The Search

20 – Finding Goodneighbor

November 12, 2287 – Whenever I spend some time in what passes for civilization these days, I start getting complacent. The northwest suburbs of the Commonwealth are now largely controlled by the Minutemen and the Brotherhood. Diamond City and its surroundings are pretty much under control of the Diamond City guards, or at least there’s an illusion of control outside the gates, finally. But I keep forgetting how necessary it is to stay on high alert once outside those pockets of stability.

Where It All Went Wrong

Where It All Went Wrong

Right now, I have no idea where Nick is, since he and I got separated on the way to the Memory Den. I’m not exactly sure how it happened. It was getting dark, and we had just crossed the Common seemingly headed toward the Scollay Square area. As we entered one of the side streets, we started to hear Super Mutant voices. Immediately, we turned around and started backtracking, and as we got back to Park Street Station, I noticed there was a metro bus just in front of the Old Granary Burying Grounds. I motioned to Nick to follow me, as I figured it would be a good spot to discuss some way around the mutants so we didn’t have to engage them. We approached the bus, and just as we ducked down, there was a pounding on the bus window above us, and swarms of ghouls started coming from everywhere. Friggin burying ground. Yeah, that should have been obvious.

I guess we both panicked, or maybe I panicked and Nick just reacted, because we each tore off in different directions. While firing at the ghouls, I ran back toward the Common, an area I knew had been pretty much cleared, but for some reason, Nick headed the other direction. Maybe he was going to make a break for Goodneighbor. Of course, he knew where Goodneighbor was, but I didn’t. I probably should have asked him at some point, but I never figured we’d get split up.

Maze of Streets Near Financial District

Maze of Streets Near Financial District

Since I wasn’t sure where to go, other than a general sense that we had been heading northeast, and I certainly wasn’t going back toward the burying ground, I decided to head straight east from Park Street Station, toward the Financial District.  I had never been that familiar with this section of town. Unlike the Back Bay, there was no logic to the layout of the streets here, and I quickly became disoriented. I had to keep referencing my Pip Boy to try to maintain any sense of direction. Everywhere I went, there seemed to be walls of debris or plywood set up on the streets, presumably by raiders, as they always formed perfect choke points. Despite the appearance this raider activity, things were quiet. Occasionally I’d hear some weapons fire, but it was far enough that I didn’t think I had much to worry about.

I wandered the narrow streets and found my way onto what seemed to be a bridge, or some kind of access road that started at street level and rose up between buildings, almost like someone had taken an old alleyway and decided to make it more useful by turning it into an entrance ramp to a highway. About half a city block up this ramp, there was a small break where the buildings ended, and the roadway was torn up, with rebar was sticking through the asphalt and concrete.

Looking from Ramp to Goodneighbor

Looking from Ramp to Goodneighbor

To the left, and about 50 to 60 feet in the distance, I was just above a high wall with barbed wire at the top, and beyond it, a brightly lit courtyard that shone through the darkness. To the right I could just make out more ruins – destroyed buildings, wrecked cars, and piles of rubble. Looking back, I probably should have stopped here for a moment and thought, as I didn’t know it at the time, but that glow was coming from the entrance to Goodneighbor. Had I seen an doorway or gate, or some other way in through that wall, it probably would have registered, but since there didn’t seem to be any way in, I just sort of dismissed it, and kept going. A short ways ahead, some raiders were hiding behind the burnt out shell of a car, ready for anyone who approached. Of course, this time it happened to be me. The weapons fire attracted the attention of some Super Mutants, which I began to hear muttering about in the ruined area off to the right.

The raiders had built a lookout, and some boards made a makeshift ramp that led from the roadway onto a little platform that had a pretty good vantage point of the ruins. Several Super Mutants had their eyes on me, and as they went from cover to cover trying to take me out, I took my shots at them until all was quiet.

The roadway curved north around and between more buildings, and turned out to be just some kind of bypass rather than an entrance ramp. It dumped me off near the front of Faneuil Hall, and more Super Mutant noises were a pretty clear indication that I wasn’t where I needed to be, but at least I had an idea where I was now. Goodneighbor had to be back west a bit, because there wasn’t must space for a whole town between Faneuil Hall and the waterfront. In fact, I was starting to figure that Goodneighbor must be the new name for Scollay Square, and if I could backtrack through the narrow streets instead of taking the bypass, I’d probably run straight into it.

Super Mutants Near Faneuil Hall?

Super Mutants Near Faneuil Hall?

As I was plotting which path to take away from Faneuil Hall, a loud explosion toward the direction of the waterfront was so strong it shook the ground beneath me. A few seconds later, through the spaces in between the buildings, I noticed a Verti-berd patrolling around, the expanding cone of its searchlight darting here and there, and then the sounds of heavy gunfire. I just sort of sat and listened for a few moments, and decided I’d see if I could get a closer look at what was going on, since it didn’t seem to be that far away.

The sounds led me farther east, and just as I got close to the last row of skyscrapers before the harbor, I could see about a half dozen Brotherhood soldiers locked in battle with some Super Mutants holed up in what looked like the remnants of a couple brownstones off one of the side streets. The weapons fire lit up the darkness. One of the Mutants was pretty close to me, and I decided I could probably take him out easily since he didn’t seem to notice I was just underneath him. His fire was concentrated farther down the street at the Brotherhood forces starting to gather. Another Vertiberd hung in the air, and dropped off a few more soldiers, who quickly joined the battle. Another explosion just to my left pushed me into the side of a building, crushing my arm against some kind of drainage pipe attached to the structure, and I suddenly awakened to the fact that although I wasn’t really equipped to be in this fight, I found myself right in the middle of it. I was kind of surrounded by Brotherhood at this point, and all hell was raining down on us from these brownstones. I searched for a way out, and a few feet away, noticed another one of those window washer buckets with a pulley that led up one of the skyscrapers, and I figured if it worked, it would be a quick exit from this mess. I knew enough by this point to realize it probably meant I’d have to deal with raiders, but at least it would get me out of the heavy stuff.

I ran for the bucket, jumped in, hit the button, and ducked down. The ride up was slow, but thankfully no one was taking aim at me, since I was basically a sitting duck. If it had been daytime, the movement would have been obvious. I’m sure all it would have taken to tumble down ten stories would be just one Super Mutant deciding that the thing moving to the top of the skyscraper across him might have someone in it. A few well-placed shots, and I’d be a goner.

I was grateful when I finally made it to the top, about fifteen stories up, where there was a terrace for the building residents. The skyscraper continued up another ten or fifteen floors from there. I cautiously scouted about as the gunfire continued. There was a doorway that led inside, and other buildings and a couple giant billboards seemed only a short hop away. To the west, one of the damaged skyscrapers had sort of fallen into this one, and I could almost walk from one to the other.

As I moved back on the terrace toward the bucket, one lone Verti-berd was now hovering around, and seemed to be heading out over the harbor. And then suddenly, it wasn’t. The whirring stopped, and I saw a giant glow out on the water, and huge pieces of the machine flying everywhere. What the hell had just happened?

For some reason, I hadn’t thought of the Brotherhood as really vulnerable until that moment. Even when Danse had needed my help, I guess I felt it was because it was just the three of them. Somehow, this Verti-berd had been brought down by a small band of Super Mutants. So much for being this overwhelming technological force. I guess these guys really were putting their lives on the line, even when they seemed to outnumber and out-equip their foes.

I needed to find a way down, and back to Goodneighbor. I was getting distracted again. I figured the safest way was probably inside the skyscraper, and down any staircase I could find to the western entrance, away from the harbor, so I went inside the door leading to the terrace, which opened into to what appeared to be an office waiting area.

Inside the Ruined Skyscraper

Inside the Ruined Skyscraper

Although the outside of the skyscraper was in somewhat remarkable condition, the inside was absolutely trashed. The walls seemed to be made out of some kind of metal that was rusting, and these art deco windows leading into different offices had all been smashed. There was an elevator to my left that appeared to be functional, but I figured I’d take the stairs to my right, but when I took two steps forward toward a reception desk, a Super Mutant’s voice echoed out, and then it was on. We traded shots from behind cover, and eventually I backed my way to the elevator, and ducking down, managed to call it, get in, and hit a bunch of buttons, figuring anywhere I ended up would be better than this.

The elevator started moving, but I couldn’t tell if I was going up or down. A quick glance at the buttons showed none were lit, and because of the haste in which I entered, I didn’t notice that telltale initial sign of movement. But the whole way, there were Super Mutants screaming at someone or maybe someones? – maybe raiders? It seemed like every floor I passed, the voices continued, until the ding of the elevator meant I had arrived – somewhere.

The elevator doors opened into another waiting area, and right in front of me was a Super Mutant, firing on someone unknown off to the left. I quickly hit a couple buttons on the elevator, but they didn’t seem to be working anymore. Panicking, I grabbed a frag grenade off my belt and tossed it into the room, which took care of the Mutant, and whoever else had been in there. But as I exited the elevator, I could see more figures out of the corner of my eye – humans this time. I reached for my shotgun as I ducked back in the elevator, and took two of them down, and then just as I emerged, another one surprised me and I ended up shooting him in the face. Then it was quiet.

These weren’t raiders fighting the Super Mutants. I had no idea who they were, but they were wearing military type fatigues. I scrounged around a bit just in the immediate vicinity. There had been quite a battle here. Four or five mutants, and ten or so soldiers. They had more advanced weaponry as well.

Off to the left of the elevator was a long hallway. I could see at the other end of this hallway was a receptionist’s desk, and just beyond it, an elevator whose call button was glowing green. My eyes caught some movement from behind the desk, and then there was a shot. The sound reverberated down the hallway, the bullet missing my hip by an inch or less, and I heard a ricochet from the wall in back of me. Suddenly, my Pip Boy started crackling like crazy. Whatever that asshole was firing at me was radioactive.

I ducked behind the wall, and started tossing hand grenades down the hallway, but I didn’t have enough time at each interval to get a good throw. I was mostly bouncing the grenades off the walls, hoping to get them down the hallway far enough. I went back to the elevator, and hit a few buttons, but still nothing. I was going to have to get down that hallway. It seemed to be the only way off this floor.

Maybe if I was quick enough, I could sight this person in with the sniper rifle. I snuck a quick glance down the hallway, and was rewarded with a shot glancing off my shoulder. I lined the person up – a woman in the same military type garb, and hoped an accurate shot would destabilize her, giving me yet another shot. But no dice. I missed, and got hit in the arm. The Pip Boy crackled wildly once again. I fumbled for some Stimpacks, and continued with the plan to get a good sniper round off. I finally got a shot in, but I also got hit again.

Next, she seemed to think my grenade idea was a good one, because there was suddenly one at my feet. I had just enough time to duck into the elevator as it went off. We traded a few more rounds, and then finally, I managed to get her with a headshot.

The Hallway Of Death

The Hallway Of Death

Staying close to the wall, I eased down the hallway. When I got to the woman, I could see she just had a standard rifle, but it had some kind of special ammo. There were only a few rounds left, so I grabbed them, never knowing when I’d need something like that.

I hit the green button for the elevator, and after about 15 seconds, the doors opened, and I got in. There was a button for the roof. I wasn’t sure if that was the terrace area I had been on, probably not, since I hadn’t noticed any other entrances to the building from outside. I figured what the hell, I’d go up, get my bearings, and then head back down.

When the elevator doors opened again, I was looking out at the tops of the destroyed skyscrapers of the Financial District, toward the Common. There was no access in back of me looking toward the harbor. I was stuck on this side of the building. There was a little ramp leading down to a maintenance area that had access to another elevator, and some scaffolding that formed a bridge to a massive Nuka Cola billboard sign.

I looked to ground level, and noticed a standalone subway station entrance and some kind of spotlight or searchlight that was scanning up and down whatever street was in front of the building.

Over to one side of the billboard, not far down, I could see that bypass road that I had traveled on earlier. I walked back to the other side of the billboard, and realized I was almost directly above that little courtyard area that had been next to the roadway. There were lights strung up between a couple of old brick buildings, and as I scanned the scene, I noticed one of those buildings was the Old State House, and just beyond that was a building with the old Scollay Square sign. The whole area seemed to be walled off, and there were lit signs here and there that I couldn’t make out from this distance. But it had to be Goodneighbor.

Looking Into Goodneighbor From Above

Looking Into Goodneighbor From Above

I hopped up on the edge of the building, looking for a way down. Every couple of levels there seemed to be scaffolding, or another building that had fallen and was forming a sort of ramp down to another reachable area.

It was going to be a kind of obstacle course, but if I was careful, it looked like I’d be able to climb down and hop right into Goodneighbor.

So that’s what I did. I took a piece of the scaffolding and hung it over the edge of the building, and scrambled down a couple stories to a collapsed roadway that had fallen into the building. From there, I slid down into an old apartment building and found my way down a couple more floors and out a window onto the slanted roof of another building that almost dumped into the courtyard.

I was just above the courtyard, and took a chance, jumping off the roof, and rolling onto the ground. Standing under the edge of that roof, smoking a cigarette, was a rough looking dude in worn leather, and scars all over him. I had dropped in right at his feet, and he had just stood there, totally unshaken, staring at me.

He flicked his cigarette down, slowly stomped it out, and challenged me – “I don’t know you – you think it’s wise to come in here without protection?”

I backed up enough to stand up. “What the fuck does that mean?” I asked.

He threatened me again, and I was about to take a swing at him, when a figure walked out of the shadows and quietly said, “someone steps through that gate the first time, they’re a guest. Lay off the extortion racket.”

“Didn’t come through the gate,” answered the thug. “He dropped in, so I figured I’d give him a quick lesson in what’s what.”

“I said, let him go,” answered the figure, as it walked into the light. I say “it,” because this voice seemed to be coming from a ghoul – a ghoul wearing a red uniform that looked like it was from the Revolutionary War. But this was no ordinary ghoul. This was a person with ghoul features. I had seen a lot in the war, but I had never seen anything like this. I couldn’t help but stare in silence at the scene playing out in front of me.

“You keep going soft on these newcomers, and one day, there’ll be a new mayor.”

The Mayor Murders the Thug

The Mayor Murders the Thug

There was silence for a moment, and then the ghoul slowly walked up to the guy, and said, “let me tell you something,” as he put his hand on the guy’s shoulder. Then, in one sudden movement, he pulled the guy toward him, rapidly stabbing him in the gut twice, causing him to crumple on the brick courtyard in a heap.

“You all right, brother?” asked this – mayor.

“You killed him!” I said, still shocked. By this point, a few more people were gathering in the courtyard, probably wondering as much as I was just what was going on.

I gazed at the workings of the mayor’s skinless face as he explained, “Got a good pair of eyes on you. I think you’ll fit in here. Everyone’s welcome, as long as they remember who’s in charge.” And with that, the mayor walked off, apparently satisfied he made both his introduction, as well as his point.

I looked over at a woman with short red hair leaning up against the side of the nearest building, surveying what had just happened. She laughed to herself, then turned around and and walked away from the courtyard.

Forming the left wall of the courtyard was the Old State house, and in front of me was a smaller building with a couple of shops in it. In between the two was what looked like a small alleyway that I assumed led to Scollay Square, or Goodneighbor proper. There were no other exits from the courtyard. Just the entrance in back of me, and the alleyway forward.

Daisy, of "Daisy's Discounts"

Daisy, of “Daisy’s Discounts”

The shop on the left hand side, was called “Guns, Guns, Guns,” leaving no confusion as to what was sold there. On the right was the more obscure, “Daisy’s Discounts,” so I headed in there first. Guarding the entrance was another ghoul, who mentioned only that the Brotherhood of Steel had better stay out of Goodneighbor.

O-Kay. So news of the Brotherhood had spread here at least.

Inside the little store was Daisy, another ghoul, and I imagined if there were such things as good looking ghouls, Daisy was probably one of them. She was snappily dressed in a suit jacket, vest, shirt and tie, and her hair was cropped short about her face, which seemed kind of burnt to a crisp. These ghouls probably wouldn’t look too dissimilar to humans if they hadn’t lost their noses.

One of the first things she did was thank me for not screaming at her.

“Why would someone scream at you,” I asked.

“A lot of newcomers to Goodneighbor have never seen a ghoul before.”

Since she opened the topic to conversation, I started to ask her about being a ghoul, like what does it feel like to be a ghoul. “Well, what would it feel like to be 270 years old? Not much more to it than that,” she answered.

I laughed a bit to myself and said, “well, I sort of do know what that feels like.”

“Well now you’re just poking fun,” she started.

“No,” I said. “I was there. I was there when petty governments, petty demagogues dragged us into war and punished anyone who didn’t go along with it. They found ways to pit us against one another – to make us hate each other. And we fell for it, hook line and sinker.”

That seemed to sober Daisy up. “You know, I had a husband in the war,” she said. “They wouldn’t even tell me where he died. Classified information, they said.”

She stopped, gave me a once over, and continued, “you should visit the Hotel Rexford. There’s another pre-war ghoul hanging around there. You might want to have a chat with him.”

I thanked her and picked up some more Stimpacks, and offloaded some stuff I had snagged in that skyscraper.

If buying goods off a ghoul seemed strange, then the attendant in Guns Guns Guns was even more bizarre. A military Assaultron humanoid robot named KL-E-O with a personality who was “all woman,” seemed extremely enthusiastic with conveying how deadly were the munitions contained in her shop. “Each weapon tested on someone who deserved it,” she noted.

I decided I’d check back later to see what she had to, um, offer. I wanted to head down the alleyway to see if I could locate Nick, who, truth be told, I had sort of forgotten about in the last ten or so minutes.

Bobbie Has To Be Up To No Good

Bobbie Has To Be Up To No Good

The alleyway went forward along the side of the Old State House, and then branched off to the right running along the back of the shops I had just visited. At the end of that offshoot was a metal door with a slide window in it. Another ghoul was peering out, and gave me a “psst,” as I passed.

Good night, what now?

“Looking for work?” asked a female voice that had smoked way too many cigarettes, or maybe that had been through some pretty serious radiation?

“Depends on the work,” I said.

“Manual labor. 100 caps. Don’t ask any questions.”

Well, manual labor, couldn’t be too bad, right? “I’m listening,” I said.

The door opened, and the ghoul led me through a trashed warehouse to a brightly lit living space, and said, “we’re pulling a big job – let’s call it, taking some things that aren’t technically ours yet.”

“I didn’t ask,” I said, “but that sounds like trouble.”

“You don’t need to know about that,” said the ghoul. “The name’s Bobbie, and I just need you to do a little digging for me.”

She handed me a shovel, and led me toward a closet door, which she opened to reveal a giant hole in the back wall, a tunnel, that led through a rough section of dirt and rock, and opened up into what appeared to be the basement of another building. As she motioned me down the tunnel, I heard an explosion, and some voices said “OK, I think we can finally get through.”

No, I was out on this one. As I started to walk back up the tunnel to turn the shovel back over to Bobbie, I heard yelling behind me, and next thing I knew, two guys came running out of the tunnel, saying something about Mirelurks. Sure enough, right behind them, there they were. I was able to see them coming up the stairs, and before they could get to me, blasted them both with the shotgun.

I had some words with Bobbie when I got back. She countered my hostility by mentioning I had been “promoted.” I guess she thought, incorrectly, that might calm me down.

She said I should meet her back in Diamond City at Power Noodles, because she needed to recruit one other guy, and she’d tell me what the plan was at that point.

“Skip it,” I said. “I’ve got stuff to do here in Goodneighbor. I don’t know what’s going on, but it smells rotten.”

“Ah, there it is,” she answered. “The anti-ghoul hostility I was waiting for.”

“It’s not anti-ghoul,” I said. “I don’t want any part of this. This isn’t manual labor, it’s something else, and I don’t want any part of it.”

“Suit yourself,” she said. “Here’s your caps, thanks for taking care of those Mirelurks.”

The Mayor Gives a Speech

The Mayor Gives a Speech

I cursed under my breath, and headed back to the main alley in a huff. As I rounded the corner into Goodneighbor, I saw a dozen or so people had gathered under a balcony at the back of the Old State House. The mayor was giving a speech, and the crowd was cheering him on. He spoke about how Goodneighbor was a town of misfits, and that it only existed because everyone stuck together. There were forces in the world that would seek to divide the town. Someone in the crowd shouted, “the Institute and their synths,” and the mayor applauded. “Keep a watch for people doing things they don’t normally do, for someone acting funny,” he said.

As the speech continued, I happened to gaze across the large open area just past the entrance to the State House where everyone was gathered. A building directly in front of me, perhaps 150 feet away, had a glowing neon sign above its two red doors – “The Memory Den.” Just above that sign was an even bigger one, with giant letters arranged in an arch that said “Scollay Square.”

I looked back up at the balcony, and the mayor was engaged in this call-and-response with the crowd. A ghoul standing next to me nudged my shoulder with his and whispered in my ear – “I heard you saved Rex Goodman from the Super Mutants. Guess not everyone appreciates the Bard, am I right?”

This was all happening too fast.

The conversation between the mayor and the townspeople ended, and as the crowd dispersed and I tried to process what was going on, I heard a voice call out to me from above. It was the mayor.

The Mayor Calls Me Up for a Chat

The Mayor Calls Me Up for a Chat

“New guy – come upstairs for a second. Let’s have a chat.”

My eyes wandered down from the balcony and onto a sign just above the door in front of me – “The Third Rail.” Well that was ominous.

As I approached the door, a guard motioned me away. “Entrance is back in the alley – this here’s for the bar.”

Back in the alley was a door leading into the Old State House. Another guard motioned me toward a rickety circular staircase in the middle of the room and two floors up, yet another guard ushered me into a cozy, well-lit sitting room. There were paintings of idyllic New England landscapes hanging between windows, a makeshift kitchen area against the back wall, a couple sofas, and two coffee tables with an assortment of just about every type of chem I had seen since emerging from the vault. The woman with short red hair I had noticed earlier was sitting on a couch, and stood up as I entered. She was wearing armor, more modern that most in the Commonwealth, but still a kind of patchwork, and she was armed. Most likely the mayor’s bodyguard, or right-hand. “Hello little pawn, welcome to our fun and games.”

The mayor stood at the far end of the room, and he approached, waving off the woman. “We haven’t been properly introduced. The name’s Hancock. Heard you were coming, but don’t know why, exactly, so maybe you can fill me in.”

“Do all visitors need to check in with you?”

“No, only the ones that are preceded by a synth,” Hancock answered curtly.

Apparently, Nick had reached Goodneighbor just fine. I suddenly wondered if that speech outside about synths and the Institute was for my benefit.”

“What have you done with Nick,” I asked?

Meeting Hancock, The Mayor

Meeting Hancock, The Mayor

“We haven’t done anything with him. We know about Nick. He’s been a fixture at Diamond City since before I arrived here. Just startled a few of the newer residents is all. I’ve got everyone on high alert here for anything suspicious, so we knew the moment he came into town. We even sent a couple people out looking for you at his request, so I didn’t appreciate it when Finn decided to shake you down the moment you arrived. But we don’t have to worry about that anymore now, do we?”

“I didn’t know if that speech was for Nick is all,” I replied.

Hancock laughed, “you liked my little speech? I do it in case they’re listening in. I just want the Institute to know this town is off limits. You might have a reputation in the Commonwealth, but it’s still not all about you, you know.”

“So you know where Nick is,” I asked?

“He’s waiting for you at the Memory Den. And just for the record, even synths are welcome in Goodneighbor, as long as they’re playing nice. Synths under the Institute’s control are pretty easy to spot, since they never play nice.”

“Thanks,” I said, and turned to leave.

Hancock raised his voice, “Aren’t you curious why I asked you up here?”

I stopped, and he continued, “I heard you’re good on reconnaissance missions.”

“Well, I’m not too sure about that,” I replied. “to be honest, most of my reconnaissance missions recently have turned into mercenary work.”

“Ah, so it’s money you’re after.”

“Well, it helps me stay safe – I took at pit stop at KLEO’s store on the way in. There’s a few things there I could certainly use if I had the caps.”

The mayor continued, “there’s a raider outpost that’s gone uncomfortably quiet. It’s at The Pickman Gallery, in the North End. I need someone to snoop it out, and I’ll make it worth your while.”

“There’s some things I need to take care of first,” I replied. “But I’ll check it out and get back to you.”

“For the amount I’m paying, I need you to be thorough. I’m not talking about a quick look-see.”

“I get it,” I said. “I assume you’re OK if things go bad up there?”

“Just as long as you get as much information as you can first. I need to know what they’re up to if it’s possible.”

I nodded, and headed out of Hancock’s office, down the rickety old circular staircase to the ground floor, and exited out another door that opened directly into the courtyard. A few steps away, two men with rifles were standing watch over a body on the ground. “Screw the Institute,” said one of them. “This shit’s gotta stop.”

Nick, At The Memory Den

Nick, At The Memory Den

I couldn’t get involved in more drama. I headed straight past them toward the entrance to the Memory Den. Inside, just beyond the coat check counter was a spacious room ornately decorated in red and gold. At the far end, reclining on an elegant chaise lounge, was a woman in a shiny red silk dress. As I approached her, I heard a voice from behind me.

“About time you showed up,” said Nick, who was seated on a sofa along the back wall.

“Jesus, Nick. I’ve been looking all over for you,” I said.

“And we’ve been looking all over for you,” he replied. “No time to waste. Dr. Amari’s waiting for us downstairs.”


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