They sat around the table topped with a heavily marked up map of the Commonwealth.  Tiny little flags dotted the map, along with little scraps of paper and green toy soldiers.  A little cannon marked each of the Minutemen’s camps.   Ash had set most of those up herself.  Eight of them were quiet.  Ash had never said so much at one time to any of them, but she had rescued every synth and destroyed every Institute patrol.  They owed her this.  “I have questions.  A lot of questions,” Desdemona said.  “I thought you were on board with destroying the Institute!”

“You’re half right.”  Ash rubbed her temples.  “The Institute needs to be stopped.  But you’re talking about killing more synths than you have ever saved.”

“She kind of has a point, Des.”  Deacon leaned back in his chair.  He was fidgetting with a pencil, looking every bit the bored student.  It was a good act, and Ash knew better. 

“Man, it can’t be done!”  Tinker Tom.  “They got eyes everywhere!  No half-measure is gonna cut it!.” 

“Even if I agree to this, and I’m not, you don’t have the resources to do this!”  Danse.  Ash knew he’d have a problem with this. 

“I have more at my disposal than you would guess, Danse.”  Ash grinned a mile wide.  “I have all of the Minutemen.  I have a score of grateful settlements.  I have the Brotherhood of Steel.  One of my very good friends is the mayor of Goodneighbor.”  Ash paused, and let that sink in.  “I have another thing.  My son has just declared that I’m the future Director for the Institute.” 

The room exploded.  “You’re WHAT?”  “Unbelievable!”  “Knew I should have killed you…” 

Ash stood.  “We can absolutely do this.”  She waited as the protests died down.  Deacon had been silent the whole time.  Ash stared as he broke into a wide grin. 

“This is going to be the best story I ever tell,” he said. 

“No,” Desdemona breathed.

“Yes,” Deacon said with a laugh.

“Factoring new variables,” PAM droned. 

“Desdemona,” Ash said.  “I’d like your help, especially because it’s the only way to save your life.”

“Are you threatening me?!”  She jumped to her feet, slamming her hands on the table.

“You said to play along for the Institute.  You know what my next task for them is?”  Ash pulled out the map that Father had handed her.  The Old North Church was circled on it, with ‘sander’ in blue marker.    “And here’s one from the Brotherhood of Steel.”  Ash pulled out Kells’ handwritten hit list and the holotape that would reprogram PAM.  “I never said a word.  I was careful.  And they all found you anyway.”  Desdemona slumped back in her chair.  Glory rubbed her temples.  Tinker Tom finally broke the silence.

“They was watchin’ our every move.”


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