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Some Rain Must Fall

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Roxi

October 22nd, 2077

 

All across the CIT campus on a beautiful autumn day, students were stuck indoors with their heads buried in a textbook.  They rushed from class to class with high anxieties about their subjects and held tightly to the largest cup of coffee the student cafe sold.  I frowned as I watched everyone scurry dizzyingly about the campus lawn. These people were too smart for their own good. Most of them lacked the ability to communicate with their fellow man but yet they could program computer language like they were born with a Pip-Boy strapped to their wrists.  

    “Can you believe the whole Jessie and Debbie spat?” My roommate Brandy said with a raised eyebrow, sitting across from me at the picnic table with a large coffee in one hand and a lit cigarette in the other. 

    I rolled my eyes, “It was bound to happen eventually.” 

    “I know but I didn’t think it would be so atomic ,” she laughed before taking a drag. “Anyway, did I tell you that I’m sorry to hear about you and Andrew?” 

    “Don’t be,” I dismissed, “I was stupid enough to fall for his lies.” 

    “First of all, you’re not stupid.  Obviously ,” Brandy motioned towards my tower of textbooks sitting on the table. “You’re better off without his state college baggage weighing you down. Good thing you didn’t cancel your plans this weekend with your family for him…” Brandy carried on and on dragging my ex-fling.  

    

I felt my attention slip from her as she droned on about God knows what.  I was fading into that empty space in my mind that reminded me how I would never truly fit in with anyone. That dark corner of my thoughts that stored all of my anxiety and depression, which was growing larger and larger every day. Not to mention it wasn’t the greatest feeling in the world to catch your significant other cheating on you the day before a big test.  I squeezed my hand into a fist and let out a heavy sigh. 

But, in all honesty, most of my mental instability was the fault of this college and the impossible major I enrolled myself into. Advanced Systems Major- the combination of Electrical, Mechanical, and Robotics sent by Satan himself to destroy your life, but in return, you can earn a great salary, if you survive. That’s not even mentioning the Bachelor's degree I completed last semester for Nuclear Sciences. Or even the fact that my dumbass just applied for the Advanced Systems doctorate program.  Jesus Christ, I’m a glutton for academic punishment. 

Besides her constant shit-talking, Brandy and I had somehow formed an inseparable friendship since first being paired up in our freshman dorm. Brandy was well on her way to being a top cardiovascular surgeon in the Boston area. She had also submitted her paperwork for her doctorate program today.  She just completed an impressive internship at Milton General Hospital last summer- some high profile, very secretive work that required signing lots of documents that kept her lips sealed for legal reasons.

I glanced down at my watch and let out a heavy sigh.  My last class ended at two o’clock, and my bus didn’t arrive until three.  I looked around the campus and pretended to listen as Brandy rambled on about how awful her schedule was this semester.  Fall was my favorite time of year. I loved the slight chill to the air, but the sun was still plenty warm. I loved the pops of colors in the trees- the mix of yellows, reds, and oranges outlining the city.  I should be like the rest of my Advanced Systems classmates with my face crammed into a book like the words would absorb through my skin and implant into my brain. But in all honesty, I wouldn't care about my classes or this college until I was back in my dorm late Sunday night.

    “Oh, shit, I’m going to be late for class.” Brandy snuffed out her cigarette and collected her things.  “Catch you later, lady! Have a good weekend with your family. We’ll get our nails done Monday, my treat!” She waved and bounced away. 

    “Thanks, babe.  Keep yourself out of trouble.” 

 

I had a family packed weekend ahead of me, and I was trying to relish the thought of seeing everyone together for the first time in several years.  Nate, my eldest brother, was giving a big speech at the Veteran’s Banquet tomorrow evening. My parents were flying into Boston tomorrow morning, joined by my three older brothers that were all home from the service.  I was taking a bus today to Sanctuary with plans of staying with Nate, his wife Nora, and newborn son Shaun. I’ve only seen Shaun once since he was born, and the moment the grandparents show up I probably won’t get a chance to see him for the rest of the weekend.  With one last disgusted look towards my scribbled notes, I sighed heavily and shoved my textbooks into my bag, hoisting it onto my shoulder.  

I had a short walk ahead of me, but these drivers lately in town were horrible .  Lots of press and big-wigs with their limos were creeping around campus because of the big unveiling yesterday.  CIT had expanded their facility- not with a new skyscraping building, but underground. Brandy, nosy as ever, had come back to the dorm after poking around with the reporters in the streets. She told me it was state-of-the-art;  lots of new, large labs and classrooms for students to study and thrive in their education. I chose to hide in my dorm room with the news coverage in the background. They had footage from a vertibird flying overhead- it looked like a sea of people surrounding the main courtyard as they opened the doors for select members of high society and a select group of students. No press allowed inside.  I didn’t care, all I knew is all these people on campus made me uncomfortable and I wanted them to leave soon and stop fucking up the already bad traffic in town.

I boarded my three o’clock bus and took a seat near the back.  I would be riding this bus to its entirety, might as well make myself comfortable.  I pulled out my Advanced Robotics VI book and my favorite yellow highlighter.  I only made it a few pages at a time before drifting off into daydreams about a different life.  A life where my heart didn’t ache because I wasn’t good enough for some idiot frat boy from University Point. A world without this college and its piles of stress (and sometimes tear) inducing homework.  A world where I didn’t feel like getting blackout drunk was the most adventure I would find in life. 

The bus slowed itself to a stop about an hour and a half later, right outside of the Concord Red Rocket Station.  This was my stop. I shoved my belongings into my bag and walked the rest of the way into Sanctuary. It was a cute little neighborhood.  Nate and Nora did a good job picking this place out to raise their kiddo. They lived in a blue and white one-story home with the prettiest landscaping in the entire neighborhood.  Before I could even fully knock on the door, it was pulled open by the robot butler, Codsworth. 

    “Well, hello miss Roxi!” The robotic butler delightfully greeted me. “We have been eagerly awaiting your arrival!” 

     “Hey there, Codsworth,” I said stepping inside the house.  

     “Dinner will be ready shortly, miss,” Codsworth said as he closed the door behind me.  “Spaghetti and meatballs, with homemade garlic bread!”

     I took a deep breath.  Oh, God, yes- garlic bread .  “It smells amazing.” 

     “Well, look who’s here!” Said the approaching voice of Nora from the hallway.  She emerged with a smile, “How are you, Roxi?” 

     “I’m good, how are you?” 

 

The small talk continued for several, almost unbearable, minutes.  Nora was a pretty blonde woman, with a slender nose and waistline- a lawyer.  Her line of work bored me as much as my major bore her. We had nothing in common, in all honesty.  But we were nice to one another, tolerated each other as needed to be as in-laws.  

Finally, my brother walked into the living room with Shaun in his arms.  Nate handed the baby off to Nora so he could give me a hug that ultimately ended in him putting me into a headlock.  Ah, the love of an older brother. Out of all of my brothers, Nate was by far my favorite. He taught me how to fight and defend myself, how to shoot a variety of guns, among other things he learned in his Army days.  I think he felt bad for me, being the youngest and only girl, left to be abused by the three other male siblings on the family farm. I guess it also helps that we’re ten years apart. 

    “When are mom and dad getting here? They’re on Flight 1665, right?” I asked Nate as Codsworth set the table. 

    “Tomorrow around noon as long as traffic in town isn’t too terrible. And yes, 1665.” 

    “God, traffic in Cambridge has been a nightmare .  I almost got run over twice on my way to class this morning.  People are crazy !” 

    “You can say that again,” Nate snorted and rolled his eyes. 

 

Codsworth made a delicious dinner, followed with a perfect chocolate cake for dessert.  He cleared up the table while we watched the evening news, then suggested a fun game of Blast Radius.  Shaun was passed off from person to person during the game, giggling loudly when we laughed at something during the game.  

    “Oh, Roxi,” Nora piped up after taking her turn, “I forgot to mention earlier.  We had a Vault-Tec Representative come by a few days ago. Since Nate is a Veteran we had first pickings to the local vault.  We put your name down as well, so in case something ever happens, you have a place with us there!” 

    “In the vault?” I asked, eyes wide.  “Wow, thank you! I mean...I hope we never have to use it, but you never know.” 

   Nate grunted, “yeah, you never know. And with how high tensions are right now it’s an unfortunate comfort to have a vault up the hill.”

    “I know, right?” I said, eyes widening. “Did you hear on the news about-”

     Shaun babbled something then tugged hard on Nate’s beard, ending the conversation with a chorus of laughter. It was probably for the best, once army-vet Nate and I started into politics and conspiracies, it would go on for hours. 

 

The adults went to bed around ten o’clock, allowing me time to sit on the couch, that was acting as my bed, and read through my textbooks.  The same textbooks I told myself I wasn’t going to care about until Sunday, but hey, life is full of surprises.  

    Codsworth floated over to me and handed me a cup of hot chocolate, “You look down, miss Roxi.” 

    I took the hot chocolate and gave Codsworth my thanks before letting out a heavy sigh.  “Sometimes, Codsworth, I don’t know what I’m doing with my life.” 

    “Now, now, miss.  You’re so young with a life full of opportunities!”

    “I wish I had your optimism.” 

    “How is your schooling coming along?  If I’m not mistaken, the last time we spoke you were already applying for summer internships.” 

    “Oh, yes!  I’ve been accepted into both RobCo and General Atomics!  Now I just have to pick which one I want to do,” I said with a laugh.  

    “That’s wonderful news!  Congratulations.” 

    “Thank you,” I smiled at the three-eyed robot.  “I’m actually studying the prototypes for the Mister Handy line of robotics now.  I have a killer test next Wednesday.” 

 

Codsworth was great to talk with.  During my previous visits with Nate and Nora, I would spend several hours speaking with him.  He would go about his chores, almost always keeping one of his three eyes upon me while we spoke.

I closed my textbook and shoved it back into my bag after draining my cup of hot chocolate.  I laid down on the couch and covered myself with a heavy blanket. Sleep found its way to me easily.

Chapter Text

Roxi

October 23rd, 2077

 

The next morning started like any other Saturday morning at my brother’s place.  I woke to the smells of the breakfast Codsworth was whipping up; bacon, buttermilk pancakes and maple syrup- my stomach instantly growled.  Nate and Nora cooed over each other like two lovebirds, hogging the bathroom for what seemed like forever. Nate teased me when I asked if they were finished yet, picking me up and throwing me over his shoulder like I weighed nothing. I kicked and laughed, telling him to put me down- he body-slammed me into the couch. Shaun cried from his crib, hungry for his morning bottle, sending Nora on her way to check on him.  Breakfast was served soon afterward, and it tasted just as amazing as it smelled.  

The news was on TV in the background- the same shit, different day.  A robbery in South Boston. A murder in New York making headlines. A protest in DC.  How my generation of Americans was killing the American Dream. It became white noise after a while, just politics rammed down people’s throats.  It was your daily dose of paranoia to start a lovely Saturday morning. I tried to ignore the threats as much as possible- I had enough anxiety in my life over my classes at CIT, I didn’t need the Communists creeping into my thoughts.  Nate and I were overdue for a light night conspiracy theory session with a bottle of whiskey. And what a better conspiracy theory companion than a man who severed in the Army since he was eighteen?

Once I finished my breakfast, I stole away to the bathroom to ready myself for the day.  I took a long hot shower and allowed my stress to melt away. Once out, dried, and redressed,  I had a full beauty routine to undergo. Hair was curled and pinned up with a red bandana, eyes smartly lined with black eyeliner, lashes curled to perfection, and a bright red lipstick topped everything off.  As soon as I was finished, Nate retook his place in the mirror to practice his big speech for tonight. He was nervous, no matter how many times Nora reassured him.  

I packed away my makeup bag with the books I brought along, recounting to myself all of the work that needed to be done by Monday.  I had a test on Wednesday in that awful robotics class, a three-page essay on malfunctions due on Thursday...

Codsworth floated in front of the TV, which was still tuned to the news.  He made a curious sound that pulled me out of my thoughts.  

    “What is it, Codsworth?” Nate came into the living room, carrying Shaun in his arms.  Nora was close behind. 

    “The news,” Codsworth said, worry lining his voice. 

 

The anchorman on TV was stricken with worry- you could see it on his face, like a visible sickness. Just a few minutes ago this same man had wit and charm, a collected and practiced smile.  Now...he was almost hunched over as he read his report. “Followed by flashes...yes, blinding flashes. Sounds of...explosions. We’re uh...trying to get confirmation. We’ve seemed to have lost contact with our affiliate stations.” 

    “What?  What did he say?” Nate said, his eyes widened with fear as he looked around to all of us in the room.  I had an awful feeling brewing in my gut and slipped the strap of my bag of books onto my shoulder. 

    “We do have coming in confirmed reports- I repeat confirmed reports- of nuclear detonations in New York and Pennsylvania.  My God…” The anchorman was suddenly cut off and replaced with a Please Stand By screen. 

 

The sounds of overhead aircraft suddenly picked up, closely followed by the haunting winding up of the sirens.  The warning sound for a nuclear attack. My heart dropped into my stomach and raced at the same time. Nora was shouting about getting to the vault, but I could barely hear her over the sirens and the blood rushing through my head.  Nate rushed out of the door first, clutching Shaun tightly to himself. Nora followed soon afterward.  

    I looked to my robotic friend, “Codsworth?” 

   “Go, Roxi!  Get to the vault and be. Safe! ” 

   “I will, you too,” I nodded to him and rushed out of the home and into the street.

 

People were running.  They were scared and confused.  Some were looking towards the horizon, waiting for what was to come.  I caught up quickly to Nate and Nora as they made their mad dash to the vault.  The vault was located on the top of the hillside just behind the neighborhood. I couldn’t help but look to the beautiful fall colors of the leaves and the bright blue sky.  It’s too beautiful of a day for something so terrible .  

People were already crowding the gate around the vault entrance.  Most of these people weren’t even on the list to get in, and the army soldiers decked-out with miniguns and power armor were forcing them backward.  Nora made it to the guards first and gave our names. The man nodded and pointed to the four of us, granting us access inside. A Vault-Tec employee was standing just inside and ushered us quickly up the hill, instructing us to stand on the blue, yellow, and grey platform.  I looked around to the people who joined us there- we all wore the same expression. It was both the blank stare of confusion and the wide-eyed look of panic. I looked up to Nate, words forming on my lips-

        BANG! The light of the nuke was blinding as the fiery mushroom cloud blasted high into the atmosphere.  

Everyone was screaming.  Some people were screaming for God.  Others were screaming obscenities. The Vault-Tec employees were screaming at each other to drop the platform immediately.  I don’t remember screaming. I know I jumped at the sound of the bomb detonating- but I stood in stunned silence. I could only stare.  I watched as the radioactive blast of wind started to rip through the trees across the river from Sanctuary, the sky lit with orange fire. I could feel the impending heat like I had stepped into a fire. The platform started its slow descent into the underground just in time.  I watched above me as the winds rushed over the mouth of the Vault and listened to the howeling like a freight train was going over the top of us. Down into darkness, we descended as the world ended above us. 

The platform came to a sudden stop, the bright lights of the vault causing me to wince. The gates opened, allowing us to filter through one by one into the vault.  We walked slowly into the gaping mouth. I noticed the large anti-freezing piping system leading into the vault, which was connected to some rather large tanks. What were those doing here?  They seemed to follow along the entire hallway of the vault. The employees seemed too friendly, too cheerful. Don’t they understand what happened? The world is on fire, and they stand there with smiles so large it was insulting.  But of course, they knew what happened, that’s why we were all here in the Vault; they were trying to hide it, trying to keep calm as they tried to keep us calm. 

Everyone was handed a blue and yellow vault suit to put on, reading 111 across the back in golden letters.  Awe, no T-Shirts that read “I survived a Nuclear Attack” with a mushroom cloud in the background? What a disappointment.

I retrieved my suit from one of the overly happy ladies.  She suddenly pointed to my bag, “your bag will have to stay here, in one of these lockers, until orientation is complete.”  I looked protectively at my bag but handed it over with only a few moments hesitation. I changed into my suit, realizing how tight to my body it clung.  I pulled at the material where it was too close for comfort but to no relief. I followed closely behind Nate and Nora down the hallway into what the staff was calling the “decontamination chamber.” 

Something wasn’t adding up in my head.  There was something about the overhead contraptions with the anti-freezing piping that just didn’t make sense.  I stood next to a decontamination pod, right next to Nora. Nate was across from his wife, Shaun still content in his arms.  We were instructed to get inside the pods. I didn’t jump directly inside like everyone else, it was like the wheels in my mind were turning as I kept looking over the pods and the connections to the pipes. Where have I seen this before?  One of my textbooks maybe? A Vault-Tec employee walked towards me and practically pushed me inside my pod. The door shut automatically. I stared out of the little window, fixated on the tanks behind the pod directly in front of me, as the realization dawned on me- it’s piping for liquid nitrogen! Cryogenics!  

 

But it was too late- the world started to fade to black as my body froze in place. 

 

It felt as if only a few minutes had passed when a violent shiver wracked my body.  A voice over the intercom called out “Manual override initiated. Cryogenic stasis suspended.”  Finally, the fog of my mind cleared, and I opened my eyes slowly. I could see through the frosted window, and the person across from me was also coming around as well.  So this was it, then. We were getting out of these pods. I wondered to myself how long we had been frozen. A few weeks? Months? Long enough for the radiation levels outside to have dropped?  My stomach growled I could really go for some of Codsworth’s pancakes. Oh, God... Codsworth .  Was he annihilated in the blast?

Someone crossed in front of my pod.  They were wearing a full-body suit, to the point that I couldn’t even see a face.  But they didn’t even look my way. Instead, the stranger went directly to the pod Nate and Shaun were sharing.  

    “This is the one, here,” the stranger pointed.  A females voice. Two others crossed in front of my little window- another person with a full bodysuit, and a balding man in a brown leather jacket.  

    “Open it,” the man in the leather jacket demanded.  He had a deep voice, almost a growl.  

 

The pod door opened, I could barely see Nate at this angle, and the two bodysuit strangers stood blocking the rest of my view.  Nate was coughing, Shaun started to cry.  

    “Is it over?  Are we okay?” Nate asked. 

    “Almost.  Everything’s going to be just fine,” Said the man in the leather jacket. 

    One of the bodysuit strangers started to coo at Shaun, promoting Nate to resist, “No, wait!  No! I’ve got him.” 

    “Let the boy go,” demanded the male stranger. “I’m only going to tell you once!”

    “I’m not giving you Shaun!” Yelled Nate. 

 

Bang! Rang out the gunshot, echoing through the entire steel-walled vault.  I could hear Nora screaming and pounding against the walls of the pod next to mine.  I couldn’t scream; the shock was setting in quickly. Hot tears started to roll down my cheeks immediately, barely a whisper escaped my lips.  

    “Goddamnit,” The gunman said. “Get the kid out of here, let’s go.  At least we still have the backup.” 

 

The door to Nate’s pod closed.  The cryogenics started back up, and I began to feel cold again.  The strangers passed my pod without a single glance in my direction as they exited the vault, Shaun bundled in the arms of a stranger.  Within moments, I felt myself drift back into the fog.

Chapter Text

Roxi

 

“Critical failure in Cryogenic Array. All Vault residents must evacuate immediately.” An alert tone sounded over the intercom of the vault, repeating every few minutes.  I started to pull from the fog, forgetting for a moment where I was, or what had happened. My memories started to flood back to me, and I couldn’t seem to stop the horrific images playing over and over again.  The bombs. The vault. The murder. The kidnapping. My heart slammed in my chest and I gasped for air.  

The pod door opened with a hiss.  I fell to the floor like I had forgotten how to walk, completely off balance.  I rested on the cold floor, trying to steady my breathing and regain the use of my legs.  I looked towards the chamber’s exit. Strange, the other pods were not opening, and there was an eerie silence between the automated intercom announcement.  Were they going one by one? If so, why was I one of the first ones to be let go?  And why wasn’t the rest of the Vault-Tec staff rushing around if there was a malfunction?  There was something wrong here.  

I got to my feet slowly, feeling dizzy and nauseous, but determined.  Once I felt collected enough to walk, I moved to Nate’s pod. I opened the pod door with it’s assigned control panel- the door lifted with a hiss as it depressurized.  Nate was still frozen in place, I could see the gunshot wound to the head. His eyes lifelessly looked toward the ceiling.  

“Nate…” I whispered, fresh tears pooling and spilling over. “Oh my God...I’m so sorry, Nate.”  I stared at my brother’s lifeless form for several minutes as silent tears slid down my cheeks.  Why did they kill him? Why did they take Shaun? “I’m going to find him, Nate. I’m going to find answers. I promise.  It’s the least I can do for you. So, rest easy, brother, I’ll take it from here.” I hit the switch for the pod door to shut. 

 

I moved over to Nora’s pod, expecting to see her slowly waking up.  Peering inside, she wasn’t sitting upright in the chair of the pod. I thought the pod was abandoned.  The control panel for her pod was just to the right of the door- I flipped the switch to release it. The pod hissed for a quick second before the door lifted open.  The gust of wind from the pressurized chamber hit me, and it reeked an awful stench- I gagged and quickly covered my face as an attempt to mask the smell. As the door lifted open further, I shrieked at the sight of Nora’s skeleton falling onto the floor outside of the pod.  No, no, no, oh my God, no! How long had she been dead?  Something must have happened to her pod...it must have never returned to a cryogenic state. 

I backed away from Nora’s remains and bolted down the hallway, wailing frantically.  The door we had first reported through was stuck. Fuck. Where was everybody? Was I trapped in here? A new panic started to set in- the panic of being trapped.  There had to be another way out of this vault. I found a second door that led into a long hallway. I followed it quickly, trying to space myself from all of the lifeless forms in this creepy vault.  I moved through two more passageways, and not a single soul was to be found. I was right- something bad happened here while we were all frozen, and not just nuclear fallout.  

I passed through the third threshold and froze in my spot.  Up ahead was a cockroach...a giant cockroach.  At least ten times the size of the ones I was accustomed to seeing.  The roach suddenly turned and faced me.  

Oh shit.  

It started charging towards me, I gave out a little whine of alarm before kicking it as it ran towards me; it flopped over onto its back.  I spotted a security baton on a table off to the left- I rushed over and grabbed it before the roach got back onto its feet. When I turned from obtaining the baton, the roach started charging towards me again.  With all of my strength, I brought the baton down against the roach’s back, squashing it. 

Disgusting.  

 

I moved through another threshold marked Reactor .  Two large nuclear reactors still danced in the blue-glow of electricity.  I needed to stay clear of it or risk it zapping me where I stood. I crept around the walkway close against the wall, where I found another giant roach.  I squashed it without issue. Up ahead was a skeleton wearing a Vault 111 suit, lying face down just outside of the reactor room door. It had to be one of the employees.  Were they trying to escape? 

I kept moving along the vault, even though I felt that I was only going deeper into the rabbit hole.  I had to keep shaking frightening thoughts from my head. I feared what awaited for me above ground if I could even make it out of this vault. A few thoughts of a destroyed, irradiated, uninhabitable Earth made me want to find a gun or rope to kill myself now.  These were the thoughts I pushed away as quickly as they invaded my mind. I was not dying in this vault, alone, without giving my damnedest effort.  Shaun- my last family member- could be out there, somewhere. Oh my God...the rest of my family.  They were on the flight into Boston when the attack happened.  Surely they were dead, but I couldn’t help but wonder if their death was quick, or miserable.  Then there was the business with the bastards that shot Nate and kidnapped Shaun in the first place- if they still walked this Earth there was going to be hell to pay.  Somehow…

I entered an office area, finding it in disarray, and another skeleton on the floor with what looked to be old bloodstains around the skull.  I searched the office for anything useful- I found a 10mm pistol with ammo to match, a few stimpacks, and a pack of cigarettes. The computer terminal was still functioning, which had the access code to open the door in the far corner labeled “Evacuation Tunnel.” I loaded the pistol before heading into the tunnel, readying myself for what might be of the outside world.  Walking into the tunnel and following the corridor, I heard the noise of another giant roach. Shit, not more of those things.  Two started rushing towards me- I leveled my pistol and let off a shot, missing terribly. The sound of the gunshot in this metal tube was deafening.  Fuck. I aimed and tried again, only clipping one of the bug’s wings. Son of a bitch . I had to calm down and remember everything Nate taught me before.  I took a deep breath and steadied myself, keeping my eyes down sights.  I pulled the trigger and the bullet shot through my target’s back- killing it instantly.  But what the fuck was I doing? There was no use wasting the rest of my ammo when the security baton did the job.  I slashed through the remaining roaches with the hard plastic stick of punishment on my way through the tunnel.  

At the end of the hall, I came to a door that opened up to the vault entrance.  The vault’s main door was sealed tight, sealing its inhabitants inside. There was a control panel for the vault’s door up ahead, surrounded by more Vault-Tec employee skeletons.  Upon closer inspection, the control panel required a special key or connection that would give full access to the panel’s functions. I looked around the room for a moment.  

There was a skeleton at my feet wearing a Pip-Boy on its wrist.  Wow , a real Pip-Boy.  I relieved the skeleton of the wearable computer, placing it on my left wrist and snapping it in place.  I hit the power button, relieved when it started clicking to life. The screen lit up with computer text for a few moments, followed by a diagnostic screen, before the famous Vault Boy popped up on the screen giving his signature thumbs-up.  I looked over the Pip-Boy a little more closely- there was a wire that ran from the inner workings of the computer to a white connection. I pulled the connection from its holding place and examined it before holding it up to the control panel.  The connection was a perfect fit as I plugged it in, the Pip-Boy screen read Vault Door Remote Access: Ready .  

The little glass cover over the red button popped open.  I hit the button- yellow lights above the vault door began to flash and warning sirens blared.  I unplugged the Pip-Boy connection and watched as the opening operations went into full swing. As the door rolled over to the side, giving off an awful screeching of metal on metal,  I felt more relief that my freedom from the vault was safeguarded.  

To walk out of this vault, the sole survivor of this cursed vault...fresh tears welled in my eyes as I listened to the platform elevator returning to the vault floor.  It took several minutes for the platform to lower itself, and I refused to turn around and look at the vault’s entrance. The platform came into sight when a sudden thought popped into my head.

My bag! 

 

I turned and rushed back into the mouth of the vault.  The lockers had been shoved over and moved around since the day the bombs fell.  I went through a few before I finally found the bag I had turned over to the Vault-Tec employee.  I didn’t want to stay and go through it, that could wait until I was on the surface. The less time in this vault, the better.  I swung my bag over my shoulder and ran to the elevator. This time I was truly leaving; the thought made my heart race. Now was the moment of truth- what kind of world would I be ascending to? 

As the platform reached closer to the surface, the overhead doors started to pull apart, allowing sunlight into the darkness.  It was blinding. I closed my eyes but still had to shield my face with my hand to block the light. The platform jerked to a stop.  I could feel the wind on my face, the warmth of the sun on my skin. I still held my eyes closed for a few moments, not yet ready to see what the world looked like.  I thought of the last time I stood on this platform, right before the nuke went off. Slowly, I opened my eyes and lifted my head. 

With the first glance of the horizon, my heart sank. When I had plunged into the depths of the vault, there was a fireball to the south horizon, but the sky had returned to its bluest form, which was the only thing that seemed to return to its former glory.  Before the bomb detonated, the trees were alive with beautiful hues of oranges, reds, and yellows; the ground was covered in a luscious green sea of grass. Now the Earth was barren. The ground was dead and brown, the trees barely had branches. Sanctuary was once a cute little neighborhood with vibrant homes and shiny cars in the driveways.  Now the houses were ghosts of their former glory, dilapidated and depressing. I was surprised that any of them were still standing.

I took a few steps off of the platform and looked across the horizon.  “Nate, Nora,” I took a deep breath, “I’m sorry that this was our fate.  It shouldn’t be me standing here.  It should be one of you, instead.  Please, watch over me, somehow guide me to what I need to do...because I sure as hell have no idea.”

 

With a heavy sigh, I made it down the hillside to return to Sanctuary.  I walked the cracked concrete and broken homes to Nate and Nora’s house.  The world was too quiet. No one was here to stand on their front lawn and chit-chat with the neighbors.  No one to drive their cars down the street, with the humming of the engine or a friendly horn honk. There was no one in the mechanics shop, drilling, banging, or clinking away at the repairs being made. There were no series, or army vertibirds flying in...

 There was a movement in the distance near the house.  As a precaution, I made sure the safety was off on my pistol in case I needed to defend myself.  But the movement seemed to be metal...and floating.

    “Codsworth!” I called out. 

    The Mr. Handy robot turned and started to come my way, “As I live and breathe !  It’s...it’s really you! ” 

    “Codsworth!  Oh my God...I can’t believe you’re alright!” 

    “I almost didn't recognize you with your new hairstyle!” He said pointing towards it with one of his robotic arms.

    “Wait...what new hairstyle?” 

    “Why, the bold choice of color, of course!  I must say it looks very good.” 

     “What?” I pulled a lock of my hair forward to examine and almost screamed. Pure white! “Oh. My. God. Is my entire head of hair white?!” I pulled the bandanna from my head, only to find that the once red coloring had also faded to white. “Holy shit...it's from the cryo pod.”

    “Miss Roxi, I am so relieved that you are well!” Codsworth must have picked up on my increasing anxiety levels and attempted to change the subject. “Where are sir and ma’am?  Young Shaun?” 

    “I...Codsworth…” I started to tear up again, “Nate was murdered.  Shaun was kidnapped. Nora...Nora died .”

    “These...things you're saying these terrible things, I believe you need a distraction .” 

    “No, Codsworth, please listen to me.  That vault wasn’t what we thought it was going to be.  They froze us in cryogenic pods. Please, I’m the only one that walked out of that vault alive.” 

    “Miss Roxi...are...you quite sure?” 

    “Yes.  Besides Shaun, if he’s still out there, I’m the only one left.” 

    Codsworth began to sob, which was quite an odd thing to experience since he couldn’t actually cry . “They’re really gone, aren’t they?” 

    I instantly felt weak in the knees and brought myself to sit on the ground. To hear another voice confirm my horrors and validate this nightmare hit me differently. “Yeah...they are.  And I have no idea what to do.” 

   “I don't know what to have expected...two hundred years is quite a long lifespan for a human. But the cryogenics you described-” 

    “-Did you just say two hundred years?” My stomach dropped. 

    “Why, yes, more like two hundred and ten years, miss.” 

     I could have fainted, feeling my eyes roll back into my skull with more bad news. “Sweet Jesus. You're serious?” 

     “Yes, I'm afraid I am. It's been rather dull around here...actually it has been just horrible!  Two centuries with no one to talk too. No one to serve! I spent the first ten years trying to keep the floors waxed!  But nothing keeps nuclear fallout from vinyl wood. Nothing!  And don't get me started about the futility of dusting a collapsed house! And the car! The car !  HOW DO YOU POLISH RUST?!” 

    “Hey, hey, hey, calm down. Stay with me. It's okay,” I moved myself to stand back up, reaching out my hands in an attempt to ease him.

    “Oh...Miss Roxi, it has been such a long time. When the bombs came and everyone left in such a hurry...I thought for sure you were all...well...dead.” 

    “Well...I know it's not much, but I'm here now,” I offered a weak smile. 

    “Ah, my dear friend, that is worth more than you know.  Now, let's get you settled in, yes?” 

I walked the neighborhood streets, followed closely by Codsworth, looking around the abandoned houses.  I saved Nate and Nora’s home for last, trying to keep myself composed and accepting of reality. I walked back to the hallway closet, where Nate had installed a secret safe when he first moved in.  He told me the combination in case something disastrous were to ever happen, but never told me what was inside. I opened the safe on the second try, finding that Nate did not disappoint. He had stored his sniper rifle, ammo, purified water, and clothes for both he and Nora.  

I took out the gun and loaded it with ammo. I raised the gun, getting a feel for its weight, length, and scope.  It was a bolt action- I would have to get some practice in with his before putting it to real use. His initials were carved into the gun’s stock; I ran my fingers across the engraving, feeling an ache in my chest.  

Once I removed everything of use, I locked the safe and left the house. 

 

****

In the first three days, there wasn’t a sight or sound that would indicate that humans still roamed the Earth.  I watched huge rats on the far side of the river scurry about and dig down into the ground. I had fought off a gigantic gross fly that was buzzing around behind a ruined house at the end of the cul de sac- it exploded when my bullet ripped through it. I threw up immediately.  Then, one night, I heard the distant sounds of gunshots. It was an oddly satisfying sound to hear. Gunshots meant humans. Humans meant I wasn’t alone. Not being alone was both comforting and yet terrifying. 

It took several days to buck up the courage to leave the neighborhood.  Each day I would walk closer and closer to the Red Rocket station, but I’d startle myself and run back to the root cellar I found behind one of the neighboring houses.  I was too afraid of sleeping in one of the dilapidated houses without other means of protection besides Codsworth. I felt too exposed, and sleeping in Nate and Nora’s old house was...haunting. I was getting sick from eating the food left around the neighborhood, probably a combination of expired products and residual radiation. I was also running low on the stash of purified water left in the root cellar.

    “I gotta see if I can find some supplies,” I told Codsworth one morning, packing my backpack full of water and ammo. 

   He looked at me very intensely with all three of his eyes, “It is a dangerous world, Miss Roxi.  May I accompany you?” 

    “Of course, Codsworth,” I smiled, “I would love to have some backup.” 

 

Together, we left the safety of Sanctuary.  Our first target was the Red Rocket Station.  I found a few cartons of water, but otherwise, everything else was just junk.  I added the water to my backpack and walked out of the gas station. That’s when the dog started barking. I turned around to find a German Shepherd trotting its way towards me.

    “Well hey there, buddy,” I outstretched my hand so the dog could sniff it. “Are you all alone?” 

     The dog barked and whined. 

    “Awe, I’m sorry, pup.  Would you like to come with us?” 

    The dog barked happily and wagged its tail. 

   “Alright,” I smiled, “Let’s get underway.” 

 

Onwards, the three of us walked into Concord. On the outskirts of town, I could hear the popping of distant gunshots. The closer we came to the center of town, the gunshots became louder.  I rounded a corner to find a group of people shooting towards the museum. I grabbed my pistol and racked the slide, my heart pounding in my chest and my hands shaking. I wasn’t going to be worth a damn in a fight. 

One of the gunmen turned and saw me peeking around the corner and fired off a shot.  I ducked back around the corner, a horrible chill wracked my body as the bullet ricocheted off of the brick building.

    “Fuck, fuck, fuck,” I said, trying to gain some sort of tactical train of thought. “Codsworth we are fucked.” 

    Heavy footsteps came running towards us- I looked up just in time to find a man with a hood over his head reading to hit me with his gun. I jumped back, raised the gun, and shot him in the head- gore flying from the exit point.  I staggered backward, feeling my stomach turn over at the sight. 

   “Oh my God!” I gasped, “I just killed someone! Oh my God !” 

   Codsworth called over to me, fighting off his own attacker, “It was either you or him, ma’am!” 

   The dog growled before sprinting forward and attacked another approaching enemy.  

 

I shook off the feeling of fear- I needed a clear head if I was going to survive this fight.  I made my way up the street, barricading behind a car, and peeked around the corner to find another target. One was slowly backing his way up towards me, aiming his gun at the top balcony of the museum. I looked to where he was aiming- two men were trying to fight off the attackers from the top floor.  I stood up and aimed my pistol towards the closest target. I held my breath and squeezed the trigger. The bullet ripped through the man’s shoulder; he shrieked in pain and stumbled forward. I sent another shot through his spine- he fell to the concrete.  

Three more gunmen ahead of me.  The dog ran in and grabbed a lady by the leg and dragged her out of cover as she screamed.  The pup pounced on her as the woman tried to fight him off- he ripped at her neck until she succumbed to her wounds.  Codsworth floated in, yelling at another gunman like some kind of war cry, before taking his hedge trimming blade and slicing the man down.  Holy fuck, Codsworth had some pent up aggression. The last gunman turned and aimed at Codsworth as he was recovering from his last attack. I barely had a thought go through my mind- I raised the gun and shot three times, killing the man. 

I reloaded my clip and walked towards the museum.  The two men on the balcony were watching us approach.  

    “Well, thank God you showed up,” one of the two guys called down. “Come on up, we might have more Raiders on the way. If you could grab some of that ammo on the ground for us.”

 

I turned and looked at Codsworth with a shrug before picking up the little yellow cylinders and entering the museum.  There were several freshly dead bodies on the ground as we made our way upstairs through the broken-down building.  

    The overall-clad guy from the balcony was waiting by the door for us with something of an amused smirk. “Don’t tell me you’re actually a Vault Dweller.” 

    I looked down at my vault suit, “um. Yes? I guess?” 

    He snickered before turning around and waved two fingers to allow us to follow.  “Well, alright. Come in and meet the gang.” 

   The other man from the balcony peaked his head around the door as we approached. “Man, I don’t know who you are, but your timing is impeccable. Preston Garvey, Commonwealth Minutemen.” 

    “Roxi Andrews. And this is Codsworth, and this is-”

    “ Dogmeat ,” said a woman’s voice from behind Preston. The dog barked happily and trotted over to the old woman. 

    “Ah, I guess he’s your dog, then,” I said with some sadness. 

    “Oh, no,” the old lady smiled, “Dogmeat here is a free spirit. Looks like he’s decided to follow you now.” 

    “That’s Mama Murphy,” Preston said, noticing my confused expression. “This here is Sturges,” he waved towards the overall-wearing guy. “Over there is Jun and Marcy Long. They’re um…” he brought his voice down to a whisper, “grieving the loss of their son.  Best to just...leave them alone for a while.” 

    I nodded, “I’m sorry to hear that. What are you all doing holed up in a museum for anyway?” 

   “We were on our way to a small community just north of here. Maybe you’ve heard of it- Sanctuary.” 

    There was a pang in my chest, “yeah. I know it. I...just came from there.” 

    “Oh,” his eyes widened, “I didn’t know it was already a settlement.” 

   “It’s not- I- um- I just got out of the Vault there.” 

   Preston eyed me from head to toe like I just announced that I was contagious. “The Vault?  Are there others?” 

   Another pang in my chest, “No. I’m the only one. Well...sort of. It’s a long story. It’s a cryo facility and I’m the only one that thawed out.” 

   “Oh...I’m sorry to hear that.  Did you say, cryo facility? Like...pre-war?” 

   “Yes,” I sighed heavily. “Listen, I can help you guys get to Sanctuary, but you have to promise that you will leave that vault alone, and make sure no one else disturbs it.”

    “Okay,” Preston said, a brightness growing on his face, “I can make that deal.” 

    “Supplies there are low.”

    “Not a problem,” Sturges piped up, “We have enough to go around for now.”

    “Alright. Then let’s get going,” I smiled. 

 

The group left the museum, Preston and myself taking lead.  Sturges was talking to Codsworth about robotics stuff, Mama Murphy hummed to herself, Dogmeat clipped along at my side, and the Longs followed the group at a distance. Preston filled me in on the rough times his group has recently fallen upon, losing members of his Minutemen group and how he was the last one.  He admitted to holding onto Sanctuary as his last hope for his group, and his thankfulness that I showed up with Codsworth and Dogmeat in tow. 

We were just about to the Red Rocket when a roar erupted followed by distant screams and gunfire.

    “What the fuck was that?” I asked, turning around quickly to scan for the source of the noise.

    Preston grabbed my arm and pulled me to continue walking, “Sounded like a Deathclaw. The screams were probably the rest of the Raiders.  Trust me, you don’t want to know. We gotta keep going.” 

    I gave Codsworth a concerned look, who in turn had one eye on me, one eye forward, and the third pointing backward. “I do say,” he said quiet exacerbated, “I am sure glad we did not befall that fate.” 

    “You and me both,” Preston mumbled. 

 

Throughout the next several weeks, the group began to fix up Sanctuary into something...tangible.  We tore down the dilapidated structures and rescued the materials to make patches to the other houses. Sturges and I scavenged for parts and built a generator and water pump to pull water from the river that would distill and purify the water of harsh metals and radioactive fallout.  Preston and Codsworth cleared trees for wood and made space for a future Brahmin field- which I learned Brahmin were mutated cows with two heads. Marcy and Jun were put in charge of tilling the land and planting crops where the old playground used to stand. 

Preston and Sturges took me under their wings to teach me how to fight and shoot.  We went hunting for Radstags where they helped me learn how to track and aim. We took daily runs from the cul de sac to the Red Rocket station early in the morning.  We made a makeshift punching bag full of dirt that I kicked and punched over and over again every night. 

Mama Murphy taught me how to cook in this new radioactive world.  I wrote everything down from radroach meat recipes to carrot soup.  With her expertise, I was able to make palatable food. She also taught me how to make Molotov Cocktails- out of all the things to be taught by an elderly lady- this was my favorite and most unexpected lesson. 

Preston and I started to venture out to the other settlements that were close by once Sanctuary were fixed up to be livable.  We helped the Abernathy’s with some ghouls- which disturbed me to my core. I mistakenly called them zombies when I encountered my first one, which made Preston laugh.  Together we fought off ghouls, blood bugs, and the highly mortifying Super Mutant monsters. Each fight we had to undertake, the better I became in the art of staying alive and numbing myself to the violence.  In fact, I cried for three days about killing a wild mongrel pack. The others just left me alone for a while because arguing with me about how it could have killed me only upset me further. 

After three months, I found myself sitting in a lawn chair around the cook fires by the old auto body shop with Mama Murphy and the boys.  Dogmeat was lying patiently by my side, every once and awhile getting head scratches between my sips of beer. We had Diamond City radio playing from my Pipboy, which sat on the nearby workbench.  While everyone joked and carried on as normal, I started to find myself distant. I started thinking about Shaun, and the time that I spent here instead of out looking for him. I tried to tell myself that if I didn’t learn the basics of this wasteland, my chances of surviving were astronomically low.  But…maybe I had wasted enough time.

The Diamond City radio host came on, greeted by a disapproving sigh from everyone around the fire. The host was a nervous and weak sounding mess of a man. He took long uncomfortable pauses between songs as he tried to come up with something witty to say.  He played some good songs, though. It was better than listening to that classical music station at least.  

     “ Crawl out through the fallout, baby, when they drop that bomb. Crawl through the fallout with the greatest aplomb…

    “Where’s Diamond City?” I asked, sending an immediate silence through the group.  They turned their eyes upon me with the same look of shock.

    Preston cleared his throat, “Boston. It’s in the old stadium.” 

    I nodded and looked away, returning to my thoughts. 

    “Your destiny lies there, kid.” 

    I looked around the group, “I’m sorry. What?” 

   Mama Murphy shifted in her chair. “The Great Green Jewel of the Commonwealth calls to you.  For your nephew. Your destiny starts there.” 

    “How…?”

    “The sight showed me, kid.  Diamond City is where you need to be.”

Chapter Text

Roxi

March 28th, 2288

 

    “Alrighty, Nick,” I said with a stretch, “Need anything else before I head out?” 

    “Not right now.  You're setting out for Goodneighbor tomorrow, right, kiddo?” 

    “Yes, sir,” I smiled and pulled on my leather jacket.  “Gotta start on that case as soon as possible.” 

    Nick chuckled, “You haven’t quit since you got here.  Do you think you’re ever going to stop and take a break?”

    “The more to do, the less time to think,” I said on my way out of the detective agency. “Catch ya later.” 

 

Nick had a point.  I worked three jobs in Diamond City and the little free time I had was dedicated to running through the ruins outside of the Wall.  Ever since I left Sanctuary I refused to slow down. The more I had to preoccupy my mind meant the less time I would think about the past...the vault...Nate’s frozen body...Nora’s collapsed skeleton…

I shook my head and climbed the stairs to my apartment and unlocked the door.  Dogmeat barked happily behind me as I stepped through the threshold. “Hey pupper,” I scratched him behind the ears before allowing him inside.  I pulled off my jacket and removed my weapons with a yawn. I had been up at the crack of dawn to help Piper with her morning segment on Diamond City Radio before working a few afternoon hours at the Dugout Inn and then rounded off the evening by helping Nick and Ellie at the agency.  Days like today wore me out, designed on purpose to help me slip into unconsciousness at night. 

Tomorrow was bound to be an interesting adventure.  Ellie received details on a case in Goodneighbor- one that Nick knew he wouldn’t be able to do.  It required some snooping around, and everyone knew Nick Valentine, Diamond City’s best (and only) detective.  I was fast to fame around the Green Jewel, but it’s not hard when a stranger rolls in, saves the detective from a gang with only a German Shepard, her late brother’s sniper rifle, and a 10mm pistol.  If that didn’t have heads turning, it was saving Vadim Bobrov’s stupid ass when he was kidnapped. Or helping Travis get his shit together on the radio. Or even just the fact that I got selected to entering Vault 81 outside of town. The list goes on. But no one knew what Roxi Andrews looked like in Goodneighbor, which was an advantage.  Someone might pick up on my voice from being on the Wake Up, Wasteland! Morning Show, but I planned on being tight-lipped around the townsfolk.

I went through my nightly routine before retiring to my bedroom.  Just the normal stuff-, give the dog food and water, draw up a bath to soak and scrub away the wasteland’s dirt, change into clothes that didn’t smell like sweat, clean and load guns with an unnerving amount of care.  As I settled under my covers, Dogmeat jumped up onto the bed and took his normal stop near my feet with a little huff. I laid in bed and stared into the darkness before sleep finally decided to grace me and my overactive imagination.   

Early the next morning, after a night of tossing and turning, I packed up my gear and headed out for Goodneighbor.  Dogmeat followed close behind; I had debated on taking him with me, but I ultimately decided that I needed some back up until I got the hang of walking from Diamond City to Goodneighbor. Nick warned me that the area around Goodneighbor was rough; raiders, mutants, ferals, and all sorts of unfriendly freaks...

As Dogmeat and I walked along the still-darkened streets, I couldn’t help but find myself reminiscing.  Brandy and I had painted the town red many times before during our college years. We went out to baseball games when we should have been locked away studying.  We had visited just about every single restaurant because neither of us wanted to cook our own food. I even walked past our favorite salon, which was now just a heap of crumbled bricks and charred wood.  I had so many memories in this town, and not a single one mattered. I was happy to see the church that Nora and Nate married in, but I stayed far away, as it had the look of Super Mutant inhabitants. 

The sun was up by the time we reached Goodneighbor’s boundary.  I pulled my white bandana over the bridge of my nose while standing at the door contemplating what the fuck I was getting myself into.  The place smelled like rotting garbage and piss; I had to keep Dogmeat from letting his nose wonder towards a pile of trash. Without further hesitation, I opened the door to Goodneighbor, still tugging on Dogmeat’s collar to keep him out of the filth. 

Once inside the gate, I felt eyes on me immediately. My skin crawled; Dogmeat growled. Oh, this was not a good neighborhood, leading me to feel the irony of its name in my soul.  I rolled my eyes at my own thought. I defensively placed my hand on my pistol, ready to draw it if needed. 

A man casually walked over to me, “Hold up there!  First time in Goodneighbor?” He didn’t even give me a chance to answer, “You can’t go walking around without insurance.” 

    “The only insurance I need is this gun on my hip,” I said, making sure I drummed my fingers against the pistol. 

    “You’re gonna get hurt, talking like that little lady,” The man said, then took a drag on a cigarette he had pinched between his fingers. 

    Dogmeat let out a low and threatening growl.

    “Woah, woah, woah,” Said a voice from the shadowed alleyway up ahead. “Time out.” The man walked out of the shadows.  Well...not a man ...but a ghoul, dressed in colonial period clothing.  “Someone steps through the gate the first time, they’re a guest. You lay off that extortion crap.”

    “What do you care?” The first stranger said, turning and walking towards the intervening ghoul. “She ain’t one of us.” 

    “No love for your Mayor, Finn? I said let’em go,” The ghoul growled. 

    “You’re soft, Hancock.  You keep letting outsiders walk all over us, one day there’ll be a new mayor.” 

The ghoul walked towards Finn, “Come on man, this is me we’re talking about.” He placed his hand on Finn’s shoulder, “let me tell you something-” he pulled a knife from his boot and stabbed Finn in the abdomen several times. Finn grasped at his stomach before falling to the ground, bleeding out. “Now why’d you have to go and say that, huh? You’re breakin’ my heart over here.” Hancock looked to me, “Now I know you had ole’ Finn handled back there, but a mayor gotta make a point sometimes. You all right?” 

    “Yeah, I’m alright,” I said, almost with a laugh. 

    “Goodneighbor is of the people, for the people, you feel me?  Everyone’s welcome.” 

    “Yeah, I feel ya.” 

    “Good. Now, you wouldn’t happen to be here for Nicky Valentine?” 

    “Uh...If I say yes, am I going to end up like this guy?” I nodded towards Finn’s body.

    Hancock laughed, “No, you won’t. Come with me, I’ll tell you about the case.”

 

He the way towards the Old State House, and once at the door, a rough-looking woman opened the door for me. She started me up and down; I tried to make sure not to let her see that she scared the shit out of me. 

    Hancock stopped short of the door, “This is my bodyguard, Fahrenheit, dollface.  She won’t bite unless I tell her.” He continued inside. 

    “Keep that dog on a short leash,” Fahrenheit growled.

    “Don’t worry,” I said, trying to tell myself to shut the fuck up before I got myself in trouble, “he only bites if I tell him.” Fuck, you fucking idiot, why? Why can’t you shut up? She could snap your ass in two and you just threatened her with the dog?

    Fahrenheit glared at me even harder, then pointed quickly for me to follow the mayor inside. 

Oof. The State House was looking rough . I watched my footing, afraid the floor was going to fall in if I wasn’t careful. Hancock led the way up the spiral staircase and into his, I assumed, meeting room. Two couches were facing one another with a coffee table between them, spread out with a variety of drugs.  Hancock flopped down into one of the couches, then motioned for me to sit in the one opposite him. I did so, crossing one leg over the other; Dogmeat automatically laid down on the floor beside me. 

    “Tell me, dollface. I wanna know about you. Nick said you were an interesting case yourself.  Vault-dweller, right?” 

    “I guess that’s what I am.” 

    “Pre-war,” He had this smug look on his face, as Nick must have told him more than what I wanted. 

    “You’ve done your homework,” I offered. 

    “In truth, if it wasn’t Nick coming here, I wanted to know everything Nick had to offer on his partner. I need to know who I’m dealing with before inviting them into my dealings.” 

    “Completely understandable.”

    “And your name is Roxi. Foxy Roxi,” he smirked. I think I heard Fahrenheit growl from the hallway. “Here’s the case, Roxi.  Now, a man in my position has to watch out for his people. And my people are getting sick- some have even died- and we believe someone is poisoning them. I need you to find these guys and bring me their names. Afterward...we’ll discuss what happens next.” 

    “Sounds like a plan, Mayor,” I smirked. 

    He smiled, “I think I like you, Foxy Roxi.  Get me the information I want, and I’ll pay you double what I agreed with Valentine.  Start looking around town; the Third Rail is a good place to eavesdrop.”

Chapter Text

MacCready 

 

Sitting alone in the corner right beside the end of the bar at the Third Rail, I sighed heavily.  From this seat, I could easily see the entire room, with a great view of the staircase to watch everyone that wandered down here.  Sometimes I traded the seclusion of the VIP room for a glimpse at the patrons instead. It just serves as entertainment to watch people get wasted until they pass out or pick a fight. But, as a rule, I only talked business in the back.

A lot weighed on my mind- more than the usual.  Hancock had let some new gun into town, and I feared they could be taking away from my own profits.  If it came down to it...business is business, and in a mercs line of work it’s whoever's head is still attached to their neck to keep the territory.  White Chapel Charlie tried to tell me that they were nothing to be worried about. “Business partner of old Nick Valentine,” Charlie told me, “I think you’d like her.” That made it even worse.  Everyone in town seemed to know her, but yet I haven’t even laid eyes on her.  

The bar was getting packed; people flooding in before Magnolia started her evening performance.  People walked to the bar and ordered their drinks, then took a seat or leaned against a wall. The room was growing louder with chatter and the clinking of glass bottles. 

    Charlie floated over to me, “Here she is now, mate.  Betta’ take a look for yourself.”  

 

Walking down the stairs was a chick dressed in black- black leather jacket, pants, gloves with the fingers cut out, boots that came up to her knees.  As she walked, she pulled off the black knit hat she was wearing, sending long locks of hair over her shoulders- swirls of...pure white. Half of her face was covered with a white bandana, but as she descended into the bar she slowly pulled it off.  She was cute- short and curvy, too. Not at all what I expected of one of Hancock’s girls. There was a sniper rifle over her shoulder, pistol at her thigh, a knife on the other. A few people- mostly guys- called her name, Roxi .  She looked over with a smirk and a raised eyebrow, sending them only a nod of acknowledgment.  Mongolia even hugged her before taking the stage. 

Roxi moved directly to White Chapel Charlie and spoke with him for a few minutes, taking the last stool at the bar.  He handed her a drink before moving along down the bar with the other customers.  

    “I could arrange an introduction if you’re done gawking at her,” Charlie said as he handed me my second beer. 

    “It looks like everyone else already knows her,” I said with an eye roll.

 

The night passed as uneventful as any other.  After Magnolia finished her performance, most people only hung around for a half-hour or so before leaving.  Others were still on their way to sleeping in the alleyway after getting thrown out by the security guard, Ham.  I tried to keep my stare away from the white-haired newcomer. I didn’t want her to catch me looking, or anyone else for that matter. 

I noticed that she was tinkering with something at the bar with three bottles of beer put out for clean up.  She had her sniper rifle resting against the bar with her jacket hanging on it. The guy next to her had tried to talk her ear off all night, she barely acknowledged him. I had to laugh, this guy wouldn’t stop bothering her.  It was pathetic to watch. She downed the rest of her beer and handed the thing she was messing with back to Charlie, who was keeping them company. Before she could even hop down from the stool and grab her belongings, the thug was on his feet ready to follow her like a puppy.  She gave him a stern look before turning her back on him to leave.  

Maybe I should have done something, said something, but I didn’t.  The guy grabbed Roxi’s arm and pulled her backward. She did something to break his grip, I didn’t quite see it from my vantage point.  He made another snag at her, but she dodged it. His next step was to lunge at her. She grabbed his wrist and pulled him towards her, hitting his elbow with her free fist and then punched him in the side of the neck.  The guy crumbled from pain and otherwise drunkenness. She let him lay on the floor in his pathetic crumbled form as she gathered her things. I tried to keep myself calm and collected, but on the inside, I was howling with laughter.

As she threw the rifle over her shoulder, her eyes snapped directly to mine.  I felt heat rush to my face, but I didn’t break the eye contact. She gave me a snarky smirk and a raised eyebrow before pulling up her bandana and walking away. 

  It would be another two weeks before she showed back up at the Third Rail.  There was something up. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I could tell by the sheer fact that Hancock and that synth detective from Diamond City were both sitting at the bar.  They wouldn’t much glance at each other, but they were talking quietly, covertly. Whitechapel Charlie was in on it too, but I couldn’t even get an answer out of him. The trio didn’t seem to be appreciative of me butting into their conversation.  

Magnolia was singing, acting like her normal self until I noticed that she kept flicking her eyes towards a group of thugs near the stairs.  As I looked over the gang of goons, that new merc chick was making her descent into the bar. Even with half of her face covered, she looked pissed.  Her piercing gaze could’ve bored a hole through the wall. She didn't even spare a passing glance- just straightforward and looked ready to mess someone's day up.  She moved directly to Nick Valentine’s side and immediately served by Whitechapel.   

    “Good to see ya, Sunshine,” Hancock smiled her way. 

    White-hair pulled off her bandana and took down a shot without even a flinch, “Good evening, Mayor.  Lovely night for some exercise.” 

     Hancock chuckled, “I suppose it is.” 

    “How you wanna do this?” She asked, glancing over to Nick and Hancock. 

    “That’s up to you,” Hancock smirked. 

    “Fair enough,” Roxi slammed back her second shot.  She pulled off her leather jacket; I couldn’t help but notice that she was wearing a tightly fitted black tank top.  Not that I was trying to notice...but I mean, come on, it was kind of hard not to stare. She started to wrap her hand up with white bandages. “Nick, I need details.” 

     “They’re in the far corner.  Six of them in total,” The synth detective said quietly, taking over the job of wrapping her hands.  Roxi used a little mirror to look over her shoulder as she pretended to look at her appearance. “Think you can handle it?” 

     “Sure thing, boss,” she smirked.

     “Try not to get it too messy,” Whitechapel said in passing.  Roxi chuckled at that. 

     “Ready?” Hancock asked with eagerness. 

     Roxi took a deep breath, closed her eyes, and held it for a few seconds.  “Ready,” She said after a hard exhale. 

 

With a snap of Hancock’s fingers, everyone in the bar stood up and pushed everything out of the way.  They all lined the bar like a ring- there was no escaping this fight. Ham stood on the stairs just behind the crowd of people blocking the way out.  

Roxi pulled her hair tightly into a ponytail before glancing in my direction.  She held my gaze for a few seconds before dropping her eyes and turning around.  The thugs in the back were confused, looking around at everyone in the bar and asking each other about what just happened.   

    Nick Valentine stepped forward, “The gig is up, Cutter.  You’re under arrest for harming the people of Goodneighbor, and countless others, by lacing Jet with arsenic.”

    “Oh, yeah?” Cutter, a short little pudgy guy with beady little eyes, said from the protective corner of his five bodyguards. “You think you can take us down, Valentine?” 

    “Not me,” Nick mused, “ her ,” he tilted his head towards Roxi. 

    “Finish this,” Cutter said to his men. 

 

The five thugs stood and lined up like a big human wall around their boss.  Roxi moved forward. I got another beer off of Charlie before the fight started- this was either going to be really good or really bad.  These guys had at least a foot on her, not to mention weight alone.  

    The first guy walked up to Roxi with almost a laugh.  He stood out in front of her and put his arms out, “You’re going to fight us?” He said, laughing at her.  Roxi clenched her fists. “Alright, sweetheart, you take the first shot. Go ahead, I’ll go easy on you since you gotta fight that old synths battles-” 

    Roxi punched the guy so hard in the nuts he stumbled backward before dropping to the ground. 

Goddamn!   

 

That’s when the fight immediately picked up the pace.  The four remaining thugs rushed forward. The first one to rush forward clawed the air as he ran towards her like he was trying to grab her.  Roxi took hold of one of his extended arms and sidestepped his charge- she twisted his arm around his back and gave a violent tug. There was a loud snap! of the guy’s arm breaking followed by his shrinking of pain.  

By the time Roxi broke the thug’s arm, the next opponent had leveled a revolver at her face.  She grabbed the hand holding out the pistol and dodged out of the way of the gun while simultaneously pushing the gunman's arm into the air.  He started to fire off shots into the ceiling; Roxi stomped hard on his foot and elbowed him in the gut, still forcing the man’s arm upwards, but when he bent down due to the pain in his foot, he lost his height advantage over her. She disarmed his pistol and cracked him over the head with his gun. He dropped the ground unconscious. 

The next guy had her in his sights- she threw a knife at him which connected right between his eyes. The last thug tried to bail, but Ham grabbed him and threw him onto the ground. Roxi walked over, straddled him, then waylaid a punch so hard he went unconscious. 

The last one standing was Cutter. He tried to grab Roxi by the hair, but she grabbed onto his shoulders and kicked her feet out from under her, nailing him in the gut. She rolled out before he could land on her.  She whipped out a pair of handcuffs and strapped them on his wrists. 

The crowd cheered. Ham grabbed Cutter and helped escort him out with Nick following closely behind. Hancock laughed and clasped Roxi on the back as they left the bar. Hancock's henchmen came downstairs to clean up the mess. 

I sat on the edge of my seat in shock, still staring at the spot the fight just happened.  Charlie floated over to me and used his robot arm to shut my jaw. 

    “You’re going to catch a bloatfly with your mouth if you keep it open like that,” Charlie said before floating back to the bar. 

Chapter Text

MacCready

 

Wake up, Wasteland!  It’s Piper and Roxi coming at you live from Diamond City Radio. It’s Friday, May 4th, 2288, and lookin’ like the start of a beautiful day.” 

    “And by beautiful, I think Piper means not raining with radiation storms brewing, right?” 

   “Well, not yet! Haha!” 

 

I woke up to the broadcast every morning because this radio was busted and I couldn’t get the alarm function reset.  Hearing Roxi’s voice set my teeth on edge. I hadn’t the slightest clue why she bothered me so much. I shut the radio off before turning over in bed, back to the silence and my hangover headache.  She hadn’t returned to Goodneighbor since taking down Cutter’s gang for Hancock. Good- with her job finished, maybe she wouldn’t come back. Things could go back to normal, and I wouldn’t have to keep worrying about finding the white-hairs knife in my back. 

My headache eased up enough that I could see straight by the late afternoon. I got myself out of bed and sucked down a carton of clean water, wiped myself down with a wet washcloth, and then dressed for the night.  I walked myself out of the Hotel Rexford and down to the Third Rail. There were a few early birds already sitting around the bar, but the crowd would pick up as the night grew dark. I bought a noodle cup off of Charlie and moved to the VIP section.  I slurped up the noodles before lying down on a couch, waiting for someone that required my expertise. 

I must have fallen asleep, woken up by a loud crowd in the bar.  I rolled myself off the couch and walked down the hall. Ugh , white-hair was sitting at the bar chatting away with Mongolia. I tried to keep my attention away from her as I walked to the bar and got another noodle cup and a beer off of Charlie.  I sat down in my normal corner, my mood soured with white-hair mingling about the room. Mongolia took the stage, silencing the crowd as the music kicked up for “Baby it’s Just You.” 

My eyes flicked up to the stairs to find two Gunners descending into the bar. Winlock and Barnes. Great. I stood up and walked to the VIP section, knowing they would be close behind. At least having this conversation in private would keep more bad rumors about me from flying around the Commonwealth. 

The two Gunners followed me to the backroom, blocking the exit. Winlock looked ever so smug as he approached me. Barnes looked ready for a fight, glaring at me with his big, stupid eyes. 

    “Can’t say I’m surprised to find you in a dump like this, MacCready.” 

    “I was wondering how long it would take your bloodhounds to track me down, Winlock. It’s been almost three months...don’t tell me you’re getting rusty. Should we take this outside?” 

    “It ain’t like that,” Winlock said, sounding almost disappointed. “I’m just here to deliver a message.”

    I took a step closer, “In case you forgot, I left the Gunners for good.”

    “Yeah, I heard. But your still taking jobs in the Commonwealth.  That isn’t going to work for us.” 

   “I don’t take orders from you...not anymore. So why don’t you take your girlfriend and walk out of here while you still can.”

    Barnes shook his head like he had just been slapped across the face, “ What?! Winlock, tell me we don’t have to listen to this shit.” 

    “Listen up, MacCready,” Winlock said with a growl, “The only reason why we haven’t filled your body with lead is because we don’t want a war with Goodneighbor.  See? We respect other people’s boundaries.  We know how to play the game.  It’s something you never learned.” 

    “Glad to have disappointed you.” 

    Winlock chuckled mockingly, “You can play the tough guy all you want. But if we hear that you’re still operating in Gunner territory, all bets are off.  You got that?” 

    “You finished?” I rolled my eyes. 

    “Yeah. We’re finished. Come on, Barnes,” Winlock said before the pair turned and left. 

 

I watched the two Gunners leave, making sure they were out of earshot before I let out a heavy sigh.  My heart was pounding. Things could have gone very different with those two, and I knew that I needed to watch my back.  I heard footsteps come into the room. I snapped my eyes forward, expecting that the Gunners had changed their minds, that they were going to take me out instead of offering an ultimatum. But instead, I found white-hair leaning against the wall, looking at me with a raised eyebrow. 

    “Oh, it’s you ,” I said, trying to hide my relief behind sarcasm. 

    She glanced down the hall before looking back at me, “You alright?” 

    “I’m fine,” I said, quickly trying to dismiss her.  She eyed me up and down, knowing all too well that things weren’t fine. “What do you want?” 

    She shrugged her shoulders and inspected her nails, “I have a proposition for you.” 

    “What?” 

    “I’m headhunting a group of thugs,” She looked into my eyes, sending a chill down my spine- there was a darkness in her hazel eyes that I never noticed until now. “The man in charge is known as Big Dave. I need someone who knows the city and knows how to fire a gun. I need you to travel with me to help hunt down this guy.” 

    “I can help, but it’ll cost ya.” 

    “How much?” She said, never losing her tone of confidence. 

    “250 caps, upfront.” 

 

She huffed a laugh before tossing a tied velvet bag towards me. I caught it- the metallic sound of caps was music to my ears. But the weight of the bag told me there was more money than what I had asked. She must have noticed my confusion and cleared her throat. I looked up to her, meeting her eyes again.

    “Asking price, tax, tip, and ammo replenishment funds,” She smirked before walking away. 

 

I stood there, stunned.  There had to be close to a thousand caps in this bag, and she tossed them over like they meant nothing to her.  Part of me wanted to just pocket this and never say a word, but the other part of me thought she was insane. 

    I took off down the hall, catching Roxi before she stepped back into the open bar. “Do you understand how much you handed me?”

    She turned and looked at me fully, “yes. I do.” 

    “This is... what? Lady, what game are you playing?” 

    “No game. This isn’t your normal headhunt. And I think the amount I gave you is fair enough.” She stood there, completely stone-faced, while I stood there still gasping at the heavy bag in my hand. “You know, I’m surprised you’re even questioning this.” 

    “You didn’t steal this from anyone, right?” I asked, and she laughed. Not just a chuckle, but a full-hearted laugh that raised goosebumps on my arms. 

    “No,” She said with a smile, still laughing a little bit. “I work several jobs.”

    “But…” 

    “Stop questioning it, MacCready.  Now get out here so I can buy you a drink.  You look like you could use it. And quit waving that bag around before someone gets the idea of stealing it.” 

 

Fast friends. That’s what everyone called us.  We took down Big Dave and his gang within three days of teaming up.  We took down Winlock and Barnes of the Gunners three weeks later. We had a steady flow of caps with new work coming in all across the city. Mostly taking out raiders or ferals, but caps were caps and I needed as much as I could get.  Roxi and I split our profits evenly, collected supplies equally, and bought our ammo separately. It was a good arrangement. 

In only a month, Roxi earned my trust and respect.  Hell, I watched her run straight towards an Assaultron, taking it down by hacking it and rendering it useless.  She was my friend, but I feared what would happen if I crossed her. She had charm, good aim, and good taste in liquor.  She was a little too smart, though. She reminded me of the eggheads in the Capital Wasteland when she started talking about all that science stuff and tinkering around with old junk.  She fixed the alarm on my piece of junk radio, which was cool, but the stuff she went on about was over my head.  And sometimes she could be too nice to people, which I guess isn't a bad thing, but it gets a little annoying. It wasn’t my normal way of making money, but she thrived off of helping out people without asking for a reward. But at the end of the day, they always gave out a reward, whether it was something we could use or sell or just straight-up caps.  Otherwise, she was a decent partner to travel with, easy to look at and quick with a joke. I didn’t mind.

When we weren’t headhunting, we were boozing.  Either we were at the Third Rail partying or I was getting drunk while Roxi was pouring drinks at the Dugout Inn.  

    “Hey, you know what we should do when you get off work?” I asked after finishing my third beer. 

    Roxi eyed me suspiciously, “What’s that, ‘Cready?” 

    “I know a place where we can watch fights.” 

    “Uh- huh ,” she said with a snicker while wiping down the bar. “And this is a great idea... why ?” 

    “Because we can watch fights . And I’m buzzed. And it sounds like fun.” 

    She rolled her eyes, “fine. But I’m cutting you off.  I’m not having you shit-faced leading me to someplace we aren’t welcome.” 

    “Deal.”

 

We grabbed our gear and left Diamond City just as the sun started to set.  I led the way through the city, knowing Roxi was silently cursing this idea.  We made it to the theater district, where Roxi stopped short of the building and stared at it. 

    “Someone turned the Orpheum Theater into the Combat Zone?  Are you fucking kidding me?” Roxi mumbled to herself. “And for fuck sake, ‘Cready.  It looks like the Raiders are in charge around here.”

    “It wasn’t ever Raider inclusive before,” I said rolling my eyes at her. “Let’s go in and see.” 

    Roxi stared at me in disbelief before rolling her eyes, “After you. But I swear to God, ‘Cready, if they start firing away I’m turning around and leaving.” 

 

The guard on duty had fallen asleep with a bottle of whiskey in his hand, so we let ourselves inside. It was most definitely taken over by Raiders, we knew it the moment we walked into the theater. Almost instantly, we were getting shot at by the gang members inside.  Roxi jumped into action, finding cover and pulling out her pistol. I followed closely behind, pulling off my sniper rifle, firing at an oncoming Raider and dropping him. 

    “I thought you said you were going to turn around and leave if they started firing, Roxi,” I shouted over the gunfire. 

   “Fuck off, ‘Cready,” Roxi yelled before firing a round into a psycho-infused Raider with a sharpened pool cue. 

 

There were at least twenty raiders. Slowly we took them down, picking them off one by one. Roxi was able to pacify a few that had enough sense to surrender and run away instead of dying.  When the dust cleared, we walked towards the stage, where the owner was pacing nervously around. He had his one fighter with him, who had a hand on her hip watching her boss have a mental breakdown. Roxi took point, lowering her gun and showing the pair that we meant no harm.

    “I’m not sure if I should kiss you, or have my little bird here feed you your own entrails.” The boss said- a ghoul. 

    “I told you to quit callin’ me that!” The fighter lady said with a thick accent. 

  “Sorry for all the trouble,” Roxi said softly. “My friend here thought it’d be a good idea to come down and watch the fights.  We didn’t know this place was...uh... Raider exclusive .”

    “Ah, I see,” the ghoul man said. “It never used to be until recently.  I kept those bastards at bay by entertaining them and in return, they let us live.  But, it doesn’t matter now.” 

    “More will come,” The fighter lady said, “I just need a quick breather and I’ll be ready to go.” 

    “‘A quick breather?’ What? So you can slam some more junk into your arm? No, no, no.  You know what, I think this was a blessing in disguise. Say .  Why don’t you guys pick up Cait’s contract?  She can be like a...uh... bodyguard of sorts.” 

    “ Me ?” Cait shouted, “And her ?  Don’t I get a say in all this, Tommy?”

    “Little bird, we’re out of business,” Tommy spun around and faced Cait fully. “I can’t pay you if we’re out of business. I can’t take care of you.  You’re a liability.  I’m trying to do you a favor, Cait.” 

Roxi held her hands out in front of her, stepping in between the two to diffuse the situation. “Guys, let’s not lose our heads here.  Tommy, was it? Okay, Tommy. I don’t so much like this talk of contracts . It sounds like slavery on paper. Cait, I can offer you a chance to work at the Dugout Inn in Diamond City as a bartender. The pay is decent.  You get to keep all of the tips you make. If people cause trouble you can rough them up and throw them out. ‘Cready and I can take you over there tonight and get you set up in a room.  The only payment in return that I will ask is to start coming off of the chems.” 

   Cait huffed and looked at Tommy with a mix of sadness and anger. “And what if I don’t?” 

   “That’s up to you, then,” Roxi said softly. “I’m giving you an option that will put a roof over your head and caps in your pockets.  I can almost guarantee that if you don’t spend your caps on drugs, you will have enough money in two months to get an apartment in their new complex.  The choice is yours.” 

    “What makes you think they’ll hire me?” Cait spat. 

    Roxi chuckled, “the owners owe me a lifetime of favors.  Plus, I think they’ll like your attitude, and so will the customers.” 

    Cait shifted her weight from foot to foot for a few seconds before grunting in frustration. “ Fine . I’ll see ya around, Tommy.” 

 

The three of us took off after Cait packed up her belongings. Roxi gave formal introductions and promised Cait that what she had said earlier was the truth.  Cait seemed to be defensive and reserved, uncomfortable with being thrown into a new life with strangers.

We exited the theater when Roxi suddenly stopped and pointed up ahead. 

   “There’s that guy!” Roxi yelled and took off running. 

 

I rolled my eyes towards Cait before running after Roxi.  Cait, confused and shouting at both of us, began running along behind.  Roxi was gaining on the guy- we had noticed he was stalking her in Goodneighbor and Diamond City for several weeks now.  It was creepy. She reached out her arm and grabbed the guy’s shoulder, forcing him backward and onto the ground.  

    Roxi pinned him down, “Why have you been following me?” 

    The guy was squirming underneath her, trying to laugh as he spoke, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” 

    “You’re lying.  I know it was you. Goodneighbor- trying to look like a drifter. Diamond City- trying to act like a guard.  And now you’re here. What gives?”

    “Look, okay, okay, okay, let me up and we’ll talk.” 

    Roxi took a moment, “fine.” She stood up and offered the spy a hand up as well. “What’s your name?”

   “Deacon,” He said, catching his breath. 

    “Why are you spying on me?” 

    “I’m...with a group that might be interested in recruiting you.” 

    “Institute spy?” She looked him up and down with disgust. 

    “No, not the Institute.  We are very much anti-Institute.” 

    Roxi's eyebrows knit together, she put her hands on her waist and tapped a foot in deep thought. “Alright,” She said, relaxing. “Want to go get a beer in Diamond City with us?” 

    My mouth dropped open, “Roxi, are you serious ?  This guy has been following you around for weeks and you offer to go get a beer together? Are you that touch starved ?” 

Roxi turned to me, “okay- first off, rude. Second of all, this guy has had several chances to go ahead and take a swipe at me for the past few weeks and hasn’t acted upon it.  Either he is a really shitty shot, or he wants me alive to discuss this recruitment stuff.  And, right now it’s three against one so his odds aren’t very good. And if he’s leading us into an ambush, we’ll just put a gun to his head, and if he’s important they’ll drop their weapons.  So, I would much rather discuss details in a loud and crowded bar in the middle of Diamond City, where if anyone pulled a weapon on me , they would have twenty pointing back at them.  Makes sense to everyone, right?” She looked at everyone, even Deacon the spy, who agreed with her. “Good.  Now, let’s get out of this open area before someone does try to put a bullet in my skull.” 

 

The four of us traveled back to Diamond City unscathed.  Deacon wouldn’t shut up while Cait stayed quiet the entire trip. Roxi led us into the city, as anyone in her posse would be welcomed into the gates with just one of her masterful smirks and a wink to a guard, and directly to the Dugout Inn.  She was welcomed to the bar with a chorus of cheers, the loudest being the Vadim. It was almost sickening how much these people loved Roxi. She didn’t seem to mind, giving a single wave of her hand and everyone was content with her acknowledgment.  

    Roxi spun around on her toes, “Cready, take the table in the far corner with our two new friends here. I’m going to talk to the owners.” She spun around again and walked off. 

    I rolled my eyes before leading the two newcomers to Roxi’s favorite table. 

I watched Roxi as she spoke to the two owners, who looked over her towards Cait. They nodded their heads, pointed to me, and signaled for the redhead. 

    “Hey, the owners want to talk to you,” I said nudging Cait. 

    She glared at me before getting up and walking to the meeting. 

 

I slouched back into my chair, trying to get the weight off of my sore feet.  Deacon was bobbing his head to the blaring music from Diamond City radio. I rolled my eyes and waved over the waitress to order a beer.  Deacon ordered one as well. Roxi walked over with Cait, a shot of vodka in each hand and a smile on her face. Cait had the same look of discomfort as she had since leaving the Combat Zone, but at least she had a bottle of moonshine in her hand.  

    “So, Cait here is going to join the crew as a full-time bartender.  Yadim loved her sass,” Roxi smirked before taking down both of her shots. 

    Cait rolled her eyes, “ Yeah. Well as long as it’s going to put caps in my pockets.” 

    “Here, here,” I said, clinking my bottle against hers. 

    Cait smirked and took a deep drink. 

    “Alright, Deacon. Let’s talk,” Roxi said, leaning back in her chair. 

 

I watched Roxi for the next hour chatting away with Deacon like they were old pals.  He didn’t give much up about his little group of spies, but he somehow got Roxi to laugh with his stories.  He did tell her that they would not intervene with her plans, but they liked her skills and would offer her a position in their group if she wanted. She declined, wanting to know more about the group and himself before signing onto anything. Deacon understood completely and dropped the subject.  Cait joined in on the conversation, slowly growing to like Roxi by the end of the night. 

I sat there, quietly, even when Roxi tried to pull me into the conversation.  Something was weighing on my mind and I didn’t care about what the others were discussing.  My mind became darker with each beer I sucked down. The more laughter Roxi, Deacon, and Cait shared, the lonelier I felt. I pulled out the wooden carving from my pocket under the table, holding it in my hand and tracing it with my thumb.  There was an ache in my chest. I stood up and left the table, and wobbled over to the other owner, I didn’t know his name, to rent a room for the night.

Chapter Text

Roxi

 

I leaned in the doorway of Cready’s room, watching him as he slept off his drunkenness from last night.  Part of me wanted to leave him here, but the other part of me didn’t want to make the long trip north with just Dogmeat.  Cready was decent company and all, but I could only imagine what he’d have to say after meeting my friends back in Sanctuary.  

As I watched him sleep, I felt a twisting in my chest that normally came with a long moment of contemplation.  Since starting our partnership, this sensation would come and leave me puzzled with the same question: how much did I like RJ MacCready? As friends? Yes, we made a good team and he matched my level of sarcasm. But...did I like him more than just a friend?  Or was he right when he called me touch starved after meeting Deacon? He had nice blue eyes that lit up the rare occasion that he actually smiled. He was quick with a joke or a remark that made me snicker and roll my eyes. We’ve had long talks on our travels.  But, he did like to drag my skills in science because it was out of his realm. And if it was out of MacCready’s comfort zone, there was no need for it in his life. I shook the thought from my head, trying to keep myself as seeing this relationship as completely professional.

    “Cready,” I called out. He let out a snort and mumbled something incoherent before turning over onto his stomach. “ Cready !” I yelled, which startled him out of his sleep. 

    He stared at me with wide eyes, “ Huh ? What time is it?”

    “It’s almost nine.” 

    “ Ugh , whatever. What do you want ?”

    “I’m going back home.”

    “ Home ? I thought this was your home ,” he whined. 

    “ Sanctuary ,” I rolled my eyes. “Do you want to come or not?” 

    Cready let out a loud groan, which ultimately was him saying why yes, I’ll accompany you on your long journey home, my friend in the most uncivilized manner possible. 

 

We were packed up and out of Diamond City by ten o’clock, Dogmeat happily trotting along beside me.  I planned to get to the old Sunshine Tradings Co-Op by nightfall, then leave from there to Sanctuary the following morning. It was about time that I checked in on the settlers there, anyway.  As we left town, I made a detour to walk through Cambridge. We walked along the ruins of CIT; I stopped and examined the rubble that used to house my classes. As much as I dreaded my time at school, I now felt an emptiness in my chest looking at the dilapidated marble and stone. 

    “So, you really went to school here, huh?” Cready said, staring at the rubble with pity in his eyes. 

    “Yeah,” I sighed heavily, “two hundred years ago.” 

    “ Yeah , that still freaks me out, ya know?” 

    I rolled my eyes, “Right. Sorry.” Out of his realm, out of his comfort zone. 

 

I turned without another glance towards the college and walked onwards. We passed the empty police station and crossed through a valley of dead ferals that was once the hub of college kid activity. Onwards to the north, where it all began. 

The entire trip was made in almost complete silence, besides me calling Dogmeat to stop sniffing and catch up every few miles.  I was surprised, as I expected Cready to have a slew of questions about Deacon and Cait. Something was bothering him, more than just his normal hangover headache.  I didn’t want to pry, figuring it wouldn’t be a nice traveling conversation, and bringing up the fact would only make him brood more. 

By nightfall, we came upon the guarded fence line for the Sunshine Tradings Settlement.  I waved to the woman on duty- her name was Rosa, she was one of the first settlers to help kick off this plot. She gave me a large hug and ushered me up the hill and into their little farming community.  

    “We have about twenty people now,” Rosa smiled. 

    “That’s wonderful! And I see that the windmills are producing a decent amount of energy for you all.” 

    

Rosa showed us to their guest house, which doubled as the medical ward when necessary.  Cready changed clothes and fell asleep within ten minutes. I, on the other hand, changed my clothes and pulled out my Nuclear Sciences III textbook to read in the light of my Pip-boy.  Dogmeat jumped up on the unoccupied bed that separated Cready’s and my own, making himself comfortable with a yawn.

I woke the next morning to Dogmeat pawing at my arm.  I found my textbook over my head, open to the same page I had started on, and my Pip-Boy on the ground with the light turned off.  Cready was still sound asleep. I rolled myself out of bed and opened the front door to let the pup out, breathing in the dewy morning air. 

The people of the settlement were stepping out of their homes and off to work.  The night guards waved friendly hellos to their replacements on their way to bed.  I watched as Dogmeat sniffed around the houses, greeting people as he passed them with a tail wag.  This little settlement was so quiet compared to Diamond City. I had to laugh at myself, thinking about how I use to compare my hometown of Punxsutany to Boston when they shouldn't even be put in the same category. 

 

Once Cready was awake and moving, we ate a small breakfast before heading out to finish our trip.  It was made in silence, as my mind turned over and over with my undetermined feelings. As we approached the final few miles of our journey, I had come up with a plan. 

    “Hey,” I said, turning to face my companion, “When we get to town, you can either grab a room in the motel or you can stay at my place. I only have one bed though, so we’d have to share.” My heart slammed in my chest, but somehow I stayed nonchalant through my entire sentence. 

    His face twisted up with an expression of disgust, “ ugh . I’ll stay at the motel.” 

    Ouch, looks like I had my answer. “Alright, cool,” I turned myself around and swallowed my pride for the rest of the trip.

As we crossed the bridge into Sanctuary, several guards lined the wall that surrounded the town, and every single one had their watchful eyes upon the incoming travelers.  I was about halfway over the bridge when a voice called out from the watchtower. 

    “Well, it’s about time you came back!” 

 

Preston Garvey.  He ran from the tower and opened the gates as we approached. He had his arms outstretched for a hug, which I obliged, but his eyes were fixated behind me and on Cready.  Dogmeat barked happily towards Preston, looking for some scratches and belly rubs from his old pal.

    “Who’s your friend?” He asked, eyes piercing through my companion as he gave Dogmeat his well-deserved pets.  

    “Preston, this is RJ MacCready, Cready, this is Preston Garvey of the Minutemen.” 

    “The Minutemen?” Cready scoffed. Oh no , we haven’t even gotten through the gate and he’s already going to start shit. “Thought you guys were through after what happened at Quincy.”

    “Not all of us abandoned the cause,” Preston said, straightening himself before turning back to me. “Where’d you find this one?” 

    “Goodneighbor.  Anyway, we have some catching up to do,” I smiled, trying my damndest to defuse the situation and move along. “Cready, the motel is the first building on the left.  You can make arrangements there while I catch up with Preston.” 

 

Cready shrugged off towards the motel, which was a two-story building we constructed from scrap that housed six small bedrooms.  Most of the tenets of the motel were traders, but every so often a traveler would pass by and take shelter for the night or hide from the radiation storms.  It was the last project I helped the team build before taking off for Diamond City. Once Cready was out of earshot, Preston crossed his arms and looked me up and down. 

    “ So , you have a boyfriend now?” 

    I rolled my eyes, “God, no.  You know, I offered him to stay with me at my place but he wanted the motel. Like, am I that ugly that he didn’t want to share a king-sized bed with me?”

    Preston laughed, “What an idiot.  Anyway...what’s bringing you back for a visit?” 

    “I wanted to check on Curie, actually.  See how’s she’s adjusting to things.” 

    He smiled, “She’s doing great .  Here comes your friend, by the way.” 

 

Cready was walking with the same annoyed look on his face that he’s had since leaving Diamond City, hands shoved in his pockets and mouth pulled up in a sneer.  I shrugged my shoulders to Preston and began our walk through Sanctuary. There were so many people here now. Every home, both old and newly constructed, housed extended families.  The crop fields were well established. According to Preston, every guard post was filled on both day and night shifts. The guard team had enough of a pool of settlers to have a replacement if someone fell ill or were injured.  They established a general store in an old pre-war home near the motel that sold everything from overproduced crops, guns, ammo, and even armor. Near the cul de sac, a newly built cabin was the local bar and grill called Penelope’s Pub .

As we passed the old mechanic shop, which was now Sturges home base of the settlement’s maintenance team and tinkering workroom, I happened to catch a passing glance of Curie sitting on a stool at the workbench, working vigorously away at something.  I tapped Preston on the shoulder and pointed to her, just to confirm that I wasn’t mistaken. He smiled and nodded his head. 

    I started to walk towards the machine shop. “Curie!” I called out, unable to hold back my excitement. 

   She snapped her head up from her project, looking for the voice that called her name. “Yes?” She asked, startled, before turning to see me approaching. “ Roxi ! It is you !” She stood and ran towards me, throwing her arms around me. “Ah! My friend! It is so good to see you!” 

    “How are you? How are you adjusting to the two-legged life?” I said, pulling from the hug but grasping her hands. 

    “Ah, never better! I have learned so many new things about the human way of life!” 

 

Curie started to list all of the things that she learned that was common knowledge to humans.  Everything from eating and bowel movements, to injuring herself and learning how to “make repairs.” As she went through her index of new adventures, Sturges stepped out from the mechanic shop wiping his hands on a towel to see what the commotion was all about.  He approached Curie from behind, putting an arm around her waist which made her jump and blush.

    “Hey, Rox,” He smiled. 

    “What’s up, Sturges?” I smirked and nodded my head towards Curie, “I see you two are getting along.”

    “Ah!” Curie said excitedly and placed her hands on Sturges’ shoulder. “I have also learned about the feeling you call love . It is so exciting!” 

    Sturges was blushing, “Well, that’s one way to tell her,” he said to Curie.  He looked at me and said, “Since Codsworth brought Curie back here after her surgery, I took over in helping her get adjusted to her new life.  And...we just seemed to connect. I don’t care that she’s a synth,” he straightened himself as if expecting rejection, “But I couldn’t help but fall for this little genius.”

    Curie gave the smallest of giggles with a beaming expression. “You helped me get into this new body, into this new world , Roxi.  But Sturges helped me settle into being my new self.” 

    “That’s amazing,” I said, looking at them with such overwhelming joy in my chest. “I’m so happy for you two.” 

   “Thanks, Rox,” Sturges smiled and pulled Curie tighter. “It’s funny how things work out, ain’t it?  Curie here is on the settlement’s maintenance team, and with her smarts we got the electrical issues figured out.  She’s also helping set up the medical clinic with the new doc in town.” 

    I smiled, “That’s fantastic.  I’m hoping I can be around more often.” 

    “Any lead on your nephew?” Sturges asked. I could feel Preston inch closer to join the conversation.

I took a deep breath, knowing that I’ve let myself stray from my path.  How do I tell them that I failed? That I gave up? How do I face the disappointment in their eyes when I tell them the truth? I didn’t even bring it up to Cready about my nephew. I’m sure this conversation would grab his attention. 

    “I...uh...I’ve hit a dead end.” I sighed, dropping my eyes from my friends. “All signs are pointing to the Institute. But...we can’t find a lead on where to even look for the Institute.  I’ve been working with Nick Valentine, who is an Institute synth himself, and he doesn’t even know where they are.”

    There was a collective sigh from everyone in the conversation circle. 

    “Well, don’t give up,” Cready said from behind.  I turned to look at him; his expression had changed from annoyed to concerned.  “That’s the worst thing you can do- to give up on him.” 

    “You’re right, Cready.  I shouldn’t give up. But this is a different kind of hunt- I’m hunting the invisible.” 

 

Later that evening, Preston, Sturges, Curie, and I all met at the Pub for dinner and drinks.  The food was great- I had the most tender Brahmin steak, a side of corn, and a cold Nuka Cola (Curie and Sturges refurbished refrigerator into working condition for the owners).  We sat around and chatted for a few hours. Preston was first to leave as he had to get some rest for his guard shift in the morning.  Sturges and Curie left about half an hour later, and I’m sure with the amount of canoodling they were doing, they weren’t going to bed for a while. 

I sipped on a beer, listening to the radio broadcast from Diamond City Radio playing “Crazy He Calls Me.” The song only added to the melancholy ache that had started building in my chest watching Sturges and Curie be so deeply in love.  I felt myself going to that dark place in the back of my mind, drifting from reality and into the world of anxiety and depression.

I thought back to my last horrible love story before the bombs obliterated the nation.  How that prick Andrew cheated on me with a blonde girl, super fit, and much prettier than I.  It wasn’t her fault, she was just as mad at him when I called him out, even throwing her drink on him. I never had a chance to cope with it, since that Saturday I was thrown into a pod and frozen for two hundred years.

Now...in this world, I felt that I would never find someone to love me the way Sturges and Curie loved one another.  For a hot second, I thought maybe MacCready would be a good suitor. But no, I confirmed that today. I let out a heavy sigh before taking a big swig of my beer. 

    “Can I ask you for a favor?” Cready asked, eyes downcast to his hands.

    “Shoot,” I shrugged.  That’s all I was good for in this world was fulfilling other people’s favors. 

“Well...let me tell you a little background first.  I...I have a son in the Capital Wasteland. He’s sick.  His mother passed away. He’s living with his grandparents.  One day he was fine...and then the next he was covered in blue boils and fevered.  The doctors there hadn’t a clue what was wrong with him. That’s why I came here to the Commonwealth.  The reason why I’m saying this...is because you mentioned about your nephew and how you’ve hit a dead end. Well...I know where there might be a cure for my son, and I’ve hit a dead-end, too.  I think you’re my best chance of getting this cure?”

      I eyed him suspiciously, “What do you need me to do?” 

     “We need to get into Med-Tek Research.  I have all the codes, but I need an extra gun on my side.” 

    “Why? What’s in there that needs so much firepower?” 

   “Ferals.  Lots of ferals.” 

    I chugged the rest of my beer and sighed heavily. “Alright, Cready.  Let’s head out tomorrow.”

Chapter Text

Roxi

 

I sat at the top of an old pine tree with Cready’s binoculars as the sun started to peek over the horizon, looking over Med-Tek Research.  He wasn’t kidding when he said this place was infested with ferals; there were at least ten shuffling about the parking lot. There were three abandoned cars still intact and not burnt out. If the car fusion cores weren’t already drained or stolen, it gave me an attack advantage. 

    “What do you see?” Cready called up. He only climbed halfway up the tree before sitting on a branch and refused to budge. 

    “Friendly ferals, of course.” I put the strap of the binoculars around my neck and pulled a grenade from one of my utility pockets.  

    “Hey, uh , Roxi?  What...whatcha got there?” 

 

I pulled the pin of the grenade and threw it- with as much force I could muster, into the parking lot.  The grenade blew- causing a chain reaction of explosions with the cars and sending the parking lot into a fiery blaze.  The ferals thrashed around before succumbing to the fire. 

   “Alright,” I called down to Cready as I started my descent, “We’re clear.” 

   He looked at me with wide eyes as I made it to his branch, “I’m letting you take lead.”

   I laughed, “Of course you are.” 

 

We entered the lobby of Med-Tek, which was entirely too quiet. I turned on the light to my Pip-Boy and started scanning the lobby.  I found a terminal without any useful information on it, only flashing a warning about the building being in lockdown. I motioned for Cready to follow, our guns at the ready for any surprise attackers. We followed the hallway, unable to gain elevator access, and stumbled upon a decontamination chamber. 

   “Why would they need this?” I asked out loud, trying to get into the computer hooked up to the chamber. 

    “Who knows. These eggheads were apparently big into chems back in your day.” 

    I hummed with disapproval, both at the mention of chems and also at the computer for being locked up. “You wouldn’t happen to have a map of this place, would ya?” 

    “Nope,” Cready shrugged, “just the password for the executive terminal.” 

    I started to walk into the bathroom to our left, “Welp. Time to start exploring.” 

 

We moved through the wreckage of the building.  We fought off the ferals that showed themselves while trying to keep our footing in the disarray.  It took us an hour to find the terminal we needed, to which Cready nervously handed me the piece of paper with the password written down. 

    “I sure hope this works,” he muttered while looking over my shoulder as I worked with the computer. 

 

I disengaged the building’s lockdown and fished through the documents left on the system.  The files discussed their drug sales that they were handing off to kids, the new preventive agent the company manufactured, and statistics on their “test subjects.” I was grinding my teeth by the end of my digging. 

    “These assholes are the reason we had to undergo random drug testing in college,” I said standing up from the chair. “Several kids in my class were removed from our program for the Mentats Med-Tek put out because they’re known to increase intelligence while high.  The college refused to push students through the system when they were choosing to go under the influence to help them academically. Who’s to say they wouldn’t use it in the field and cause a catastrophic error? Or better yet, why would the school allow someone who faked their way to the top?”

    “Med-Tek produced Chems?  Why?” Cready asked, watching me as I paced the room. 

    “To get people addicted and then jack up the prices, producing a profit.” I nodded my head towards the exit, ushering us to continue our adventure. “And from what I’m reading, they were producing a reversal and a preventive to addiction- what you’re calling the cure.  I’m guessing what your son has come down with was actually a manufactured bio-virus.” I turned around to face Cready, walking backward, “Your savior is also your enemy.”

    Cready’s face was twisted up in disgust, “Unbelievable.” 

    I turned back around and started my descent downstairs, “It’s inhumane.  And I’m sure once we go through this decontamination chamber, you’re going to see proof of that.” 

 

This time I had success with the terminal to the decontamination chamber, opening the doors and taking lead through the threshold.  Once on the other side, I flung myself over a desk on my left before the online turrets had a chance to start shooting. I hacked the terminal on the desk, deactivating the turrets and unlocking the maglocks on the doors further down the hall.  Cready slowly entered the room, pointing his gun at the turrets in case the computer command didn’t correctly code. 

We followed the doors and hallways, killing off the ferals that jumped out at us.  Some ferals were locked away in cells, which Cready finally started to come to terms with what I was describing earlier- inhumane treatment of their human lab rats. We found a few Stimpaks and Rad-X in one of the labs, which we grabbed and packed away for safekeeping and lots and lots of mental-altering Chems. 

At the end of the hall was an elevator- I groaned inwardly and hit the call button.  I hated elevators now. There was nothing more unsettling than climbing into a box surrounded by concrete in a war-ridden building, hooked to chains that were more likely rusted, of which were over two-hundred years old and way past their inspection dates. The elevator doors opened; I took a deep breath and stepped inside, going straight to the back and gripping onto the handrails. Cready stepped in after me, giving me a curious glance before pushing the down button.

    “I don’t like elevators,” I managed to whisper as the doors closed. 

    “Oh, great ,” Cready rolled his eyes. “Don’t go wiggin’ out on me, alright?” 

    I let out a nervous laugh, which was more of a whine than a laugh. 

 

The elevator came to a stop at the sub-level, and once the doors opened, the smell of decay hit us like a wall.  I gagged, putting both of my hands over my bandana to try and block the stench. 

    “I think we’re the first ones down here in a long time,” Cready gagged. “The sooner we find that cure, the sooner we can get the heck out of here.” 

    I nodded in agreement, coughing out, “Let’s get going.” 

 

I took the lead again, coming to a bend in the hallway when a turret started shooting.  I hurriedly stepped backward, knocking into Cready as bullets whizzed past our faces. A ghoul shrieked from the hallway, followed by the wet sounds of bullets hitting it.  I peeked around the corner, finding that the hallway opened into a two-story holding chamber with multiple rooms, and two turrets humming on the ceiling at each end. 

    I jumped across the open threshold to the other wall, leaving Cready on the other side. “Two turrets,” I said to him, pulling off my rifle. “If you hit the one in the back, I’ll take out the one in the front.” 

    “Got it,” He said, adjusting the rifle in his hands. 

    “On the count of three. One...two...three!” 

 

We only had seconds to shoot before the turrets turned on us and began firing. We turned and fired at our targets- hitting them and rendering them useless. Breathing a sigh of relief, I moved forward into the holding chamber. There were at least four rooms to each wall, both upstairs and down. Each room had a feral ghoul inside, thrashing about maniacally as we passed their cells. 

    “What the hell is wrong with these doctors?” Cready spat, “How could they just switch off their morality?” 

    “And people think that the end of the world was a bad thing,” I sighed to myself while reloading my guns. 

 

We found our way to a flight of stairs and continued our advance.  We found a lab further downstairs, with several ferals around the outside of the entrance that we took down with ease.  Through one of the lab's windows, I spotted several ferals on the inside. 

   “Cready,” I pointed to the window. “We have to lure them out somehow.  We can’t risk blowing that lab to pieces if it has what we’re looking for” 

    He let out a nervous sigh, “ Right . Right...so, what should we do?” 

   “I’ll get into the terminal to get the door open.  I’ll have to get back a pretty good distance away, but…” I pulled out four grenades, “These are the only four I have left. When they get through the door, we blow them up.” 

 

We each took two grenades and moved to our positions.  I accessed the door lock on the terminal and immediately started to slowly creep away from the door.  The ghouls started to wander out of the door, slowly, one by one. Once I was a safe distance away, I popped the pin of my first grenade and threw it to the ghouls’ feet.  Cready threw his first grenade out just after mine hit the ground. Two explosions went off, killing two and injuring one. I threw my second out and grabbed my gun just in case it didn’t knock off all of them.  The third explosion killed the injured feral. 

Out stepped the last ghoul- one that was glowing green and made wet slopping sounds as it walked.  I put the ghoul in my sights as Cready threw out his last grenade. I sent a shot into the glowing feral's head, which made it stumble and fall to the ground.  It wasn’t dead. The grenade blast went off, knocking out its legs. I took another shot, this one to it’s back, and finally, it succumbed to its injuries with a horrible sounding gargling growl. 

I hopped off my perch and ran towards the entrance of the lab.  Cready beat me there, eyes wild, and started to rip through the lab looking for the cure. I started searching the large lab table in the middle, finding a slender black box with a syringe fitted inside.  There were documents next to the box calling the syringe Prevent and all of the contraindications and treatment uses of the medication.  It was it- the cure. 

   “Cready, I found it,” I said calmly. 

   “What?” He whipped around and ran to me. “You did? Where?” 

   I pointed to the box, “I think it might be the very last one.  Keep it in this box, and keep it safe. These papers here,” I picked them up and folded them, “they’re directions for administering.  These documents also go over the symptoms for use, as well as side effects. Keep these with it as a reference.” 

His hands were shaking as I handed him the documents. “We did it,” His voice cracked and tears welled in his eyes. “Holy crap...we actually did it!” With a yelp of excitement, he threw his arms around me.  I was taken aback for a second, slow to return his hug. “We just gave Duncan a fighting chance to live!” His voice cracked again, followed by a few sniffles. “I don’t know how I’ll ever pay you back for this.” 

    I pulled from his bone-crushing hug, “I just want you to get this cure to your son.”

   “We have to get this to Daisy in Goodneighbor,” he said in a sudden panic. “If we leave now, we can get it to her tonight.” 

    “Woah, woah, woah, Cready.  I know you’re eager to get this cure to Duncan, but we’ve been here for longer than you think.  Sundown is in three hours. We can probably make it to Sanctuary by nightfall, and then we can get up at sunrise and make it to Goodneighbor.” 

    He let out a shuddering sigh, “yeah...yeah you’re right.” 

   “Come on, let’s get out of here.  Don’t forget anything.” 

 

The next evening, Cready, Dogmeat, and I walked into the gates of Goodneighbor with high spirits.  Cready took the lead, almost walking with a strut of confidence, into Daisy’s Discounts. 

   Daisy smiled as Cready walked in, “Well, well, well. MacCready. What do I owe the pleasure?”

   “I got it, Daisy. I found the cure to Duncan’s disease!” 

   “Oh my God! That’s wonderful news.  How’d you do it? Last time you tried the ferals almost chewed you to bits.”

   “I didn’t do it alone. Roxi here got me through Med-Tek. Now, all I need to do is get the cure into Duncan’s hands.” 

    “I have a caravan heading out to the Capital Wasteland tomorrow morning.  The captain owes me a favor, and I’m sure he won’t mind having you along as an extra gun.” 

    “Thanks, Daisy.  I’ll be here bright and early.” 

 

The conversation was not lost on me.  I heard what he had agreed to- going with the caravan to deliver the cure to his son.  Why was I so surprised by this? Cready didn’t mention going with the caravan before, but I guess it made less sense for him to stay here in the Commonwealth.  I felt overwhelmed with helplessness, the same feeling I had when I was hiding from the outside world those first few days out of the vault.  I could feel the tightness in my throat and a burning in my stomach as I stood back and let Cready finish his conversation with Daisy. 

    Cready led the way outside before turning to me and saying, “Welp, Roxi.  Thank you again for everything. I’ll figure out a way to repay you.” 

    I nodded, trying to put on a happy face for him. “ So , you’re leaving tomorrow then?” 

   “Yep, bright and early.  I can’t wait to get this to Duncan. God , I hope it works.” 

    “Me too.  Do you think you’ll come back to the Commonwealth?” 

   He gave a big shrug, “ Eh , we’ll see what happens.” 

    It hit me like a punch to the stomach. “Right.  Well, good luck with everything, Cready. I hope your son makes a full recovery.  And...if you do decide to come back and bring Duncan along, I’m sure there’s room for you two in Sanctuary if you want it.” 

    He smiled, “Thanks, Rox.” 

   “You’re welcome.  I’ll see ya around,” I headed for the gate, but Cready grabbed my arm. 

   “W-wait, you're not gonna stick around?  Have a drink?” 

   “No,” I said, feeling tears well up in my eyes. “I’m going to head back.” 

   “But...it’s dark.  And you’ll be alone.” 

   “I’ll be fine,” I tried to give my best reassuring smile. “Besides, I’m not alone, I have Dogmeat with me.  Goodbye, Cready.” 

 

I cried silently on my way back to Diamond City.  Dogmeat was kept close to me the entire trip like he knew that I wasn’t in the headspace to be on the lookout for hostiles.  I stood at the gates of the city and stared up into the sky with my hands shoved into my jacket pockets.  

Through the gates of this city, I would once again be the local Diamond City celebrity.  Everyone knew my name, but they weren’t my friends. I had Piper, but anything I said would be printed in an issue of her newspaper or brought up in a radio broadcast; Our Favorite Vault Dweller’s Opinion on Everything!   Cait would be working during my next shift at the bar, and I still feel like she would rip my hair out if she got the chance. Nick was always there to listen, but he had gotten so busy after the takedown of Cutter and his gang.  Deacon would be hard to catch up with his work. Codsworth had taken Curie back to Sanctuary to help get adjusted to life and was helping out with the farming now. Sturges wouldn’t leave Curie’s side now. Preston was too wrapped up with the Minutemen to spend an ounce of effort on my problems.  I could pour my heart out to Dogmeat, who would watch me with loving eyes, but he couldn’t respond. And MacCready would be leaving for DC in the morning, with his return uncertain.

I was alone.

So very alone. 

Chapter Text

Roxi

 

A month passed agonizingly long, and still no word from MacCready.

I worked my three jobs, even picking up the late shift to work alongside Cait at the bar on Friday and Saturday nights.  Together, Cait and I earned a killing in tips. We tossed bottles back and forth, sang the songs on the radio, and even danced on the bar.  The guys loved us. Piper would come in for a few drinks when Cait and I worked.  The three of us would start the dance floor up for the night, partying, drinking, and yelling. It was just like I was back in college again.  

It was a cry for help and no one heard me. 

At the end of the day, when I shut my apartment door, I shut out the rest of the city.  When the latch clicked into place, I felt the heaviness come crashing down on me like an ocean wave.  My lungs felt like they were filled with lead. My body ached; I rubbed my neck trying to relieve some of the tension without success.

Dogmeat whined softly, snapping me out of my internal drowning for the moment.  I put out food for him before retreating to my bed, stripping myself of my clothes, and flopping down onto the mattress.  I didn’t feel like eating again tonight; the amount of effort it would take me to make myself even the smallest of snacks seemed like it would deplete my entire energy reserve.  I was losing weight because of my neglect to eat, but only a few bites of food would send my stomach into a nauseating fit. 

I stared up at the darkened ceiling, asking for God to end my misery.  Would anyone miss me? Probably not. They would just say “oh did you hear about Roxi? Shame, huh? Who’s going to fix the water problems here in town now?” Everyone in Sanctuary had already moved on without me.  Piper would probably invite Cait onto the Morning show in my place. Shaun wouldn’t know who I was even if I did find him, so why try? His parents were dead. Maybe he was better off without me hunting for him. Tears welled in my eyes and spilled over, feeling a tight squeezing ache in my chest as I thought of the world moving on so easily without me. 

A few weeks later, I was sweeping the floor of the Dugout Inn after last call.  We had confetti and glitter all over the place- just another Friday night party.  Vadim had passed out on one of the couches after drinking too much of his favorite moonshine, and his brother went to bed after seeing the mess we made.  I let Cait leave, knowing that she had a hell of a hangover to nurse in the morning.

The front door opened and shut. I peeked around the corner to see who was coming in, ready to tell them that we were closed for the night.  Deacon stood in the doorway- sunglasses, white T-shirt, and jeans, with a smirk as he looked around the bar. 

    “Am I late to the party?” He jeered. 

    “About two hours late, actually.” I smirked and leaned on the handle of the broom, “What can I do for you, Deacon?” 

    “I heard MacCready left town.” 

    The name shot through me like being electrocuted.  I gave a single nod as a response. 

    “How are you coping?” Deacon asked, shoving his hands in his pockets. 

    I shrugged, “Could be better, I guess.  But I don’t think you came to see me at two in the morning to discuss Cready skipping town.” 

    He laughed nervously, “Yeah. Well...I wanted to ask for a favor.” 

    I rolled my eyes, “Hit me.  It’s the only thing I’m good for, anyway.” 

   “I wouldn’t say that’s the only thing you’re good for,” he muttered before stammering out, “look-look-look, I have a... valuable shipment tomorrow night.  I need...a bird's eye view.  If you catch my drift.” 

    “I can provide aerial coverage.” 

    “What would it cost to insure that my shipment makes it to its destination?” 

   I thought for a long moment, “just grab a beer with me afterward.” 

    “Awe, Rox, come on,” Deacon said with dubiety. “You gotta want more than that .” 

    I shook my head, “No...not really.  I just want to have a friend, I guess.” 

   Deacon looked off-put. He had to be in a state of disbelief and confusion, maybe even a little pity mixed in.  “Alright,” he sighed, “deal. But if you think of anything else I could do to repay you, please tell me.” 

   “When and where do you want me?” 

 

The following evening, I was perched on a rooftop across from a rundown church.  There were three raiders inside that I had taken out before lighting an old oil lamp as Deacon had instructed.  I watched from above as Deacon and a woman hurriedly rushed inside the church, lighting an oil lamp in the left window.  A couple of minutes later, an older man in a suit and matching hat, came sprinting along with a younger man and entered the church. 

I could hear them talking, but I could not make out what the group was discussing.  I liked it better this way- I didn’t want to overhear something that would ultimately get me involved further than I already was.  This group of Deacon’s liked their covertness and intimate secrecy between members. I was ninety-nine percent sure he was with the Railroad, but I didn’t ask too many questions. 

After the group fell quiet, a second oil lamp was lit in the right window.  Ten minutes passed before a lone figure moved through the darkened streets and into the church.  The group discussed amongst each other again, and then they rushed out. The older man and the newest arrival took the lead, with Deacon and his female companion taking the tail.  In the middle was the young man that followed the older man earlier- I assumed he was the special package being delivered, an Institute Synth. 

Synths were a strange grey-area for me.  Everyone in the Commonwealth that wasn’t with the Railroad seemed terrified about their existence.  On one hand, Synths were interesting because of the pure science that it would have taken to create human-like robots.  Did I agree with the science of creating Synths? No, as it broke the robotic laws I was preached while in college. But, on the other hand, I thought of my two friends, Nick and Curie. Nick was an older generation Synth, and I would trust him with my life.  Curie was a transplant, once a Miss Handy of Vault 81 that collectively made the decision herself to become a Synth. I would put my life at risk to save hers, just as I would for any of my human friends. Hell, I helped her get a Synth body so she could fulfill her wish. 

But...this young man that was being escorted to a safe house?  Would I risk my life just to keep him alive? And with that being said, I had to think about all of the people I’ve killed and the people I’ve helped.  I never questioned their existence as either a Synth or a Human. In truth, it was out of habit from two-hundred years ago when Synths didn’t exist. Back then, we never had to question whether or not someone was actually a human.  The only thing we cared about is if you were a communist sent to spy on Americans.  I couldn’t help but snicker at my memories before feeling an immense overtaking of dread, bringing me back to reality. 

I followed the group by rooftop, sprinting across the old homes, being careful with my footing.  I popped off any Raiders that were ahead of the transport team before they had time to wise up to the ambush.  When we approached the last leg of the journey, I knelt on the corner of a building, peering through my scope as the team made it to their destination.  

The sun was just beginning to rise on the horizon as I watched the team disperse.  I climbed down from my perch and met Deacon on the bridge.  

    “The stories don’t do your shooting justice,” Deacon said with a huge grin. 

    I rolled my eyes and shouldered my rifle, “Let’s get out of here and get some sleep.” 

 

That same night, after sleeping through the majority of the day, Deacon and I met at the Dugout Inn after my shift ended.  He ordered us a round of beer, which he swore would be on his expense, but I eyed him skeptically. The atmosphere of the bar was good- the music was loud, people were dancing and drinking.  Cait was serving at the bar, keeping the men entertained with her crass attitude. 

    “Here’s to you, Roxi,” Deacon held out his beer, “For being the ultimate badass of the Commonwealth.” I tapped my beer bottle to his and we both took a deep drink. “Thank you again for your help.” 

    “No problem, Deacon.  Thank you for upholding your end of the bargain.” 

    “That’s what friends are for,” he smirked. “Have you thought about any other way I could pay you back besides this?” 

    I twisted my beer bottle in my hand for a moment before looking into Deacon’s sunglass-hidden eyes. “Your friends are good at getting information, yeah?”

    “Depends on what you’re looking for.” 

    “Well…” I leaned in closer to him, keeping my voice low, “can you get some intel on the Institute for me? About Shaun?” 

    Deacon raised his eyebrows, “We can try our damnedest.” 

   I sat back in my seat, “do that for me, and we’ll consider it even.  And if I’m not around...relay that same info to Nick Valentine.” 

    “Are you planning on leaving?”

   “You never know when I might not be around,” I shrugged and took another swig of my beer. 

 

Deacon and I sat together for a couple of hours, drinking booze and eating radchicken wings.  He insisted on walking me back to my apartment at the end of the night. We had to make a detour to Nick’s office to pick up Dogmeat before heading to my place.  

    Deacon stopped outside of my apartment door, leaning against it and crossing his arms. “Roxi, my friends were very impressed by your shooting.”

   “Oh,” I huffed a laugh. I knew where this conversation was going. I tried to smile, acting natural, but on the inside, my anxiety flared. “Thanks.” 

   “They were so impressed that when we got back to HQ, Glory raved about your performance.  I think you met her before when you took your Miss Handy friend to Goodneighbor for a transplant.” 

    “ Ah,” I said, connecting the dots, “yes.  I did meet her. She was rather reluctant at first, but I think she had come to find that Curie would make good use of her new body.” 

    “Glory is one too, ya know?” He looked around the premises, ensuring that no one was within earshot, and whispered, “a synth.” 

    “Amazing, isn’t it?  How well Synths blend in.” Drop the subject. Drop the subject. Drop the subject. 

    “I need to know, Roxi.  Would you put your life on the line for a synth?” 

     Fuck, I knew he was going to ask. I took a deep breath, taking a moment to think of a good response, but settled on, “It depends on the situation.” 

    “I want you to think about your answer, Roxi.  My friends want to invite you to our team. And I- personally, will show you the ropes. But, you need to be certain that you would risk your life to save a synth, no matter the cost.” 

    “I’m not sure if I should join anyone’s team, Deacon.  I’ve avoided it thus far.” 

    “Well...I think my friends would benefit from having your skills on our side.  And you would benefit from having us in your corner, especially if you start hunting down the Institute.  So...just give it some thought, Rox. Alright? And...listen, I can tell you’re going through a rough patch.  I might not be around all of the time, but if you need me, sneak a coded message into one of the Diamond City Radio ads.  We can come up with something later. If I hear it, I’ll come to see you. Got it?” He opened up his arms for a hug; I obliged. “Have a goodnight, Rox.  Just hold on, things will get better.” 

 

I walked into my apartment, shutting the door behind me, and slumped to the floor, sobbing.  After several minutes of having a mental breakdown, I got myself up and sat on my bed next to Dogmeat.  I stroked his fur, wide awake as my sleep schedule had changed to accommodate the night-time delivery run. 

As my boredom started to get the best of me, I started flipping through the settings and functions of my Pip-Boy.  I turned on the radio function, finding a new signal had popped up on the screen, Military Frequency AF95.  A military frequency?  All of a sudden? Curious, I clicked down to the signal and turned it on.

    “ This is scribe Haylen of the 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…” 

 

I sprung up from my bed, grabbing my guns, utility belt, and extra ammo.  I shoved as many supplies I had at my disposal into my backpack. I fixed my hair into a ponytail and wrapped my bandana around my face.

    “Come on, Dogmeat.  Let’s see what’s happening at the police station.” 

    Dogmeat jumped from the bed with a happy bark.