Posts Tagged ‘Web of lies’

Desdemona was not happy.  She had played everything so carefully.  She had heeded PAM’s every warning, kept careful track of all of her assets, and burned oh so many resources with safe retreats.  It was all for nothing; everyone knew where she was and everyone had ordered the Professor to kill her.  On top of that, the Professor – a mechanized tornado of destruction – had hijacked her whole operation.  God fucking dammit.  It was like she suddenly didn’t matter.

Wait.  That wasn’t true.  If she didn’t matter, no one would care that she was alive and that clearly wasn’t the case.

Des took a long drink from the ancient wine bottle and leaned over the rail of the bell tower.  This would be her last breath of fresh air for a while, and she was determined to savor it.  She set the wine on the railing and pulled out a cigarette.  The one silver lining in all this was that the professor had gotten her some pre-war cigarettes.  There was a time when she’d have been concerned about the soft orange glow giving away her position, but the dual kill orders from two of the other big three players in the Commonwealth had made her fatalistic.  Besides, her executioner was busy setting up a scam of epic proportions.

She leaned on the railing, and blew a plume of smoke into the darkness.  Fuck it, she thought.  Yeah, they’d save a shitload more Gen 3 synths this way.  She did want that.  She started mulling over alternate names for the Synth Retention Bureau.  Synth Placement, maybe?  After all, the Professor wanted Desdemona to be the new head.

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.”

“Doctor Ayo,” Ash said.  The angry little bald man stalked back and forth in the SRB office.
“Doctor Ayo!”  Ash yelled.  The bald man whirled on her.  He leaned in close to her face.

“Tell me again how you managed to lose a Courser!” he shouted.  Spittle flecked Ash’s face.  She had gotten some truly nasty liquids on her since she thawed, but it still made her skin crawl.  “You do not just LOSE A COURSER!”  His entire head had gone red.

“Doctor Ayo, I understand that you’re upset,” Ash said very quietly.  “But if you continue to talk to me like this, you won’t live to see me become the Director.”  She smiled as sweetly as she was able.  The dried blood on her face made for a terrifying visage.  Ash had a burn across the right side of her head, and her vest, shirt, and pants were all burned down to the plates sewn into them.  Everything but the hair was an easy fix, but it was important to be convincing. 

“Are you threatening me?!” He shouted, shoving Ash against the wall. He pressed close.

“I am,” Ash whispered.  Faster than thought, she whipped her 10mm pistol from her right leg, and pressed Ayo’s mouth shut with the suppressor.  “You are a tiny little bully, and I fucking hate bullies,” she whispered into his ear.  “Every raider and super mutant and scientist who preys upon those weaker than them.”  She backed him into the opposite wall.  “I would love to solve this problem by civil discourse.”  Ash sniffed.  She smelled like a garbage fire.  She needed a shower regardless of whether she ended up covered in Ayo’s blood.  “Do you think we can do that?”  She pressed the suppressor against the underside of his jaw so hard that he couldn’t nod.

“Yes,” he said through clenched teeth. 

“Good.”  Ash stepped back, releasing the man.  She holstered the gun.  He cleared his throat, smoothed his black and white Institute frock.  “Now.  X6-88 was destroyed.  A super mutant with a mini nuke got the drop on us.  I was saved by my power armor.  He… was unrecoverable.” 

“I… see.”  Doctor Ayo frowned.  Maybe.  Ash had never seen him when he wasn’t wearing some sort of scowl.  “X6-88’s experience will be missed.  But I will assign you another Courser.” 

“Can I pick one?  Or…  Design one?”

“What is wrong with the standard models?”  Ayo asked through clenched teeth. 

“Nothing!  Nothing.”  Ash wanted to keep this civil.  Sort of.  Everything would be easier with a little cooperation.  “It’s just – the Coursers only have a couple of faces and they’re pretty distinctive.  Not good for covert operations.”

“Hmm,”  Ayo narrowed his eyes at her.  “That… is actually not the worst idea.”  He visibly relaxed.  “l’ll let Robotics know you’re coming.”

“Thank you, Doctor.”  Ash moved for the doorway.

“You should go to Medical for those burns.”

“They can wait.”  Ash disappeared into the atrium.

Ash cranked the bolt tight on the left leg plating. Between the legs of the walking tank, she could see the dark form of X6-88 as he adjusted the lenses on his rifle. “X6,” Ash said. “What do you think of all this?” He tilted his head. He was probably looking at her, but with his dark shades it was hard to be sure. Ash continued. “Father says that I’ll be the new director of the Institute when he’s gone.” Father was her son, Shaun. She hated calling him Father. She didn’t like calling him Shaun. X6 still said nothing. She took the leap. “The fact that the SRB is hunting synths and not protecting them… It feels wrong to me. If I take charge, I would change that.”

“I trust Father’s direction, and he has put his faith in you,” X6 said. He paused. “You have proven yourself capable in all ways, and so I can trust that as well.” He turned back to the workbench.

“The changes I would make…” Ash took a deep breath. “Doctor Ayo would not like them. He would likely react more violently than the men in Bio-Science. The other Coursers might also resist.” They would definitely resist. Ash stood behind her armor, still keeping it between her and X6. There was a very real chance that he would not take what she had to say very well.

“Ma’am, what changes would you make?” X6 turned to face Ash, crossing his massive arms. His black leather trenchcoat squeaked with the motion. Ash steeled her nerves. There hadn’t been a huge number of things she’d done since coming out of Vault 111 that didn’t end in a bloodbath. After all, even a synth could bleed…