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In the world of Chronicles of the Wasteland

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Ongoing 5786 Words

Chapter 3

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They'd walked for another hour or so and were just about to the Concord city limits when the dog suddenly growled angrily, hunching down into a defensive posture. Aubrey arched an eyebrow, and crouched down herself.  "What is it, boy?  What do you see?"  

She pulled her pistol, and clicked the safety off, mind flashing back to images of sniffer dogs and K9 units.  She crept forward, eyes locking onto a corpse of what looked like a cow lying in the middle of the road.  The dog growled again, and Aubrey squinted, shielding her eyes from the afternoon sun.  "What in the hell?"  She mumbled, wishing for any sort of binoculars.  Even a scope would be nice. At least then she'd be able to actually see what was around the corpse. 

She crept forward slowly, the dog staying close to her side, but edging ahead of her by a half a step every so often.  Gooseflesh popped up on her arms and she could feel the tingling on the back of her neck as the tiny hairs stood up.  She swallowed around a knot in her throat. Something was very wrong here.  The cow had what looked like…sticks, jutting out of its stomach, but they didn’t look like normal sticks to her.  She chewed the inside of her lip and ventured a little closer down the road.  The dog at her side, growled again, this time ending it in a small warning bark.  She glanced over to him, her gaze shifted for only a moment before looking back.  And screamed.  

The sticks she saw weren't sticks.  They were legs.  Legs that were attached to another giant bug. No, two giant bugs.  Giant bugs that looked like mosquitos.  Giant mosquitos that were flying towards her.  Her brain finally caught up with what was happening and she raised her pistol, firing off a few rounds at the oncoming insects.  The dog beside her barked angrily and jumped at the bug, biting at its low hanging legs.  

Aubrey backed up, firing a few more rounds, tearing a hole in one of the bug's wings, but missing the rest.  She swallowed bile, stumbling backwards a few steps and firing at its wings.  

As it flew closer, she girt her teeth, grabbing the oversized mosquito by its own proboscis and swinging it to the pavement.  With a yelp, she jumped on what looked like its head, killing it with a sickening squelch beneath her boots.  She shuddered then turned back to the second bug, only to find that it had fallen prey to the dog's jaws.  The hole in its wing had crippled it, and it seemed the dog had pulled it apart.  She swallowed and nudged it with the tip of her boot.  The dog sat beside it looking up to Aubrey as if to ask "How did I do?"

"Great.  First it was giant roaches, then it was giant flies, now its giant mosquitos?"  She groaned and wiped the sweat from her forehead with a shaky hand. The dog stood and pressed his nose against her thigh, staring up at her with an almost quizzical look.  Aubrey smiled.  "Well, at least you got one.  Someone trained you well.  Good boy." She said, scratching his ears.

He panted happily, tongue lolling out at the praise.

Aubrey took another deep and shaky breath reloading and holstering her pistol.  She inspected her boots, wiping them on a nearby patch of grass and shivering when the white blood left streaks on the grass, then started walking, keeping her weapon at the ready in case anything else decided she looked like a tasty meal.  With the dog once again at her side, she started walking into the destroyed streets of Concord.

Most of the buildings were boarded up, and the few that weren't were collapsed in on themselves.  She shook her head, trying not to think about the piles of charred bones scattered here and there.  People who'd been going about their business without a care before someone decided to kill the entire planet.  The caw of a crow startled her and she watched as it flew over hear head, swooping down to land on a power line that probably hadn't powered anything in centuries.  She sighed and trudged forward, frowning at the half-destroyed decorations hanging limply from the power lines and rooftops, the orange light of the setting sun casting long shadows around her.  She glanced at the time on her Pipboy and frowned.  "Gonna need to find shelter soon."  She muttered, shifting the pistol in her grasp.  The evening breeze whipped through the remnants of once familiar buildings, whistling a somber tune mixed with the distant staccato of gunfire.

Then the sudden not-so-distant sound of gunfire.  And then the distinct zthoom of a laser rifle that was also not-so-distant.  

Aubrey gulped and jogged to the building, hunching down and peering around the corner.  She scanned for any signs of life, then darted to the next building, then the next then the next, until she stood at the main intersection outside the old Museum of Freedom.  The dog at her side once again started growling and she held up her clenched fist.  "Stay…" She whispered, and the dog whined but dropped to his belly.  Aubrey nodded to herself and crept forward, peering around the side of the building she was hiding behind.

Four or five people were shooting at a single man who was on the balcony of the museum.  Aubrey frowned and inched forward again, but stumbled in a pothole and grunted.  The nearest shooter turned around, suddenly, waving his gun around.  Aubrey froze, clicking the safety of her pistol off.  She swallowed and held her breath, blood pounding in her ears as he neared her position.  

He scanned the area, eyes locking with hers for half a second.  "HEY!  OVER HERE!"  He shouted, firing the weapon at her.  Aubrey ducked behind the wall again, using it as a shield.  Several more gun were fired, and she could see the marks on the pavement where the bullets struck.  She breathed deeply and leaned around the corner, sending bullets to her attacker's legs.  She flinched as they screamed in pain, confirming that she'd hit her mark.  

She peeked out for half a moment, before ducking back again as a bullet whizzed past her.  "Great… They're still shooting…"  She sighed and readied her rifle, quickly aiming for her attackers arm, but before she could fire, a blast from the man on the balcony killed him.  She swallowed and creeped forward, disabling another two shooters before darting forward to a pile of sandbags and ducking behind it.  The dog barked at her, shifting around as if to say "Let me go, let me go!"

Aubrey whistled, and the dog bolted for the nearest attacker, biting down on his leg while Aubrey shot his arm.  The attacker went down after another red beam from Balcony Man's laser rifle and the street was silent for a moment.  Aubrey stood, her senses on high alert for any other dangers that might choose to present themselves.  

"HEY, YOU!  UP HERE, ON THE BALCONY!"  The man called, waving at her.  Aubrey arched an eyebrow.  "I've got a group of settlers inside!  The Raiders are almost through the door!  Grab that laser musket and help us, PLEASE!"  He turned and darted back through the balcony door, leaving Aubrey alone in the street, surrounded by the bodies of what she could only assume were some of these "raiders" he'd mentioned.  The dog barked and trotted toward the entrance of the museum, plopping down beside the stairs.  

Aubrey chewed on her bottom lip for a moment as she walked toward the museum, surveying the reddened street around her.   The man on the balcony seemingly had no qualms about taking these Raiders down, but then again, if the name was anything to go by, it could have been in self-defense… 

She looked at the man on the ground by the door, kneeling down and taking his weapon, the laser musket the man must've been talking about. She arched an eyebrow as she inspected it.  It looked more like someone had duct taped parts of a laser rifle to a normal hunting rifle's stock, but she had no idea how to use it.  It had a crank and a trigger, but nothing was really obvious on how it worked.   
The staccato of gunfire sounded from inside the building and she nodded to herself.  She'd stick with the pistol for now, and return the fallen man's weapon to the stranger in the balcony.  After she helped dispatch the raiders.  "Come on, boy.  Let's get this over with.  Maybe they can help me find Shaun."  She took a final deep breath and stepped into the Museum's foyer. 

She could hear the sounds of the Balcony Man's laser musket and see the red beams as he fired at two Raiders who were hunkered down behind some crates.  The main stairwell had long since collapsed into a pile of rubble, so there was no obvious way up… unless the old tour rooms were still intact.  She fired a few pot shots up at the Raiders, and she heard one of them curse in pain as a bullet met its mark, as she darted to the room to the side.  She crept through it, flinching when the pre-recorded audio started up.  The dog bounded ahead of her, knocking down a few mannequins in the process and she readied her weapon again, double-tapping a raider as she whirled around, waving what looked like a homemade gun in Aubrey's face.  The raider fell, and she proceeded up the stairs and around the corner, grabbing a box of Mentats and a bottle of water sitting on a table and into the final memorial room.  She dropped low as she crept around the corner.

"Don't you hear? Somebody's out there shooting the place up, let's just go."

"No, man, we gotta get that woman for the boss. I don't wanna be there if we get back empty handed."

Aubrey didn't want to hear any more.  "Hands where I can see them.  Now."  She ordered, coming around the corner and aiming her pistol at the larger of the two."

The shorter man's hands shot up almost instantly.  "Whoa, whoa, don't shoot!"

The larger man growled angrily and raised a shotgun.  Aubrey didn't give him a chance to fire, placing a round between his eyes.  He fell backward and the shorter Raider squeaked in fear.  Aubrey turned to him.  "Go. Leave, and don't come back." She ordered. 

"Yeah, yeah, no problem lady.  Never see me no more!"  He whimpered, as he shuffled past her and sprinted down the hallway at top speed, screaming as he did. 

Aubrey shook her head and picked up the shotgun shells from the dead raider, tucking them into her pocket.  "Maybe I can sell these? Or trade them?"  She muttered, patting the dog on the head as he nuzzled her thigh again.   
She walked through a large hole in the wall and emerged in what must have been the employees only section of the museum.  She went up the staircase and crouched down again as two raiders screamed obscenities at a closed door.

"Come on man, they're not going anywhere, we got bigger problems to deal with."

"YOU HEAR THAT!  I gotta go take a walk, but when I get back, you're all DEAD!"

The dog growled again and darted out, and Aubrey's eyes widened.  "No!" She hissed, but it was too late, the dog had already jumped on the last raider.  With a sigh she stood and aimed her gun at the other raider.  "Hold it right--, ah!"  She ducked as he started towards her, holding a pool cue as a weapon.  She shot him twice, center mass and he was down.  She jogged over to the dog and was torn between being horrified and being grateful when she saw that he'd bit the throat out of the raider.  She swallowed bile and patted her hip.  "C-come on boy…"  

He barked happily and she stepped out near the door.  "Hello?"  She called, looking around at the now silent upper floor of the museum.

"Quick! In here!" The door opened and Balcony Man waved her over.  She nodded and joined them, stepping to the side as the dog barked and bounded towards the room.

"Man, I don't know who you are, but you're timing's impeccable." Balcony Man said, smiling at her. "Preston Garvey, Commonwealth Minutemen."

"Aubrey West...uh, glad I could help, but who are the Minutemen?"

Preston nodded.  "'Protect the people at a minute's notice.'  That was the idea anyway, when I first joined up.  I wanted to make a difference, and I did, but things fell apart.  Now it looks like I'm the last one standing." 

"Damn…I'm sorry."  Aubrey said, finally lowering her pistol and tucking it back in its holster.  "Who are all these people?" She asked, gesturing around the room.

"Just folks looking for a new home; a fresh start."  He sighed and looked away.  "I've been with them since Quincy.  We tried to settle in Lexington but the Ghouls drove us out of there."  He closed his eyes in an anguished expression that Aubrey had seen on Nate's face far too often.  "A month ago, there were twenty of us.  Yesterday there were eight.  Now we're five.  It's just me, the Longs--Marcy and Jun--, that's old Mama Murphy on the couch.  And this here's Sturges."  He nodded his head to a man in overalls beside him. He gave a half-hearted greeting but seemed more focused on the terminal he was fiddling with than the woman who'd just saved all their lives.   

Aubrey shrugged and looked back at Preston.  "I'm sorry.  Sounds like you've been through a lot."

Preston scoffed.  "You can say that again.  We though Concord would be a good place to settle, but…well, you've seen what happened.  But…well, we do have an idea…"

"One second.  You mentioned ghouls.  In Lexington?  What are Ghouls?"

"Wow, you really aren't from around here are you…"  Preston's eyes widened.  Aubrey resisted the urge to roll her eyes. As if the blue Vault suit didn't give it away? Preston cleared his throat.  "Ghouls are…irradiated people. Most are just like you and me, except they look pretty bad and live a real long time, but the ones I'm talking about are different. The radiation's rotted their brains, made them feral.  They'll attack you just as soon as look at you."

Aubrey shuddered. Great.  More things that'll try to kill me.  "So, let's hear about this idea of yours…"

Preston smiled again.  "Sturges? Tell her." 

The man turned from the terminal and leaned against the desk.  "There's a crashed vertibird up on the roof.  Old-school, pre-war. You might have seen it."  He spoke with a thick southern twang and Aubrey felt a pang of nostalgia race through her.  He sounded like her brother.  "Well," he continued, not noticing her change in expression, "One of its passengers left behind a seriously sweet goodie.  We're talking a full suit of cherry T-45 power armor. Military issue."

"That is some…serious protection."  Aubrey offered, shifting her weight nervously.  She had a feeling she knew where this was going.

"It sure is.  But, get this.  Get the suit and you can rip the minigun right off the vertibird. Do that, and we give those raiders an express ticket to hell."

"I see.…um… I guess it could work?"  She bit her lip.  "I, um…"

"There's just one problem." Sturges cut her off.  "The suit's out of juice.  Probably has been for a hundred years.  It can be powered up again, but…we're a bit stuck."

"I.…I don't know… I'm not sure how I feel about using a minigun on people, even if they are raiders."

A woman in the back suddenly stood, stomping forward. "It's us or them!  And I'd rather we be sure it's them who die, not us!" 

"Easy, Marcy." Preston soothed, raising a hand to placate her.  "It's a fair hesitation.  After all, she's a vault dweller."


Sturges nodded.  "Look, I understand where you're coming from.  Really I do.  But those raiders will likely overpower us if we don't overpower them first, and I ain't got no clue how to move in Power Armor."

"What makes you think I do?"  Aubrey asked.  "I mean, I do know how to use it," In theory, she added silently. "But why assume that I do?"

"Well, a lot of vault dwellers out here know how to. Don't ask me how."

"I.…" She looked around to the group of people and sighed.  "Alright… tell me how to power it back up."

"What you'll need is an old pre-war standardized fusion core.  You're long-term, high-grade nuclear battery used by the military and some companies way back when." Preston explained.  "And we know just where to find one."

"But," Sturges interjected. "We can't get to the damn thing.  It's downstairs…locked behind a security gate." He sighed.  "Look, I fix stuff.  I tinker.  Bypassing security isn't exactly my forte."  He glanced up at her again.  "You could give it a shot."

"I'm not so good with computers… but I think I may be able to get it for you. Give me a few minutes." 

Preston nodded.  "Good luck."

Aubrey nodded and turned on her heel, heading back down to where she'd passed the basement.  She took a brief look at the computer terminal but shook her head.  That was more her brother's area of expertise than it was her.

She looked at the security gate and pulled a bobby pin she'd found on her way up from her hair, allowing the stray lock of hair she'd pinned up with it to fall in front of her face again.  She grabbed a screwdriver lying nearby and set to work.  She kneeled there for only a minute or so before the lock gave way.  "I knew there'd be a use for a misspent youth." She muttered, pushing the door open and taking the fusion core from its charging station.

She returned to Preston and held it up, as if it were a trophy.  "Here we go.  Now, the Power Armor is…where exactly?"

"Just outside the office there.  Took out the roof so…"  Preston shrugged.  "I hope our luck's turning around.  Once you power up the armor, those raiders will know they picked the wrong fight.  Good luck."

Aubrey nodded and went to the door Preston had pointed at, passing the woman, Marcy, and a man, who must've been Jun huddled in a corner.  She stopped at the couch, arching an eyebrow at the old woman dressed as a fortune teller.  "Ma'am." She said, nodding her head politely.  

"Oh, look who Dogmeat brought us!  I knew he'd bring us back some help."

"So he's your dog?" Aubrey said, patting Dogmeat on the head.  "He's a good dog, well trained."

"Aw, he ain't my dog.  Dogmeat's what you'd call his own man.  He'll stick with you now. I saw it."

"You uh.…'saw' it?"

"It's the chems kid, they give old Mama Murphy the Sight.  I can see a bit of what was, and what will be, and what is right now.  And I see…there's something coming…drawn by the noise and the chaos, and it is…angry."

Aubrey arched an eyebrow.  "Uh, okay… can you tell me anymore?"

"I see, I see….oh, God, kid it's horrible… claws and teeth and horns….the very face of death itself… I…That's all I can manage right now kid, and you got a job to do."

"I...yeah…okay… Take it easy, okay?"

Mama Murphy smiled.  "Don't you worry about me.  I'll be fine.  Go on now."

Aubrey shook her head and patted her thigh, and Dogmeat was there almost instantly as she went out the door to the broken office.

  It took a few moments to remember her training on exactly how to use power armor, but powering it up was easy enough.  She'd been trained for usage when she'd been posted to North Dakota, a fallback point and staging area for Operation Anchorage. 

But training in theory was a lot different from actually walking in it.  She turned the wheel on its back and it opened with a groan of metal and hiss of hydraulics.  She stepped inside and it closed around her.  She swallowed, fighting back the feelings of claustrophobia as she tested her range of movement.  Moving was a little awkward, but she eventually got the hang of it and took the minigun, wrenching it from its mount on the vertibird and walked to the edge of the roof.  She looked over to the balcony and noticed that Preston had joined her.  

"Boss? Hey, Boss, we got somebody up here!"  A raider shouted from the roof across the street.

Aubrey gulped and spun up the gun, hesitating to fire until fired upon.  A bullet glanced off her arm with a metallic clang not more than a second after she'd finished that thought.  She bit her lip and fired, making short work of the raider on the roof, and a few on the ground.

"Why don't you get down here! Show me that fancy gun up close!"  Someone taunted from below and she jumped down, the power armor absorbing the impact, and the subsequent shockwave knocking down a raider.  Dogmeat blasted past her, having made his way down through the building and went for the nearest raider while Aubrey made short work of the others, with the occasional red beam from Preston giving her the edge they needed. 

The street was almost quiet when she set the minigun down, switching to her pistol again and taking out a few raiders on the roofs when a monstrous roar sounded.  Everyone stopped. The raiders, Preston, even Dogmeat paused at the sound.  A maintenance hatch suddenly shot into the sky, pushed up from below as what could only be described as a monster climbed out of it, roaring again.  

Aubrey's eyes widened as it took one swipe at a nearby raider and sent him literally flying into the nearest building.  Dogmeat growled and Aubrey's muscles finally started to move as she dropped the pistol and grabbed the minigun again, quickly reloading it as the monster's eyes locked on her and started bounding towards her at top speed. 

She let out a primal scream as she held down the trigger of the minigun, sending a hail of bullets towards the monster.  She saw a small spray of blood splash out from its shoulder, but it didn't even seem to slow it down.  It roared loudly, nearly blowing out the speakers in her helmet and she winced.  Taking a deep breath, she started to back up, keeping the minigun trained on it, but only seeming to do small bits of damage to it.  She glanced up, noting a red beam from Preston's laser musket that seemed to head for the creatures belly, and moved to re-aim the minigun, but then--


The thing crashed into her, sending her sprawling on to her back, grunting as she felt the hydraulics of the suit press awkwardly into her spine and ribs.  She looked up and screamed as the thing opened its mouth and bit down on the helmet.   

The sickening creak of metal sounded as the thing tried to break through the tempered and reinforced steel and he brought her arms up to try and wave it away.  She heard something resembling a crunch and felt her left arm collide with something and then the thing was off of her.  She released a breath that hadn't realized she'd been holding and stood back up, pulling the minigun around for another pass. The thing seemed to be more interested in Dogmeat, who was practically running circles around it.  She bit her lip then quickly jogged down the street, putting some distance between her and the creature.  

"DOGMEAT, HERE BOY!!!"  She shouted, and the German Shepard bounded towards her, luring the creature with him.  She squared her stance and aimed for the creatures underbelly, where she'd seen Preston firing, and unleashed a fresh hail of bullets. 

The creature roared in pain and staggered back, but the damage had been done.  The creature's gut was a mass of blood and shredded skin, torn to pieces by the minigun.   It stepped forward once, twice, then collapsed onto the ground, pawing weakly at the broken pavement.  It let out a weak call, then was finally still.  She dropped to one knee, bracing herself on the minigun, as she struggled to pull in a shaky breath.  She reached up and yanked off the helmet, sucking down lungfuls of the night air. Once the blood stopped rushing in her ears, and the pounding of her heart had slowed to a tolerable level, she stood carefully and started towards the beast.  She touched it's front claw with the toe of the power armor's suit, breathing a sigh of relief when it didn't respond.  That combined with the massive and still growing pool of blood beneath it told her that whatever this was, it was dead.

She took another deep breath and clicked her tongue to Dogmeat, the dog trotting along at her side as she trudged back to the museum, stopping only long enough to grab her pistol again.  She pushed to door to the museum open, wincing as it flew back and struck the wall.  "Right," she muttered.  "Stronger than normal in power armor."  

She shook her head, then exited the power armor with a hiss of hydraulics.  Her back and shoulders protested as she closed the armor and took the pistol from the glove of the suit. 

"That was a…pretty amazing display."

Aubrey jumped and whirled around to face Preston and his group as they joined her in the lobby.  "Are you guys gonna be okay now?"

Preston nodded.  "We should be.  Thank you for your help.  And listen, I know you didn't say anything about payment but…well, here.  It's not much, but it's the best we could do."  He held out a small bag of caps and a case of fusion cells.  
"I.…uh…I don't know what to say, Garvey…Thanks."  She tucked the items into her backpack.  "What are you going to do now?"

"There's a place nearby called Sanctuary.  We're headed there. Hopefully it'll be safe place to finally settle down."  He sighed, setting his weapon down.  "Look, you've already proven you're capable, and willing to help.  I know you've got no reason to, but if you'd come with us…"

Aubrey nodded.  "I can take you to Sanctuary.  No worries." 
He smiled again, and nodded.  "Thank you.  Maybe our luck's finally turning around."

"That's real sweet of you, kid.  Honest.  But before we head out, you should know:  I Seen something about you."  Mama Murphy smiled up at the woman from her seat. "And I know your pain."

Aubrey arched an eyebrow.  "What do you mean?"

"You're a woman out of time, out of hope, but not is lost.  I can feel your boy, he's out there."

"Shaun?  Where is he, please I need more…"

"Oh, I wish I knew kid, really I do. But the Sight is funny, and don't always paint a clear picture.  I don't know where he is, but I can feel his life force, his energy.  He's out there.  He's alive.  And I don't need the Sight to tell you where to start looking.  The Great Green Jewel of the Commonwealth: Diamond City."

Aubrey pursed her lips.  "That's….vague."

"Look kid, I’m tired now.  Maybe you bring me some chems later and the Sight'll paint a clearer picture."

"NO!" Preston snapped.  "Mama Murphy, we talked about this: That stuff, it'll kill you."

"Oh hush Preston, we're all gonna die eventually.  Now, we all need to get going, and you," She nodded to Aubrey, "You got a jewel to find."

Aubrey forced a smile and stepped back, idly listening as the group argued briefly over whether or not to go to Sanctuary while she readjusted her pack and weapon.  She glanced at the time on her Pipboy and sighed softly.  It was near 1am.  She was tired, and seeing as the group had already started for the door, it looked like she had another long walk ahead of her.

She muttered a few half-hearted curses to herself, then climbed back into the power armor suit, resigning herself to at least walking it back to Sanctuary.  At least there it would be safe from more Raiders who might get half a mind to use it.  

She brought up the rear, following the group back the way she'd first come to Concord, listening only half-heartedly to the conversations between everyone in favor of stewing over the events of the day.

She'd been awake for less than 24 hours, and she'd witnessed her husband's murder, her son's kidnapping, been shot at, was nearly mauled to death by a giant dinosaur-looking thing, and now was walking a suit of power armor back to her old homestead.  She sighed miserably, chest aching to wake up and for Nate to wrap her in his arms and tell her that it was all just a bad dream. 

She stopped when she nearly crashed into Sturges while Preston chattered on about the Minuteman monument that stood outside the entrance to Sanctuary and she balked.  Had she really been walking that long without paying attention?  She shook her head as if it would clear her thoughts and readjusted Nate's rifle in her arms.   She frowned at the broken down carcass of the Old North Bridge that stood before her. Would the old thing be able to withstand the power armor thumping across it?

She bit her lip and slowly worked her away over it, making sure to step on the strongest looking boards.  Once she was safely over the bridge she sighed heavily, walking it to the service station across the street from her house and exiting it there.  She pulled the fusion core from it, and left it at the workbench, rubbing her eyes then letting her hand card through her hair, pulling it down from its ponytail then putting it back up again.

"I'm glad you decided to come with us." Preston said, causing Aubrey to jump and whirl around.  He winced and put his hands up. "Sorry.   Didn't mean to startle you."

"It's alright." She let out her breath.  "What were you going to say?"

"I'm glad you came with us.  I think this place has some good potential don't you?"

She glanced around the area, at the broken down and collapsed houses, the trash and junk in the streets.  "I mean…well, yeah, with a broom and some elbow grease I suppose it could be suitable.  I liked living here…before the War."

"Before the War?"

Aubrey winced.  "Never mind.  Forget I said anything."

"No worries.  We've all got our pasts to deal with.  If you don't mind me asking, and if you're still willing to help, Sturges wanted to see you.  And…well, I had a favor to ask as well."

Aubrey glanced up, an excuse forming on her lips, but the look of near desperate hope on Preston's face stopped her.  "Alright, Garvey. Shoot." 
"I've got word from another settlement.  They're still hoping there are some Minutemen still out there.  They need help." 

Aubrey chewed on her bottom lip for a moment.  "What kind of help?"

"Probably more raiders.  That's the most common complaint.  I'd go myself, but I've got my hands full here. Do you think you could help them out?"

She chewed some more on her lip, then nodded.  "I'll help.  But I have got to rest first.  I can barely keep my eyes open as it is."

Preston nodded.  "Of course. Yeah, god, I'm sorry." He pushed his hat back and rubbed his eyes.  

"You should try and sleep too."  Aubrey added, patting his shoulder before starting back towards her house.  "Good night."

Preston smiled, but was silent as he watched her.  Sturges ambled up beside him and squeezed his shoulder.  "I know that look.  What you thinking about?"

"If she comes through for us….you think maybe she'll be willing to help rebuild the Minutemen?"

Sturges shrugged.  "Dunno.  Guess we'll have to wait and see." 

Aubrey smiled at the attempt Codsworth had made at making a proper bed for her.  It was little more than a salvaged bedframe with a sleeping bag on it, but it was better than the prospect of sleeping on the ground.  

"I know it's not what you're used to, Mum, but it was the best I could do with the materials at hand." The Mr. Handy unit offered.

"It's wonderful, Codsworth.  Thank you so much.  It really means a lot to me."  She smiled and gently patted the robot's chassis.  "Hey, listen.  How much more of those camping supplies did you find?"

"Oh there were about five or six more sleeping bags, not including this one. A few folding chairs and an oil lantern.  Why, Mum?"

"How long did it take you to make this?" She gestured at the makeshift bed. 

"About an hour, but at the time, I had to find and gather the supplies.  Now that I know where everything is, it should only take me about 20 minutes per bed."

"And if you had help?" 

"Much faster, I assure you."

Aubrey smiled.  "Great. Tomorrow morning, we're gonna make some of these for Preston and his crew before we head out."

" 'We' Mum?"

"Yes.  I….I'm going to need your help. There's some people who live to the east of here who need some help, and I'm going to need help, and someone to talk to on the walk over."

"Of course Mum.  Proud to serve!"

Aubrey grinned, but it quickly stretched out into a yawn.  "Wake me at 8 o'clock?"

"Certainly Mum.  Sleep well."

"Good night." She smiled after Codsworth as he floated away, humming a merry little tune to himself, before she climbed into the sleeping bag and zipping it up around her against the cold of the Massachusetts night.

A quiet woof startled her and she saw Dogmeat leaning with his front paws against the bed frame, head tilted as if to ask Can I snuggle?  Aubrey chuckled.  "Alright, boy, come on up."

Another woof and he jumped up onto the bedframe, settling down by her legs and offering an additional source of warmth.   She scratched his ears lightly. 

"Goodnight boy."  She mumbled as she settled back down into the sleeping bag.  She lay there for a while, staring at the broken ceiling tiles, heart aching for Nate's presence at her back and she swallowed a sob.  But her exhaustion finally took over and she fell into a fitful sleep. 

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