Tales From The Commonwealth

by Lab Matt

First published

Nora, sole survivor of Vault 111, bumps into girls from another dimension during her quest to find her kidnapped son.

[Equestria Girls/Fallout 4 Crossover]

The year is 2287, 210 years after the Great War that turned the United States of America into an irradiated wasteland. Nora, a citizen from pre-war Boston who had been cryogenically frozen in an underground bunker known as Vault 111, emerges after witnessing the murder of her husband and kidnapping of her newborn child.
Along the way she meets some very unusual young ladies with mysterious powers, either in need of assistance or willing to help her in her quest to find her son. Together they fight to make the Commonwealth (or what's left of it after a nuclear war) a better place.

Warning: Playing Fallout 4 to completion is severely recommended. This story features characters, events, locations and plotlines that require understanding of the original game and some of its DLCs to fully comprehend its progression.
Also MAJOR Fallout 4 spoilers ahead, you've been warned.

1. Honesty

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Pinned down by enemy fire, there was not much Nora could do besides take shelter behind a knocked over metal desk near the storage area in the lower level of the Corvega assembly plant. She checked every pocket of her leather chest piece for the third time, but there was no denying the truth: she had emptied the last magazine of her 10mm pistol on the machine gun turret that formerly guarded the room she was in. Without any bullets left, the only weapon Nora had in her arsenal was a baton that she was pretty sure wasn’t going to be enough to take down half a dozen bloodthirsty raiders armed to the teeth. All she could do was lie low and hope that they ran out of ammo, so they would be forced to get close to her to finish her off, in which case she could use the baton to take them down – or at least go down fighting and take one or two with her.

“I bet you 20 caps that I can put a bullet in her eye from up here!” Said one of the male raiders while shooting at Nora’s hiding spot with a pipe rifle.

“No you can’t, stupid.” A female raider shooting with a pipe pistol replied. “She’s hiding, you’ll never get a clean shot.”

“Shit, you’re right.” The male raider raised his voice: “Hey bitch! Stick your fucking head out so I can win 20 caps!”

All the confidence she had in her when she offered to help that couple in Tenpines Bluff by wiping out the group of raiders that had been giving them trouble fled her body the moment she pulled the trigger but only heard the click of a gun that had run out of ammo. Holding the baton on her shaky hands, Nora closed her eyes and hoped for a miracle.

“Yo, what the fuck was that?” Another male raider asked while looking around for the source of the noise he heard.

“Gunfire, dipshit! Right in front of you.” The same male from before chastised him while still firing at Nora’s hiding spot.

“No, shut up, shut up! I heard something. Sounded like—”



Suddenly all the gunfire ceased at the same time, replaced by screaming, the sound of flesh ripping, bones crushing and a few odd gunshots here and there, but nowhere near the amount from before. The sound and vibration of bullets hitting the desk also stopped, which prompted Nora’s curiosity to overwhelm her common sense. She slowly raised her head to look at what caused an entire gang of raiders to lose interest in her, only to come face to face with the barrel of a pipe revolver.

“Surprise, bitch!” The raider holding the gun said with a wicked smile on her soot-covered face; unbeknownst to Nora, while the other raiders kept her pinned in place with suppressing fire, one of them detached from the group in order to sneak up on her – and succeeded.

Nora was caught by surprise, one of the most common causes of death in the wasteland. She was pretty fast, but she couldn’t possibly strike the raider woman faster than she could pull the trigger. She tried to attack her anyway – if she was going down, she would at least try and take her attacker with her.

Nora expected two things to happen in the next second: the first was the burning pain of a bullet piercing her body, and the second was the impact of her baton with the raider’s forehead, but neither happened; in the blink of an eye the raider was sent flying to the side, crashing through the steel door of the storage area and into the wooden boxes once locked inside. With nothing else for Nora’s baton to connect with, the momentum kept her arm going, causing her to lose her balance and fall down on the metal floor.

“Well, I’ll be darned!” An unfamiliar voice with a very distinct southern accent said. “Y’all look nuthin’ like one of ‘em raiders. Well, ain’t dressed like one of ‘em, at least.”

While still down on the metal floor, Nora looked ahead; the first thing she saw was a pair of brown leather boots that had definitely seen better days, the person wearing them standing only a couple of feet away from her. The next thing was a hand, offering to help her up, which Nora took.

“Thank you.” Nora said while dusting herself. “For helping me up and saving my life.”

“Aw shucks, think nuthin’ of it! Helpin’ folks in need is sumthin’ any decent person should do.”

After standing up, Nora could finally take a better look at her savior: a young woman, probably early 20s, freckled fair skin with a gentle tan, golden blonde hair tied up in a ponytail and emerald green eyes. Aside from the boots she also wore damaged blue jeans, a white crewneck t-shirt and a light brown stetson hat with a few bullet holes on it.

“Howdy! Name’s Applejack.” Nora’s savior said while extending her hand.

“I’m Nora.” She replied as she shook Applejack’s hand.

“Vault dweller, huh?” Applejack inquired while eyeing Nora’s blue jumpsuit with a golden “111” on the back. “Fresh out the vault, I reckon? Folks with experience walkin’ the wastes usually avoid pre-war ruins like this one – always filled with raiders, ferals or muties.”

“Sorta, yeah. These raiders have been harassing a settlement up north for a while now, so I decided to help them deal with the problem.”

“By yerself?” Applejack chuckled. “Well, yer heart was in the right place, can’t fault ya for that. Yer noggin, on the other hand…”

“In my defense, things were going pretty well until I ran out of bullets. Besides, aren’t you doing exactly that? Taking on a bunch of raiders by yourself? With your bare hands, even! Not even a knife on a belt or something.”

“Well, in my defense, I come with a few advantages that regular folk don’t have.”

The sound of heavy footsteps approaching reminded Nora of where she was and what she was doing. She instinctively reached for her 10mm pistol, despite the fact that she had no bullets left, and pointed it at the door.

As the sound of footsteps grew louder, something walked into Nora’s line of sight: something tall, buff and green – something she had never seen before.

“Strong crushed all humans in the place, but Strong thinks there are more hiding upstairs.” The big green humanoid creature said, its voice deep and menacing. “Is apple human done talking?”

“Also, I’m not by myself!” Applejack continued as she moved closer to the green giant and patted him on the large arm. “Nora, meet my buddy Strong. Strong, this is Nora.”

“Strong no smash blue human then?” He asked while scratching his head.

The young woman shook her head. “No, Strong. Nora is a friend.”

“Okay.” He said before walking to the back of the room, not acknowledging Nora more than needed.

“Wh-Wh-What is he?” Nora asked as she lowered her empty gun.

“Never seen a super mutant before?” Applejack whistled. “Wow, yer even fresher outta the vault than I thought! Well, what you see is what you get when it comes to super mutants; big, tough, nasty, not too bright, can just shrug off bullets unless you fire a whole heck lotta them, shoot first and ask questions never…”

“If super mutants are so bad, then why are you hanging out with one?”

“Strong is—”

Before she could finish that sentence, Strong walked past them once more, this time carrying on his shoulder the corpse of the raider Applejack had sent flying moments before.

“Strong hungry.” He said. “Apple human call Strong when apple human and blue human done talking.”

“…mostly civilized. Muties have a… unique diet, let’s say. At least I managed to convince him to eat where I can’t see it happenin’.”

“Apple human have strong body, but weak stomach.” Strong commented before leaving the room.

“And you just… let it happen?”

“Trust me, I tried. But it’s easier to convince a thirsty scavver to not drink water than it is to convince Strong to not eat human flesh. At least with me around I can make sure he ain’t eatin’ innocent people.”

After a brief moment of awkward silence, Nora spoke up:

“If you are travelling with him to make sure he doesn’t cause trouble, then why is he travelling with you?”

“It’s a long story. I know yer new to the wastes, but have you heard of Trinity Tower?”

“More or less…” Nora said, thinking back to the Boston she knew 210 years prior, before the bombs fell and before she was cryogenically frozen in Vault 111 alongside her husband Nate, her son Shaun and her neighbors from Sanctuary Hills.

“Some folks from a place called WRVR broadcast station asked me to help their friend bein’ held hostage by muties there. Whole place crawlin’ with ‘em, top to bottom!”

“What did you do?”

Applejack flexed her muscles. “Punched my way through, o’ course!”

“You punched your way through a skyscraper overflowing with mutants nearly twice our size?” Nora asked with a raised eyebrow. “You’re not… embellishing that story in any way, are you?”

“Nope! It’s the honest truth. If you don’t believe me just ask Strong, he was there too.”

“Let’s say I believe you. How did you punch your way through a skyscraper overflowing with mutants nearly twice our size?”

“I can see that” Applejack pointed at the crushed metal door she had kicked a raider through. “wasn’t enough to convince you, so let’s try this.”

The southern gal cracked her knuckles before picking up the metal desk Nora was using as cover when under fire and lifting it over their heads with a single hand.

“W-Whoa…” The speechless vault dweller managed to let out.

Applejack wasn’t done: she then tossed the desk out the door, smashing it against the wall on the far end of the building.

“Like I said, folks don’t come with some advantages I have.”

“Did apple human smash blue human?” Strong asked.

“No, Strong.” Applejack replied. “Don’t worry about it, buddy, just finish yer… snack.”

“Who— Did you— How—” Nora had many questions, but couldn’t figure out how to turn them into words.

“It’s an even longer story, but I reckon you now believe I’m fully capable of takin’ on a whole lotta muties by myself, right?” With a push of her index finger, Applejack closed Nora’s open mouth.

Still speechless, Nora simply nodded.

“As I was sayin’, I found the guy in a cage on the top floor of Trinity Tower, locked in there with Strong. He went in there thinkin’ he could ‘educate’” she did air quotes while saying that “super mutants by teachin’ ‘em Shakespeare. Ya know Shakespeare, right? Not many people in the Commonwealth know Shakespeare.”

“Yes, I… I know Shakespeare.”

“Yeah, I reckoned people down in the vaults have better education than the people up here in the wastes. I’ve only seen one legit school ‘round these parts, and they only teach kids how to read, how to write and basic math. Anyway, back to the story, the WRVR guy read Macbeth to ‘em. I don’t know much ‘bout it myself, I slept through most literature classes, but there was sumthin’ in there about ‘the milk of human kindness’.”

“Mack Beth says milk of human kindness is secret to human strength.” Strong commented, standing by the door and wiping the blood on his lips with the back of his hand. “Strong will find milk. Strong will drink milk. And Strong will be strong like apple human.”

“Oh! Done already, Strong?”

“Strong bored. Want to smash things. Humans still talking?”

“Ya said there are more raiders upstairs, right? Why don’tcha go ahead and smash them? I’ll be with ya in a minute.”

“Okay. Strong will.” The super mutant left the room once more.

“That about sums it up.” Applejack finished. “I told Strong I don’t know where to find this milk, but he won’t believe me – he thinks I gained my strength after drinkin’ it. But I do know somebody who know sumthin’ or other ‘bout kindness, so now we’re lookin’ for her, hopin’ she can convince Strong that this milk ain’t real.”

“Who’s ‘her’?”

“One of my friends is the human embodiment of kindness. I mean, where would one even find that kinda milk? Maybe if she—” Applejack suddenly stopped talking, and simply blinked as realization hit her. Her face slowly turned into a shade of crimson as her thoughts became more detailed. She violently shook her head and walked out of the room. “I-I’m gonna join Strong now and not think ‘bout what I was just thinkin’ about anymore.”

And just like that, Nora was alone once again. She decided to inspect the storage area behind the broken metal door and smiled when she found ammunition boxes with 10mm rounds for her 10mm pistol.

“I need a backup gun…”

By the time Nora, Applejack and Strong were done wiping out the raiders in the Corvega assembly plant it was already dark outside, so they decided to spend the night there. The leader of that gang had turned the control room of the assembly area into a bedroom with two mattresses laid down on the metal floor, which the two of them decided to put to use. Strong stayed downstairs with the machinery, car parts and half-assembled vehicles while the women got ready to go to sleep, in case more raiders showed up in the middle of the night.

Applejack laid down on her back with her arms crossed behind her head, while Nora laid down on her side with one arm underneath her head, facing Applejack.

“So, Applejack, tell me more about yourself.” Nora requested.

“Whaddya wanna know?”

“Oh, you know, basic stuff: things you like, things you dislike, how you are able to kick people through steel doors and toss metal desks like they’re made of paper, what boy from the football team you have a crush on…”

Applejack laughed. “Well, let’s see… I love my family and my friends more than anythin’ in this and the other world. I also like to go campin’ – or used to, at least. Kickin’ raiders in the teeth ain’t really sumthin’ I enjoy doin’, but knowin’ that they won’t be attackin’ any more farms, shootin’ at any more caravans or kidnappin’ any more settlers… well, that makes it a tolerable activity.”

“What, that’s it? Isn’t something missing from this short list of yours, APPLEjack?”

“I know what yer doin’ there, but contrary to what the rumors say, I enjoy other fruits just as much as I do apples. Just ‘cause I was born and raised in an apple farm it don’t mean I’m obsessed with the thing.” Applejack stopped to think for a moment. “I do enjoy apple juice more than other types of juice, though.

“As for things I dislike, there’s obviously raiders but also Gunners, super mutants that ain’t my buddy Strong, feral ghouls, deathclaws, yao guai, synths, mirelurks, radiation… Basically everythin’ that kills honest folk tryin’ to make a livin’ in this hellhole of a world.

“And sorry to disappoint ya but datin’ ain’t really my thing, so the football team will have to find another girl to crush on ‘em.” Nora and Applejack shared a smile before the younger woman sighed. “Ya really wanna know about my super strength, don’tcha?”

“If it’s no trouble…”

“Ain’t no trouble, just… yer gonna think I’m lyin’, crazy or both.”

“AJ. Can I call you AJ?”

“Sure can.”

“AJ, let me you a secret: one week ago I was sitting on the couch in my living room watching the news with my baby Shaun on my lap and my husband Nate with his arm wrapped around my shoulders. Then suddenly everything goes crazy as bombs start dropping from the sky and we are rushed to the vault, only to be boxed up into pods that kept us frozen for over 200 years. The first post-war living beings that I was introduced to after stepping out of the cryo-pod were roaches the size of a small dog that wanted to literally eat me alive! What I’m trying to say is, I’m still getting used to this new world and its new rules, so if you were to tell me that the planet is actually flat and we’re cruising through space on the back of a giant turtle, I would at least consider it.”

“I’m an alien.”

Nora stared at Applejack for what felt like hours, until she finally rolled on her mattress to look the other way.

“Goodnight, Applejack.”

“I’m serious!”

Nora sat up, once again looking at her companion. “First things first, let’s make sure we’re on the same page of the dictionary; when you use the word ‘alien’, you mean someone from a different country or, like, a Zetan?”

“Beg yer pardon?”

“You know, little green men from outer space.”

“To be honest, I’m not entirely sure. My friends Twilight and Sunset were the brains of the team, they prob’ly know the answer. We all came from America, just like this one, except not really. The year was 2016, we were messin’ with sumthin’ we didn’t rightly understand, next thing we know we’re gettin’ sucked through a portal and when I open my eyes, I’m face down in a crater in the middle of a wasteland in the year 2285, all by myself.”

“So you’re from the past? Like me?”

“See that’s what I thought too, but that ain’t right either. Technology in our 2010s was a smidge more advanced than what you have in your 2280s, but at the same time you have things we didn’t have; fer example, yer robots are a lot more advanced than the robots we had, but your technology is a lot bulkier. Heck, the phone I used to carry in my pocket was more advanced than computers bigger than our heads! Even more advanced than that doohickey you carry on your arm.”

Nora looked down at the Pip-Boy 3000 Mark IV latched to her left wrist, the wearable portable computer created by RobCo. Industries and considered one of the most advanced pieces of technology by the time it was made available to the public; something not only smaller but also more advanced than that was difficult for her to picture.

“So you’re from a different dimension?” The vault dweller asked.

“Seems like it. Leavin’ the comfort of my home against my will, only to be abandoned in a post-nuclear war wasteland by myself, with nuthin’ but the clothes on my back and a lot of questions with no answers sure was overwhelming, but I eventually learned how to make do.” The blonde girl smiled at her companion. “Guess you can relate, huh?”

“More or less, except instead of the strength of one hundred bodybuilders, I have a law degree. I’m still waiting for that explanation, by the way.”




“You’re just fucking with me, aren’t you?”

“Yer not my type, sugarcube.”

“No, I mean… Magic? Really?”

“Magic was a thing in my world. Well, not really in my world, but the other world that was connected to our world that wasn’t this world, so a little bit of magic leaked through an’ now we have magic!”

Nora lay back down once again, mimicking Applejack’s pose. “If I hadn’t seen what you’re capable of with my own eyes I would assume that you’re insane and a risk to my safety, wait for you to go to sleep and strangle you.”

Applejack smirked. “Yer welcome to try.”

“From what I gathered, you’ve been wandering the wastes for about two years, right?”

“Two years and one month, enterin’ the second.”

“Did you find your friends? They came through the portal with you, right?”

“Found some, but not all. One of ‘em settled down in a place called Bunker Hill, opened a store there. The other is like me, wanderin’ around the Commonwealth tryin’ to help folks in her own way. We thought about joinin’ forces but the folks she’s hangin’ out with don’t exactly have the highest opinion of super mutants, so Strong and I do our thing and she does hers. We still cross paths from time to time, but that’s about it. You’d think rumors of people with our skin colors would spread like wildfire, but you’d be wrong.”

“You skin colors? What do you mean?”

“The skin colors of the people in this world are mostly shades of pink or shades of brown, so I can blend in pretty well. I guess my friend Sunset can as well, even though her skin is closer to orange than anythin’. Pinkie Pie is pink, but just a little too pink. My friend Rarity is white as marble, Rainbow Dash is blue like the sky, Twilight is purple as a mutfruit and Fluttershy is a pale yellow that kinda looks like butter.

“I guess the same could be said for hair color, but since hair dye is a thing I don’t think it would turn too many heads. My natural hair is good for blending in. More or less for Sunset, since she is both blonde and redheaded at the same time. Pinkie’s hair is even pinker than her skin, Fluttershy’s hair is also pink, just not as pink as Pinkie’s, Rarity’s hair is very purple, Twilight’s hair is dark blue with a pink and purple streak and Rainbow Dash’s—”

“Let me guess.” Nora interrupted. “Rainbow Dash’s hair is black and white!”

Applejack chuckled. “Anywho, that’s about it. If ya come across any of ‘em in yer travels, tell ‘em Applejack said ‘howdy’.”

After conversing for a few more minutes, both of them turned in for the night and went to sleep.

2. Empathy

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While exploring downtown Boston one late afternoon, Nora accidently wandered into raider territory. She was much more prepared to fight back when compared to when she got cornered in the Corvega assembly plant those few weeks prior, but she was also more familiar with armed combat; engaging those raiders in an open area that they were more familiar with than her was not only an open invitation for an ambush but also a perfect position to be sniped from, so she holstered her 10mm pistol, turned tail and ran.

A small group unsurprisingly gave chase, shooting at her without bothering to aim. It was a short chase, as they gave up and turned around as soon as she entered the Boston Common, shouting things she couldn’t quite understand, except for the word “swan” being uttered several times by different raiders.

Boston Common was surprisingly quiet, not even a radroach nibbling on a corpse to be seen. Knowing that silence in the Commonwealth usually meant something bad would soon follow, Nora didn’t stop to admire the scenery and simply kept walking, hoping to find a way out of the Common that wasn’t through raider territory.

Nora spotted a red line on the ground as she walked alongside the Boston Common fence, hoping to avoid whatever evil lurked in there that scared off even raiders; as she walked past the main gate while looking around to make sure she would not be ambushed, Nora saw a wooden sign propped against the old fountain with a message written on it:

At Journey’s End Follow Freedom’s Lantern.

She looked around for said lantern, spotting one next to a line on the ground made of red bricks.

“The Freedom Trail.” Nora noted to herself, while her eyes followed the red line back to the gate, where it connected to a round bronze seal on the ground right in front of the sign with the words “Boston – The Freedom Trail” written in a circle around it. Upon closer inspection, she noticed that the symbol in the middle of the seal had a number 7 painted on it, as well as an arrow pointing at the letter A on the word “Trail”. Her interest piqued, Nora decided to follow the red bricks, hoping that it contained more clues like the one she found. After writing a note on her Pip-Boy, Nora kept walking.

Sure enough, after walking for a few moments she came across another bronze seal, this one with the number 4 and pointing at the letter L. Nora followed the Freedom Trail as best as she could; some sections were covered in rubble, but someone had drawn lines on the ground with red paint that led her straight to the next clues, which only raised her level of interest even more.

The post-war Freedom Trail led her straight into dangerous territories in the ruins of Boston, but thankfully it didn’t take long for the sun to set, allowing her to sneak past the ghouls, super mutants and mutated wild animals that lived in the area – of course, that also meant that locating the clues was a lot harder without the sunlight to help her.

The final clue located at the end of the trail of red bricks was located right outside the ruins of the Old North Church, which had a lit lantern on the ground to the right of the entrance. The message written on the sign back at the Boston Common mentioned “Freedom’s Lantern”, so Nora believed it to be in the right place. The vault dweller looked down at the clues she wrote down on her Pip-Boy: 7A-4L-2A-6O-3I-5R-8D-1R.

Hoping they would make sense once going inside, she walked through the door. The interior of the building was a wreck, and it housed a number of ghouls that Nora easily dispatched with her 10mm pistol. After looking around and not finding any more clues, she walked downstairs to the basement of the church, which contained a couple more ghouls that she killed effortlessly. She inspected the underground tunnels for a few minutes until coming across another bronze seal like the ones she found along the Freedom Trail, except this one was much larger and located on a wall.

The symbol in the middle of the seal had an arrow pointing up, which was painted the same shade of red as the sections of the trail that were covered in rubble. She inspected the wall, eventually figuring out that she could spin the ring containing the words “Boston – The Freedom Trail” both clockwise and counter clockwise, and push the circle in the middle like a button.

Nora brought up her Pip-Boy one more time, looked at the clues one more time and decided to rearrange them in numerical order: 1R-2A-3I-4L-5R-6O-7A-8D. She spun the outer ring until the red arrow on the symbol was pointing at a letter R, pressed the button and was rewarded with a click, meaning that something happened. She kept going and, after spelling the word “railroad” on the device, the wall to the left opened up, revealing a secret passage.

“I hope it’s worth the trouble…” Nora mumbled to herself, imagining what kind of loot would require such needlessly complicated security measure to keep people out. “Most people would use a safe or a vault, something like—” Somebody suddenly flashed a bright light on her, forcing Nora to cover her eyes with her left arm, while holding her gun with her right hand and pointing it at whatever was in front of her.

“Stop right there.” An unfamiliar voice belonging to a woman spoke up. After her eyes got used to the sudden brightness, Nora lowered her left arm but keeping her right one in place.

Standing across from here were three women: the one on her left was dark-skinned with bleached half-shaved white hair, wearing a weathered brown coat covered in metal plates and was pointing a minigun at her; the one on the right looked slightly younger, had light amber skin, long wavy hair with both red and yellow streaks, wore an olive green jumpsuit with two breast pockets and was pointing a silenced sniper rifle at Nora; the one in the middle looked older than the other two, was fair-skinned, had shoulder-length wavy red hair and wore fatigues with a vest and scarf – among the three, she was the only one unarmed.

“You went through a lot of effort to arrange this meeting.” The one in the middle, the same woman who spoke before, continued. “But before we go any further, answer my questions: who the hell are you?”

“A scavenger, I guess?” Nora replied. “I was hoping to find hidden treasure, but I can see something else is going on here.”

“A scavenger who just happened to guess the password to the secret door? Doubtful.”

“You wrote it down on the Freedom Trail. A creative way to remember your password in case you forget it, but you shouldn’t be surprised when anyone with two brain cells to rub together comes a-knocking.”

“Literacy isn’t a common trait among scavengers, nor the skills to survive a trip straight through the middle of the Trail.” The blonde-redhead to the right spoke up before turning to the apparent leader. “I don’t know about this, Dez, we should just—”

“I’m handling it, Sunrise.” She interrupted her subordinate. “Just don’t lower your guard and we’ll be fine.” The young woman named Sunrise tightened her grip on her sniper rifle. “Are you sure you just stumbled across this place? Nobody told you how to contact us? Heard any rumors?”

Nora simply shook her head.

“You’re having a party, what gives with my invitation?” A man asked, emerging from the tunnel behind the three women interrogating the vault dweller.

“You’re late, Deacon.” Sunrise said. “As usual.”

“Fashionably late.”

She rolled her eyes. “You’re spending too much time around—”

“I need intel. Who is this?” The leader asked the man named Deacon, interrupting Sunrise once more.

“Well, if it isn’t the General of the Minutemen.” The man, apparently around the same age as the woman talking to him, said as he laid eyes on Nora – he wore a tattered white shirt with damaged blue jeans, sunglasses and had his black hair styled in a pompadour. “News flash, boss, this lady is kind of a big deal out there. You’re rebuilding the Minutemen out of Sanctuary, right?”

Nora was taken by surprise. “Yes, I… How do you know that, exactly? We helped a few settlements here and there, but the return of the Minutemen isn’t exactly a conversation opener across the Commonwealth.”

Deacon shrugged with a grin on his face. “Knowing things is kind of my job.”

“So you’re vouching for her?”

“Yes. Trust me, she’s someone we want on our side.” He turned to look at the young woman. “Sunrise.”

“Until I’m sure of her intentions, my rifle stays aimed at her forehead. We are not having another Switchboard on my watch!”

Deacon looked back at Nora. “Don’t worry about her, she’s still shaken up about… recent events.”

“Hell, we all are!” The woman with bleached hair finally spoke up. “We’re just better at hiding how we feel.”

Sunrise grumbled. “I’m sorry if I feel bad for all the people that died and I couldn’t do anything to save them.”

“I feel bad too, but you can’t let it get to you like that. You’re getting sloppy and doing rookie mistakes, that’s why you’re being—”

“Enough, both of you.” The leader said, stopping the argument in its tracks. “Before you reveal sensitive information in front of a stranger.” She faced Nora once again. “First things first, I need to make sure we’re on the same page. You know what a synth is, right?”

“I heard that name being tossed around enough times to get an idea, but you seem to know more about it than your average scav, so why don’t you give me the long version?”

“They are synthetic humans created by the Institute, designed to look, feel and sound just like us. And the Institute treats synths as property. As tools. You… do know who the Institute is, right?”

“I know enough, and I can tell they’re bad news.”

“And you’re right to feel that way. Kidnappings, unexplained virus outbreaks, wiped out settlements… They’ve done all that and more.”

“Just ask around Diamond City about the Broken Mask incident or the CPG massacre.” Sunrise commented. “Dig deep enough into any tragedy in the Commonwealth, and 9 times out of 10 the Institute is involved. They either send chrome domes to wipe a place clean and take any technology they find valuable, or replace a loved one with one of their Gen 3’s to spy on you or pull strings without raising suspicion.”

“Always from the shadows.” Deacon added. “To this day, nobody knows where they’re hiding.”

“How close to human-like are we talking about?” Nora asked.

“About this close.” The dark-skinned woman wielding a minigun said while patting herself on the chest.



“So they manufacture slaves, kill people for their own benefit and don’t even show their face while committing those atrocities. I thought they were bad, but they are somehow even worse than what I imagined. They need to be stopped, how can I help?”

“Before we make that decision, I have one last question for you. The only question that matters.” The redhead woman said. “Would you risk your life for you fellow man, even if that man is a synth?”

“Protect the people at a minute’s notice.” Nora explained. “That’s what being a Minuteman is about. And as their General, I enforce that code every day. Doesn’t matter if they’re human or synth, I already risk my life for people all the time.”

A hint of a smile appeared on their leader’s face for the first time. “Well said.” She raised her hand. The synth woman nodded and lowered her minigun. Sunrise bit her lip and hesitated for a moment, but eventually lowered her rifle.

“We’re giving you the benefit of the doubt.” Shunrise warned. “If you make us regret that decision, I’ll make you regret your decision.”

“Under normal circumstances, we would take our time getting to know you and train you, but we suffered a great loss not that long ago. We don’t have time, resources or agents to deal with that, but there are other ways you can contribute. Deacon can fill you in on the details. Now that that’s out of the way, we haven’t been formally introduced. My name is Desdemona, leader of the Railroad. These are Deacon, Sunrise and Glory. And you are…?”

“General Nora of the Commonwealth Minutemen. It’s a pleasure.”

“The pleasure is all mine.”

Desdemona turned around and went back the way Deacon came. Glory, on the other hand, went back the way Nora came.

“I’ll check the perimeter, make sure nothing slipped through the cracks while we were monitoring her. Deacon, she’s all yours.”

“Wait, I was being monitored?” Glory left without giving an answer. Deacon and Sunrise stayed behind, the former approaching Nora once the armored synth left through the secret entrance.

“That went better than expected. And nobody got shot!” Deacon said. “Not for lack of trying by some, but all’s well that ends well.”

“Don’t try me, Deacon.” Sunrise threatened, crossing her arms and glaring at the man.

“Is she always that grumpy?” Nora asked.

“Didn’t used to be.” He explained. “But ever since our last HQ got hit she’s been a little on edge. Like Glory said, making rookie mistakes; nothing too serious, nobody got hurt and we haven’t been compromised… yet.”

“I’m right here, you know!”

“So she was grounded by Dez, can’t leave HQ on missions until she gets her head back in the game. Now she works on weapon modifications, maintenance and repairs. She’s good at it; leave Sunrise alone with a workbench and a box of scraps and she works miracles, but…”

“But if I have to listen to one more of Tinker Tom’s outlandish theories about the Institute while I work, I’ll sneak out of here in the middle of the night and go jogging near Lynn Woods completely naked and covered in steak sauce!”

“Here’s the deal: Dez wants me to make you a ‘tourist’. That’s what we call someone who helps out with the odd job here and there, but I think that’s a waste of time and resources for someone as talented as you. Instead, I got something else in mind. Something big. Too big for me, just perfect for the three of us.”

Sunrise raised an eyebrow. “Three of us?”

Deacon smiled at her. “I asked Dez to keep it a secret so I could surprise you. She thinks you’re in good enough shape for a trial run, see how you handle things now that you had some time to clear your head. Interested?”

Sunrise smiled back as she picked up the sniper rifle she previously put down. “Does mirelurk meat taste like ass?”

“If this op goes well Sunrise gets the leash taken off, Dez invites the General into the fold and everyone is happy. You on board?”

“Sign me up!” Nora replied.

“Perfecto! Meet me up at the old freeway outside Lexington, we’ll talk more there. I’ll go first. Nora, you leave five minutes after I’m gone. Sunny, you give Nora ten minutes and leave after her. See you there.” With that said, Deacon left through the secret doorway.

Sunrise sat down on the stone floor and proceeded to inspect every part of her gun, making sure it was in good condition after not seeing any action in a while. Nora sat down beside her.

“Can I ask you something?”

“Mm-hm.” Sunrise mumbled, not looking away from her rifle.

“Are you Sunset Shimmer?”

Before Nora even had the chance to react, Sunrise tackled her to the ground, pulled a combat knife hidden on the shaft of her boot and pressed it against her throat.

“If you want your larynx to remain in one piece, then you better start talking. Who told you that?”

“I-I met one of your friends a while back. You fit the description she gave me.”

“I want a name!”


“Where is she?”

“I don’t know. We met in an old pre-war ruin, took care of some raiders then went our separate ways.”

“What was the name of her dog?”

“Her what?”

“Her dog, it follows her everywhere. What’s its name?”

“There was no dog, she was travelling with a super mutant named Strong.”

Sunrise stared into Nora’s eyes for a few more moments before getting off her and placing her knife back in the hidden holster inside her boot.

“It was a trick question, just to be sure. Sorry about that, you can never be too careful with the Institute out there.”

“I guess.”

“How is she? I can’t contact my friends, if the Institute finds out they’ll become targets as well. I was keeping tabs on them, just in case they ran into trouble, but after the Switchboard got hit and I was forbidden from leaving the new HQ I don’t know what’s happening outside.”

“She seems fine. Looks healthy, well-fed, can kick a raider through a steel door, sleeps well…”

Sunrise smiled. “Classic Applejack.”

“Do you have superpowers too?”

“I… Ah, screw it, you know too much already. Yes, I do. But unlike AJ’s, mine is less direct and more… intrusive.”

“How so?”

“I can see the memories of people I touch.”

“For real?”

“Used to, at least.”

“What do you mean?”

“Our powers require a special item, a catalyst of sorts. We need to be in direct contact or at least close enough in order to access our special abilities. Applejack still has hers, but I lost mine when they raided our old HQ. I dropped it in the middle of the confusion, and only realized that after the point of no return. It was a good way to root out Institute spies, but now that it’s gone…”

“I’m sorry about that.” Nora looked down at her Pip-Boy; five minutes had passed. “Looks like my time has come. I’ll see you there.”

“Sure thing. Watch your back out there. And make sure no one is following you. Ever.”

Nora stood underneath the freeway, arms crossed and leaning against one of the columns, waiting for Deacon and Sunrise/Sunset Shimmer. She already expected the blonde-redhead to arrive after she did, but the fact that Deacon, who left first, wasn’t there either, concerned her. Her posture may have indicated that she was relaxed and not thinking too much about her surroundings, but her ears were focused on every little sound she could pick up, her eyes were moving left and right, scanning her surrounding, and her 10mm pistol was already drawn, hidden under her armpit.

The sound of footsteps on concrete coming from above got her attention, and she tightened her grip on her pistol just to make sure. Soon the owners of those footsteps made themselves known: Sunset Shimmer, still dressed the same as before, and another man. It took Nora a moment to identify him:


“Hey! Like the disguise?” The man’s new outfit was composed of a dark green shirt, tattered jeans, a trenchcoat, work gloves, a battered fedora and his trademarked sunglasses. He was also covered in dirt and his charming pompadour was gone, his head completely bald. “It’s wastelander camo.”

“Sorry for making you wait.” Sunset Shimmer spoke up. “Deacon and I got here first, so we decided to speed things alone while waiting for you.”

“We met up with a tourist on the highway.” Deacon explained, pointing his thumb at the ramp behind them where they came from. “Our old HQ is nearby; he scouted the place and gave us the full report. The place is crawling with Gen 1’s and 2’s and there’s a minefield by the front entrance with some turrets thrown in there for good measure, so if we just waltz in there guns blazing it’s gonna be either the bravest thing ever done in the wasteland or the last thing we do on this earth.”

“Maybe if we had a bigger group, but just the three of us? I don’t think so.” Nora replied. “Any other options?”

“If we can’t go in through the front, then we go in through the side.” Deacon continued. “We use the secret entrance and pop out from behind, catch the chrome domes with their non-existent pants down.”

“Yeah, but they chased us down that way when we fled, remember?” Sunset Shimmer added. “It’s probably guarded as well. Out here we still have open space, we can find a place to take cover and shoot at them from a distance.” She rested her silenced sniper rifle on her shoulder.

“I see your point, but you are the only one of us equipped for long range combat.” Nora explained. “I have my 10mm, Deacon has… I have no idea what he has, but I doubt he is hiding a rocket launcher in his pocket.”

“I have a grenade.” Deacon chimed in.

“We’ll both be dead weight and you’ll have to fire three times as much, and believe me when I say this, it’s not fun to run out of ammo in the heat of battle without a backup. I’m with Deacon, it’s best to work hard, work together and watch each other’s back than work light, let one of us do all the work and waste a lot of ammo needlessly.”

Sunset Shimmer sighed, lowering her rifle. “Fair point, I guess. I’m sorry, after what happened last time we were here, I… I just want to get the bastards that killed all those people.”

“And we will. I promise you.” Nora placed a hand on Sunset’s shoulder. “But we need to be careful, otherwise instead of avenging your fallen friends you’ll end up joining them.”

“Wouldn’t want that. Alright Deacon, lead the way.”

And so Deacon did, taking them to a metal door hidden in a drainpipe next to the remains of a wrecked train. Once inside, Deacon explained that they were after a prototype created by Dr. Carrington, second-in-command of the Railroad, left behind in the confusion caused by the surprise attack. After typing a password on a terminal, he unlocked a door that led to the utility tunnels and they all went inside. In the tunnels of the Switchboard, Nora came across Gen 1 and 2 synths for the first time.

Is someone present?” A high-pitched monotone voice, clearly belonging to a robot, asked. As soon as it made itself known, Sunset Shimmer raised her rifle and shot at it, not even taking a second to aim. The bullet pierced the robot’s left eye, smashing the component in its artificial skull that allowed it to function, shutting it down permanently.

“Nice shot.” Nora whispered as she approached the synthetic man to take a better look at it: unlike Glory, who looked exactly like a human being, Gen 1 synths looked like walking skeletons made of metal with mechanical parts resembling organs in its torso, exposed wires and sharp metal fingers.

In those tunnels she also came across a few Gen 2 synths, who looked exactly like Gen 1’s on the inside, while on the outside they wore synthetic skin suits made of plastic that made them look more like mannequins than actual human beings. Their voice was low-pitched, unlike the Gen 1’s, but their AI was just as limited. The synths were not much of a threat on their own as long as the three of them remained hidden, striking them down before being spotted, but once located by one synth, all the other synths within a certain radius were alerted of their presence as well, making things much more complicated for Nora and the others, forcing them to get to cover in order to avoid the barrage of blue laser beams that would reduce them to a pile of ash in a matter of seconds.

“Remember when I said I have a grenade?” Deacon pulled out a pulse grenade from one of the pockets of his trenchcoat and tossed it towards the squad of synths that had them pinned down – it emitted an electromagnetic pulse that interfered with the electronic components of the synths and shut them down permanently. “Let’s try to avoid being spotted again, because I don’t have any more of those to bail us out.”

Since that grenade took care of most of the remaining synths patrolling the utility tunnels, infiltrating the former Railroad HQ became slightly easier. After exiting through another pipe, Deacon accessed another terminal, unlocking the door that served as the last obstacle between the Railroad agents and the Switchboard.

The Switchboard was an underground bunker used by the Defense Intelligence Agency, a pre-war agency in service of the United States government. Located on the main hall were a number of desks with terminals; below them, on the ground, was painted the emblem of the DIA. Stairs were located on both sides of the hall, taking them to a room with more terminals and filing cabinets, as well as a door leading deeper into the hideout. After dispatching a few more synths patrolling the hallways, Deacon, Sunset Shimmer and Nora entered a room with a large vault door on one of the walls. Deacon unlocked the door by accessing yet another terminal. The locks were disengaged automatically, meanwhile Nora and Sunset worked together to spin the handle and open the vault, giving access to the safe.

The inside of the vault was mostly empty, save for a few pre-war metal crates, shelves and a body lying on the floor.

“So Tommy Whispers didn’t make it out.” Deacon muttered while kneeling next to the deceased man. “He died protecting our secrets.”

Sunset Shimmer sighed, clearly hurt by the discovery. “I… I was sorta hoping he was lying low, waiting for an opportunity to contact us after making sure he was in the clear.” Deacon got up, making room for Sunrise to kneel next to him. “Thank you for everything, Tommy. Rest in peace.”

“Tommy was her mentor when she first joined up.” Deacon told Nora. “Taught her how to shoot, how to move without being spotted, how to make good use of shadows… He was a stealth pro.” Deacon noticed a handgun on the floor, mere inches away from his feet. He crouched down, picked it up and offered it to the Sole Survivor. “Here, Tommy would want you to have his handcannon.”

“Me?” Nora questioned while inspecting the gun – it was a small, pre-war semi-automatic pistol with a suppressor. “I never met the guy. Sunrise was close to him, wouldn’t it make sense to give it to her instead?”

“Sunny has her own style.” Deacon said, motioning to the sniper rifle she had put down next to Tommy’s corpse. “Sure I could give it to her, but she wouldn’t use it. What’s the point of having a powerful gun if you’re going to put it in a bag and forget about it? And trust me, this gun packs a punch, don’t let its size fool you. You, on the other hand, would make good use of it. It takes 10mm rounds, and you got that angle covered.”

“You’ve got a point.” Nora picked up her 10mm gun with one hand and the new one Deacon offered with the other. It took a moment, but Nora saw reason in Deacon’s words; she handed him her old pistol and kept the new. “Thanks, Deacon.”

After mourning the death of her dear friend and mentor, Sunset Shimmer finally got up, picked up her rifle, then moved to one of the shelves in the vault where she picked up a strange device Nora couldn’t identify at a glance – but if Deacon and Sunrise were willing to risk their lives to retrieve it, it must have been important. Sunrise picked up a satchel from one of the shelves, stuffed Dr. Carrington’s prototype inside it then tossed it to Nora. “Let’s get out of here.”

After dealing with a couple more synths at the end of the complex, the trio managed to power up the elevator that they rode back topside. Given that they were on the side of the minefield that the patrollers didn’t expect fire from, the Railroad agents managed to shut down the turrets and exterminate the remaining synths. Since it was still dark outside and there were no more enemies for them to worry about, they managed to safely get past the minefield by looking for the yellow lights on active fragmentation mines and avoiding going near them. Deacon instructed them to take different paths back to the HQ, and so they went their separate ways.

When Nora made her way back to the Old North Church hideout, she was greeted by the sight of Desdemona angrily scolding Sunset Shimmer, who was looking down at her feet, while Glory watched the entrance.

“I forbade you from leaving the headquarters for a reason. If I can’t trust you to follow an order as simple as that, then how can I trust you with another mission ever again?” Desdemona said. “Following your orders can be a matter of life or death, but if you’re just going to leave and do your own thing whenever you feel like it then you’re not only putting yourself at risk but all of us as well. Is this what you want? For the Institute to catch us off-guard again because we were too busy trying to figure out where you ran off to, then come and finish what they started back in the Switchboard?”

“N-No, ma’am. But—”

“Ah geez.” Deacon muttered, startling Nora after suddenly appearing behind her without warning. “I was hoping to arrive first to avoid this.” Nora stepped aside so that Deacon could go in. “Hey boss!”

“Not now, Deacon. I’m—”

“Dishing out discipline, I noticed. Well, unwarranted discipline.”

“Explain yourself.”

“Well, you see, I kinda-sorta told Sunny that you gave her the all-clear to accompany me and the new gal in this new op, as a field test to see if she was good to go.”

Desdemona’s frown deepened as she pinched the bridge of her nose. “In other words, you lied. Again.”

“But it was for a good cause. And I can say with total confidence that she handled things like a pro, Sunny is definitely ready to get back outside. God knows we could use more field agents.”

“We’ll discuss that later. And you…” The leader of the Railroad turned her gaze back to the young woman. “You should know better than to take Deacon’s claims that seem too good to be true at face value.”

“Yes, ma’am…”

“Um, excuse me, Desdemona.” Nora spoke up, taking the prototype out of the satchel and presenting it to her. “We got the, uh… the thing.”

“And so you did. I was expecting Deacon to grab a full team, including Glory, to secure that prototype. But instead just the three of you cleared out the entire Switchboard.”

“You’d be insane not to sign her up, Dez.” Deacon commented.

“I see no reason to dispute that, you certainly got results. Welcome to the Railroad, agent. We’ll talk more inside.” Desdemona turned around and went into the tunnel, Glory following closely behind.

“We’ll be there in a second.” Deacon announced before turning back to face his two companions. “That—”

The senior Railroad agent was interrupted by a punch to the cheek; he didn’t fall down, but it disoriented him for a moment and sent his sunglasses flying.

“You slimy bastard!” Sunset angrily yelled, still clenching the fist she used to punch him. “I got in trouble because you lied to me!”

“But I also bailed you out.” He rationalized while massaging his punched cheek.

“You think that makes up for it?”

“Well, no. But I anticipated that happening, so I brought you a gift.”

Deacon extended his hand, in which he held a golden necklace with a circular red gemstone hanging from it – on top of the gemstone there was a golden sun. Sunset Shimmer’s expression of anger morphed into a mixture of surprise and relief.

“Is… Is that my…?”

“Yep, your magical mind-reading thingamajig. Found it while we under fire and taking cover. I was waiting for things to quiet down before giving it to you, but they never did. And then we found Tommy.”

“I’m still mad at you.” Sunset Shimmer slipped the necklace around her neck. “But thank you.”

Quick as a flash, Sunset Shimmer grabbed Nora’s wrist – it was very faint and it lasted less than a second, but the vault dweller could have sworn she saw the magical girl’s eyes flash.

“Sorry, just had to make sure. You are who you say you are.” Sunset said, letting go of Nora’s wrist. “I’m sorry about your husband, and I hope you find your son.”

“Thank you.” Nora said under her breath.

Sunset Shimmer turned around and tried to grab Deacon’s wrist, but he quickly dodged by taking a step backwards. She tried touching him several times, but he managed to avoid every single one of her attempts.

“One of these days I’m going to find out your secrets, Deacon.”

“You wouldn’t be the first who failed. The fact that you can read my mind only makes the challenge more fun.”

Sunrise eventually gave up and turned back to Nora. “Can I take Deliverer for a second? That’s what Tommy called the gun Deacon gave you, by the way.” Nora nodded and gave her the gun. “I’ll be done with it by the time you and Desdemona finish talking. It will be twice as efficient, you’ll see!”

Sunset Shimmer disappeared into the tunnel Glory and Desdemona went into not long before.

“She was just being humble, that gun will be at least ten times more efficient.” Deacon commented. “I wasn’t exaggerating when I said she is a miracle-worker on a workbench, she really is that good.”

3. Kindness

View Online

Nora never had the chance to tell others that she had chased the Children of Atom away from the Kingsport Lighthouse, so it wasn’t very likely that settlers or scavengers would approach the place of their own volition. But that didn’t change the fact that someone had taken shelter in the place, given that she could see the light of candles coming from the kitchen windows. She decided to investigate, mostly out of curiosity, but found the house just as empty as when she last visited. After taking another look around, Nora noticed a faint green glow coming from the top of the lighthouse, not unlike the one on her Pip-Boy. She didn’t draw Deliverer from the holster on her leather belt, but kept her hand close to it as she carefully walked upstairs, trying not to make any sound.

Upon reaching the top, she saw that the green glow was indeed coming from a Pip-Boy, strapped to the wrist of somebody leaning against the railing and using the detached night vision scope of a sniper rifle as a makeshift monocular, using it to watch something up north. That person wore a full set of heavy combat armor plus a combat helmet, covering most of their body in steel plating, not unlike the one her late husband wore while serving in the army before the bombs fell. Nora could also see the blue of a vault suit poking from the gaps in the armor and long locks of pink hair that could not be contained under the helmet. Since the person had their back turned to Nora, they did not notice her approaching.

“Excuse me?” Nora called.

“EEP!” The person squealed, startled. The scare had such an effect on them that they dropped the scope they were holding. “Oh no no no no no!” The person could do nothing but watch as the scope dropped down several feet, shattering upon hitting the ground. “Oh, shoot…”

“Um, sorry about your scope. Didn’t expect you to react like that.”

“It’s ok, I still have another. It doesn’t have night vision, but I’ll make do.” The person finally turned around: she was a girl with creamy yellow skin and pink hair. For a brief moment Nora could also see that the young woman had aquamarine eyes, but she quickly hid them with the road goggles she had hanging around her neck.

“My name is Nora.” The sole survivor said, extending her hand.

“Eep!” The other vault dweller flinched at the sudden movement, but eventually shook her hand. “I’m… Fluttershy.”

“Hey, I heard about you.”

“You… did?”

“Yeah, I came across some of your friends a while back.”

“So they’re alive?” Fluttershy placed a hand on her chest, relief washing over her. “Oh, thank goodness! I’ve been looking for them for so long, I was starting to fear the worst. Can you tell me where they are, please?”

“I, uh… I’m sorry, I can’t. Applejack is constantly on the move, I have no idea where she went after we parted ways. And Sunset Shimmer, well… I don’t know either.” Nora truly wanted to tell Fluttershy the truth, but she was instructed to not tell anybody about the Railroad or reveal the location of their headquarters, regardless of who they were or how genuine they seemed.

“I… I see…” Fluttershy looked down at her feet – if most of her hair wasn’t contained under the helmet, she would be attempting to hide her face behind her bangs.

“So, uh, I see you have a working Pip-Boy.” Nora mentioned in an attempt to break the ice. “Haven’t seen one out here in the wastes that wasn’t my own. Where did you get it?”

“I got it from Vault 81. Overseer McNamara said that if I was going to be living among them, I may as well look the part.”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa! Really? Vault 81? They don’t strike me as the type to just give away their possessions out of the goodness of their heart. Hell, they wanted three fully charged fusion cores just to let me in, and I’m a fellow vault dweller. How did you get in?”

“I’m, um… Not really sure myself. I just… woke up there.”

“Ah, I see. So that’s where the portal dropped you.” Nora smiled at Fluttershy’s expression of surprise and confusion. “Applejack told me everything.”

“Then there’s no reason to hide it, I suppose.” Fluttershy sighed, relieved that she wouldn’t have to lie her way through in order to avoid being called crazy. “The portal that brought us here separated us, and I ended up inside the vault.”

“What’s your superpower?”

“Oh! She told you about those as well, then.” Nora nodded, a smile of genuine excitement on her face – as a long time closet fan of the Unstoppables comic book series, the idea of people with actual superpowers in real life fascinated her. “I can hear and talk to all kinds of animals.”

“Wow! Even the mutated animals of the wasteland?”

“Mm-hm. They can hear me but they don’t always listen to me. Oh, speaking of which!” Fluttershy reached into a satchel lying on the metal floor next to her feet and pulled out a different scope; she looked through that scope in the same direction she had been watching prior to Nora’s arrival. “Shoot, it’s too dark.”

“What are you doing?”

“I’ve been tracking a squad of Gunners, they have something that belongs to a friend of mine. The trail leads to that place” Fluttershy pointed at the building in the distance “but I’m afraid of getting too close.”

“Yeah, I had my fair share of run ins with the Gunners, I understand not wanting to get too close to a placed where a bunched of them are holed in.”

“That’s… not exactly why I’m afraid to get too close.”

“Why, then?”

“I’m not the only one tracking them.” Fluttershy sat down with her back pressed against the wall of the lighthouse – Nora did the same. The young lady from Canterlot pulled her satchel closer to her and inspected the insides. “A gang of raiders stole a clutch of eggs from a friend of mine in Lynn Woods. She wasn’t particularly happy when we found out about it, so she stormed their camp and… wiped them out.” Fluttershy pulled out a piece of paper covered in dried blood and handed it to the vault dweller. “But by the time we got there the eggs were already gone and that’s all I could find.”

Parts of the paper were unreadable due to the bloodstains, but from the parts she could read she concluded that someone instructed the raiders to sneak into a deathclaw nest, steal the eggs, stuff them in a case and hand the case over to a group of Gunners without telling them what the contents were, otherwise they would ask for more money and the raiders would be paid less caps.

Deathclaw eggs? Your friend is a deathclaw?”

Fluttershy nodded. “When I met her, she was on the verge of death – she had an encounter with a Brotherhood of Steel squad; she… defeated them, but was in terrible shape afterwards. I explained my intentions to her and she allowed me to get closer. We talked a lot while I was nursing her back to health – well, I talked a lot, she mostly grumbled one-word replies and cussed me out when she felt pain.” Fluttershy giggled. “Deathclaws have really tough hides, but their bellies are very soft.

“By the time she was fully healed she had already warmed up to me and we became friends. She even lets me ride her! We travelled back to her home in Lynn Woods where she introduced me to the rest of her lounge. They weren’t exactly fond of me, but after a lot of shouting, roaring and threats of violence, Eve – that’s what I named her, by the way; deathclaws don’t name themselves or each other – convinced them to tolerate my presence.” She sighed. “And then there’s the alpha.”

“Is he bad?”

“I wouldn’t call him bad, just overprotective. He’s always watching me, thinking I have second intentions and will spring my nonexistent trap if he’s not around. Never mind the fact that there are five other equally mistrustful deathclaws, all of which can easily overpower me in less than a second. When the eggs were stolen, he was livid; I was lucky that he didn’t take his anger out on me, but his roars were the scariest things I ever heard in my life.

“Since Eve had already cleared out the ones responsible, he chased after the Gunners once I told them what was written in there.” Fluttershy pointed at the bloody paper Nora was still holding. “I got here just in time to see him chase after them into that place, but that was hours ago and neither the Gunners nor the alpha came out yet.”

“You think they killed each other?”

“Impossible. The Brotherhood of Steel guys had Power Armor, were more heavily armed than those Gunners and, although barely, Eve still survived a direct confrontation with. The alpha is stronger than Eve, there’s no way they managed to come even close to seriously injuring him. I think he… got them all, but they hid the eggs and he’s still looking for them. But if I go in there now he’ll probably think I’m one of them and… attack me too.”

“Hm… maybe I can help you with that?”

“You can? How?”

Nora opened a small bag hanging from her leather belt, revealing a number of buttons and dials on the device contained inside it.

“Stealth Boy.” Nora said. “I can get in and out without being spotted – as long as I hurry up, the battery life of this thing is infuriatingly short.”

“I don’t know, it’s too dangerous. I can’t ask someone I barely know to risk their life on my behalf.”

“Your friend Applejack saved my life. Helping her friends at a time of need is the least I can do to repay the favor.”

“Well, if you’re sure…”

“I am! Trust me, this will only take a moment.”

But it didn’t take only a moment; standing so close to a deathclaw without a suit of Power Armor caused Nora to panic, and she lost precious seconds just standing there, staring at the alpha deathclaw that didn’t even know she was there. By the time she located the eggs, the timer ran out and she became fully visible again.

Luckily she was out of the deathclaw’s sight, so she managed to sneak her way to safety without being spotted. She located the missing eggs in one of the bathrooms next to the corpse of a Gunner – one of the many she stumbled across inside the building – with large claw-sized holes in his stomach lying next to the eggs, most of which had been smashed to pieces, except for one. She sat on the floor, hugging the last football-sized egg and spying on the deathclaw through the gaps on the broken walls, hoping for a chance to sprint toward the stairs leading to the basement where she came from.

After taking a moment to catch the breath that she was holding since the second she activated her Stealth Boy, Nora could think more clearly and noticed something she overlooked at first: the front entrance, which she was unable to open when attempting to enter, was just a few feet away from the bathroom she was hiding in, she could tiptoe her way out of the building and hopefully find a way to unlock the front door from the inside.

She managed to sneak out of the building through the front door, which fortunately was only chained shut, so all she had to do was remove said chains and not go back inside to hunt down a key as she feared.

“Oh thank goodness you’re back, I was so worried!” Fluttershy was about to give Nora a hug when she noticed the large egg she was holding. “Oh you found them! It. Where… Where are the others?”

“Bad news, Fluttershy; they were all broken by the time I got there. This is the only one that’s left.”

“Oh… Oh no…”

“I’m sorry.”

“N-No, don’t apologize, it’s no your fault. We managed to save at least one of them, and that’s a good thing.” Fluttershy took the egg from Nora’s hands and hugged it affectionately. “Let’s just hope Eve thinks so as well…”

“Do you want me to accompany you?”

Fluttershy nodded. “I could use the help. I can’t dive for cover like I usually do while carrying the last surviving egg of Eve’s clutch.”

“So, did the people of Vault 81 freaked out when suddenly a new resident popped up in their home out of thin air?” Nora asked as their walked side by side back to Lynn Woods, holding Delivery on her hands and keeping an eye on their surroundings to make sure they wouldn’t be ambushed.

“Not exactly. I didn’t end up in the section of Vault 81 where everybody lived; the vault had another section, one that had been abandoned and sealed off ages ago that was populated by giant naked mole-rats. They were going to… attack me, but once I managed to convince them that I meant no harm, they left me alone. While exploring that place I met a robot named Curie. She was trapped in there, just like me, but for much longer. We became good friends.

“She had been working on a universal cure for all known diseases. The mole-rats themselves were parts of the experiment, carrying diseases that the serum was meant to cure. I honestly thought I was going to die in there, but thankfully we were found by one of the residents from the vault named Bobby De Luca; he called a security officer and we were taken straight to the Overseer’s office immediately. After I explained myself, we made a deal: Curie would give her the universal cure so that they could study it and hopefully replicate it, and in return she would allow us to stay. Curie and I agreed.

“I spent the next few months living in Vault 81, working as the assistant of the school teacher, but as I heard tales of how scary and dangerous the Commonwealth is, a day didn’t go by without me worrying about the safety of my friends. One day Curie approached me, saying she had already learned everything she could possibly learn in an enclosed environment like the vault, and she wanted to leave and explore the wasteland so she could learn what the outside world had to offer. It took a lot of courage, but I decided to pack my bags and leave with her in order to look for my friends. As I explored the Commonwealth, I came across all kinds of creatures I had never seen before in my life, and most of them were willing to sit down and talk.”

“Most of them?” Nora questioned.

“Like I said, they can hear me but they don’t always listen to me. Mutant hounds only obey their super mutant masters, they don’t care what I have to say, and I have yet to come across a radscorpion that doesn’t want to… attack me.”

“I noticed that you avoid saying the word ‘kill’ a lot.” Nora pointed out. “Any specific reason for that or…?”

“It’s just… not a concept I am comfortable with. Don’t know if I ever will. I mean, I am familiar with the circle of life and know that every living being must die eventually, but… it’s just so commonplace out here in the wasteland. Survival and nourishment are things I understand, but there are those who…” Fluttershy took a deep breath “kill just for fun or sport. Radscorpions are especially vicious, most of the things they hunt they simply leave where it died. It’s like they do it just for the thrill of doing it. I’ll never know the reason why until I can find one willing to talk, but no such luck yet.

“But as I was saying, finding all those creatures that probably haven’t been properly studied and that I can talk to seemed like my chance to do something important. Curie and I parted ways eventually, but I was inspired by her and so I decided to do my own research.” Fluttershy gathered up a small pile of dead leaves with her feet and placed the deathclaw egg on the makeshift nest as she reached into her satchel and pulled out a worn book. She flipped through the pages, a lot of them filled with detailed sketches of creatures from around the wasteland and numerous notes on them. “Currently I’m working on my entry on deathclaws, and living among them is an unique opportunity. My hope is to one day turn these notes into a book that can help not only the people of the wasteland but all the creatures as well.”

“That’s impressive! You are amazing, Fluttershy.”

The young woman smiled and blushed as she hugged the notebook close to her chest. “Th-Thank you. As a side project, I’m trying to convince the deathclaws of Eve’s lounge to not actively hunt down humans unless they’re acting in self-defense, to limit themselves to brahmin, radstags and the occasional yao guai.”

“How is that going?”

“Results… could be better.”

“Did you manage to convince any?”

“Just Eve.”

“Well, that’s one more than everyone else I know of; if anyone can do it, it’s you. Heck, you’ll probably have a full-blown Deathclaw Preservation Society before the year is out.”

Fluttershy giggled as she put the notebook back in her satchel and picked the egg up once again. “That plan is just a little too ambitious for me.”

Miraculously, they arrived in Lynn Woods without running into trouble along the way. Nora escorted Fluttershy to a large nest made out of wood, dirt, leaves, garbage and bones at the bottom of a ravine – she couldn’t see the deathclaws that lived there, but she could hear growling and heavy footsteps. Fluttershy assured her that they wouldn’t attack her as long as they were together, but she still kept Deliverer in hand, just in case – it wouldn’t deal much damage against half a dozen deathclaws, but it gave her a small sense of security.

Fluttershy took a step forward, getting closer to the nest. A deathclaw emerged from above them – it was about as large as the one Nora had put down in Concord, but without Power Armor to protect her, Nora felt much smaller than she did back then. She tightened her grip on her gun.

The massive reptilian with large claws and teeth, devil-like horns and eyes with the same color, brightness and intensity of fire slid down the ravine and approached Fluttershy. At first it sniffed the young woman’s face before moving its head down and sniffing the egg she was holding.

“I’m… I’m so sorry, Eve…” Fluttershy’s voice sounded shaky, as if she were on the verge of tears. “This… This is the only one that’s left. I promised you I would get them all back, and I failed you.”

Fluttershy could no longer hold back the tears and started crying. The deathclaw started down at the human for a moment, before nudging her head with its muzzle and licking her face. That caught Fluttershy by surprise.

“You’re… not mad at me? But I let your babies die, I—” Fluttershy stopped talking. Nora couldn’t hear it, but it sounded like Eve had interrupted her. “I… I suppose you’re right. But you and the alpha already took care of all those responsible, so you already made all the true culprits pay.” Eve nudged her once more, causing Fluttershy to giggle. “I know, but I can’t help it. Even if it’s someone else’s fault, I still feel responsible because I couldn’t do something to prevent it.”

The human girl finally placed the egg on the nest and took a step back as Eve started using its terrifyingly large and sharp claws to dig on the ground and throw dirt on the nest. After it was done, the deathclaw finally acknowledged Nora’s presence with a sideways glare.

“Uh, hi.” She attempted to communicate.

“It’s ok, she’s with me.” Fluttershy quickly rushed to her defense. “She helped me take the egg back from where they had stashed it.” Nora and Eve kept eye contact for another moment before Eve finally gave up and laid down on top of her nest. “Eve says you should leave before the others think you’re overstaying your welcome.”

“And I see no reason to argue with a deathclaw. Goodbye, Fluttershy. I’ll see you around.”

“Goodbye Nora, thank you for everything. And if you happen to find any of my friends please tell them I’m fine, but please also tell them I begged them not to visit. The alpha will be back eventually, and bad things happen to strangers who wander into his territory.”

4. Generosity

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“You there! Caravan or raider?” The middle-aged blonde woman guarding the front gate of Bunker Hill asked; she wasn’t pointing her shotgun at Nora, but her finger was on the trigger just in case.

“I’m here on my own.” Nora replied.

“Freelance, huh? All right, come on in, but no gunfire. Market’s open. You can do as much trading as you like.” She walked to the side, waited for Nora to walk through the gate and closed it as soon as she was inside.

Nora had barely taken five steps forward before a ginger little girl wearing jeans and a striped black and white t-shirt blocked her path.

“Hi, sweetie.” She greeted the youngster.

“Hi, I’m Meg. You new to the Hill?”

“More or less, it’s complicated.”

“For 10 caps I can give you the tour. Nobody knows the place like me.”

“Sure, I’ll take the tour.”

“Caps up front, thank you.”

Nora reached into one of the pockets of her leather belt where she kept a couple of caps handy and retrieved 10 of them. She handed them to Meg, surprised that someone so young was already interested in starting a business.

“Here you go.”

“The market’s in the back, bar’s in the corner, and the outhouse is over the wall.” Meg spoke while counting the caps. She pocketed them and left before Nora had time to process what just happened. “Bye.”

“That’s not what a tour is!” Nora complained, but Meg was already gone. She crossed her arms as she cocked an eyebrow. “Swindled by a 12-year-old. You have a degree in international law, goddammit.” She uncrossed her arms and walked in the direction where Meg said the market was, mumbling along the way. “Pre-teen con-artists. The world is fucked.”

“Yoohoo! Over here, darling!”

She turned around and spotted a young woman leaning over a counter at the very end of the market area, waving at her with a smile on her face; her skin was as white as the obelisk erected right in the middle of Bunker Hill, long curls of well-maintained purple hair, eyes as blue as sapphire and wearing an elegant, sparkling grayish purple sequin dress.

“So sorry to be a bother darling, but I see that you are new to our settlement and I am in dire need of assistance, so allow me to ask: do you have a Geiger counter?”

Nora blinked. That question she had been asked was the first half of the password used by Railroad agents that Deacon had explained to her, meaning that this person was the field agent she was sent to meet. She was supposed to reply with the second half:

“Mine is in the shop.”

The marble-skinned girl gave a very subtle nod, still maintaining her cheerful and inviting smile. “Oh, that’s a shame. I guess I’ll have to make do. My name is Rarity, local seamstress – although with the scarcity of materials, nowadays I mostly fix tears and bullet holes. Say, you wouldn’t be interested in helping me with an assignment, would you?”

“Always happy to help those in need.”

“Splendid! There is this package” Rarity winked at Nora after saying the word “that needs to be delivered, but the roads aren’t safe anymore, what with raider activity going through the roof these days.”

“I miss the days when having a gun handy wasn’t a requirement when going grocery shopping.” Nora commented.

“Don’t I know it, darling! Bunker Hill is a major trading hub in the Commonwealth, with caravans coming and going all day, every day. This place being what it is means that high-profile packages pass through here very often – maintaining the roads to prevent delays is crucial. A matter of life or death, even.”

“A trader always has to move her merchandise efficiently.” Nora replied. “No one likes delays.”

“My thoughts exactly. My boss, Old Man Stockton, needs to make a delivery that’s been long overdue. The client is starting to get worried, but as long as there is a raider outpost right in the middle of our trade route, there is not much that can be done. And that’s where you come in! If you could, you know…”

“Facilitate delivery.” Nora finished her sentence. “I can do that.”

Rarity clapped her hands. “Marvelous, darling! Simply marvelous! Follow the road northwest and wait by the old truck; when Old Man Stockton comes back he’ll send someone to give you the details. It won’t take long, I promise you.”

Nora followed the seamstress’s directions, locating said truck in front of what was once the BADTFL (Bureau of Alcohol, Drugs, Tobacco, Firearms and Laser) regional office for the Boston region. She leaned against the side of the vehicle and waited.

What was supposed to be a few minutes of quiet waiting turned into a firefight pretty quickly, as a pair of raiders guarding the entrance of the building soon spotted the vault dweller and opened fire on her. Fortunately for Nora they were armed with crudely made pipe guns, which had poor accuracy and stopping power, so she managed to run for cover mostly unharmed, save for a few grazes and one bullet wound to the leg – nothing that a stimpak couldn’t heal. From the relative safety of the inside of the cargo of the truck, Nora shot at the raiders with her pistol.

The sound of something heavy landing on top of her hiding spot startled her, causing her to stop firing. The raiders stopped shooting immediately after two gunshots that didn’t come from their homemade firearms rang out, followed by the sound of two bodies hitting the pavement.

“Do you have a Geiger counter?” The person above Nora asked.

“Mine is in the shop.” She replied.

“I’m coming down now. Don’t shoot me.” The person peeked inside the cargo from above with a smile on their lips as warm as the mid-afternoon sunlight shining outside. “Hello, darling! You look exactly like Sunrise described you.”

“You?” Nora lowered her gun as Rarity jumped down – she was no longer wearing the revealing sequin dress, which had been replaced by a trenchcoat. Her hair was concealed under a cowl and she hid her eyes behind sunglasses. “I was expecting someone a bit more… armed.”

“What were you expecting, a Fat Man?” Rarity asked while spinning her snubnosed .44 pistol before concealing it on the inside of her coat. “Darling, please. Our operations are meant to be conducted, as they say, on the ‘down low’. Bringing attention to ourselves is so very counterproductive. It’s why I’m dressed like this.” Rarity did a quick twirl. “If someone spotted a beauty like me with a skin tone so… unusual, my cover would be blown immediately.”

“You look like a female Nick Valentine. Except human.”

The young woman let out a chuckle. “I’ll admit, we worked a few cases together and his sense of post-war fashion may have inspired me a teensy bit.” Rarity cleared her throat. “But enough dilly-dallying, we have a job to do.”

“Is this the raider outpost we’re supposed to clear out?” Nora moved her head in the general direction of the regional office.

“No, actually.” Rarity poked her head out of the cargo to take quick look at the building. “This place is supposed to be empty, meaning that they moved in recently. They were also guarding the entrance, meaning that there are more inside. That’s a problem.”

“Do we clear that one out too?”

Rarity bit the tip of her thumb in thought until she reached a decision. “No, time is of the essence. H2 has to be moved tonight, we’ll just have to double-time it. Someone will come outside eventually, either to investigate the gunshots or relieve those two from guard duty. Let’s hope it’s the latter and that they take their time.” Rarity adjusted her sunglasses and pointed down the road. “Our targets are holed up in the ruins of a church not far from here; they don’t have doors or windows, so they patrol the area regularly.”

“What’s the plan?”

“We both approach from opposite sides. I’ll drop the person on patrol with my first shot and run for cover. I’ll keep firing in their general direction from there, and while they’re busy firing at me you spring the trap and get them from behind. Since you have a silenced weapon you’ll most likely get a couple of them before they realize what’s going on. If they turn their attention to you, run for cover and give me a signal. I’ll come out of hiding and fire at them with intent to kill instead of just as a diversion.”

“What kind of signal?”

“Anything that doesn’t make it obvious that you’re signaling someone, like ‘now’, ‘they’re distracted’ or ‘your turn’. They’ll likely run back inside once enough of them are dead. If that happens, we shoot at them through the windows; their only option will be to hide behind the seats, if it comes to that I’ll fire at them through the windows closer to the entrance and you through the windows near the back – they can’t hide from both of us. Mission accomplished, we win!”

“Sounds great. So, let’s get started.”

After patching herself up, Nora stood up and walked back outside, following Rarity to their destination. She led her to the ruins of Cambridge church, where sure enough a single raider was patrolling the area, moving back and forth around the front and right side of the building. They both crouched down in front of a building next to the church but out of the raider’s sight.

“When he turns around, run left. Jump over a white picket fence and keep going until you reach the small graveyard to the right of the church.” Rarity whispered. “Hide behind the fence wall. I’ll give you 30 seconds, then I’ll go over there,” Rarity pointed at the bus stop not far from their location, to the right of the church – it was mostly made of metal, serving as good shelter “wait for the guard to get close and fire. I’ll empty my cylinder to get their attention, so wait for my 6th shot before moving.”

Nora nodded. Rarity grabbed a mirror from one of the inner pockets of her trenchcoat and used it to spy around the corner. She motioned for the former Vault 111 denizen to move as soon as the raider was out of view. Nora ran behind the church as quickly and as quietly as she could, immediately jumping over the picket fence and moving along the back wall of the church with her back pressed against it until she reached the graveyard; she crossed it and crouched down behind the fence wall her companion told her about. With Deliverer in hand, Nora waited.

The raider screamed after Rarity fired the first shot; she aimed at a non-vital area on purpose, to make sure the others inside would hear him and come investigate. She silenced him with a second shot and moved back to her hiding spot.

“Get some, motherfucker!” One of the raiders shouted while firing at the bus stop. She did her best to aim at them while still hiding and opened fire. One, two, three, four gunshots.

“Agh! Lucky hit!” A different raider said after being hit by one of the Railroad agent’s bullets on the left thigh.

With the raiders from the church successfully distracted and focused in one direction, Nora moved out of cover and took aim at the raider closest to her – he was kneeling on the floor, bleeding from a bullet wound on his leg. With a single well-aimed shot, she killed him with a bullet to the back of the head. The others didn’t notice one of their own getting killed, but they noticed when the second died because she was standing up and bumped on one of the living as she fell.

“What the…?” Another raider was killed with three bullets to the back. “She’s behind us! Behind!”

As soon as the four remaining raiders turned around to fire at Nora, she ran back to cover.

“My bad, thought you were somebody else!” She yelled, signaling Rarity to get back in the fight.

The Railroad field agent came out of hiding with her gun already aimed at the group, firing at them. She killed one with two bullets to the back and hit the apparent leader on the arm.

“Fall back! We’re getting hit from both sides!” He yelled as he ran back, clutching the wounded arm. The armed seamstress fired another bullet at him, but missed.

The remaining raiders followed suit, but one of them didn’t make it as Rarity managed to shoot her, causing her to fall to the ground.

“Shit! Shit! Shit!”

The marble-skinned lady fired the last bullet in the cylinder at the fallen raider, finishing her off as Nora moved towards the back of the building as planned; she peered through one of the broken windows and saw them taking cover behind a bench, just as Rarity predicted.

“We’re sitting ducks here, we need to—” The raider boss never managed to finish that sentence as Nora killed him with two bullets to the chest.

“This is fucking crazy!” The last living raider yelled as he ran back towards the entrance, coming face to face with the woman in a trenchcoat, aiming her .44 pistol at his forehead. Admitting defeat, he let go of his pipe pistol. “Well, what the fuck you waitin’ for?”

She fired one last gunshot and placed her gun back on the holster inside her coat. “Great work, Agent Whisper.”

Nora whistled. “I’ll admit, I was a little skeptical at first, didn’t think you could handle yourself in a firefight. You seemed so harmless back in Bunker Hill.”

“The dress makes the woman, darling.” Rarity replied with a smile. “You dress like a waitress, people will think you are a waitress. You dress like a soldier, people will think you are a soldier. And a lady has a dress for every occasion!” She sighed. “But you’re sort of right, I wasn’t even supposed to take part in firefights at all.

“My job is to keep an eye on Bunker Hill, welcome the new arrivals and guard the safehouse when Old Man Stockton isn’t there; I was one grade above your regular tourist. But after we lost our previous headquarters, our numbers took a hit and most of the agents now have to multitask. Thankfully Deacon stopped by and gave me a few lessons, I would be completely lost otherwise.”

“So we cleared the raider outpost, now what?”

“This is our rendezvous point. Old Man Stockton will bring H2-22 after dark and an agent from one of our safehouses will escort him away. Our job is to guard this place until they get here, but those raiders holed up down the road are a problem. One of us should go back, meet them halfway and warn them about it.”

“You better go, then. If more raiders drop by, I’ll handle them.”

“Thank you. I will be back in two shakes of a lamb’s tail.” Rarity ran back the way they came and disappeared around the corner.

Nora looked at the sky and then at the clock displayed on her Pip-Boy – not long until nighttime. With Deliverer in hand, she sat on one of the benches and quietly watched the entrance.

Rarity returned after sunset with an oil lamp in hand and an unknown man in tow, looking through the windows with her pistol in hand to make sure they weren’t followed.

“Alright, we’re clear.” Rarity said. “Whisper, this is H2-22. H2, this is Agent Whisper.”

“Nice to meet you, H2.” Nora greeted, waving at him.

“Another person actually happy to meet me.” The man muttered. “This’ll take some getting used to.”

“I warned Old Man Stockton about the other raiders, he’ll contact HQ and get them to send over a couple of heavies to clean house. I’ll fire up the signal.” Rarity placed the lamp on one of the windows and lit it up. “There. Shouldn’t take long.”

Ten minutes passed.

“Or it wasn't supposed to.” She looked through the windows once again, gun in hand just in case. “They should have sent someone already. Where are they?”

As if on cue, one person running with a limp turned the corner and ran straight toward the church.

“We’ve got trouble.” The dark-skinned man wearing a leather jacket said before Rarity pressed the barrel of her gun to his chest. “Whoa whoa whoa!”

“Easy there, mister. Why don’t you take a deep breath and then tell me: do you have a Geiger counter?”

“Right, right, of course. Mine is in the shop. All good?”

Rarity nodded and lowered her gun. “What took you so long?”

“Raiders, right in the middle of the route. Small number, but caught me off-guard. Probably on high alert after seeing me. I managed to shake them off, but they got me on the leg. I can’t take the package back – at least not on my own.”

“Here, use this.” Rarity offered the other agent a stimpak, which he gladly took. “Not just one, but two raider outfits along the route that we didn’t know about. The Commonwealth gets more dangerous with each passing day, and without people to keep constant watch…”

“Now what?” Nora asked. Rarity bit the tip of her thumb for another moment, thinking.

“Change of plans. Agent Whisper, you and I will escort…” She turned to look at the agent. “Your name is…?”

“High Rise.”

“High Rise, right. You and I will escort High Rise and H2 back to the safehouse. We stick to the shadows and only fire if absolutely necessary – your gun may be silenced but we will be compromised if they find a body. If we’re lucky we will get past them without being spotted, but don’t count on it. Can you walk, High Rise?”

“Sure. Still stings a bit, but your stim did the trick.”

“You take point. Whisper, keep H2 safe at all costs. I’ll watch our backs. Keep your eyes open, if any one of us spot a raider we warn the others immediately. Move out.”

With High Rise leading the group, they left the rendezvous point in an orderly fashion. With guns in hand and eyes wide open, they snuck into enemy territory in complete silence. Everything was quiet, not a single raider in sight, to the point where Nora began to question High Rise’s testimony. Suddenly a pair of spotlights turned on, both focused on the four of them.

“Dibs on the loot!” a raider shouted from the roof of a building, pointing his rifle at them. Three other raiders emerged from the roof of different buildings, all pointing their guns at them. “Open fire, boys!”

All four raiders started shooting. Nora closed her eyes, expecting pain to follow, but it never came. When she opened her eyes she saw a glowing blue dome surrounding them and Rarity standing with her arms open and palms facing outward – upon closer inspection she noticed that the dome was composed of large hexagon-shaped shields made of pure energy. Cracks appeared on the shields as bullets struck them, but none of them managed to penetrate it. The group of raiders ceased fire out of shock.

“What the f—”

Quick as a flash Rarity crossed her arms, causing the dome to be separated into individual hexagons that started spinning like saw blades as they flew towards all four of their assailants. The spinning shields reached them before they could run for cover, sawing off limbs, cutting them in half or decapitating them. They also destroyed the spotlights before completely vanishing into thin air.

Breathing heavily, Rarity wiped her sweaty forehead with her sleeve. “I… hate… the Commonwealth…”

“Wow, how did you—” High Rise began, but was immediately silenced by an alabaster hand covering his mouth.

“Don’t you dare tell anyone about what you just saw, Mr. High Rise. Are we understood?” He nodded. She moved her hand away.

With the raiders taken care of, they continued their journey without any more problems until they managed to drop High Rise and H2-22 off at Ticonderoga safehouse. On their way back to Bunker Hill, Nora asked a question:

“So, aren’t you going to ask me to keep quiet about your powers?”

“Sunset— I mean, Sunrise already told me about you. You already know a lot about us, if you were going to tell anybody about our powers you would have done so already.”

“Applejack doesn’t seem afraid to show off her powers, why do you hide yours?”

“Like I said, darling, it’s best to not bring attention to ourselves – even if it’s just us and a bunch of raiders that are not going to walk away from the encounter alive, you never know who might be watching us from the shadows. Besides, unlike Applejack’s, my power takes a lot of effort and concentration to keep up, not to mention the strain – doubly so if I’m conjuring shields resistant enough to stop bullets; did you see how much I was sweating afterwards? And I conjured them for just couple of seconds! It’s not something I can rely on frequently, so I save it for emergencies only.”

“I see… Well, what happens now?”

“H2 will get a new face, a new voice and a new life out of the Commonwealth, away from the Institute. Now it’s time for us to split up. It was a pleasure working with you, Agent Whisper, I hope we can meet again in the future.”

“Until then, Agent Rarity.”

“Just Rarity is fine, darling. Ta-ta!”

After saying the goodbyes, the two of them parted ways. Rarity returned to Bunker Hill to report back to Old Man Stockton while Nora went straight to Railroad HQ. After that she returned to her home in Sanctuary, where her second-in-command Preston Garvey came up with a plan to strengthen the Minutemen: take back Fort Independence.

5. Loyalty

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Preston Garvey, senior officer of the Commonwealth Minutemen, sat on a stool inside the ruins of a pre-war diner accompanied by a few newcomers to their militia, all eager to fight for the cause, watching the former base of operations of the Minutemen through a large hole on the wall; it was a structure hundreds of years old, formally known as Fort Independence but simply referred to as “The Castle” by the people. As he took one last swig from a bottle of Nuka-Cola, the bell above the door of the diner rang, signaling that a new person had joined them. He turned his head and saw that it was none other than their General Nora.

“There it is.” Preston said, pointing his bottle at the structure atop a hill. “Pretty impressive, huh? Now you can see why I wanted to take it back.”

“Definitely. For 600 years old, it’s in pretty good shape.” Nora commented, looking through the same gap in the wall. “Those walls could use some work, though.”

“I’ll admit, it’s seen some better days. But the Minutemen have never been afraid of hard work.”

“Hell yeah!” One of the Minutemen said, raising his bottle of water. The others mimicked him.

“Well-fortified, centrally-located, and most important: it has a powerful radio transmitter we can use to broadcast to the whole Commonwealth.” He continued.

“So what happened to this ‘Castle’ if it was so well-fortified?” She asked with a tone of concern in her voice.

“This was long before I joined up, but the story I heard was that some kind of monster came out of the sea and destroyed the fort, now the place is abandoned and crawling with mirelurks.” He looked at the Castle once more, sadness evident in his eyes and in his voice. “A lot of the leaders were killed in that battle, and I guess nobody ever felt it was worth the risk to retake it.” He placed his bottle on the counter and stood up. “I’ve always wondered if losing the radio station was the beginning of all our later problems.”

“What are we waitin’ for?” One of the Minutemen asked. “Let’s just get in there and shoot those lobsters!”

“Yeah, let’s do this!” The General agreed.

“Actually, General, I wanted to ask you to wait a little bit longer.” Garvey said.

“Oh come on, let’s just do this already!” A Minutemen complained.

“Whatever for, Garvey?” Nora asked.

“I was approached by someone before we came here; I told her about our plans, and she volunteered to help us retake the Castle. I’ve seen the things she can do, she is definitely someone we want on our side. I was hoping she would get here before you, but…”

The ex-vault dweller thought about it for a second, then shrugged and sat on one of the stools. “If she’s half as good as you say she is, then we can afford to wait a little longer. But not too long, so let’s hope she can get here fast.”

“Did someone say ‘fast’?” Someone with a somewhat raspy female voice spoke in a cocky tone from the outside of their meeting place.

The people in the diner looked at the broken down wall through which a newcomer joined them; she was an athletic young woman with light blue skin, had one magenta eye – her left eye, along with a nasty-looking burn, was covered by an eyepatch that seemed to have been part of a pirate costume at some point – and long, unkempt hair composed of all the seven colors of the rainbow. She wore dirty army fatigues with combat boots, an old, worn-down army helmet and held an automatic laser rifle on her hands.

“I’m Rainbow Dash, and ‘speed’ is my middle name. Nice to meetcha, General!” She introduced herself. “Sorry I’m late. Overslept. I’m all good to go though, just point me a target and I’m all over it!”

“Nice to meet you, too. Garvey spoke highly of you, I can’t wait to see what you’re capable of.”

“We’re clearing out the mirelurks infesting the Castle, right? Want me to scout ahead?”


Rainbow Dash disappeared, although Nora could have sworn she saw a blur dash off towards the fort – one that left a faint trail of multicolored energy in its wake that dissipated in a fraction of a second.

“What in the goddamn…?” One of the Minutemen mumbled, looking at his drink to make sure he didn’t mix up his bottle of water with his bottle of booze.

Just as fast as Rainbow Dash vanished, she also returned; this time Nora was sure she saw a blur leaving behind a rainbow trail – a blue blur that revealed itself to be Rainbow Dash running at superhuman speed.

“Done!” She said. “And wow, there are a lot of them in there – at least ten in the courtyard alone, plus several egg clutches, some looking ready to hatch. We have one heck of a fight ahead of us, guys!”

“How did you do that?” A Minuteman asked, pointing at Dash with a shaky index finger.

“Because I’m awesome!” She puffed out her chest and placed her hands on her hip.

“…Right.” Nora said as she got up from the stool and adjusted the straps of her pieces of leather armor. “Now that we’re all here, we can begin.”

“How do you want to play this, General?” Preston Garvey asked as he picked up his trusty laser musket.

“Rainbow Dash’s speed gave me an idea.”

Vibrations on the ground disturbed the sleep of a softshell mirelurk, prompting it to rise from its burrow and confront the invader of its territory. Standing in front of it was a human, pointing its laser rifle at it.

“Whassup, crab cake?” Rainbow Dash pulled the trigger, firing a barrage of red laser beams at the creature.

The mirelurk felt intense pain, but not enough damage was caused to end its life. The decapod lowered its body, shielding its vulnerable parts with its tough shell, which was strong enough to deflect the lasers. It swung its claws at the human, but the target moved out of the way just in time. Taking matters into its own claws, the softshell mirelurk chased after the runaway human outside the boundaries of the nest it shared with its brethren, only to be confronted by even more humans.

“Fire!” Nora shouted; all her subordinates pointed their fully-charged laser muskets at the mirelurk and pulled their respective triggers, reducing the aquatic creature to ash.

“Boo-yah!” Rainbow Dash raised her automatic rifle in celebration, thrilled by the success of the General’s plan.

“Let’s not celebrate too early, there are more of them in there. Ready for the next one, Dash?”

“Am I!” Summoning magical energy from her geode of super speed, Rainbow dashed back inside the Castle, ready to bait another mirelurk into chasing her back to the firing squad.

By the time they were done, Nora noticed Rainbow Dash had started to sweat and breath heavily. Once all the fully grown mirelurks were dealt with, all that was left was get rid of the eggs; some of them hatched mid-purge, but despite mirelurks hatchlings having a mean bite and being very good jumpers, they weren’t very strong.

“You hold here in the courtyard and take care of any eggs you find.” Nora instructed her Minutemen. “Garvey and I will clear the walls.”

“Yes, ma’am.” All of the Minutemen replied with a salute.

They all suddenly went quiet when they felt the ground shake, looking at each other as if hoping someone had the answer.

“What was that?” Preston asked what they were all thinking. Rainbow Dash shrugged when eyes fell on her.

Another tremor, followed by the sound of something surfacing and splashing a lot of water around – something big. The sound was accompanied by a loud and bestial roar.

“What’s that noise?” Another Minuteman asked; her question was answered by the sudden appearance of a massive creature coming from the breach on the western wall of the fort facing a small lake separated from the Atlantic Ocean by a long and thin strip of land.

The monstrosity resembled a mirelurk but with three times the height, four times the girth and somehow looking even more intimidating, even without the size difference. It let out another rage-fueled roar and raced towards the invaders of its territory.

“Inside the walls, now!” The General commanded as she raced towards one of the many doors of the Castle; her subordinates followed suit, but before all of them managed to take shelter the behemoth began shooting green liquid from spouts located near its head. Most of the Minutemen were already inside, but one straggler was bathed in the secretion. He screamed in pain as his flesh began to melt like candle wax, exposing bones in a matter of seconds; his screams only prompted the giant mirelurk to shoot more acid at him, until he was reduced to a pile of goop on the ground.

“What the ever-living fuck is that thing?” Nora asked, trying her damnest not to panic.

“It’s a mirelurk queen.” Garvey explained while peeking through a window. “Guess that’s the sea monster we were told about in the stories.”

“What’s the plan, boss?” Rainbow Dash asked.

“I’m thinking, I’m thinking!” General Nora massaged her temples, trying to come up with a way out of the situation they found themselves in.

Without any targets in sight, the queen did nothing other than stomp around the courtyard, hoping to spot some more invaders to kill. The quiet was disturbed by the sound of a laser musket firing at her back from one of the windows. She turned around to look for the source of the irritation the felt on her carapace, but found nothing. Another shot from another window hit her, followed by another and another. The pain she felt was minimum because most shots hit her hard shell, but some managed to hit soft spots that actually hurt her. The queen approached the walls, looking for the source of the beams causing her pain.

“Go!” Nora yelled, signaling Rainbow Dash to move.

Running up the stairs leading to the top of the walls of the fort with one grenade on each hand, the blue-skinned woman activated the power of her necklace; back in Canterlot the necklace actually gave her the power of super speed, but the trip through the portal seemed to have had an effect on it: to the world, Rainbow Dash looked like a blur leaving behind a trail of rainbow energy, but to Rainbow Dash the world moved in slow motion while she still kept moving at regular speed. That change meant that she needed a running start in order to jump the gap between the wall and the mirelurk queen.

She jumped once she was close enough to her target, landing on the back of the massive crustacean; she stuck both grenades in gaps on the carapace near the head before jumping down and running to the other end of the courtyard, careful to avoid the puddles of mirelurk acid on the ground.

Rainbow Dash leaned against the wall, breathing heavily; she had run nonstop since the moment they arrived on the Castle and, physical exhaustion aside, her magical powers consumed a lot of energy, making her twice as tired as a regular person would – her physical fitness gave her reserves of stamina that were usually enough when using her powers back in her home world, but this unexplained change in her power was taking its toll on her body. When she finally turned off her ability and her speed synced with the rest of the world, she fell to her knees, gasping for air, unable to move her legs.

She lost consciousness the moment the grenades exploded and hit the ground at the same time as the body of the mirelurk queen.

Rainbow Dash groaned as she regained consciousness; she managed to sit up, but her entire body was too sore to do much else.

“Good morning, champ!” Nora greeted from the chair she was sitting on next to the bed Rainbow Dash had been placed. “How are you feeling?”

“Alive. And a little thirsty.”

“I thought so. Here!” The General offered a can of purified water that she took with some difficulty due to the pain.

“How long was I out?” She asked before taking a sip, looking through the door of the room she was in – they took back the Castle a couple of hours after sunrise, but the lighting outside suggested it was already past noon.

“A little over a day. You fainted due to exhaustion. I’m sorry.”

“What for?”

“It was my plan that did this to you. I just assumed your necklace was like Applejack’s, giving you magical powers but with minimum strain on the body, when I should have played safe and assumed it was like Rarity’s.”

The General of the Minutemen not only knowing the true nature of her super speed but also dropping the names of her friends from Canterlot High surprised Rainbow Dash at first, but she just shrugged it off and chuckled. “So you know about us, huh? You’re more resourceful than I thought, boss. And don’t be sorry, I’m the one who should know my limits. My friends used to scold me all the time for abusing my powers, but without them around to keep me in check, I end up making a lot of bad decisions.” She looked down at the can with a sad expression before taking another sip of water.

Nora cocked an eyebrow. “This isn’t about your powers, is it?”

Rainbow Dash sighed. “It’s about my powers and… other things.”

“Want to talk about it?”


With some difficulty due to the pain, the speedster stood up and limped out of the room. Nora thought about stopping her, but decided to let her go instead. Dash dragged herself across the courtyard; the Minutemen, with the help of some newcomers, were gathering the corpses of the mirelurk in a corner to extract the meat later on. The sight of the mirelurk queen being easily carried by a single person startled her, until she realized who the person underneath it was.

“Is there a point in time when you aren’t working?” She asked, smiling as she crossed her arms.

“Someone’s gotta do the heavy liftin’.” Applejack replied, setting the giant corpse next to the pile of smaller corpses as some Minutemen watched, mouths agape. “It’s either me or twenty people strugglin’ to move it one inch at a time. I felt bad for ‘em and stepped in. Heya, Rainbow.”

“Good to see ya, AJ.” She finished drinking her water and tossed the empty can over her shoulder. “What are you doing here?”

“Heard it on the radio that the Minutemen cleared out the Castle. I was in the neighborhood, thought they could use an extra pair o’ hands, and wouldn’t ya know it, I not only find a gosh-darned mirelurk queen dead on the ground, but also that you were the one who took it out. Nice work, RD!”

“Yeah, I am pretty awes— Ow!” She tried to puff out her chest again, but the muscle pain wouldn’t let her.

Applejack shot her an impish but concerned look. “Abusin’ yer powers again, huh?”

“In my defense, it was for a good cause.”

Applejack looked around the courtyard; most of the heavy lifting had already been done and all that was left to clean up were the remains of the egg clutches. Sure that her services weren’t needed anymore, she looked back at her long-time friend.

“Things don’t look too busy no more. Wanna catch up?”

“Sure thing.”

The two of them walked towards what was left of the western wall; the rubble served as a shortcut to the top of the fort, where the two young women sat with their legs dangling over the southern wall, watching the sunlight reflect on the murky water of the ocean.

“So where’s your friend?”

“Outside.” Applejack pointed her thumb in the general direction behind her. “Folks were a little on edge with ‘im around, so I asked ‘im to wait. What about your bucketheat buddies? Haven’t seen ‘em around.”

“Yeah, we…” Rainbow Dash turned her head to look at the Prydwen, a giant blimp hovering in the distance over the Boston Airport. “…had a disagreement.”

“Really? You and that Dancer fellow seemed to get along pretty well, what changed?”

She turned her head back around, once again looking at the Atlantic. “Paladin Danse is a great guy, my problem is not with him. It’s with the Brotherhood in general.”

“Whaddya mean?”

“When Paladin Danse recruited me, when he said I would make my mark on the world, I believed him. Working with him, Field Scribe Haylen and Knight Rhys, retrieving tech that could be misused, wiping out ferals, muties and other things that prey on innocents, I really felt like I was a part of something important.”


“But then the Prydwen arrived. I was so excited when I boarded her, all those people dedicated to making the wastes better, safer! But meeting Elder Maxson changed everything; his mission to wipe out all monsters is a noble one, but the problem is, he does not discriminate. In his eyes all super mutants are bad, all synths are evil, all ghouls are monsters, but that’s not what I see out here. I travelled all over the Commonwealth and beyond, met all kinds of people.

“Sure feral ghouls are a problem, but what about the non-ferals like the farmers from the Slog? Or the people of Goodneighbor? My friend Hancock? The people of Acadia in Far Harbor; they are all synths but they are just as afraid of the Institute as rest of us, all they want to do is live freely, without hiding who they really are. Nick Valentine from Diamond City, the number of people he helped throughout the years is probably higher than the number of kills under the belt of any Brotherhood soldier. Even some super mutants deserve the benefit of the doubt; you and Strong get along, and back in Far Harbor I met a super mutant named Erickson, he raises and sells dogs — that is the most wholesome fucking thing I’ve seen since we got here!

“What about raiders? Or trappers? Or the Children of Atom? I can’t move five feet without walking right into an ambush, does that mean every single human being deserves to die? The world may look black and white from Elder Maxson’s ivory tower, but that’s not how things are down here. Not by a long shot.” Rainbow Dash picked up a rock and tossed it in the ocean. “They claim to care about the people of the Commonwealth, but one of my first assignments once in the Prydwen was to visit a nearby farm and ‘convince’ them to donate a portion of their crops to the Brotherhood ‘by any means necessary’. Doesn’t leave much room for interpretation, does it?” She tossed another rock.

“So what did ya do?”

“Tossed my dog tags overboard, jumped in the first vertibird leaving the place and never looked back.”

“Think they’re gonna hunt you down for desertin’ ‘em?”

“Maybe if I took a suit of Power Armor or something with me, but I left everything they gave me on board. I don’t think they care – if anything, they’re glad that I’m gone. I saw the way they looked at me, like I was just another mutant freak who didn’t know its place.” She looked at her cyan-colored arm as she raised her hand to block the sun. “They probably only accepted me because my recommendation came from Paladin Danse. Everybody likes Danse. Hell, if Danse was a synth I bet even Maxson would show him mercy out of respect for everything he did in the name of the Brotherhood. If the recommendation came from anybody else, they would think I was a new type of super mutant and shoot me on sight.”

“Well, I’m glad you left ‘em behind instead of blindly acceptin’ the bullcrap they were sellin’. What are you going to do next?”

“I was thinking, maybe I could join you. You know, two old pals trekking across the Commonwealth kicking ass and taking names!”

“Well, y’see…” Applejack scratched the back of her head. “I was sorta thinkin’, now that the Minutemen are makin’ a comeback they could use all the help they can get, and a lot of good folks workin’ together to make the Commonwealth a better place is better than a bunch of people doin’ the same thing on their own.”

“You’re gonna join them?”

“Eeyup! You with me?” She extended her hand. “Two gals with magic are better than one!”

Rainbow Dash did not move, only stared at the extended hand her friend was offering. She eventually sighed and looked away, resting her elbows on her knees so her hands could support her head as she stared at the horizon.

“I’m… not really sure.”

Applejack lowered her hand. “Why not?”

“I don’t know if it would be right for me to join the Minutemen. Not after what I did.”

“What did ya do?” Rainbow Dash didn’t respond, she simply stared in the distance. “Rainbow Dash, what did you do?”

The speedster finally let out a sigh of defeat and removed her dirty army helmet, placing it on the empty spot between herself and Applejack. “The Brotherhood wasn’t the first group I joined up with; when the portal dropped me in this world with nothing but the clothes on my back, I was lost, disoriented and… afraid. I was very, very afraid. Afraid of this place, afraid of dying in this place, afraid that I was the only one of us that ended up here and, above all else, afraid that I wasn’t the only one of us that ended up here and that something terrible had happened to you or the others. So after wandering around the wasteland for a few days, not knowing what to do or where to go and getting shot at whenever I approached someone, I clung to the only group that seemed to have any order or structure.”

Dash parted her bangs, exposing the left side of her forehead right above her eyepatch; Applejack’s eyes widened in shock upon spotting the B+ tattooed there.

“You were runnin’ with the Gunners?” Applejack asked, raising her voice a little; one would expect her tone to be of anger or disgust, but she sounded surprised and concerned instead.

She nodded, hanging her head in shame. “That was long before I found you and Strong, before I came across Paladin Danse’s squad, before I even knew Diamond City was a thing. I had no food or water, no guns and no place to stay, until I came across a caravan that was kind enough to spare some supplies. They were being escorted by Gunners, and I was told that they were a tough band of mercenaries that never turned down a job. At the time I thought they meant that the Gunners would take dangerous jobs, like killing giant monsters or exploring places everybody else was too afraid to go near — I know better now.

“I tagged along for a while, even helped them out of a jam or two with my super speed. I guess they were impressed enough, because they asked me if I was interested in joining; I said ‘yes’ without a second thought. They gave me food, new clothes,” she patted her chest, bringing attention to her dirty army fatigues “a gun, and a job. A few weeks after I was initiated and got my blood type tattooed on my head, I was assigned to the base in Vault 95; since I was a newcomer I started small: caravan escort, patroller, personal bodyguard… It lacked the excitement I craved, but it kept me fed. And since I was stationed in one of their more isolated bases, I was none the wiser to the other things they were willing to do for caps or for power. Nearly two years in the dark.

“Then one day me and a few others were ordered to join up with a squad that had been sent to scout a spot that could potentially be turned into a new outpost not that far from our location – they were sending a few more soldiers their way in case they got into trouble; I wasn’t told much, so I imagined we could run into anything from an army of raiders to a gang of super mutant behemoths – I was excited!

“When we got there, they were already in the middle of a firefight; I had no idea what was going on, so I did what I was told to do: fire back. We were at a serious disadvantage when a new group showed up and attacked us from behind, and after a few casualties on our side we were ordered to retreat. I was bothered by that because when we got into shootouts with raiders they would taunt and hurl insults, all that raider stuff, but all I heard was screaming.

“I learned too late that we were not attacking a raider gang, but a town full of civilians named Quincy, and the people who showed up later were Minutemen; there were so many different emotions rushing through my head that I nearly passed out right then and there. Over the next few days I overheard my superior officers discussing the situation; they were planning a large scale invasion that night and a Minuteman who had joined us was feeding them information about their strategies and weaknesses, so victory was all but guaranteed.

“At that moment I finally realized that all I knew about the Gunners was just the tip of the iceberg, so I snuck out of our camp and ran straight to Quincy, hoping to warn them about what was coming and get them to evacuate. On my way there I came across a Minuteman named Clint; I told him everything I knew about the upcoming invasion, hoping he would warn his comrades in time – I was a Gunner, I doubted I would be able to convince them in time before the attack, I hoped being warned by one of their own would have more immediate results.

“Turns out that bastard Clint was the defector they were talking about; he wanted to silence me, so he picked up his laser rifle while I was distracted and fired. I managed to dodge fast enough to survive, but…” Rainbow Dash tapped her left cheek, right below the burn under the eyepatch. “It’s how I got this. I ran, but he kept firing; even with super speed, it’s hard to dodge shots that travel at the speed of light.” She lifted her jacket, exposing a nasty burn on her midriff. “Managed to inject a stimpak before blacking out – didn’t fix the problem, but kept me alive long enough to run away from Clint.

“I woke up two days later in an old abandoned house north of Quincy. A traveling doctor named Anderson found me on the brink of death and patched me up – I’d be dead if it wasn’t for her. I tried going back to Quincy, but it was too late; the Gunners had already occupied the place and everybody was dead. After that I worked as Doc Anderson’s bodyguard for a while to pay her back for saving my life, until she decided I had worked off my debt and dismissed me. Not long after that I met Paladin Danse and his squad and helped them when they were being mobbed by ferals outside the Cambridge police station. You know the rest.”

After she was finished telling her story, Rainbow Dash once again looked at Applejack, expecting a response. The brawler didn’t say anything, simply wrapped one arm around her friend and pulled her into a side hug. No words were exchanged for a while; they just sat there watching the ocean waves crashing.

“I am a bad person, AJ.” Rainbow finally spoke, fighting back sobs. “First I help a bunch of mass murdering psychopaths, and immediately after that I join up with people that blindly follow a genocidal maniac. I helped them retake the Castle to atone for what I did in Quincy, but what will people think of the Minutemen if they accept someone like me? I caused their downfall the first time, I don’t want to do it again!”

Applejack pulled Rainbow Dash closer, this time hugging Dash's head to her chest with both arms. “Yer not a bad person, sugarcube. Ya said it yerself, they were hidin’ the truth from ya, so when you learned what was goin’ on ya snuck away and were on yer way to warn ‘em about what was comin’. Doesn’t sound to me like sumthin’ a bad person would do.”

“What does it matter what I wanted to do? In the end I couldn’t do it and they are all dead. Because of me!”

“Not because of ya, because of yer bosses. They were the ones who ordered y’all to kill everybody, and ya didn’t do it. If you had stuck with yer Gunner buddies and attacked the town with ‘em, that would make ya a bad person. But you didn’t.”


“No more buts! You still feel bad ‘bout what happened, don’tcha?” Rainbow Dash nodded. “Then repent by doin’ today what you couldn’t do it back then: offer help to folks who need it. Every day in the Commonwealth there are settlements bein’ raided, folks bein’ killed, settlers bein’ kidnapped. Wouldn’t ya want to help ‘em if you could?” Rainbow Dash nodded again. “Then there’s yer answer! Helpin’ people is what the Minutemen are all about, except they do it together instead of by themselves. If everybody in the Commonwealth is workin’ together we can make the wastes safer, if only a wee smidge. Besides, with this many people lookin’, we’ll find the rest o’ our friends in no time! So, whaddya say?”

She mumbled something.

“Can’t her ya, RD.”

“I said I wanna join the Minutemen with you.”

With a smile on her face, Applejack finally released Rainbow Dash from her hug and stood up. She offered a hand to help her friend up, which she took. They walked back to the courtyard side by side so they could speak to the General about becoming members of her faction.

6. Laughter

View Online

Sorry to bother you with this, I know you have a billion more pressing matters to attend to, but this is important.” Nora had removed her Pip-Boy from her wrist and placed it on the table inside her office in the Castle so that her two guests, Rainbow Dash and Applejack, could listen to the holotape containing the recording of Sunset Shimmer’s voice, left in a dead drop for her to pick up – the two of them paid close attention to what was being said. “I finally got a lead on Pinkie Pie’s location; from what I gathered she was last spotted at the Dugout Inn in Diamond City, several weeks back. According to the Bobrov brothers, she was being very chatty and very friendly with everybody around, to the point where some people were creeped out and left.

Rainbow Dash chuckled. “Classic Pinkie Pie.”

Applejack elbowed and shushed her. “I’m tryin’ to listen.”

She suddenly went quiet when Vadim messed with the radio and picked up a new signal. He didn’t know the frequency, but I think I found the one he was talking about. She had a look of pure joy on her face, then she ran out of Diamond City; that’s the last time she was seen. I wrote down the frequency of the radio signal on the holotape. On any other occasion I would check it out myself, but right now I’m kind of in the middle of something.

Could you check this out for me, see if this is a dead end or if it leads somewhere? I know this is a personal matter, but I wouldn’t have asked if I could do it myself, and right now I really can’t. If you’re too busy to do it, you can point Rainbow Dash and Applejack in the right direction, they are very reliable — yes, I know the three of you are working together now! Take care.

Once the recording ended, Nora strapped her Pip-Boy back on her wrist and removed the holotape. After inspecting the tape itself, she started changing frequencies on her Pip-Boy radio until picking up the one Sunset wrote down:

Hiya, kids! Remember, Nuka-World is only open for a few more weeks in October! Come down and see me and Cappy one last time before buckling down for the winter.” It was the recording of a person speaking with a goofy voice. “Don't forget to bring your empty bottle of Nuka-Cola to get 15 dollars off at the gate! So hop aboard the Nuka-Express and come and see the whole Nuka family while you still can!

“What in tarnation is this ‘Nuka-World’?” Applejack asked, doing air quotes.

“It’s a pre-war amusement park.” The General explained with a nostalgic gleam in her eyes. “My parents took me there when I was a kid.”

“An amusement park? No wonder Pinkie just dropped everything she was doing to go there.” Dash commented.

“You have to ride a monorail to get there, the station is located” General Nora checked the map on her Pip-Boy before showing it to her companions “right here, to the west. It’s a little far from the Castle – the very edge of the Commonwealth, actually – so it might take a while.”

“Then we better get started.” Rainbow Dash stretched her arms and legs. “The sooner we leave, the sooner we can find Pinkie.”

“I wish I could go with you guys.” Nora explained. “But Sturges and I are so close to completing the teleporter that will get us inside the Institute, can’t afford to get sidetracked now.”

“Don’t worry about it, General.” Applejack waved her arms dismissively. “You’ve done enough fer us already. Pinkie is our friend, it’s our responsibility to go after her and make sure she’s safe.”

“Well, you heard what Sunset said: take care.”

The two saluted their General before leaving her office.

“I just don’t understand one thing.” Rainbow Dash spoke up while they walked. “If Sunset knows where we are and what we’re doing, how come she never contacted us?”

“Ya heard her, she’s busy.” Applejack said.

“Busy doing what?”

“Lookin’ for the rest of us. We know where Rarity is, and thanks to the General we now know where Fluttershy is too, but what about Twilight? And she gave us a lead on where Pinkie might be, but until we get there and investigate it, it’s just a guess.”

“Couldn’t she at least drop by to say hello?”

“I know you miss her, Dash. I do too. But this world ain’t exactly the kind where you can just walk out the door on a Sunday afternoon and knock on a friend’s door so y’all can hang out. She’ll come around when she gets the chance.”

“If you say so…”

Together, the two friends walked the Commonwealth side by side on a direct path to the Nuka-World transit center. They stopped by a few settlements to restock supplies or get some sleep – since they were both recognized as Minutemen, settlers and travelers were more than willing to give them a hand as thanks for everything they did to make their lives better.

After almost two days of traveling, the two Rainbooms arrived at their destination: a train station with giant neon letters above it spelling “Nuka-World Transit Center”, located next to the ruins of an old parking lot. Upon inspecting their surroundings, they found the corpses of several long-dead Gunners, one of which Rainbow Dash recognized as Commander Kaylor, as well as what was left of a destroyed Assaultron, bits and pieces of it scattered all over the place.

Applejack picked up the somehow still functional head of the Assaultron.

“Operator deceased. Threat level Omega.” Distorted words came out of the Assaultron’s barely functional voice box. “Critical systems non-functional. Identity of assailant: unknown.” The southern gal tossed the head over her shoulder. “Error. System corrupt. I can’t feel my legs.” The broken robot shut down for good once it hit the ground.

“Did Pinkie do this?” Applejack asked, a little confused and a tad worried.

“The fact that we can’t say ‘no’ right away scares me.” Rainbow Dash replied while checking the pockets of the dead mercs for fusion cells that she could use to reload her laser rifle.

After they were done checking the outside of the station, they headed inside where they walked down a no longer functional escalator. Down there they found a man sitting on the floor, leaning against rubble and clutching his stomach.

“Jesus. Shit. They’re gonna die.” He muttered between pained grunts.

“You ok there, buddy?” Rainbow Dash asked, crouching next to the man.

“What happened to ya, pardner?” Applejack asked as well.

“Raiders, that’s what. Those bastards have my family. You… You gotta help me. Please.”

The two of them exchanged a glance; the speedster looked concerned while the brawler had an eyebrow raised.

“They fooled us. Big time.” The long-haired man continued. “My family and I ran into some traders a while back, told us they knew a safe settlement at Nuka-World. But when we got there, found out they were raiders the whole time. Just stringing us along. I managed to escape but my wife and son are still back there. I wanted to get some help and go back for them, but didn’t count on taking a bullet.”

“Let us help you first.” Dash offered while reaching into her recently-acquired backpack. “I have a stimpak.”

“No, no… I’ll be fine. Save it for my wife and kid.”

“She’s offerin’ ya a way to heal yerself. Why pass that up?” Applejack questioned, crossing her arms. “Maybe because you ain’t injured at all?”

“I, uh…”

“I can tell when someone’s lyin’ to me, mister, now drop the act and tell us what’s really goin’ on here!”

“Dammit.” He muttered before removing his hand from his nonexistent injury, standing up and dusting himself off. “You got me, I ain’t injured, ok? The raiders back at Nuka-World put me up to this. They lure people in and they kill ‘em for fun.”

“And why do you help them?” Rainbow asked, also standing up and grabbing her rifle. “Are you hiding something else from us? Are you a spy?”

“Besides not wanting to die, I’m not the only one they got stuck under their thumb. If I don’t pull through, their lives are at stake just like mine.”

“I have a question for ya, mister… What’s yer name?”

“Harvey, ma’am.”

“Harvey. You do this often?”

“Yes. I’m not proud of it, but it’s either a bunch of strangers or the friends I care about.”

“Did a girl with a mane of pink hair that kinda looks like cotton candy pass by here a while back?”

“I don’t know what cotton candy is, but it sounds like you’re talking about the Overboss.”

“Overboss?” Rainbow Dash asked, lowering her gun and raising an eyebrow.

“Yes, a month or so ago a girl with pink hair passed by here. I did the whole ‘they got my family’ act and she boarded the train to Nuka-World. She survived the gauntlet then took out the old Overboss Colter and took his place. But not long after that she left Nuka-Town, nobody’s seen her since then – Porter Gage, the Overboss’s right-hand man, said she was going to claim the rest of the park. Everybody is saying she’s dead and that they should pick a new Overboss, but he’s always telling everybody that she’s still out there, hard at work.”

Rainbow and Applejack shared another glance, this time one of fear and worry – had one of their closest friend really sunk so low, to the point where she became a raider boss?

“We have to go there and talk some sense into her.” Rainbow Dash said.

“Agreed. Let’s go.”

“If she’s alive.” Harvey added.

The two wastelanders entered the monorail with Harvey following soon after.

“Since you already know the truth, I’d rather not have to wait for the next train.” He explained as he sat down.

Once Applejack activated the tram, she joined Rainbow Dash and Harvey on the seats, watching through the windows as the tram left the station and the pre-war recordings of an announcer introduced them to the attractions that could be seen from a distance. In the middle of the barren wasteland, they could see tall walls housing the attractions of Nuka-World; from where they were sitting it looked abandoned, but if Harvey’s words were true – and Applejack didn’t seem to think they weren’t – the ghost town-like appeal it had was just a front.

The monorail stopped at the station outside of Nuka-World and the three of them stepped out of the tram as the doors opened. On their way out they almost bumped into someone trying to board the tram, causing Rainbow Dash to immediately point her weapon at the man.

“Whoa! Easy there.” The man raised his hands to show he had no guns and was essentially harmless. “No guns, see? I just want to get the hell out of here.”

“RedEye?” Harvey asked, recognizing the man’s voice.

“Hey, you’re the bait guy. Darby, right?”

“Harvey, actually.”

“Who is this guy?” Rainbow Dash asked, her gun still trained on him. “A raider?”

“Yes. No! Kinda? I’m just a radio DJ. Or was, now I just want to get out of here alive.”

“Why? Did something happen in Nuka-Town?”

“Didn’t you hear it? Right, you weren’t here, I guess you didn’t hear it. Thing are screwed down there, totally screwed! The new Overboss turned on us, she’s wiping out raiders left and right – Pack, Operators, Disciples, no one is being spared. I just up and left the moment I heard the explosions, didn’t even grab my guitar.”

“Uh, does this Overboss of ya happens to be a girl with bright pink hair?” Applejack asked.

“You know her? Then good luck trying to make her stop before she blows up the entire park, I’m going to try my luck in the Commonwealth; maybe that Travis guy could use a co-host.” RedEye squeezed past the three newcomers so he could board the tram. Once he was inside and they were outside, the doors closed and the monorail returned the way it came.

“Looks like she’s alive after all.” Rainbow Dash said, relief washing over her.

“And had a change of heart, apparently.” Applejack added, before turning to look at Harvey. “How do we get there?”

“Usually newcomers go through the gauntlet for the raiders’ entertainment.” He pointed at a door to his right with a giant sign that said “Enter” next to it. “It’s filled with all kinds of deadly traps. But when I come back they send the elevator up for me.” He pointed to the open door of the elevator to his left. “RedEye left it open, we can just ride it down.”

The trio stepped into the elevator. A few seconds later they were outside, below the station where they came through. Harvey led them north, across the park’s parking lot filled with ruined pre-war vehicles. After traversing the parking lot, they came across the main entrance of Nuka-Town USA, composed of a few stone archways erected side by side. As they approached, they saw a single raider run out of Nuka-Town and towards them; Dash raised her rifle, but lowered it once realizing that he was unarmed. He was wearing a multi-colored sweater, furry red pants, blue sneakers and a wooden mask that resembled a deer; he didn’t even seem to notice Dash and the others, he was simply running for his life.

At the same time he crossed the archway a single bottle of Nuka-Cola flew over the wall, landing just a few feet in front of him – Rainbow and Applejack noticed that the bottle was glowing pink.

“FUC—” The bottle exploded before he had the chance to finish cursing, turning into a massive ball of fire that consumed the raider. When the smoke dissipated, all that was left were the charred remains of the dead raider; whatever was in that bottle worked fast, because he never even had the chance to scream before the fire burned him to a crisp.

“What if there was a place with all the zip of Nuka-Cola~?” Someone sang, the voice coming closer as the singer approached the entrance. “Wouldn’t that be the cheer-cheer-cheeriest place in all the world~? Where the river is made of Quantum and the mountaintops are fizz~! With fun and games and rides for all the moms and pops and kids~!” The owner of the voice finally showed herself: a cheery young woman with bright pink skin and curly bubblegum pink hair, wearing white slacks and a white crop top, both of which had red stripes running down them, black leather boots and black leather gloves – she was also juggling three bottles of different flavors of Nuka-Cola as she walked.

“A vacation that refreshes, a trip you won’t forget, a park with every minimum acceptable safety standard met~!” She tossed all three bottles up in the air as high as she could as they started to glow pink. “Quench your thirst for adventure at Nuuuuuuukaaaaaaa-Woooooooooooooorld~!” As she hit that final note, she opened her arms and closed her eyes as all three bottles exploded in the air at the same time – an improvised fireworks display of three different colors.

When Pinkie Pie opened her eyes again she saw three people standing a few meters in front of her – three people she already knew, two of which she hadn’t seen in a long time. Once her brain processed the information, she let out a shriek of pure glee and tackle-hugged two of her bestest friends in the whole world to the ground.

“Ohmigosh it’s you girls! I missed you so so so so so so” she inhaled deeply “so so so so so so SO MUCH!”

“It’s good to see you too, Pinkie.” Applejack said with a smile.

The pink-haired girl stood up, helped her friends up then gave them both another hug, this one a lot more restrained.

“What in tarnation are you doin’ here?”

“Taking out the trash!” She beamed, turning her head to look at the charred remains of the raider she killed moments ago.

“I thought you were their Overboss or sumthin’. What changed?”

“It wasn’t by choice. When I heard on the radio that there was a whole park dedicated to Nuka-Cola I got sooooo excited because Nuka-Cola is just the best thing in the entire wasteland! But it turns out it was a trap because raiders had taken over the park and I had to go through a series of challenges in a gauntlet designed to kill me. After I survived the gauntlet I had to face their Overboss in one-on-one combat, so I killed him with a squirt gun.”

Rainbow Dash raised an eybrow. “A squirt gun?”

“Long story! Anyway, after I killed him, this guy with an eyepatch kinda like yours but made of scrap and on the other eye – you look cool by the way – walked up to me, said I was the new Overboss and that the park belonged to three gangs. If the park belonged to them then I had to play by their rules, didn’t want to disrespect their culture or anything. If they said I was Overboss, then I was Overboss. BUT I found a loophole: the only part of the park that belonged to them was Nuka-Town, that meant the rest of the park was free for the taking! The pirate man said that if I cleared out the other parts of the park and raised a flag, the park would belong to the gang whose flag I picked. So I made my own!” Pinkie reached behind her back and pulled out a pink cloth with a blue cupcake crudely painted on it. “Ta-daaa~!

“So after that I solved a worm infestation in the Wild West, helped Tarzan kill giant alligators and save his gorilla family, broke a glowing ghoul’s heart after almost becoming a ghoul myself, stopped an alien invasion and reprogrammed an army of Nuka-Cola-themed robots to serve me.”

“Wait wait wait, roll that back. Did you just say ‘alien invasion’?” Rainbow Dash questioned.

“Yup! They kinda looked like mirelurks, but they glowed. Not the radiation-green kind of glow, but the alien-blue kind. It was spooooooky! I’ve never seen any creature in the wasteland that glows blue, so they had to be aliens.” She reached into her poofy hair and retrieved a bottle. “Well, Nuka-Cola Quantum glows blue, but Nuka-Cola Quantum is not alive. Or is it?” She pressed the bottle against her face, looking deep into its content. “Hm… Nope! It’s dead! Oh, speaking of Quantum, wanna see something cool?”

She pulled another bottle from her hair, this one of regular Nuka-Cola. “When I use my magical powers on bottles of regular Nuka-Cola, they explode and burn everything the fire touches in less than a second. I don’t know what’s in it, but it burns goooood!” The bottle started glowing pink and she tossed it in the parking lot; the fiery explosion was so potent that parts of the cars it touched were glowing red from the heat. “Every flavor of Nuka-Cola does that but each has a different color, it’s really pretty! And then there’s Nuka-Cola Quantum. Applejack, can you give me a hand?”

“With what?”

Pinkie Pie tossed her the bottle of Nuka-Cola Quantum, its blue glow being overshadowed by a pink one. “THROW IIIIIT!

“AHHHHH!” Using her super strength, Applejack threw the bottle as far as she could into the wasteland; the resulting explosion was comparable to a Mini Nuke, which left everyone but the smiling Pinkie Pie with their mouths hanging open.

“So cool, right? Right? RIGHT?! Well, after all the other parks were flying my flag I had a bigger claim to the park’s ownership than they did, so I came back and politely asked them to get off my property.” She pointed her thumb at the charred corpse behind her. “As you can see, negotiations didn’t go quite as well as I had hoped so I went with plan B!”

“Kill them all?” Dash had to ask.

“Actually plan B was to annoy them so much they wouldn’t want to stay anymore, but I guess they weren’t cool with that because eventually they put their differences aside and formed an alliance to overthrow me, so I had to defend myself! I defended myself against Shank, Lizzie, Mags, William, Mason, Gage, Savoy, Nisha, Dixie and a buuuuunch of other raiders that never told me their names.”

“Um, excuse me, Overboss.” Harvey finally spoke up. “What about the people they enslaved, my friends back at the market?”

“They can stay! Unlike those meanies, they are good people. The raiders deserved what they got, you people don’t.”

He let out a sigh of relief. “Thank you, Overboss.”

“The raiders are gone, silly; there is no ‘Overboss’ anymore, just your friendly neighborhood Pinkie Pie!”

“I see then. Thank you for everything. I’m going to check on them.” With that, Harvey walked through the entrance and disappeared into Nuka-Town.

“So you just wiped out three entire raider gangs in their home turf all on your own, using nothing but bottles of Nuka-Cola? Imagine telling that story to other people, they would laugh their asses off.” The speedster commented.

“What about you guys, what are you doing here? How are the others?”

“We came lookin’ for ya, Pinkie, to make sure yer still alive and kickin’. Sunset is travelin’ the Commonwealth doin’ her own thing, Rarity opened a clothing store in Bunker Hill and Fluttershy is buddyin’ up with a family of deathclaws.”

“Ohhhh! Wait, what about Twilight?”

“To be honest with ya, sugarcube, we have no clue.”

“Oh…” Pinkie Pie’s good mood suddenly vanished and her hair deflated a little bit. “I hope she’s ok.”

“We’ll find her, don’t worry about it!” Dash patted her pink friend on the back. “What about you, are you coming back with us to the Commonwealth?”

“Maybe later. Right now I still have a lot of things I want to do. For example” she pointed at a large building on top of a hill in the distance “that’s the Nuka-World power plant; the main power is turned off and the place crawling with feral ghouls. I want to go in there and turn the power back on, that way the park will be operational again and I can go on all the rides I want!”

“Sounds good. Just don’t have too much fun, or you might get too attached and not want to go back home.”

“Are you KIDDING ME?!” Pinkie Pie suddenly shouted, startling her friends. “Of course I want to go home, who wouldn’t want to? I’m using this place to cope with my situation, I hate all of this! I hate the wasteland, I hate that I can’t go for a walk without getting attacked by wild creatures or shot at by bandits, I hate this infertile land that can’t grow anything edible forcing us to rely on food that is over 200 years old, I hate the fact that almost everything I eat has a chance of giving me radiation poisoning, and above all else I HATE killing people.” By then, tears were streaming down her face. “I don’t want to do it, but they leave me no choice. If I don’t kill them they will kill me. If I run or let them walk away, they will find someone else to kill. This place is a nightmare! I just want to go home!” She fell to her knees, covered her face with both hands and began to sob. “I just want to go home…”

“It’s ok, sugarcube, we know how ya feel.” Applejack kneeled next to her and pulled her friend into a hug. “We’ll find our way back home, then we’ll come back here to pick you up an’ we can all go home together. How’s that sound?”

The two of them stood up, Pinkie drying her tears with the sleeve of her Nuka-Girl costume. “Sounds like a dream.” Her smile returned to her face. “But with less cupcakes than my usual dreams have.” Applejack and Rainbow Dash smiled back. “I better go now, the sooner I bring the power back on, the sooner I can ride one of those rockets in Nuka-Galaxy!” Pinkie Pie skipped away back into the park. “And don’t forget to come pick me up before you storm the Institute, I want to help!”

“Wait, how do you know about that?” Rainbow Dash asked, but Pinkie Pie had already gone back inside. She shrugged. “Pinkie Pie being Pinkie Pie, I suppose.”

The two girls turned around and walked back to the station.

7. Curiosity

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The last thing Nora saw before the blinding white light overwhelmed her was the smiling face of Sunset Shimmer as she waved at her; she came running towards her moments before Sturges activated the teleporter they were secretly building on Spectacle Island, away from prying eyes, that would get Nora inside the Institute. Sunset handed her a holotape and explained what she was supposed to do with it:

“There is a man or woman inside the Institute who helps synths escape to freedom. We never had direct contact and we don’t know their name, so we gave them the nickname ‘Patriot’; dozens of synths owe them their lives. Once you’re in there, you have to insert that holotape into any terminal – you don’t need to do anything, just run the program and the holotape will work its magic. Once plugged in, it will transmit a message – don’t worry, it’s encrypted with a code created by Patriot, so even if it gets intercepted there’s no way it can be cracked by anyone but them, it will just look like jumbled mess of letters and symbols otherwise. Once Patriot receives the message, they will contact you; if we establish a direct line of contact with them, we can work together more closely and efficiently to help as many synths as possible.”

Many things happened since that encounter: she managed to get into the Institute, she found out that the 10-year-old Shaun she had seen in Kellogg’s memories was in fact a synth, she learned that 60 years had passed since her baby had been kidnapped, she met with Father, leader of the Institute, and her son Shaun she had been searching for months, only to find out they were the same person. He invited her to join the Institute, to become a part of the future they were planning for humanity, but the large influx of information was overwhelming and she asked for time to consider it while she got her thoughts in order. Father ordered a Courser named X6-88 to escort her to the quarters he had prepared for her, and after a much-needed shower and a good night’s sleep, she had a clearer head.

She sat on her bed, wearing an Institute jumper while her Vault 111 jumpsuit was being washed, thinking about the decision she had to make: would she work for the Institute, side by side with the son that was taken from her and she had just been reunited with, or work with the people of the Commonwealth who helped her accomplish all her goals and stood by her every step of the way? She thought long and hard about it, completely divided, until one memory tipped the scales: the CPG Massacre.

Years back a group of settlements tried to get together and form a coalition. Every settlement with even a hint of clout sent representatives to try and hash out an agreement.” She remembered Nick Valentine, the synth-detective of Diamond City, explaining to her. “Only the Institute sent a representative of their own, a synth. The man killed every rep at the talks. The Commonwealth Provisional Government was over before it even got off the ground.

That one memory triggered many other memories related to the influence of the Institute on the wasteland: Kyle, resident of Diamond City, who pulled a gun on his own brother thinking he was a synth and was killed by Diamond City security. Art, a wastelander who had caught a synth who looked just like him and planned to kill and replace the human Art. H2-22, a synth terrified of his own shadow because he was afraid Coursers would come and take him back to the Institute, when all he wanted was to be free. Switchboard, where a bunch of people were killed solely because they thought synths, despite not being human, were still people and deserved to be treated as such. Roslyn Chambers, the anti-synth scientist who used barbaric means trying to create a method to root out synth infiltrators after she lost both her parents during the Broken Mask incident when she was a little girl. University Point, an entire settlement wiped out because someone found a piece of technology that the Institute wanted for themselves. Brian Virgil, former Institute scientist who ran away out of guilt for all the pain and suffering they inflicted on innocent people with the Forced Evolutionary Virus. The countless people who were killed and replaced by synths over the years to further their own goals, thus causing every person in the Commonwealth to live in fear, not knowing if they were going to be replaced next or if a neighbor or loved one had already been replaced.

Despite all the propaganda her son Shaun tried to sell her, Nora came to a conclusion: the Institute was a menace and had to be stopped. After getting up, she took a seat by a desk containing a terminal and inserted the holotape given to her by Sunset Shimmer. She transmitted the message as instructed and waited; the reply came in less than a minute.

Acknowledged. Meet at the Advanced Systems maintenance room.

With the message received, Nora got up and left. Standing outside her door was the same synth who escorted her there earlier, X6-88.

“Father wants to see you.” He spoke with his characteristic monotone voice.

“Ok, I’ll be there in a minute.”

As she walked away the Courser remained in the same place, unmoving. Instead of heading straight to her son’s quarters, Nora walked downstairs and across the foyer; after a quick inspection she located a door next to the Advanced Systems sector labeled “maintenance”. She looked around to make sure no one was watching before quickly going inside. Behind the door was a corridor with two more doors; one was locked, and the other…

“Hello, my name is—”

“Twilight Sparkle!”

The girl with light purple skin and dark blue hair tied in a bun froze – she did not expect this person who had just met her to know her name. After recovering from the shock, she adjusted her thick-rimmed spectacles and lab coat.

“How… How exactly do you know who I am?”

“Your friends talk about you all the time. Rainbow Dash, Applejack, Sunset Shimmer, they all miss you.”

“They’re alive? Oh, you have no idea how happy I am to hear this! What about the others, any word from them?”

“They’re ok – Rarity, Fluttershy, Pinkie Pie, all of them. You’re the only one they haven’t found yet.”

“Oh I wish I could contact them, but that’s just not possible. I take enough chances as it is.”

“You’re the one freeing the synths, right?”

“Yes and no. It’s a group effort. I have a friend who’s been freeing synths since long before I was recruited by the Institute; right now his family is under suspicion, so he is laying low for a while until this all blows over. Until then, I’m the one helping them escape.”

“How do you do that?”

“Sometimes they send synths to the surface for missions that Gen 1’s and 2’s can’t accomplish. I just swap a few names around in the system, so we send synths who want to escape instead; without anyone to supervise them, they simply run. Before leaving they are instructed to look for Bunker Hill; I heard about it back when I was still living up there, heard that it was safer than most places since they were paying off raiders to leave them alone, so the likelihood of our freed synths getting help is higher than most places in the Commonwealth. That’s about all we know, since we have no way of contacting them after they leave.”

“Well, they get help. My friends at the Railroad take good care of them until they can sneak them out of the Commonwealth.”

“Really? That’s great news! We were just hoping that someone out there was willing to help a lost synth, but we had no way of knowing. I know it seems cruel to just blindly send synths out into the wasteland, they are always told how dangerous it is, but down here they are treated like machines, worked to the bone and around the clock; they would rather take their chances up there than live another day down here as a slave. It’s heartbreaking…”

“That’s why I’m here. The Railroad helps as many synths as they can, but the wasteland is unforgiving and some end up never making it to Bunker Hill. They want to establish a connection, some way we can all work together and save as many synths as possible.”

“That sounds like a great idea, but you will have to discuss it with my friend once the SRB isn’t breathing down his family’s neck. I may be helping him but I’m just covering for him while he’s out of commission, the actual assistance I provide is minimal, he and his synth assistant do most of the work and coordinate the whole thing. I already have my hands full working on one secret project, I can’t fully commit to two at once.”

“What kind of secret project are you working on?”

“I’m working on a modification for the molecular relay, one that would give it a boost so powerful that it would tear a hole in the space-time continuum. If I can harness that energy and focus it in one direction, I may be able to replicate the portal that brought my friends and I here, but make it send us back instead.” Twilight froze once again. “Heh, you must think I’m crazy, talking about portals across dimensions and stuff like that.”

“Don’t worry about it. Like I said, I know your friends and they told me all about your superpowers and how you came from another world.”

“Right. Of course. I’m trying to keep everything about myself a secret from everybody until I’m ready to approach the director and the other division heads. If I can shock them with the truth while also presenting solid evidence that my plan will work, I may be able to get their support. But as things are, I’m not gonna get it anytime soon.”

“Why not?”

“I did several calculations and virtual simulations, changed parameters, even tried accounting for the rogue variable that is magical energy and adjusting the numbers accordingly, but the results are always the same: even if the plan does work and I manage to open a portal back to my world, it would only have enough stability to sustain itself for a few seconds, and when it closes the feedback will be so potent and so violent that everything within a certain radius will implode. The only thing I managed to change was the size of the radius, and even that’s inconsistent; sometimes it’s smaller, sometimes it’s bigger, but it always encompasses the Institute in its entirety.”

“In its entirety?” Twilight nodded. “Hypothetically speaking, if you were to do modifications to the relay as it is, how long would it take?”

“An hour or so.”

“Would the relay still be functional while you do that?”

“In theory, yes. But the relay wouldn’t be able to transport people to a fixed location; they would just be randomly teleported throughout the Commonwealth, but they would be alive and in once piece. Why do you ask?”

“Sorry, gotta go now. Shaun asked to see me a while back; he must be wondering what’s taking me so long. Don’t get discouraged though, keep working on your modifications for the molecular relay, you and your friends will be able to go home someday, I can tell.”

With a smile, Twilight nodded. “Thank you, miss…?”

“Just call me Nora.”

“Thank you, Nora. Hopefully my friend and I can work together with the Railroad and save as many synths as possible.”

After speaking with her son, he ordered one of his scientists to install a Courser chip in Nora’s Pip-Boy, linking her to the signal of the teleporter and allowing her to come and go as she pleased. After that she was given back her washed Vault 111 jumpsuit and tasked with the retrieval of a runaway synth who had his memory wiped and chose to start his new life as a raider boss in the floating city of Libertalia, a settlement built on the remains of destroyed watercrafts. With the help of the bodyguard Shaun assigned her, the Courser X6-88, she was successful on the retrieval – it went against what she stood for, but the plan was for her to work for the Institute while the Minutemen and the Railroad formulated a plan of action.

While working undercover on a number of assignments, Nora finally had the opportunity to meet Twilight’s friend, the real Patriot: his name was Liam Binet and he was assisted by a synth named Z1-14 who served as a connection between him and the synths that wanted to escape. He revealed his plan to smuggle out a lot of synths at once so she could share it with her Railroad comrades and coordinate a rescue operation that would guarantee their safety. Thanks to the Courser chip that had been istalled in her Pip-Boy, Nora was able to leave and make contact with her co-conspirators on the outside.

“It’s so good to know that Twilight is safe, even if it’s under the Institute’s wing.” Sunset Shimmer said as she sat on one of the chairs around the table in the General’s office in the Castle. “It’s amazing how she’s helping free the synths that we rescue; even though she’s living among them and being constantly exposed to their propaganda since who knows when, she can still see the injustice that it’s happening and doing something about it.”

“Let’s just hope this little operation of y’all don’t expose her.” Applejack commented, sitting at another chair around the table. “Freein’ synths is noble and all, but I’d never forgive any of y’all or myself if somethin’ bad happened to our Twilight.”

“Speaking of which, we’re still waiting for that explanation, Sunset.” Rainbow Dash, also sitting around that table, had her feet propped up on it. “You knew about us all this time; where we were, what we were doing, but you never even tried to contact us.”

“I didn’t want the Institute to get wind of you.” She explained. “Anonymity is your biggest asset when working with the Railroad because they won’t go after the people you care about. The only reason Rarity joined was because I didn’t know about it – she was recruited by a field agent who saw her potential; if I had a say in it, she wouldn’t even know we exist in the first place.”

“That’s just like you, Sunset; all the weight of the world on your shoulders, but you still prefer to endure it alone.”

“I didn’t want to risk your lives!”

“Look around! We live in a post-war wasteland overflowing with things that want to kill us just because. We risk our lives every day just by being alive! Wouldn’t it be better to at least survive together, as friends do?”

“Even if I wanted to put your lives at danger by placing you under the Institute’s radar, do you think the Railroad would allow it? Applejack is best friends with a super mutant – even if Strong is more restrained than your average mutie, they would still rather play it safe. And you were running with the Gunners, and as soon as you ditched them you enlisted with the Brotherhood of Steel, the Railroad’s second greatest threat. You were both considered security risks, they would turn you down at the door without a second thought.”

“Well, maybe I wouldn’t have had to if—”

“Alright y’all, that’s enough!” Applejack finally interrupted the argument. “Rainbow Dash, Sunset had her reasons to keep her distance; even if you and I don’t rightly agree with ‘em, she still did it ‘cause she thought it’s what was best for us. And Sunset, we’ve been through a lot these last two years – all o’ us – we can damn well take care of ourselves; we can’t change the past so we can work together from the start but we can work together from now on, so let us help you when the burden gets too heavy, alright?”

“I…” The Railroad agent sighed. “Fine.”

“Now that that’s settled, let’s try an’ not get sidetracked again. Our priority is Twilight’s safety. Are we goin’ to smuggle her outta there with the synths?”

“No, we can’t.” Sunset Shimmer said, back in business mode. “We went through Patriot's plan several times and had lengthy discussions about it, but in the end we only came to one conclusion: if we stage a mass breakout, Patriot’s thirteen synths will be the last we ever save. Instead we use this one chance to rescue all the synths. Every last one of them.”

“And how do you suggest doing that?” Rainbow Dash inquired. “Just line them up outside the teleporter and hope nobody asks what they’re doing?”

She shook her head. “The Railroad wants to free the synths. The Minutemen want to protect the people of the Commonwealth. If you boil things down, we both want the same thing: the Institute. Gone. Forever.”

“I’m listening…”

“What do you suggest?” Nora asked.

“Instead of letting the synths come to us, we go to the synths instead. Railroad, Minutemen, all together in one last stand against the Institute in their own base. We evacuate the place, then blow it up sky high!”

“That. Sounds. So. Awesome!” Dash said with both hands on her cheeks and a gleam in her eyes.

“How are we gonna do all that?” Applejack asked. “We may not be an army, but there’s still a lot of Minutemen willin’ to fight for the cause. If we tell ‘em we’re gonna raid the Institute, no doubt every single one of ‘em will wanna join. How can we teleport that many people in a short amount o’ without bein’ noticed? And even if we do that, how are we goin’ to teleport somethin’ powerful enough to take out the entire Institute? I can carry a nuke in there if we find one, I just ain’t sure it’s gonna fit.”

“Don’t worry about numbers, we got that covered!” Sunset Shimmer explained with a smile. “We pooled our resources – Tinker Tom, Sturges and I have been working on the teleporter you built in Spectacle Island; we made some serious upgrades to that thing, and as things are now we can teleport as many as six people at once. We will be noticed immediately, there’s no avoiding that, but they will think twice about moving in on us if we have enough people holding the teleporter hostage. Unfortunately they locked our teleport hijacker out, but we just need someone inside the Institute to let us in and we’re in business.”

“And when it comes to destroying the Institute to make sure it won’t rise from the ashes, Twilight can see to that.” Nora added.

“How so?”

“One thing I haven’t mentioned to anybody yet is that Twilight has been hard at work on the molecular relay, trying to use it to open a portal back to your homeworld – and she succeeded.”

“No shit!” Rainbow Dash spoke up, her smile growing larger. “That’s Twilight Sparkle for ya, always one step ahead of us.”

“But how exactly does that solve the ‘the Institute needs to blow the heck up’ problem?” Applejack inquired.

“Like I said, Twilight knows how to turn the relay into a portal back to your world; the problem is, she can only keep it open for a few seconds. After that the portal will close so violently that everything around it will just crush itself, and it will be big – not big enough to cause significant damage to the Commonwealth, definitely big enough to wipe the Institute off the map.”

“That’s incredible!” Sunset exclaimed. “Our plan to kill two rabbits with one stone just got upped to three rabbits instead: we free all the synths, get rid of the Institute and finally go back home. It’s perfect!”

“Then what are we waiting for?” Rainbow Dash stood up, picked up her automatic laser rifle and struck a pose with it. “Let’s get this party started!”

“Not so fast, sugarcube.” Applejack interrupted. “Didn’t ya hear what the General just said? The portal is gonna open fer a few seconds, then it’s gonna blow up and take the whole Institute with it. Fluttershy, Rarity and Pinkie Pie need to be there with us or they’re gonna be stuck here forever.”

“Sure. Yeah. Right.” Rainbow Dash sat back down, blushing of embarrassment. “Sorry, just got too excited for a moment there.”

“We all have a job to do.” Nora explained as she stood up. “I’ll talk to Twilight about our plans. Sunset, go back to Bunker Hill. Tell Rarity to drop everything and join us back here immediately. If there are any more synths hiding out in there, Old Man Stockton can take care of them – if this op is successful, they won’t have to hide for much longer. Rainbow Dash, you’re the only one of us who can get past the deathclaws and reach Fluttershy without having to start a fight – if she wants to bring Eve along, just let her. We need all the help we can get. And Applejack…”

“Go back to Nuka-World and recruit Pinkie Pie.” She saluted. “Gotcha!”

“Any questions?”

Rainbow Dash raised her hand. “Uh, who’s Eve?”

After Nora entered the Advanced Systems department of the Institute, she located Twilight writing down notes on a clipboard while standing behind the division head, Dr. Madison Li, as she made adjustments to an Institute laser gun.

“Excuse me, Twilight?” She called. “I hate to interrupt you, but someone wants to talk to you – something about ‘shimmering in the sunset’; I don’t know what she meant by that, but she made it sound like it’s urgent.”

Caught by surprise, she nearly dropped the clipboard. “Right! Sure! Yes! Excuse me, Dr. Li, do you mind if I leave for lunch a little earlier than usual? It’s… for personal reasons.”

“Sure, go ahead. We’re done here anyway, I’m just doing this to blow off steam.”

“Thank you, Dr. Li.”

She left the laboratory with the vault dweller, and once they were sure no one was looking, they headed straight to the maintenance area.

“We need your help.”

“Sure! Anything! What do you need?”

“We need you to grant our teleport hijacker access to the molecular relay.”

“What for?”

“We’re going to raid the Institute.”


Nora immediately covered Twilight’s mouth with her hand before opening the door to check the corridor and make sure no one heard that outburst – luckily, no one did.


“Why would you do that? I agreed to help you so we could save the synths, not commit mass murder! Treating synths like they’re less human than you or me is awful, but that doesn’t justify genocide. They have children down here, for goodness sake!”

“Twilight, listen to me! We don’t want to kill anybody. My people have been instructed to not fire at anyone, human or synth, unless they fire first. We’re going to evacuate as many people as we possibly can.”

“I know I spent a lot of time down here, but my memories of the surface are still fresh; most of these people have lived down here their whole lives, they don’t even know how to hold a gun properly – no way in hell they will last a week out there on their own.”

“And they won’t have to. I told you that I’m working with the Railroad, but one thing I haven’t told you that there is another group up there: a militia known as the Minutemen, and their goal is to make the Commonwealth a better, safer place for everybody. If you help us take out the Institute, I will make sure that they will take care of your people.”

“How can you be sure that they will listen to you?”

“Simple: I’m their general!”

Twilight went quiet for a moment, deep in thought. Eventually, she finally asked:

“But why does the Institute needs to be destroyed? We have accomplished so much, learned so much. All that knowledge that could be used to improve life in the Commonwealth…”

“I know it may look like the Institute is humanity’s best hope, but you don’t have an outsider’s perspective. Those missions you mentioned that Gen 1’s and 2’s can’t accomplish, do you know what they are?”

“I… do not. I never thought about them actually, they’re unrelated to my department.”

“They replace us, Twilight. In the middle of the night, someone gets snatched away by the Institute and a Gen 3 that looks exactly like them is left in their place. It’s not paranoia, it’s not a fear-fueled guess, it’s a fact. Dr. Karlin from the BioScience department asked me to visit a farmer named Roger Warwick to deliver genetically enhanced seeds to him. That man was a synth. A synth who murdered the original Roger Warwick, disposed of the body and took his place. Why? So they could field-test seeds they had created.

“They could have just as easily convinced Roger Warwick to work with them or, if he wasn’t willing to cooperate, find another farmer who would. There are plenty of people in the Commonwealth who would happily give an arm and a leg for seeds that could grow in irradiated soil, regardless of who was giving it to them, but instead they chose to murder someone to do it. Is that right? Is that acceptable? Or do the ends justify the means to you, too?”

Twilight didn’t open her mouth or move a muscle while Nora exposed to her the truth about the Institute. After she was finished, the young scientist didn’t even know how to react.

“I… I had no idea, I…” She took a deep breath. “No. I suppose they don’t. What do you want me to do?”

“Meet me by the molecular relay in one hour.”

One hour and one ride up an elevator later, Twilight found herself by the only entrance the Institute had; it was mostly empty save for a quartet of Gen 2 guards wearing synth armor and holding Institute laser rifles – it was still lunch time, so they scientists in charge of monitoring the relay weren’t present. She finally noticed Nora to the side of the main console, watching as a Gen 3 synth fixed a panel.

“Good, you’re here.” Nora greeted her with a smile. “Are you ready to start?”

“As ready as I’ll ever be.” She replied. “What now?”

The synth working on the panel handed Nora an Institute laser pistol and she quickly fired at two of the Gen 2’s, burning holes through them. The other two pointed their rifles at her, but they had been disarmed before they could fire: Twilight raised her hands, grabbing the Institute rifles with her magical grasp and yanking them from their hands. Taking the opportunity, Nora finished them off.

“Thanks for the save.” She said. “I thought I was quick enough to take down all four, but I should have known that synths have a better reaction time than drugged-out raiders. Your magic power is pretty cool, by the way!”

Without missing a beat, Twilight Sparkle moved to the console and started typing as quickly as she could. Meanwhile the Gen 3 synth, Z1-14, worked on unlocking a side door that led through an old maintenance tunnel and straight into the BioScience department.

“It’s done.” She said.

“Great. Remember the modifications you told me about, that would open a portal back to your home world?”

“Do you want me to—”

Before she finished the sentence, the teleporter was activated and the first wave of invaders arrived:

Sunset Shimmer


Rainbow Dash

Pinkie Pie



“Yes!” Nora said with a smile. “Now hop to it; you’re all going back home today!”

8. Friendship

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An alarm was triggered as soon as the molecular relay was used by non-Institute personnel, so they had to hurry before synths were sent up there to deal with them before more teleported in. While Twilight and her friends had a moment to reunite before the mission started, more people came through the molecular relay: Desdemona, Preston Garvey, Deacon, Sturges, Tinker Tom and Glory. They were soon followed by more Minutemen, Railroad agents, Strong wearing pieces of super mutant armor and Eve the deathclaw wearing a makeshift armor made out of scrap metal and road signs.

“There’s no time to lose.” Nora said. “The PA system’s microphone is in my s… in the director’s quarters, as well as the terminal containing the evacuation protocol. We will likely meet heavy resistance along the way. The plan is to go through that old maintenance tunnel,” she pointed at the door Z1-14 had just opened “it will take us straight to the heart of the Institute. I don’t know what we’ll find in there, but expect anything. Remember, we’re not running an execution squad here; only fire at those who fire at us – most likely Gen 1’s, Gen 2’s and Coursers – most of the people down there are civilians.”

Applejack cracked her knuckles and her neck. Rainbow Dash popped a fresh fusion cell in her automatic laser rifle. Fluttershy climbed on the back of her deathclaw friend and patted her neck. Pinkie Pie reached into her hair and pulled out two bottles of Nuka-Cherry. Rarity checked her .44 pistol to make sure it was fully loaded. Sunset Shimmer did a quick check on her sniper rifle, as well as the many pulse grenades she was carrying on a belt – a gift from Deacon. Twilight stayed behind with Sturges and Tinker Tom to work on the teleporter.

“Alright people, move out!”

General Nora was the first to go through the door leading to the abandoned tunnels – they were dirty and in poor shape due to lack of maintenance, the polar opposite of the rest of the Institute. It was an abandoned area of the complex, but parts of it were still active, such as the ceiling and wall mounted turrets and old robots. Many synths were sent to stop them, but with Fluttershy’s deathclaw charging ahead while the others covered her, their enemies were all quickly dealt with. It was a long and dangerous descent, but eventually their combined efforts proved fruitful as they finally reached their destination: a door leading to a backroom in the BioScience department.

“Remember: no civilian casualties.” She repeated before opening the door.

It was a tight fit, but Eve managed to squeeze through, causing a panic in the laboratory. Since the alarm had already been activated, security had been reinforced and the place was crawling with synth troopers firing at the invaders. One of the scientists let loose a band of synth gorillas before fleeing and they all flocked to the biggest target in the room: Eve. It was a tough fight, but she eventually emerged victorious with only a few minor injuries thanks to her armor.

As expected, the bulk of their forces was located in the foyer of the Institute, where a small army of heavily armed synths lead by Coursers were waiting for them. A few scientists also armed themselves and tried to fight back, but the majority had fled to their quarters. A number of Gen 3 synths also joined the assault, siding with Nora’s forces in order to fight for their freedom. Bullets and laser beams were flying in every direction, most of them hitting the walls while only a couple of them managed to hit their targets. Both sides took heavy casualties, most of the ones on the Commonwealth’s side caused by the Coursers – they were tough enemies, even Eve was having trouble dealing with them. All the doors were locked and the amount of cover they had was limited, but the Minutemen-Railroad coalition fought bravely. The number of synths seemed endless, so Nora came up with a different plan:

“Rarity, how long can you keep up shields strong enough to deflect lasers?”

“They don’t require as much power as shields strong enough to block bullets, I can keep them up for a while longer – but not too long.”

“Can you make me a dome around me like last time?”

“Not right now; too tired to keep that many shields up in a complex formation for more than a second. But I can cover you with a single, large shield for a few moments. Will that be enough?”

“It will have to be. Let’s go!”

With a nod, Rarity created a shield big enough to cover Nora’s entire body and gave it a push, sending it towards the elevator. The General ran right behind it, safe from the blue lasers being shot in her direction. Once in the elevator she pushed a button that sent her down to the same corridor she was led to when she first entered the Institute, where she met the 10-year-old synth Shaun, soon followed by her first meeting with the 60-year-old human Shaun. After running up a flight of stairs she came across her son, lying on a bed.

“You had me fooled.” He said. “I really believed you were on our side.”

“It had to be done, Shaun. After all the things you did topside? The Institute is a menace.”

“Mere collateral damage. We are humanity’s best hope for the future.”

“No, you are the best hope for yourselves. Do you have any idea how much damage you’ve done to the people of the Commonwealth in this pursuit for ways to make your own lives more comfortable? How many people were killed? How many families were torn apart? How many settlements were wiped out? You had to know, you are their director! For goodness sake, you create synthetic humans, make them sentient and self-aware, and yet still expect them to act like and treat them like machines. Like slaves. The ends do not justify the means, that’s something I would have taught you if you were raised by me.”

“Raised by you where? In that irradiated wasteland? The Institute saved me.”

“Everything I did up there, I did hoping that I would get to see you again one day. Even when I was ready to give up and just wait for death to claim me like it did so many before me… Memories of you, memories of your father, they kept me going. They gave me the strength to pick myself up and keep walking; they kept me sane in that unforgiving world.

“When we finally met you had grown so much, but I didn’t love you any less that I did when you were the newborn that I held in my arms. But after all that we’ve been through, after all the things I learned about you and the Institute, after seeing how many human lives you were willing to sacrifice just for the sake of your own little world… I can’t help but feel disappointed in you.”

“None of it matters now, I suppose. The only question left is, why are you here? Did you come to gloat?”

“I came for your terminal, it’s the only place from where I can activate the evacuation protocol. Despite what you may think of me right now, I am not a monster. I will save as many people as I can and leave nothing behind. After today, the Commonwealth won’t have to live in fear of the Institute anymore.”

With a sigh, Father closed his eyes and made himself comfortable. “Do what you must.”

After gaining access to the director’s terminal, she engaged the evacuation protocol BD-2.

Attention all personnel.” The female voice of a pre-recorded message began to speak, overlapping the sound of the alarm. “Evacuation order issued. Authorization 1-Y-R-3-1. Please proceed to your assigned evacuation point. Thank you for your cooperation.

As the messaged looped, Nora reached for a microphone and began to speak:

“People of the Institute, this is the General of the Commonwealth Minutemen speaking. We have seized control of this facility. Everybody is going to be evacuated without discrimination, so please stand down. If you cooperate, your safety will be guaranteed both here and above ground. We intend on destroying this facility once everybody has been evacuated, so I strongly recommend that you come with us. This is not a threat, it’s a warning. I repeat, we—”

“Shit!” Twilight’s voice interrupted her broadcast on the intercoms after she hijacked the radio frequency in an act of desperation. “Shit shit shit shit shit shit shit! General, we have a problem! Something went wrong with the molecular relay and now it’s growing unstable. We have to evacuate everybody now, because the port— that thing we talked about will happen in a matter of minutes, and everybody that is still in here when it happens is going to die.”

“Everybody, hurry!” The vault dweller spoke in the microphone once again. “We don’t have time to send you up the elevator one group at a time. There is a tunnel in the back of the BioScience laboratories with stairs that lead up to the relay. My men will show you the way, but you have to go now. Don’t pack your bags, don’t grab things you think are important, just hurry up and go!”

She turned back to her son and approached his bed.

“Get up Shaun, now. We have to leave.”

“I’m not going.” He replied, his voice sounding weaker than before.

“The Institute is gonna blow, you are going to die.”

“I am going to die either way. I never had the chance to tell you, but… I have an illness – a terminal one. Have had it for the past several years. My doctors bought me time, but it’s finally caught up with me. I don’t know how long I have left. Minutes? Hours? Even if you put me on your shoulders and carry me out of here, this is my last day on this Earth, one way or another. If you love me as much as you claim you do, let me die in peace, in the place where I grew up. Where we accomplished so much. That’s all I ask of you.”

“I…” Nora wanted to say something. Anything. But after learning something like that, she was drawing a blank. “I… understand. Goodbye, Shaun.” She caressed his hair and planted a kiss on his forehead – even if she didn’t agree with his methods and ideals, he was still her son.

She left his room and walked down the spiral staircase, back to the foyer. The firefight was already over and all that was left were bodies on the floor, synth and human alike, and a few people running toward the BioScience department. Despite what she had said some still decided to use the elevator, and she arrived just in time to see it coming back down. Being the last living person left in the area, she decided that there was no harm in using it; she was about to step into the elevator when she heard crying.

Looking around, Nora noticed two little redhead twin girls, hugging and crying on each other’s shoulder in their hiding spot. She ran towards them, grabbed them both by the hand and pulled them into the elevator with her. As they ascended she watched the Institute from above, all the death and destruction they had left behind. As the little twins sobbed, she thought about the situation: had she not spotted them, they would have been left behind and died in the impending implosion. What were the odds that more people were being left behind, too scared, too sick or too old to move quickly and reach the molecular relay in time? Were they being helped along by their colleagues? Or were they being left behind because they were slowing everybody else down?

When they reached the control center, Nora directed the two little girls to the molecular relay where they were transported to the outside together while holding hands, alongside Desdemona, Tinker Tom, Sturges and Preston Garvey, who was holding the notebook in which Fluttershy detailed all her findings regarding the creatures of the Commonwealth.

“What happened here?” She asked Twilight.

“I’m so sorry, it was my fault.” Twilight explained “I scanned my necklace so the relay would identify its signature energy and bridge this world and mine. It’s a process that would take a few minutes to complete, but it was going to run in the background and not interfere with the current settings of the relay unless I gave authorization. But I forgot the first rule of dealing with magic: it behaves unpredictably, it won’t always give you the results you want. Now it triggered something that, instead of leaving the connection on standby when the computer finishes analyzing the energy, it will open the portal as soon as it’s completed and I can’t stop it.”

Applejack emerged from the maintenance tunnel with the last of the scientists and directed them to the relay. The few Minutemen and Railroad who stayed behind to help were also instructed to leave.

“It’s just us now, y’all!” She shouted.

“General, you’re next.” Twilight said. “Fluttershy, send—”

Suddenly the molecular relay activated itself despite no one being there to use it, sending blue sparks flying everywhere. The blue sparks eventually turned pink and a glowing vortex of pink and purple energy emerged in the center of the relay.

“No!” Twilight said. “No no no, not yet! Nora still hasn’t… Oh no! We have to go now!”

Twilight was the first to run into the portal, soon followed by Sunset Shimmer – who couldn’t walk properly due to a leg injury and was being helped by Rarity. One by one the others followed, until the only ones left were Rainbow Dash and Nora.

“Aren’t you coming?”

“But I—”

Without waiting for a response, the blue speedster grabbed Nora by her leather chest piece and pulled her into the portal. The portal closed behind them, leaving behind a small, glowing sphere of dark purple energy. As if it were a miniature black hole, the sphere began to suck everything around it; the structure of the teleporter was crushed inwards until it was ripped from the walls, but since the energy orb wasn’t a portal anymore the pieces just clashed in the middle. The concrete walls themselves began to crack due to the force of the pull caused by the sphere, but before they could give way the orb stopped pulling and began growing.

Everything that was touched by the expanding ball of purple energy was reduced to dust; the metal of the teleporter, the concrete walls, the terminal used to control the relay… Eventually the entire Institute was consumed until only the giant orb of destruction was left in place. After becoming dangerously large the ball stopped growing and began to dissipate, leaving only a perfectly spherical hole in the earth. Without earth beneath it to keep the ground stable, the old CIT ruins above it began to sink until they fell, along with a few more buildings located around it. The hole was soon filled with water from the ocean and the Institute was no more.

The survivors regrouped in the Castle, where they celebrated their victory and mourned the fallen. A monument was built in honor of their General and her companions, who gave their lives to free the Commonwealth from the Institute and give them the chance to rebuild without fear of being replaced or infiltrated.

Or so they thought.

She could feel the grass under her. The sun on her face. The sounds of civilization. Before even opening her eyes, Sunset Shimmer smiled; it worked. They were home. After two years living through hell, they finally made it back. When she opened her eyes, though, she screamed: looking down at her was none other than Eve, the friendly deathclaw.

“Fluttershy!” She called as she sat up, wincing in pain due to her leg wound. “What is she doing here?”

“Oh, I’m sorry.” Fluttershy said as she ran up to Eve and began petting her neck, earning herself a lick on the face that caused her to giggle. “I was going to send her through the teleporter, but the portal back home opened before I had the chance to. Twilight told us to go and I couldn’t just leave her to die.”

“Everyone ok?” Applejack asked, looking around to make sure all her friends were in one piece and accounted for.

“My head is still spinning, but other than that I’m unharmed.” Twilight responded before adjusting her crooked glasses.

“Girls? My eye is missing!” Rainbow Dash chuckled. “Just kidding, it was already like that.”

“You think Princess Twilight can grow a new one with magic?” Pinkie Pie inquired.

“I swear, I will not leave my bathtub for a week.” Rarity commented as she took off her cowl and sunglasses. Her eyes widened when she spotted a person lying down by the horse statue/portal – a person wearing a blue jumpsuit with the number 111 on the back. “Oh my goodness. Agent Whisper!” Rarity hooked Nora’s arm around her shoulder and helped her stand up. “Are you alright, darling?”

“I feel like I’m gonna throw up…” Nora muttered.

“Sometimes that happens to first-timers – it’s not a common occurrence, but it’s not abnormal either.” Sunset explained while Fluttershy helped tend to her leg wound. “All things considered, you’re doing fine; I threw up within seconds after my first trip through a portal.”

After a moment passed, the reality of their situation finally began to sink in: they were home. No more wasteland. No more fighting for survival. No more starvation. No more sleeping with one eye open, afraid someone was going to sneak up on them in the middle of the night and kill them.

Twilight fell to her knees and let out a sigh of relief as she placed a hand on her chest.

Pinkie Pie laughed as she happily rolled on the green grass.

Fluttershy wrapper her arms around Sunset Shimmer and cried.

Sunset Shimmer, feeling a little awkward, just patted Fluttershy on the back with one hand.

Rainbow Dash and Applejack shared a friendly hug.

Rarity, still helping Nora stand up, wiped away a tear of joy.

“Where… Are we, exactly?” Nora asked as she looked around.

“Welcome to our world, darling.” Rarity replied. “This is Canterlot, year… Hm. I know where we are, but not when we are!”

“March 30, 2019.” Pinkie Pie read from a newspaper nobody bothered to ask where she got it from. She gasped loudly. “We’ve been gone for over two years!”

“Exactly the amount of time that passed while we were in the Commonwealth.” Twilight added. “That means our two timelines, even though they are over 200 years apart, still have a certain degree of connection.”

“To heck with all that, I need to go find my family!” Applejack said as she ran down the street. “See y’all later!”

“Now that she mentioned it, so do I.” Rainbow Dash also left.

“I miss my mom, my dad and my sisters. I’M COMING HOME, FAMILY!” Pinkie screamed. “Oh, I also have to make this.” She reached into her slacks and pulled out a red folder with the word “confidential” stamped across it. “120% the recommended daily value of sugar!” She skipped away while singing. “What if there was a place with all the zip of Nuka-Cola~?”

“I’m sorry, darling, but I need to go see my family as well. My poor little sister must miss me so much.” Rarity said to Nora. “Are you gonna be ok?”

“I’ll manage, thank you.” To illustrate her point, Nora removed her arm from around Rarity, showing that she was able to stand on her own.

“If you need a place to stay, don’t hesitate to call me. My door is always open.” Rarity waved at them as she walked away. “Ta-ta!”

“How am I gonna call, though?” Nora asked a little too late.

“They do have a point; I’ll have all the time in the world to theorize about the progression of time in the multiverse after my family knows that I’m alive.” Twilight said as she headed to a nearby bus stop, only to remember that she didn’t have any money to pay for the bus fare. She then changed her course to a police station so that they could call her family.

“I need to find my journal, Princess Twilight will want to hear about what happened.” Sunset Shimmer said before limping towards Canterlot High. “Also it wouldn’t hurt to inform Principal Celestia and Vice-Principal Luna that we’re back.”

The only ones left were Nora, who sat down with her back against the base of the horse statue, and Fluttershy, who had removed her helmet, goggles and Pip-Boy, and was looking at Eve while rubbing her chin.

“What are we gonna do about you?” She asked, earning herself another face lick.