November 12, 2287 – Has someone ever told you something about their past that completely changed how you perceived them? Reason I ask is because I just had a very interesting chat with someone back at Diamond City, and something she told me revealed a perfectly reasonable explanation as to why she’s so aggressively trying to get the word out about a danger she sees threatening the entire Commonwealth. OK, you know who I’m talking about, but I’ll get to that story in just a moment.
After helping Danse find the deep range transmitter at the ArcJet site, I had a thought that I might go back to the Red Rocket and pick up a set of power armor to take with me to Diamond City, since that had been my reason for going back home in the first place. But I was so close to the Back Bay, I decided to just go ahead and see if I could have that chat with Piper about locating the Institute. I wasn’t sure what kind of scene I’d make showing up there in a T-51 suit anyway. If the Brotherhood had already shown up, that would be one thing. But I definitely didn’t want to be the first one walking through the entrance in a giant metal mech suit. I wanted to slip in, get the info I needed, and then be on my way to wherever the next stop was. For all I knew, the next step in my journey would be a stealth mission, and if that was the case, I didn’t have a place at Diamond City to leave the power armor, and it probably wasn’t best to leave it out in the open. I was pretty sure I couldn’t be the only wanderer in the Commonwealth that carried a few Fusion Cores in his supply bag. The sets I had found so far had been in remote areas or areas frequented by raiders or other undesirables. Leaving one in a highly trafficked area was most likely an invitation to have it stolen. But I was about to tell Piper my life story, so perhaps I could rent out a corner of Publick Occurrences and keep it there. I could ask anyway. I didn’t know exactly how much leverage I’d have, since I did also need to pick her brain about the Institute.
As I approached the western side of Fenway, all was quiet. No Super Mutants, no disturbances. The sight of the rusted gate over the Park’s entrance jogged a memory that I needed to pick up that green paint from Hardware Town for Abbot, maintainer of the Wall. I had made him a promise that if I could find any, I’d bring it back for him. I made a quick trip down the block and was in and out of Hardware Town in a matter of minutes. On our last visit, Nick and I had scrounged up some valuable solvents and electronics, and had put them in a cache hidden among some rotting corpses dumped by raiders that had infested the store. The smell had apparently deterred anyone from discovering the stuff, so I got a shopping cart from the front, packed up the paint as well as the items in the cache, and wheeled it all to Diamond City. Originally, I had thought I’d be bringing these items to the Red Rocket for Sturges, but he seemed to be making out just fine there, and I was probably going to need any caps I could by turning them in at the Diamond City Science Center.
My first stop was Abbot though. He lit up when he saw me approaching with the cart full of gallons of paint. I teased him a bit, asking him what he’d do if I could only find blue paint, and immediately felt terrible when I saw all the joy drain from his face. “No, no,” I said, and quickly pried open one of the cans. Abbot poured a little out into a tray, handed me a roller, and asked me if I’d do the honors. I dipped the roller in, and a beautiful deep green hue covered its surface. As I transferred the color to the Wall, and spread it out over a few square feet, I felt somewhat hypnotized by the sticky sound of the roller spreading the color up, then down, then slowly across. I hadn’t realized how faded the Wall had been. This new color being applied made it feel like something in the Commonwealth was new again. Within a minute or two, the roller had transferred all the paint, but I still stood there staring at the slightly textured pattern left by the new layer. I slowly turned around and handed the roller to Abbot, still in a weird daze, but he broke me out of it.
“Looks great, eh?”
“Will it be enough?” I asked?
“Should be enough to get a good coat on it,” he replied. He was pleased enough to offer me a nice bonus, but I turned it down, and headed for the Science Center, where I unloaded everything else in the cart for 600 caps.
After that, I stopped over at Nick’s place. He was in his office, working on some older case files. “So you made it back in one piece,” he offered?
“Yeah, with a little help from the Brotherhood.” It was only then that I realized I hadn’t seen the giant Brotherhood airship over Fenway.
“I thought from a distance that that airship was hovering over Diamond City, but it’s not here, is it? Did it move?” “Nope,” Nick replied. “It was never here. I’m told it made a beeline for the harbor. Been sitting there ever since. They haven’t made contact with Diamond City yet, so who knows what the plan is.”
“I ran into them just outside of Fort Hagen. They’re equipped to the hilt, and they pretty much have the northwest corner of the Commonwealth covered with soldiers and acolytes.”
Nick paused, considering.
“Not only that,” I continued, “but I kinda helped a few of them over at the Cambridge Police Station. A Paladin named Danse had been holed up there with two other soldiers. They were trying to get a message out to the Brotherhood, and Danse and I ended up fighting some synths up at the ArcJet site for some kind of transmitter. One other thing – I’d lay low if you see any of them. They made it totally clear to me that they don’t like synths. Any synths. The word ‘abomination’ might have been thrown around a bit.”
“Marvelous,” Nick replied.
I mentioned I was heading over to Piper’s to give her my life story, or at least some of it, and I’d appreciate a timely interruption in perhaps ten or fifteen minutes. If our meeting was going on any longer than that, I was probably being talked into spilling more than I had intended.
So here’s the thing about Piper. She’s very aggressive when going after a story. I’ve seen her hound folks around Diamond City for bits of information, and half the time they reply with words I won’t repeat here. Some of them don’t seem to trust her, while others just don’t seem to like her. She takes a lot of shit from Diamond City residents, and it’s well known she’s in a feud with the Mayor after that soup story as well as inferences that he’s meeting with shady characters. But everyone’s more than happy to read Publick Occurrences. I mean, she seems to be earning a living. So when we sat down to talk, I was determined to spend an equal amount of time asking questions as I was answering them. In the end, our discussion about my life story revealed a lot more about her than I think it did about me, but I guess that’s subjective.
When I got to Publick Occurrences, Piper didn’t look at all surprised to see me. “Nick told me you and he had quite an adventure. Care to fill me in about it? He was being cagey, but I guess that’s nothing new. He did say you didn’t find your son yet. Sorry to hear that.”
I told her Nick would be by shortly, and we could talk about what happened at Fort Hagen then, but that I’d like to do that life story interview possibly in exchange for anything she could tell me about the Institute.
“The Institute, huh,” she replied? “The Commonwealth’s Boogeyman. Sure, let’s have a chat.”
She led me to a room behind the shop, a sort of den, where her sister Nat sat reading nearby in a sectioned off area behind some cement blocks. We sat down on a big red couch, and she started the conversation by asking about my time in the vault. I said if that’s what she wanted to know about, I was afraid the article was going to be a lot shorter than she had intended. I told her my family had been frozen, and that I had spent all of maybe an hour at most in Vault 111, most of it trying to find my way out after I woke up. But she seemed intrigued by this, and asked if I had been alive before the war. When I replied that I was over 200 years old, I could see the gears spinning at that point. “Oh my god – a man out of time,” she said, echoing the words that Mama Murphy had used weeks ago when I had first met her.
She asked what had changed about the Commonwealth in 200 years. I replied that that I couldn’t really even compare the two. Really, everything was different.
Piper just looked at me, and for my part, this was right about the time when I started to feel like I was holding a pretty weak hand to start asking for favors.
She searched for something that might elicit a wordier response.
“So let’s try something different. I’ve been trying to get people to pay attention to the kidnapping that’s happening everywhere in the Commonwealth. I have to hope it’s not just indifference, that it’s more likely they’re scared. So if that’s the case, if you had a chance, what would you say to someone out there who has had a loved one go missing, but who is too scared or feels too hopeless to go looking for them?”
I tried to come up with something meaningful, thoughtful, but all I could muster was what I felt right now.
“You just have to keep going. Take each day as it comes, keep moving forward.”
Piper seemed pleased with that answer, so I asked her, “what keeps you going? Why are you so invested in this story of missing people? If you’re constantly banging your head against a wall, trying to get people to pay attention, why keep trying? I’ve seen how people react to you when you’re just looking for information that could help people.”
She said that when you’re trying to help people, playing nice doesn’t get you too far.
Seeing my puzzled look, she continued.
“Look, I’ve been trying to warn warn Diamond City for a long time about the threats out there, and all I ever get is, ‘why can’t you write something nice for a change, something that’s happy and uplifting?’ It’s enough to make me want to hang up my hat some days.”
“Then why keep going,” I asked.
She replied, “that’s where your statement resonates – you have to keep going, because people deserve to know the truth, even when it means some drone from the Institute could pay you visit in the dead of night.”
I looked over at Nat. She had been looking up from her book, watching for my reaction, but her eyes quickly darted back down to the pages in front of her.
So even Nat knew of the potential danger. Piper looked over at her, then turned back to me, leaned in, and told me the story of where they grew up.
“When I say the truth protects us, I know. I’ve seen firsthand what the truth can do.”
She went on to describe how she and Nat had grown up in a small settlement way out in the Commonwealth, where their dad had been part of the local militia. “Keeping the Raiders off our backs, and the Mirelurks out of our latrines,” she said he used to say. One day, he turned up dead. His captain, a real piece of work named Mayburn, claimed that raiders must have gotten him on watch. But after doing some digging, Piper found out Mayburn had sold the town out when he thought he wasn’t getting paid enough for his work. He had made a deal with some local raiders. He’d leave the gates to the town open and let them loot it in return for a cut of the profits. Piper figured her dad must have found out and was going to expose the deal, but turned up dead first.
So what did Piper and her sister do? They went to the mayor, who didn’t even want to listen to their story. That’s when the two of them decided to paper the entire town with WANTED posters for the captain. It caused such an uproar among the townspeople, that the mayor finally decided to listen. As a result, when the evening raid arrived, the traps had been set, and the raiders were killed or imprisoned.
Piper and Nat’s actions had saved the town, but Piper didn’t want any credit. She was emphatic that the people saved themselves because they knew the truth.
Suddenly, things started making a lot more sense. In her mind, just outside the Diamond City gate, Piper saw a very real Boogeyman, peering over the Wall as the city residents just went about their business as if they had no idea who or what was staring them down. That’s why she pushed so hard. That’s why she kept putting herself and Nat in jeopardy, even pushing the Mayor far enough that he felt he had to lock her outside of Diamond City altogether. That’s how I had found Piper when I first arrived at Fenway’s gate. Something sinister was going on here – something larger than a few kidnappings, and something to which it was obvious that Shaun was connected. It was time to tell Piper what had happened at Fort Hagen.
As if on queue, there was a knock at the door, and the three of us jumped. It was Nick. “Well, Nicky Valentine walks into my office for a change,” said Piper, leading Nick to remark that it shouldn’t be much of a surprise, since the three of us seemed to be more connected than ever.
“So I take it you’re finally letting me in on this case of yours,” she offered?
That’s exactly what we did. I told her about how Kellogg turned out to be working for the institute, and how he told me they had Shaun. She said this is exactly what she had been talking about. “I know,” I said, “that’s why it’s even more important now that we bring you in on this.”
She said she didn’t know how much help she could be. She had been investigating the Institute for a year, and all she knew was that they were kidnapping people in the middle of the night, and that no one knew where the Institute actually was, or how to get in.
“But there’s one person who has to know, right,” she asked?
Nick jumped in, “the person who took Shaun there had to have a way in and a way out.”
“I guess that’s going to be a problem,” I replied, “what with him being in hell and all.”
Piper looked at me in surprise, “So, a murder and kidnapper gets his brains blown out by an avenging parent.”
Nick slowly began to pace around the room, repeating Piper’s line about brains.
“You know, there’s a place in GoodNeighbor called the Memory Den where you can relive the past moments of your mind as clear as the day they happened. If anyone can get a dead brain to sing, it would be Dr. Amari, the mind behind the memories.”
So all we needed was a piece of Kellogg’s brain, which we didn’t have, and I wasn’t looking forward to going all the way back to Fort Hagen, and then trying to find my way through the maze of corridors once again just to locate a piece of scorched grey matter. “I don’t know how much brain there was left after that explosion,” I mentioned to Nick.
He said he didn’t think going back to Fort Hagen would be necessary. While examining Kellogg’s body, Nick had found a couple cybernetic implants that he suspected had come from the Institute, and had snagged them thinking they might give him some clues not only about Shaun, but also about himself. “Never leave a possible clue behind,” he said. One of the implants had been in Kellogg’s brain, and Nick said it was back at his office, prompting Piper to make a gagging noise.
“You making a habit of keeping brains back at your office Nick? Do I need to start worrying about you?”
“You should start worrying about whether or not there’s enough info left in that brain piece for Dr. Amari to do her magic on it.”
So with no time to lose, Nick and I headed out to GoodNeighbor, to see if Kellogg’s brain would sing for us.