November 5, 2287 – As I headed toward Publick Occurrences, the Diamond City paper run by Piper and her sister, the sun was rising over the bleachers opposite home plate. It was mid-morning, and the thought of starting another mission with no sleep wasn’t really appealing to me. Nick Valentine had been gone for a couple weeks, according to his assistant, Ellie. Either he was holding his own wherever he was, or he was already dead. I was getting in the game pretty late. I figured once I’d read Piper’s article on these “synths,” I’d get a room at the “Dugout Inn” for a few hours and get some sleep before heading to Park Street Station. But, that’s not what happened. As I walked toward home plate, and away from the horrible nightmare that I had just witnessed by the Power Noodles stand, I was swept up in a group of people that I discovered were heading to The Wall. Apparently, Mayor McDonough had called a town meeting and everyone was expected to go. I took it as a good sign – open communication. Shit went down, mayor addresses it — that sort of thing. Maybe McDonough had a handle on things after all, and Piper really was just stirring the pot?
There was obvious tension in the small crowd that was gathering in front of the makeshift stage set up in front of The Wall. McDonough was pacing back and forth as people started taking seats on the wooden park benches arranged in a semicircle facing him. There were maybe 20 or 30 people in attendance at this point, far fewer than I had expected were populating this “city.” Maybe everyone wasn’t here? Whatever the case, the Mayor opened by saying he wanted to address the subject that was on everyone’s mind. Here we go.
That subject? Well, obviously it was the “disgusting article that Piper had written.” Wow. OK. Calling Piper out by name, and no mention of the guy who had just been slaughtered by Diamond City security not an hour ago because someone thought he was a robot or something. No, the real issue was that Diamond City had been united for 150 years, said the mayor – united by the “Great Green Guardian” behind him, and united by the faith and trust that Diamond City citizens had in each other. That 150 years of unity had been shattered, apparently, by a single newspaper article Piper had written about “synths.”
McDonough stopped then, and I remember thinking it was quite odd that he then made a particular point to the group that had gathered. He wanted everyone to know that he was not a synth, that he was the same flesh-and-blood human being that he had been since he was a boy – a boy who had been brought up just down the road by the waterfront. He wouldn’t be abandoning his post merely because the press had made some heinous accusations. With that, he closed his speech, still not mentioning the shooting that had occurred, and left the stage. What the hell had Piper written? Jesus Christ.
As the crowd dispersed, I noticed Piper all the way in back, leaning against one of the posts that held up a giant wooden water tank. Her arms were crossed, and her head was down. When she looked up, our eyes met and just she kind of shook her head, as if to say, “can you believe that shit?”
I followed her back to the Publick Occurrences trailer, and asked to see this article she had written. She grabbed a copy of the paper, threw it down on a desk and said, “have at it.”
I sat down, and began reading. Piper’s inflammatory, rabble-rousing piece was about an event called “Broken Mask,” that had happened some sixty years earlier. It signified the first time that the citizens of the Commonwealth realized that the secret entity known as “The Institute” had been capable of making “synthetic humans,” or “synths,” that were virtually indistinguishable from real people. The basis of the article was an interview Piper had conducted with a direct witness of this event, a woman named Eustace Hawthorne, who had been twenty years old when it all went down.
The former site of Power Noodles was a bar, and it was at this bar that a stranger had come to Diamond City from someplace out west. His name was Mr. Carter, and he had been regaling those gathered at the bar with tales of adventure that grew more and more interesting as the small crowd gathering around him became more and more inebriated. As the evening wore on, Mr. Carter apparently got a strange twitch in his face, immediately after which he stood up, grabbed a revolver from his jacket, and shot the barkeep dead. By the time Diamond City security arrived and unloaded round after round into Mr. Carter and put a stop to his killing, three or four more people had been brought down by the stranger’s revolver. It was only after this, when his — or its — wounds were examined, that the citizens of Diamond City discovered Mr. Carter was not a creature of flesh and blood, but rather, was constructed of mechanical, man-made components.
So where did Mayor McDonough figure into all this? And why did he so carefully state that he was not a synth? Well, Piper had used the Mayor as a backdrop for her story, mentioning that as she sat a few seats down from him at Power Noodles, watching him consume his dinner, it occurred to her that something as simple as eating together is an activity humans shared that they thought was exclusively reserved for them alone, and not for machines. Yet, those people who assumed this had been wrong. That was it. That was what had gotten McDonough all riled up – that he thought perhaps Piper was accusing him of being a synth because she mentioned him in an article about Broken Mask.
I looked up at Piper. “Seriously,” I said?
“Getting the picture now,” she replied?
I told Piper I needed to go get some rest, that I was heading out to look for Nick Valentine in a few hours. She said I better be well armed, and well armored, that Skinny Malone’s gang was known for its firepower. I might even want to hire some help. I said thanks, but I was going to try to go in stealth-like and, if I could, see if he was alive first. At least that was the plan, but my plans never did seem to work out exactly as I hoped, at least not so far. Still, I was going to try. No sense engaging if Valentine was already dead, and no sense putting him in danger if he was alive.
Several hours later, and after a stop at Myrna’s to top off my ammo, I was headed out of Diamond City, and down Boylston Street toward the Common and Park Street Station.
I didn’t get far past Fenway, when I was attacked by a pack of wild mongrels. They came out of nowhere and started biting my ankles, and I quickly decided shooting at them probably wouldn’t be very effective, nor would it be wise, since I kind of liked my feet, worn out though they were, so I reached for the Rockville Slugger I had thought would be a souvenir, and started swinging wildly at one after another as they charged at and sunk their fangs into me. The first few were fairly easy to waive off, but the last one I kept hitting and hitting, but it just kept coming at me. It took almost all my strength to fight the damn thing off, and finally, it was a bloody mess on the street. By that point, I felt not much better than it looked. I staggered toward a door in one of the buildings, and pretty much fell through it, surprising a bunch of raiders who had been camping out. My luck again. I ducked behind a wall and we traded shots for a while, until they were all dead. This was the first raider outpost I had discovered that wasn’t just out in the open. The brownstones in the Back Bay were in pretty rough shape, and the bombs had destroyed them to an extent where a lot of them you could just wander from one right into the other, through great holes in the walls, or up and down floors that had partially collapsed. The raiders had made a little encampment out of this one, and out back they had used giant plates of steel and other building materials to create walls, much like we had done at the Red Rocket and at Sanctuary Hills. On a street out in back, was a decapitated body hanging from a giant sign, similar to the one I had seen near Union’s Hope Cathedral. I guess I knew what to look out for now. Hanging decapitated bodies? Raiders’ den.
I had only been away from home a few days, and already it felt like ages since I had left. I wondered what was going on with Preston, Mama, even Dogmeat, and the other settlers who now called the settlements of Red Rocket and Sanctuary Hills home. Then I thought about the people at Tenpines Bluff. The raiders at the Corvega factory were still an issue. Man, they were everywhere. Out in the open, at the Corvega plant, and even here in the old Brownstones of the Back Bay. But civilization seemed to be winning for the moment. The enemies of community and decency seemed to be in pockets, and not any kind of organized resistance. Diamond City had stood for 150 years, and in all that time, no group had been able to bring it down.
Realizing I had almost been daydreaming, I was suddenly awakened by a stinging in the calf of my right leg. It had mutant dog teeth marks in it. I had been bitten pretty badly, worse than I had thought. No wonder I felt like shit. Who knew what kind of crap was coursing through my veins. I had half a mind to head back to Diamond City to get patched up before continuing, but I was pretty close to Park Street. From the top level of the Brownstone, I could see up Boylston, and in the distance, the corner of Boston Common, just on the other side of which would be Park Street Station. I grabbed whatever chems the raiders had stashed in the most obvious places, and exited onto Boylston. I realized I was just across from the Public Library. Farther down Boylston, across a small courtyard, was Trinity Church. The lights were on. Maybe I could rest for a bit there and maybe there would be someone who could help me get patched up a little.
I staggered up to the heavy doors, and slowly pushed them open. Immediately, I was hit with such a foul smell of rotting flesh, that I almost vomited. Just inside the church doors, directly in front of me, colors enhanced by rays of light shining through the church windows, were mesh bags of guts and bones. Some were on the floor, others were hanging from beams across the top of the vestibule. They were the same sort of gore bags that I had seen on the corner near Fenway where the Super Mutants had camped out. And sure enough, just as my brain was registering this, a minigun started splintering the door behind me from the main area of the church near the podium. I ducked into a side room off the vestibule and pulled out the laser musket, as it was really the only weapon I had that was both powerful enough and accurate enough to take down these monsters from a distance. A couple of them charged into the room, and I was able to hit them one by one as they entered, thankfully avoiding getting hurt any more than I already was. That one with the minigun at the opposite end of the church wasn’t moving, however. He was just going to sit there and wait patiently for me to make a move. Honestly? That pissed me off. I was going to take this bastard down.
I teased him by holding my hat out in front of the doorway, and sure enough, a spray of minigun bullets hit the doors like a steady stream of daggers flying over the church pews. Whenever this mutant wanted to fire, it seemed like the minigun would took a second or two to spin up, and that would be the time I could get a quick shot in with the musket. After a few rounds of this, the Super Mutant at the podium got smarter, and he wasn’t firing until I actually made an appearance in the doorway. It was a careful dance, and I ended up with a few grazes – one on my arm, and one on my hip. But eventually, the battle was over, and of course, I was in even worse shape. So much for this place being a respite from the chaos outside. I made my way into the main part of the church, cautiously looking for more Super Mutants, but there didn’t seem to be any more around. They hadn’t exactly been bashful in announcing themselves whenever they were present, so I figured I was pretty safe. Well, safe from Super Mutants for the moment anyway.
I navigated amongst the collapsed beams and pews that had fallen half way into the floor below. It felt like things were still unstable, and I had to watch my footing lest I end up down in the cellar, bringing parts of the church down on top of me. The rays of sunshine streaking across the church from the windows above the main level were just stunning, and although the old church was in shambles, it still had a kind of charm to it.
Half way to the podium, I went down a collapsed floor into a nursery area in the basement. Some kid-sized chairs and little tables where Sunday school classes had been held once upon a time were scattered about, along with assorted toys and some water-wrinkled religious texts. Where was religion now, I wondered? Were their any organized religions left? The Brotherhood of Steel seemed to be the only one I had heard of since I had come out of the Vault, but there had to be others. I wondered what faith meant in this world? What good had it all done? All that praying in my time. All that praying for peace, and now, you might say the most famous church in the entire Commonwealth seemed to be inhabited by creatures spawned straight from hell. It reminded me of my dream from a few nights ago, when I had met the devil himself. I didn’t even remember what he had looked like now. I seemed to sense him more than see him, and couldn’t make out any of the features in his face.
I sat down in one of the little Sunday School chairs, looked up, and just scanned the crumbling building around me. I noticed a teddy bear in the corner of the floor, its head and arm ripped off, stuffing spilling onto the bare concrete. I had pushed through any number of challenges in the outside world thus far, and taking a trip to an old subway station to find Nick Valentine had seemed like a simple idea when I had told Ellie that I’d do it for a hundred fifty caps. I’d be helping her and helping myself at the same time if I actually found him. But the fact was, I hadn’t even reached the Common yet, let alone Park Street Station, and already I was badly in need of medical help. I slumped off the little chair, and onto the cold floor and turned on my back. I could see all the way up to the top of the church from here. Specs of dust fell like snow through the brilliant rays of sunlight. I closed my eyes. Behind my eyelids, and in my mind, the scene stayed in motion.