she herself took few hits from shock baton, mostly because she tried to keep Dogmeat save.

”These are synths, made by the Institute. They’re quite like robots but more dangerous.”

”What is Institute?” Andrea frowned confused.

”You really aren’t from here? They’re group of scientist who went underground when Great War started. They have spent two last centuries littering Commonwealth and it’s surrounding areas with their technological nightmares. People are talking about kidnappings and people being replaced by machines. They created synths to overpower humanity. It’s unacceptable. They simply can’t be allowed to exist.” As if this world wasn’t dangerous already.

”Elevator should be now online. But let’s be more careful. I think synths are after Deep Range Transmitter too.”

xxxxx

And Paladin was right. As they approached the upper control room where transmitter was supposed to be, they saw synths running around room. This time there was smaller herd of them and less synths with laser rifles. Andrea avoided usage of her pistols, taking care off them with close quarters combat. Last two synths were hiding behind iron shelf and Andrea kicked nearby computer table toward it with one good kick. Table hit the bookshelf and it crashed synths as a heavy iron shelf fell down.

”Good kick, civilian,” Paladin praised her.

”Didn’t miss a leg day on gym,” Andrea joked, though seemingly joke went over his head as Paladin just shook his head.

”Alright, it seems none of them didn’t make out of room before we arrived. Let’s find that Deep Range Transmitter and get the hell out of here,” Paladin stated and started to inspect synths. Andrea could tell that he was worried about his squad. Maybe man was more eager to leave the building than she was. Shame. There was still that imperative feeling inside her. Need to fight. Need to find something and fight against it.

xxxxx

”Well, that could have gone smoother,” Paladin said while taking his helmet off after reaching surface.

Smoother? I thought we made a pretty good team,” Andrea wondered while Dogmeat yawned. ”Oh, you were bored, huh?”

”Yes we did. It was refreshing to work with a civilian who can follow orders and take care of themselves in heat of battle.”

”Well, it was refreshing to work with someone with military training. You soldiers are pretty rare nowadays, I think?” Andrea asked. Then she remembered their conversation inside control room. ”I... I think I own you an explanation. It’s true... that I am from Vault. Vault 111.”

”Did you guys have a gym there and people teaching how to fight?” Paladin asked confused. Andrea wasn’t sure was he joking or not.

”No. We were… put into cryostatis. I just woke up a few days ago,” she continued and Paladin raised his eyebrow. ”We were put into these pods right after we arrived there.”

”And others?” Andrea shook her head and stared into space while.

”It’s... graveyard now. Frozen mummified corpses in the pods and old skeletons on the floor. According to Vault-Tec terminal, others died because of asphyxiation due to life support failure. A few skeletons have bullet holes in their skulls. According to Overseers terminal, Vault 111 was designed to only test long-term effects on suspended animation on unaware, human subjects. It was forbidden to use live-saving measures on us. Staff was also expendable. They had food and water for 180 days. It seemed that there was a riot when time came up and they found out that Vault-Tec would never open the vault. Only Overseer had Pip-Boy to open door,” Andrea explained and pointed at her Pip-Boy on her left arm. ”Staff died before they got out...”

”Wait. They had food for 180 days? Do you mean…”

”After bombs fell, they closed the Vault. I’m pre-war," woman hummed. "I woke up and found myself two hundred years in the future.”

”How your life support didn’t fail?”

Andrea shrugged and put her long bangs behind her ear. “I was conscious for a while at some point. Witnessed a mercenary-looking man and woman in strange insulation suit killing my childhood friend and kidnapping his son in front of me. His mother was among us too. I don’t know how long I was in cryo until somebody opened my pod and let me go. Now... my only mission here is to find their kidnapped son. He’s only thing I have left from my old life,” Andrea told and looked up to Paladin. Now it was his time to exhale deeply.

”It’s sounds so... unbelievable. But it’s... not the first time when I hear stories like that about Vault-Tec. According to Brotherhoods intel, most of them had some kind experiment going on inside Vaults.”

Andrea wasn’t sure was she surprised about news or not. ”In the name of science, huh? Well, they are not so different from government,” she said quietly. ”But hey, about this mission… Do you want that transmitter?”

Paladin raised his both eyebrows on sudden change of subject but nodded while Andrea took transmitter from her backpack, giving it to him. ”There is something I would like to ask from you.”

”Ask away.”

”I’m not hundred percent sure about your story but it seems that you’re not from this time. Your appearance and behavior is something what people of wasteland doesn’t have anymore. You follow orders and you seem to know how to handle yourself in fight.” Andrea raised her eyebrows in wonderment. ”If you are pre-war, do you have any experience with military?”

”Actually, I am… was in the army before the war,” Andrea faltered and showed her dog tags.

”As I thought. Brotherhood of Steel isn’t U.S. Army but our organization was founded by group of U.S. Army soldiers, so we're slightly connected with them, ” Paladin told her. ”There is one question, proposal actually. We had a lot thrown at us back there. Our mission could have ended up in failure, but you kept your cool and handled it like a soldier. Even if you didn’t know what you were fighting against,” he added. ”There is no doubt in my mind that you’ve got it what it takes. Not forgetting your military experience.”

”You’re asking me to join into Brotherhood of Steel?” Andrea asked politely and man nodded.

”The way I see it, you’ve got a choice. You can continue wandering in wasteland from place to place, trading an extra hand for rewards. Or you could join the Brotherhood of Steel and be again part of military you had to left behind a long time ago.”

It sounded too good. Duo stared each other for a moment and Andrea looked away, thinking -considering- her options. This was opportunity to continue her military life. Though Brotherhood was little different from U.S. Army. Their main objective was to collect dangerous technology from wasteland and prevent unwanted and harmful use of technology by wastelanders. It was their way to protect civilians, as Paladin had explained it. Andrea knew it. What kind of horrors mankind was able to do with science and technology...

But was that what she wanted? As much as she loved military and her brothers-in-arms, she hated military at the same time and their way to act. Their leaders. Their selfishness. Pentagon had backstabbed her, no - her and her brothers-in-arms - more than once and expected her to continue working for them. She didn’t want to go through that again.

”I’m sorry. I don’t… have a faith in military anymore... People, to whom I swore my oath, they let me down more than once.”

”I do understand, it’s big decision. However, if you change your mind, you can find me from Police Station,” Paladin said confidently. ”May I ask your name? I would like to know who saved our lives back there at station.”

Andrea glanced him, switching her stance nervously. Maybe Paladin noticed it. Thinking what Preston and MacCready told her about certain surname. ”Andrea Adams.”

xxxxx

”Are we in luck, sir?” Knight Rhys asked as Paladin and his companions – those who Rhys ignored - returned back to Police Station.

”Yes. Mission was successful. We have the transmitter.”

”Finally some good news. Good work, sir.”

”I didn’t do it alone. I got some help from our newest ally,” Paladin said. ”However she wasn’t sure about joining into our organization but I left the request open. Until that, she’s allowed to stay here if she wants but only if she stays out of our way.”

”Thank you. But I’ll hit the road now. I don’t want to use any of your supplies,” Andrea nodded politely.

”Good. We didn’t want you here anyway.”

”Knight Rhys,” Paladin Danse raised his voice and younger man apologized. Haylen walked to Andrea, giving her smile while saying ‘thank you’ and offered her few stimpaks before vault dweller continued her journey. Closing the door behind her, Andrea heard someone opening it again.

Paladin.

”Is there something wrong?” Andrea asked as man stared her for a while, taking laser rifle from his hip.

”I would like to give you this.”

Why? You don’t need it?”

”Take it as a payment. You did good job at ArcJet Systems, soldier,” he said, stressing word. Andrea moved her gaze between laser rifle and his brown eyes.

”I’m… I’m honored... but you will need it probably more than I do.”

”Brotherhood soldier always carries a backup gun and I have many guns here. Take it, it’s least what I can give you after what you did. This is better than pipe pistol,” Paladin stated and glanced quickly pipe pistol on her hip. Finally, Andrea sighed and took a laser rifle from man, examining it and saw words “Righteous Authority” engraved into it.

”It’s one of my personal weapons. I bought it, modded it and took good care of it. It’s yours now.”

”Has someone ever told you that you’re a little bit hard-headed?” Andrea asked amused and saw little smile again on his face after he said ’yes’. “Figures. I have to go now. But... fire up your military frequency if you guys need help with troubles. I will come back as fast as I can.”

xxxxx

As usual, she did end up into trouble herself. Into trouble with raiders this time. And they picked up a wrong fight. Andrea made her way to back door of old store, after killing hostiles and noticed door being locked. Woman murmured something by herself while opening lock with tools and saw three more raiders standing behind it after opening the door.

Trio glared her a moment and Andrea glared them back, picking up her dual pistols as fast as she could (like in slowed film) when she realized that they were about to shoot her. Killing two of them with few shots, she was about to kill last one but witnessed hostile falling to ground after someone else shot him. Andrea pointed her pistol toward approaching figure and narrowed her eyes when she recognized the figure. “This must be fate… Or are you following me?”

”No. But you were the one who gave me lecture about ’mind your surroundings’ bullshit and look, I saved your a-s-s.” MacCready said as he walked towards her, holding his rifle on his shoulder. Andrea tsk'd and holstered her weapons.

”Being surprised by a vault dweller in wide area is little different than being surprised by raiders after crashing a door, kid. And I would have killed him myself. What are you doing here anyway?”

”What? I can’t travel anywhere when I want to?” man asked. ”Hm. Not bad gun. Whom you did kill for that?” Sniper pointed laser rifle on her back.

”Brotherhood soldier gave it to me.”

”Argh. I knew you had connections with them. Is Elder really your relative?” sniper frowned. Andrea raised her eyebrows confused. Elder?

”No. Who’s this Elder?”

”Clown who runs that circus.”

”Oh. You don’t… like them, do you?”

”No I don’t. You know, I’m from Capital Wasteland. They were… are still there too,” MacCready faltered. “About ten years ago, they helped civilians a lot more than they do now. They helped another vault dweller with this project called Project Purity which purified water of city from toxic and radiation. You know, water there is actually drinkable. But they are now… punch of a-holes. I heard they took a power core from old aircraft carrier and left city inside it without electricity.”

Andrea dropped her gaze down to ground. Somehow it was something what Pentagon could have done. Somehow it didn’t surprise her. “You didn’t answer to my question, why are you here?”

”I was send to clear out this place, kill their leader but seemingly you did it for me. Maybe I should return back to collect the caps,” sniper smirked smugly. “Where are you headed? To kill more raiders?”

”I wish. No, Diamond City. I have to find somebody and I was told that Diamond City is right place to start.”

”I can walk you there,” MacCready suggested. Andrea raised her eyebrow.

”How much?”

”Two hundred and fifty caps.”

”Make it two hundred,” Andrea grinned.

”Okay, two hundred. No less.” Andrea hummed and picked up her pouch from backpack and gave it to mercenary.

”Come on, Dogmeat,” she said and clapped her hands. “You too, kid.”

”Kid? You’re only like five years older than me?” MacCready murmured and followed her.

”You don’t even know.”

xxxxx

Security men of Diamond city greeted trio as they passed them, one of them asking what was their business and glared MacCready suspiciously. It seemed he had a reputation already. After talking their way out of situation, Andrea smiled sadly when she saw old statue of baseball player and green,rusty main gate. It felt nostalgic and sad.

’No baseball games nowadays,’ she thought and heard woman yelling at further.

”Real funny, Danny!” woman yelled at the speaker. ”I live here, for Christ sake. You can’t lock me out!”

”Sorry, Piper. Mayor’s orders. I’m only doing my job.”

”Job? You listen me Danny Sullivan, if I...”

”Hah. Wait, you got kicked out from Diamond City? Again?” MacCready grinned.

”I don’t have time for your mocking at the moment, MacCready,” noisy woman glared him and then glanced his company, raising her eyebrow and whispered them to ’play along’. ”Oh what? You’re trader? From a Vault? And you have enough radiation free supplies to keep the general store stocked for a month, huh? You heard that, Danny? Now open up or our supplies will be given to someone else. Again!”

”Jeeez, Piper. All right,” man said and they heard loud, ear racking voice when main gate opened. 'Damn, they should take care of that gate'. Sound almost hurted Andrea's emotions. Die hard baseball fan.

”Who let you in, Piper?,” bonny man in suit asked from woman after they approached stadium’s main entrance and lobby. Dreary view made Andrea wistful. No more popcorn's or hot dogs. Stop it.

”Your security. I live here and I have right to come and go as I want. You cannot lock me out from my home!”

”You rabble-rousing slanderer! The level of dishonesty in that paper of yours. I’ll have that printer scrapped for parts.”

”Oh, that statement. ’Tyrant mayor shuts down the press!’ What do you think what our city’s residents will think about it after you shut Puplick Occurrences down? After that article? You would look suspicious,” Piper shouted again. “Hey, newcomer, what do you think?”

”Uh… think about what? I don’t want to be rude but I only came here to find someone,” Andrea stated.

”No, no. Of course, not. Welcome to the Great Green Jewel of the Commonwealth. Safe. Happy. A fine place to come, spend your money, settle down. My name is McDonough, mayor of this marvelous city. You do look like a Diamond City material, miss. But I’m not so sure about your friend here. Have me met?” Mayor asked from MacCready, who only glared bonny man and said firmly ’no’.

”So, is there someone specific whom are you trying to find?”

”I’m trying to find a baby, my godson. He was… kidnapped,” Andrea said shortly, trying to keep her cool. There wasn’t time for being sentimental. MacCready stared her few seconds and looked away. It didn’t go unnoticed by her.

”Kidnapped baby?” Piper said concerned. ”So, McDonough, is Diamond City Security going to investigate this? How about all the other kidnapping reports you've been ignoring or are you again saying that you can’t spare an officer to help? Even if there is a baby missing now?”

”I’m sorry but that’s what I’m going to say this time too. We don’t have an enough men to handle these reported kidnappings and keep the city safe,” Mayor said irritated as he glared Piper.

”Is there someone who can help?” Andrea asked firmly from mayor. She wasn’t sure did she like him, there was something... odd in him.

”Detective Valentine, he has office in Diamond City. I’m sure he charges a reasonable fee. But I have taken enough of your time. Welcome to Diamond City,” mayor said too hypocritically, turned on his heels and left after hissing something to Piper. That left bad taste in Andrea's mouth.

”Let’s go find this detective,” she stated to her companion and Piper followed them inside. Andrea stared stairways which led to stadium, remembering last time when she walked up those stairs… with Nate, Nora and Shaun. Over two hundred years ago.

’Now it’s not time for being sentimental.’

xxxxx

Don’t be sentimental. It failed miserably. Andrea let out deep sigh as she saw stadium from inside. Place was shantytown now. Homes of residents were made out from concrete, steel and wooden boards, stadium had been destroyed into pieces for parts and VIP section, were her family usually found themselves watching a baseball game, was turned into Mayor’s office. Piper told her little about history of Diamond City, when it was founded, how ghouls were thrown out from the town, how its people were divided into two class, rich and poor. Nothing hasn't changed.

Andrea herself came from rich and prominent family. But all what she wanted was to earn her own money. Her family often asked why she didn’t move somewhere were rich and powerful lived or into military base. Whatever was wrong with townhouse in middle of Georgetown. Andrea found herself thinking what was left from her and Roger's home after war. Washington DC probably took more than one hit from nuclear missile...

”Hey, boss,” she heard MacCready calling her. ”Are you okay?”

”Yeah. I’m just thinking again,” Andrea smiled little and continued her way into Diamond City market with MacCready and Dogmeat. Piper stayed with her sister and stated how good it felt to return back home. Home. It was something what Andrea didn’t have anymore. ”Do you know where detective's office is?”

”I think it’s behind Arturo’s shop,” MacCready pondered, telling her to follow him but Andrea stopped front of Swatters after seeing familiar stuff. Baseball bats and gloves.

”What’s a Swatter?” Andrea asked.

”Rookie, huh? Swatter, my friend, is a Diamond City tradition. This place was used to be stadium, were two teams would meet and play game called baseball. One team would beat other team to death with baseball bats, and the best bats were called the Swatters. True fact,” man explained and Andrea took deep breath.

”You know... if you ever again talk like that about baseball, I swear to God, I’m going to smash your head with that-”

”Sorry Moe, this lady had a bad day,” MacCready stated interrupting her sentence and tried to push his partner away. “Come on, boss. It was just metaphor for pre-war game.”

”For someone like me who lived here and loved baseball, that was sacrilege,” Andrea growled. MacCready looked her little baffled but guided woman front of Valentine Detective Agency's sign. Vault dweller sighed as she tried to calm herself down before knocking the door. Young woman opened door slowly after her knock, glancing duo and the dog with her brown eyes. She looked little distressed and little anxious after seeing sniper.

”Um, we are looking for the detective. Is he here?” Andrea asked politely. MacCready noticed how fast Andrea's mood changed. A moment ago she was furious over something small and suddenly she was like nothing had happened.

”I’m afraid that you’re a little late. Detective isn’t home,” young woman answered sadly.

”Is there something wrong?”

”Detective, he… he has been gone for three weeks. I’m worried.”

”I don’t blame you for that. But I really need him... Maybe we can help you to find him? Where did you saw him last time or do you know where he went?” Andrea asked tilting her head.

”He was working with his latest case. Young woman was kidnapped and her father contacted us. Nick told he found clues about this case and... it led him to Park Street Station,” woman explained and Andrea heard MacCready grunting behind her in disgust. “Nobody hasn’t seen him after that. I tried to warn him about possible trap but he just smiled and told me not to worry.”

”I’ll find him. He’s definitely fine,” Andrea stated. Has to be. “To the Park Street Station, boys. I know where it is,” she continued and younger woman looked now little more cheerful but only a little.

“I can give you few caps for your service. Thank you so much,” brunette said, glancing quickly MacCready and closed the door. Andrea glanced man in turn.

“You do have reputation here already, don’t you?”

“Maybe,” sniper shrugged.

Maybe I really should be more careful with you, ” Andrea grinned.

“No, you don't. I don't want mess with you. But place where we are going next... We should be more careful there.”

Chapter Text

On their way to Parker Street, MacCready told Andrea about mob boss called Skinny Malone who had led his mafia group for decades, Parker Street Station as their headquarters. Stating, he didn’t know anything about location and tried to avoid mafia as long as he could. Well, expect now, thanks to his new partner. Andrea hoped that detective was alive, as usually enemies of mafia ended up ’sleeping with fishes’. Trio infiltrated Park Street Station, ending up killing dozen triggermen as there wasn’t way to pass them without Stealth Boy. Which annoyed Andrea. Once again, she was running out of 10mm rounds and didn't want to use them. MacCready did stay little bit further as he sniped triggermen from distance, Dogmeat and Andrea taking care of hostiles who came too close.

”How many men this Malone has?” Andrea asked as they took cover from gunfire. Old Vault was full of mafia guys. “And now they have goddamn tommy guns? These guys have watched too many movies.”

”I don’t know! Did you really expect this to be easy? This was your idea,” MacCready shouted at her with irritated tone. “And nobody doesn’t watch movies in this century.”

”Let’s just kill these assholes. We have detective to find,” Andrea said and threw something towards hostiles. Grenade bounced on the floor couple times and exploded before triggermen were able to jump into safety.

”And you didn’t tell me you had fu--freaking grenades?” MacCready asked as he stood up.

”Thanks to Brotherhood. I took these from Police Station,” woman stated shrugging her shoulders and sniper rolled his eyes. Andrea threw one grenade to MacCready and told him to use it wisely.

”Yeah, yeah... I know how these works,” MacCready murmured.

xxxxx

Dogmeat led them into large open atrium, sniffing something along the way. Trio crouched down as they saw one triggerman on upper level, talking to someone. Andrea looked around before approaching hostile. Place must have been dining area of Vault back in days. “I don’t see or hear anyone else. Let’s go.... Dogmeat, wait!” Andrea whispered as German Shepherd went ahead. It was unusual for him. Usually he listened her orders...

”How are you doing there, Valentine? Having fun? Feeling hungry?” triggerman asked and stared someone through the window. Presumably it was the detective himself and he was indeed alive. Andrea unholstered her pistol and heard MacCready reloading his rifle.

”Keep talking, Dino. It’ll give Malone more time to think about how he’s going to bump you off.”

”Don’t give me that crap, Valentine. You got nothing,” triggerman assured.

”Really? I saw him writing your name down in that black book of his. Then he struck your name across three times. You do know what that means. Seems like you’re done for.”

”Three strikes? In black book? Oh.. I gotta-” triggerman said, sounding suddenly frightened but couldn’t finish his sentence as Dogmeat attacked him. They all heard loud scream, some growling and then sound of groan. Dog let go of his neck and walked away like nothing had happened, staring his companions with his puppy eyes. Andrea and MacCready stared dog a while with surprised look on their face.

”You didn’t tell me that dog of yours is pretty bloodthirsty… Maybe I should be careful with you,” sniper frowned and Andrea snorted.

”There was once a phrase ’Dogs have their owners personality.” Woman approached window and saw figure standing in middle of the dark room.

”Hey you! I don’t know who you are but we have three minutes before they realize that their ’muscles-for-brains’ isn’t coming back. Get that door open. Use that terminal next to you.” Andrea turned her head to look at terminal.

’Great, more terminals.’

This one wasn’t locked though, saving her sanity. Her brown eyes widened in surprise when she saw detective first time, instantly moving her hand on her pistol as she recognized those yellow eyes. But Andrea realized immediately that detective wasn’t a threat as Dogmeat greeted this friendly. He wasn’t a bad guy either. “You’re a synth?”

”Well noticed, Sherlock. Gotta love the irony of reverse damsel-in-distress scenario. Why did our heroine risk life and limb for an old private eye? And since when MacCready has participated in rescue operations?” Detective added when he saw MacCready. Everybody seemed to know each other.

”Every Sherlock needs their Watson?” Andrea asked amused.

”He’s more like one of the boys from Baker Street Irregulars,” detective stated. Andrea liked this synth already.

”She hired me to watch her back. So I’m following her wherever she goes,” MacCready answered to detective’s second question.

”And I need your help, detective. I need to find someone who’s missing,” Andrea answered to his first question.

”Missing person, huh? You came to right person, but in wrong time and place. Let’s get out of here, then we can talk.” A group of three person and dog, if they could call detective a person, left the room and returned back to downstairs. Nick leading them. Apparently, he knew the way out. ”Malone’s crew here used to be small time, muscled out of the old neighborhood by bigger players. Yes, there are other mob bosses around. Then they found this place. Don’t know what happened to previous owners but apparently they didn’t make it. A perfect hideout for Malone’s group. Empty vault, underground.”

”What? Is he Al Capone’s reincarnation?” Andrea asked and heard detective snorting amused.

”No. He isn’t smart as Al Capone was,” detective answered. Suddenly synth stopped and Andrea noticed why. Three triggermen came out from a door. “How do you want to play this?”

”One triggerman for each. Don’t miss. I will take one with fedora.”

”I’m taking the one who is furthest,” MacCready stated and prepared his rifle.

”Hm, you guys left me that fat one? Harder to miss, I think,” detective hummed. Andrea counted to three and trio shot their targets after she said one and praised her company after successful performance.

xxxxx

”This door’s on the fritz. Let me see if I can get it open… Behind this door is entrance of the Vault. Our way out,” Valentine said and crouched down to pick the lock up. Andrea glared door, hearing sounds behind it. “Malone and the rest of his boys are waiting for us, probably behind this door. He may not be Al Capone but he is still dangerous.”

And detective was right. There they were, standing front of the entrance of the Vault. Malone, his triggermen and young woman next to him. Preventing them from leaving. There wasn't way to pass them. Without killing them or talking their way out.

”Yeah, about my case. The girl I went to find and rescue, wasn’t actually kidnapped. Darla is Malone’s new flame,” synth told and gestured towards woman with baseball bat.

”Nicky? What are you doing? You come into my house and shoot up my guys. You have any idea how much this is gonna set me back?” Malone asked.

”I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for you dame, Skinny. You were the one who locked me up, remember? You ought to tell her to write home more often. But she didn’t and her father got worried. I came here to get her back home.”

”Poor little Valentine. Ashamed you got beat up by a girl?” woman said with smug tone and turned to look at mob boss. “I told you Skinny, we should’ve just killed him, but you had to get all sentimental and now we have a mercenary, vault dweller and goddamn dog messing around our Vault?”

”Darla, I’m handling this. Nicky... we have a history together and you know, I do respect you, but in this vault, I’m king of the castle. You hear me?” Skinny Malone stated firmly.

”And who are they, really? Did you all came here to rob us all out? Or kill us?” Darla glared their uninvited guests while taking better grip from her baseball bat. Andrea sweared she could see Darla's hands shaking little bit. Andrea did not want to hurt her. Darla was civilian to her. Civilian playing with mafia and usually, that did end up badly. She didn’t belong here.

”Darla, listen to me. You have… home. Your home. I wish I could return back to my home, but I can’t. I wish I could return back to my home, see my father, but I can’t do that either. Because he is gone too,” Andrea stated, thinking again how her father told her to be careful. His last words to her.

“And I didn’t have a change to say goodbyes. You can. There isn’t nothing more valuable than your own family. I did realize it after I lost my own... Your father is waiting for you there. Don’t waste that change,” Andrea explained, trying to remind Darla from what was really important. If she allowed herself to think like that. First it seemed that her persuasion didn’t work but after Andrea stared her straightly into eyes, like almost convincing Darla with her empathic stare, younger woman seemed give up little bit.

”You... you’re right… If my father wouldn’t care about me, he wouldn't have sent Valentine after me...” woman sighed, lowering her bat.

”Darla… what are you doing...”

”I’m going home, Skinny. Where I should be right now anyway,” woman said, turning around slowly and left. Leaving her baseball bat to another triggerman. Guards glanced Skinny and then each other. Mob boss murmured something after he tried to call Darla back without success.

”Argh! You cost me my men, my headquarters, now you and your friends here cost me my girl!?” Andrea was surprised that they hadn’t shoot them yet.

”I think my friend here made you a favor. You always had bad taste in women. Now, as she’s not around here to feed that temper of yours, maybe you let us walk out of here? You still owe me two weeks in the hole and my cigarettes.

”You smug, overconfident ass…. Get the hell out of here! I’ll give you ten seconds, after that I’ll shoot you all.” Detective suggested his group to leave as Malone started to count numbers.

xxxxx

”Ah, look at that Commonwealth sky. Never thought anything so naturally ominous could end up looking so inviting,” detective said as they reached surface and stared up to the sky. MacCready shut a cover behind them after Andrea had lifted Dogmeat up to surface.

”Yeah. Sky is only thing what hasn’t changed after a war,” Andrea stated sadly and got confused but empathic look from detective before he spoke again.

”Thanks for helping me out. How did you find me anyway? Not many people knew where I left.”

”Your Mrs. Hudson told me,” Andrea answered referring to their previous conversation.

”I should give Ellie a raise,” detective smiled. “Now, you mentioned something about finding someone?”

”Yes. A baby. My godson, Shaun, he’s been kidnapped. I’m trying to find him.... and his kidnappers.” It came out almost coldly. All what she wanted was to find Shaun and kill that son-of-bitch.

”A missing baby? Well, there aren’t many missing babies in this century. Shouldn’t be hard to find… if we’re optimistic,” detective hummed. “If you’re willing up to continue searching with me, let’s go Diamond City. There is more privacy in my office. Give me all the details and besides, you have earned change to clear your head.”

”Lead the way, Watson.”

xxxxx

”Nick! Is that you?” Ellie came to scene half-running and almost hugged synth after they returned back to Agency.

”What? Are there other handsome synths like me around?” detective asked amused and Ellie smiled to him.

”Thank you very much. You saved my boss, this agency and my job. This isn’t probably enough but it’s all I got,” Ellie handed a pouch of caps to vault dweller. Andrea smiled at her as a response and spread caps over the table. Synth, Ellie and MacCready stared her confused as Andrea counted them, divided caps into two pouch and handed another pouch to her partner.

”Didn’t do it alone, kid,” Andrea smiled and MacCready smirked.

”I knew I could count on you, boss.”

”What? Of course I’m sharing our payment. I’m soldier, not mercenary,” Andrea wisecracked. Ellie brought Nick and their quests a cup of coffee and fresh water for Dogmeat before interview. Coffee wasn’t good as it had been before war, but it did won that liquid what was offered to the soldiers at the Anchorage. Andrea glanced synth. “Where to begin?”

”From the beginning.”

Beginning. Andrea didn’t know from where to begin her story. From the day when bombs dropped? Her own story had ended that day and someone else’s started when she woke up from that Vault, ending up into this world, losing everything she loved and knew, expect Shaun. Found herself in world, which she didn’t recognize anymore. Everything she knew was ancient history to people around her. She didn’t even know who she was anymore. But sometimes, sun was shining so brightly that her wedding ring reflected light of it, reminding her of Roger. Sometimes it was so chilly that her dog tags felt cold against her skin and reminded her of U.S. Army. Reminded her about whom she had been once.

”Are you okay, honey?” Ellie asked staring her concerned, standing next to detective, holding her notepad and pen. Andrea nodded to her and cleared her throat.

”I... I lived here in Boston. Before the war,” Andrea started. “I was visiting my father on that day, October 23rd. Day when... world ended. Just before A-bomb was dropped here, me and my friends got a permission enter into the Vault 111. Which belonged to U.S. Military. Vault saving us from war and radiation. There wasn’t really anything inside the vault, not anything what I expected. Vault-Tec employees told us that pods, where we're guided in, were used for decontamination and... after that we would have continued our way deeper into vault. In reality, Vault-Tec put us into cryostatis and froze us,” Andrea faltered.

”I don’t know how long we were on ice before we woke up first time… I did saw this mercenary looking man and woman wearing strange hazard suit approaching our pods. They opened my friend’s pod, tried to take his son from him... I don’t still get it why they wanted him. He’s just a baby,” Andrea told and kept a break. “Nate refused. He was... protecting his son and then this man shot Nate with his 44. revolver pistol. Straight to the heart. They took Shaun and left. Before leaving, mercenary turned to look at me, saying something about backup. They froze us again but I woke up second time about week ago,” Andrea turned her head to look down. "Only to find out that everybody else inside the Vault were dead, including Shaun’s mother. And here I am, trying to find Shaun from this forsaken land. He’s only thing I have left from my old life,” Andrea finished and gave a sad smile to detective, hearing MacCready saying damn quietly behind her. Detective and his secretary stared her for a while.

”Don’t know really what to say or where to begin. There was so many things what got my attention. Why take a baby? Baby needs a lot of care and nutrition. Or how they got there? I’m pretty sure that vault was sealed up completely. And it did belonged to U.S. Military? It couldn’t be a one man job either, they must had an agenda behind infiltration. And who has capabilities to do that? Kidnap a baby and shoot a parent? And leave one witness alive?” detective pondered and rubbed his synthetic chin. “You said he had 44. revolver?”

”Yes.”

”Can you tell more about him?”

”Bald, had a scar across his left eye… his voice was low and rough. He had also this strange outfit. Jeans, dark jacket and odd armory in his left hand,” Andrea described the mercenary, hearing MacCready moving little bit behind her.

”Kellogg,” Nick said shortly. Andrea raised her both eyebrows.

”You know him?”

”Sounds like him and judging from MacCready’s face, even he knows who Kellogg is.”

”He’s one of most dangerous mercenaries in Commonwealth. Even other mercenaries do fear him. Rumors say that he has connections with Institute and other factions. Don’t know if it’s true but that guy is living legend… deadly legend,” MacCready told. Andrea glared a desk front of her, staying quiet. The devil had a name now. Kellogg.

”Ellie, what do we know about Kellogg?”

Ellie flipped through her notes. “Not really much. Someone with same description bought a house from Diamond City, that abandoned one. Residents also said that he had ten years old boy with him.”

”That couldn’t be Shaun. Another kidnapped children?” Andrea wondered.

”Or his own son? Though I really hope he would never have one,” MacCready said suddenly and detective nodded.

”Either way, I suggest that you two rest now. There’s a motel in Diamond City, Dugout Inn. Go talk to Yefim, he will give a room for you, if there are rooms available.” Andrea frowned at his suggestion. ”Don’t give me that look, kid. I’m going to rest while. Sometimes even synth needs to cool down. You need to rest too, kid.”

Andrea shook her head, smiling little. Synth reminded her of her grandfather.

”What’s your name, honey? I’ll archive this case with your name,” Ellie asked.

”Andrea Maxso-” Andrea rubbed her face grunting, when she realized that she almost used wrong surname. “Adams,” she corrected.

xxxxx

“They made a motel from baseball player’s dressing rooms? Maybe there’s Carl Yastrzemskis signature somewhere written on the wall,” Andrea said staring Dugout Inn front of her and heard sniper moving restlessly. “Is there something wrong?”

”I’m sorry, boss. But I have to dump you,” MacCready said with stern voice and looked her seriously. “It’s something what I have to do...”

”Are you alright?” Andrea asked from him and put her hand on his shoulder. MacCready looked a confused a little bit. Maybe he wasn’t used to gestures like that.

“Yeah, I’m fine, but… This is something what I need to do. It is personal.”

”...Okay? I know you can take care of yourself but be careful?” Andrea said concerned. “Try not to get yourself killed.”

”Look who's talking, boss,” he said and performed forehead salute before leaving.

Andrea rolled her eyes but called him again after he left. “Hey, how I am supposed to find you if I need you?”

”Just kill dozen raiders in pre-war stores or chem laboratories, I might show up there!”

”Yeah, and then you collect the caps, jackass,” woman murmured by herself before entering into motel.

xxxxx

Andrea gazed Boeing C-20 landing on runway of Adams Air Force Base, being little amazed how thirty years old military transport aircraft was still functional and moved restlessly, hoping nobody wouldn't bring her bad news. Roger and their friends were returning back from Alaska after long deployment and she hadn't heard from them for a long time. Finally plane stopped rolling and large ramp went down. What amazed her even more was that they didn’t bring any coffins with them this time. Or maybe they just couldn’t bring anybody home. After Air Forces soldiers had come out, she saw Roger coming down from ramp, still wearing full set of combat armors. Thank God, he was still alive. Shaking her head, Andrea took her sunglasses off.

”Really? Stitches? What did you do there? Jumped onto barbed wire?” she joked after seeing his wounds. Roger rolled his eyes and laughed little.

”I’ve been gone for almost five months and that’s your first question?” Andrea smiled before she grabbed from his uniform’s collar and pulled him to kiss. ”You know that wasn’t suitable move in military area, lieutenant.”

”Like I care, lieutenant. Make a complaint if you want, sir. How are things out there?"

"Bad. But I rather not talk about that place while I am here.” Man smiled little but frowned suddenly when somebody started playing music. One of his subordinates had this portable holotape player, which also included loudspeaker. He glanced his grinning subordinates firmly and one of them said 'now or never'. Something was going on. Andrea glanced their friends and Roger when he started singing.

”… Brandy, you’re fine girl. What a good wife you would be. Yeah, your eyes could steal a soldier from the battlefield…,”As he continued to sing along, thought lyrics were a little bit different, he took ring box from his pocket. Andrea gasped and covered her face from others.”Will that Brandy steal one soldier from battlefield?”

”Do I have to punch you again?” Andrea asked, referring to their first meeting, still shielding her face from others.

”If that punch is ’yes’ again, go ahead,” Roger said tension in his voice.

”No I won't punch you. Get up. I’m embarrassed...”

”I’m not getting up from here before you answer.”

”I’m not going to punch you here, sir. Get your ass up from there, so we can start to plan those goddamn weddings, Maxson.” Roger smiled, stood up and put ring to her ring finger. Simple golden ring without any diamonds. Something what Andrea had always wanted. “Jesus, what my dad would say about this?”

”Well, he knows. I asked him if I could marry his only daughter.”

”Old-fashioned way, huh? I bet my dad liked that,” Andrea stated.

”Well, he just said ’Come back from Alaska, so we can talk about it...’”

”You’re so irregular,” Andrea laughed. “I’m going to marry you, wanted he or not. But I hope... ’your life, your lover and your lady’ won’t be the Army.”

And it always was.

xxxxx

Knock on the door woke Andrea from sleep. First she didn’t recognize room where she was but remembered renting a room from Yefim after having an interview with detective. As she opened door, she saw Nick Valentine behind it and rubbed her eyes. “Didn’t we agreed to meet at the market?”

”You didn’t show up. I was concerned that something might have happened to you. Vadim told you hadn’t left from your room since you arrived. He saw only Dogmeat.”

Andrea raised her eyebrow before checking her Pip-Boy. “Sorry… it seems I overslept. Which is... unusual.”

”No, it’s okay. You must have been tired,” detective said as she closed a door behind her, taking her backpack and guns.

”Hm-m. I just saw dream about my previous life. Maybe my subconscious didn’t want me to wake up. How did Dogmeat got out?”

”He can open doors. Unlocked ones. He’s waiting us outside,” Nick explained. ”I’ve worked with him before. Helped me with a few cases and has one hell of nose. Sniffs bad guys easily and tracks them by scent. He might be useful if we have to locate Kellogg.”

”Hm, not bad thinking, Watson.”

xxxxx

Kellogg’s house was a lonely apartment at upper level, seemingly abandoned. Andrea couldn’t hear any noises from inside, either did Dogmeat. Detective grabbed from the handle and hummed. “Locked. Figures. And I thought we just could walk inside.”

”Stand aside, Watson. Let me handle this,” Andrea said taking hairpin and screwdriver from backpack.

”You know how to lock pick doors? And I thought MacCready was the criminal one. Where is he by the way?”

”He said he had some personal matters to deal with… I think. Didn’t ask. It wasn’t really my business. He's big boy and can take care of himself,” Andrea answered while trying to pick a lock. It was hard one. “And answer to your first question is, as an infiltrator, I had to be skilled in lock-picking. How I was supposed to infiltrate enemy territory if I couldn’t pick a lock?”

”I thought you were a soldier?”

”I was. Army needed soldiers with infiltration skills. Someone who could sabotage technology, gain information about the area before sending big guns or they needed just someone to clear hostiles in advance.” They heard lock clicking and woman whistled. “And there it is. What else you can tell me about this Kellogg? I believe there is something you know.”

”Well, I probably know at least as much MacCready does. There are many mercenaries here in Wasteland. Some of them are ’good’ as they can be, like MacCready, and some of them, well, are like Kellogg. Merciless, fierce and ruthless. He’s professional. Has no enemies because they’re all dead, except you. Oh, and there are old records about him from 2210’s. I don’t know how that’s possible, he should be like... ninety years old now.”

”Sure didn’t look or act like old man back then,” Andrea stated firmly, remembering his face.

”Hm. MacCready said something about that he’s rumored to have connections with Institute? Maybe they did something to him, which kept him alive this long… or it’s false data,” detective pondered.

”Hell, if I am two hundred and forty years old, sure there’s possibility that he is almost one hundred years old,” Andrea stated and took pistol from holster. They triple-checked Kellogg’s house but found it empty. He had left his furniture and most of his personal belongings there. Woman noticed two sleeping bags on the floor. Someone had been there with him. A child?

”You think this place is too small for someone like Kellogg?” detective asked, crouching down behind the desk and smirked. “Ah, classic place to hide a button.”

Andrea gave him confused look but then she heard and saw wall moving next to her, revealing a secret room behind it. Room had everything what mercenary needed. Cigars, bullets, weapons and alcohol. On top of table there was San Francisco Sunlights cigar, 44 rounds and bottle of Gwinnett Brewery. But no Kellogg.

”He was here. But apparently he’s gone now,” detective said blankly and rubbed his synthetic chin. There wasn’t any clue where he would have gone. Of course, it would had been too easy if Kellogg would had left a letter “I’m here….” written on it. Andrea bridled. Dogmeat sat next to her, looking duo curiously.

”You said something about Dogmeat? Tracking someone by scent?”

”Yeah, but then we would need a piece of cloth or something… or use that.” Nick pointed cigar and Andrea turned to look Dogmeat after picking up it. Dog sniffed a cigar few times, then he barked once and ran outside.

“It seems he got it. Let’s go find our Moriarty...” Andrea stated but frowned when she heard quiet beeping, it getting stronger and stronger quickly. It was a trap. “Nick, outside! Now!”

They barely reached exterior of the house when bomb did go off and blew up whole house into pieces. Shock wave brought both of them down and alerted rest of the city. Security of Diamond City running to the scene immediately. ‘Fucking…’ Getting up slowly, Andrea touched her own forehead and sweared. Feeling blood coming from her temper after hitting it against the hard surface. She glanced quickly Nick, noticing he was alright and then burning house behind them. Kellogg didn’t only try to kill them, but also remove clues and proof about his existence. He was leaving and she had to find him before he could disappear.

Chapter Text

Finding Kellogg took more than couple hours, thus making Andrea worried about Kellogg being already somewhere where she couldn’t find him. Again, she scolded herself about her pessimistic view of life. She will find him. Even if it would take rest of her life. Kellogg had left few clues around, such as cigars, bloody bandages, bullets and parts of synthetic body. This made Nick assume that Kellogg had synths with him. If he was truly associated with Institute, they wouldn’t had attack Kellogg. Hell, who would attack someone who is claimed to be dangerous mercenary. Someone with death wish, maybe.

After seeing bandages, Nick concluded Kellogg having at least few days advantage. Andrea was ready travel to West Coast if she had to. She wasn’t going to give up after all this. Mercenary killed Nate, they barely survived from explosion and all this... Andrea wanted to kill that son of bitch. Kellogg was asking for it. Vault Dweller gazed her Pip-Boy and sighed before lighting her cigarette. Bridling as her lighter didn’t work.

”What are you thinking, doll?” detective asked while borrowing his matches to her and Andrea smiled little at his gesture.

”Nothing really... Nowadays my mind is messed up. I’m thinking too much past when I should think about present. It’s just… every time I think about present, I… find myself thinking old times. Now I know how my grandparents felt,” Andrea answered while checking body of deceased raider, hoping she could find matches or another lighter. Nada.

”I know how you feel. Original Nick Valentine was from pre-war Chicago. I have his memories and personality, even his name is mine now.”

”Actually I wanted to ask from you about it... why you are so different? Compared to other synths? They sound and act like robots and they look little different than you do. Of course, you have synthetic face and you have been assembled with metal joints, but there is something… strange in you,” Andrea asked curiously.

”Something strange in me? Look who’s talking, icicle,” synth said amused. ”Original Nick was brought to Boston lead ’Operation Winter’s End’, operation to bring down mob boss Edward Winter.”

”Winter? My father always told me to avoid South Boston, because... if I remember correctly, Winter had a sub shop there? Probably all his criminal activities were focused on that area?”

”You’re right. During their investigation, the extent of Winter’s crimes were revealed. He was involved in almost every type of crime, from petty larceny to first degree murder. But most of all, what surprised them mostly, was that he was actually working for the BADTFL and district attorney against the other mob bosses in exchange for immunity. Operation Winter’s End was disbanded after that. He got away-” Nick explained but sounded sad after finishing his sentence.

”It was on the news back then. What happened?” Andrea asked tilting her head. Even if his face was made of synthetic skin, she could see how sad he looked. Synths weren’t bad people. Maybe some of them were, but not all. Nick was quiet for a moment, staring their surroundings, like gathering himself and opened his mouth finally.

”Just before operation was disbanded, Winter… he… shot my fiancee. Nick’s fiancee,” detective said wistfully. “I remember her. Remember her smile and laugh. I remember how much Nick loved her and how that poor bastard felt when police chief told him sad news. It’s something what even I can’t forget.”

Andrea whispered quietly that she was sorry, again finding herself thinking her own spouse. There they were, vault dweller and synth, walking in the middle of the forest together. Thinking about their pre-war lifes and their deceased spouses. Finally, Nick continued.

”After... that original Nick was ordered to seek treatment for his PTSD at the C.I.T, where his brain was scanned as part of his treatment. That’s… how Institute was able to obtain his memories and transfer them into me. I believe I was Institute’s first prototype for 3. generation synths. That’s probably reason why I do look like one of those ’dump robotic synths’ and act like one of those who do look like the real people. You may have seen them, but you can’t tell difference between real human and 3. generation synth. They’re perfect copies.”

That explained why Nick was so different from those who attacked Andrea and Paladin Danse at the ArcJet System. Woman hoped that he and were alright.

xxxxx

As they approached area of the Fort Hagen, they found more bloody bandages from the ground and dead hostiles. Dogmeat recognized scent of blood and sweat from bandages, leading his companions towards military area. Andrea already guessed Kellogg being inside the old fort. It was perfect hideout. Strongly secured and solid building. “He’s here. I don’t see or hear anything else than those turrets.”

”Maybe rest of security is inside?” detective suggested.

”Synths,” Andrea said shortly. “You don’t know how to deal with them? Secret password, secret handshake..?” she asked, only seeing detective rubbing his forehead. Apparently no. Andrea sighed before taking Righteous Authority from her backpack and gave dog a kiss, telling this was too dangerous for him and that she would return soon. “Wait here, boy.”

Turrets were easy to handle. They didn’t have tough skin or really strong and solid armor around them. Only a few good shots from her laser rifle destroyed them easily. Andrea made a mental note to really thank Paladin Danse about the gun. She had never been really big fan of laser guns but Righteous Authority was highly modded and maintained. Danse seemingly took good care of his weapons but it seemed that Brotherhood of Steel had access to good weaponry and had people who knew something about weapon modding. Synths were bigger problem this time. Bigger problem than last time when Andrea had faced them.

“They’re pretty resistant to energy weapons,” Nick hinted.

”Every day you learn new things, huh?” Andrea stated, taking her twins instead. ”It seems that you’re good at shooting. Did you guys use gangsters as a target practice back in days? Can you keep synths away from me while I’m taking down unarmed ones? We don’t have much ammo and this place is full of synths.”

”This place is warren,” Nick said. “But go ahead, don’t just get killed there.”

”That’s why I need you to keep them away from me,” Andrea grinned and ran few feet before going behind cover. Nick kept shooting remaining synths as Andrea moved towards middle of the room, seeing two laser turrets on the roof and successfully avoided gunfire of turrets and synths. Barely, more likely. Someday her luck might run out. “Two synths left and those goddamn turrets. I hope you’re good at hacking because I suck at it.”

”I am a synth, remember,” Nick stated. “I know how to handle terminals.”

”Yes, yes, Watson.” Andrea kicked approaching synth. As synth lost its balance and fell down to ground, Andrea pierced its head with her knife. Nick shot last synth, before taking cover from laser turrets fire. Using herself as a bait, Andrea attracted turret’s attention to herself, hissing little bit when she got burns from gunfire. Maybe her luck will run out sooner or later. Nick hacked terminal, taking turrets down that way. Woman jogged to elevator and pushed button.

“You okay, doll?” Nick asked while glancing her wounds on her shoulder and arm. They weren’t bleeding but looked sore. “You really should try find some armors, kid. Vault suit isn’t best choice to wear in Wasteland.”

“Gives me unique look though, doesn’t it?” Andrea smiled. As elevator reached first floor, speaker said ”kzzzzth floor,” and opened doors. Duo looked inside of it and frowned.

”Well, at least it’s working,” detective said, lowering his pipe pistol.

”You do sound like Nate sometimes. While I was his antithesis, the pessimist one, he always found something positive about everything… It’s good thing to have someone with same kind trait. To remind me about… that there’s something positive in this life, even in this world...” Andrea smiled to synth.

“Every dog has its day, Sherlock.”

xxxxx

”This place IS like a warren,” Andrea stated amused and shot synth with laser rifle.

”I have never seen someone actually having fun in middle of gunfight."

”Look who’s talking. Ellie said that you have habit to ’laugh back to the Death himself’. Someday, he will laugh back,” Andrea said back to him and reloaded laser rifle. She liked that gun already.

”But not today-”

”If it isn’t my old friend, the frozen TV dinner. Last time we met, you were cozying up to peas and apple cobbler.”

Andrea felt sudden goosebumps on her skin when she heard that voice. Not because of fear or hate. Because of anger. She could never forget that voice. That voice, which ordered Nate to let go off Shaun, how that voice gave Nate last warning before he shot him coldblooded. How that fucking asshole turned to look at her and called her ’backup’. No, she wasn’t angry, she was vengeful. When someone really hurted or tried to hurt her beloved ones, she turned ruthless and fierce. Andrea tried to calm her breath and closed her eyes, counting to ten. Hoping she wouldn’t lose it. Not like last time.

”Let’s go,” she said shortly. ”He’s here.”

xxxxx

Nick noticed Andrea turning quiet, distant and serious. Woman barely talked after Kellogg had announced his presence inside Fort Hagen through intercom. Not dropping jokes or laughing.

”I’m not surprised that you got this far. You got skills and determination. Look. You’re pissed off. I get it. I do. But whatever you hope to accomplish here? It’s not going to your way.”

Nick frowned as Kellogg finished his sentence and stared Andrea whom stood still, gazing into space. Detective couldn’t even imagine that someone’s brown eyes, dark brown eyes like hers, could look so cold and raging. He couldn’t believe that this was same woman, who had just joked with him and gazed him empathetically when he had talked about Jenny. Those eyes had been full of warmth, joy and understanding. She might have been a soldier and still probably was. Enjoyed action and all that, even Nick could see that. Helping Trudy to get addictols for her son, with MacCready’s help. She was a good person. Not many would help random people nowadays.

But now when Nick gazed her, he saw someone else. She barely talked, didn't listen his words about wounds and shot everything without hesitation. Didn’t waste any time. Maybe she just wanted find her godson. But sudden change of mood made Nick concerned. Like… she would have been someone else.

xxxxx

”It’s not too late. Stop. Turn around and leave. You have that option. Not a lot of people can say that.”

”Hmm, didn’t expect dangerous mercenary tell someone to leave. Is he scared or something?”

”Better be. I’m at his fucking front door,” Andrea hissed and cleared hallway from synths. Duo reached facility’s sleeping area and faced more turrets but not synths this time. Part of her wanted to loot area, loot might be good but now, she just wanted to hunt Kellogg down and end this. After dealing with turrets, they arrived into room which apparently had been General’s quarters. Or what was left of it. Nick frowned when he saw purified water bottles, some unknown medical equipment and kits on the table.

”These look awfully familiar,” he said touching kit with his metallic arm. ”These are from the Institute.” Andrea gazed stuff on the table and turned her head to look at the door between two U.S. flags. She touched handle, only to realize it being locked.

”Okay, you made it. I’m just up ahead. My synths are standing down. Let’s talk.”

”Lets be careful, it might be a trap. Again,” Nick warned as metal door opened. They kept their guns ready and turned around just at the corner, seeing broken terminals and other technology around them after stepping inside the fort’s command room. Few synths standing here and there, completely freezed, holding laser rifles on their metallic hands. Like waiting orders.

”There she is. Most dangerous person in Commonwealth. I thought I had that honor.”

Duo recognized voice and this time, they didn’t hear it from speakers. As mercenary came behind shelf, holding his hands up, Andrea saw him finally, face to face. Not cryopod’s hatch between them this time. This time there wasn’t nothing between them to save his sorry ass. “So let’s talk.”

”We don’t have anything to talk about,” Andrea snarled. “Tell me, where Shaun is?”

”Shaun? What is he to you?” man asked but probably knew the answer already.

”You don’t do nothing with that information. So tell me; where he is?” She just wanted to shoot this mercenary but wanted also to know where Shaun was. This man knew it. Kellogg just smiled amused.

”Shaun. He’s great kid. A little older than you expect but… but if you’re hoping for a happy reunion, that I ain’t gonna happen. He’s not here,” Kellogg said.

”Then tell me where I can find him. Or I swear to God, I will beat that information out of you.” Andrea saw Kellogg smiling again. Fuck, she hated this man.

”I know you would. But there’s no need for that. He’s at the Institute. He has loving family and home. Something what you could never give him. With your… needs. Do you still have insuperable need to return back to battlefield? To find fights? To kill someone?” Kellogg smiled little as Andrea stiffened her upper body. “They do know what you are. Institute. That you were trained for one purpose. For war and to kill-”

”So they thought that Institute would be better place to raise a child? Place full of murderous psychopaths who think they can create a better future with synths? Replacing humans will make this world better?”

”Institute in a nutshell. But you should know that humans were the ones who destroyed this world in first place.”

”Yeah, government in a nutshell,” Andrea stated coldly. “It still doesn’t justify killing and replacing humans with androids. Where is humanity in that?”

”Look. I’m not here to talk about politics,” Kellogg said sternly.

”Neither am I. Now tell me, how to get into Institute.”

”No one goes to Institute just like that,” Kellogg said gestured snapping his fingers. ”You don’t find Institute, Institute finds you. And that’s how people end up there.”

”Fuck you Kellogg. I’ll find Institute and Shaun. No matter where this... Institute is,” Andrea sheeted and mercenary laughed a little.

”That’s the spirit. I have to admit, I actually kinda like you. We are kinda… alike after all.”

”We are nothing alike. I don’t go to underground vaults and kill innocent people when they’re protecting their children.”

”I was expecting this topic,” Kellogg sighed. ”He was… regrettable accident. This world, you have seen it, it’s cruel. Death is only escape from this suffering and pain.”

”Accident? You fucking piece of shit. You didn’t even give him chance to defend himself or his family. Men like you, you don’t regret nothing.”

”True. But I was following my orders. You know what that means, don’t you? But I think we’ve been talking long enough. We both know how this has to end. So… you ready, silver bullet?” Kellogg asked enigmatically. Andrea narrowed her eyes when she heard those words and smiled smugly.

”Oh, I’m ready. Question is, are you?” After Andrea finished her question Kellogg’s synths lifted their guns, woman avoiding their fires in last second and plunged behind cover. She heard detective firing synths with his pipe revolver and someone activating Stealth Boy.

”Be careful, kid. Kellogg is using a Stealth Boy.”

”Fucking coward!” she screamed, knowing Kellogg could hear her and took pistol from holster. As Nick shot one synth down, he went behind a cover too.

”I can take these fellas down, you handle Kellogg.”

”Or maybe you take Kellogg and I’ll handle synths. Be careful, Watson,” woman said dryly and moved from her position little further, hiding behind pre-war workstations. Tracking down Kellogg same time.

’Fucking cat and mouse game.’

There was always traces of someone using Stealth Boy, if you knew what to seek. Sounds, silhouette of refraction, even smell… Andrea could smell scent of his cigar and hear sounds of his footsteps. He was coming closer to her position. Maybe he tried to wrap this up faster than he should. Maybe his Stealth Boy was running out of juice. Andrea holstered her pistol but left straps open before moving into new position, stopping behind workshop corner and listened as Kellogg approached her old position. Woman narrowed her eyes as Kellogg’s Stealth Boy ran out of juice and his figure appeared out of nowhere. Just few feet away from her.

Not wasting any time, Andrea attacked him, disarming his revolver first before doing anything else. Somehow it wasn’t surprise to find out that Kellogg was skilled in hand-to-hand combat as man blocked her attacks. Someone had taught him taekwondo and judo. No wonder why people feared him. He was indeed skilled, had more stamina and withstand more hits than average man. Mercenary grabbed her with chokehold, but Andrea managed to push both of them down to the floor by kicking nearby workstation. As they both stood up quickly as they could, Kellogg tried take knife from his holster. Woman kicked his hand quickly, disarming his knife from him too and hit his face. Mercenary glanced his gloves after wiping blood from his mouth and lips.

”Damn you hit hard,” he said after spitting blood out of his mouth.

”Maybe I’ve to hit harder next time.”

”Maybe.”

Opponents stared each other, like trying to read each other mind, trying to predict each other next move… But Andrea end up making first move before he could. It was always one way to gain upper hand in fight. Between their ongoing hand-to-hand attacks, Kellogg actually managed to hit her few times into body and once in head. His punches hurted more than average persons hits did. Without her own excellent physical shape, Andrea would have probably lost her consciousness after it. Woman hissed in pain as mercenary pressed burn wounds on her hand, which she had got from laser turrets and tried unholster her 10mm pistol. Andrea stopped his act and headbutted him instead, making him stumble little bit. As a counter-attack, she hit his chest with flip kick and mercenary crashed into workshop behind him. Couching, he tried to get up but vault dweller kicked him back down to ground. Kellogg grunted as a result and snorted after that.

”I have to admit it. You got... skills. You know, Institute tried to re-create…. Doctor Nordlinger’s work but failed. Instead... they created mechanical augmentations...” Andrea remained quiet and stared him, hearing Nick approaching them, holding his pipe pistol ready. Kellogg laughed a little bit suddenly. “Your kick actually broke something inside me… One hell of a kick, silver bullet. You kicked me to the heart, same place where I shot-” Andrea pulled her pistol from holster and shot him, without second thoughts. She was done. Glaring his body for a while, Andrea holstered her gun and ran her both hands through her hair.

”How you’re holding up?”

”I should probably ask that from you, Andrea. But I’m fine, thanks. Got just few hits from laser rifle but I am synth so I have resistance against energy weapons,” Nick stated and stared Kellogg body. ”Well, it’s over now. For him.

”How I am supposed to get in there?” she raged by herself, meaning Institute and swore in Spanish before turning back to synth. “You don’t really know anything, Nick? Anything?”

”If I knew, I would have told you right away,” Nick said sternly. ”But I’m garbage to them. Tossed away a century ago. They didn’t exactly leave me their house keys.”

”Fuck!” Andrea sweared again and broke one of the chairs with her kicks. Again, trying to remind herself not to lose her sanity. She needed to stay cool-headed. “You’re right. I’m sorry, Nick."

”It’s okay, doll. But hey, it’s not end of the world. We did find out that your godson is still out there. And like Kellogg said he has family and loving home, if Institute can give those to him. So he’s alive. If you can believe his words.”

”Is there someone who could help us to find Institute?” she asked finally and Nick hummed, thinking.

”I can think one person. You know her already. Piper. She has investigated Institute since...who knows how long. If there is someone who knows something about Institute, it’s Piper,” Nick added and Andrea bited her lip. It was only lead she had. Rubbing gently her shoulder, she went to search ammo and heard Nick calling her.

”Hey, Sherlock! Could you check his body? Maybe he has password written down somewhere. Maybe we can find something from this terminal.”

“Sure thing.” Andrea went back to bloody corpse, crouched down and searched his pockets. Finding first an old picture of woman and infant. Mary and Sarah written behind it. Judging from picture’s condition, it had suffered from radiation exposure for long periods. Andrea stared picture while and then looked corpse.

’Fuck this. Everyone has a family. He killed mine,” she thought and put picture back to pocket. Woman opened his jacket and found again piece of paper from side pocket. It had some kind set of numbers written on it.

”I found this,” Andrea stated while returning back to detective. “This might be a password. Didn’t find anything else.”

Nick took paper and typed password into terminal while Andrea tossed her neck around as trying release tension and crossed her arms. “You all right? You should show those wounds to our doctor. Just in case of possible concussion.”

“I’m fine, Nick. I’ve been through worse,” Andrea stated and glanced terminal as synth opened it. Narrowing her eyes as reading the text on screen.

Access: Local
Login: Kellogg
Notes: The boy, Shaun, successfully delivered back to Institute, payment received. New orders to track down renegade, gather reinforcements, cleared out and secure subject. We move out soon.

”Renegade?”

”Delivered back to Institute?” Andrea asked confused. ”Wait, didn’t Ellie said something about Kellogg having ten years old boy with him at Diamond City? What if... boy was Shaun?” Maybe he was alive after all.

”That would explain what Kellogg meant by ’ little older than you expect’ and if they put you back to ice after they kidnapped Shaun... we don’t know how long you were in cryostatis before you woke up again,” Nick thought. “And then Kellogg delivered him back to Institute. But how? And why?”

Andrea stared into space. Her thoughts were empty at the moment. Only thinking what kind of horrors Shaun was going through there.

”Hmm. We won’t probably find anymore information from here. This place is almost tidy up. They planned leaving this place.” Andrea knew synth was right. “We should return back to Diamond City. Piper might have a solution for this or reporter inside her wants to stay up to date.”

”And I still owe her that goddamn interview,” Andrea stated smiling, finally. Though it was faint one.

xxxxx

They left the command center and made their way back to hallway, finding a ladder which led them back to the roof. This time Andrea wanted away from action and leave whole place behind her. But of course, her nemesis was waiting for her on the roof.

’I swear to God, if there is one fucking terminal between me and Shaun again, I’ll kill someone,’ Andrea thought, glaring terminal on the wall. She also could hear a loud, oncoming noise from outside. Unfamiliar noise. “Nick. Terminal.”

”You’re not really fan of terminals?”

”No,” she said shortly. Nick shook his head and typed something with his synthetic and metallic fingers.

”It wasn’t even locked. But here it is,” Nick said and sealed door opened. “Women first,” he added and lifted his fedora. Andrea smiled again, stretching her limbs after walking outside. How good it felt to be outside, breathing fresh radioactive air. But then something big took her attention from talking synth. 'What in the...' She and Nick found themselves staring huge metallic airship flying through the sky, pre-war vertibirds flying around it, like escorting and protecting it. Andrea gazed it amazed, maybe little horrified too, as metallic beast bypassed duo.

”People of the Commonwealth. Do not interfere. Our intentions are peaceful. We are the Brotherhood of Steel.”

Andrea heard Nick murmuring something behind her but didn’t really paid attention as she noticed Brotherhood of Steel logo on side of airship and text written next to it. Prydwen. She had to admit something. Against the dawn, while sun rose from the East… that airship looked beautiful. Maybe it was because of view and weather, maybe it was because she was raised by Air Force family or maybe it was just awesome. So… military-ish.

’So, they finally called the cavalry here. They got that damn radio tower working. Good work, Haylen,’ Andrea thought, thinking Recon Team Gladius.

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing...” Nick said blankly as he stared bypassing airship. Andrea grinned a little.

”Nice, Watson. Edgar Allan Poe?”

”What? A soldier knows poems?”

”I learned something during my days at the West Point. And my husband was a bookworm in our household,” Andrea stated and gazed airship. Thinking what Roger would think about that zeppelin. “What do you think?”

”About that? I think Brotherhood of Steel is here to start a war. Why else they would send their armored airship here? Into heart of Commonwealth? Words of wisdom. Stay away from them,” Nick exhorted. “Their leader is just lunatic warmonger and rest of them follows his orders without question. Let’s go, kid. Dogmeat is waiting for us.”

Andrea sighed while staring airship and then followed detective. Warmonger. That did sound like her uncle. Maybe she should avoid them as long as possible.

Chapter Text

Smell of just printed papers, cigarette and tea filled Andrea’s nostrils after she stepped inside Piper’s home. Glancing around her, she noticed how cozy their home was actually with sounds of clattering, working washing machine and teapot whistling in the kitchen. It wasn’t anything like what people had before war, but it was safe and welcoming. It felt like a home. It wasn’t big but enough for two sisters. Andrea sat down to sofa, just next to Nick and felt immediately when something fluffy and light jumped onto her lap. Tiger striped cat head butted her before laying down to her arms. “Does that work?” Andrea asked, meaning printer machine.

”How else could I print those lovable articles of mine? By the way, I did write an article about that explosion as you haven’t given me that interview yet, Blue,” reporter smirked. Even Andrea knew that half of Diamond City didn’t like her articles. “Did you two find anything? Trouble like Nick said?”

”We went to Fort Hagen, faced army of Institute synths and found this Kellogg, Institute’s operative,” Nick explained shortly and Piper hummed.

”Did you find anything about Institute? What happened to Kellogg?”

”No, we didn’t. We found out only that Institute has my godson and Kellogg knew how to get in there. However, he took that answer with him to his grave,” Andrea crossed her arms, imagining how she could kill him again. How to kill again someone who was already dead?

‘That you were trained for one purpose. For war and killing.’

No, she needed to stop that.

”So, we still have a biggest mystery in Commonwealth unsolved. I've been investigating these creeps for over a year now. The Commonwealth's boogeyman. Feared and hated by everyone. Sometimes they snatch people in the middle of the night. And sometimes they leave old synths behind to remind us that they're out there. But to this day, there's one thing what no one knows. Where the Institute actually is. Or how to get in. Expect, Kellogg did...”

”Is there any possibility that someone else might know way in… other synths?” After vault dweller's question, Piper looked at Nick.

”No synth does. Security protocols strip those memories out," detective answered. "First and second gens are dumb as rock and Coursers… They’re different, lethal story. You can’t get help from them either. They kill you on sight.”

”Coursers?”

”Institute’s main operatives, addition to Kellogg. Hunts down escaped synths and kills anyone who opposes them. Or that’s what I heard from Railroad,” Nick explained. Coursers? Railroad?

“A literal dead end, huh? But since we are talking about Inst- ”

Sudden loud sound of someone opening the door interrupted Piper’s sentence. And apparently frightened her a little as she dropped her cigarette. Trio turned their head to look at figure who rushed through the door. MacCready.

”Andrea, I need your help,” MacCready panted and Andrea raised her both eyebrows on sudden pleading.

”What is this? This is second mercenary who asks something?” Nick asked almost amused, but was still concerned about MacCready’s behavior.

Andrea moved cat from her lap and stood up. “RJ, you need to tell me first what’s wrong?”

”They… they have… Duncan.” Andrea tilted her head as she didn’t quite understand. ”They have my son, Andrea.” Empathic wave went through her as she understood why MacCready was acting like this. She nodded and turned to look Nick and Piper.

”We can wrap this up later,” Andrea stated. Part of her knew and hoped that Shaun was safe and sound, for now. But MacCready's son wasn’t. “I’m going to help you. Okay?”

”I appreciate this, boss.”

”You two, be careful out there.” Nick told before they left.

xxxxx

”So, tell me what happened?” Andrea asked as they left from Diamond City with Dogmeat. She still owed that interview to Piper and now lunch at the Power Noodles after dumping her twice.

MacCready told little bit about his history. Born and raised in Capital Wasteland, eventually ending up orphan after his parents were shot by sniper and wandered around Capital Wasteland, doing small jobs for caps and food. How he become mercenary himself like his parents had been before him. How he met a woman named Lucy, married her, got Duncan with her and how his wife died… How he had to choose between their son and his wife. He was forced to leave Lucy behind, to keep their son alive. Leaving Lucy to be killed and eaten by feral ghouls. How raising a child alone was hard at the same time when he killed people for living. RJ ended up eventually to Commonwealth with his five year old son and left him in care of woman named Daisy. Sniper stated this Goodneighbor wasn’t best place to raise children but was safest when it came to Gunners. Seeing Andrea’s confused look, he answered to her question before she was able to ask it.

”Gunners are a paramilitary mercenary organization and are largest single unaligned faction here. Well, I’m not so sure anymore since your relative Maxson arrived here, flying through the skies,” MacCready stated and Andrea rolled her eyes. “Gunners are disciplined and highly-equipped… They have assaultrons, power armors, fat mans in their strongholds and they attack strangers on sight. They have various strongholds around Boston and are led by Captain Wes. Their headquarters is at the Gunners Plaza.”

”How do you know so much about them?”

”I was one of them once, employed by them. But I left them, they weren’t my kind of group, flow of caps was only good side but… I don’t know. I’m mercenary but I’m nothing like them. I’ve killed for a drink, that’s a fact, but I don’t wanna kill for nothing. Like they do. But ever since I left them, I have been haunted by them for continuing to take jobs in their territory or maybe they just wanna silence me. I left Duncan into Goodneighbor because they don’t wanna mess with Hancock. But apparently, things have changed. They kidnapped my son from Daisy’s shop and fled with him. Threatened to kill him if I wouldn’t turn myself up,” mercenary told.

It wasn’t surprised that gang like that used a children as a bargaining target. Beeping of Pip-Boy interrupted her thoughts and woman flipped displays as they walked. New military frequency. Brotherhood of Steel. She had more important things to do now.

xxxxx

They were closing Lake Cochituate when MacCready told her to get down. Both crouched down and Andrea stared their surroundings. “One of their strongholds is up there,” sniper told and gestured highways. “See those elevators? We can use them to get up but they have, if I remember correctly, assaultron over there.”

Andrea grunted quietly. ’Thank you RobCo for this fast and deadly combatant. First I witnessed their devastation against Chinese at Anchorage, now I have to face them myself…’

”How many strongholds they have?” Andrea asked from man who gestured her to show her Pip-Boy, marking eight different location into map.

”This one, where we are, is called Mass Pike Interchange. It’s led by Winlock and Barnes. Those two kidnapped Duncan from Goodneighbor after trying to recruit me back without success,” MacCready glared a stronghold. “Their strongholds are strongly secured and protected, I suggest you to avoid all of these places. If you don’t wanna face Assaultrons or have a mini nuke in your ass.”

”And here we are, about to infiltrate one of their strongholds. Hey, how good infiltrator you are? For real this time,” Andrea grinned at the thought. How she had missed something like this.

”Not my strongest skill. Why?”

”It’s just... it’s clear that these guys aren’t raiders. If they have access to highly-equipped weapons and robots, we cannot do nothing by ourselves,” Andrea stated and gestured towards freeway.

”You suggest.... infiltration?”

”It’s my strongest skill. Yours is sniping. Maybe we don’t have to go there guns plazing this time. I can infiltrate freeway by myself and you can scout area from distance and if shit hits the fan, like you said, you can start shooting them from here. It will give me a little time, if they are focusing on sniper,” Andrea explained and MacCready frowned.

”Well, I think they’ll know who’s shooting at them. I’m sniper and they know it. They’ll draw their attention to Duncan after that,” MacCready said little frustrated. He didn’t like it.

”Or we can go there guns plazing and they’ll draw their attention to Duncan anyway. RJ, they will use him as a shield or hostage, no matter how we approach them,” Andrea said and MacCready cursed. Murmuring something by himself while thinking their options and glared highway.

”Fine. But you know, my son is in line of fire there. If you screw up there...”

”You can start shooting them. That assaultron cannot harm you from that distance. Believe me, I’ll keep your son safe,” Andrea said using her strong but convincing tone. MacCready glared her a while and then sighed sharply. “Or you can shoot me with .308 round.”

Younger man shook his head and rubbed his hat. “When we are going to do this?”

”At night,” she answered. “Darkness is a friend, you know that.”

”Says someone who just woke up from a fu-freaking freezer and wasn’t sure if she wanted to face night life of Wasteland.”

”Hey, I can deal with humans. But I don’t want to mess with deathclaw or this... yao guai?” Andrea pondered, remembering how she and Nick faced one of them not a while ago. “About your swearing...”

”I made a promise to Duncan clean up my behavior and... be a better person.”

”That’s going very well...” Andrea hummed and got scowl from mercenary.

xxxxx

MacCready scouted surroundings of freeway before night fell, counting total ten gunners at stronghold. Seeing also empty power armor standing on the freeway and one idle assaultron. He returned back to Andrea and Dogmeat from his scouting mission and told what he saw.

”I believe they’re holding Duncan in their office. It’s at end of the freeway. There is dozens men standing between elevator and him. What do you remember about Assaultrons? You werein army, right?” MacCready asked from Andrea, who was sitting on the rock and stared freeway through MacCready’s binoculars.

”We used them as a front-line combatant. They are pretty powerful at close range but employs that strong laser of theirs at a distance. Oh, they have a weak point,” Andrea stated and tapped back of her neck. “Here. Stick a knife or another sharp object to back of neck and ta-da, they’re done. Damn Chinese did found about it and suddenly we started losing more Assaultrons than before.”

”They won’t explode after that?”

”No. It’ll destroy their ability to use self-destruction and shuts down whole unit,” Andrea thought. “Anyway, enough of this nonsense. You ready?” she asked from mercenary, who sighed and stretched his neck.

”Yeah, let’s do this,” he said finally. Andrea kissed Dogmeat again and told him to stay with MacCready.

xxxxx

Sniper followed Andrea through his scope, making sure nobody couldn’t surprise her. This was suicide mission after all. For all of them. Woman reached first gunner, kicked back of his knee and took him down with choke hold. Taking down bigger size men wasn’t hard for her. Another gunner down. Without alerting others. After clearing land area from gunners, Andrea took a furthest elevator and reached first elevation of freeway. Seeing few gunners coming towards it, Andrea bridled quietly and leaped quickly over the edge. By hanging from the edge of the elevator, she sidled towards edge of the bridge, slowly moving further from the elevator.

”Is this thing broken?” gunner asked without noticing woman wearing vault suit jumping over the fence while climbing back to freeway.

”Maybe Spender is just messing with us. He does that often.” Woman sneaked behind them, taking those two down quietly, avoiding attention of other hostiles at the main area. Everything was going well. Yet at least. Andrea sighed lightly and gazed surroundings, noticing fallen piece of road which looked like it could be used to get into second elevation of freeway. For her luck, elevation wasn’t occupied. It had couple landmines here and there, but it wasn't a problem.

As she approached ending of the freeway, Andrea heard faint sobbing. Sound belonged to child. It was Duncan. MacCready had been right, they hold him at their office. Andrea landed gently back to first elevation, just behind a wooden fence. One of the gunners was guarding the door and other two were forty feet away. Andrea grabbed the guard and covered his mouth as he tried to yell, taking him out of the game with snap. Duncan seemed to frighten little sudden arrival of strange woman and whined. 'I just killed someone front of him, great.'

”Stay there, Duncan and be quiet,” she told him and boy nodded lightly, still looking frightened and tearful. Andrea pulled body of gunner behind the fence and returned back to boy.

”Who are you?” he whimpered and backed away little bit, gazing her with his green eyes. Andrea smiled again. He looked a little bit like RJ.

”I’m friend of your father. I’m here take you to him. He’s down there,” Andrea explained and kid looked little bit more joyous this time. “But there are still bad guys around so we need to be careful,” she added and peeked behind door frame. There were probably five gunners left and that goddamn Assaultron. This could be easy task without that deadly machine. Murmuring something by herself again, Andrea noticed power armor and grinned lightly as she saw fusion core inside it. Duncan stared her as she went to power armor and returned back.

”What did you do?”

”A little trick. But now we have to go.”

Telling him to be quiet. Andrea didn’t want to attract Assaultron’s attention, not without having right equipment. It was way too hard piece for her. Maybe. For anyone actually, even though they would be good at hand to hand combat. And Duncan was on line of fire and she didn’t want him to die. Closest gunner stood near power armor while other four were little further. Minding their own business.

”You see that old sidewalk on left side? That’s our only way out of here,” Andrea whispered and looked Assaultron. Moving behind its back was better choice than trying to sneak front of it. They had a good field of view. “We have to move slowly and quietly as possible. If, Duncan, if something happens and we’ll be seen, I want you to run fast as possible to other side of freeway. Don’t look back, no matter what happens. I’ll be right behind you and your father is out there, covering us,” Andrea continued. “Understood?”

A nod.

At the halfway of Gunners stronghold, Andrea ordered boy to stop moving. For some unknown reason, Assaultron went caution state and started checking its surroundings.

‘Hostile on the zone. Alert level Bravo. Scanning.’

She had almost forgot how they sounded. Such intimidating voice. Boy next to her let out another whimper and sniffed. How terrified he looked and still, boy tried to be brave.

”Don’t worry. Remember, me and your father, we’ll cover you if something happens,” Andrea reassured and put her hand on his shoulder before glancing Assaultron. She heard Duncan picking something from the ground and noticed him throwing a tin can to another direction. “Du- What are you doing?”

”A little trick,” he answered, copying her answer. Sound of clanking can attracted nearest gunner and assaultron to investigate it. Maybe it was a good call.

”Kid is missing!” gunner informed others.

Or not. Now they would search whole goddamn freeway. Andrea glared hostiles and was about tell Duncan that they should go now but boy was soloing around. She made mental note to herself never leave kid alone without supervision. Did she learn anything after watching after her nieces? For her bad luck this time, Duncan accidentally kicked rusty can against concrete pole and rest of the gunners -including assaultron- turned to look at them. Oh fuck.

”Engaging hostile!”

Andrea ordered boy to run and unholstered her pistols. After making sure Duncan would do as she told, Andrea stayed herself still and kept firing hostiles.

’Yeah, use 10mm pistols against deadly assaultron,’ Andrea thought. If only she would have that power armor which she gave to Sturges. Sound of rifle echoed from the distance and one of the gunners fell down. Andrea was again amazed how good sniper MacCready truly was but noticed gunner entering into power armor. ’Shit,’ She turned quickly around and ran. Reaching exterior of stronghold just in nick of time when huge explosion brought her down. Again. Duncan screamed little bit due to huge, loud explosions and Andrea covered her head from flying parts of concrete. Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to wire up a bomb at old freeway with cars sitting top of it. Maybe she will get herself killed someday or maybe MacCready will kill her after this. Woman lifted her head to see if Duncan was okay, still hearing her ears ringing.

”Awesome!” boy shouted eagerly. Andrea dropped her head against tarmac as biggest explosions stopped, grunting quietly. At least he was fine. “You okay, auntie?” Duncan approached her but after-explosions startled him.

”Yeah, I am... Let’s go down. Your father is waiting there,” she said rubbing her neck and pushed elevator’s button as she got up.

xxxxx

”Duncan!” MacCready called him after duo reached the ground safely and Andrea witnessed how boy did ran straightly to him, almost jumping into his fathers arms. Seeing how happy he was, it made her relieved. They were together again, unharmed.

”I knew you would come to save me,” boy said hugging his father.

”Of course, I would. Are you okay? You’re not hurt?”

”I’m okay. Auntie here may have wounds,” Duncan said and glanced Andrea over his shoulder. Which was true. She had more wounds after fight with Kellogg and after escaping from explosions. Thinking the possibility of concussion after hitting her head too many times when she felt her temple bleeding again. Luckily she didn’t lose her consciousness. Not yet at least.

”They’re just scratches. As long as-” Andrea stated but explosion at freeway interrupted her. Damn cars. “Maybe we should leave before something else happens...”

”What the hell happened there?” Now it was sniper turn to be irritated. And it was understandable.

”They spotted us halfway there and I made sure Duncan reached elevators safely before entering into combat. I, um, sabotaged the fusion core inside their power armor. One of them triggered it when he started up power armor’s system."

”You made a bomb from fusion core?”

”I know trick or two-”

”Your trick or two could have get him killed up there!” MacCready snarled, raising his voice this time while speaking over her. Boy in his arms got little frightened because of his sudden reaction and Andrea let a deep sigh. He was right.

”That’s why I made sure he reached the elevators first. There wasn’t cars near that place and Assaultron would have killed us anyway.” MacCready glared her, clenching his jaw before turning his attention to Duncan.

”I have never seen explosion like that, dad. Boom!” boy presented explosion with his hands. Duncan was thrilled about it but his father wasn’t. Maybe boy’s joyous behavior made him soften little bit as he relaxed his shoulders. Finally mercenary sighed deeply.

”I’m sorry, Andrea. You helped me to save him and then I... blame you for something what didn’t even happen.” His voice turned into sad and hollow while he stared Duncan’s green eyes. For some reason Andrea got a feeling that boy had his mother eyes. That made him relax. Vault dweller waved her hand once and smiled.

“Nah, you had right to be frightened about it. I’m not going to hold grudge over that accusation. Now, should we head back to this Goodneighbor before Gunners will send reinforcements?”

xxxxx

As they reached Old State House, Andrea saw name ’Goodneighbor’ written on big neon sign and followed sniper through a door, not knowing what lied behind those fences. First thing what she saw was Old State House, still standing after wars, men in suits patrolling around the streets and drifters minding their own business. After seeing town, Andrea understood why this town wasn’t best place to raise children but somehow also understood why MacCready lived there. Mercenaries, criminals and Goodneighbor. Match made in heaven. Somewhere deep inside her, she knew this would be best place for her too. Diamond City wasn’t tempting choice.

”Hold up there. First time in Goodneighbor? Can’t go walking around without insurance,” Andrea frowned and glared bald man in leather jacket who came to her. Who the fuck was that? “Insurance. Personal protection, like. You hand over everything you got in pockets or ’accidents’ star-.”

”Get the hell of my face before I put you down,” Andrea threatened and heard Duncan gasping and mentioning something about bad word.

”Uh, hey. Let’s just say your insurance is paid up for now, miss?”

Mrs,” Andrea corrected.

”Whoa whoa whoa. MacCready finally gets his son back and now you’re harassing his friend who probably helped him?”

Vault dweller moved her gaze from bald man to someone wearing tricorn hat and red frock coat. ’A ghoul? And what the hell is he wearing? This guy is wearing even weirder suit than Preston is.’ Also noticing a woman with side-cut leaning against Kill or Be Killed’s wall, watching them. Then Andrea saw an Assaultron behind shop’s desk. What the hell was this place?

”I said let them go,” ghoul demanded.

”You’re soft, Hancock, for letting outsiders walk over us. One day there will be new mayor.”

”C’mon man, this is me we’re talking about. MacCready, your boy doesn’t have to see this,” ghoul said before walking closer to bald man. Andrea heard behind her how mercenary told Duncan to turn his head and stared surprised how ghoul stabbed man. Repeatedly. His body fell down to ground and nobody didn’t even blink an eye. Mercenaries, criminals and Goodneighbor. Match made in heaven. “Now I know you had ole’ Finn handled back there, but mayor’s gotta make a point sometimes. You all right?”

”Ah, yeah. I’m fine-” Andrea stated while staring Finn. Well, that’s one way to get rid of problem.

”C’mon Hancock, you had to do that now?” MacCready murmured and narrowed his eyes at ghoul. So this ghoul was Hancock. That’s why nobody didn’t stop him.

”Well, mayor’s gotta do what mayor’s gotta do. You know it,” Hancock said. “Your kid all right?”

”Yeah, he is. Thanks to Andrea,” sniper stated which made Andrea smile little.

”You should let Amari check him, just in case,” Hancock added. MacCready sighed, stating he was right. Sniper gave certain look to Andrea and told her to behave herself.

”Trouble doesn’t find me, I’m the one who finds troubles,” Andrea said smugly and moved her attention to ghoul. “Andrea Adams.”

”John Hancock. Heh, funny… Adams and Hancock are here at the Old State Building once again. All we need now is someone with name ‘Otis’,” ghoul stated amused. “Now don’t let this incident taint your view of our little community. Goodneighbor's of the people, for the people, you feel me? Everyone’s welcome.”

”Yeah, I do. Your town, your rules.”

”Good. You stay cool and you’ll be part of the neighborhood. But I think you have done enough already. You helped MacCready twice. First, you took care of those goons at chem laboratory and now saved his son,” ghoul stated with his hoarse voice. This was actually first time when Andrea talked with sane ghoul. "He didn't know what to do when I told him the news... then he remembered you."

”Desperate times call for desperate measures,” Andrea said smiling. “Couldn’t leave MacCready alone with his problems.”

”And he has those. Problems I mean-” ghoul said but woman with side-cut called him. ”Gotta go, duty are calls. Just behave yourself, girl.”

”No promises,” Andrea smirked.

“That’s right attitude. Maybe you belong here,” ghoul responded before leaving with his assumed bodyguard while patrolling gunmen moved Finn’s body away. Rubbing her back of neck, Andrea gazed Assaultron behind the desk. Hoping it wouldn’t attack her but seemingly, Kill or be Killed was best place to get more ammo and grenades.

xxxxx

”Ah, you’re the one who saved Duncan from Gunners? You did good job at there,” ghoul named Daisy stated as Andrea appeared into her shop. “Thank you.”

”No problem. I would do anything for them. How did Gunners got him in the first place if there are patrols in the town? Assaultron next to you?”

”Goodneighbor Watch was holding a meeting during that moment. They kidnapped Duncan by sneaking around. Maybe they didn’t want to attract K-l-e-o’s attention? Anyway, Duncan is now save and sound, thanks to you. Hancock doubled security after that, promising also to give him a room from Old State House. Hancock respects MacCready. After all, man is mayor’s best and most trusted mercenary. RJ told him how you helped him at the gift shop.”

Andrea hummed little pleased, but end up looking female ghoul questioningly.”Wait. Old gift shop? How do you know there was a gift shop back in 2077’s?”

”I’m a ghoul, remember? I was born almost three centuries ago. I have seen and lived in pre-war world,” Daisy told. Andrea tilted her head.

”I didn’t know. Did you live here in Boston?”

”Pittsburgh. After war, I had time to travel around. I turned into a ghoul at some point so I didn’t have to mind about radiation anymore. After traveling… I don’t even remember how long, I found this old and trusty town and here I am, working as a merchant,” Daisy told and Andrea nodded.

”You have any family left?”

”No. My husband was killed during Sino-American War, killed by ’the Reds’. I never found out where he died. Army stating it was classified or something bullshit like that,” ghoul blurted, sounding bitter. Andrea understood how she felt.

“World before the war was nothing more but petty governments going to war, dragging us into it and shooting whoever refused to clean up the mess or disobeyed orders. That was U.S. Military for you.” Those words just came out from Andrea’s mouth and Daisy nodded in agreement. Army wasn’t always honest to soldiers or their families. 'No, they were never honest. Pentagon was full of assholes who led this country into war.... Fuck that, they’re gone. Vault Dweller noticed sniper returning back alone and looked him questioningly. “Where’s Duncan?”

”I left him with Irma. She’s… Dr. Amari’s friend.” Andrea hummed as a sign of understanding. MacCready gestured her to follow him and led her outside of town, stopping right after they exited the town. “I, uh-”

Was he faltering? “What? You are out of words?” she teased him, grinning.

”No. It just- I’m giving these back to you,” sniper said, taking a little pouch from his pockets. “Your two hundred caps. I’m giving these back to you. You bought my services and in the end you watched my back and helped me to get Duncan back," he added before giving pouch to her.

Vault Dweller stared pouch on her hand for a while and gave it back. “Keep them. Buy something for Duncan.” Mercenary seemed to be confused first but then gave her little smile. Grateful smile.

”Okay. But… just take this,” sniper sighed and offered her a wooden toy. A wooden soldier. “Lucy made it and gave it to me after I told... lied her that I was a soldier… But you are a soldier. So I want to give it to you.”

Smile appeared slowly to Andrea’s face and she hugged him, feeling how sniper stiffened his whole body. He wasn’t accustomed to gestured like that. “That wasn’t bad, was it? Oh, don’t look me like that.”

”Shut up. Good thing was that we’re out of town. I would had lost my reputation there as a hired gun, only gaining that status back after killing you,” he said firmly which made Andrea laugh. “I know you want continue your search. Your godson is still missing. But I don’t really want to leave Duncan alone now. Not after what he had to endure there. I’ll be here with him until he feels better, so I won’t continue my journey with you… not yet at least.”

”That sounds good. He needs you,” woman said while she put a wooden soldier into her backpack and glanced town. “Is... Hotel Rexford still in use? As a hotel? I thought about taking... a break from the field. Until I’m bored.” MacCready laughed this time and woman raised her eyebrows in wonderment.

”You know, you’re too old for me and you’re not my style. I like more feminine women. Thanks for proposal though.”

”You’re thinking too highly about yourself, kid. Do you think I’d be interested in twenty years old boy?”