November 16, 2287 – There’s a chill coming through the window of the house where I’m staying in this little settlement called Covenant. I don’t know why they leave the windows open. It’s mid-November. The other people here don’t seem to mind, but sometimes there’s two of them in a bed, so maybe they’re keeping each other warm. They tell me a few days have gone by since they brought me here. The only time I seem to wake up and be somewhat aware of what’s going on is when that damned breeze comes in, usually in the middle of the night. There’s the constant drone of generators, or turrets – maybe a mix of the two. And a tree just outside my window that makes an eerie creaking sound every time that coldness drifts through the window.
I remember thinking vividly at one point that the creaking was actually my own bones, but it turned out to be just a dream. I was walking up in the highlands behind Sanctuary Hills, among the fall colors, when suddenly, giant storm clouds rolled in over the mountains to the north, turning the sky dark. A howling wind started to blow, and a driving snow started falling fast. I was only dressed for a short autumn walk, and in a matter of moments, I was so cold, my body started to feel like it was burning. I couldn’t see more than a few feet ahead, and just as I thought for sure I was going to die from exposure, a dim, steady light poked through the storm, illuminating the snow as it whipped around. I wasn’t sure what was making it, but it was my only sign of hope. I leaned into the wind, and started walking toward the flickering light, but my muscles had pretty much stopped responding. It was as if I was walking in slow motion. The light was getting closer, but I was also slowing down, almost to a standstill. Eventually, I felt like I was stuck. With all the willpower I could generate, I struggled to get my right foot to lift off the ground. As I slowly lifted it out of the building blanket of wet snow that had fallen in the last couple minutes, I was startled to hear a creeeak in my knee, and in my ankle. As I moved the foot forward to put it down again, my arms were up at my sides as I tried to also use my body weight to keep moving. Suddenly, my arms, and my shoulders also started to creak.
It was all too much now, and I was terrified that I would freeze to death. I cried out for help, or tried to, but my mouth wouldn’t move, and all that emerged was an inarticulate yell, which evidently startled a number of people staying in the room with me, as suddenly there were lights on, and within moments, Doctor Patricia was tending to me.
“Hang on, Samuel. You just need some more Med-X,” said the doctor.
She injected me with the solution, and suddenly, the fear and anxiety I had felt just moments before, completely dissipated. My mind flickered to Mama Murphy, and wouldn’t she find this amusing. Maybe we could share visions together. I pictured her sitting in that chair, upstairs in the boarding house we had built in Sanctuary Hills, talking about the fat man and the angry woman, and the man I didn’t expect. It was only now, in my fever dream, that I realized she had been talking about Valentine. Nick had talked Skinny Malone out of killing us, and I hadn’t had to use my “Lily June on the Rocks” line that Mama had given me. I started to feel badly that I had basically given her drugs for what amounted to no reason at all. I was pondering this, when suddenly Preston popped up from behind Mama’s chair.
“I need your help,” he said, and I remember chuckling to myself before I fell back asleep.
November 18, 2287 -The creaking tree was my only friend for a day or two, other than Doctor Patricia. I guess I was so out of it that I wasn’t going to be good company to anyone. I could barely string a few words together I was so drugged. Sometimes I felt the tree was talking to me, almost as if there was a person trapped inside it. In one of my dreams, the tree said it was every tree, and that it was finally trying to reclaim the Commonwealth after the bombs had fallen. I remember lying in bed, thinking of how weird trees were in the first place. They’re like bizarre alien life forms – craggy fibrous things that are living, sprouting and twisting up out of the ground, stretching out in all directions, any way they can get to light, and they’re all different, with different qualities. Oddly enough, thinking back, I hadn’t noticed any evergreens since I had come out of the vault. What had happened to all the great White Pines that had been so prevalent in my day? Where had they gone? Had the bombs changed the soil somehow so they could no longer grow? These types of questions always seemed to come into my head shortly after the Doctor’s visit.
There seemed to be a particularly bizarre group of these questions and thoughts that didn’t seem like they were mine. There’s a vision of my grandmother inviting me to tea, and halfway through it, she hands me a pistol and tells me I have to kill someone. I’m stunned, and I ponder how I’m going to deal with the situation. In another vision, I find a young boy lost in a cave. He’s hungry and frightened, and he’s got a small collection of stolen property. Someone is asking me what am I going to do? Do I comfort the child? Punish him? Take the stuff and turn him in? There were others – a mutated hand growing out of my stomach, someone threatening me with a quantum harmonizer – I can’t even bring myself to write what happened with that one. For a while I thought I was going crazy, and then I happened to be reading a previous entry in this diary and realized I had mentioned some test that my rescuers were going to have to give me before I’d be let into the settlement. It was then that things got just a little clearer, like a puzzle with the all the edge pieces – the frame – finally coming together. I didn’t know what this test had been about, but obviously I had passed or by this time I’d probably have been a slightly barbecued meal for the Yao Guai.
I figured I’d ask Doctor Patricia for some help in determining what was real, and what was just in my head. And I wanted to get off these drugs as soon as I could. Clarity was going to be important. I needed to get better, and to get the hell out of this place and on to the Red Rocket to pick up my power armor and then to the Glowing Sea. I was starting to take short walks around the settlement, but would quickly get winded. I hoped it wouldn’t be too long before I could be on my way.
November 19, 2287 – Had a couple visitors today, in quick succession. First, a guy named Dan, who was looking for someone that went missing from a caravan that got hijacked not far from here, and then a guy named Jacob who apparently runs this settlement, and who seemed very concerned that I shouldn’t be talking to Dan. Jacob said he was glad I had passed the test, and that they had strict guidelines for who was allowed in here. They were having second thoughts about Dan, mostly because he was a known “gun for hire,” an unsavory character. I wondered what Jacob would think if he knew who I was and what I had been through in the last … well, I guess it’s been almost a month since I left Vault 111. A few days short? Seems like a lot has happened, but it’s gone so quickly. A month since I met the Minutemen. A month since we started work on the settlements at Sanctuary Hills and the Red Rocket. Meeting Valentine. And Piper. As I was thinking about all the people I had met in the Commonwealth, I started to realize I had seen Jacob somewhere before. It eventually came to me that he reminded me a little of Mayor McDonough, back at Diamond City. Actually, more than a little. They wore the same bowler’s hat, and the same brown suit with the green plaid vest. Come to think of it, McDonough and Jacob even wore the same golden flower in their jacket pockets. Jacob was maybe twenty years older than McDonough, but they could easily have been twins otherwise, right down to the clothing they wore. Maybe it’s just the standard Mayor’s uniform in the post-nuclear Commonwealth, but it’s eerie. I think I trust Dan more than I trust Jacob at this point.
November 20, 2287 – Today seemed to be the first day the mind fog seemed to have lifted a bit. Dan stopped by again as soon as the last Covenant settler left the common sleeping area where I was recovering. I apologized for not being coherent the last time he had visited, and asked him to repeat what he had told me yesterday. He said a caravan of five people working for “Old Man Stockton” had supposedly stopped by Covenant a couple hours before I was brought in, but no one was owning up to have seen them. Every time he brought it up, people would try to change the subject, flash a wide smile, and offer him some lemonade.
“Only reason I’m still here is because I was waiting for you to wake up. With the condition you were in when you got here, for all I knew you were part of the ambush,” Dan reported.
“Ambush?” I asked?
“Stockton hired me to find the caravan. I found it, or what was left of it, outside of town. The last stop was here, so I’ve been trying to put together the story,” he continued.
I said no, I didn’t see any caravan, and then remembered that I had seen that firefight between the synths just before I had walked into the trap on the Tucker Memorial Bridge.
“Could you tell if synths were involved,” I asked?
Dan almost lunged at me when I mentioned that, and angrily ordered me to keep my voice down.
“Don’t talk about synths here,” he barked in a whisper, then continued. He didn’t know who was responsible. All he knew was that Stockton’s daughter, Amelia, was part of the caravan, and he hadn’t found any female bodies at the site just outside the Covenant walls and to the east, so she could still be alive. Stockton was offering a generous reward for Amelia’s return. Dan suspected Covenant must be involved somehow, since he was sure the caravan made it here before it was attacked, and he was being rebuffed at every turn. I offered to snoop around a little bit once I was up and around. Dan seemed relieved, and scribbled some notes down on a piece of paper, folded it in half, handed it to me, then got up to leave. “I’ll be around for a few more days,” he said. “Hopefully we can get to the bottom of this. You’re really my only hope at this point, closest to what might have happened. Anyone else coming in here at this point wouldn’t be of any help, and I’ve hit dead ends everywhere.”
It wasn’t until Dan left that I realized how much the conversation had drained me. I opened the note, which had a little map of the caravan location and the names of a couple people who had been part of it. I folded it back up and put it under my pillow, then fell back asleep.
When, and when I woke up, it was dark out. I tossed and turned for what seemed like an hour or so, but my head was spinning about the caravan. I decided I’d scout around just outside the Covenant walls, nothing too far, and just see if I could figure out where I was and get the lay of the land. As I left the building, I could tell it wouldn’t be long before sunup. The sky was just starting to brighten, and people were stirring about the settlement – tending to crops, going from house to house. No one even seemed to notice me as I slipped outside the main entrance.
Across the road, to the west, was a lake that I assumed drained into the Mystic River. Just past the lake was a crumbling elevated highway, which joined another to the south. I knew exactly where I was. I wasn’t far from Bedford Station. The elevated highway in front of me was the north-to-south route that led to Mass Sand & Gravel, and the one that I had followed from Bedford Station down into Lexington. As soon as I was ready, I’d just have to go west, meet the train tracks, follow them north to Bedford Station, and I’d practically be home.
Now that I had my bearings, I took out Dan’s note and examined the scribbled map he had drawn. The caravan had been ambushed only a hundred feet from the back of Covenant, or not much more. I wandered over to Covenant’s northeast corner, and went up over a little rise. Not far in the distance was a road, which was noted on Dan’s map, and a large X on it revealed the caravan’s location. As I got closer to the spot Dan had marked, the horror of what had happened became apparent. It was the smell hit me first. The stench of rotting flesh hit my nostrils before I even saw the first brahmin laying in the middle of the road. It was probably a good thing it was so cold out. Any warmer and the smell probably would’ve reached all the way to Covenant. Next to a rusted out car was what I assumed to be the caravan’s security guard, wearing some pretty heavy armor. He had been shot in the head. No weapons though. Someone had probably taken them by this point. Next to a case of Deezer’s Lemonade that was scattered across the roadway was one of the caravan’s mercenaries, and just past that, another dead brahmin, its guts spilled out, and maggots writhing in its muscles.
I was suddenly overcome with a need to vomit, which I did, in the middle of the road. Looking down at the pavement, I saw the mostly-digested contents of my dinner the night before, and leading from it, a trail of blood, heading directly back to Covenant. This wasn’t looking good.
When I got back to the settlement, I decided to look around a bit. In the main house, there was a public terminal with a history of Covenant. It was a young community, “dedicated to restoring a quality of life that’s been gone for too many years. Our secret ingredients are a shared vision, hard work, and old-fashioned hospitality.”
There was also an entry on that test I had been given. It was called the SAFE test, supposedly given to ensure the safety of guests and residents. Its purpose was to get a detailed psychological profile on the person being quizzed. “Only good, quality folk get to enjoy the comforts of Covenant.” Seemed logical enough. Everyone in the settlement seemed pretty stable, and almost too pleasant. Maybe the test was pretty restrictive.
I moved on to asking questions of a couple residents, including a Mr. Handy that just hovered in one spot by Jacob’s office, and wanted to talk more about Lemonade than anything I wanted to talk about. I spoke to a woman who made weapons and other things sold at the store. Her name was Talia, and when I asked her if she knew anything about Stockton’s Caravan, she blurted quite clumsily, “no, sorry, they never came here.” When I mentioned that everyone was acting suspicious, she begged off, saying she was busy.
I went to see Penny, who ran the store, and just started chatting with her, and asked how she got her supplies. She said Talia made some of them, and traders would often come into town buying and selling items. That’s when I asked her about Stockton’s Caravan, and she mentioned I must have been talking to Dan. I got the sense she didn’t think too fondly of him, so I noted how just about every day, while I was trying to recover, Dan had been hounding me for information – had I seen anyone on the road before I got here, what direction had I come from, how had I been injured, etc.
She said that must have been horrible, and that people like Dan didn’t know anything about making the Commonwealth a better, safer place.
I said I was surprised he had passed the test. He should be grateful to be here.
She replied, “you’d think so – instead, he stomps around interrogating people. If the Compound did do something to his precious caravan, they had reasons for it. Better reasons than,…” and then she trailed off.
“Um, just forget I said anything about the Compound,” she stammered, and then started making busywork straightening up the boxes of Sugar Bombs and Instamash, glancing at me suspiciously over her shoulder.
“Um, what’s this about a Compound,” I asked?
“Compound, who said anything about a compound,” she replied. “You know, I really am very busy.”
Clearly, I wasn’t going to get any more out of her, so I left, figuring I’d tell Dan what I had found out. He was outside, under a large tree in the center of the settlement, just hanging around, I guess waiting for me to dig something up.
I told him I had found out about a compound, and that it was possible the caravan survivors were being held there. Dan said if anyone here knew its whereabouts, Jacob would. I offered that perhaps we should just confront him, but Dan was pretty sure he had seen Jacob reading a slip of paper at some point while entering his password in a terminal and said perhaps I could find the paper without raising any suspicion.
It seemed like a real long shot. What were the chances Jacob kept that piece of paper anywhere but on his person? I told Dan I’d see if perhaps I could break into Jacob’s office after dark, and see what I could find. Dan said he’d provide a distraction when I was ready.
For the rest of the afternoon, I sat in a chair outside the common residence, and just watched people coming and going. Every once in a while, someone would stop and ask me how I was feeling. Dr. Patricia looked in on me, and said it was good to finally see me up and about, but that I should probably make sure I kept getting enough rest. I thanked her, and said I’d turn in when the sun started to go down. She seemed satisfied with that, and moved on.
That Mr. Handy eventually sauntered over, and I finally took him up on that lemonade. I opened it up and took a sip, and immediately realized it wasn’t lemonade. I had no idea what the hell it was. The closest I could tell was that it tasted like just water and essence of mutfruit. Deezer apparently didn’t notice the look of horror on my face, and hung there apparently waiting for a more obvious reaction.
“Delicious,” I offered, which seemed to satisfy the mentally affected robot, and he was off on his way.
I quickly reached in back of me over a low picket fence that my chair was set up against, and dumped the rest of the beverage into a little garden of tato, gourd and melon, and then dropped the can, which surprised me when it clanged against something else metal. I turned around and looked over the fence, and noticed a pile of twenty or thirty of the cans. I looked more closely at the garden. It didn’t seem to be doing so well.
All right. Enough of this. I hadn’t seen Dan in the last half hour or so, but Jacob had recently gone in to Penny’s, and she and Jacob were having what seemed to be a pretty deep conversation, so I figured now might be a good time to look for that piece of paper with Jacob’s password. I doubted I would find it, but maybe I’d find something else that might tell me where the compound was. The door to Jacob’s office, what was really the administrative building of the settlement, was still open. Probably a little less obvious if I got caught in there now than if I broke in and got caught.
I casually walked in and started quickly rummaging around the room, keeping an eye on the door. To the left just just past the entrance was a small desk with a typewriter along with a filing cabinet. It was pretty clean. In the middle of the room was a table and chair, what looked like a meeting desk, where several pieces of paper were strewn about. One of them had some doodles on it, and another was something called a SAFE report, with a list of people who had passed, and who had failed. The interesting thing was that at the bottom was an entry for the Stockton Caravan. It said there had been five tests given, two of which were failures, and then the word “resolved,” and then in parenthesis, the letters “RR” or “Institute.”
Was Jacob working with the Institute? I flipped the paper. There were a few more names, the only one I recognized was Dan. He had passed, obviously, since he was in Covenant.
Suddenly, I heard a voice behind me. It was Jacob.
He said it wasn’t very neighborly of me to be poking around, and that he knew what I was up to. He warned me not to make any rash decisions I might regret.
When I asked what decisions might he be talking about, he just stared at me and said how about we stop this little investigation right now with 100 caps, and an open invitation for you to come here any time you’d like?
I countered that surely there was a way to get the survivors back and for us to remain on friendly terms? Sooner or later Dan and I were going to find this compound, and unless he was up front with me right here, right now, I couldn’t guarantee what would happen to anyone who was involved in whatever it was that was going on.
Jacob replied that a deal like that was above his pay grade, but he’d radio ahead to the compound to let them know I was coming, and then I could make my own case to them. They’d be on high alert, ready for me, so I had better approach cautiously. He said across the lake to the west of Covenant was a set of three of drainage pipes. Inside the center one was a doorway that led to the compound.
It was getting dark now, and as I exited Covenant once again, I looked across the lake, scanning for the drainage pipes. Almost directly across was a dim red light, shining through the thin, drifting fog. That had to be it. I headed down to the riverbank, and then to the north, planning to skirt around the northern tip of the lake, and back down its western side. As I got to the northernmost part of the lake, there was a small crashed jet sitting nose-down in the water, the moonlight gleaming off its shiny metal body. Between the shore where I stood, and the jet, something else was reflecting the moonlight. It was something else metal. At first, I thought it was just pieces of the plane, but it looked like something humanoid. Maybe it was another robot. I got closer, and started to make out the clear outline of a suit of power armor. I swam into the water, and was shocked to see it was just standing there in about a foot of mud and silt, but was probably still usable. I’d have to check it out later. I made a mental note, and proceeded toward the drainage pipes. If I want to try to get the caravan survivors back from this “compound,” probably best not to show up looking like I was ready for a huge battle.
As I got close to the giant concrete platform above the drainage pipes, it appeared as if there were two people sitting in chairs atop it, fishing in the moonlight. They weren’t moving, however, and I was almost on top of them when I noticed they were actually just skeletons, set up like some Halloween prank. One of them, a skeleton in a tattered suit, sat in a wheelchair. Next to that was the other skeleton in a threadbare dress propped up on a chair. In front of them just before the edge of the platform, was an old television. This staging looked like someone’s idea of a sick joke. These had been people, and now they were set up like some kind of scarecrows for this “compound.”
I scrambled down the side of the platform, and into the water, then waded into the middle pipe. About a yard in was a metal door that led farther in, at which point the pipe sloped upward, and then to the left. A few feet more, and there was a break in the pipe which led to a generator room with metal scaffolding. As I emerged from the pipe, just above me I heard a man’s voice, telling me that just because I had come to an arrangement with Jacob, that didn’t mean they had to let me in the compound. A guard stood behind the man, and a woman beside him. The guard had what looked to be a fairly high-powered sniper rifle pointed straight at me.
“I’m not looking for trouble,” I said. “I’m just looking for whoever’s in charge.”
The man spoke to the woman next to him, and then responded that he’d take me to Dr. Chambers, who would “decide what to do with me.”
That sounded ominous. What to do with me? I was warned not to try anything, of course, and then I was led through a series of long corridors carved out of the side of the hill under the overpass, and lined with the same metal grating that seemed to be everywhere. After a few minutes, someone called out to the guy who was leading us, whose name was evidently, “Manny.” The voice was coming from a metal door with a wire mesh window, dug into a passageway to our right. Behind the door was a man in a lab coat and when Manny went over to have a chat with him, I heard them saying something about the SAFE test, and “Subject Twelve.”
We moved in, through many more corridors. There was no way I was finding my way out of here if I had to. I started to feel claustrophobic as the air got more and more stale, and more and more humid and dank the deeper we got. Every hundred feet or so there was a guard stationed somewhere – down a hallway here, in a little recess in the rock there. This place was under tight lock and key. What the hell were they doing down here?
Eventually we arrived at a brick wall that had been broken through. The jagged opening led to another room carved out of rock, with giant red and green steel pipes running through it. Standing at the far end, up a short set of stairs, was a woman in a lab coat. “Dr. Chambers,” said Manny, and gestured for me to go speak with her.
Dr. Chambers called across the room, “so the one investigating Stockton’s Caravan has arrived.” I didn’t know what to say, but she continued, “did you know in all likelihood that Stockton’s daughter is a synth?”
Still didn’t know what to say, and she just kept on, and threatened me, saying there would be violence if we didn’t come to an agreement.
“Well, I’m here for an agreement,” I said. “I’m just trying to get the folks from the caravan back. Why would you ambush and kidnap them in the first place?”
She answered that there was a 70% chance that Stockton’s daughter was a synth, and that she had dedicated her life to eradicating synths, ever since her family had been destroyed by them when she was a child. Synths looked and acted exactly like humans. But Dr. Chambers explained that she had been working on a test that used psychology to ferret out the Institute’s spawn. Right now though, the only way to really be 100% sure if someone was a synth was by autopsy. The SAFE test was getting better, but they were still getting four or five false positives per synth. I was never strong at math, but that figure sounded a little different than 70%. So, basically, they were murdering people down here – potentially innocent people that just happened to arrive at Covenant – and now they were potentially taking the life of Stockton’s daughter if they were wrong. I looked behind the Doctor to the jail cells on the other side of the room. Inside the farthest one on the left was a young woman with her face pressed up to the bars, listening intently to our conversation. She was looking right at me, and I got the sense that she knew I might be her only hope of making it out here alive. But the way this was going, I didn’t think I was going to be given much of a choice in what was going to happen here. At least I’d be able to go back and tell Dan what happened so he could bring the bad news to Old Man Stockton.
The Doctor explained that Covenant was a refuge for those who had been affected by the Institute’s rampages. If I pursued any attempt at destroying the research that was being conducted here, I would be dooming all those settlers back at Covenant to renewed chaos.
My head started spinning. This was the first time since I had come out of the vault where there really didn’t seem to be a right answer to a situation I faced. Seventy percent. Four or five false positives per synth. A whole community back at Covenant. A voice in my head told me, if you can’t make a decision on something, you can always do nothing. But was that a cheap way out?
“Are you being silent for a reason,” asked the Doctor?
“Continue your work then,” I sulked.
As the Doctor headed toward a computer terminal in the middle of the room, I walked toward the jail cell containing Amelia Stockton. She started begging me to do something, and then as the Doctor hammered away on the terminal keyboard, there was a snapping of electricity that emerged from a metal rod at the top of the chamber and blasted through the girl’s body. Amelia Stockton fell lifeless to the cold stone floor. As I stood there staring down at her, a sudden wave of anger and disgust washed over me. I couldn’t move. I felt like I was in that storm in my dream, frozen, confused, trying to comprehend what was happening. And that’s when a bright spotlight turned on in the tiny cell, and then the steel door opened with a creeak. Doctor Chambers pushed me aside, knelt down over the corpse with some kind of tool, and dug out a cybernetic part.
“I was right,” she said, brandishing the piece in the harsh light.
“This time,” I replied.
Manny showed me the way out. I didn’t know what I was going to say to Dan when I got back. Maybe it would be better if I just didn’t say anything at all. But there was going to be no way around seeing him.
When I finally got to the exit, it was still dark out. I wandered around the lake back to the entrance to Covenant. Inside its guarded walls, no one was out in the main area. I didn’t see Dan, so I just snuck into the common house, grabbed my stuff and took off for the power armor submerged by the downed plane at the northern tip of the lake outside. Dan was a virtual outcast at Covenant, so I doubted anyone would be telling him where the compound was. Covenant was probably safe, and the people here could continue to try to recover their lives. But I’d be damn sure I made it my mission to tell anyone I met on the road to give this place as wide a fucking berth as they possibly could. Maybe someday Doctor Chambers would figure out the secret formula to accurately detecting a synth at first attempt, but until that day, I had a feeling there would be a lot more false positives piled up in that compound.
When I got to the power armor, I discovered there were a couple armor plates missing. The Glowing Sea was straight southwest from here. I’d take my chances that I could find replacements at one of the shops in Diamond City instead of taking a long detour all the way up north to the Red Rocket. I scrambled up the hill to the overpass, and followed the elevated highway south, just as I had done almost a month ago now when I went to rescue that kidnapped woman at Back Street Apparel.
I thought about Nick, and how he probably had no idea I had been detoured for so long. I wondered if he had heard about Covenant? If not, I had quite a story to tell him.