November 10, 2287 – Aside from my lengthy nap in the crashed military tank I had stumbled upon in the wasteland just north of Fort Hagan, I had pretty much been going full tilt since Nick and I had started tracking down Kellogg. That kind of schedule was probably fine for Nick, being a synth and all, but when I had first arrived at the Red Rocket, I don’t even think I had realized how exhausted I was. The power armor I had discovered in a Fort Hagen barn had helped make it a little easier to get home, despite being wounded from the shrapnel in the proximity mine explosion near the tank, but now that I had a chance to sort of catch my breath, it was clear that I didn’t have the kind of energy I was going to need in order to break into the Institute. That is if I could even find it.
I was surprised to find that Preston and the Minutemen had, for the most part, abandoned Sanctuary Hills in favor of the Red Rocket settlement. Were it not for the giant rocket on top of the structure, I don’t think I would have recognized the little service station. While I had been gone, the entire site had been heavily fortified, with turrets every sixty feet or so around its perimeter, and with strategically placed guardposts, all manned (or woman-ed). Entrance to the settlement was achieved on the north side only, and while there was no gate or other blockage to entry, all visitors had to pass under two train boxcars that had been hoisted up to form a bridge above the entrance. On either side of this wide opening was a turret, and a guard was also posted on each end. This setup gave the appearance of openness, but it was obvious that no one was getting in unless they were supposed to be there.
On the south side of the Red Rocket, just inside the perimeter wall, was a three-storied community building with barracks on the first two floors. The third floor was a bit smaller, and above that was a sheltered open area. Underneath the roof of that open space were a couple benches, but sitting on top of that roof was something that immediately caught my attention – an almost new looking Pick-R-Up truck. When I asked Preston about it, he said “that’s all Sturges – I didn’t think we had the time for that, but he argued for it. Said something about making a statement. Now that the site’s fortified, I guess it’s safe to bring some attention to what we have here and let people know we’re starting a functional colony of our own. It’s mostly just body panels patched together, no motor, but still.” I stood there looking at it in wonder. “Brought up in pieces,” added Preston.
Just beyond the south wall, the landscape past the site dropped sharply, almost like a cliff face, and then right after that were the houses on the north side of Concord. That Pick-R-Up truck, which had the added visibility benefit of being lit by a couple carefully-placed spotlights, could probably be seen for miles. I was sure it was at least partly the reason why the settlement had grown to about 20 people or more.
As I wandered the site, I thought for sure people were wondering why this new arrival had plenty of space in the garage for a workshop all to himself, and also a nice prime spot on the third level of the community building, but no one questioned me. In fact, everyone seemed to know who I was. As I walked by the garden that had taken most of the space in a corner lot, one settler, a man about my age who I had never met, stood up and shook my hand, put his other hand on my shoulder and said, “anything we can do to help you get your kid back, you just say the word.”
On the site’s west side, which was the back of the Red Rocket, a couple Brahmin grazed lazily in the sunlight. A guard, a woman in perhaps her mid-20’s, up on her post atop the wall, hollered down, “hey, you’re Samuel, right?” “Yeah,” I replied. “When you get back to Diamond City, say hi to Nick for me,” she said with a wide smile. “Sure,” I said. “Hey, do you know how those boxcars at the entrance got here,” I asked? “Have you met Strong,” countered the guard? “Yeah, but I thought he was at Tenpines Bluff,” I replied. “Preston had him helping out here for a while. Strong and a bunch of the Minutemen cleared out the Corvega Factory, and then once Tenpines was reasonably safe, Strong pushed those boxcars here all the way from the tracks outside the Quarry. Then he helped us move all the equipment from Sanctuary Hills after the Brotherhood arrived. I think he only left a few hours ago. You probably just missed him.” “You’re telling me Strong pushed those cars all the way up the hill from Concord?” “Yeup,” she stated matter of factly. “Any idea what’s going on with the Brotherhood,” I asked? “No idea. They just kind of showed up a couple days ago and said we’d be seeing a lot of them. Preston negotiated a kind of uneasy truce with one of the soldiers, but he thought it best that we all move to one site. I wouldn’t be surprised if the folks at Tenpines and Abernathy Farm joined us here as well eventually. Saw my first Vertiberd earlier today from here, just a couple of hours ago.”
“Thanks,” I said. “What’s your name?”
“Flower,” she said with another smile. “It’s good to finally meet you.” “Likewise,” I said.
I continued to mull about the settlement for a half hour or so, checking out all the improvements, and familiarizing myself with the new layout, as well as some of the new settlers, and then headed upstairs in the community building to the room everyone had set up for me. The space was a little cramped, but it was cozy. Somewhere, the settlers had found what looked like a brand new mattress, and a desk in really good shape. Above the head of the bed was a small window with two thin blue sheets of fabric serving as drapes, which were lightly dancing in the cold breeze. There were shutters that I could have closed, but I liked the open air coming in, freezing as it was.
On the wall over the desk was an old Nuka Cola calendar from 2077 that I had previously seen in the Red Rocket station. The top half of the calendar featured the famous Nuka Cola Thirst Zapper girl in her space outfit, standing with her back up against a giant bottle of Nuka Cola. On the bottom half, a number of calendar pages had been ripped off, and X’s had been scrawled on every date in October up through Friday the 22. On Saturday the 23rd, the bombs had fallen. It was kind of hard to believe that while I had been running up to the Vault with Shaun and Nora, people were probably working here, maybe died here. Maybe they ran into Concord. Where would they have gone?
Things had been getting progressively more tense in the world in the late 2070’s. I think we all just never thought anything could really happen. Too many people had too much invested in making sure this sort of thing *didn’t* happen. We all had plans for our lives. We had kids. We had families. Whatever shell game was going on with those in charge, I guess we all kind of thought it would keep shuffling along somehow. The wheel of world governments would keep on turning, just as it had for centuries before. And then one fall day, it all stopped, and it seemed the only ones who still had concrete plans 200 years later were nefarious forces that captured people for reasons as yet unknown. Everyone else was just trying to survive.
I snagged a pencil out of the desk and flipped the page to November, crossed out the 11th, which was on a Thursday, and wrote in the number 10. Then I did the same for the rest of the days left in the month. I was almost three weeks out of Vault 111, and it felt like I had been out for months. I looked around at my little space and wondered why they had done this for me. Everyone seemed really grateful to be part of this little group, and Preston actually seemed to be doing a great job holding the whole place together. Maybe, like me and like so many other people here, he was looking for a chance to redeem himself. The last few months had not been kind to the Minutemen, and I realized that by extending the Minutemen’s reach, one settlement at a time, he might somehow be trying to make up for the ground that his group had lost at Quincy, Jamaica Plain, and eventually, Lexington. As of now, there was a sort of weak framework of Minutemen-protected settlements pushing down toward the city. Tenpines Bluff was to the east, then we had the Red Rocket, and behind that, Sanctuary Hills, then farther west was Abernathy Farm, and if Sunshine Tidings could be pulled into the mix, the Minutemen could lay claim to a tenuous hold on a good part of the northwest suburbs of Boston proper. I wondered how the arrival of the Brotherhood would impact those plans. Maybe Preston actually felt strengthened by their presence. Perhaps emptying out Sanctuary Hills in favor of pushing everything south to the Red Rocket was a practical and strategic move if the plan was to keep going southeast. Maybe he eventually wanted to reclaim Lexington.
I lied down on the bed and realized I was letting my thoughts get away from me. The mindfog was settling in, and I knew I needed sleep. My thoughts cleared for a moment, and as I pulled a heavy blanket over me, it became clear that as eager as the “new Minutemen” were to defend their settlement, they were not an army. This was not the sort of group that was going to push into new territory, looking to claim it. These were homesteaders, and the reason they were willing to take up arms was to protect what little they had left, to defend what they had built here. The alliances with other settlements were for trade, not necessarily for protection, although that had factored into it as well.
But the Brotherhood… The Brotherhood was different. The Brotherhood was organized. It was equipped. This was an army. The words, “we mean you no harm” echoed in my head.
Next thing I knew, I was awakened by quick snaps of gunfire below my window. It was dark out, and I pulled myself up to the sill, and looked down the cliff face. I saw a couple settlers walking back toward the road leading up to the Red Rocket, having apparently just taken out a couple raiders.
It was quiet now, except for the dull hum of a generator outside. I fell back asleep and soon awoke with the morning sun streaming into my eyes. My head felt clear, and although my leg still ached a bit, I felt energized and ready to go pay a visit to Paladin Danse to see if the Brotherhood had reached the Cambridge Police Station yet, or if the soldiers were still isolated there.
By the time I reached the station, it was late morning. I was fortunate in that the trip had gone quickly and without incident. As I approached the station courtyard, everything was quiet and enshrouded in a morning mist that was just beginning to burn off. As the thought entered my head that “OK, looks like their ghoul situation probably has finally been taken care of for good,” of course I heard the sounds behind me. I dashed through the courtyard, into the station, ghouls hot on my heels. I tried to slam the door behind me, but there were too many of them, and they pushed the door open. I opened fire on them, and from behind me, saw a red laser matching the blue one I was firing. It was Danse.
He glared at me – “Ready to move out?”
One sentence, and most of my questions had been answered. It was obvious the three of them hadn’t heard from the Brotherhood yet, and I wasn’t about to spill the beans that their lot was currently scurrying across the Commonwealth like rodents. I still had one remaining question though. Why were they still here, all these days later, with ghouls still outside?
Danse answered that he still felt the police station was a good strategic spot, that they had found plenty of supplies here, and that the antenna on the roof was an added bonus. The moment Scribe Haylen detected some strange high-energy readings, they figured there must be some tech nearby that needed investigating. But finding the source of the transmissions would require amplifying the signal for the radio tower. That, in turn, would require a deep-range transmitter. Discovering new tech was everything to the Brotherhood, and they weren’t above sacrificing themselves in the quest to find it. As long as these energy readings remained a mystery, they were going to stay here and defend the site while trying to contact the Brotherhood at large for assistance.
“All right, let’s go then,” I said.
As I turned to leave, Knight Rhys bumped into my shoulder and quipped, “hey hot shot.” I asked why the anger. He said he wasn’t angry, he was just letting me know where I stood – that I was hired help. I asked why the Brotherhood needed hired help then, and why hadn’t he ventured out into the Commonwealth himself to look for the needed equipment?
Danse shut us both down. “That’s enough. We’ve got shit to do. Let’s get to it.”
And with that, Danse and I headed out door and into the alleyway next to the police station. Almost immediately, we were on an old crumbling road in the open, heading west toward, well, toward wherever it was he was leading us to.
Danse said if it was his call, he’d have led Haylen and Rhys out of the station a long time ago, but he had been given orders, and apparently his squad was not the first to be sent here. He also mentioned a “Citidel” in the Capitol Wasteland on the outskirts of DC and said while the station wasn’t nearly as imposing as that site was, he felt it suited their current purpose, and that’s all he was prepared to say.
We traveled along the disappearing road, keeping the Charles to our left. Eventually we came upon a group of five Pulowski Preservation Shelters, with a Port-A-Diner in the middle, and full skeletons as well as scattered bones everywhere. I wondered how many people had tried to cram themselves into these little cylinders before the bombs fell. There were long rust-covered scratches in the blue paint on the outside of the doors. I couldn’t imagine the horror that must have taken place here.
Not far past the shelters, pulled up close to the concrete platform containing them, a destroyed bus continued the story.
We walked on, and encountered some raiders underneath a steel railroad bridge that ran perpendicular to the road. Danse and I made short work of them, and while I scavenged their campsite for medical supplies, Danse rushed ahead, eager to get to our destination. I caught up to him as he passed another bus that looked like it had gotten stuck and was tipped almost forty-five degrees on the riverside embankment. Obviously, it had been there for 200 years, but it looked as if a stiff wind would have knocked it down into the Charles.
Eventually the road diverged from it’s path along the river and turned right, up a hill and under one of the overpasses. I had sort of lost my bearings by this point, and didn’t know which highway this was. At the top of the hill was what appeared to be a factory with orange-yellow highlights. “ArcJet Systems,” said Danse. Across the road from the factory was a platform with some crazy piece of aircraft mounted on it like a sculpture. It kind of looked like a small jet initially, but instead of the typical cockpit in the front with windows so the pilot could see out, there was a solid wing on top of the plane in a “V” shape, feathering back and about a foot or two above the plane’s regular wings. I had never seen anything like it, not even in the military.
Danse called me over to the factory entrance, and said we were doing this strictly by the book. Clean and quiet, no heroics. I said I had no argument with that, and in we went.
Although we expected security inside to be an issue, it was clear someone had already taken care of that. There were busted up Protectrons in almost every room. The main lobby had seven or eight of them, and we found another dozen or so amongst the wreckage of what was left here. Danse was quick to note that there wasn’t one spent casing or speck of blood in the whole place. He said this was Institute synths at work. So Danse knew about the Institute as well.
I played coy, and asked him what synths were. His normally cold and clinical demeanor turned emotional in a hurry. He said they were an abomination, created to be an improvement on humanity. They shouldn’t be allowed to exist. I got a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. My first thought was how glad I was that I had sent Nick back to Diamond City. Imagine if I had arrived at the Cambridge Police Station with a private detective who had machine parts showing through his face? Would Danse and his crew have shot Valentine on the spot? Based on what I had experienced in my search to find Shaun, obviously I had my own issues with the Institute, but here was yet another example of what a good idea it was to be careful when talking to any new friends here in the Commonwealth. One slip of the tongue could find you on the outs with someone in an instant.
We moved through the building with no resistance, but eventually came to a dead end with a locked set of sliding metal doors. The terminal next to it was still functional, and I managed to reprogram the lock in just a few minutes.
Danse started to congratulate me, but was interrupted mid-sentence by a wave of synths that came pouring through the space between the opening doors. Although we took out that initial group, we found more synths in the passageways past the initial room.
Along the way, as Danse looked for the deep-field amplifier, I did some reconnaissance using other working terminals. It turns out ArcJet was contracted to supply a special kind of rocket booster for a Mars Shot Project funded by the US Government. There was a cover up involving a photographer who had somehow gotten past security and was burned to ash when a test engineer unknowingly fired the rocket while the photographer was in the core. Not long after the accident, the Project was delayed by the United States Space Administration due to the growing unrest overseas. Probably a resource issue. With the country gearing up for a potential war, most likely it was an “all hands on deck” type of situation. There were notes in one of the terminals about ArcJet having to live off the proceeds from the Deep Range Transmitter contract that had already been completed. So it was probably here somewhere.
Down some more corridors, we found turrets, which most likely signified we were getting closer to our goal.
A few more unlocked terminals and doors later, we were in the test chamber itself. A massive booster rocket hung suspended from some of the biggest scaffolding I had ever seen, and metal stairways led down into the bowels of the chamber. We weren’t here for the booster rocket however. Danse said the transmitter was likely in the control room way up on top, and it looked like the only way up was via an elevator off the metal staircase, but the power was out. We’d have to see if there was some way to start everything up again, and the only way forward right now was down. So that’s where we went, down to the concrete base under the booster rocket. In the side of one wall was an opening that led to some corridors and into another control room, visible through thickly reinforced windows in the chamber wall. I checked it out, while Danse stayed outside to guard the stairwell from anyone or anything coming up behind us.
Beyond the control room was an enclosed space with two high-powered generators. There was a fusion core in them already, so getting them started up again was as simple as pushing a button. As soon as I did so, I heard laser fire in the distance. When I stepped back into the control room, I saw through the blast windows that Danse was surrounded by synths, and more and more were dropping from somewhere up above. He didn’t stand a chance. I suddenly thought of the photographer that had been incinerated, and wondered if Danse’s T-60 armor was everything I had read about. The control room had a firing button for the rocket booster, and I made a split second decision to hit it. The Danse vs. Synth battle continued as a countdown started. All I could do was watch and hope that he could hold them off, and that he wouldn’t get reduced to ash once the rocket fired.
A white hot glow emerged from the test chamber, and Danse knelt down on one knee as the synths were melted into clumps of metal. As soon as the test firing completed, I ran out to Danse, hoping he was still alive.
He was. He said it was time to get to the transmitter.
We hopped on the elevator, and fought more synths on the way to the main control room. Eventually, we found the transmitter on one of the more advanced synths that had collapsed in the back of the room. Simple as that. We took the elevator back down, and eventually found an exit on the side of the building. It was dark out. We had spent a whole day on this mission, and I hadn’t even realized it. This part of the building looked like some kind of bunker, and we had come out right next to a few discarded barrels of toxic waste, and some old rusted earth moving machinery. A light mist hung in the air, which Danse’s headlamp illuminated in an expanding cone of light.
He stopped me and said that could’ve gone smoother, but at least the mission was a success. When I noted that a successful outcome was all we could really hope for, I got a lecture about how sloppiness is unacceptable. He said we had been unprepared in several instances, and we had gotten lucky at other turns, but my help had been essential and he wasn’t certain he could have retrieved the transmitter alone. I apologized for nearly burning him to death. I thought I heard a slight chuckle at that, but perhaps I imagined it, since humor didn’t seem to be something Danse understood at all. This guy was all mission, all the time.
I handed him the transmitter, and in return, he offered me his personal modified laser rifle. It was a long rifle with a full stock, but a standard capacitor and standard sights. I didn’t have the heart to tell him I had actually found a couple better weapons in my travels so far, so I asked him if he was sure he didn’t need it. He said he always kept a backup, and that he had more advanced rifles at the Police Station, so I accepted it gratefully and figured at least I’d have some parts for tinkering with my other weapons, or perhaps I could give it to someone back at the Red Rocket later.
As I was shouldering the weapon, Danse got quiet and said we had a lot thrown at us back there, but that I had kept my cool and handled it like a soldier. He said the way he saw it, I had two choices – I could either continue my life as a wandering gun for hire, or I could join the Brotherhood of Steel. He had no doubt I’d go far within the Brotherhood’s ranks and eventually make my mark on the world.
His tone was as forthright and as honest as anything I had heard from him so far. I wasn’t sure this was an offer I could refuse. But I thought of Nick, and my mission to find my son. I didn’t remember if I had even told Danse about Shaun. If I had, it had been the first time I had met the group a few days ago, and obviously he didn’t remember it either. Then I thought of Preston and the Minutemen, and wondered what they would think if I suddenly showed up and announced that I had joined forces with the group that seemed to be taking over the Commonwealth. The truth is, I liked being able to come and go as I pleased. The jury was still out on the Brotherhood. Even if they were as noble as they claimed to be, I still wasn’t sure I wanted to join up with any organization, let alone one that seemed bent on conquest.
I asked Danse what would be expected of me if I joined? He replied that I’d be under his command and that he’d expect me to follow orders. I’d have access to advanced weaponry and advanced power armor. But it was also clear that there would be no more mercenary work.
Well, that was it then. If I was going to join up with the Brotherhood, it would have to be after I found Shaun. I supposed that would give me more time to assess what the Brotherhood’s real work and real mission was here in the Commonwealth.
Danse sensed my hesitation, and gratefully, he let me off the hook. He said if I decided to become one of the Brotherhood, I knew where to find him. With that, he wished me luck, and quickly walked off to one of the huge bucket loaders that sat rusting in the dirt. The light from his helmet scanned the blemishes in the yellow paint, as if he was looking for something he could take off the giant earth mover.
I figured eventually, Danse, Rhys and Haylen would make contact with the Brotherhood at large, which would put me in a good spot if I needed their help later on, particularly if I was unable to find the Institute myself, and particularly if I needed help getting Shaun out of there.
When I had walked some distance, I looked back to see Danse’s headlamp still fixated on the giant earth mover. He was just standing there, head down, light still shining on one small section. What was he looking for?
I left the ArcJet site, and started to regain my bearings using the overpass as a guide. Then I realized I was wearing my Pip-Boy, and that I could just turn it on and determine where I was that way. Turns out, I wasn’t far from Diamond City. If I made my way to the railroad bridge where we had fought the raiders, I could take the tracks south and around the southern edge of the Back Bay right to Diamond City. If I wasn’t held up by anything or anyone, I’d probably be there in an hour or so. If I wasn’t too late, I could have a chat with Piper, the “extra set of eyes” Nick said would be useful in figuring out our next steps to finding the Institute.