22 September 2277: Orphaned

When we fronted up to the control room, we found a frantic Li parked up against the window. Inside the room, two Enclave goons were covering Haines Senior, a frightened looking woman who was probably assisting him, and someone in a fancy looking coat and hat.

"By the authority of the President, this facility is now under United States government control," says the fellow in the hat officiously. Ah, so he's Enclave then. "The person in charge is to step forward immediately, and turn over all materials related to this project."

"What's going on?" Ernie asks, and I shush him. "Listen and find out," says I.

"That's quite impossible," his dad states flatly, "This is a private project; the Enclave has no authority here. I'm going to have to ask you to leave at once."

And the snot turns to him. "Am I to assume, sir, that you are in charge?" Nice layer of disdain on the 'sir'.

"Yes, I'm responsible for this project," says Haines Senior, still keeping remarkably calm.

"Then I repeat, sir, that you are hereby instructed to immediately hand over all materials related to the purifier." Interesting accent on him. Heah-by, ovah, purifyah.

"I'm sorry," shake of the head there, you'd almost believe he was, "but that's –"

"Furthermore," interrupts the snot, "you are to assist Enclave scientists in assuming control of the administration and operation of this facility at once."

"Colonel... Is it Colonel?" Haines Senior is a pillar of calm, while I can see the snot (sorry, Colonel Snot) getting red in the collar. "I'm sorry, but the facility is not operational. It never has been. I'm afraid you're wasting your time here."

"Sir," the colour was in his voice as well – not good. "This is the last time I am going to repeat myself. Stand down at once, and turn over control of this facility."

"Colonel, I assure you that this facility will not function," bloody hells he was pressing it! "We have never been able to successfully replicate test results –"

And that was when Colonel Snot pulled his own gun and shot the hapless lab assistant dead. We all gasped, Haines Senior included, and the Enclave soldiers pointed their own weapons at him.

"I suggest," Colonel Murdering Wanker snarled, "you comply immediately, sir, in order to prevent any more incidents. Are we clear?"

"Yes, Colonel. I'll… I'll do whatever you want," you could see the disgust in his eyes, same as mine. "There's no need for more violence."

The Colonel just nodded, uncaring prick. "Good. Then you will, immediately, hand over all materials related to this project, and aid us in making it operational at once."

"Very well," Haines Senior sighs, "Give me a few moments to bring the system online."

He turns to the main console and that's when Li gets the intercom working.

"James, no! Stop!" cries she, "This is wrong! You can't do this!"

And the Colonel just turns and smirks at us. I give him the old hairy eyeball. I know his sort. Cut from the same grain as the Mythic Dawn, the bloody Thalmor, and of course Mannimarco and his bootlickers, he is.

"Madison, please," Ernie's dad doesn't really ask. "Now's not the time. I'll get the information the Colonel needs, but I need you to –"

"I won't help you do this James. Not after everything it took to get here! You saw what they did to –"

"I need you," he outshouts, "to monitor the output levels on pumps three and four. Please step over to the panel and keep an eye on them, will you?" And he smiles, and my neck hairs stand to attention.

"What?" And Li just fly-catches in confusion. "What are you talking about? That doesn't even make any sense..." and she half-turns to a panel on the outside wall.

"Madison, please. It's very important that you do this right now. Just step over to the panel while I access the computer in the control booth."

And Ernie's just gaping as well. His dad's too calm and he's caved too quickly. "Might as well do as he says," says I.

"James, I..." Li starts.

"Please. Just monitor the pumps."

Now I'm certain. Ernie isn't. "Dad…" he asks at last, "What the hell are you doing?"

And James looks up, his expression set. "Earnest," he says, "I think Doctor Li could use a hand. Over at the monitor panel."

"I too would appreciate it if you would be so kind to step away from the control room," says Colonel Wanker.

"Yes Dad," mutters Ernie and he slopes off to where Li is looking everywhere except at the panel.

"Thanks son," James says, "I'm proud of you."

"Ah," and I see the Colonel studying what looks like a flasher kind of Pip-Boy, "what is happening with the data?"

"That's what I want to know," and James frowns at the console, tapping it. "It must still be compiling."

And I head over to the panel. "Whatever that thing's doing," says I quietly, "It's not compiling data."

"He's up to something?" Ernie's face brightens a bit. "That's a relief. Maybe he's –"

There was a gods-awful crash of blue-white light, like Meridia farted.

By the time our eyes work again, we could see two armoured hulks laid out on the floor. The Colonel was trying to inject himself with something, and James…

James staggered to the window, lurching into it. His eyes were completely filmed over, and worse, where his hands and face touched the glass, the skin completely disintegrated.

"Run…" he half-croaked, half-vomited in red. "Run…"

Ernie did – towards the control room – then stopped as his Pip-Boy went from clicking to screaming.

"Dad?" asks he, "Dad... What the fuck happened! Dad!"

"Ernie…" James is sliding down the window now, looking worse, and I swear his eyes were melting and his nose is halfway up his forehead now. "Run… Love you… son…"

Then he slid below the window.

And there's Ernie bouncing back and forth, wanting to get in there and rescue his dad, and not wanting however much radiation, I guess it was, that had killed everyone in the room.

So I made his decision for him. "Just do what he said and run!"

Ever heard a grown man wail? That's what Ernie was doing.

"Bloody hells," groans I, "so what happened? Might as well... learn that while I get a prybar," and I nod towards Ernie at Li, who's looking a little teary-eyed herself.

"He..." and she swallows, "James caused an overload. He… he sacrificed himself to keep the Enclave from getting the purifier, and to buy us time to… to escape."

And she goes over to Ernie and tugs his shoulder urgently. "Earnest, we have to leave him."

"NO!"

"There'll be more of them coming! We need to get out of here before they find us, or else your father died in vain!"

"I second that," says I.

"No!" screams Ernie, "We can't leave him! I'll do Science, I'll save him, gotta get this door open..." and so he babbles.

Whack! And Li slaps Ernie! "There's nothing anyone can do for him now!" Li yells, "The radiation levels in there are lethal. You'd die the same way he did!"

" What she said!" cries I, "Listen to that Pip-Boy damn it! And more of those cunts are coming and they think you know the gods-damned code!"

"Code?" Ernie asks, somewhat distracted now by first getting slapped by Li and now this.

"The code to activate this... place! Even I know what it is!" I'm not lying. The clues were there all along.

"What?" the two chorus.

"I'll tell you later. Li, guide us!" orders I.

It was a short guiding. It turned out that there was an emergency egress via manhole right outside the rotunda. After that Ernie and I took point against ghouls and Enclave soldiers. The bastards were evidently pursuing us, and they had access to parts of the tunnels we didn't. It was a relief to finally run into a completely different pack of armoured goons who were more interested in shooting past us instead of at us.

Next thing we know, we're climbing out another manhole right in front of the Citadel, and up goes Li demanding entry!

"Don't even bother lady," sneers this armoured dork with the big gun, "There's no way that Elder Lyons would –"

And about then he got drowned out by the sound of the portcullis being raised.

"You were saying?" Doctor Li's smile was more a wild grimace. Didn't blame her. And it didn't hold a candle to poor Ernie's mug.

We were tired, scared, slightly clawed, bullet-pocked and laser-burned; Ernie was clearly still in shock over his father's death; Li was actually angry. And what did we get? Some snot in steel acting like a lord's doorman!

Said snot was now gaping at a blue-robed fellow who was ambling towards us through a passage made by rather a lot of missing masonry. Another heavy armoured warrior tagged along behind him, and she didn't look happy. "Father," I heard her protest, "This isn't safe! How can you…"

"Elder Lyons?" The snot didn't know what had hit him. "What are you…? I mean…?"

"It's all right," the old man said, but his tone was one of someone used to obedience. "These people are friends, aren't we, Madis– ah, Doctor Li?"

"Right," Li just stared at the old fellow with an expression. I'd seen that tons of times. The sort of expression that says, I think you're a bloody fool, but I'm not going to call you on that for now.

"Bugger all this upmanship," says I, "The Enclave's taken over Project Purity, Haines killed himself giving us a chance to escape, and the bastards still were chasing us through those Nine-damned tunnels, and I've got a snarl in my tail that'll take hours to brush out. Now are you gonna aid us or what?"

And everyone looks at me as if they don't know what's going on. "Besides, the sentry here's right," adds I, "This isn't the place to discuss things. Those Enclave might be watching us even now."

"Er..." metal-boy's taken aback, "Thanks?"

"Good point," Elder Lyons is grinning wryly, "Therefore, follow me and Paladin Lyons. I recommend not deviating. We have live-fire training going on."

And so we follow the two through the rubble to a double-door that was originally on the inside of what I saw were two buildings, one inside the other. This door opened onto a courtyard alive with Brotherhood training: physical exercises, sparring, lots of shooting, and also lots of being yelled at by instructors. It took me a while to realise that the courtyard had five sides. We were in the 'Pentagon' that President Eden had babbled about!

The two Lyons led us all straight down the middle towards another set of double doors, bearing a sign reading 'Lab'. Laboratory eh? Should be interesting, thinks I.

Turns out the laboratory's centerpiece was a three-storey tall golem. Lyons directed us down some stairs, and into a room that made me think of a cook-shop. We ended up parked in a booth, and then he asked us our story.

Which was mostly told by me, Li, and to a lesser extent Ernie; when we finished, Lyons, and several other folk in red robes who'd snuck in for a good ear-farm, were all looking grave.

"Earnest..." and Ernie just lifts his head and looks at him. "You have my condolences. Your father was a good man."

"Um..." down goes his gaze to the table, looking for guidance. "Thanks... I guess."

"Think nothing of it. Your father was a visionary. He spent his life trying to make this world a better place for all of us. Few can say that these days."

"A visionary." Ernie starts to chuckle. "A visionary," and he starts laughing. "A fucking visionary!" and he's crying and shouting now. "A fucking visionary who just fucking ditched me in fucking 101 and fucked off for..."

The rest was pretty much repetitious, and our audience was looking a fair bit alarmed, so I had a think and reached out one finger and zapped him on the nose. Weak shock spell. Kid's joke cantrip. Nothing harmful.

And Ernie just jerks back with both hands grasping his honk. "Whassat for?" gasps he.

"Something to do with you being hysterical," says I, "And right now I think we all need some sleep and a feed. Then we can work out what the hells to do tomorrow. Sound good?"

"Right now I'd kill for a good night's sleep," agrees Li. "We're all worn out after... after basically running for our lives."

"Very well," old Lyons nods, "Sarah, please show our guests where they can make their quarters. Tomorrow at... make it oh-nine-hundred... assemble them here. We'll continue discussions, and I'm sure such skilled people will find use here." And he looks at me. "I saw you studying Liberty Prime," he smiles, "You can learn more about it tomorrow."

"Yes Elder," the armoured girl salutes, and we were escorted up and out into the ancient building, where we slept like the dead. Not even a direct hit with one of those Fat Man things would have woken us.

Which was a pity, since Vaermina threw a party in our dreams.