Lilith dove over the cement counter of a stall in the market section of Bunker Hill, crunching herself up into the corner and flinching as a couple of laser blasts melted pieces of the wall above her. She shoved some fusion cells into the Institute laser rifle Shaun had gifted her with and tried to catch her breath at the same time.
She crawled over to the edge of the cement slab and peered around it. Several Brotherhood of Steel soldiers heavily geared in Power Armor were well on their way to mowing down a battalion of synths who had appeared as backup for her Courser 'partner,' X4-18. Not so much a partner as he was a babysitter, she could see him out in the fray as well, pulling a BOS soldier down to the ground and shooting right through the visor on the front of his helmet until the body lay still, and the helmet almost melted in two.
Lilith turned around, her mind racing as she tried to figure out what her next move was. Suddenly her eyes rested on a rusty steel hatch in the floor right in front of her. Not a floor safe, but an actual hatch. She scrambled over to it and used all her strength to raise the heavy door. When she managed to wrench the hatch all the way up so that it stood vertical, she slipped down inside.
MacCready had left Hancock alone to find a good sniping position from one of the taller nearby buildings. The ghoul slunk around the outskirts of Bunker Hill, keeping near the tall fence that spanned the perimeter of the little settlement. He stumbled backwards suddenly as the body of a synth crashed through the fence right in front of him. He heard some fuses popping and saw small electrical sparks shooting from the sizzling body but it lay still.
He cautiously peered through the hole in the fence, and was about to shrug back behind it to keep his cover when movement from the corner of his eye caught his attention. He saw long dark auburn hair for just a moment before it disappeared behind a wall.
"Lil!" He shouldered his way through the hole in the fence and ran after the figure he had seen. A laser blast stopped him in his tracks and he turned almost too late to see a BOS soldier barreling towards him.
"Ad Victori-" Hancock heard the man shouting the banner of the Brotherhood, but he was cut short as a .50 calibur sniper shot blew a hole through the steel of his helmet and his skull. The goliath suit of Power Armor plowed to the ground at Hancock's feet. He glanced briefly up at the buildings behind him and tipped his tricorn, then continued on into the market.
Lilith ran through crumbling, labyrinthian hallways that brought her deeper and deeper below ground. She encountered no opposition for most of the trek, but before long she could hear laser blasts and explosions emanating from some sort of open chamber up ahead. When she finally reached an opening she tried to stay behind as much cover as she could while she peered out around the wall.
On the opposite side of the large chamber a number of Railroad heavies stood behind a sandbag wall, opening fire on the BOS soldiers that assaulted them from some opening underneath where Lilith was standing. Two machinegun turrets were set up on the platform where the heavies were, rapid-firing bullets alongside them.
Lilith's only advantage lay in the fact that the Railroad was keeping the Brotherhood, and shortly the Institute synths, occupied. She knew now that the escaped synths the Railroad was protecting had to be further underground. She took a heavy breath and dropped down off the ledge she had been watching from, trying to stay in the shadows as she skirted along the wall behind the fight. She opened fire with the laser rifle on a BOS soldier that was attempting to breach the line of Railroad heavies.
Out of the corner of her eye she saw someone waving to her. Another Railroad operative stood in a doorway off to her side, beckoning her over. She hopped a railing onto a ramp that led up to the doorway, pushing in past the operative. "The packages are further down! Get them outta here!"
She ran past him and into another maze-like set of crypts. She blew out a couple of turret guns, went up a set of stairs and found herself up above the fighting again, then turned and went down another set of stairs that brought her further underground.
When Lilith finally made it to the end of the maze-like tunnels, she found herself in a room with four scared and shaking people. Synths, actually, but it was impossible to tell the difference. They all looked up at her and backed up towards the wall, and she could see the fear and desperation in their eyes.
One woman backed herself up into a corner, holding her hands up in a weak attempt at a defensive posture. "Come on, please…just…just don't…"
Lilith checked her laser rifle quickly, loading in a fresh fusion cell. "Relax! You'll be free to go as soon as the Brotherhood has been dealt with…"
The Courser X4-18 strode into the room just as Lilith said this. He had been just about to congratulate her on locating the rogue synths, but he immediately lifted his own laser rifle and aimed it at his partner.
Before Lilith even realized that X4-18 was in the room with them, she was struck in the shoulder. She let out a surprised cry, recoiled and grabbed her arm, looking down to see a bloody laser burn.
The reason X4-18 had missed and grazed her shoulder instead of potentially melting her face off was because Hancock had followed him all the way underground and tackled him to the floor when he had raised the rifle to shoot her. She saw this now. She forsook the rifle she'd dropped when she had been shot and grabbed the pistol she kept at her hip.
Hancock was wrestling with the Courser, trying to keep the rifle aimed away from himself and the other people in the room. He jammed his knee into the synth's stomach, hoping it would knock the wind out of him like it would a normal person. The Courser barely even flinched at the assault. He twisted the gun they both wrestled with and thrusted upwards with it sharply, catching Hancock on the chin and knocking him back.
Lilith strode up to the two men, raising the pistol and pulling the trigger just as X4-18 sat up. The Courser's head twitched to the side as the hole blown through it started to smoke. Hancock regained himself and raised his shotgun, blowing the synth's head almost all the way off at such close range.
He took a few heavy breaths and looked up at Lilith. "Just to be safe."
She felt like her bottom lip was scraping the dirt on the floor. She couldn't believe he'd found her here. And his timing… "John!? How…?"
Hancock stood up, wincing as he gingerly massaged his chin. "I'm guessin' there ain't a lot of time for explanations right now." He nodded towards the synths. "You here to kill them or help 'em?"
Lilith blinked. "Both technicially, but…" She shook her head, then looked up at him. "I'm going to help them."
Hancock nodded as he loaded a new shell into the sawed off. "Fighting's winding down out there, but there's some stragglers. You should tell 'em to wait here til it's quiet."
Lilith nodded, and turned toward them briefly. "You heard the man. We're going back out there. You need to stay here, lock the door behind us and wait for someone from the Railroad to come. They'll help you."
The woman who had backed herself up into the corner removed herself and followed Lilith and Hancock to the door. Before they could leave she grabbed Lilith and pulled her into a tight hug. "Thank you…"
Lilith grit her teeth at the pain in her shoulder, but she returned the woman's hug, then took a step back through the doorway. "Don't open this door until they come for you."
The woman nodded and pulled the door closed. Lilith let out a heavy sigh and pulled a Stimpak from the utility belt at her waist, injecting it into her shoulder. When she looked up, Hancock's eyes were on her. Those dark, depthless eyes. She swallowed. She didn't know what to say. "John…"
He slung the sawed off over his shoulder and started walking. "Let's go."
Lilith chewed her lip and followed him like a dog with its tail between its legs. They crept back up through the labyrinthine tunnels in an uncomfortable silence; raucous laser blasts and shouting echoed up to them through the halls, and when they stepped out onto the balcony staircase that overlooked the open room where the Railroad had made their stand, Hancock had to pull her back as a rogue shot from the single remaining turret gun bit the wall just beside them.
She clenched the laser pistol in her hand and ran for cover down the stairwell and back into the tunnels, John following close behind. When they reached the room adjacent to where the fighting was still going on, she saw the Railroad operative who had ushered her further in earlier lying dead in the doorway. John immediately stepped in front of her and grabbed the man's hands, dragging him out of their way and off to the side of the room. When he began walking back towards the door, Lilith stepped in front of him and pushed the door closed.
"John, before we go out there, we've gotta talk…"
He stopped in his tracks and narrowed his eyes at her. "You didn't wanna talk three weeks ago at the Castle, but you wanna talk now? In the middle of one of the biggest gunfights I've ever seen!? You really are fuckin crazy, doll, ya know that?"
A hurt look brushed across Lilith's face, but she tried to steel herself and didn't break her gaze from his face. "I know. Maybe I am. But I ran to protect you, John. You shouldn't have come here…"
"I saved your ass back there, sweetheart. You'd be dead if I hadn't come."
She rolled her eyes up toward the ceiling, pressing her back against the door. "And I'll probably be dead before this whole thing is through. But that's not the point, John. The point is that I wanted you to be safe! I didn't want the Institute coming after you! Goodneighbor's low on their radar for the moment, but-"
"Yeah, you know all about the Institute now, don't ya? The only person who's ever been in and come back out again. You're here on their orders? What do they want? What did they do with your kid? They usin' him to blackmail you or somethin'?"
She bit her lip. "It's…complicated. I found Shaun, but he's…he's…" She turned around and put her hand on the door handle. "I'll tell you later, okay? I was sent here to retrieve those synths but I've been working with the Railroad trying to figure out a way to free them instead. I'm…kind of a double agent I guess. But right now we need to focus on getting this area cleared. Okay?" Her voice cracked a little. She had turned around so he wouldn't see the look of pain she couldn't hide at the thought of Shaun. She knew what would have to happen eventually, but she hadn't prepared herself for it yet.
Hancock paused. It was obvious that whatever she had found in the Institute was nowhere close to what she had been expecting. He walked up and contemplated putting a hand on her shoulder, but did not. "Okay. We'll talk about it later."
She nodded and opened the door. The scene outside was grim. BOS soldiers, synths, and Railroad heavies all laid scattered across the floor of the large room, dead or dying. A few survivors continued to take pot shots at each other from opposite sides of the room. Lilith ran out, jumped the walkway, and began opening fire on a synth that was shooting at a surviving Railroad heavy. John began unloading shells on another synth that had entered from above. Lilith and the heavy put down the first synth, then began shooting at the one attacking Hancock.
When that synth went down, Lilith turned toward the heavy. "The packages are still down below and still safe. They've locked the door, and I told them not to open it for anyone who wasn't in the Railroad. When this place is clear, you go down there and get them!"
The heavy nodded at her.
Lilith nodded back, turned and strode toward a staircase at the other side of the room, heading towards the exit. Hancock followed close behind her, reloading the shotgun. "So you're spyin' for the Railroad?"
She glanced at him and nodded. "Yes…I've met synths who are indistinguishable from you or me. They don't deserve to be called anyone's 'property'."
"pretty sure they don't make synths that look like me…"
"You know what I mean. They're self-aware. They're not just things anymore. They feel gratitude, they feel grief, they feel their own confinement…"
"I'm sure Nicky would be swellin' with pride to hear you sayin' that…"
Hancock's long strides had carried him in front of Lilith. As they rounded a corner into an old workshop just near the ladder that would bring them back above ground, Lilith stopped in her tracks as she saw a BOS Knight standing at the foot of the ladder. Hancock was distracted for the moment, his head still turned back towards her as he talked. The BOS Knight quickly raised his rifle when he saw the two, taking aim at Hancock first. "Die, you filthy ghoul scum!"
"John!" Lilith shouldered him to the side and raised her pistol, blasting at the Knight just as he opened fire. John lurched and regained his balance quickly as the dingy room lit up with laser fire. Lilith was unloading round after round into the Knight's Power Armor, the onslaught making his aim jerky and inaccurate; he was obviously a newly-made Knight with little battle experience.
Hancock took this opportunity to rush the Knight from the side, getting as close as he could before he unloaded some shells from the sawed off into the Knight's helmet. The glass on the Knight's visor cracked and the force from the shots made him falter and lose his footing in the heavy suit. Hancock quickly reloaded the shotgun and blasted the rifle out of the Knight's hands. He jumped onto the suit of Power Armor and ripped off the helmet. "You want filthy ghoul scum!? Well you got it, cause I'm fuckin' feral now!" He punched the Knight in the nose several times, stood up, and unloaded the last shell in the gun into the man's head.
Panting, he turned around at a clattering sound as he wiped his face with his sleeve. Lilith's pistol had fallen to the floor, and she was weakly clutching at her stomach. There was blood pooling down her legs from a smoking laser wound in her upper abdomen.
"Lil! Ah shit…" Hancock ran to her side, pressing his hand against the wound to try and staunch some of the blood, easing her down to the ground. "Lil, listen to me, stay awake! Don't close your eyes!"
"John…" She coughed painfully, blood welling up in her mouth.
He rummaged in her utility belt for some Stimpaks, hands trembling. "Keep talkin' to me, love…"
"I'm…tired of saying sorry…but I…" She rasped in a breath, the sound gurgled from the blood welling up her esophagus. "I want you to know…"
Hancock injected her with all of the three Stimpaks he could find, still trying to keep one hand on her belly. "Hey doll, there'll be plenty of time…plenty of time for me to know whatever it is, yeah? You're gonna be fine. Everything's gonna be okay…"
She shook her head weakly, managing a small smile. "I just wanted…you to be safe. It wasn't…safe to be with me…"
"I know, Lil…I know." He removed his hand for a moment to see if the Stimpaks were doing their job of helping her blood to clot. He knew he'd have to try and move her, but he wasn't sure he could do it without causing her to bleed out. "I know ya felt like ya had to do all this on your own, but you didn't. You never had to be alone…"
She coughed weakly again, struggling to keep her eyes open. She grasped his hand that was on her abdomen. "I do…love you, John…that's what I wanted…you to know."
His breath hitched in his chest and it was all he could do not to let out a sob. When her eyes closed, he cradled her as gently as he could in his arms and carried her up the ladder and back out into the wasteland.