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Where Hearts Cross

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October 23, 2077

"You're going to knock them dead at the Veterans' Hall tonight, hon." My mama smiles at my father in the mirror while rubbing his shoulders with her long, bony fingers. We weren't leaving until five p.m., so that have us about seven hours to get out of our pajamas.

"You think? I'm sweating hell right now." A nervous laugh. "I hate formal events. Can we leave as soon as the speech is done?"

I squint and poke my father in his side, "Man up, at least there's cake."

"How do you know that?" My mama asks, curious. "Well if we hadn'tve drove past the bakery today I wouldn't have been able to spot a massive four tiled cake sitting on a cart. Man I almost jumped out of the car right then and there!" I exclaim running my stomach. Mama and I went to the store we get our gowns from in boring, historic, Concord. We just so happened to drive past the bakery, and it just so happens that there was a cake sitting on top of the cart. My father and I have always, always, gotten big corners of cake. Or even when we're too lazy to make a cake ourselves, we'd make our own buttercream icing and just put some on our ice cream.

A sigh, "I gave birth to a monster worse than her father, and another even worse than them." With a roll of her eyes she goes and tends to a crying Shaun.

I look in the mirror at my reflection and at my father's face. I looked just like him, Hazelnut skin, icy blue eyes, thick, dark eyelashes, a rounded nose, a birthmark on the left side of our face, and a crooked grin whenever we do something stupid. But not the 6-foot-giant height— really I'm just lazy. Me and my mother make all the tall people around us do the tall people work. I got some of my mother's attitude and most of my father's sarcasm, of course there is not a day that flies by when I'm never speaking the language of sarcasm. His brown hair is graying at the edges and into his so-called 'Godly Beard that no one but my wife shall touch; Unless I give her permission.' My brother got my father's eyes and my mother's soft features, copper colored skin, a straight, slightly crooked nose, lips that frown in their sleep and a thick brown mass of curly hair and I came out of my mama's womb with a head full of hair. and

"What's on your mind, kid?" My father asks. "It's nice to not be the only sibling for once." I smirk, "We'll start plotting against mankind and destroying every adult that stands in our way!" I say with a slow, dramatic wave of the hand. "World domination will be at our fingertips!"

I look at my frowning father and snicker. "If you can't get your head out of what's going on in TV we are not watching The Silver Shroud anymore."

I clutch at my chest, and heave a gasp, "T-those words wound me! M-must heal, m-must get to the...TV!" And slowly make my way out of the bathroom, nearly running into Codsworth. 

"Dear me!"

"Sorry Codsworth. Didn't mean to scare you."

"No, no, dear, Hazel. It's all right really. I was just coming to get your father. That same lad from Vault-Tec is at the door." Just as the last word is finished, five knocks sound on the door.

"I got it!" My father says as he opens up the door.

"Good morning! Vault-Tec calling..." I boot out the conversation and instead focus on the tv playing a commercial about the prototype Fatman—these people sure loved to use anything explosive. Mama stands a bit off to the side, cradling Shaun in her hands and watching my father and the Vault-Tec guy converse with one another.

"No, thank you."

"P-please it'll only take a few minutes!" The man's face landed on my mother in her bathrobe and me in only a tank top and a pair of sweatpants. I quickly turned around once his gaze was interested in me mostly. I mentally shudder. Years into creating technology and men still think they can be leering peices of crap because they're in 'power'. As if women can't be. Which is mostly why some women took to being simple housewives. Staying at home and planning parties and having babies and spending time with their simple friends.

"How's about you go and take that leering look smile of yours off my daughter and wife before I—" My mother sighs heavily and moves to his side, "Nate! I'm pretty sure a bit of paperwork won't kill us."

"We'll die." Both me and my father say with a robotic tone.

"You'll both sign out this paper." She takes the papers from the shocked Representative— who looks to be on the verge of pissing himself, "End of discussion. And you," she turns back towards the Vault-Tec guy, and puts on her best I-will-cut-you-in-half smile. "I don't really care how you look at me, just know you have a rifle waiting for you when you decide to test the limits. And as for my daughter?" She leans forward and, with her 5'3 frame, she's like a mini Grognak. "I'll make sure that no one can find your body when my husband is done with you." She leans back and flashes another smile to make the Vault-Tec Rep flinch and take a step back.

"Please wait until we finish these." And then slams the door in his face.

My dad looks at the door and then at my mother and shakes his head. "Should've just told him no— ow! I'm sorry! I'm sorry!" I wasn't even paying attention to them to know that mama had given him a titty-twist. I was in the middle of watching the news when she slapped a pen and a peice of paper to my forehead.

"Hurry up and fill that out so that piece of colonizing—"

"Watch the language Nor!"

"How exactly can I watch language? Sorry Oreo, I was in a different place. Just hurry up and fill that out okay?"

Back before my grandmother was born she dealt with alot of racism for her being part Chinese, white, and black. But because most of her origins showed from being Chinese and speaking the language, hate was practically part of her life. She accepted it for what it was, and moved on.

I have always mulled that memory over. And I can see where she's getting that from. This war is filled on hate and a bunch of male testosterone and some other things. I thumb the locket and look out into the backyard, what if things had been different? I just huff and look at the paper.

Can't turn back now.

"Uh t-thank you! I'll just run this over to the vault. Goodbye!"

"Uh thanks?" My father runs a hand over his face. My mother had went into Shaun's room to change his pamper when she finished her S.P.E.C.I.A.L stats.

"Nate! Come'ere for a sec!" Groaning and pulling his hair, he trudges into the room. I didn't see Codsworth in the living room, he must've been in the room with my parents.

I picked up my Unstoppables comic and read through my parents' childish bickering and Shaun's constant laughter at the two until the news anchor came back on.

"Mom! DAD! GET IN HERE QUICK!"

"Followed by... yes, followed by flashes. Blinding flashes. Sounds of explosions... We're... we're trying to get confirmation..."

My father has his baseball bat in his hand, apparently the closest thing he could find in a short amount of time with my mother and Codsworth in tow. "What's going—why are you yelling?"

"But we seem to have lost contact with our affiliate stations... We do have... coming in... confirmed reports. I repeat, confirmed reports of nuclear detonations in New York and Pennsylvania. My God."

The television goes static and my arm is grabbed a bit roughly. My heart stops for about ten beats before I start panicking.

"The vault." I say just as the sirens start blaring.

Residents of Sanctuary Hills, if you are registered, evacuate to Vault 111 immediately. Residents of Sanctuary Hills, if you are registered, evacuate to Vault 111 immediately.

"Let's go!" My father jerks me out of my seat and grabs my mother and brother. I'm rushed outside, seeing my neighbors panicking and standing off on the sidewalk. Vertibirds circle overhead making a loud Thdrrrr noise above the screaming and sirens. Cars are in the middle of the road blocking the exit out of the neighborhood and a tank with a soldier standing atop it, motioning people towards the woods. One of our neighbors falls down and I rush to help, only to get pulled back towards the path.

"We're going to die."

"Oh God. What if we don't drive fast enough in time?"

"What's going on? Why is everyone screaming?"

"They're going to drop the bombs!" We reach the edge of the woods and follow the trail up the hill to the vault.

"That's absurd! I AM Vault-Tec! I'm reporting this!" My father grasps the Rep by his shoulders, unfazed by the slowed motion of the minigun pointed at the Rep, and moves him out of the way.

"We need to get in. We're on the list." The soldier, his face stoick and his eyes a bit panicky, look down at the list, "Adult Female, Adult Male, Young-Adult Female, Infant Male... Alright go on in."

"Let's go! Step in the center of the platform and DO NOT MOVE! Wait until the elevator descends!"

"What's going to happen to those people?" My mother asks breathless as we step in the center. I am suddenly reminded to breathe.

I look around the neighborhood and my heart sets and erratic pace. What's going to happen after they fall? Is Vault-Tec to be trusted? Are the bombs really going to fall?

"Don't worry about them ma'am! Worry about that family of yours!" The man in T-45 armor responds. W

My father hugs my mother and my brother and I and kisses the top of our heads. "I love you all."

Then an explosion south from where we're standing rocks the entire earth. My eyes are wide open staring at the explosion.

I won't ever forget this.

My hair starts whipping about my face and shoulders, next to me my mother sobs loudly and turns and cradles shaun tightly—as if to protect him from death. My father also stares at the destruction, a fire alight in his eyes. a

"NOW! NOW! SEND IT DOWN NOW!" As the mushroom cloud grows, and the debris cloud gets ever closer, we are lowered into the vault.

"Oh God. Oh God."

Chapter Text

"We did it. We made it. We're okay..." My mother says to herself like a chant. "We're okay..."

The elevator descends slowly until we're met with two people at the gate. "Everyone please, step off the elevator, and proceed up the stairs in an orderly fashion!"

The other man chimes in, "No need to worry folks! We'll get everyone situated in your new home. Vault 111! A better future. Underground!"

Mr. Russell, a partially bald man speaks up, voice trembling, "So we just..."

"Yes. Up the stairs."

"I can't believe it... If we left a minute later... We'd all be..."

"No No! Don't get caught up thinking about all that. Your safe now. Everyone just head up these stairs, and through the door there." We move, with both of my hands in my mother's and father's, and up the stairs into the

Vault-Tec is here for you. All new residents, please proceed in an orderly fashion. Welcome home!

"Male, Female, Female and infant male." One of the staff say. "Just head on over to the lady holding the suits. Sir." He says while noticing us staring at him like he didn't just feel the ground shake above him.

"You'll need your vault suits before we can take you further." She says with a smile. As if the world hadn't just ended above her pretty brown head. We all take our suits, the plastic of the pack smooth and shiny.

"Thanks." My father says. "What now?"

"Just follow the doctor, here. He'll show you where to go."

My mother takes her suit from the woman. Her fingers shaking as she reaches for it. "Thank you." She says in a small voice. My dad rushed to her and presses a kiss to her forehead. "Everything's gone."

"I know." He says. He looks to me and gives a grim smile. "We'll make it."

"Alright you four. Follow me!" The silver-haired man says. We follow him down the hall.

My mother speaks, this time to Shaun, who was surprisingly calm in his mother's arms while everything ended, and shows him the vault. "See? This is our new home..."

We walk down the cold hall, a few people embracing each other and Vault-Tec Staff reassuring them that the vault will be our future, and I shudder and move closer to my parents, a few tears leaking from my eyes as I think about my friends.

Maggie with her wild hair and freckled face. Markus and his smarts. And Mac for his love for the outdoors. I wonder if they survived, maybe made it to another vault like we did? Were any of them open? I know of a few that were still under construction—mainly Vault 114.

The last time we visited the city we couldn't do through certain streets with our vehicles for fear of it collapsing entirely, even though it's built next to the tracks of a subway train.

"Alright now just step into the changing rooms and change into your Vault-suits please." The man says once we reach the end of the hall. There are a total of nine pods for each of us and then my chest fills with dread.

I tug on my father's sleeve, I immediately knew something bad was going to happen if we got in those humming pods. And it seemed this was the source of the freezing temperatures in the vault. "S-something's not right." I say as. My mother goes into the changing room with Shaun.

He tucks his suit under his shoulder and pulls me close, "What's wrong?"

"Those pods. If we get in them... I-I think something bad is going to—"

"Sir? Ma'am? Is there something wrong?" Another staff member appears narrowing his eyes at us. "Are you waiting to change or..."

"We're fine. We're just waiting to change. My daughter here nearly had a panic attack. That's all."
Blondie's eyes widen for a bit and then a mask slides in place, "Don't worry, the pods are only for... decontamination purposes only before we head in deeper into the vault. You won't be in there for long, just for a few days." He reassures with a smile. "There's really nothing to worry yourself over."

My mother comes out with a whining Shaun in her hands and I stretch my hands out for him. My mother hands him over gladly and watches my father make for the changing room. I feel his tiny, chubby body for what feels like the last time and smell his precious head of hair. "My baby brother. I hope this isn't the last time I see you. Just remember that..." I sniff and Shaun shifts his blue orbs to look into my eyes with a fist in his mouth and cooing slightly. I position him so he could be balanced on my hip and carefully unclip my locket that had a picture of the four of us inside and put it around his hand. The chain isn't going to break or cause any problems for him as he holds it. "If we ever get separated from each other. Or one dies before the other, we will find each other again one day. I promise."

Now I am full out crying against my brother, who in turn puts a tiny hand on my cheek. I smile a bit and kiss his chubby cheeks and hand him to my father who watches our exchange with a sad smile along with my mother.

That's when I notice how tight these vault suits are on them. My mother practically moulded into the thing, whereas my father is trying his best not to reach for the crotch part of his suit. "I hate these things." He says with a huff, "I feel exposed and very very naked."

I pick up my suit and make for the changing room, "Hopefully we won't be in them for long." I mutter.


"Okay folks! Now that you all have your suits on please take your time before entering the pods. We don't want anyone to rush!"

When my father moves towards the pods, Shaun let's out an almighty wail. He balances him with one hand and wipes his tears and starts humming, slightly calming him before he plants a kiss to his head and murmurs something before handing him over to my mother and bringing us all into a group hug. We didn't have to say anything. We just closed our eyes and muttered a soft prayer and went to our pods.

My mother and brother are in a pod across from me and my father's pod, wide eyed but surprisingly calm. Before the pod doors close I hear her say I love you both, and then it's just me and a freezing cage.

Initializing decontamination process in 3...

My heart slows down five beats before it doubles by ten then twenty. The glass of of the pod slowly clouds but not fast enough to catch my mother's smile— and it's enough for me to smile back with tears in my eyes.

2...

My eyes close and I feel lighter, my head feeling fuzzy. Then another thought passes through my mind, and disappears before I can think on it.

1...

Chapter Text

Manual Override Initiated. Cryogenic Stasis: Suspended...
I force my eyes open and shudder. My mind feels fuzzy and I can't think straight.

Who am I? I question to nothing, Where am I? Why am I cold? Then a flurry of images pass through the void and I blink— twice.

I see my mother's pod across from mine and touch the cold glass—but not before I see a figure in some sort of white hazmat suit. And then I think back to an old episode of The Silver Shroud. "This is the one. Here."

My heart stops a beat and then a feeling of dread takes form in my chest. A man appears dressed in some... Archeological outfit? And is that a metal arm? No— that's strangely part of his outfit. His eyes skim over the pods, his eyes meeting mine briefly before moving to the next. "Open the pod." He says while unholstering his pistol.

The pod slowly opens, and my mother wheezes out a breath while Shaun starts crying. What are they doing?!

"I-is it over? Ugh. Are w-we okay?" She stutters out and cradles shaun with wary eyes.

"It's alright." The mystery man says reassuringly, and then motions to the figure in the suit, "It's going to be over soon."

"Come here." They reach for Shaun and try to take him from his mother.

"Let—What are you doing?!" Shaun starts crying twice as loud and my mother holds her grip. "I'm not giving you Shaun!"

The mystery man steps up, and the barrel of the gun clicks, "Let the boy go. I'm only gonna tell you this once."

They continue to struggle for the boy until my mother repeats it again, "I'm not giving you Shaun! Let go of hi—" BANG!

I'm barely aware of my screaming and pounding on the glass. The man turns and motions to the hazmat to leave. He looks at my father's pod to my left and then mine, until I stop pounding and give him the finger. He huffs and says,"At least we still have the backups." And then walks away.

I feel colder than I already am and sob while looking at my dead mother in the pod. Her eyes, blank and unfocused, are staring up at nothing.

And then I see white for the second time.

Cryogenic Sequence: Re-Initialized...


 

 

I'm floating. On what I'm not sure. My eyes and mouth are sealed shut and my throat feels dry and scratchy. My ears strain to pick up and sound and only seem to pick up my erratic thoughts. Can ears do that or is it just my mind that makes me think that my ears think that they can hear my thoughts?

And then my eyes snap open and I suck in a ragged breath and then cough. Like my lungs haven't been getting enough oxygen. Alarms are blaring outside of my pod and I try my best to look around, only for the door to open and I fall to the floor—and another person with me.

"Goddamnit! Nora!" My father yells and scrambles to her pod. I lift on my own trembling legs and cough some more and watch as he hits random buttons to the controls for the pod. "Come on! Come on! Fuck!"

A hissing noise and a few cracking noises later the door opens, and we look at my deceased mother, and she at us.

I sob and sink to the floor. It really did happen. I think, She's dead and Shaun's been kidnapped. I feel a pair of arms wrap around me and help me stand. "She's dead."

I say flatly. My mind feels empty for a minute before I start looking at the other pods. They all seem dead—are dead. Their pods must've malfunctioned or maybe their bodies gave out.

My father says nothing, his silence the only answer I get. "We need to get out of here." He lets me go and casts my mother one final look and then we both make our way to the exit.


 

The world... Everything beyond... Is dead.

I squint my eyes against the bright sun, my pip-boy surprisingly light against my left arm. I have no idea how long we were in the vault, how long ago when my mother died and my brother kidnapped—the cool air of the world told me it was a long time and I hesitate and then towards my father, who sits with his arms braces on his knees looking out at the dead landscape. "Idiots."

He mutters and swears. When he finds me staring, there's a blank-ness to his eyes and I've seen it once before—after he came back from Alaska. He went a whole month with nightmares and sleep deprivation. He talked to my mother about everything he saw and did up north, when he thought I couldn't hear. Most days, he worked himself to the point of exhaustion just so he could sleep.

"What do we do now?"

He stands, jaw clenching and fists bunched up and checks his 10mm. "Search the neighborhood for starters. Then find Shaun."

"How? We don't even know where to start."

He doesn't answer, and just stares, "I don't know Ori." He says as he checks the green crate and the inside of the vault control pod. "I don't know."

We eventually make our way down the path into a ruined Sanctuary Hills. Cars are still lining the street, some flipped over into houses. A few houses still stand and trash and weeds take over most the street. "Is that—?" I look in the direction my father squint and say, "Codsworth?!" As I say, the floating metal figure turns toward us.

"Dear me! Sir! Young Orielle! It's really you!" He says and one of his three rusted eyes look around, "Where is Mum and young Shaun?"

"They killed her." My father says.

"N-no that's impossible. Y-you must be—"

"Codsworth he's telling the truth. Even I witnessed my mother's death and my brother's kidnapping."

Codsworth remains silent for what seems like forever until he speaks up, voice trembling, "After two-hundred years of silence, the silence speaks back for fear mum and Shaun."

"Two-hundred..."

"A bit over two-hundred-and ten really."

My head hurts.

Everything hurts. I can barely stand but yet I can feel a giggle rise up in my throat. "So you're saying..." A shake of my head, "You're saying that everything, everything and everyone, is gone? No one else but us survived?"

"Not exactly. There are ghouls in Goodneighbor who are considered as Pre-war..."

"Pre-war?" My father asks.

"Ah... I see you haven't been exploring, lately. Well Pre-war as in the war before the bombs fell. Some people survived, only to be exposed to radiation and literally have their skin peel off their body and thus, they are considered ghouls. I've seen a few they almost look like zombies, but their brains have supposedly rotted out over time. Most of them that are there are over two-hundred themselves. Not in good condition like so.

"And then there are the local milita in Concord—who, I think, may be able to help find young Shaun."

"Local milita?"

"They call themselves 'The Minutemen' sir. They've been around for quite some time. And..." Codsworth hesitates, "They've been through alot these past years."

"Well sounds like they're just going to accept newcomers. We'll see what we can do. Thank you Codsworth."

"Oh I almost forgot!" Codsworth hands him a holotape with a letter, old and yellow attached to it. "I think mum wanted you to have it. She gave it to me the day the bombs fell." My father stares at the items in his hands and takes a deep breath. "Thank you."

"Your very welcome."


 

 

The short trip to Concord doesn't last long. Our new companion, Dogmeat, growls lightly when he hears faint pops in the distance. I gently run my hand between his ears and tell him to keep quiet while in my other hand, I grip my pistol. "How many do you see?"

"Seven, if I'm not mistaken. There's someone on the balcony of the museum doing his best to keep them at bay." He pauses, "I think there's some inside." Then he turns to me, "Stay low and don't hesitate to pull the trigger. Just breathe and keep your aim steady. Dogmeat..." The German Shepherd perks up at his name, unfortunately, the only name he answers to.

While we found him at Red Rocket, on top the hill in front of the entrance by the windows, we found a mini campsite there. We don't know if it was dogmeat's original owner, but it seems like that person would sit there and watch him. "Protect. You ready?"
I nod and take a deep breath. Just like we practiced.

"How exactly are we going to do this?"

"Take out the ones that are farthest away from the group first. And with the street not having much light, stick to the shadows." And then he nabs a guy in the head.


 

I wipe away the sweat on my forehead and force a breath into my lungs. We'd gotten the raiders that were attacking all cleared out, now all we had to do was clear a path for them to Sanctuary.

Preston Garvey, Sturges, Mama Murphy, Jun Long, and Marcy, (who is now on my shit-list) apparently are all that's left of the Minutemen. They've been through a lot, their numbers dwindling quickly and I can't help but feel bad for them. Life is as life goes.

"So then, are you going to help us?"

"Yeah, just answer me this. Why can't one of you operate the armor? Why me?" My father says stubbornly.

Sturges straightens and crosses his arms over his chest, "Well for one, your the only one in here who seems to know enough about power armor—especially one that's about as old as you are. Then there's the minigun that should prove useful for the upcoming situation. Two, Marcy would rather be eaten by a Yao Guai than stay in a room with two people She's barely even met."

"Would it kill for her to loose the attitude? I mean, we did just save your ass!" I mutter with two fingers pinching the bridge of my nose. Sensing my distress, or thinking I'm in distress, Dogmeat nudges my left leg and I scratch him between his ears. He's been calm throughout the entire thing. I'm amazed he's still a regular dog instead of a radiated dog—which my father decided to call them 'The angry naked rabies', like the one we came across earlier. Most of them would be rabid by now anyways.

"I can hear you you know."

"Well good for you princess! Ya wan' a cookie?"

"Ori." My father give me a warning look. And I don't miss the 'Isn't that the truth' looks of Sturges and Preston.

"Sorry, Marcy." Beach you thought...

"There's a fusion core at the gate downstairs. Not sure if the charge is enough, but it should be. We'll cover you on the balcony."

I grab the spare laser musket from Preston and make my way to the balcony while my father grabs the old set of armor. Preston follows me out and takes his place behind a flipped over table before his head is blown off.

"First time?" He says.

"What?" I say as I crank the sorry weaponry and nail a raiders head off of his body. I turn back to Preston who looks awed and frightened at the same time.

"Nevermind. I'm guessing your father taught you how to shoot?" He says as he picks off another three raiders and quickly ducks behind cover.

"And a few friends of my father's. Apparently, as a baby, my charm on people developed and well," a shrug of my shoulders and I shot another raider, this time in the eye and in return,a bullet whizzed past my ear.

"People just randomly started falling in love with me and they knew I would be heavily sought after, so, they taught me how to defend myself." They were all like my older brothers in ways. Gavin—who was a demolitionist and had a love for computers, as did his son Markus, and I learned from them. Bregan was the strength of the four—he never liked bullies. He's the one who showed me self-defense. Reid—the clown of the group and sometimes an idiot, was an expert with a sniper rifle and never missed his target. He was the one that would sneak me candy when he stayed over for the night when I couldn't sleep—it would be mostly his fault because he existed and was kid-friendly.

"Shit! Boss! One of 'em's on the roof!" A raider yelled and then choked on his own blood once he had a hole in his chest.

"Well? What are you all standing around for? Kill them!"

Then I hear a clank of footsteps and a gentle whirring and then blood starts dusting the air. My father leaps off the roof, the old suit of T-45 armor absorbing the fall.

Me and Preston pick off the raiders on the balconys and roofs while he takes the ground. Cars explode as he shoots for the ones desperately trying to find cover, and then when they've no cover at all, blood dusts the air around them and then falls to the ground like mist in the wind.

The hair on my arms and neck quickly stand on end and I barely have time to shout a warning before a horned, radiated reptile breaks its way from underground and charges at my father.

"What is that?" I ask breathless.

"A Deathclaw." What?

 My father makes an audible sound, in which sounded like a curse and something along the lines of 'badass lizard', and keeps firing the gym like his life depended on it.

The deathclaw charges and he manages to evade the attach and keep firing, which only had a few rounds left.

He throws the gun to the side and picks up a sharp hunk of metal and jams it into the deathclaw's side once it made to attack again. I crank the musket to it's maximum capacity and wait to take the shot. Preston sees this and follows what I'm doing. "Not yet." Yeah no shit honey...

The deathclaw roses and hisses, it's tail whipping, side to side, and bloody all over. "Aim for the wound." I say to him. This time, it's my father charging at the beast, with a road of his own and grabs the hunk of metal in it's side and repeatedly jams it over and over again until it bats him away and tosses him on the other side of the street into a building.

"Now." Red beams slice through the air and the deathclaw roses in pain and slumps to the ground with laboured breaths. My father, now with an assault rifle in his hand sticks the barrel in his mouth and shoots it twice to make sure it's dead.

Preston whistles and adjusts his hat, "Glad he's on our side."

"Hey!" He yells to both of us. "I just killed a fucking dinosaur! I'm so glad I watched Jurassic Park!"

"What's Jurassic Park?" He pauses and looks at both of us, "You both really are old."
a

"Excuse me what in the goddamn?! I can hear you! We're not that old!" My dad yells, clearly offended.

I shake my head, "Do me a favor and don't say that again." I wipe my forehead and go inside, "We may be old but, we're not fossils."

"Sorry. Is your dad that...ah... Childish?"

"Usually when he discovers something new or really really likes he's giddy like a five year old. And I happen to share the same interest. Just a bit more..." I stop at the stairway to the bottom floor, "Excitement and crazy."

I hear Preston sigh and mutter, "Better that nothing." And I smile.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

"Mighty fine work you did out there." Sturges says as he leans on the wall.

"He knows. Right now he's just basking in the fact that he just killed an overgrown lizard." I say.

"Dinosaur." My father corrects.

When the question "What's a dinosaur?" erupts throughout the room, he takes off his helmet and stares at each and everyone in the room. "Now it's not just a matter of 'we're going to find a working TV and a CD player', no kids, we are going to find a goddamn working TV and CD player and show you one of the greatest movies ever created."

"What if we don't want—"

"Shhh... Of course you do Marcy. That's why you're and ungrateful brat and really need to be a little more nice to people who try to help you. I mean, what's life without a little kindness and gratitude?" He looks around the room and takes more of the silence, "Way off topic here."

Mama Murphy chuckles and continues to pet Dogmeat, "An excellent sense of humor too. Passed down from generation to generation."

I stare at the woman like she just declared snack cakes didn't exist, "What?"

She shakes her head, "It's nothing kid. Just a little something I saw using the sight. And I saw what happened in that vault. I saw the bombs fall, and your mother murdered right before your eyes and your brother taken from you." A deep breath, "Your brother, he's alive and well, kid. I can feel it."

"Mama you need to lay off the chems." Preston stated firmly .

"Oh not this again Preston. I've told you, we need the sight, we can't survive without it." She lightly moans.

"We'll make do with what we have, but having you dying on us is not an option."

"Not like she cares." Marcy says, "She's addicted to the stuff . Maybe we should give her more to finish her off."

"Now you listen here you little shit!" I snap, "Apparently, this woman saved you countless of times with that sight. And as much as I disapprove with the use of drugs, I think you should cut the lady, this wonderful old lady, some slack."

Marcy opens her mouth to argue back but I beat her to it, "As much as the gaping fish looks on that face of yours, I suggest you keep it shut Icicle."

I scrunch my nose and walk towards my father who shakes his head and grumbles under his breath while running a metal band through his head, "Now are we gonna get out of here or what? The smell is gettin' to me and I do recall you all needing to get to Sanctuary."


 

The wall back to Sanctuary is a quiet short one.
My father carries the minigun with a leather strap across his chest and holds the assault rifle at the ready, leading the way to Sanctuary. Dogmeat trails beside him, occasionally sniffing the air and trails ahead without going too far.

Once we reach the old bridge, Mama Murphy stops me, "You both need to get to the crown jewel of the Commonwealth."

"And where is that exactly?"
"You knew it as the stadium back then, now, we call it

Diamond City. Not really much of a city now. The man your looking for, he can help you."
Okay? "Any chance you could give me a name?"

"Look, kid. I'm tired right now and using the sight usually drains me. Just go to the stadium. You'll find your answers there." And then she walks away into the house where the others are.

I find my father exiting the armor at the power armor station and carefully lifts his shirt up to examine the bright red scratch mark on his stomach. "Need to be more careful." He mutters.

"You think?" I retort.

He looks up, startled by my voice and frowns at me, "Har, har. Give me the bag with the armor will ya?" I hadn't noticed he'd collected peices of leather armor and put them in the bag with our supplies. "So, now that your out defending people from bad guys, how do you feel?" He says in a low voice.

I chew on my lip and listen to the low murmuring of the others inside, "I don't know. I feel... different.

"I never imagined having to kill someone just to be safe. Animals I can deal with, but on a living person... When uncle Bregan told me that killing someone would be the scariest thing to ever happen to someone, I finally realized the truth in those words." I wring my fingers together and start to panic, "Now I'm asking myself if mama would approve. Would she? Would Shaun if we ever found him? How—?"

"Hey! Hey now. Take it easy. The first time's the worst feeling you can get." He hugs me to him as silent years start to fall down my face, "No one is perfect. Know that. You do what you have to to survive. Your mother would've done the same. Ori listen to me. Killing does not make you a monster unless you feed it. Don't feed the monster unless you want the monster." I've had Bregan tell me multiple times to not give into anger or emotion. "I'm sorry you and every other kid out there got dragged into this." He says kissing my forehead and letting me go to search through the bag. The tears had long stopped and I just stood there in silence.
I'd

The sky had already darkened to a deep blue and slowly turning black as the minutes pass by. The air has gotten a bit cooler and quiet without the harshness of the sun.

"Preston asked me if we wanted to help rebuild the Minutemen."

"And you said yes?"

"No I said yes."

"And?"

"Sometime ago, they got a distress call about a kidnapping at a place called Oberland Station. And so I agreed to help." He says simply.

"Isn't that an old railroad outpost?"

"I... Think so? I can't remember, maybe it was the other one by the river." Then he checks his pipboy and confirms it. "Yeah, the one we're thinking about is up near Cambridge."

He sighs as he adjusts some straps on the chest peice,

"What did Murphy tell you on the bridge?"

"She saw the person who would help us using the sight. He's at the stadium which the people now call 'Diamond City'. He can help us find Shaun." I watch as his face contorts in regret before he quickly masks it when Preston comes into view.

"Bad time?"

"You're good. What did you need?"

"Look, I know an amount wasn't on the table but," he pulls out a red pouch from his pocket and tosses it to him. "We owe you."

"What's this?" I ask him.

"What do you think?" My father takes a look in the bag and a look of uncertainty crosses his features. Preston takes note of it and says, "We use caps from Nuka-Cola bottles as currency since after the bombs fell. That is a total of 100, plus a bit extra."

"You didn't have to..."

"Well how else are you gonna pay for the things you need? With paper?" He sighs, "It's just rare to find people who'll help others willingly and ask for nothing at all. So... thanks. I guess."

"Your welcome." I say and give a smile that doesn't reach my eyes.
Preston returns the smile and doesn't go back inside, he goes down the street instead—patrolling then.

"You tired yet?" He asks.

I give him a look, "We've been resting for over two-hundred years, sleep is the last thing on my mind. No I'm not tired."

"Neither am I." Once again we're engulfed in silence, vaguely empty without the familiar buzz of a lawn mower and screech of kids playing. "We'll find him, Ori. We'll find the person responsible for this and we will find Shaun." He promises. And I believe it.



~Seven Months Later~

I'm running. Where? I have no idea. Last I checked, I was in Boston Commons—a dangerous place for some people who are scared of travelling through here. My legs burn and my chest heaves, sucking in air and exhaling it through my mouth. God this air sucks!

The super mutant suicider continues chasing me through the streets of a ruined Boston, the beep of the nuke it's holding growing irritating by the second. "Only one of us survive this and it won't be you!" It yells and I nearly collapse with laughter.

How did I get here you ask?

Well then, I was travelling with a buddy of mine who just happens to hate my guts right about now. We were both looking for a missing Minutemen patrol. We found them—they're dead of course—and then a pack of super mutants came out of nowhere and started shooting at us. We managed to escape, only, both in different directions, and I made a friend—Swan, the monster everyone stays away from. How did I become friends with it? I... I don't know... I just did. Same thing happened with Tusk—a young deathclaw I saved from a group of raiders. Dogmeat gets a little jealous when I give Tusk most of my attention.

Where are you Preston?

I jump over a ruined car and make a quick left, and come across a group of raiders. "SWAN DAMNIT! WHERE ARE YOU?!"

"Did she just say Swan?" One of them yells as I pull out Deliverer. Then I think about the suicider that's still chasing me and get an idea.

"Come out little human! You not play fair."

"I'm over here you horse's ass!" I say as I barrel towards one of the five and kick out their legs and use them as a shield as I get behind a concrete pillar.

"Come and get me!" I yell and keep a good grip on the thrashing raider in my arms, as if his friends aren't trying to kill me, "If I were you buddy I'd stay the frick still."

"Fuck you.", He says and tries to head-butt me. Note: tried. I'm too short to be head-butted by a tree. I make sure he's sitting on his legs and the back of his head is on my thigh before I position my fingers over his eyes, and use my nails to dig, not too hard, "What was that?"
He grunts and doesn't say anything.

"Suicider!" One of them yells, and then there's another rapid beeping coming from another direction. "We're trapped!"

"Not if you don't take them out first you idiot!" I peek around from my hiding spot and drop the raider to the ground. He doesn't make a move to attack me, instead watches the fight. The suiciders both run towards the scrambling raiders and for a minute, I think they might actually succeed, if only the guy in the middle hadn't screwed up by facing the other direction. I cover my ears as the nukes go off and stand to my feet and laugh.

"Can I go now?" The raider asks.

"You should've been gone when I let you go."

He takes that as confirmation to leave and runs in the wrong direction, "Wait!"

He flies back just as a rusted frame of a car hits him square in the chest and I hear a sickening crack.

I groan,"Swan."

The behemoth turns and grunts, "Where were you?" I ask and then he points to the dead raider with the boat arm. "You came across raiders and ate them?" He grunts again. Can't say I blame him, running makes me hungry. "Ah it's alright. Can't really blame you for being hungry. But I need to find my—"

"What in the ever-loving hell?" Preston says, "Are you having a whole conversation with... that?"

"Yeees?"

Preston holds the bridge of his nose, and sighs. Some people have gotten used to me conversing with the wasteland creatures. Piper seems to be the only one interested in my ability.

When we found Tusk, my father agreed to let me adopt the 'baby dinosaur', Because in a post-apocalyptic world there are two types of crazy. There are the ones who don't bring wasteland creatures home and then there are the types that do. Plus, I couldn't kill something as cute as Tusk. Dogmeat barked and barked at Tusk trying to get him to go away, it nearly worked once, but then they've been getting along the past few months.

"Why do I even bother?" He says looking up at Swan.

"Because you love me and without me you would be lost." I turn to Swan, "You can go now. Thanks for not judging me for talking to enhanced super mutant behemoths."

"What?"

"What?"

Swan grunts and goes back to his pond. I'll have to visit him more often, I think. "I promise I'll come visit!" I yell.

Preston gives me a blank state and doesn't say anything for a while, "Why didn't you go left?"

"You told me to go right!" We were in the middle of a firefight and he thought I could hear him? Though I think I heard him say left. I think.

"I told you to go left but you went right."

"Why are you mad at me?"

"I'm not mad."

"The look on your face says otherwise."

"I'm not mad. Just..." He sighs, "Still not used to that."

Oh...
"...Sorry?"

"Let's just get back to Sanctuary alright?" Since my father became General of the Minutemen, he hasn't been able to travel more with me. Only on his free time he does.

"So are you disgusted by me?" I ask him as we make our way through Hangman's alley. The settlement was holed in a somewhat cramped alleyway, most the structure was up in the air connecting to the other brick buildings, while the ground was used for farming and even more construction.

"For the last time Ori, no I'm not disgusted by you."

"Then why do you continue to scowl behind my back?" Even though he was always a few paces behind me, I could feel a shift in his attitude every time he does something. I've had enough scowls behind my back before the bombs fell to know how that feels.

"I'm not scowling." I turn, and lo-and-behold, scowleth, he doeth. "Something just doesn't feel right."

"With what?"

"Nothing. I'm rambling." Liar. A voice hisses in my head.

"Seriously Preston, this is getting kinda old." The man even has the nerve to chuckle and walk up.

We pass the old C.I.T ruins and walk a bit faster just in case there are any synths lurking about, you never know. My pip-boy beeps twice and I check it. "Another radio signal." I say and play it.

"This is Scribe Haylen of Reconnaissance Squad Gladius to any unit in transmission range. Authorization Arx. Ferrum. Nine. Five. Our unit has sustained casualties and we're running low on supplies. We're requesting support or evac from our position at Cambridge Police Station. Automated message repeating..."

"Sound familiar?"

"Before you found us we've come across a few Brotherhood soldiers. They weren't exactly kind but didn't bother us."

"So then do you want to help?"

"I'm all for helping out those in need—but what if they really don't need saving?" I have the urge to smack some sense into this guy but then think on what he says.

"That's a deep thought. People are unpredictable." I agree with him. "That's why we're going to rescue random people anyway."

"Course we are." He mutters, and takes the lead to Cambridge.

We're jogging up the road for nearly an hour before we head the sound of gunshots in the distance. Preston motions for me to keep low just in case it's a trap.

We spot a few wandering ghouls up ahead and quickly take them out before the rest of the pack notices us here. Now the shots are getting louder along with an occasional series of curses and snarls. "I'm going up above, stay here on the ground." I say as I load my .50 and take one of the nearest catwalks up onto the roof of a building. I pull up my skull bandana and hood for the extra effect. Extra is good. I say to myself.

We take on five pack of ghouls, Preston now in proximity with the B.O.S and doing his best to fend off the ghouls and me, the sneaky sniper on the roof.
Preston turns and speak to the guy in power armor and points to my hiding spot on the roof. So much for being a sneaky sniper.

I casually stroll out the building and look at all the bodies littering the ground and step on a ghoul who pretends to be dead and lashes out at me. I step back and shoot it in the head twice. One more time for good measure, and Preston rolls his eyes. And says another thing to the bulky guy.

"I'm Paladin Danse of the Brotherhood of Steel. Thank you for you help now what's your business here?" The Paladin says, face unreadable.

I look at Preston as I put my rifle back across my back and back to the Paladin, "Did he not just tell you who we are?"

"Avoiding the question is a good way to get yourself killed."

Another look at Preston, who shrugs as of to say: I tried. "I'm Orielle Dawse, daughter of the General of the Minutemen. The person you just ignored—the one right beside you, yeah him—that's Preston Garvey and we just saved your rude ass." I cross my arms, "Your welcome."

"You're with the local milita?" He sounds a bit... surprised? "I'm sorry for my behavior. We've been through alot. Over there is Scribe Haylen and Knight Rhys."

Haylen smiles a brief smile and returns to attending to the injured guy next to her— Rhys, who gives me a glare. Jesus, I think I just found a match for Marcy's cranky ass.

"If your willing we could use some help." He says.

"What is it?"

Paladin Danse explains what he and his team were trying to do with their radio beacon, Haylen clarifies, and says they are looking for something called a Deep Range Transmitter and there's one at Arkjet—just down the road.

I look at Preston, who seems irritated that we're not going back to Sanctuary. "So you wanna stay or go?" I ask him. Danse had went back to check on Haylen and Rhys.

"And face the wrath of your father? No thanks. Your my responsibility remember?" He ducks his head and mutters under his breath. "Sorry if I'm acting weird."

"'S okay. Weird is good. Just don't scowl behind my back please. I've enough of it."

"So are you two ready or what?" Danse says with an irritating bite.

"Let's go Buzz. Space invaders have taken over Arkjet Systems."

"What?" He and Preston nearly look alike with confused expressions. We really need to fix up Starlight Drive-in. I'm so alone in this fandom...

"Nothin' let's go."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

The trek to Arkjet takes about forty minutes. Danse speaks about his team and the struggles they've been through during their time in the Commonwealth and passionately about the Brotherhood, all the while his armor continues to make clunky nooses. We come across a few raiders, ghouls—again—and radiated bugs.

Even though it's a really really good thing that two-hundred years into the future there are no pesky, tiny bugs constantly going after your ass. No, turns out they're here to get revenge for the deaths of their ancestors.

"Alright listen, we do this quick and quiet, no heroics and by the book." Danse says.

I look him up and down in his armor. "Quiet?" I say and Preston coughs and nudges me in the side with his elbow.

"Yes quiet. Have you ever heard of it?"

"Maybe when I'm trying to scare the living daylights out of my old man." I've done it plenty of times when I caught him off guard. Probably one of the reasons why his hair had already turned white. I live with no regrets.

"We're getting off topic, I was merely trying to offer tactical advice. And check your fire, I don't want to get hit by any stray bullets." Ow... I've got a feeling this guy doesn't laugh much. Gonna have to change that. I think as I unholster my pistol and disengage the safety.


 

"It was corporations like this that put the last nail in the coffin for mankind." Danse says, looking around the room, "They exploited technology for their own gains, pocketing the cash and ignoring the damage they'd done."

As we move through the debris, Danse's footsteps starting to annoy the hell out of me, and I pick up a Nuka-Cola from one of the old vendors. Most the rooms here are destroyed and some I can barely even squeeze through the door just to get into and hoard some junk.

Eventually we make it into a room with Protrectron pieces scattered everywhere. "Damn." Danse says, "I was hoping to avoid this."

"Avoid what?"

"Look at the evidence. There is not one drop of blood or casing. This," he points a metal finger at the scattered remains, "was done by Institute synths." Not to mention the burn marks on the walls and floor.

"Is there going to be a problem?" Preston asks.

"No, we keep moving until we find that transmitter. Let's move."

The next tattered room we move into seems to be a lab analysis room with an intact terminal connecting to the doors on the other side of the room. I move past a stiff-backed Paladin and head towards the terminal. I've learned a few things from Nick when it comes to hacking a terminal. For some reason he always told me to go for the key that seemed unlikely, even though all of them looked unlikely.

Operate. "Nope."

Fluid. "Nah-ah"

Package. "Almost..."

"Got it!" A minute later the doors to the other side opens and six gen-2 synths stare at us.

"Prepare to be terminated." Blue streaks of institute beams slice through the air towards my head as soon as I duck under the desk.

"Take 'em down!" Danse yells.

Preston manages to take two down before he gets shot in the shoulder. Danse takes down three and I take the last one and move to Preston, "C'mon. You were supposed to be the scolder of me, not the other way around!" I say as I help him up. Danse turns to us, his helmet obscuring his face and sighs as we take down another ambush of synths and encounter a few turrets until we reach the engine core.

"That is one big rocket." I whistle.

"It's an engine, Ori." Preston replies 

"Shoosh. If I say it's a rocket, it's a rocket."

"And if I say the sky is yellow it's brown." He retorts.

"If you two are done rambling, I could use your help to search around for the item were looking for."

"Right." Preston follows me into the engine core power room and we search around until we find the terminal.

"What do we have here?" I mutter.

I activate the auxiliary generators before I hear Danse curse obscenely and starts shooting. "More synths." Preston says and makes a move to go and help until I stop him.

I move towards the big red button that doesn't have a warning on it and look towards Danse, "The button! Press it!"

"But the engine will fry you!" I yell.

"Goddamnit! Do it!" He sounds a bit desperate now.

"Press any button!" It must be really creepy to have robots crawl up and down your arms like spiders. I'm almost tempted to let them continue.

I mash on the button, half expecting it to be a self-destruct sequence, then to realize at the last moment that it was for the rocket.

The blast doors close as the synths are burned into hunks of synthetic fiber and metal. Danse is in the center of the mess, kneeling down on one knee and obviously in pain. The doors open and we rush to check on the guy, "Holy Shittake Mushrooms are you alright?!" I exclaim, seeing his armor glow red in some places.

"I'm fine. My armor kept me from getting cooked by the flames." He grunts, "We should keep going." He says heading to the elevator.

"Pretty sure you don't want to leave this."

"Where'd you get that?" I ask pointing to the weird gun in Preston's hands.

"It's a prototype the scientists that were here called 'The Junk Jet.' I'll... show you later." Five more synths are wandering the room, one bends down and picks up an item before turning towards us. The rest go down without any problems, I grab the and we leave the building.


 

Danse takes off his helmet and stares at me, "That, was sloppy."

"I thought we did fine."

"Even though I have an inclination to agree with you, that could've gone a whole lot smoother."

"There was no way you could've known that they were there, Danse. No one can see that far into the future." Mama Murphy, damnit.

He sighs and nods, "True. Thank you both for your help. I'm not sure I would be made it without any backup.

"That being said, I believe we have two important matters to discuss. First and foremost, if you'll hand me the Transmitter, I'd like to compensate you for your assistance during this operation." I give him the item and stare at the laser rifle he's holding out to me. "I think you'll find this weapon useful. It's my own personal modification of the standard Brotherhood Laser Rifle. May it serve you well in battle."

"I—you didn't have to..."

"I insist you keep it. The Brotherhood believes in paying all of its debts." He sees the expression on my face and smiles a mega-watt smile, "This isn't the only weapon at my disposal. Brotherhood soldiers always carry a backup. Now... as far as the second matter goes, I wanted to make you a proposal.

"We had a lot thrown at us back there. Our op could have ended in disaster, but you kept your cool and handled it like a soldier. There's no doubt in my mind that you've got what it takes. The way I see it, you've got a choice.

"You could spend the rest of your life wandering from place to place, trading an extra hand for a meager reward." I open my mouth to object but he holds up a hand to stop me, "Or, you could join the Brotherhood of Steel and make your mark on the world. So what do you say?"

Preston stirs next to me and waits for me to make a decision, "We've already told you, we're with the Minutemen. I... appreciate the offer but—"

"Her father doesn't even know that she stopped to help you. We were supposed to be at our destination by nightfall." I feel the jab towards me and wince. Danse doesn't miss it either.

"Whatever you decide, soldier. You know where to find us."

"Ori." I say. I don't think he hears it as he walks away.


 

We make it to Sanctuary by midnight, barely avoiding a group of raiders that seemed like sleep didn't exist.

"Ready to face the danger?" Preston says with a smug smirk.

"Hey! Hey! You're just as responsible!" I say as we make it to the front door to my house. In the seven months we left the vault, we'd built up Sanctuary like a fortress—a very liveable fortress. We built a wall around the neighborhood, and inside we made it look... clean.

Some of the houses had to be torn down and rebuilt. As we did, people started upgrading the fairly large settlement. A few months back me and my father went to Spectacle Island just to explore. We ended up with enough mirelurk meat to last us to the winter, and we set up a small settlement with hopes in growing it.

"How exactly am I responsible?" Even though we seem like enemies to most people in the settlement, we actually get along in a brother-sister way. Even though we don't show it. Sibling relationships are weird...

"You didn't have the balls enough to stop me." He scowls and shoves the door open, only to come face-to-face with my father.

"It was her fault." He says quickly and points to me.
The white-haired man's eyes slide to mine before going back to Preston's, "Where were you?" He says quietly.

I quickly explain about how we found the Brotherhood signal near the C.I.T ruins, explainan the feral ghouls we came across, meeting the soldiers and helping them find the Deep Range Transmitter and show him the rifle just to save Preston's traitorous ass. "I didn't know that it would take that long. I thought Arkjet was a radio station."

"You seriously don't remember?"

"Remember what?"

"Remember when Gavin was babysitting you and Markus and took you both to work with him?"
I think I can remember us both screaming with excitement when Gavin took us somewhere, I don't think it was there though. "Unless your talking about the State Fair, I'm drawing a blank." We would bother our parents about it all the time. Every. Single. Year. Eventually they gave in and took us there. So many memories.

"State Fair?"

"With all types of fun rides enough to make you throw up. Candy. Cotton Candy. And the funnel cake and pies." I sigh dramatically and plop down on the couch, my weapons I put in the storage room—along with the junk jet.

Preston just stares and does nothing, "What?"

"WHAT?!" I exclaim. My father mutters a Here we go again... as I look at Preston with big eyes, "I just described heaven, and you have the nerve to say what?!?"

"Yes?"

"I'm so done with you. I'm tired. I'm going to bed." I get up, leaving a confused Preston while my father sits on the couch and stares up at the ceiling with a blank expression on his face and his arms crossed over his chest.

"Does she..."

"Yep."
"Every time?"

"Not nearly as much to say every time, but yes."

I hear Preston mutter and say something and leave, heading to another house down the road. I've never liked Preston when he's moody. For some reason, I don't have a valid reason as to why I don't... Wait yes I do. My Lord can that guy conjure up a storm just by scowling and complaining. I shake my head and make to my room.

I sleep in Shaun's room. I've had a fear, that if I break down his old crib, I would forget him entirely. I shove a stale snack cake in my mouth and head towards the bathroom to take a shower. I look at my reflection on the mirror. My skin has gotten darker, a few scars and bruises here and there, and my blue eyes are still bright with an inner light. My hair has gotten thicker and more unnerving—but I don't cut it. I smile when I remember when I tried to put the scissors to my head and my mother came and whooped my butt until it turned pink.

Everyday I miss her. The last time I visited her was two months ago. I had dreamt that she was staring at me the entire time Shaun had been taken from her arms. She didn't say anything, didn't even put up a fight. Just stared. Since then I hadn't visited. My father still does. He brings her flowers whenever he can and leaves. He doesn't mention of he's had nightmares or not. But when I stare into his eyes I know he still does.


 

Two weeks go by without any settlements being randomly attacked, my father and I found Valentine being held hostage in Vault 114 and continued looking for Shaun. When we got to the detective agency, they told us that Kellogg—the guy who apparently, has been named after a cereal brand and killed my mother and took my brother—was here in diamond city with a ten year-old boy. We did some digging, went into his house about a day later. Now we're using Dogmeat to track him.

"Thank you so much Nick." I hug him, his chest gently whirring underneath the trench coat.

"Anytime Doll. You two take care out there." He pays my back and stuffs his metal hands inside his coat. "Let me know when you find anything Nate."

"I will."

Diamond City is quiet at night. No one is yelling anything at anyone or trash-talking about leaving their girlfriend because she left the cap off of the tube of toothpaste—and think she's a synth a minute later. I look at the sky, still unfamiliar after all these months out of the vault, and wish something good would come out of this.

I give Dogmeat the San Francisco Sunlights—a cigar that Kellogg had smoked—and watch as he sniffs it. He then sniffs the air, then the ground, barks once and runs down the stairs.

I look to my father, who's face looks hopeful and nods towards me, "I kept my promise." He says slinging his pack over his shoulder and following Dogmeat.

Dogmeat finds Kellogg's old campsites, one by a pond near the edge of the city, another two under a bridge with his bloody rags, and one at a fence near Fort Hagen. We came across an Assultron, who then encountered Kellogg and said a mix of mess I couldn't understand before it shorted out.We ended up watching the fort to see if anyone would come walking out. The night sky is breathtakingly beautiful. At least something so bright and beautiful wasn't ruined in a nuclear war. I think to myself.

"No one is coming out." I say to him while petting a bored looking Dogmeat. We'd already noted four turrets on the roof.

"I noticed."

"Maybe he's waiting for us. I mean, if your looking for someone real bad—in our case, we're looking for him and we're the only ones who survived the vault because we're the so-called 'backups'," I air quote. "—whatever that means, and really, the only people he'd be expecting is us. Plus—he was injured on his way here."

The bloodied rags were dry and cracked out in the open, almost as if he wanted to be followed.

I watch with a raised eyebrow as he stands up and brushed the dirt off of his leather jacket and pants, pulls up his skull bandana and aviator sunglasses, and checks his gauss rifle and tips his milita hat, "I hate your logic."

"My logic is law." I then realize, that were practically matching in the "Badassery outfits" as Piper calls it, and grip Righteous Authority as we walk towards the fort.


 

Nate watches as his daughter hacks the Protectron terminal while he's on the lookout for any synths lurking about.

To him, it seemed like yesterday she was brought into the world, her tiny fists balled up and wail angry as can be. When he first held her all those years ago, he was nervous about being a father. Now, seeing her adapt and grow made him feel proud. He felt a pang of sorrow in his chest each time they talked about Shaun. He blamed himself for not being able to get out of the pod sooner. When Kellogg and the person in the hazmat suit approached Nora's pod, he banged and banged on the pod until a small crack sounded and Nora ended up dead in her pod.

Righteous Authority leans against her leg—a gift from a Brotherhood Paladin that Ori helped and when she described him, made him sound like a synth that had a log up it's metal ass.

A click sounds from the Protectron pod, "Powering up. Protectron on duty." It says with a robotic voice.
Nate pulls Ori to the side as the bot heads through the tattered double doors and starts shooting at the synths.

"Protect and serve."

Blue laser beams burn the wall behind the unit as Ori moves around to another room. He's never expected for his daughter to end up using the skills taught to her at a young age. At all. He'd always hoped that she didn't, and that she would live a peaceful life—except without the chaos looming in the background...

And as they continued taking down each and every synth that crosses their path—their emotionless, glowing yellow eyes only following orders from the man deep inside the fort—and he was grateful that she had learned to survive and adapt. Nora would be proud. A deep part of him says, and he has to hold back a rumble of pride from his chest.

"If it isn't my old friends, the frozen TV dinner and the side dish. Last time we met, you two were cozying up to the peas and apple cobbler." A voice sounds from the intercom. Nate recognises Kellogg's voice and moves in front of Ori, making sure there aren't any traps ahead. "Sorry your house has been a wreck for two hundred years. But I don't need a roommate. Leave."

"Dad?" He turns and sees Ori leaning against the wall, eyes wide with shock. "It's happening again isn't it?" She asks, warily. "We're still trapped in those pods, and none of this ever happened. I'll wake up and see mama get shot again and watch as Shaun gets taken away.'

Nate checks the corner for any synths and grips her chin with two gloved fingers, and his blue eyes meet his own. "It's not happening again, Orielle. Breathe. We're out and almost to Shaun and we're not going back in time." She nods her head and closes her eyes as a year slips from between her eyelids, still unsure of this is real. "If it makes you feel better, I feel the same way."

He already knew Ori was going to have doubts about what was real and what wasn't. Sometimes, he wondered if anyone still alive after the war turned out to be a figment of his imagination and would all be wiped clean with a snap of his fingers—that no one is alive and he's just continuously floating in the in-between, and no one is there to help him out of the abyss.

"It's real?"

"Yes. It's not the void." Just down the hall, there is a metallic clacking—almost hard to hear and he readies his rifle. Ori wipes her years in her sleeve and straightens. Nate smiles ruefully behind his bandana,

"Let's go kid."


 

It sounds like a war zone in the fort.
The synths we're facing are much more tougher than the ones we've fought before. Black scorch marks line the hallways and rooms as we make our way towards the room Kellogg holes himself in.

"Look. You're pissed off. I get it. I do. But whatever you hope to accomplish in here? It is not going to go your way. You and your daughter got guts and determination, and that's admirable.

"But you are in over your head in ways you can't possibly comprehend. It's not too late. Stop. Turn around and leave. You have that option. Not a lot of people can say that." We walk into a somewhat furnished room, the bed looks, clean and freshly made. A desk sits in one corner with a desk lamp on it and a few filing cabinets and med-kits full of stims and Radaways and a few ammo crates.

Then there's the metal door on the other side of the room.

"Okay, you made it. I'm just up ahead. My synths are standing down. Let's talk." A silent click and the metal door opens and I look to my father, who nods to me and moves first. I'm sweating and I hesitate, is this really real? I'm still waiting for me to wake up—to wake up and see that this is all a dream, that this isn't really happening and that I'll just come back to reality and see my dead mother, all the while I'm trapped in a pod that's sealed forever and won't open at all.

I take a deep breath and follow my father, Righteous Authority suddenly feeling heavy in my hands and offering little comfort to my trembling hands and bite my lip. How many times did my father have to face similar situations like this? To the point of when he almost gave out and quit? I don't dwell on that thought for long when a familiar partially bald man with a scar over one of his eyes steps out from behind a cabinet as the lights come on(a bit dramatically) with his arms raised above his head and four synths in tow. He holds a .44 pistol in one hand and when he speaks, he sounds amused.

"And there they are. The most resilient father and daughter in the Commonwealth. Funny, I thought I had that honor." He smiles a bit and my chest goes ice cold. Danger. Something whispers viciously.

My father says nothing as he points his rifle towards Kellogg, his face covered with the glasses and bandana giving nothing away. "So here we are. Funny, huh?"

"Where is Shaun?" It comes out with a growl. "Where is my brother?"

"Well, seems like big sister has a score to settle." He says finally turning towards me, "Listen kid, I'm just a puppet like you. My stage is a little bigger, that's all. Shaun's a good kid. So maybe he's not quite a "baby" anymore. But he's doing great. Only... he's not here. He's with the people pulling the strings." He brushes off his pistol and looks at a synth on his left, who stands so still I forgot it was there.

"Tell us where he is damnit!" My father hisses.

"Fine. I guess you've earned that much. Shaun's in a good place. Where he's safe, and comfortable, and loved. A place he calls home. The Institute."

"The Institute? We'll find him, no matter where he is. Nothing will stop us." I didn't make that promise to him for nothing when I gave Shaun my locket. I won't ever break a promise to family.

"God, you're persistent. I give you credit. It's the way a father should act. The way I'd be acting if I were in your place, I like to think. Even if it is useless.

"But I think we've been talking long enough. We both know how this has to end. So... you ready?"

"You murdered my wife and took my son...What do you think you piece of shit?" My father's voice sounds deeper and the ground beneath us trembles.

Kellogg seems unfazed and shrugs. "Alrighty then."


 

I hiss as I touch the burn on my thigh.

The metal remains of the gen-2 synths are scattered at our feet and Kellogg's deceased body lays a few feet in front of me.

My father stands over him, his rifle now holstered over his shoulder and picks something up, "He was barely even human, all this tech..."

"What?"

"He was barely human. Most of his brain—his real brain is still intact. But this..." He holds up a pink object with wires sticking out of it. "This is the work of the Institute. He was a cyborg. Probably a pet project of the Institute."

My head hurts and I jam a stimpak into my leg and tie a scrap of fabric around the wound. "Do you know if there was anything... attempted at C.I.T?"

"As far as I can remember, no. Although, there were some reports of test subjects then but, of course, we ignored them." He scratches his head. "Let's get out of here." He says tiredly while grabbing the .44 and putting it in the empty holster on his hip.

He helps me up and I hiss again, feeling the pain from the burn as we make our way to the roof exit. The sky is still dark when we make it outside. My leg feels a bit better when we do and I told my head up to the sky and sigh. "He's so close, yet so far away."

My father lowers his glasses and bandana and sighs, the sky blue light of his pip-boy reflecting on him, "I know. Nothing is ever easy." He runs a hand through his hair and sighs. "We'll find a way." He states, "We always do." We stay like that for a few minutes until we hear multiple 'thwups' in the distance. I look up and see the biggest airship I've ever witnessed(and those were on TV.)

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

"Well god-motherfucking-damn..." My father whispers. The airship glows with lights as vertibirds detatch from the ship and for a moment, I nearly smile. My pip-boy beeps and I play the transmission while watching vertibirds head in multiple directions.

"This is Paladin Danse on frequency nine five. All Brotherhood of Steel units are to return to the Cambridge Police Station immediately for reassignment. ...Repeating..."

"Well, since they've decided to make a grand entrance, shall we?"

I grin back at him, "We shall."


 

 

 

Chapter Text

Nate has been on watch until the sun came up. For him sleep didn't come as easily as it did before. He made sure to check on Ori and the burn on her thigh, and gave her med-x only when necessary. By the time the sun was shining a bit above the horizon they decided to head back to Diamond City.

Of course, it was his idea to pay a visit to the Brotherhood unit in Cambridge, but then changed his mind after his time thinking in the early hours of dawn.

They travel through the Mass Pike Interchange, a pair of gunners came across them, but didn't attack or even look in their general direction. Just the smallest of head nods and nothing else. It then takes them thirty minutes to cross the bridge towards Hardware Town, and another twenty to navigate the cluttered streets to Diamond City. By then, Ori had opened up a box of stale snack cakes, and devoured them whole. Nate just stares blankly and states that she'll choke before she gets another breath in to devour another whole... and she does. Nate just pats her back and makes her drink purified water from his canteen and continue yes to watch her devour the rest, but not before he decided to join in on the cake inhaling.

"The badass duo returns!" Ori darts from Nate's side and runs up to the raven-haired and hugs her, the box of snack cakes still in her hand. Once they're in Piper's house, Nate plops on the worn couch and takes off his glasses and bandana. "Nicky told me what happened. Did you find him?"

"We found Kellogg." Nate confirms, "But not Shaun. The institute has him."

"The Institute? Hoo boy..."

"I'm sorry, friend." He didn't even hear the metal door squeak as it opened. "Truly. That makes things... considerably more complicated."

"He ain't kidding. Heck, Nick's a synth, and even he doesn't know how to get in." Piper hands Nate a glass of whiskey, and takes the empty box of snack cakes from Ori.

"No synth does. Security protocols strip those memories out."

"So then, did we just destroy our only way in?" Ori runs a hand over her eyes and paces, "A literal dead end, huh?"

"So a murderer and a kidnapper gets his brains blown out by an avenging parent." Piper says more to herself, and watches Nate down half the bottle of whiskey. It didn't bother him. It'd have to take more than one bottle. "It'd be a great ending if we didn't still have the biggest mystery in the Commonwealth to solve..."

"He wasn't going to talk. Even if we had a way of bringing him alive." Nate deadpans.

""Gets his brains blown out..." Huh... His brains. You know, we may not need the man at all."

"You're talking crazy here Nick. Got a fault in the ole' subroutines?" Piper says in a half-jokingly tone. "Nick?"

"Look, there's a place in Goodneighbor called the Memory Den. Relive the past moments in your mind as clear as the day they happened." Nate vaguely remembers the den, probably because of Hancock when he decided it was a good idea to mix jet, mentats, vodka and ultra jet together. Fahrenheit—his right hand man(or gal) was nowhere to be found, leaving Ori and Nate as his caretakers(He tried to jump off the State House balcony twice...) until she showed.

"Let's see... I guess we're going to need a piece of Kellogg's brain. Enough gray matter to bring to Amari and find out if this is going to work..."

"Jesus, Nick... Gross! Seriously?" Piper cringed and covers her ears like a kid learning what really happens to their parents behind closed doors.

"I know it's grisly, but what choice do we have? We got no leads. Nothing. That old merc's brain just might have all the secrets we need to know."

"Cybernetics, huh?" Nate pulls out the weird wired piece from Kellogg's brain. "We may have just won the lottery."

Piper releases a breath and fans herself, Nate inwardly snorts, and questions whether he would be that stupid to bring a deceased brain all the way to Diamond City. Of course I would. "Whether we're riding this crazy brain train or not, we can't all go running across the Commonwealth. So, who's coming with you?"

"I have to go to the Memory Den either way, if I'm gonna introduce you to Amari. But if you want to head there together, just say so." Nick lights a cigarette, the fire-light illuminating his tattered face and making his gold eyes brighter.

"We'll meet you there. There's something I want to do first." Ori explains.

"Don't worry. We're gonna get your boy back. Just a few more steps..." She moves to hug them both, taking a bit longer to let Nate go and steps away. "While you three are out, I'm gonna do some more research. I'll be at the Publick if you need me."

"Bye Piper."

"Bye mini Blue. Bye Blue."


 

The police station at Cambridge is crowded.

Not feral ghouls crowded. Or Atom Cats crowded.

Brotherhood of Steel soldiers stand guard and patrol the area, while vertibirds circle the air above. We walk in towards the double doors of the police station and practically groan at the crowded room. Paladin Danse and Knight Rhys stand off to one side speaking with each other. Then I kind of wished I brought a backup in case the Lord of Ass-hat-ery decided to insult me.

Of course that is already in effect when he spots me and his regular sneer returns on his face. "So your back huh? I thought you would just take your pay and leave."

I place a hand on my hip and smirk, completely ignoring the rolling of Danse's eyes, "Glad you've missed me buttercup. I sure as hell didn't miss that attitude of yours. I think I found someone who is just the perfect match for you." I tally off the things that he and Marcy both share in common, until my father pulls me to the side and hisses in my ear.

"She's married!"

"Really? To who?" I scratch my head and try to remember what her last name is. She's married? Why didn't she say anything?

"She's married to Jun!"

"Who's Jun?" Rhys has his arms folded over his chest and his sneer increases tenfold. I feel my father become even more irritated and open my mouth.

Before I can answer with another thing Marcy and Rhys have in common, Danse comes to interfere. "Knight, leave. And you." He turns towards me. This time, his hood is off, leaving thick black hair on top of his head and making his brown eyes darker. And those eyebrows... He needs to get out of that armor...

I squeal with delight, "You have hair!!!"
Danse, unprepared for the statement seems confused.

"Of course I do. Why would you think I wouldn't?"

"Well you did look like a cartoon character hood on but now... but now you look like... ah... " Words cannot describe. My father nudges me in the side with his elbow and sighs heavily. "Anyways, enough of my babbling. This is my maker..."

"Nathaniel Dawse. Ori's told me alot about you and your team." He inclines his head a bit, hat dipping as he does and keeps his voice neutral. Danse's brown eyes scan over him in a dismissive way then turns to me. Oh he won't like that...

"Did you need anything?"

"You offered me a place in the Brotherhood..."

"And?"

I wring my fingers, and he keeps his face blank from any emotion, "What would be expected of me?"

"You'd be under my command, and I'd expect you to follow orders. No more mercenary work—" Beside me I hear my father huff, "this is the real thing. You'd have access to advanced military weapons, as well as your own personal suit of Power Armor. Most importantly, you'd have the Brotherhood at your back... ready to spill its own blood to keep you alive."

He pauses and the air shifts along with his unsaid question. Even though he tells me no more mercenary work... I'm still going to do it. And as for power armor, I have a total of twelve sets of unused armor I have to give away to people in certain settlements, and three personal suits of X-01. So... that's a bonus? "I'd be honored to join."

"And I'd be honored to count you as one of us. Rhys, Haylen..." They approached Danse, Haylen with question in her eyes and Rhys with more sneer and less question. "It's time to welcome our newest recruit to the recon team. She shows a lot of promise, and with the proper guidance, I think she has the potential of becoming one of the best." Damn straight, Lightyear.

"Thanks, I promise not to let you down."

"Thanks aren't necessary. Just continue excelling at your duties, soldier. There's one last order of business I wanted to get out of the way.

"I'm going to recommend you be awarded the rank of Knight. Now, nothing's official until you speak to Elder Maxson, but I wanted you to be the first to know." I honestly thought there was some weird ritual I had to go through. Guess these people aren't really creative...

"Does this mean I'm one of you now?"

"As far as I'm concerned, yes."

"Ad Victoriam, Initiate." Haylen smiles.
Rhys snaps at Haylen—the poor sweet roll—and tells her I don't know what their battle cry means.

"'To or towards victory' I'm guessing?" I smirk at Rhys's shocked expression. "It's latin. Ad having the meaning 'towards' and Victoriam, a feminine noun meaning 'victory'." I purse my lips as images of a classroom flit through my brain like an old tape. I remember taking bits of Latin, French, Spanish, Chinese, and Russian. Though, I'm not very fluent in them.

"Who's the original founder of the Brotherhood?" My father asks. He was leaning on an old round table watching our conversation.

"Roger Maxon. He's survived by his only descendant, Arthur Maxon." Danse replies proudly. I remember seeing him a few times while my mother and I visited my father. He gave me candy whenever I acted out, only making me worse and literally my second favorite person to be around.

"So the idiot survived after all." He mutters. "Too bad he didn't get to see you in action." He says to me while nudging me with his elbow. I'm pretty sure that if I look, my ribs will have a bruise from the thousands of times he's nudged me.

"You knew him?" Rhys sounds intrigued.
His eyes shutter, "He was my friend and captain back in Alaska. Before the war... I'd rather not talk about it."

"He was my favorite person to go to when I ran out of my monthly supply of candy. That was when I was seven." I say sadly. Haylen smiles and puts a hand on my father's shoulder.

"It's alright. The past is the past. We're just surprised that we just met people who are friends of our founder."

"And lived..." Rhys doesn't sneer this time, and in his eyes I see a glimmer of... oh my sheeze... is that a look of admiration and respect? I lean forward to confirm it but it's gone before I can, and that stupid, signature sneer is back.

"Anyways..." The Paladin clears his throat and I jump, Too deep into Memory Lane. "I'm supposed to report to Elder Maxon onboard The Prydwen. All the initiates are required to be there as well. Let me know when your ready to depart."

"You mean that metal blimp?"

"Yes."

"How are we going to get there?" I can tell I'm annoying Danse because he shifts side to side and is barely paying any attention to my question. I'm like the annoying fly everyone loves and hates at the same time... Only, I'm not a fly. Most days. But that's not the case. He's been pretty vibrant with the rest of the Brotherhood here.

"Hey Ori, let's not annoy the guy with questions. I'm pretty sure you can tell he's eager to leave." He puts his hands on my shoulders, just as his pipboy beeps. "She's ready whenever you are Paladin."

"You're not coming with?"

"Another settlement has been attacked further south from here."

"What about Nick?" I'm pretty sure that by now that he's made it through the square.

"Ah... You'll have to go on your own. I won't be there in time to dig through—Damnit Preston." His pipboy beeps again and he curses, and looks to Danse, "Paladin, how do you feel about watching my daughter?" What?

Danse straightens and returns his hard stare. "She'll be in good hands."

"I know she will. That's why I'm asking you." He kisses my forehead and my mind drifts to a day before he went to Alaska.

I was about fifteen at the time and my mother was pregnant with my unborn brother. My father didn't listen when mama told him not to go. But the stubborn part of him didn't listen, and he went anyways, kissing both of us and her stomach and left with a sad smile on his face. Months had passed until he came home. Some parts of him wrapped in bandages and an emptiness in his eyes that I feared would never be filled again. Two months later, Shaun was born and some of that light had returned.

"Play nice Orielle." His tone is stern and at the same time joking.

I squeeze him into a hug in return and walk towards Danse. "Can't make any promises, but I'll try." I wave behind me and make my way up the stairs. I stop and watch as Danse continues clomping his way up. Jesus . This guy is a soldier boy through and through. "Don't you people ever get tired of stairs? And power armor?!"

"Orielle, I swear on everything that I stand for I will tape your mouth shut." Holy banana he can curse?! And he knows my name! I think I'm gonna melt.

"For how long exactly?" I ask pushing his buttons. We make our way through the rooftop exit and I examine the vertibird in front of me. I've ridden in one before.

And flown one for a few minutes. A few of the base soldiers had showed me the basics: where certain dials and switches are, how to watch and keep the altitude, and pay attention to any damage caused.

He stops, and I nearly break my nose on the handle bar of his armor. He stares at me and then at the sky and shakes his head. "Are you afraid of heights?"

"One time I went skydiving in Louisiana and me and a few of my friends set the record for the amount of poses created." Lies.

"I'll take that as a yes." He mutters and motions to the pilot in the bird. The engines whir gently and blades spin clockwise making loose strands of my hair fly in my eye. "Let's go Initiate!" I climb—or try to—on the vertibird. Danse has to help me due to my short height, and I might've even caught a glimpse of red on his cheeks. I shrug, and look out over the post-apocalyptic city of Boston and sigh.

I haven't been like this in the air since... ever. It's more relaxed up in the air. You don't really worry about much—except falling to your death. I still think about that.

Danse told me I couldn't operate the minigun strapped to the floor, so I'm seated in one of the two chairs on his right. I look up at him as he speaks, watching the wind play through his hair and the sun's rays highlight his face. I stare and stare and don't even hear when he announces when we've arrived at The Prydwen.


 

He was aware of the initiate's staring.

It didn't bother him in the slightest, in fact. He enjoyed it. Danse grits his teeth and carefully steps off the bird, making sure the tiny woman beside him didn't fall flat on her face. "So... this is nice." Her big blue eyes widen like saucers as she takes in the view of the commonwealth, then she grabs her ears and hisses.

"How can you stand that?"

Danse frowns, "Stand what?"

"Your ears aren't popping?"

"I thought you went skydiving."

"I did." She pinches her nose and closes her mouth and puffs hard. "We were in the plane for some time, even though it was only thirty minutes to get the right altitude, and then we jumped out of the plane. My ears were popping in the plane because I'm not used to being above sea level that much." Danse understood that. His first time on The Prydwen had similar experiences.

"Yo. Lightyear. You there?" Two fingers snap in front of him and he clears his throat. "We'll be meeting Captain Kells and Elder Maxon further on. Stay close to me and keep your mouth shut." Or don't. The tape sounded tempting.


 

"Whatever you say Paladin."

Danse leads us to the other end of the walkway where a dark skinned male waits for us. "Permission to come aboard, sir?"

"Permission granted and welcome back, Paladin." Now that I think about it... with that weird mustache, he kinda reminds me of a certain someone. "Allow me to be the first to congratulate you on a successful mission. And is this our new recruit?" Kells looks me up and down in distaste. Did he just dismiss me by my size?

"Yes, sir. I've field promoted her to Initiate and I'd like to sponsor her entry into our rankings personally."

"Yes, we've read your reports. You'll be pleased to know that Elder Maxson's approved your request, and placed the recruit in your charge." He glares at me when he finishes, finding me staring at his hairy noodle mustache and I cross my arms and glare back.

"Thank you, sir. And my current orders?"

"You are to remain on the Prydwen and await further instructions."

"Very good, sir. Ad victoriam, Captain."

"Ad victoriam, Paladin." They both straighten, and salute each other with their fist over their heart. Kells waits until Danse is out of hearing range and speaks,

"So, you're the one Paladin Danse has taken under his wing. Hmph. You don't look much like a soldier to me."

But somehow you manage to look like you're supposed to be fifty feet under. I don't say that. I'm pretty sure he'll throw me overboard at the first chance. "And what's a soldier supposed to look like?"

"A soldier is supposed to be an efficient killing machine, not a relic from the past playing catch-up with the rest of the world." I raise my eyebrows and and wait for this rude bitch to finish his stupid speech. Superior Officer or not he's not going to talk about me or my family like that. "If Danse hadn't stepped in and vouched for you, we wouldn't even be having this conversation. Accepting outsiders like yourself has proven disastrous in the past.

"I've read Paladin Danse's reports. He seems to think you'll make a fine addition to the Brotherhood. Which is precisely why I personally insist on scrutinizing every recruit who boards this vessel. You might expect an endorsement like that to grant you a great deal of latitude with us, but let me make one thing clear." He gets up in my face, probably to seem intimidating. Yeah, not working.

"The Brotherhood of Steel has traveled to the Commonwealth with a specific goal in mind. As the captain of this vessel, I won't allow anyone to jeopardize our mission no matter how valuable they think they are. Understood?"

I look him up and down, and keep my tone calm, "Let me ask you something CaptainKettle. How would you feel if everything and everyone you love were taken from you more than two-hundred years ago? How would you feel if the only person you had left had been kidnapped right before your eyes while you were trapped in a frozen casket? How would you feel, if they were killed right in front of you, and you were forced to watch?" I don't break his stare. Daddy would be so proud of me. We have a stare down and Kells is the first one to break. "Permission to leave, sir?"

"...Granted."

I walk away from him and head through a metal door with a knight in power armor guarding it. "You have more balls than the rest of us." She says.

I smile as I pull open the door, "It's a good thing my mother taught me to not take bullshit in any form isn't it?" They huff and tell me that Elder Maxon is addressing the rest of the crew inside. Let's just hope this guy isn't much of a dickwad like so...


 

I walk into a dimly lit foyer that only a few people walk around. There's a stair case leading two floors below and a ladder just ahead of me going up. The room before that holds a crowd of people surrounding someone. I can't even see shit... I smell and see sweaty asses—so I just sit on the red seat in a corner. But when the man speaks they latch on to everything he says.

"Brothers and Sisters, the road behind has been long and fraught with difficulty. Each and every one of you has surpassed my expectations by rapidly facilitating our arrival in the Commonwealth. You have accomplished this amazing feat without a hint of purpose or direction, and most impressively, without question.

"Now that the ship is in position, it is time to reveal our purpose and our mission. Beneath the Commonwealth there is a cancer... known as the Institute, a malignant growth that needs to be cut before it infects the surface. They are experimenting with dangerous technologies that could prove to be the world's undoing for the second time in recent history. The Institute Scientists have created a weapon that transcends the destructive nature of the atom bomb.

"They call their creation the "synth," a robotic abomination of technology that is free-thinking and masquerades as a human being. The notion that a machine could be granted free will is not only offensive, but horribly dangerous. And like the atom, if it isn't harnessed properly, it has the potential of rendering us extinct as a species. I am not prepared to allow the Institute to continue this line of experimentation.

"Therefore, the Institute and their "synths" are considered enemies of the Brotherhood of Steel, and should be dealt with swiftly and mercilessly. This campaign will be costly and many lives will be lost. But in the end, we will be saving humankind from its worst enemy... itself.

"Ad victoriam!" He salutes to the room and they salute back. The room clears and I'm left standing dumbfounded. That was it? Just a speech about how racist the Brotherhood is and how much they hate robots?

...Okay then.

When the room clears I see a man in a leather battle coat, his arms behind his back while looking over the devastated city. "Before we start, let me make one thing clear, Elder. I didn't sign up to become just another addition to your racist doll house."

He turns and his eyes go a bit over my head, apparently expecting someone taller. His icy blue eyes meet mine, "Your the new recruit Danse offered to sponsor?" Then he looks me up and down. "I expected someone taller." 

Why did I decide to join these people? "Okay rule number one: Never mention my size. I could toss your ass out that perfectly good window and not give a shit. Two:..." I look him up and down as he and Kettle did, "I expected someone taller."

He blinks and I smile, "Apologies Initiate. It's rarely ever when I see someone... below the normal height. And as for your... statement, I'll let it slide."

"With all due respect, you can't force someone to hate what you hate. You sometimes have to leave them to their own morals. I just wanted to be clear. I... already put Kells in his place for practically insulting me and my father for playing 'catch up with the rest of the world'." I shrug and smile to myself. I love being short. So did my mother. I wonder how tall Shaun is? I think to myself.
Maxon doesn't speak. He just stares rubs at his face and releases a breath, "It's about time someone had balls about themselves." This time he looks like he's been working overkill. There are dark circles under his eyes and I purse my lips. So maybe Maxon won't be in my shit-list after all...

"Actually I have imaginary balls as big as a man's ego. I actually do things no normal guy would do."

Maxon frowns, "Like?"

"Eh... Keeping a baby deathclaw as a pet. Free rides across the commonwealth on a Yao Guai. Playing radscorpions knowing they can paralyze you and eat you. Uhm. Jumping off of Trinity Tower in power armor... That's all I can remember." Visiting Swan in the Commons whenever I get bored. But I don't tell him that. I really like Swan. He's like Strong but... quieter. Maxon stares at me like I've grown three heads. And I haven't really done all of those things. They're just sitting in my bucket list...

"Who are you?"

"Orielle Dawse. Daughter of Nathaniel and Nora Dawse. My mother died a while back. Why?"

"Are your parents prone to birthing crazy children like so?" He questions and sits down beside me and chuckles. I'm used to people relaxing around me. The only person who can't seem to relax around me is currently hiding behind his Fortress of Solitude.

"If you ever met my mother you'd see where I get it from. My father, well... he's worse than me." He had the nerve to call Hancock 'The constipated version of my ass.' Of course they were both drunk that night leaving me and my favorite person Fahrenheit scowling in the corner. Maccready eventually joined them, and from then on I still curse Whitechapel Charlie and his booze. That's why I don't drink.

"Where is he now?"

I side-eye him. "Who wants to know?"

"The person who asked?"

"I'd rather it be Batman so this conversation can seem more intimidating."

"Who?" I roll my eyes and shake my head. If course this generation wouldn't have heard of him.

"Nevermind. He's... busy." Then I slightly wonder if this is normal for the Elder to sit down while supposedly doing business. "I can feel your exhaustion, and it's really rubbing off on me making me sleepy." I get up and step away from him. Perks of feeling nearly everyone's emotions. You get tired of it.

Maxon also stands and tells me to familiarize myself with the Prydwen and it's crew, then report back to him once I'm finished. I also got promoted to Knight(thanks to Danse), and—the bonus—another suit of power armor. Maxon also apologises for Kells' behavior and says he'll try to get the man to loose some of the anger towards everyone and everything.


 

"So what's this about you being my sponsor?" I question to Danse as he heads into the maintenance bay.

He moves towards an empty station and explains, "Elder Maxson is understandably particular when it comes to new recruits. He believes in order to keep the Brotherhood strong, we have to bond as brothers. As your sponsor, it's my duty to travel with you throughout the Commonwealth to ensure that our ideals are being observed. That's why I'm so concerned about your performance in the field."

"Well that one thing you probably won't have to worry about." I mutter.

He apparently hears this and I mentally curse. "And the others?" He raises one bushy eyebrow as I try to think of something he might despise me for.

"I have a pet deathclaw named Tusk. He's five months old and is the cutest—"

"Did you just say—" He stares at me like I stole his favorite toy.

"Yep."

"Does your father know?"

I snort, "Does he know. He was with me when I rescued him from a group of raiders. Every settlement has grown to like him in their own way." I say like a proud mother. Tusk is about half the size of an alpha deathclaw and can eat an entire train load. He knows how to hunt, and usually goes out to feed himself when he knows we can barely feed ourselves. Sometimes he comes back with an extra untouched catch of he's feeling brave. Of course there's Dogmeat wanting attention as usual. As always.

Danse carefully runs a metal band over his head and stares at the floor. "Yeah, I know. I'm from two-hundred years into the past, and the first pre-war girl you see happens to have a weird knack for danger."

He puts his arm down, then with a hiss and a click, he's stepped out. When he rounds the station a have to hold on to the nearest bench for dear life.

He's tall.

Like taller than a redwood tall... but not nearly. He's wearing an orange B.o.s uniform that hugs every part of him that makes me blush and turn away. "Knight?" No eye-banging.

"Yeah?"

"You want to finish that tour or what?" If Piper were here she'd be laughing at my face for staring at him in an... awkward way while staring at Danse's ass all at once. Dear Piper why did your indecisiveness rub off onto me?

"Y-yeah. Sure." We move through the bay and I meet the wonderful charmer Proctor Ingram who spends most of her time in the maintenance bay. Then we make our way to Proctor Tegan, who is locked in the cage with all the weapons and ammunition. "It looks uncomfortable." I say scrunching my nose. Again, I'm too short to reach the countertop that goes into both the cage and outside the cage—and Danse has to hoist me on his shoulders so I can look. He may be a toy sometimes, but he's really generous.

"Heh. It actually is. It's a good thing I have somewhere to sleep instead of fatman shells." He motions to the bed squeezed in the corner of the room. I eventually end up buying a Gatling Laser(cause who doesn't kill stuff in style...?).

Next we meet Proctor Quinlan—a guy who is apparently obsessed with pre-war data. I like him, then I don't like him. I don't know. The guy is making me wishy-washy. I agree to find any technical documents and bring them to him for caps and left to see the last person across the hall.

"Yes, yes what is it?" A man has his eyes into a microscope and doesn't look up as we enter.

Danse clears his throat, "Cade?"

"Ah! Danse good to see you. Are you injured?" He questions.

"No sir, I was just showing Knight Dawse around the Prydwen. This is her last stop."

Cade takes off the rubber gloves he's wearing and grabs a clipboard on his desk, "Glad you finally stopped by, soldier. Are you ready for your medical exam?"

"My what now?"

He smiles, "Don't worry it's not that medical exam, I'm just going to ask you a few questions."

"Then why are they considered 'medical'? Why not physical? Or even personal?" Danse pinches the bridge of his nose and immediately, I have a feeling he would knock the sense right back into my brain of he weren't a man.

"I hadn't really thought of it like that. But anyways... first question. As a child, were you ever exposed to radiation for an extended period of time?"

"Besides spending too much time watching The Silver Shroud I'm as clean as a newborn babes buttom."

"The Silver—let me check my notes. You're a vault dweller?" He's so surprised his eyebrows disappear.

"Fresh out of the pit." I say grimly.

"You're probably the healthiest person onboard." He jots something down on the clipboard, "Second question.

Have you ever had or come in contact with a person confirmed to be carrying a communicable disease?"
I tell him no and he moves on to the third question.

"Third question... and please answer honestly. Have you ever had sexual relations with any species considered non-human?"

"I'm having a hard time trying to imagine someone having sex with a super mutant—"

"That hardly qualifies so I'll put that as a 'no'" He chuckles a bit and I turn to Danse who glares at me.

"Last question. Would you have any problems pulling the trigger on an enemy of the Brotherhood whether they're human, formerly human or machine?"

"If my life's in danger, I'll do whatever it takes to defend myself." I answer.

"That's the most common answer and acceptable." He puts down the clipboard. "I think I've got all the information I needed. Your free to go knight."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

It took a day and a few hours for Nate to travel to Murkwater by himself and avoid getting pounded by a behemoth, being seen by several raider patrols and another super mutant hive.

And then, just west of where he's headed, a rad-storm brews.

"Just perfect." He mutters to himself. He's pretty sure Ori had already visited Nick at the Memory Den. He was also pretty sure that the Paladin was with her. But the other half of him was saying that she'd find a way to not bring him along.

Since he's met the wondrous team his daughter helped, he found he didn't like them. Maybe except for Haylen. Maybe even a bit of the Paladin. But not Rhys—too much... dedication. Nate shudders and remembers his own mistake with too much dedication for the wrong things instead of the right thing. He was glad he didn't die on that field, otherwise, Nora would've found his wandering soul and make him regret his decision.

His pip-boy beeps again for the fourth time:

"If anyone can hear us. The attacks are getting worse. We're almost out of ammunition and most of our defense's are down and most of our people are down. They keep coming in waves. Yesterday, it was three, today, it's... Oh shit there's a rad-storm no far from here. We have no idea why—GABRIEL GET THE DOOR! GAB—"

Nate stops in his tracks and looks west towards the storm. It is indeed getting closer and closer by the second, and he still has a way to go to Murkwater. He closes his eyes then opens them and shakes his head. "Not doing it. Nope." He sighs then mutters, "Goddamnit! Why is this shit always pressuring me?" He knows it doesn't really pressure him. It just adds to the stress.

He quickly finds shelter, takes off his pip-boy and turns it off, then his weapons strapped to him—weird as it is getting butt-naked out near a radiated storm—and puts them all in the bag.

"Just like before." He shakes his head a bit to clear it as gets on all fours and shifts into claws, fangs, horns, and moon white scales.

He sometimes went out with Tusk and Dogmeat in the late hours of the night. If course, they'd never been bothered by him shifting in front of them whenever he wanted to. Like they'd already knew what he was from the start. He also started examining each and every wasteland creature because, well... he's a shifter. He didn't have an exact form—none from his original pack did anyway. Though some chose to stay with the first form that interested them, and most disliked the way they did it(which caused division in the pack...), and eventually some left and became wanderers or went to join other packs.

He closes his eyes and breathes in deep—in which sounded like an old car rattle—and focuses his other senses. He could smell the electric radiated storm from where he stood, see the nearest mole rat as it dug into the ground, and he could hear the distant discharging of multiple weapons. His horns, weirdly sensitive and irritating lightly brushed the ceiling of the decimated room as he stood. His tail swipes at the ground and his forked tongue tastes the air again—this time tasting blood.

He makes sure his things are well hidden enough and sets off towards the troubled settlement.


 

They were already in the middle of the storm. Every minute it got worse. Gabriel, Anita, and Jeremy and a few others were in the shelter he'd helped them build in the basement. Mika—currently in her midnight black power armor—was standing right beside him monitoring trying to get the turrets repaired. Only she knew that the deathclaw attacking the synths turned out to be Nate—she's a shifter too. Her original form is a Yao Guai, but with more hair and less... Meat. But like Nate, she likes to observe new forms to change into.

A bolt of lightning strikes through the air, sounding like multiple fire crackers set off in a toilet. The air is thick with green fog that stuffs his nose and makes his tongue taste the foul air. Even though he's immune to radiation in this form, it still annoys him to the point where he wants to bite another person's head off. Nate rumbles a warning, Hurry up, Mika.

"I know, I know. Almost done." Her metal fingers sort through a mess of wires in the turret. Some spark and splitter as she grips them together and bonds them with electrical tape. She'd been in charge of most of this settlement's defenses. She'd even made a blueprint to finish the building that was going to be years ago, still surprised that the foundation had held after the bombs.

"Done. Now..." When she doesn't finish her sentence, Nate looks up, about to rumble another warning when he spots several blue beams of light through the marsh.

New plan, He links to her. Is there anyone else inside with abilities?

"My brother Gabriel is injured."

Nate thinks real hard and shifts into another being—a weird version of a mutated crocodile and Python combined—and slithers in the water. And as he takes down metal android by metal android, he too wondered why they'd decided to attack the tiny settlement. Was it because there were two shifters living here? Or something else? He couldn't find a valuable possibility, so when they'd finally stopped attacking, when the storm finally stopped its assault with the lightning and the green fog, Nate realizes that he was intended to come here. Why else would Preston send him frantic codes? But why?

"Nate?" Mika yells. Her helmet was off and her eyes were wide.

What happened? He links as he slithers through the mud. The storm had moved east, leaving grey clouds behind. If a regular storm had snuck behind a rad-storm, it would leave a month of cool days. But if it didn't, it would be hotter than hell's ass after eating one of Bregan's Burritos until the next storm.

"You really should come hear this!"

He shifts back to his two legged form, accepting the clothes from the limping man beside Mika—Gabriel, then. "What is it?" His voice sounded heavy, like he just spent an hour being depressed. He looked around the room for the other people they had, but he heard multiple heartbeats down below, slow but steady.

"Listen." The radio station was tuned to D.C.R and Travis—who generally is a good guy and needs to toughen up a bit—spoke about a recent attack.

"...So, uh... I'll just... just start from the beginning. There was an attack in Goodneighbor. Like, one night ago. No one really knows what happened except for a few who won't even speak and the mayor himself—Hancock. Now, I'm not sure if this is true, but, one of the vault dwellers are missing. No one has seen her or the guy she was with since..."

Nate had stopped listening and ended up breaking a nearby vase that Mika liked. "It was a diversion." He whispers.

His mind was about to drift again, until one hard smack to the face being him back. "You here?" He looks up at Mika, her metal hand raised again for another smack. "Please say no."

"It was a diversion. They knew I'd come."

He watches as Gabriel—a mute shifter who lost his voice to a raider gang—signs to the both of them. Was she there?

"She and Nick went to see Doctor Amari at the Memory Den." He didn't say anything more. He had a feeling that the institute had taken her as well.

He signs again to his sister, Why would they go to such lengths to even attack Goodneighbor? Don't they operate in the shadows?

"Not anymore, it seems." Mika mutters. "How old is she?"

"Seventeen."

Mika sucks in a breath, "How long until she turns eighteen?"

Nate didn't like where this was going. Of course, she was going to reach her first shift in forever, but he didn't know what she was getting at. "What's this about Mika?"

She batted away the question and gripped the table as she continued pressing with questions. "How long have you two been out of that vault?"

"Nearly a year or so. Why does that matter?" Nate stops his pacing and faces the raven haired woman.

"Out here things are different. To come across another one of our kind is a rare thing, even for us. So when I ask you when she turns eighteen, some major shit is going to happen." She runs a hand through her hair,

"When I got my first shift I felt like I was going to die. Even worse than that, it only happen to the women of every species when reaching their shift of apex of their power. Most of us don't make it because of how... gruesome we—it—can be.

"My parents had to lock me in a room made entirely out of iron and ash until it would stop. The funny thing is, I hadn't even turned eighteen yet. I was two weeks from it. That's a total of three weeks worth of snarling rage and near deaths and starvation." She huffs out a breath,

"The radiation from the bombs must have messed with our genes, or maybe it's something in the air like a pathogen that effects us in any way."

And Ori's birthday wasn't until three weeks from now. Nate wipes his nose and looks at the ground. He couldn't see the ground though, his vision has gotten hazy again. He was going to loose another child.

"No no no. No one is losing a child on my watch. Hey. Listen. We'll find her okay? But for now old man, you need to rest. You look like you're supposed to be dead. Just tell me where your things are and I'll get them." He tells her and then Gabriel leads him into the basement. No one ever really slept above. So they'd just decided to carve out the living space down below.

A few injured people lay on cots while the four that weren't that injured tended to them. Two kids—Lily and Will—sat in one corner of the room playing with toys and making noises as they clinked the old toys together.

Gabriel signs to him, We've been making improvements as we've been getting more and more people. Mika's thinking of making another floor underneath this one.

"Might as well be another vault without the big door." He replies, still not happy that a pup younger than him was telling him what to do.

They reach a wing of the basement that's mostly empty, Mika will be back in a bit. Sleep well. Then the mute shifter leaves the room and Nate to his thoughts. He knew he would have nightmares again. And sleep was the last thing on his mind. He takes off his boots and plops on the bed and runs a hand through his hair.

"Might as well try."

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

After the visit with Cade, Danse and I go to the command deck where Elder Maxon is waiting. The wind had picked up a bit, and as sensitive as I am to the cold, I lift up my hood. Danse frowns at me from the side. "If you got a problem, Dansey, we can settle this by playing 'Who Can Toss Who Off The Flying Fortress'."

Danse, who blinks and sighs heavily, ignores my taunt and leads the way to Maxon.

"Reporting sir." I say and then feel weird when I do. Ugh this... soldier-ing is too much. Hands behind my back and legs spread out a bit, I fidget a bit and go back to my normal posture. Both of them notice this, but don't act on it.

"Now that you've familiarized yourself with the Prydwen's crew, are you ready for your next assignment, sister?"

"As long as it doesn't involve weird questions involving a super mutant and a human 'doing it' then yeah, let's go." 

So here I am just standing here with a casual expression on my face when out of the blue, Maxon asks, "Regretting your decision, Paladin?" 

Danse looks down at me with gritted teeth, a mixture of a grin and wince—I feel like a five year old again. "Very much so."

I smile, "The assignment Elder?"

"Let's get right to it then, shall we? Take a look over there." He points to the old fort in the distance. "That's Fort Strong, and it's infested with Super Mutants. Having those aberrations of nature close enough to smell is making me sick to my stomach." Without him knowing, I cautiously sniff the air. What kind of jujubes is he on? I just smell radiated air. Danse clears his throat and gently nudges me. 

"To make matters worse, they're sitting on top of a massive stockpile of Fat Man shells we could use in our campaign. I want you to head over there, wipe out everything that moves, and secure that stockpile. Understood?"

"Yes sir."

"Look, I realize you're eager to take the fight to the Institute, but it will have to wait. Those abominations are playing nursemaid to a huge nuclear arsenal. If we leave Fort Strong unchecked, we have a potential security threat on our hands. So, can I count on you to get the job done?" Didn't he just hear me say yes?

"Consider it done."

"The Brotherhood cannot allow those abominations to have a nuclear arsenal at their fingertips. Now... we have a vertibird on standby, fully armed and ready to depart. Use it to carry our message to Fort Strong and wipe those dirty mutants from the face of the earth. Dismissed."


 

I don't dare take off my helmet. Because if I do, I'm pretty sure I'll smell blood and mutant ass in the air. 

"Danse?" I stand up and instantly hate how still this armor feels. I hate it and I want my own. I spot him a few feet away from me and move through the debris and blood. I knock on his armor, "You okay?" 

He got knocked off his feet by a rocket wielding mutant, taking a hit from the rocket twice. "Hey Danse, if you don't answer me in the next second I'm going to drag you out of that pretty armor of yours and drown you in this smell."

He slowly looks up at me, "I dare you." He says coldly.

"You sure you want to dare me?" I look at his chest piece and help him stand. "You hurt?"

"I'm fine. Nothing to worry about."

I let him go and, much to his dismay, start looting like crazy. When he hates when I pick up junk, I pick up twice as much. When he sees a dollar bill and calls it an artifact, I tell him that people put artifacts where the sun doesn't reach. "I need to get to Goodneighbor." I say as I look at the time. I'm pretty sure Valentine's getting impatient, though I'm also sure he doesn't have an impatient bone in his body—programming?

"You go on up to the Prydwen and report to the Elder. I'll wait for someone to come and secure the stockpile. Then I'll go with you." When I don't move he adds, "I made a promise and am going to keep my word."
"Alrighty then."

I go up the elevator, through even more chunks of gore and blood and signal to a vertibird circling overhead. The blood and gore didn't affect me like I thought it would. Months out into a deathtrap will do that to a person. "Get me up to the Prydwen." I note the way his aura shifts, "I didn't kill him. He's just watching over the shells. I have to report to the Elder." Why would I want to kill someone so precious?

My armor feels heavy as I climb aboard the bird. I hate this armor. It isn't my armor. Plus I can feel some of the waistline pieces digging into my hip. Ingram did earn me about the side effects of wearing this junk, but Danse and I had an argument weather I should or shouldn't wear it—the 'I'll cut you in half until you sing' look suits him.

The sun was already high in the afternoon, the ocean beyond reflecting the light. I miss seeing turtles wash up on shore, the seashell hunting, and going out in the middle of the Atlantic just to see the migration route of some sea creatures. The wind rushed passed me as we cut through the air, slowly might I add. The pilot carefully reaches the Prydwen, and maneuvers onto an available docket. 

I jump off, my teeth clanking together and head to the 'Glass Room Of Pacing' and stop. I am not going in there with this torn crap on me. 

I climb up the ladder, having to use little to no strength to hoist myself up. As I stomp towards the bay, no one's paying any attention to me. But when I step foot out of my(it's not mine) armor?

Holy bramhin shit, she's short.

She's pretty.

How can such a small thing survive out here?

I feel slightly bad for whoever has to deal with her for the rest of their lives. 

Wow! How can someone be so short and cute at the same time?

She's about the same size as our squires.

"You're pretty." A kid comes up to me, barely reaching my shoulder and smiles. "I'm Lily. What's your name?" 

"Orielle. Nice to meet you Lily." I keep my head down and walk to the ladder down to the deck. 

She keeps pace with me and continues to ramble and once mentions that she's never seen someone way older than her at her size. "So what's it like?"

I have to carefully avoid getting trampled by such long legs. I'm not ready to be around so many people I don't even know. "What's what like?"

"Back before everhthing. You know. The War." Lily is giddy with excitement, wanting to know as much as possible. 

"It was... nice. I spent most my time outside and watching TV. Sometimes, the sun hurt my eyes making everything that's green too much for me to handle. My family is literally the best. I'm an older sister looking for her younger brother. My father is still alive, though. And my mother..." I slow my steps and shove my hands into my pockets. We'd made our way through the cafeteria and are now in the living quarters next to the ladder.

"She died a while back."

"Oh. I'm sorry I asked ma'am. I was just curious and—" I stop the kid from even more rambling.

"Everyone is curious. Nothing wrong with that. I'm glad that you asked. This era clearly needs more of that excitement that you have." I smile as she hides her face as I grip the rails and slide down. "I gotta go report to Maxon. See you around kid." I don't wait for a reply. I just wanted to get away from those legs surrounding me.

Maxon speaks with another initiate? I think. Too hard to tell who's what. He spots me and dismissed the person he was talking to. "Outstanding work at Fort Strong, soldier." 

I shrug, "What happens at Fort Strong now?" 

"Paladin Danse is supervising the transfer of the Fat Man warheads to the Prydwen... they'll provide quite an edge to our arsenal. I've also ordered a detachment to occupy the location and use it as a staging area to protect the eastern side of the airport. All-in-all, you handed us quite a valuable location." 

"Potato-patato." I say waving down the praise. "I'm just doin' my job."

"I'm glad you feel that way, because our mission here has only just begun. In order to bring the Institute to it's knees, we need to use every weapon at our disposal. I try to supply my soldiers with the best. That's why I'm giving you these." He hands me a box with blue sticks inside, they almost look like flares. "Signal grenades can call a vertibird to your location when you need aerial transport. Simply throw one to the ground, and the vertibird will hone in on the unique electromagnetic smoke it emits. 

"Once you're aboard, use the map on your Pip-Boy to interface with the pilot's navigation system so he'll be able to take you wherever you need."

I blink, "Thanks. I guess. I'll make good use of them."

"I'm sure you will." He smiles back, and turns toward the view behind him. "By now, I'm sure you've deduced that our arrival in the Commonwealth wasn't coincidental. We're here because of a unique energy reading recorded by Paladin Danse's recon team.

"According to our scribes the reading indicated a level of technology that only the Institute could achieve. The moment this information came to light, our mission became clear. The Institute and everyone responsible for the creation of the synths must be eliminated, at all costs." By then I'm barely even listening to anything he's saying. He's just jealous because their skeletons are made of steel and he isn't.

"...That's where we need your help."

"So basically, I'm a hound searching for something I can't smell." 

"If you're willing to allow yourself to be then yes." He turns around, and his eyes immediately go over my head then to mine. I'm definitely going to have to get used to standing on a stack of books or even a filing cabinet. "I want you to get out there and become our eyes and ears on the ground. You seemed to have a vested interest in locating the Institute before we met, so I'm confident you'll travel in the right circles. If you discover a way in, I need you to report it to me immediately. Any questions, Knight?"

"Not right now." I answer.

"Then you're dismissed."

I'm about to walk out of the room when I stop and whirl around. "I'm going to make this a habit."

"Make what a habit?" Maxon questions.

"Talking to you until I can convince you to actually get some sleep instead of drinking coffee." 

"That's not happening Knight."

"I think it already is." I back out slowly, "Get someone to help with your work or something, but I refuse to stand next to someone who's exhaustion is heavier than Sleeping Beauty's."


 

Danse returns an hour or so later. I took the liberty of at least repairing the damaged armor. He doesn't say anything for a while, he sits with his gloves hand in his hair. "Can I talk to you for a second?"

"I'm pretty sure you are now."

"Ori." I slowly turn and stare blankly as he pats the seat next to him. 

I get up from my stool and sit next to him. "What's wrong?" 

"This isn't a formal meeting. I... simply want to clear the air. I think we may have gotten off on the wrong foot when we first met and I feel like I owe you an apology. Expecting you to embrace the standards of the Brotherhood without having a history with us was unfair. And given that you've adjusted so well to our beliefs, I don't think I needed to push so hard." I nearly choke on my spit but manage to stifle it.

"You don't have to apologize." 

"But I felt like I needed to." He smiles back, "When I was an Initiate, my sponsor was Paladin Krieg. Toughest squad leader I ever served with. He was a model soldier, embodying the values every trainee was striving to achieve. Fiercely loyal, secure in his beliefs and brave to a fault. From the moment I was assigned to his squad I was singled out... it felt like he was pushing me harder than the rest of the team. I fought by his side for years and we had some seriously close calls, but he never explained to me why I was treated that way." 

"My father was similarly treated like that by his uncle. He never knew why he had always terrorized him before he died, though." I pick at my jacket sleeve, "Did you ever ask him why?"

"I've though about it multiple times but... I never got the chance." 

"What happened?" 

"Back in the Capital Wasteland, The Brotherhood was at war with a traitorous group of rebels who called themselves "The Enclave." They maintained a mobile command post at the remains of Adams Air Force Base, just outside of Washington D.C. The Brotherhood spearheaded an assault on the command post which was ultimately successful but costly." Danse's eyes go distant, as if replaying everything that had happened.

"Quite a few soldiers died in that battle, and Paladin Krieg was among them. He made his mark on history, and whether you chose to believe it or not, you have the potential to do the same." 

"I'm flattered that you have so much faith in me Dansey." I say playfully nudging him with my arm. 
He smiles and gently nudges me back, "You've earned that faith by your own hand." He says quietly. I start to get lost in the color of his pretty eyes until he quickly looks away.

"Well, I've said what I had to say and I hope that it meant something to you." He starts rubbing the back of his neck, "I... trust you'll keep this in confidence of course. Some of that information was of a personal nature, and well, I'd like to keep it that way." He says nervously.

I dramatically gasp, "They don't know you have feelings? Not even the Elder?"

Danse doesn't find this funny and waits for me to finish my teasing. "I'm just messing with you. I promise I won't tell anyone you have feelings, or any of your personal matters. I swear it."

He sighs, "Thank you."

My pip-boy beeps and I put away the tools I'd left out and grab my pack. "You ready or nah?" Danse looks to his armor longingly, and I sigh, "I have two back-up sets of X-01 in Goodneighbor. You can use that if you feel so naked all the time." 

"Thanks."


 

Danse looks out over the ruins of Boston as the pilot flies him and Knight Dawse towards Goodneighbor. The sun was already shining hues of red and gold, the sky and clouds turning a magnificent pattern between pink and red and orange. Dawse, even though she's told him multiple times to just call her Ori, fiddles with the engraving of his former weapon, Righteous Authority. He smiles to himself, pleased that she used the gifted weapon as it should be.

The weapon that he held in his lap—Redemptionist—was it's twin. Even though they both looked the same, Danse has crafted them himself back in the Capital Wasteland. One after Paladin Kreig and Danse had been promoted to a Paladin, and another after he lost an old friend, Cutler. "Thinking mighty hard, Dansey." The Knight comments.

"Paladin, Knight." He corrects. 

She smiles and asks, "Is Danse your first, last, or middle name?"

That question had caught him off guard. Growing up, he didn't know his parents, much less didn't even know if Danse was his real name. Of course, when he and Cutler decided to join the Brotherhood, they had decided on Danse's first name; even though he never used it. "Last." He mutters.

Her eyes brighten, "So then? What's your first name?" He was thankful that they were landing already, he wasn't really ready to tell anyone anything. Not even her. The vertibird ascends once more once they've made a secure place to land "Saved by the pilot. You don't have to tell me now. Take your time if you want. I won't rush." She winks at him and then breezes past him towards the entrance with neon lights pointing to Goodneighbor.

He wasn't going to say anything unless he had to. Ghouls and drifters alike wandered about the small town, either in a drunken, chem addicted state, or just loitering around. Danse's nose scrunches in disgust, and follows the tiny woman through the town, keeping close to her side as if he might lose her to the leering people.

"Nick? Irma? Amari?" She yells as she enters the place called "The Memory Den". They walk into a room with humming pods. To his left he sees a man laying in one of the pods.

"Darling, do keep your voice down!" A woman in a feathered dress lounges on a red couch. "Nicky has been downstairs waiting for ya. Very patiently, might I add." 

Dawse colors slightly, "Sorry Irma. I didn't think it would take that long."

"It's alright dear. If I may ask... where is that handsome father of yours? Isn't he supposed to be with you?" Irma looks around the room and her eyes land on Danse. If he could, he would blend in with the furniture or anything for that matter. "You're a good-looking one. Perfect for Little Miss Sunshine here." She smiles at the both of them.

Danse blushes and looks at anything but the two women in the room and clears his throat, "Knight, if you may?"

"Ah... sure yeah. Thanks Irma." She says and leads the way downstairs. They go into another room with two more pods, a couch right by the entrance, and a bunch of machines hooked up to the pods. "Sorry I'm late."
Danse grits his teeth as he watches Ori embrace the synth. "Where's your father?" He—it asks.

"He went to defend another settlement. Further down south." She turns towards the woman wearing a white lab coat, "Dr. Amari, you know why I'm here right?"

"You want access to a dead person's brain. Of course I do. Only, I need... is that?" She takes the pink device out of her hands, "That's the hippocampus! And this thing attached to it. A neural interface?"

"Those circuits look awfully familiar..." The synth says.

"Maybe if we can... But that's too much of a risk to take."

Eventually, the doctor and the synth decide who's doing what... The synth being victor, the doctor caves into his demands and attaches the neural interface into his brain. It works for a second, then there's a decoded part that he can't get past without another brain. 

"I'll do it." Ori says, her face grim with determination. "I'll do it." She repeats just as Amari opens her mouth to argue. Amari caves again, and explains the risks of using two brains at once to decode one neural interface. The synth will be acting as the host while Ori goes through Kellogg's brain.

"Alright, go on and get situated in the pod while I hook up Mister Valentine."

The small woman trudges towards him with a blank look and he grips her chin to make her eyes meet his, "You can do this." He whispers. He's surprised when her arms wrap around his waist. He doesn't know what to do, he freezes until he slowly melts and returns the hug.

"Not a word to anyone. Not even Rhys." She warns while laughing and wiping away a stray tear. "Pretty sure he'd call me a weak being."

"Promise." He smiles and watches as she enters the pod and closes her eyes to sift through Kellogg's brain, and sees everything. He watches as the man narrates his life, he had a wife and daughter in San Francisco, but they were killed not long after. He became a mercenary, then the institute found him and hired him to find Vault 111 and take the infant from his mother's arms. He watches everything the Dawse's had experienced and feels a pang in his chest. Was that sorrow? Pity? He didn't know.

The synth had gotten unhooked a few minutes before Ori, he stayed and listened as Amari explained remnants of Kellogg might be in his brain for a few days and went upstairs. Irma had come down to see how she as holding up and watched Ori closely.

Then Ori came out, crying and grasping at her chest. Irma helped her from the pod and say her down on the couch, "I'm so sorry dear. If we had known... we wouldn't have let you through that pain again." She cooes as she rubs her back.

Amari stands off to the side with a sad expression in her eyes and moves to Danse. "Make sure she gets rest after this. She doesn't need to move around too much. There are some after effects." A glance, "The Institute uses teleportation as its only way in or out. The man Kellogg was supposed to find in the Glowing Sea is Doctor Virgil. A Bioscience engineer if I'm not mistaken."
Danse frowns, "He could be anywhere there."

"I know. But that's one of the reasons why you should check for any of the caves. It might not be a good guess, but it's as good as being out in the open." She puts a hand on Danse's shoulder and squeezes, hard while speaking in a low dark voice, " If any harm comes to that lovely girl while in your care I promise you, her father won't do any worse than what I will do to you."


 

The ghoulish mayor Hancock had come to visit his friend when he heard she was in town. He didn't expect her to see her in a dazed state, in the Memory Den next to his old friend Nick, "Sunshine?" He asks.

Her eyes meet his, blinks slowly and goes back to looking at the ground. He looks to Nick, who shakes his head in return and watches the Brotherhood Paladin pace back and forth. "If you keep doing that you'll eventually wear a path in the floor. I'm pretty sure Irms loves her floor." 

Danse's head snaps up so quick he thought it might snap. He looks to Ori, who continues to look on with a distant, glazed look. "You both can either sleep at the hotel, or my place. Your choice." Hancock rasps, "But since I'm pretty sure she offered you one of her backup armors, I think she's already made the decision for you. Let's go." He grabs their gear without even being asked. 

Danse rolls his eyes and let's just slide as hooks his arms gently around Ori's back and legs. She's so small compared to him. Tiny and... Beautiful. But the look in her eyes, the look of defeat stopped him from going any further with his thoughts.

They ended up across the small town in a matter of seconds into the State House. Danse was pretty sure it wasn't dirt, dust, and debris loitering something that may have once been vibrant in color and life. 
Hancock led them upstairs and into a decorated room.

"When she ever decides to stay here she decided to spice things up a bit." He explained and puts their stuff in the corner of the room and takes one last look at Ori. "The stations downstairs. Take care."

When Danse was sure the ghoul had left, he gently set Ori down on the wooden floor. "He almost got out." Ori mumbles.

"Who?" He questions generally confused.

"Back in the vault. He almost had that stupid pod open." The tiny woman sits on the bed and unlaces her boots. 

Danse swallows a lump in his throat, "I'm sorry that happened to your family."

Ori's blue eyes focus on him and nods as she wipes at her eyes, "Thank you." She says in a small voice. 

"You should try and get some rest."

"What about you?" She frowns.

"At best I can go about a week and a few days without sleep."

"A good way for your brain to loose every sense until it starts destroying the human body. Danse that's not healthy." She sniffs a bit and scolds him. She slowly stands from her spot on the bed and reaches for her bag.

He smiles, and watches her move carefully, "I know. But nothing here ever really is, is it?" He stands and grabs her pack after two winces of pain and collapses into the bed.

"Hand me my snack cakes..." She mumbles, an arm thrown over her eye. 

"Why?" 

"So I can make myself sick to the point you take care of me everyday."

He holds the box to his chest and ignores her protest, "I'm going to eat these myself if you don't stop."

"Stop what?"

Danse didn't know how to respond to that. Should I just make up an excuse? Instead, he chooses to scowl at her and hand over the box. "Just make sure you sleep."

"...I can't." She says when he's almost out the door.

"After what had happened, I'm not sure if I should even sleep for a day." He understood that at least. When Cutler died sleep didn't find him that easily, he couldn't sleep for a week.

"I want to go to the Rail." When Danse is about to tell her no, she raised a hand, "If you won't sleep then I won't sleep."


 

I feel smug. Smugger than a crocodile singing hallelujah after eating a pig. Me and Danse sit at the bar, WhiteChapel Charlie—at his usual—tending the bar.

Danse has a glass of beer in his hand and stares hard at it as if it just insulted him. And me—Plain Jane—I'm sipping on mutfruit juice not giving a damn about the weird looks I'm being given. Charlie kept these stashed here just for me.

Magnolia—a pretty raven haired woman stands in the spotlight while singing "Baby it's just you".

Like an earthquake, starting to roll,

I felt my world shake, out of control,

Like a world war starting to brew,

Baby, it's just you.

Her red dress sparkles as she moves and sways. People drunk and chem addled sway on the dance floor along with the song. The rest just watch the crowd from the side. The Rail has been know to crowd like so... but from what I know it only gets bigger for major events.

Like a cyclone, wild and extreme,

I got my mind blown, stalking your dreams,

Waking up without a clue,

Cause baby, it's just you.

You leave me breathless, weak in the knees,

I'm feeling reckless, pardon me please,

The fallout's blowing through,

But baby, it's just you.

Take a sip of my juice and smile as she continues to sing, bringing back the good memories as I drown in it all.

Help me, help me, rescue my heart,

Save me, save me, from falling apart,

Take me, take me, baby I'm sure,

You've got the power, you've got the cure.

Like a train wreck, jumping the track,

Or a card deck, missing a jack,

What's the queen of hearts to do?

Cause baby, it's just you.

Help me, help me, rescue my heart,

Save me, save me, from falling apart,

Take me, take me, baby I'm sure,

You've got the power, you've got the cure.

Like a mushroom cloud in the sky,

I felt my world stop, waving goodbye,

Radiating through and through,

Baby, it's just you,

Radiating through and through,

Oh baby it's just,

Baby it's just,

Baby it's just you.

She chuckles and tells everyone that she'll be back after her break. I know she spots me, and I prepare myself to be embarrassed. She's almost like my grandmother... in a way. "Well hello there." She greets kissing both my cheeks. Danse watches us out of the corner of his eye and takes a sip of his glass. "I was wondering when you were going to show." 

She turns towards Danse, her hair whipping about as she smiles a sultry smile, "Now, there's something special about you, isn't there. Don't tell me, let me guess." She puts a finger on her blood red lips and smiles as she runs her eyes over him, "It's your eyes. Quick and... intense. I bet you never miss a detail, hm? Like what you see?" 

Danse chokes and I stifle a laugh, this is the second time already! "No, that can't be it..." She looks towards the ceiling, "Ahh it's your hands. They move even when you aren't thinking. Quick on the draw?" Danse gets even flustered and casts a distressed look my way.

I giggle, "Okay Mags that's enough."

She pouts, "But it's cute when he's flustered. Or are you just saying that because you want him all to yourself?" She smirks. I don't smile this time, instead, I look at Danse's beer and start to wonder if it's really a good way out from embarrassment. Danse is beet red now and stares straight ahead. He notices me looking toward his beer and cradles it. "Don't worry darling, I won't take you away from her. Seems she's too clingy to even think it." She says and pays his shoulder and goes back on stage.

We don't say anything as the next song comes on.

Danse makes a good point not to even attract attention after he downs his first glass in one go, and orders another. Meanwhile, here I am casually sipping my juice and side-eying him. I try my luck, "How many does it take for you to get drunk?"

He doesn't answer, and frankly, this boy is hot and cold at the same time. When he's never flustered, he's as hot as can be, when he's flustered he acts like the sacred texts have been burned. Okay not really, but he's acting really weird. Plus he's the only one who is unaffected by my presence. Usually everyone around me is in a calm state and don't even know it. Except for Danse.

"Danse?" I turn in my seat and poke his shoulder. 

"Hm?" 

"Did I do something wrong?" I question.

He takes another swig. "...No."

"Is it because I made you take me here?"
He sighs heavily, "Yes and no. I don't like Jazz. I'm more of a country-western and bluegrass fan." 

Oh. So he's one of the people I might kick outta my car if he puts that terrible stuff on. "What's wrong with jazz?"
He gives a non-committal shrug, "What's wrong with county music?"

"The only country music I'll listen to is Country Roads." I raise a brow, "C'mon. Jazz music is for the soul and whatnot. What song you think you just might listen to?" I press—so far, the conversation has lightened him up a bit as he thinks. 

"Definitely not this one."

Took a walk ,

Out in The Fens,

Had a talk with a man about some chems,

He asked me what's your flavor,

I said I need a favor,

I'm a little short on caps but,

I'm a good good neighbor.

Took a dive ,

With the swans,

Out in the commons with nothing on,

The mutants stop to savor,

All my bad behavior,

It's all in a day's work,

When you're a good good neighbor.

"Whatever she was on must have been made ten-fold to make her do something like that." 

"If only you knew..." I say.

"Knew what?" 

"She's a dare-devil at heart. The more... daring version of me."

"Aren't you already daring?"

"She literally went skinny dipping into Swan's Pond without so much a scratch. I'm disappointed that you would think I would do such a thing Dansey." I tease. 

We continue talking as random people came and went by as they pleased. Danse only had half of his third glass left until he pushed it away. I was still on my second juice bottle. Magnolia sometimes comes to ask how I've been ever since the Memory Den—which has only been a few hours ago by now—asks about my father, and goes back to singing her heart out.

Another hour passes by and the crowd still grows—and I can feel the intoxication, lust, boredom, love and hate mix into the air. Danse is the only one who doesn't feel like the others. He's... Indifferent. 

Like he's never really been around many people to feel anything at all. A soul with no feelings. I frown and watch as he absently plays with his holotags. In the lighting of the Rail, he looks like one of those models from those magazines I'd see Maggie with.

Shouting sounds from a corner of the room—at first, no one pays attention to the commotion, expecting it to be someone getting kicked out. But what I don't expect is the smell of blood. 

I jump out of my seat and nearly fall to the ground. I'm dizzy and by head is filled with millions of pin-pricks.

"Danse..." He pulls out a pistol and knife from his boot. Dear God, what else does he have in those Kangaroos?
Multiple shots from a weapon sound in the room making things worse. I barely even notice that Danse has me around my waist, or the fact that there's a fight around me. Or do I?

Some people rush up the stairs, some stay and fight, only to get cut down by a dark figure. "Get us out of here Danse!" I moan. 

He doesn't answer and braces me against the railing, "Do your best to get outside and to Hancock." What? He pushes the pistol in my hand and picks up someone's abandoned weapon off to the side. We're up on the second flight of stairs next to the restrooms, Drifters and others alike file in and out of the Rail.

I'm about reply to his demand when white appears in my sight. I groan, close my eyes and it's still there, "I think I'm going blind." I grip his arm and stand, "My head feels like it's gonna—" A blue beam lands next to my head and one word goes off in my head. Institute.

I hiss as Danse carries me out of the Rail, then stops. I crack my eyes open a bit and look around. It's too dark to see anything but I can hear people fighting. He slowly turns and braces a hand against the wall and keeps going until he reaches the entrance to the house and slowly opens the door. "The armor's down the hall to the left." I whisper. No one is wandering the hallway, or guarding the entrance and the hairs on my arms rise. 

As we move, the floorboards creak and squeak out where we step. The headache isn't as bad as it was when I got out of that seat so I focus my hearing the inside of the house. That's when I notice Danse isn't behind me. "Danse?" The headache flares back and I collapse and clutch at my head with my free hand that isn't holding the gun.

Run. Something whispers to me and it feels the words were right next to my ear. 

"This is ah... I think I'm gonna throw up." I sit up and put my head against the wall. My stomach feels like it's turning inside out and the rest of me feels weak. I try to speak, but all that comes out is air. Did someone drug me? I try to think of anyone that might do a thing but come up with nothing. Then, my mind clears itself and my eyes automatically shut on their own. Pretty sure my mind will go down too.

Someone picks me up as I struggle to open my eyes. They don't do anything—and it's definitely not anyone I know. It's hard to tell because the rest of me is numb. They take me outside and everything is silent except for a few grunts here and there. One of them I recognize as Hancock but he's quickly silenced.

"Is she secure?" A blank voice says. 

Someone puts something cold around my wrist andmoves away. "You may go."

The next voice I don't expect to hear is void of all emotion, "M7-97 ready to relay with target." And then my my mind shuts down.

Chapter Text

He's nearly ecstatic to get to the relay room. Of course, he's never been to the surface and has never been allowed to since that time in the Capital Wasteland and D.C. But when they told him they'd found his sister he nearly lost it. Sixty years and he looks to be thirty—a trait he inherited from his parents.

And if they'd found his sister...

"M7-97 follow me to the Med Bay." Shaun commands to the synth. He—it—had been a special type of Courser. If course no one except for Shaun really knew why. And they'd likely try to kill me if they did.

They had built a room made just for his sister whenever she's reached her apex. He knew that her birthday was soon and that she'd show some of the...effects of the world above. Shaun leads him into the white room and motions for him to set her down on the bed. "Report to X6-88. He'll have everything you need. And then report back to me."

When the M7 unit leaves, he takes the time to study his sister. They almost looked identical, only his features more harsher and hers softer. The only identical thing about them was their hair and maybe even their eyes. She's no doubt shorter than him, and angrier. When he sees the familiar birthmark on her face and almost collapses. How many times had he dreamed of seeing his family again? Of being whole again? He remembers bits and pieces of her promise made in that vault. He's currently thumbing the locket in the pocket of his sweatpants that held a picture of his family. He'd never get to see his mother—courtesy of the deceased Conrad Kellogg.

His ears perk up at the sound of footsteps, and without turning around he already knew who it was. "She's everything I thought she would be."

"I know." The woman comes to his side and smiles down at the small figure. "I know." She says as she brushes away a stray curl from his sister's face. He has to hold back a snarl, already protective of his big sister. That sounds weird even to me.

"What about my father?" He asks.

"He's already at Murkwater." The place where Allie had decided to do a bit of damage—but not much, "It won't be long until he figures it out, then he's going to want answers. And not the peaceful way." She moves away from the bed and Shaun lets out a breath. She looks him up and down, disapproving of his attire. He flat out refused to wear the lab coat she gifted him, no matter how soft the damned thing was. And as for his t-shirt, sweatpants, and shoes—he was sleeping when they first informed him about his sister and rushed to get at least a bit decent—a bit begrudgingly if not with excitement.

"What are you going to do when she wakes up?"
He didn't know. He didn't even think he'd get this far honestly. "First and foremost she needs to be prepared for her apex. Get Lia whenever she wakes up." He watches the faintest twitch of his sister's fingers and smiles. He knew the drug given to her would last only temporarily and that within an hour or three she'd be wide awake. And that's what made him nervous. What if she doesn't want anything to do with me?

He takes one last hopeful glance at his sister and leaves the room, Allie in tow. Allie excuses herself to go attend to other matters somewhere in the compound, leaving Shaun with his hands stuffed in his pockets alone with his thoughts. He slowly walks to his room, occasionally being greeted by synths, children and institute workers as well.

When he gets to his room, the M7 unit is already waiting for him, arms braced on the balcony overlooking the compound. "I have only one thing to say." He says and turns around. "Your sister needs help."

"She has a pet deathclaw, I know." He sighs and turns back around, a beer bottle already in his hand. "Nice to see you too, old friend."

Gabriel huffs and mutters, "Old, I'm not old. We're the same age."

"You are a bit over twenty years younger than me yes, just a different species." He thumps him on his back.

"So? How've you been after all these years?"

"A dedicated soldier as always, I guess. The usual." He quiets and shakes his head, "Your father seems like a nice man, can't wait till I get bashed in the face, though." He side-eyes him, his eyes dilated a bit but yet, taunting.

"I think you've been drinking too much." In a blink, Shaun has the beer bottle in his hand and puts it in the sink.

"Killjoy."

"No, no, no. That's your hard-earned title."

"Then I now promote you from Prince of Killjoy to Emperor of Killjoy, and I, demote myself to a lowly peasant."

"Alright then, peasant —I won't let you promote yourself again by the way..." Shaun says while pointing a finger at him, "Your Emperor demands your report on the world above."

Gabriel gives his report on the surface and makes sure not to miss a single important detail. "So what if your "genius" plan actually works? How can you get the Brotherhood and Maxon, The Railroad, and Minutemen—the entirety of the commonwealth—to agree with it?"

"I didn't think I'd get this far." He muses.

Gabriel facepalms and groans. "What would you do without me?"

"Alot of things that don't involve you mostly."

"You two will get along great."

"Thank you."

"Now what have you been up to ever since Elson kicked me out?" At the mention of the former director of the Institute, Shaun stiffens. Elson was a terrible person with terrible ideas. It was amazing that he even knew how to take a shit in a toilet. He was the original reason(maybe one of the best ideas he's had yet) Shaun was here now.

"Nothing much really. Work. Sleep. Eat. Repeat. Nothing new. It's just a regular occurrence and I'm getting sick of it. Sick of... these white walls." He looks Gabriel up and down, "Jesus did you get fatter or something?" He gets a glass cup thrown at him in response.


 

Two hours into the morning, his sister wakes, furious as ever. Lia had already visited her an hour before, thankfully leaving his sister to fume in a corner.

Gabriel stands off to his side, wearing his Courser uniform and puts a hand on his shoulder to ease his nervousness. "You've got this Shaun." He says under the black mask.

"That's so easy for you to say when you haven't seen your sister in over two-hundred sixty years!" He hisses, then apologizes. "Sorry. You're right. I got this." Then he takes several deep breaths and adjusts his coat. Gabriel had helped him find suitable clothes to face his sister in.

He puts his hand on the scanner next to the door and throws his hands up and makes to walk down the hall, but Gabriel stops him. "Alright if you're not going to grow a pair, I'm tossing you in there."

"No!"

"Then go." Gabriel takes his hand and puts it atop the scanner next to the door, moves out of the way and gives Shaun two thumbs up. "You got this buddy." The door slides open and he stuffs his hands in his pockets, half expecting something to be thrown at his head already. He looks around the room, thankful nothing has been damaged and spots a blue-eyed woman staring at him from the bathroom door.

"Who the fuck are you?" She says with a deadly calm as her eyes narrow on him. His heart skips a beat when he realizes that they share the same eyes.

I'm your long lost brother. "I am Father." He replies, his voice isn't trembling as he thought. Not after she started scrutinizing him.

"No, no. I didn't mean your Catholic name I meant your real name."

He tilts his head, "That's a type of religion, yes?"

"Answer my question before I answer that."

"I..." He freezes. And suddenly his breathing picks up. Her eyes zero in on the locket he forgot to hide and widen.

"Where did you get that?" She questions.

Snapping out of his daze, he touches the cool metal against his shirt, "You gave it to me, two-hundred and years ago."

"Like hell! I don't even know you!" She grabs a lamp and unplugs it, "Where did you get that locket?!"

Shaun starts getting irritated and sits down in a chair, completely ignoring the lamp in front of his face. "You told me that if one of us dies before the other we'll find each other." She pales and visibly falters, he continues, "Or even if we got separated from each other we'll find each other again." He pulls the old thing from his neck and takes away the lamp in her hands and replaces it with the locket. "It's me Orielle."

Now, family reunions are supposed to be filled with tears and laughter and joy. But what does she do? She makes blood come out of his nose and makes him see stars. "What was that for?!" He grunts out, clutching his nose. It's already healing, and he rubs it as it does.

"He was a baby when Kellogg killed mama and took my brother away from us." He opens his mouth but she drones on, "We've been locked in those pods for over two hundred fucking years and you have the nerve to claim that you're my brother?" She didn't believe him, and that's what he feared most. He was pretty sure Gabriel was outside listening in on their conversation and decided to call him in.

His sister eyes Gabriel with wary eyes, this time wielding a metal chair. "Take off the helmet." Gabriel swivels his head to look at him. "How else is she to believe me? You're my only hope."

Slowly, he shrugs and takes off the mask with a hiss and a click and holds it under his arm. "I've got some explaining to do I know but—O-Ori what are you doing with that glass?" He says as she pulls out long pieces from the bathroom.


 

I sit with my hands in my lap on the couch. The girl named Lia gave me some clothes to wear around as she took care of my leathers. "Are you telling me that you're a mother-fucking cyborg?" I point to Danse.

"Yes." He mutters as he tends to a glass cut on his arm, clearly pissed off at me. That makes two of us.

"And you," I point to Shaun, who's wounds have healed freakishly quick and eye his pointed ears and canines, "you are actually sixty?" He wears a black leather jacket with a white logo on its back and a blindingly white jumpsuit. I squint as I catch something dart over his shoulder, and dismiss it as a hallucination.

"A bit over sixty, but yes. I take it father didn't tell you about where we come from?" Shaun watches me a bit nervously. To say I'm his older sister is an understatement—I'm literally chest height with him.

"What?"

"Though I don't know much about our kind before, I suppose it's best if I let him explain."

"Explain what?"

"We're you not listening?"

"I was but then you said "our kind"."

He smiles and holds out his hands and cups them together—his hands and the front of his jumpsuit seeming a bit darker as he does, and then motions for me to look into his hands. "Promise I won't bite." He adds.

I get up from my seat and cautiously look down without really taking my eyes off the both of them. I look, and all I see is black with occasional slivers of light. "What is that?"

"That," he says and watches a streak of light move from one place to the next, "that's the Void. And the streaks of light are those seeking out other Void users to finish their lives here in this world, or because they didn't get a fair life, and want to move on to the next. And then there's a different type of Void. One that serves as a prison."

Another streak bounds around, and then when it hits point B it disappears, "An example, as you saw."

I move away from him and go back to my seat, "What happens to them when they're out?"

"If those in the waiting are released from the Void to re-live another's life. But where before the bombs fell, we would be able to release millions and capture millions for the Void, we can only do a few thousand." He drops his hands and tendrils of darkness wafts over his fingers as he speaks. "For the prison it's a different story. They don't get released. Ever. Unless it's their time to leave the Void and be judged."

"How many of you are there?"

"A bit over seventy in our entire coven. We've never seen each other before because we're too busy all the time. Too little to sort through the billions that are constantly pushing against the stretch that separates us from them. Sometimes the others go in to calm them—but that only lasts for a month, maybe even less." He looks toward Danse and smiles at me, "But enough about that. I'm pretty sure you're hungry?"

My stomach then decides to demonstrate a whale's mating call. "Yeah, but one more question." I squint at Danse, "So then the whole soldier boy thing was an act?"

"Yes and no. Before I walked into that minefield in D.C I was as dedicated as they came. But when your brother found me barely hanging on to life, he brought me to one of the old compounds that the Institute no longer uses and made me what I am now."

"What's your first name?" He blinks slowly as if remembering what I told him outside Goodneighbor. I'll pester him with the rest of my unanswered questions later.

"Gabriel."

"That's a fitting name." I say perking up a bit, "But I think I'll stick to Dansey for now."

He groans and stands, "I'm stuck with you two for God knows how long."

"How bout forever?" Shaun smirks at him. "Go on, the lady needs food."

Danse glowers at Shaun then me, "Don't start fires kids. I'll put you in timeout."

I scowl at the door as he leaves, "You can't put me in timeout."

"Actually he means you. He'll literally lock you in a room with no one to talk to. Just the four white walls slowly making you go insane. He's told me all the things you've caused by the way." He winks, his blue eyes flaring with pride—oh so similar to mine. Not to mention I feel like I'm the youngest out of us both.

"He told you about Tusk?"

"I'm assuming that's your pet deathclaw."

"Yeah."

He shakes his head stuffs his hands in his pockets after a silence is exchanged between us and asks quietly, "What was she like?"

I knew immediately who he meant, "Well, the first thing is, she's exactly my height. You look more like her really, except the eyes. She had a darker shade than ours. So I guess when you showed me the Void, your eyes were bark blue." He sits back in silence and grabs at his loosely curled hair that reaches his ears. I go to check the time, but then realize my pip-boy was replaced with a metal wristband.

He notices my look of frustration, "I have it, don't worry. The band is there to keep you from blacking out again."

"I thought I was drugged."

"You were." He says as he hold out his hand and it magically appears and hands it to me. "But that was after you came out of the Memory Den. That drug had triggered something in you to black out."

"So then the drug was the one keeping me asleep, but what about the headaches?" Already I feel flares of my previous headache resurfacing, but then it's quickly put down. Constantly, this process is on repeat.

"Signs of the Apex I'm sure. We have one person here who has successfully made it through without dying. You've met Lia I'm sure."

 

I pause messing with the device in my hands, "Die?"

Shaun frowns and shifts in his chair, leaning back enough to make it look like he's slouching and grabs a pillow to his chest. "There is... something in the air above, something that only occurs to any female supernatural when reaching their 'Point of Power.' Something that had never happened after the bombs fell. So far, all we know is that that particular pathogen effected a majority of our kind before it slowly killed itself the more it became attached to the females.

"When you left the vault, you were immediately exposed to it, causing a further reaction to it—in other words, you are the only living pre-war of our kind and have different symptoms from everyone else that weren't recorded."

I don't have a reaction, I don't feel anything but confusion. I open my mouth, then shut it. How exactly am I supposed to take to the fact that I'm infected with something? "So much for living eh?" I chuckle, "Just another day in population control."

"Not really. But is sort of like that. That pathogen was clearly intended to wipe us out. Created if you will."
I squint at him, "You talk like an old scientist who wants to see if snails can talk."

"What's a snail?" Dansey—Gabriel—asks as he comes back into the room with a tray and a cup in his hands.

"It's a harmless slug that does nothing but tickle you when you hold it." I take the cup and tray away from him and eye the cup, "Now Dansey—"

"Danse is my last name."

I lean forward and smile, "Don't interrupt me Dansey. I'm using this name because I seriously don't have a nickname for Gabriel." He scowls and I point to the cup,

"Now is this shit or is it chocolate?" Shaun chokes on his spit and howls with laughter.

"If I say the former would you drink it?"

"Actually I would make you drink it for acting like you have a stick up your ass."

"Girls! Girls! Behave before I set you both on fire." Shaun threatens while laughing.

Danse plops in the chair next to him and sighs, "Last I checked I had a dick instead of a vagina."

I put a hand over my chest, "You need to work on your vulgarity."

"And you don't?" They both say at the same time.
I take a sip of the chocolate—tastes bland without sugar by the way—and grin, "Now dears there are two types of people. One—" I point to Danse, "Raw vulgarity. Shaun your somewhat... mindful of the vulgarity. Meanwhile I'm somewhere in between." Then I down the entire hot drink because it's really bland—and I missed chocolate really bad. "Goodness boy! You trying to give me diabetes?" I say looking at the bottom of the cup.

"Type 2 and 3 Diabetes... You were supposed to stir it." He takes the cup away from me once I lift the cup up to let it drop into my mouth, and throws it away

"Why didn't you do it?"

"Because now that you're here he's feeling even more responsible for the both of us." I drop my fork. And my eyes slide to Danse's.

"Awe. He's like the older brother we never had." Down naughty thoughts!

I don't really pay attention to the food that I scarf down. I know it's all that they have and really appreciate it. After a while, Shaun leaves me with Grump Trump, having to go and attend to business within the institute. He tells me that Gabriel, will answer as much as he can and will burn the both of us if we burn each other.
I clap my hands and twirl around the room, "I've been meaning to ask this question: Why is the Institute kidnapping people all over the Commonwealth?"

"That wasn't your brother's doing. It was the former director, Elson, who continuously made stupid decisions all over. I'm glad that he's no longer here, I'm not sure if these people would've survived another day with him."

"How exactly does that answer my question?"

"Elson was responsible for hiring Kellogg to take Shaun from that vault. The first smart thing he's done all his life really. When Shaun was old enough to take on the role of director, he threw him out into the Commonwealth, only for him to resurface again, snatching people in the night, and replacing their biological DNA for that of a synth. We don't know how he's doing it or where he is but we could never find him and stop it. So then, we just take the blame and keep searching for him." He says with a shrug of his shoulders.

"The reason why he's so successful is because he stole strands of DNA from Shaun."

"He wants you to have to take drastic measures. That's why Maxon is here isn't it?" He nods slowly and flexes his hand. "So since you're a cyborg what kind of super things can you do?"

"I'm just... enhanced ten times the average human. A regular Courser like the other X units are six. Only one of them are eight. Plus the bit your brother gave me."

He sees my confused expression and clarifies, "Synths are created with a part of his DNA without all of his abilities. I however, was the exception. When he fixed or healed me, I didn't heal right. So he used a strand of self-healing DNA and..." He rolls up his sleeve and pulls out a knife from his hip... and slices a cut so deep into his arm that I squirm in my seat as it heals over.

"That's... part of my story... Again." He says with a slight smile.

I grimace and swallow down the bit of throw up that had surfaced, "Please don't inflict self-harm on yourself ever again."

He watches me shudder and says quietly, "Not a problem." I don't pay that much attention to the comment. I focus on the white walls of the room, the sparse decorations that line the walls and desk, and look to the sliding door.

"So... you gonna give me that tour or what?"


 

Gabriel watches as the short woman frowns at the tree.
"So this tree is real?" She frowns and pokes at it. "If it is it shouldn't be this cold. Or darker than a regular tree."

"Since when did you become a tree expert?"

Ori steps away from the tree and looks around the Institute, hands stuffed in the grey hoodie he'd given her. "Since the world ended. Anymore dumb questions?"

"Maybe." He says sheepishly. His leather gloves creak as he closes his fist into a tight knot. Gabriel leads her into BioScience and watches as she instantly darts toward the Gorillas.

"OhmyGod!" She squeals, "You have gorillas!"

"Ah... they're not real if your wondering." The shaggy blond says and sticks out a hand, "I'm Clayton, Clayton Holdren. You must be the director's older sister."

She takes his hand and smiles, "I'm Orielle. Nice to meet you Clayton." Gabriel doesn't attach himself to her side, he moves to a nearby table and leans on it as he watches the Bioscience director give her a tour of what they did.

When they finish, he finds Ori with a sample of Holdren's leaves. "What?" She says after looking at his face, "I just so happens to love lettuce in its raw form. I'm not completely vegan you know. I love bacon."

The next place they visit is Robotics. Orielle was mildly interested in how they made "The Terminator" and curses when she sees the metallic skeleton of a synth, and then the whole process they're made. When Gabriel asked what a terminator was she simply pointed to a nearby synth and stares at it.

"They look like them but in a much cooler way. They regenerate when they're injured. And their skin is made of some type of... silicone? I can't remember." Then her eyes bulge out of their sockets once she realizes where exactly she's staring. "Oh my gawd are you people that vulgar?"

"Actually it was mine and Shaun's idea. Why make an exact human replica of it doesn't function like one?"

"That actually makes sense, I guess." Then she demands that he takes her somewhere else so her eyes don't suffer looking at robot privates. They then end up in Advanced Systems. Some of the workers were excited to meet the director's sister and showed her some of the unfinished projects they'd been working on.

Madison Li had never liked Gabriel. For the reason that she knew he was just like Kellogg. A cyborg. And the fact that he still operated with the Brotherhood. Ori and Li butt heads as he expected and he has to drag Ori away from her so she doesn't kill the grumpy woman.

"She's a doll." She says glaring at the door. "I want to rip her eyes out."

"No ripping of the eyes. I'd rather it be someone that we both dislike at the same time." He grips her arm and pulls her toward the SRB, and makes her walk in front of him. Not saying that he hated Li. The only reason why she had that attitude towards everyone is because she'd been hurt in the past.

Ori's head lolls back to look at him, a dazed expression in her eyes, "What's next Dansey?"

He stops her on the glass bridge and examines her posture, "Are you okay?"

"As much as I'm enjoying your overbearing mother attitude, I must say..." She straightens and blinks, "I think I'm gonna pass out." Then collapses.

Chapter Text

Nate growls at the ghoulish mayor, "What do you mean they took her?"

Hancock's black beady eyes focus on him, then to Maccready leaning against a ruined window, "They had her out. Probably drugged her before they came and took her. Even that buff guy she was with. He's apparently a synth." He takes a puff of jet, or at least tries to when Nate snatches it from him and crushes it in his fist. He leans back, and levels his glare with Nate's, "Those Institute fuckers came in and killed some of my people right under my nose and I didn't even know until Captain Angst over there came and dragged me from my trip."

He then takes out another thing of jet from his frock coat, "I don't very much care for that Brotherhood bastard, but I want him dead for the danger he's put my Sunshine through."

"Easy on the jet Hancock." Maccready whispers. Sounding equally confused as Hancock was.

He blows out a breath and throws an arm over his eyes while half laying in the worm couch, "Shut it Angst." Maccready ignores the namecall and continues facing the window, watching as Nate paces the old room that smelled of stale cigarettes and bodily fluids.

"Did she at least go and see Amari?"

"She did."

"And?"

"Look, pal. I wasn't there. I was too busy dealing with internal shit." Another drag, "Amari and Irma and Valentine stayed at the Den the entire time. Go see them."

Before Nate left he took one last look at the ghoul's disheveled appearance. His clothes were rumpled and his hat was on the floor. He was pretty sure if he had hair it would be a mess. Fahrenheit waited by the door, watching Nate with curious eyes. "Easy there. Don't want to start a fight with the wrong person." She smirks, and moves in close to his ear and whispers,

"The birds are always watching." And then leaves a confused Nate in the doorway.


 

Goodneighbor was usually noisy during the day. Brawls were usually an occurrence at least twice a day as long as no one killed each other. There were unwashed bodies loitering about the square either near the house, the hotel, or near the entrance.

This time it was different. Only KL-E-0's shop was still open. Some had taken into their homes—or what was their home—and stayed there. No one spoke, no one paid any attention to him either. Did the attack really do a number on them? He slowly walks to the Memory Den and looks to Hotel Rexford.

Rufus Rubins leans against the crumbling wall of the hotel and takes a drag of his cigarette, lost in his own thoughts. He doesn't bother the elderly man, he doesn't bother anyone for that matter. He's too concerned about his daughter to care.

"Irma? Amari?"

"Downstairs!" Kent yells from his side of the building. The Silver Shroud fanatic holes himself in there occasionally, rarely ever venturing out of Goodneighbor.

"Though it's nice to see that people care about me." He mutters.

"Nate! Thank goodness!" Irma pulls him in for a hug and kisses his cheek—she reminds him of his aunt. The feathered dress is surely something she'd steal off of Irma and put it back together.

"Where's Amari?"

"Downstairs messing with those machines as usual. Valentine's here too." She says while leading him down the stairs. The entire place smelled like old roses, stale cigarettes, and electric power, Nate scrunches his nose at the scent, and tries to blot out the smell.

"Amari take a break from that thing would you?"

"I told you before—"

"Seriously though, you need a break from fiddling with those wires. You'll ruin your eyes by glaring holes in them." Nate says flatly. He spots a powered down Valentine in an old chair off to the side, "How did it go?"

"Mister Valentine couldn't decode Kellogg's brain with just his." She dusts off her hands and takes a seat on the couch, Irma sends a look of gratitude his way. "Your daughter volunteered to use her brain to help decode it. They were... successful with some minor side effects. Valentine had to power down for a bit because remnants of Kellogg might be in his brain for a while."

"And the Institute?"

A gentle whirr and then Nick speaks, "The only way to get in is teleportation. The only one who knows how to get in is a man hiding out in the Glowing Sea named Brian Virgil."

"An escaped Institute scientist?"

Amari frowns up at him, "How did you know?"

"Figured if synths are escaping—why not the people too?" He shrugs. There were a few locations Nate had wanted to look into in the Glowing Sea. He was pretty sure that Virgil would be all the way out of the Institute's reach. It wouldn't make sense to be at the edge. "Anything else?"

The room goes quiet with only the hum of the memory pods. "Your son..." He's quick to stop her. He didn't want to hear weather it was good news or bad news.

"I'm sorry for your loss, Nate." She puts a hand on his shoulder and goes back to the couch.

Nick watches with his golden eyes. If they could show sorrow, they would. "I'll head back to DC if you don't need me."

Nate shakes his head and says that he needs to be left alone.

He didn't want anyone else doing what he had to do. He was grateful for their help, for everything they'd done for him, but he wanted to do this himself. He already blamed himself for not saving Nora and Shaun—he even didn't want to put his daughter in harm's way, but he somehow did—he didn't want someone to die for him or his family. Nora would go through all kinds of hell just to have her family whole again. As would Nate. The only thing that kept him going was his faith and willpower. Not many people had that now days. And now that he's walking towards a Brotherhood inhabited airport, it increases ten-fold.

A suit of armor blocks his way. He's just as tall as the armor and looks the person within it up and down. "I'm here to see the Elder." He states.

"On what buisness?" The woman asks.

"Minutemen business." He half-lies. All he wanted was a vertibird that would take him out into the Glowing Sea. And if Preston were here he'd probably pressure Nate into earning an alliance with the Brotherhood. Consider this his birthday present. He thinks to himself.

The woman leads him into the airport and sends a request to the airship above. Once it's approved, she leads him up the stairs and into a Vertibird. He's been in many during Alaska. One of the things he's hated about them is that they were so complicated. He tried flying twice before but ended up crashing that into a building. The other time he'd landed on a Chinese invader—several in fact.

"Are you with the Minutemen?" A girl asks. He nods and she tells him to follow her. "She looks exactly like you!" She beams up at him. There were barely any other soldiers around except for the three at the door and one at the end of the deck.

"Thank you."

"Well... not in the height. She's really pretty as a short person. Even the crew are taking bets if the Elder will admit that he had feelings for her."

Nate chokes on his own tongue and then some more. "Bets?"

"Oh! He didn't start it sir! The other knights did. Ever since the knight left with the paladin he's been... off. I guess you'll see when you meet him." She says a bit nervously. She fiddles with the strap on her pack and leads him into the Prydwen.

"What's your name?" He asks.

"Ava. I have a twin so we actually pretend to be one another from time to time. Sometimes the crew can't stand us except for Paladin Danse." She salutes him while beaming and leaves with a cheery "goodbye."

He focuses on the disheveled man facing the windows. The man smells of alcohol and sweat. His hands are clasped behind his back, but he doesn't turn to speak to Nate. "They aren't here, you know."
Nate stuffs his hands in his pockets and looks around the room, "I can see that."

"Then why are you here?" The man had to be in his early twenties, and definitely looked like a Maxon. The eyes were a dead giveaway. But that was the second thing Nate noted and appraised Roger Maxon for—even though he sometimes had hot-headed ideas.

The first thing however was that damn coat.

If I kill him now I can get that coat and get the heck outta dodge. But then another rational part of him was saying: If we kill him for that coat then how else am I supposed to get to the institute?

"Two reasons actually. One of them being the Institute."

The Elder watches him with wary eyes, "Go on."

"So, as you know my daughter and the paladin went out to seek help from Doctor Amari at the Memory Den. So they go and decode a dead cyborg's brain, and then find out that the only way into the Institute is by..." He trails off and smiles once he sees the Elder fidget with anticipation. "Ah... But then what's the fun is seeing someone so eager to become something people fear most." Nate says mostly to himself.

"Is there a point to this?"

"I think there was... " He smiles triumphantly once he scents the Elder's impatience—his main goal the entire time. "But before I get into the Institute business, lets talk about your soldiers and how one of them killed one of my people." They'd all been wary with the brotherhood helping out the settlements he generally couldn't get to on time. Even though they'd only been in the commonwealth for a few days, he expected about a month or three in before someone shot someone.

The Elder tenses and sighs, "That would be one of my... hotheaded knights."

"So then, you knew all about the murder?" Nate stuffs his hands in his pockets, "Very leaderly, Elder."

"Knight Blase didn't inform me or Tegan of any incidents regarding the local settlements." Was all he says before turning back to the view behind him. "You may want to speak with those two on that matter. Tegan is usually responsible for handing out assignments for the liberation of the settlements."

Nate purses his lips and wonders if now would be a good time to shove his half-formed claws into the Maxon's back. And then steal that coat from him. He forces himself to relax, reminding himself that Roger would be very displeased that his offspring had been killed by him. Regardless if he had the attitude as the original Maxon. "And where exactly would I find Knight Blase?"

"Right about now you'd find him down at the airport." Screw that pilot I'm jumping off this bird. He wasn't thrilled to go through another slow ride with someone who didn't know how to fly correctly. "Now, I believe you've mentioned finding a way into the Institute?"

"Not me. My daughter. She want through Kellogg's brain and found out that Kellogg was hired to find the escaped Institute scientist, Brian Virgil." He watches as the Elder's hands twitch behind his back, "Fortunately, he knows how to get inside. Sad thing is, he's hiding out in the Glowing Sea."

The last Maxon turns, and fixes Nate with a stare, "And how exactly do I know I can trust this information?"

"You don't." Nate says sheepishly, "For all you know I could just be doing this because I've completely lost my mind." He pauses and then mentally questions his existence, "Thank God I hadn't."

A dark-skinned male enters the room and whispers into Maxon's ear. He nods when the Elder tells him something in a low voice that Nate can barely hear then turns to him and scowls at him, "So you're the parent of that disrespectful cad."

"Kells..." Maxon warns.

Nate raises his eyebrows and puts a hand over his chest in mock hurt, "I think you are the one doing the disrespecting here. You just called my daughter a cad."

"Well maybe if you taught her to respect her betters we wouldn't be having this conversation."

Nate doesn't reply, he just hums and looks around the room. "How bout before you go whispering in your girlfriends ear, you tell her that you've been a naughty boy 'doing it' behind a certain metal wall." Kells flushes and opens his mouth and Maxon palms his face, "No no. I think you've done enough whispering sweet nothing's. Now it's time for you to actually get some work done." He figured that by the stiffness of Danse and Rhys and the way other Brotherhood soldiers held themselves, getting laid with another solder was 'against the rules'. He didn't smell another's scent on him and found it oddly amusing. The weird mustache must be preventing him from getting laid.

Kells breathes in deep and gives him and Maxon one final look before storming out of the deck without another word. "He's an angel. Is he married?" Because of he were, he felt sorry for whoever got stuck with him.
Maxon stares at Nate for almost a minute before he mutters to himself. "Both of you have the same personality." He's pretty sure it wasn't intended for him to hear but Nate takes the compliment to hear, resisting the urge to sniff back a fake tear. My baby's gone about causing chaos already. "Is there anything else?"

"Well I was wanting to take a vertibird out to the Edge of the Sea to start my search but..." He waves a hand wildly through the air, "I just gave away information."
He waits patiently for him to make a decision, even though he shouldn't be waiting, he should already be bashing in someone's head. His lip and eyelid twitches, and he inwardly snorts. "Will you be willing to take a unit with you?" Maxon questions.

"Depends how well they take orders." He says sarcastically. "I won't babysit a bunch of delinquents, and definitely any that think they might get a chance to stab me in the back. That right, is reserved for me."

"Uh... Sir?" Nate turns and freezes at the sight of Ava with a letter in her hands.

"Oh shit—Ava I swear I wasn't going to stab any kids." He holds up his hands as proof, "Maybe one that's like Annabelle and is in the mood to claw your intestines out." Her face doesn't change, but he sees a spark of excitement. Why all of a sudden I'm wanting to adopt this girl?

Ava holds out a letter to Nate and then salutes the Elder. "For you." She says as she leaves. Nate's pip-boy beeps and he groans, and stuffs the letter in his pocket.

"Tell whoever you pick to be ready by dawn. If they aren't ready, I'm going without them."

He leaves, but not before settling a few more arrangements with the last Maxon. He wonders if he even had feelings for his daughter, but then stops because he doesn't want to be apart of the drama. Leave that to the Airship Gossip 101.

Like he promised himself he would never do, he took the vertibird down to the airport and asked a nearby Brotherhood soldier if they knew where Knight Blase was.

"Last I saw he was in the storage." One spoke up and led the way.

Boston Airport was once a big airport. Part of the island hadn't sunk and planes were lined up everywhere. Once he and Nora took a trip to the Caribbean long before they had Ori. He can remember the blue ocean stretching out on either side of the island they were staying on. He remembers the greenery stretching overhead and the sand mysteriously getting into his shorts. And the precious moments spent with Nora late at night under a starry sky. He has to swallow down the lump in his throat and take a deep breath as the person in front of him leads him into the back part of the airport.

"Knight Blase your presence is requested." The woman says with her hands behind her back. If he had to guess, she was a commanding officer—the way she held herself proved so.

A man steps from behind a rack and pauses when he looks to Nate, eyes widening in recognition before he quickly masks it. "You called Paladin?" He says casually with a lopsided smile, making the scar across his face crinkle and his black eye patch to stand out a bit.

"The Minutemen General would like a word with you." She scowls at him and then leaves.

"She's a doll, isn't she?" The knight says looking in the place where the Paladin had vacated. "Did you need something General?"

Nate crosses his arms, "You that shithead responsible for murdering one of my own?"

"Depends on the shithead asking the question." He answers casually with raised brows.

"Avoid my question again and I will gut you head to toe before you can blink." The primal side of him had been thirsting for blood ever since he's gotten out of that vault. Now we does his best to sate that need by hunting every now and then, but everyday proves a struggle. He feels a familiar sharpness poking at his lip and he kicks them as he waits for Blase. "Well?"

"It's true. I murdered one person in particular, but for a very specific reason." He looks around the room and see people averting his gaze. "Perhaps we shouldn't talk here." Before Nate can stop him he motions to his pocket and leaves the room.

It takes a whole lot of squinting at the ground for him to realize Blase was talking about the letter in his pocket. He made sure that the corner he was in was isolated and unfolded the paper. Cue mystery music.

Follow the Freedom Trail.

He flipped it over then back to the front. There was something familiar about the handwriting that called his attention. He'd heard of the 'secretive' faction that freed escaped synths from the Institute. Of course, they'd already freed themselves so why take all the credit? He couldn't place the handwriting, especially when he was needed at the Castle. They'd claimed it a few months back, having to deal with a mirelurk queen in the midst of clearing the entire place out. He's also pretty sure Ronnie's blown a gasket at one of the recruits.

He balls up the letter and stuffs it in his pocket as he walks out of the ruins of the airport. He takes a vertibird to the Castle, not so subtly glaring at the pilot—who keeps swerving without warning—and feels indifferent to the damage done to the old city. Sure it has been big and thriving and full of life, but he'd never felt at home living near the big city. The whole moving thing was Nora's idea.

He spots the ruins of the Castle in the distance and braces himself for the mighty onslaught of Ronnie Shaw.
About a good twenty agonizing minutes later, his boots hit the dusted ground as he looks around the Castle. Back then, Nate used to have a fascination with the Minutemen. That was when he got out of his training pants, as he got older, his interest waned and he soon came to forget about them—til now.

"Hey! Piss-for-brains! You gonna quit gawking at this dump and actually help out?" Ronnie yells from the top of the wing. A few people look in her direction and then immediately look away.

Nate grits his teeth and tells the pilot to come back tomorrow before dawn, and heads to the vulgar woman that reminds him of his grandmother's friend. So many memories and faces then.

That damn tower. Radio Freedom. He tenses, just waiting for that voice to announce another settlement in need of help. Nate almost laughs at his own doing, until that voice—that stupid voice announced that all was quiet. He slowly releases a breath and rubs at his face.

The first few weeks had been hell for Nate, but excitement for Preston. He understood his infatuation with lending a helping hand to and fro and fro and to, but sometimes his confidence made Nate want to curl up and die. Young people nowadays had more problems than Nate ever had.

Which is one of the reasons why he wanted to tear that thing to shreds.


 

Early in the morning he and a few others remained on watch.

Ronnie had called him to the Castle because they'd recruited a few people they'd came across, or either found them or they came from another settlement.

He sits on the edge of the Castle wall, watching the stars overhead twinkle and shutter. So many stars compared to what it had been before—in the city you could barely even see the brightest of stars. He feels a pang in his chest and grunts, as he dusts himself off and walks towards his T-65 power armor.

He hated the feeling of loneliness and hopelessness. It never did right with him. And knowing that his kids were somewhere within the Institute only strengthens the feeling. He hops in and grabs his bag and goes to meet with the incoming vertibird. He'd modified his armor just before he went to sleep. Ronnie had even made sure he had everything right where it was supposed to be. "Not having the General dying on us. Especially when he's an idiot. That Preston boy would be so heart broken."

There are three people aboard. Knight Ida, Flain, and Daniel. All are wearing their own set of armor and have their own gear and wait for him expantly. Nate clasps his metal hands together, hearing the satisfying groan of metal under his hands, "I don't know if you've all been debriefed, but I'm going to go through this once more and not another time.

"We are going into the Glowing Sea to find an escaped Institute scientist—Doctor Brian Virgil. He is the only one who isn't a synth and actually knows how to get into the Institute. When we find him—we bring him back here and find out all that he knows. All I know is that he's deep within the Glowing Sea; The pilot will drop us off at the edge, and from there we'll begin our trek. Understood? " A few yeses sounded as the pilot takes into the air. "I just hope y'all brought your own shit because I'm not sharing unless I have to."