The Search

28 – To Kill a Courser – Part 1

November 29, 2287 – Nick and I made a right turn in the courtyard after emerging from the early morning bustle of Diamond City. We headed north through the passage in the wall of scaffolding that served as a security checkpoint against the Super Mutant compound that had established a hold on the neighborhood just up the street. But it wasn’t the Super Mutants that the Diamond City security guard warned us about as we passed through and entered the Commonwealth’s crumbling streets.

“Feral Ghouls like to hide in the dark. Makes night patrol a real frightfest,” he noted. I hadn’t seen many feral ghouls wandering around within the city limits, they were mostly in the outskirts, or down in the subway tunnels. Still, I took the words to heart, considering it a reminder that we were no longer under the protection of Fenway security.

And sure enough, a couple blocks north, maybe halfway between Diamond City and the Charles River, security was in a battle with residents of the aforementioned Super Mutant stronghold. Nick and I helped them take out the current crop of offenders, and subsequently continued on our way along the eerily quiet streets toward the shoreline.

The silence was broken by a surprisingly nimble steel-colored robot with yellow highlights, and clamp-type hands that jumped out in front of us from behind a building. Trailing it was another eyebot spouting more nonsense about this Mechanist and how we shouldn’t be afraid of these robots that were our allies. They didn’t really seem like allies to me, and I was starting to think I was going to have to track down this Mechanist sooner rather than later because now I was just getting annoyed that I couldn’t take two steps in the whole northwest quadrant of the Commonwealth without running into one of his or her henchmen? Henchwomen? Henchthings? Whatever they were. I was almost ready to just temporarily abandon my courser chip mission and put a stop to this immediately, but then I noticed the outline of the drawbridge Nick and I needed to cross into Cambridge had started to poke through small voids in the early morning fog drifting over the Charles, which quickly snapped my head back into focus on my mission.

We made our way quickly along the deteriorated road that bordered the river leading to the bridge, and eventually saw that while this bridge was fully intact, there was going to be a slight issue crossing it. This was the easternmost bridge leading from the Back Bay to Cambridge. The drawbridge housed in its center section appeared to be raised about half-way, and smack dab in the middle was a large ship lodged between the two halves, fouling up the works. It was obvious we weren’t going to be able to move the ship, and thus lower the drawbridge. The question for Nick and me was whether or not there was a possible path across.

I took out my binoculars and noticed a ladder leading from the right side of the drawbridge, which was raised a couple stories higher than the left section, across to the top of the ship, and then it looked like we could get from the ship to the rest of the bridge via a short jump. But there was another issue – I saw some movement on the decking of the ship. Several heavily armed raiders were patrolling, packing what looked like some mighty heavy weaponry.

I asked Nick if he thought we should find another way across the Charles to CIT. We were obviously outnumbered, and there didn’t appear to be an easy location from which to get involved in a firefight. It was possible we could hide along the riverbank and snipe at them from a distance, but complicating the matter was that the ship looked like it had been towing a large platform stacked with metal storage containers. There could be even more raiders hiding amongst them.

A couple blocks back, I had noticed the Fens green line station entrance. Prior to the war, I had often taken the green line at that stop after a game and had transferred to the red line at Park Street on my way to College Station. Nick wasn’t sure if the lines were still intact, and he reminded me that Park Street had been turned into Vault 114, where I had rescued him.

Even if did make it to College Station, we’d end up having to backtrack a bit to get to the CIT Ruins, but a stealthy walk through Cambridge was a route I had taken not too long ago when I had rescued the folks at Back Street Apparel, so I sort of knew what to expect from that part of the trip.

We headed back to the subway entrance, and walked down the long frozen escalator. As soon as we reached the bottom of the stairs, it was obvious the situation wasn’t hopeful. Most of the concrete walls had collapsed sections, and rebar was sticking out all over. We crawled through a hole in one of the walls that led to the subway tracks, and had to immediately put down a couple bloatflies and giant radroaches, but at least there were no ghouls lurking. What appeared to be a recently deceased raider was propped up against an old subway car parked at the station. The section of track headed outbound was obviously blocked, the ceiling completely collapsed onto the roof of the subway car, and while I thought for a second that passage might be possible through the car itself, a quick reconnaissance revealed that not to be the case as the first door was blocked by the cave-in, even thought the interior of the car was otherwise intact.

The inbound side of the station wasn’t much better. Nick and I walked through the damp haze a few hundred feet up the track, but that way was blocked as well. It seemed we were going to have to deal with the raiders on the bridge after all. I started to feel a creeping anxiety rising through me. My calves started cramping up, and I was suddenly weak and nauseated – a combination of dread for the battle I knew was about to take place, along with the claustrophobia I was starting to feel in this station that used to be part of my life, the very real feeling that whatever memories I had left of my former life were being actively smothered, one-by-one, by this new reality. Every time I thought of Sanctuary Hills, I’d now think of the vault just above it, where Nora had died. Every time I thought about Fenway, it was now Diamond City and the accompanying knowledge of all the dangers just outside its walls. Every time I thought about the Commons, I’d think about the nightmare creature I had killed there and the radioactive barrels that were dumped in the gazebo where Nora and I had once stopped on a weekend walk through to listen to a live jazz band.

I needed to get some fresh air, and practically ran up the stairs and collapsed on my stomach just outside the subway entrance building. Nick was right behind me, and asked if I was OK.

“No, I’m not OK. I definitely am not OK. This is bullshit. Every step of the way to finding Shaun there’s just roadblock after roadblock. Sure we may get past these raiders on the bridge, but what then? I’ve been shot at, tossed by explosions, threatened, irradiated, bitten, smashed upside the head, swarmed by a battalion of synths at Fort Hagen, and I still don’t feel any closer to getting done what needs to be done here. So we find that courser head chip or whatever it is. What then? Back to Goodneighbor only to find out we have some other deadly mission to go on? I mean, I’m sure that’s what will happen, right? This is only going to find us a way into the Institute. But we’re talking about the fucking Institute. What then? What happens when we get inside? Do you think it’s going to be any less guarded than Fort Hagen was?”

“Look. I know you’re tired,” answered Nick, “and you’ve got every right to be. But you’re not alone. You’ve survived by taking this one step at a time, and that’s how we’re going to do this too – one step at a time. Just take a breath, gather yourself, and let’s scope this whole thing out. Let’s get closer to the bridge and find a good stakeout spot, then just wait and see. We’re not in a rush, certainly not in a rush to get ourselves taken out. Let’s figure out what we’re up against and do this the right way, just like we’ve done in every situation we’ve faced so far. If there are too many of them, we’ll just find another way around. Maybe we’ll go up to the Mass Ave bridge and cut back if we have to.”

I rolled over on my back and looked up at the sky, which was starting to cloud up. It had been a week or more since I had crossed the Mass Avenue bridge, and I imagined that whatever forces of guards I had taken out on my way through had probably been replenished, as it was a key route into and out of the city. As I pondered this, icy cold raindrops started landing on my face, and the electric smell of a coming storm started to clear my head a little. Nick was right. One step in front of the other. That’s how we’d do this.

Nick held out his hand and helped me to my feet, and we started walking back toward the bridge, found the southern end was unguarded, and discovered we were able to find a decent scouting spot where in the distance we could see down through some collapsed sections of the bridge into the container barge the ship was towing. We watched for a while and counted four raiders milling about, moving supplies from the containers onto the ship itself. For what reason, we couldn’t be sure. It didn’t seem as if the ship was going anywhere, but maybe these fools thought they had a plan. The drawbridge looked like it had been in this semi-broken state for a long time, with rust covering every part of its surface. Getting it to move at all would probably take a miracle.

At one point it looked as if the raiders were walking on water next to the ship, and that was when we saw that some floating piers had been constructed as a walkway from the barge to the ship decking. These raiders had been here a while. There must be something pretty valuable in those containers.

We sat and watched for an hour or more, and there didn’t seem to be any more than the four raiders, so Nick and I hatched a plan that I’d snipe at them from where we sat currently, and he’d run in and hide behind one of the concrete bridge walls and try to attack from there, also forming a distraction to my sniper fire. As soon as the firefight started, I quickly realized that the raiders’ armor was the real deal, and that their weaponry was at least equal if not superior to anything Nick and I were carrying. I alternated between different firearms and ammo in an attempt to find something that would penetrate, and eventually settled on my incendiary hunting rifle, which seemed to do the most damage. Nick kept moving and firing from behind various hiding nooks, including the ship’s bridge. I didn’t like the idea that he was perched up high where presumably he was easy to sight in by the raiders, but he seemed to emerge unscathed once the battle ended. I got hit twice – once pretty squarely, but my own armor was enough to blunt any real damage, I just had the wind knocked out of me.

I walked up the drawbridge leading to the ladder going down to the ship’s control room, and then down onto its decking. The raiders had put together a camp, and were roasting some kind of shark over an open firepit on the ship’s deck. Crossing the planks to the barge and the containers, Nick and I started looking for what had been so important. Hidden behind a stack of containers was a military tank, quite a bit of assorted ammo in some locked ammo boxes, lots of chems, and a mini nuke. The mini nuke was certainly valuable, but it was ultimately transportable. Could they have been trying to hold this location for the tank? They would have had to have gotten the ship loose first before that could have been at all useful, so maybe that had been the goal. Whatever the case, the bridge was now clear, and Nick and I could continue on to the CIT Ruins.

Another step down, who knew how many more to go. Just needed to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

“You good,” asked Nick?

“I’m good. Let’s go.”

We hopped off the ship and onto the northern part of the drawbridge, and soon the main courtyard of the CIT Ruins came into view, with its majestic stone-faced buildings surrounding the area where young people seeking education and opportunity used to congregate on their way to and from classes. I turned on my Pip Boy radio and tuned to the frequency on which we expected to hear the courser’s signal. Sure enough, it was present as soon as we approached the old school. Once we reached the modest doors stuck in the grand edifice leading to the rotunda, the signal got even stronger. Nick and I looked at each other and nodded. We were doing this.

As soon as we were inside, all hell broke loose. The rotunda was a large circular space open to the ceiling, with wings on each side and open hallways on the upper floor, and Super Mutants immediately had us surrounded. Institute synths seemed pour out of every doorway and were scurrying around the second level that wrapped around the room. We were fish in a barrel. I ducked behind a support column and tried to get a grip on how vulnerable I was in this position. Nick ducked into a side room in the wing to the left, and I figured I had better shadow him if I stood any chance of making it out of here alive. I had a brief thought that I should just head back out through the doors to the courtyard, but the signal had led us in here, so turning back wasn’t in the cards.

The room Nick ended up in housed a staircase, and we started fighting our way upward. At the very least, we were no longer out in the open and as long as no one came up behind us, we could just fight our way through level-by-level, which is exactly what we did.

We’d make it through one section, only to come to an area where moving forward meant crossing another open section of balcony, leaving us once again open to attack. We moved as quietly as possible, and the building’s stone hallways and stairwells allowed us to keep tabs on movements around us. When it was quiet, we could easily hear footsteps, and prepare ourselves before we entered new areas.

On the top floor was a cafeteria and after taking out the last synth, at the far end of the room we found an intact Port-A-Diner vending machine, which was odd because everything else in the place was trashed. I pressed a couple buttons and watched through the glass dome as the machine’s arm slowly descended upon the premium dessert in the top of the carousel, picked up half the dish, and then casually dropped it before depositing absolutely nothing in the receiving tray.

Nick chimed in, “These things probably worked better in 2077, huh?”

“You’d be surprised. I think the only thing these machines were good for was keeping appliance technicians in business.”

Nick chuckled, and then stopped as if listening to something. “Hey – do you hear that?”

“I don’t hear anything,” I replied. “Seems quiet.”

“Exactly. When did the courser signal stop,” he asked?

“Hard to tell. There was so much noise as soon as we entered the Rotunda, it’s possible it stopped as soon as we got inside and we just didn’t notice.”

“I don’t think our synth is in here,” he said, as he walked toward a solid looking door just beyond the vending machine. I followed him, and he stopped at the door, put his hand on the knob, and looked at me. “Ready?”

He must have known the door opened to the outside because as soon as he opened it, the courser signal emerged from my Pip Boy again, stronger now than before.

“Well how do you like that,” he smirked. “We should have stayed outside.”

“Figures.”

We moved along the roof, toward the north, where the signal kept getting stronger. Our objective was still well ahead of us. We found some scaffolding remnants and managed to climb back down off the roof to ground level, and found ourselves in another courtyard, with what I assumed were more CIT buildings surrounding us.

Almost immediately we started hearing people talking, and looking farther ahead, noticed the familiar barricades that indicated a raider compound. Fantastic. Scanning the terrain revealed numerous lookout posts, so we were content to just sit behind a burned-out bus and alternately snipe at the raiders that would appear and then let them come to us. We weren’t in any rush, we could do this all day.

(Firefight continues, abates)

As we made our way through the compound, the courser signal continued to get stronger. This area looked like a combination of meeting spaces and apartment buildings, much more similar to the outskirts of some of the towns I had journeyed through a few weeks ago near Lexington.

I started to get a strange sensation up the back of my neck. It was starting to get dark out, and the buildings seemed to be closing in on us the farther we went. I started feeling claustrophobic again, which wasn’t helped by the sound of the courser signal slowly, gradually ratcheting up in intensity. I felt like my whole body was tied into that signal, that it was a part of me. I started hearing it in my head, like it was directly wired into my brain, and that I was heading toward some inevitable and immediate doom.

It was then that I felt a strong hand grip my shoulder from behind, and I flung around wildly. “Hey,” said Nick. For a moment, I had forgotten he was with me. I fixated on a piece of metal in his jaw reflecting a roaring fire burning in a barrel across the street, and I was suddenly back outside my own head. “Yeah,” I replied.

“You OK?”

“Yeah. I’m OK. Thanks for checking in.”

“This place is like a maze,” he continued. “They do it on purpose. See those barricades?” He pointed at a series of walls set up at different intervals in front of us along what I suspected was our upcoming route. “Anyone gets caught in here and doesn’t know where they’re going, they get funneled right into another checkpoint, into a group of waiting scum. Raiders aren’t smart, but they have a system. Once you recognize it, it’s easier to find your way through it.”

He was right. As I glanced around, everything started to make sense. I could see where the dead ends were, and where the through points were. Right now, we were in the middle of the layout, between a couple of apartment buildings, and at the end of the route was a tall building with a bridge type passageway two stories off the ground that led between it and another building. It would be a perfect outpost where someone could see both sides of the compound from one location. I was thinking how surprised I was that we hadn’t yet been shot at. Whoever had been posted above must have come out in the initial fight when reinforcements were called.

Nick and I continued on toward a distinct looking tall green building with cylinders on each of its edges stretching from the ground all the way up the building, all the while listening to the lone sound of the Pip Boy tracker as it steadily increased in intensity. At last, we reached the majestic building’s grand art-deco style staircase, and climbed up to the large red doors that led inside.

We reloaded our weapons, I took a deep breath, and we headed inside to find, and kill, our courser.

16 Comments

  • Reply
    Jessica-Star
    February 12, 2023 at 12:25 am

    These days I listen more than read, but it’s wonderful to come to the site and just take in the words too. We were all psyched to hear you with the new episodes & have Samuel resume his quest–may have waxed poetic about the series on the Feed a few episodes back. Took the opportunity to listen from the beginning again.

    • Reply
      Samuel Tannin
      February 13, 2023 at 12:01 am

      Thank you so much, Jessica!! I’m glad you’re all enjoying the new episodes! Hopefully I can just keep going this time. Hope you and everyone else over at the Feed are doing well!

      • Reply
        Noah
        February 20, 2023 at 9:59 pm

        Another great episode! Please keep them coming!

        • Reply
          Samuel Tannin
          March 6, 2023 at 6:46 pm

          Thank you, Noah! The past month sort of got away from me, but I will have the next one up before the end of March!

          • Noah
            December 13, 2023 at 5:38 pm

            Hey Samuel, Noah here again. Hope you’re doing okay don’t know if/when you’re going to continue this series but just letting you know that I hope you’re ok and that you can continue this series when you find the time πŸ‘

          • Samuel Tannin
            December 24, 2023 at 3:50 am

            Hi Noah! Yeah, guess everyone’s noticed by now my goals went kaput. So sorry about that. Yeah, I’m OK. Going to try again in the new year to get back on track. In the meantime, I hope you and yours have an awesome holiday and new year! Thanks again for hangin’ in there with me!

  • Reply
    Will
    April 10, 2023 at 2:11 pm

    It’s great to see your return! I missed the notifications for your past two eps until now…buf kept the ‘cast in my feed because I never gave up hope (and to re-listen at some point) Looking forward to catching up ASAP.

    • Reply
      Samuel Tannin
      April 17, 2023 at 11:16 pm

      Thanks for hanging in there, Will! Sorry about the little two-year hiatus! :D I know it seems like I got two more episodes in and then stopped again, but I should have another episode before the end of the month! Hope you have a great summer!

      • Reply
        Mingda
        June 18, 2024 at 10:27 am

        Have things been okay for you? Okay if no podcast episode is forthcoming, just curious dude

        • Reply
          Samuel Tannin
          June 18, 2024 at 6:58 pm

          Hey there! Thanks so much for asking, yes things have been OK, just life getting in the way of plans. :D New episode soon, hopefully! Thanks for listening!

  • Reply
    Dylan
    April 27, 2023 at 10:25 pm

    Please don’t ever stop these episode they are so amazing great job

    • Reply
      Samuel Tannin
      May 1, 2023 at 9:15 am

      Thanks, Dylan! The next episode is late, as usual, but it’s still on its way! :D

      Cheers!!

  • Reply
    Kody
    September 29, 2023 at 11:02 pm

    Hey man I just found a Spotify podcast of everything and it’s awesome I came here looking for more and I just hope that it’s not dead I listened to it from beginning to end in a day and was so hoping for more hope everything’s OK and that your still looking do more with this

    • Reply
      Samuel Tannin
      October 6, 2023 at 1:15 pm

      Hi Kody! Glad you found the podcast! Yes, everything is OK, I’ve just had some time challenges once again that interrupted my plan to have a new episode every month. I really need to stop promising things I can’t end up delivering. Should have learned my lesson. That said, I am hoping to get back to this soon, I’m just not sure when. My goal is to finish it, however long it takes, with my apologies to everyone who has been so patiently waiting for new episodes! Thanks for writing in and for the kind words!

  • Reply
    Matt
    May 23, 2024 at 8:36 am

    I hope this series picks back up with the hype of the show. I’m a big fallout fan and really enjoyed listening to these on my car rides into work!

    • Reply
      Samuel Tannin
      June 18, 2024 at 6:57 pm

      Hi Matt! Yes, will be picking it back up soon. Just need to finish up a work project and then I’m off for 10 days or so during which I plan to finish up the new episode! Sorry for the wait, and thanks for listening!

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