Trials of Diplomacy

Chapter 1.) Complaints of the Few

It had been a month since Elder Lyons collapsed at the opening ceremony of the judicial system in the Capital Wasteland since the bombs fell two hundred years ago. The Citadel went into a panic the second Scribe Jameson was able to get word down the road from Grayditch. Rothchild, for the better qualities of leader, commanded confidence and a clear head under pressure. The first priority was affirming the line of succession, and with the written statement and confirmation of the parties involved of Owyn Lyon's desire it was easy to achieve without argument. To the matter of the Elder's health, it was lucky that Doctor Hopkins was in the audience and able to attend to the Lyons with haste.

The only problem, health wise, was that Hopkins did not specialize in neurological disorders or illness. His treatment for Lyons was on par, skill level wise, to that of the comatose Doctor Lesko. Both now lied next to each other in matching gurneys. Hopkins knew of only one person with any expertise that could assist him, though after the dissolution of the Enclave any of his former colleagues were blown into the country side. Hopkins was sitting in his clinic with the two main patients checking over his notes and his medical journals.

His door opened and the maroon robes of Scribe Mendel walked in. She was adjusting several books in her arms as she sat down across from Hopkins. The spines of the tomes read: Annals of Neurology, Neurologic Clinics of North America, and Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry. The backlogged journals were requested and luckily Arlington was able to supply them in paper form. He looked from his pile of papers and smiled at the Brotherhood of Steel Scribe.

Mendel scrunched up her nose as she appraised the manuals, "this is the best we can do currently. The Brotherhood could offer better facilities..."

Hopkins rubbed his face, "would not matter really. We don't have anyone with the specialization nor do we have any advanced equipment. I'm also afraid moving them would put them in danger, one wrong shift or anything could put pressure on the brain."

"You make it sound like Elder Lyons may never return to us," Mendel was scared by the thought.

"I'm sorry, but it's a very good chance he may not wake up or even gain full cognitive abilities," Doctor Hopkins shook his head, "if only Raven Rock was still on line. The facilities there were amazing and would be well worth the risk of taking a trip."

"We have some searching teams going through the rubble," replied Mendel as she combed her hair back, "but no major returns, the rock really collapsed into itself."

"Underground facilities that detonate from within tend to do that," sneered Hopkins as opened a journal roughly, "and we can't even attempt half of this crap because we don't have active CAT or MRI machines."

"The old hospital in the downtown ruins might have something useful to salvage," suggested the Scribe.

"You don't know how much those things weigh. I highly doubt the Brotherhood would be able to fly into the super mutant controlled ruins to haul an item that weighs several hundred pounds," the comment was meant to be more logistical than insulting.

Mendel rubbed the back of her head, "better than carpet bombing the surrounding area to perform the operation."

"Military wasn't my area," replied Hopkins as chewed the corner of his mouth, "I was tasked with saving lives."

"That's why we haven't pressed anything against you, Doc," said Mendel yawning, "actually, we're looking to offer an opportunity..."

Hopkins' ears perked up, "a change of post? Citadel or Rivet City perhaps?"

"Doc, you know that too many questions would be asked about your background," the sad smile was on her lips, one she constantly shared with him, "not to mention you fit perfectly here. So perfect in fact, we're going to recommend you as one of the justices."

Hopkins mouth spread wide as he opening laughed, "are you serious. The Brotherhood is recommending me, me, of all people to be a town judge in the first trial in wasteland history?"

Mendel nodded, "we thought it would be a fair choice."

"I'm sure there are other motives behind it," chuckled Hopkins as he looked over to Elder Lyons, "seriously, how else could you justify the former head of surgery for the Enclave in the former United States Capitol. There is no way this would have passed under Lyons."

Scribe Mendel held his hand rather firmly, "this is an idea with a lot of thought behind it, Gordon. A lot of people have put a lot thought behind this idea."

"Which people," Hopkins put his hand on hers, "before I get into bed with this...idea...I'd like to know who I'm fucking," Mendel snorted with amusement, "called me old fashioned."

Zachary Zimm was in a warm, dimly lit, hole of the Capital Wasteland that was shrouded in the smells of stale tobacco, body odor, and attempts of incense and perfume. The glass was dirty and the rot gut whiskey tasted like the copper tubing used to condense it into drinkable form. Zimm still tipped it up to his lips, exhaling a little to cause some of the desert dust to fly out as he tipped the amber liquid back to his lips. His eyes were firmly placed on the stage in front of him for good reason.

Silver's Den was the best whore house the wasteland had to offer. It had many patrons and was well visited from all corners of the former capital by men, women, and occasionally ghouls who still had working parts and a want to use them despite the decreased feelings. In the off times from the typical position the whores were in, the house madame required them to dance on stage, privately for customers, and service the men in ways of conversation when not on their backs. Currently on stage was a rather top heavy blonde named Tabitha whose her hip motions to the live band that played sensual music with their mix of horns, piano and guitar (or the roughly put together pieces that could be construed as their counterparts from a time before the Great War) enticed the gaze of Zimm.

Ever since the deal had been made with the warden of Springvale Prison, the three Operatives worked out of the Springvale area. The fear of returning to Megaton was imprinted with the visit from Jericho after the declared independence of Springvale Prison. Zimm sipped his whiskey and recalled how Jericho stormed up to the prison shouting obscenities. Zimm, along with Daniel Roe and J.R. hid within the growing crowd of onlookers. The Sheriff of Megaton was escorted out by several deputies that had remained loyal to Ashkelon. Truth be told, only one third of the former raider deputies in the three settlements area remained loyal to Ashkelon when he announced independence from Colin Moriarty. The main reason being that the pockets of Moriarty, the Mayor of Megaton, were still lined heavily with caps.

It was after a conference with the planned future leader of the Sprinvale settlement that the plan of action for the Zimm, Roe, and J.R. was to sway the local merchants away from Moriarty and to the protection of Ashkelon. A large decision like this, to make a move against the leader of one settlement and prop up another need authorization from their commanding Scribe or Star Paladin. Bael was unfortunately tied in the Grayditch situation, but with the couriered message from Scribe Actaeon and returned message by roving merchant, Yearling was able to agree and inform the Operatives on the news. The correspondence and updates were being traded between Zimm, as he was the best handled to communications, and Yearling at weekly intervals through the trading caravans.

Given the green-light, Zimm had spent the last three weeks casing the merchants of Springvale. Daniel Roe had been gaining intelligence of Megaton through the Stahls and Harden Simms. J.R. had spent most his time within Vault 101, the residents were very receptive to the return of the escort party and their new Doctor. J.R., and the other Operatives, were treated like personal friends by the young female Overseer. It wasn't hard to build a good relationship with the Brotherhood and the Intelligence Operatives, the welcome included rad free food, warm fresh water showers, and clean clothes that were unused by anyone. Granted the clean clothes were newly generated Vault 101 jumpsuits, but the new synthetic fabric felt great against their newly washed skin. The most amazing gift they received was underwear.

In a post-apocalyptic world, the one thing that could be sorely missed would be fresh, clean, underwear. No textiles manufacturers to produce the little piece of clothing meant one of two things. The most common dress did not involve underwear, while some tired to accommodate the luxury item by wrapping cloth around the nether regions. The Vault, on the other hand, had the ability to make or generate certain synthetic goods, like jumpsuits, underwear, freshwater, and foodstuffs. The miracle of science, thought Zimm to himself as he drank the amber liquid.

The door to the brothel opened, allowing the day light to stream in for a brief moment. A man in combat armor with a coat walked in. The guard at the door checked his rifle and side arm, but allowed him to keep his blade. He took off his coat and shook out the dust as he put on the chair next to Zimm. The Operative looked up to see the man remove his face wrap to reveal the stone face of Daniel Roe. Roe sat down and creaked his neck as he pulled out a few caps to purchase a beer.

"The Stahls say that Moriarty is planing something big," said Roe as he sipped his warm flat beer from the bottle.

"What do they mean," asked Zimm contemplatively.

"No details, all they know comes from Billy Creel," continued Roe, "Moriarty used his merchant contacts to request assistance."

"Assistance from whom?" Zimm raised an eyebrow.

"All I know was the final location of the caravan," Roe tipped his beer in salute as Tabitha left the stage, "they headed out to Tenpenny Tower."

John Harkness was kicking the sand and dirt into the camp fire to extinguish the flame. The last month he had been on the road. Specifically the remnants of back roads and the rubble desert. So broken was the road and slow the pace because he had to carry his travel companion that Harkness spent more time making camp than being able to travel. However, he did make a promise and saw to it to fulfill what was required by the servant that helped him escape. The comatose raider was sitting against the crumbled remains of the wall as Harkness sat across from her closed his eyes and opened his ears to hear more around him.

He detected on the wind the smells of unclean flesh that were not from him or his companion. The only other reason for that smell would be raiders. Harkness decided not to talk with his companion, it would be a waste of energy. Instead they proceeded as quietly as they could with Harkness caring her the whole way. She was more like a living sack of potatoes than anything else. The weight did not bother him, it was just cumbersome to hold her and keep alert with a weapon handy. There were a few times that raiders thought attacking Harkness would yield an easy victory. The android proved them wrong continuously.

He kept his eyes closed as he flexed the synthetic muscles leading to his ears to help move them a little to adjust his perception. Harkness heard the light breathing from his fellow traveler and the wind beating against the ruins outside. The only sign marker he had uncovered was a green highway sign that proclaimed the ruins had once been Fairfax. John Harkness had heard about a large raider colony in the area and decided to pay extra attention to the noise. The first crack caused Harkness to stiffen upright and his eyes to open.

The second and third cracks caused his pupils to contract. The gunfire was coming closer but he could only hear one weapon being discharged. It was the zap that caught his attention. He moved closer to his travel companion and held her to his body, she had awoken in a fright and was fidgeting. Harkness tried to soothe her by making cooing noises. There was yelling and the foot falls of several people that ran by the ruins hit against the walls as they hurried past. The gun fire was soon replaced by the discharge of energy weapons and metallic communication devices from power armor helmets.

The far wall that Harkness had been sitting against burst into dust and rubble. The girl in the android's arm curled into a ball silently crying. The dust and rubble cleared as a power armored soldier stepped through the newly made hole. The armor was the newer Mark II armor that was used by the Enclave but was painted in certain areas with red. There was cylinder gripped in his hands that emitted a blue light.

Harkness looked up in fear, the first thought coming to his mind was to grab his plasma pistol, but his satchel was tucked between him and the girl, "to locals, non combatants," said the member of the Outcasts into their communication device.

Harkness strained his ears hard to hear the receiver inside the helmet, "hostiles are moving down western road."

"Advise on locals," asked the Outcast soldier as his visor stared into the faces of Harkness and the mentally ill girl, "dress indicates non Fairfax res."

"Doesn't matter Morgan, throw them back," said the metallic voice on the other end.

"No," shouted Harkness as he looked Morgan in the face, "I...I...she needs medical attention...I have trade...I have trade!"

"Protector, interesting development," said Defender Morgan into her communications unit.

Operatives Quin Schieber and Anna LaCroix were finally making a rotation back to Alexandria. They had spent a month living at Friendship Heights. The settlement was now assigned to a Knight Captain and small contingent for protection. The underground tunnels had be reinforced and the walls of the settlement extended to encompass the metro entrance. Ban, once rescued, had been transported out immediately to the Citadel for medical care and recovery. Schieber and LaCroix were sitting in the vertibird as it landed in the front of Alexandria.

They stepped off the transport to see the facade of their long awaited home. Schieber gave a coy smile to LaCroix and held the door open for her as they walked in to their home and office. Waiting for them were Knight Captain Galeas and Knight Bors. They greeted them warmly and ushered them in to the cafeteria for warm vittles. Elias served the food for them as he leaned heavily on his crutch. As he rounded the table to serve LaCroix and spoke softly into her ear.

"After this, Jaan, I would like to see you," he smiled a little and tilted his head closer, "I have a welcome home present for you."

LaCroix smiled a little and nodded. After they finished eating she made her way to the servant quarters and knocked on the closed door. Elias answered with a large smile and welcomed her in, he took a seat on his bunk bed.

"Welcome back," he said as she took a seat in an empty chair near him, "I overheard this settlement you were stationed at went though a tough time. Did you pray, Anna?"

Anna's smile fluttered for a minute and she nodded, "continuously."

"Then it seems The One has heard you," answered Elias as he put his hand on his knee, "I hate that violence leads to religion, but it's better to have some beliefs than to live a whole life in ignorance...what my tribe called jahilyyah. You, unlike many others, seem to have left that stage."

Anna was a little perplexed and it showed on her face, "Elias, I would call it more of a...spirituality than religion. Somehow, God willing, we survived and Knight Ban was able to make it out alive as well. It was...miraculous. To say the least."

"I agree, Anna, with you," Elias said and moved a bundle forward, "and since you've recognized this spirituality, I'd like to give you something to enhance it. The words don't matter at this time, but the feeling and emotion you express with them does. I hope you'll use this prayer mat."

He pushed the rolled up prayer mat to her. She picked it up and smiled. Thanking Elias with hug and a kiss on his cheek. LaCroix walked to her suite, opened the door and flopped onto the bed. She kicked off her boots and put her feet up on the bed. Her head was lying on the pillows, she turned to look at the prayer mat on her side table as there was a knock on the door.

Quin Schieber's shaggy head was leaning against the door frame of Anna LaCroix's suite. He held a bottle of wine in his hands as his eyes looked over her from foot to toe. Schieber entered the room and closed the door behind him, making certain to place the bolt lock. He held the bottle of wine and two glasses up.

"Thought we should celebrate ourselves, Ms. LaCroix," he said in a playful voice as he sat on the bed and uncorked the wine to let it breath.

Anna sat up with her hand on his back as it rubbed it's way to drape her arm on his shoulders; LaCroix nuzzled his neck, her thick curly hair draped against his shoulders, "sounds like a brilliant idea, Mr. Schieber."

He put the wine on the side table and turned his head to kiss her, "I'm just... so... happy that things didn't wind up worse," his hand went right to her hip and massaged it as he leaned into kiss her again.

LaCroix put a finger on his lips and looked into his eyes, "just be happy, no reason, Quin. Just happy."

Quin kissed it and then slide the finger with the rest of her hand against his stubbled cheek, "I let my mouth get away from me sometimes."

Anna took her free hand and entwined her fingers in his shaggy hair, "then let's put your mouth to better use," she leaned into his body and kissed him deeply.

The Citadel was bustling with activity. Scribe Rothchild, as acting Elder, was trying to increase the expanse of the Citadel. Within the month, he had ordered the previous unexplored areas of the former Pentagon to be examined and stocked. On top of this, he also pushed for the creation of a dock in front of the plaza and to the right of the Taft Tunnel entrance and bridge to Project Purity. Yearling had drawn up the plans for the port along with Bowditch to give them enough security. The Knights and Scribes had worked hard for the month and created a massive platform with multiple turrets and a lock system that used some of the seized Enclave technology.

The forcefields were used to lock a ship in place when it traveled through the narrow pass the dock was embanked upon. There was only one active ship known on in the wasteland, and it belonged to headstrong girl named Nadine. The Duchess Gambit never ventured far up the Potomac, and with the new security measures built at the Citadel, she probably never would. Many of the Knights, and some of the Scribes, saw this massive dock that ran nearly four hundred yards wide with new and vital Enclave technology as massive expenditure with minimal reasoning.

Scribe Yearling, with the cautious support of Scribe Bowditch from the Order of the Shield, planned for the worst. She never hoped for the best, instead she saw it up to her to make the best situation arise, and the better situation from allowing a foreign force with a superior naval force enter into close distance of the Citadel would be with energy weapons primed, powered, and ready to put a hole in their hull and scuttle the ship in the water way. Bowditch was of similar mind, though not as graphically explained.

Operative Hannah Newton was sitting on a bench on the new dock as the Brotherhood Knights continued to pass-by making fixes and the Scribes continued to examine and reexamine the new security dock. Next to the bench, though in a wheel chair and not on the actual bench, sat Knight Michael Ban with his whole leg cast and his arm in a sling. He sighed heavily as he looked out on the Potomac.

"Do you realize the fights that have been waged here," he said to his injured companion.

Newton nodded and turned to look at the man beside her, "we've been in four so far in these past few months. We've barely been up for a year and already we're considered veterans...Have you seen the new children?"

"Their greener than you lot were," he said with a crooked smile that made his scar stretch a little, "but I was referring to more than these last few months or years even. I meant nearly three-hundred and fifty years ago, even four hundred. You remember when we were in the Mall?"

Newton nodded, "the Washington Monument, the runaway slave settlement, even the ghouls. What about them, Ban?"

"There was a major war that occurred," he said as he looked over to where the Mall would be, "I've had a lot free time and I've been reviewing history of the area from the Arlington archive. It was war that continued even after the peace was finished. In the late summer of 1814, the British Empire burnt the Capital, this Capital, to the ground. Everything needed to be rebuilt and they were able to, after moving out the occupiers, and winning the wall."

"Ban, I understand the parallels, but what does this have to do with us, with what's going on now?" She asked trying to find the meaning behind the War of 1812.

"Perhaps something, probably nothing," he said wistfully, "but this land is soiled in war, blood, and sweat. It has a history."

Newton nibbled her bottom lip, "Ban, you're just weird sometimes."

"And I love my chauffeur as well," he said with a coy smile.

"My cue to wheel your broken ass back to B-Ring?" She asked with a helpful smile.

Scribe Yearling had walked up to them and sat on the bench right next to Newton putting her in the middle of the bench. The scribe took out what looked like a simple sandwich and bit into it. She offered the other half to Newton and Ban, both turned down the offer. Brushing her sandy blond hair to the side she turned to talk with both of them.

"I imagine you have many questions as to what is happening these days," she said chewing on her sandwich.

"Apart from the status of Elder Lyons," said Newton, "or the expense put to making this dock, or let me guess, why you haven't recalled all our operatives..."

"Operative, that'll do," scolded Ban with a glare.

"I was referring to the dock," Yearling stomped her foot on the metal and compacted earth of the dock, "as you, and the rest of this fucking gaggle of gossips, know we have made contact with a foreign power. They will be arriving shortly and with a large vessel. This is a small battleship in their flotilla based on an aircraft carrier. This is a considerable force that has been sitting in the Chesapeake and traveling from up north for a while. I have a special task for you, as we are still holding them in the Chesapeake to finish this dock. We'll hold them off as long as we can, I fear that they will be here soon and we will not be prepared. Little is known of the north, and this Commonwealth. I'd like you two to read all the information on them from the Arlington archive, Pentagon archive, and possibly VaultTec archives."

"What are we looking for," asked Ban.

"Anything, history, politics, culture. We need to know it all," the scribe said, "there will be two hundred years of history we don't know about. But all the information before that, we need to know."

"We'll get on it, chief," said Ban as he tapped Newton to roll him up to the Plaza and back into the Citadel, they were three quarts of the way back when he turned to her and said, "Yearling's scared."

"Aren't most eggheads," asked Newton as she repeated the normal rhetoric of the Brotherhood.

"Yearling's different," Ban said, "manipulative, willful, and like a shrew. She's tenacious. Something like has her spooked."

"And who best to cure a spooked scribe than her own group of spooks," said Newton with a smile as she pushed the wheel chair faster.

Lolli Pop was sitting in the jail cell chewing on brahmin jerky. Juan Alvarado had awaken as well, his arm still pained him something awful and it was in sling while the doctor still checked him on a weekly basis. The Prisoner was in the cell as well, but usually kept as far from the other two as possible. It was a reasonable thing for him to do as Pop and Alvarado still considered themselves part of the Brotherhood of Steel. The Knights kept watch closely on them, the Grayditch guards were not to kind to the prisoners, especially after the incident a month ago.

The injured guard, Jonas, refused to take a leave from duty. His arm was well bandaged and in a sling like Alvarado's. He kept on stealing dirty looks to cell for the past month. When the news from Marshall Lawson came that they were not going to separate the inmates to different cells, he had become upset to verbally accosting the regulator head of the Grayditch guards. Lawson chewed him in front of the other men for planning something illegal under his command. The Regulator attempted to keep peace within his ranks by promising any action against the prisoners meant becoming one themselves.

Star Paladin Cristano Bael also made certain that his Knights were well looked after and on eight hour guard duty shift with plenty of rest and relaxation time in town. The local hotel was doing well and taking cap over fist from the representation from the Citadel. Beyond that, the news of the trial and illness of Elder Lyons traveled far on the backs of brahmin and roving traders. Multiple representatives from far and wide of the wasteland were making their way to Grayditch. Random wastelanders, wanders, and official representatives from settlements had made their way to the small settlement that a few years ago was nothing but smoldering structures.

This was the first time, in anyone's collective memory, that so many individuals decided to gather at one place from such a wide expanse of territory. Mayor Henry Fleet was excited, he had been in meetings for weeks with official representatives and those seeking residence. Old structures that had not been explored were now being forcible opened official for residence and unofficially for squatters. The guards were pulling extra duty and examining places and the constraint on food items. Several raids had occurred that required the expulsion of unruly elements that included raiders, thieves and smugglers. The smugglers had been the worst, bring with them weapons and tainted foodstuffs. Marshall Lawson remembered the worst items that were brought in came from a small band of cannibals.

They were selling human flesh clothing, meat and bone jewelery as if it were brahmin, mole rat, or yao gue. The first tip came to Lawson when a distraught mother presented a cup made from a clearly human skull with teeth marks. He took several man to the structure they made as a store and killed eleven of the twelve. As he removed the fingers from the dead from their right hand he had his guards work over the last man. Lawson faced the bruised and beaten cannibal that was tied to a chair. He threw the fingers on the table, told the man that the Regulators were watching over this town and to tell the rest of his human eating kin that they were not welcome. Then, to make certain the point was clear Lawson carved a C into his forehead and removed his thumbs.

If anyone were to question the word of Lawson, they were clearly dumb or had a death wish. This past month propelled him into the limelight as no one wished to cross him. No one that was except for Star Paladin Cristano Bael. The two would often find each other yelling about the treatment of the prisoners and security of the town. Bael and Lawson would exchange words in the regulator's office. They were in the office yet another time, but tried to keep their temper checked. Bael paced around in his heavy power armor as Lawson sat back with his feet up.

"This town has become chaos," commented Bael as he rubbed his cleanly shaved cheeks with is armored hand, "no order what-so-ever."

"I won't take that as insult, even though I should," Lawson was puffing away on his usual Drayden cigar, "things have certainly become interesting around here. Did you hear what happened earlier this morning?"

Bael raised an eyebrow, not really caring about local happenings, "you're going to tell me I bet."

"These two guys, visitors, got into a fight at the saloon and decided to settle it with a duel," began the lawman.

"I bet the doctor and undertaker are happy with the way things have been going in town," snorted Bael.

"Hokins and Styx aside, my men were able to break up the duel before it could take place on Main Street and kill an innocent bystander," he took a break to inhale, "I take it my guy told the two of them that dueling is illegal in town."

"A smart local, who would have thought of that," sneered Bael as he pursed his lips.

"Continuing," said Lawson as his withered eyes harden more, "he suggested they take the duel out of town to the sewer way station. Low and behold, both men shoot each other dead. I have to arrest my own man and put him in the stockade's for a week."

"I'd have done more than that," said Bael with a laugh at his own ideas, "like make him wear one, or both, of the men."

"Health hazard, not to mention I'm not that cruel," he said cracking his knuckles, "a week bareback in the sun will teach him not to suggest where these fools can kill each other. Just make certain not to kill anyone in this town, God-darnit."

"And I'm the cruel one," smiled Bael, "when are you regulators going to get it? Stick with collecting fingers. We know how to handle real security."

"This town has done fine without you," Lawson tip his ash into a little tray, "our law and order maybe different from yours. But let's see what happens with this trial."

"I've been meaning to speak with you about that," said Bael as he sat down for the first time.

Lawson removed his brahmin skin hat, his limp sweaty hair framing his face, as he lifted the eyebrow near his crescent scar, "don't tell me the Brotherhood is getting cold feet on this just now."

"Well, that's not it," the operational head of BIOS said, "it's more about your opinion of those locked up. Between Juan Alvarado, Lolli Pop, and this unnamed prisoner."

"What kind of a name is Lolli Pop," asked Lawson as he patted his sweaty hair back, "to be honest with're boys have been too polite. From what I gather, Juan wasn't even conscious when Lesko was taken down. Pop hasn't committed murder, yet. Only time will tell on that one. That other one, Lord know's, he sure is one mean sonuvabitch. His finger right now will fetch a healthy price."

"Thank you for being candid," said Bael as he stood up to leave, "someone may be seeing you soon."

"What the hell was this about?" Asked Lawson as he stood up.

Bael just left the office closing the door behind him. Lawson rubbed his beard, smoking his cigar a little faster and harder. He pulled out a crude map of Grayditch and kept his eye on the streets and buildings as he listed more and more details. May you live in interesting times, he thought to himself of Sonora Cruz's last words to him face-to-face as he continued to smoke, and may you receive all that you wish.

Colin Moriarty Junior, who preferred the name J.R. based on his suffix, opened his eyes. He rubbed the crust from them as his room filled with a florescent light. He turned over to the form laying next to him in the bed, her blonde hair fell in place and was well combed unlike most of the women J.R. had seen in his life. She was different, more-so now than when they first met. Susie Mack had spunk and J.R. found that very attractive. He brushed a strand of hair behind her left ear which caused her to open her blue eyes.

"Have you been staring at me long," she asked with a sleepy smile.

"Would it scare you if I said I had," J.R. asked with a dumb smile on his face.

She pushed him playfully, "nope, I know I'm beautiful. Now I just know you're a big pervert as well."

J.R. smiled as he slid his hand to her hip, "a pervert you let into your bed," he began to tickle her.

She was laughing and fighting him off, the white sheet they both laid under got moved around them to show the white underwear they both wore. J.R. was in clean white boxer-briefs while Susie was wearing tank top and boy shorts. Each grabbed a pillow and were fighting one another off, breathing heavily and getting a little red in the face. After a few more minutes, they both fell back onto the bed. Susie climbed on top J.R. and leaned forward as she straddled him to kiss his lips. Biting his bottom lip and pulling back on it she smiled.

"I win," she said as she kept kissing him.

I think I win this one, actually thought J.R. They wake up delayed for a little while with their bed games and showers, they were finally dressed in their jumpsuits. They walked out of the living quarters together, Susie's arm was playing with J.R.'s. They parted at the end of the tunnel, Susie Mack was helping Edwin Brotch as a teacher's assistant. J.R. was asked to stay behind and talk with the Overseer about the world at large. He made his way to the Overseer's office.

Amata Almodovar was sitting behind the desk looking over the terminal, her advisor was the previous Overseer and her father Alphonse. Her hair was tied back in a pony tail with a loose strand out of the way. Alphonse had his white hair combed back and a stern look etched into his face. It seemed he was lecturing to her about something of maintenance. J.R. knocked on the door and Amata looked up with her slightly tanned skin and smiled.

"Please save me from this lecture on plumbing," she mouthed to him and he nodded.

"I'd really like a tour of reactor if that would be okay," he asked with a smile.

"A great idea!" She exclaimed and sat up from the desk, "save any messages for me, dad."

J.R. and Amata quickly left the office as her dad called out to them, "can't you call me Assistant Overseer?"

They ran down the hallways like they were naughty teen age kids till they came to the reactor system. J.R. held back Amata and both caught their breath. He was bent over, with his hands on his thighs as took in air deeply. Amata was pressing two fingers into her side to help the pain she was feeling.

"Thank much," she said between breathes, "I couldn't another word."

"Not a fan...of plumbing?" he asked with a smile.

"It's terribly boring," she commented and with a flick of her hair, "so too is the reactor."

"Well, what would be more interesting," he asked, his words coming off more flirtatious than usual.

"You keep that up and I'll have to steal you away from Susan," she walked through a door way and trailed her hand against the door frame, "a lot of the scouting teams have returned."

J.R. just shook his head as he walked after her, "and what have they reported to you?"

"Various things," said Amata vaguely, "seems there is a large need for medical supplies."

"They sure have that right," answered J.R. knowing where this was going, "and Vault 101 can produce stimpacks for next to nothing. Dr. Cushing can see to that."

"Cushing has only just arrived, I'm hesitant to force him into do anything beyond his current duties. I think his imprisonment is still on his mind," she stopped at a terminal and checked it over as some of the other vault dwellers that worked in the reactor busied themselves, "perhaps if you were to talk with him..."

"Cushing and I are not friends by any means," J.R. remember the conversation he had previously with the former Enclave doctor and the hatred that boiled in him, "perhaps one of your own people would be more suited for this adventure."

"Despotism was the failing of my father and led to the fraction, it must be an outsider to push for this," she said with a sad smile as they were in an empty corridor now; seeing the continued hesitation from J.R., "what can we give you...what can I give you?"

J.R. smiled at that, Amata had stopped and turned to him and he walked right into her, she steadied herself by putting her hands on his chest to which he just raised an eyebrow, "tell me about him."

"About who," she asked as she tilted her head to the side.

"He was born here, wasn't he?" J.R. asked again, tilting his head more, his warm breathe tingling her lips.

"Oh, him?" Turned off from the situation now, Amata backed up and rested against the doorway, her hands on her buttocks and against the cold metal, "why do you want to know of him?"

"He's a legend out there," he said with a smile as he leaned against the wall.

"He's infamous down here still," she scrunched up her nose, "if I tell you this will you go to the doctor? And beg for him to assist for all of the people out in the wastes?"

J.R. nodded as he expected a long answer, "he was...cute," to which his smile dropped.

"What do you mean...cute?" He said put off from the answer.

"Well, he was a bit of dork," the word meant nothing to J.R. as the Overseer continued, "though I remember him more for when he returned. He was dirty, clothed in strange items, and more mature. He was like his father in some sense, though not like him in others. But there was one thing that never changed in how I thought about him, despite the dirt, despite the clothes, despite the hard look in his face...he was cute."

"So you and he had a thing," J.R. was a little impressed with the Overseer now.

"No," she said with a sad smile, "though it wasn't for lack of trying. Fate just didn't see fit for us."

"How...hopelessly romantic," stated J.R. as he began to turn away, "guess I'll have to work over the doctor for you."

"A deal is a deal," said Amata as she turned away to brush a small tear away.

J.R. didn't catch the tear as he was already out of corridor and moving to the doctor's office. He wasn't watching where he was going and bumped into someone. J.R. quickly apologized and moved to keep on. Instead there was a striking pain in the back of his leg right at the knee joint. He fell to his knee and stumbled up to meet his assailant.

"I'm watching you," said a man behind a security helmet, his name tag read F. Gomez, before he walked away.

Actaeon blended into the dusky Saloon at Grayditch. His hood made certain to cover his face from all to see, no one suspected him as member of the Brotherhood of Steel. He drank slowly from his water, the alcohol they served he refrained from not because of taste but to avoid his senses being dulled. He needed his keen ear to listen into conversations looking for the key words he needed. But no one seemed to utter them.

He decided upon staying in Grayditch for the past month because there was more movement to the location. Instead of heading to the far corners of settlements to see if John Harkness had touched upon them, he stayed in the one location where wanders, representatives, and traders were gathering. The Saloon was chosen because of the ease to blend in, the loosening of lips with alcohol, and that most people from outside of Grayditch did not avoid it. So Actaeon waited, drank his water, and listened to the boring stories people talked about hoping for some clue onto the location of his prey.

Far north from what counted as civilization in the Capital Wasteland, sat a man at a large wooden table. Around it sat the majority of the people that kept his township, business, and life organized. To his immediate right was a crude if not constant woman with sociopath tendencies named Carolina Red. To his immediate left was the flat top and economic minded weapon trader Pronto. The head of the table was Eulogy Jones, massaging his back in a pink dress was a white woman with her hair combed off to the side. Another woman in a pink dress served drinks to Eulogy, Pronto, and Carolina. The rest of the slavers assembled were served by a male slave in simple clothing. The slaves were named Clover, Crimson, and Frank.

Eulogy Jones lifted his hand up to the assembled, "my compatriots, thank you for assembling on such a short notice. First, I would like to congratulate Ymir and Jotun on their recent success of capturing twenty-three wanderers. To do so without major weapons is an amazing feat, so please a round of applause."

Eulogy paused for everyone to clap, "our stocks are up and now we need to motivate sales. The Brotherhood has seen fit to cut off the Pitt from our goods. We are in a tough spot. Do any of you have suggestions?"

"Sir, if we were to capture some kids from Little Lamplight," began Forty before he was cut off by Jones.

"Forty, there is a reason you do not sit closer to me," his eyes moved from-to-face of the main slavers of Paradise Falls, "your mishap with those kids from Little Lamplight left us with little stock and less caps. Any other half-brained ideas from you lot?"

"Mr. Jones, there is an idea I would like to bring up," said Cutter from the clinic, "there is a ghoul in Seneca station named Murphy, he's some kind of chemist. He has a new drug out and needs test subjects, I'm sure we could sell a few to him."

"I'd like to negotiate rates first," pondered Eulogy, "but that is a good option. I'd prefer to offer the weaker stock there. Perhaps the older ones."

"Sir, what about the Family, they need them for blood bags," offered Grouse as he turned to the people next to him to urge agreements.

"I want nothing to do with those Cannibals, they have hurt the profitability from Arefu and Big Town," Jones was stern and forceful as he clenched his fist, "instead we must make a market. How do we create such a think away from interlopers like the Brotherhood, the Family, and those bounty hunters? The answer my friends faces us to the north east. The Republic is waiting, they need more man power, they need more able bodies, and we all know that the women need more men. This Rosie, this replacement of Dave, has been welcoming to foreigners and allowed them to build up to a larger community."

"What are you suggesting," asked Jotun.

"We begin a campaign against The Republic, hurt them, bleed them," Eulogy Jones felt like he was giving a business proposal, "and then when they feel lost and realize they need more people, we sell them. We sell them at high rates so as to make larger profit due to the demand."

"They wouldn't buy from the people attacking them," stated Grouse.

"That's because it won't be us attacking them," confirmed Eulogy Jones, "we'll employ raiders, mercenaries, and those willing. I will need one to lead them the way I know will get the job complete. Carolina Red will lead them, Pronto will help supply them. Likewise, I expect you all to willing donate or accept a pay cut for this venture."

"This is bullshit!" Shouted out Ymir as he stood up and slammed his armored fist down on the table, "I bring in twenty-three heads of stock and expect that payment!"

Eulogy Jones flicked his ear with two fingers. Clover raised a Chinese sword to the back of Ymir's neck, making sure the blade was above his metal armor. The point of the blade rested at the neck so the cool metal made Ymir grimace. Clover pressed a little too hard and a trickle of blood appeared running down his neck.

"Ymir, you have done well," Jones had a wide smile, "but do not think you will ever get ahead of me. If you understand, please sit down, or not. Either way is fine for me."

Reluctantly, Ymir sat down in his seat grumbling about Eulogy's "trained guard bitch" while he rubbed the back of his neck. Putting Ymir in his place confirmed the deal for the move against the Republic. There would be no declaration of war. No warning; and certainly any captured would be held for sale to another market. Perhaps the earnest cannibals to the south or Moriarty if he was willing to pay richly, thought Eulogy Jonesas his campaign to expand enterprise, wealth, and attack the credibility of the Brotherhood of Steel. The war is on, he thought happily to himself, I will not be vanquished.