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Phyacair stood in one of the halls in the newly re-constructed Ashen Citadel – floating safely out of reach between dimensions in the depths of deep, deep space – and stared out of a nearby window. The cold and emotionless depths of the infinite stretched out forever beyond the glass. A strange sensation burbled within the desiccated walking corpse, rustling the cobwebs in his lungs.

He liked this view.

The clever animals on Azeroth (and other worlds he had visited, besides) had all created the illusions of a universe with intrinsic meaning and objective concepts of “right” and “wrong”... but it is nothing but nonsense. It is a fantasy, meant to shield fragile minds from the pain and horrors of The Truth.

The Truth, Phyacair mused to himself as he gazed into the abyss, is that there is no objective meaning in anything. We are – all of us – nothing more than insignificant specks, clinging desperately to a mote of dust hanging in a sunbeam. Adrift in an emotionless void, there are no gods, there is no ultimate higher purpose in life, and nothing has any inherent value. The universe is vast, uncaring, unfeeling, and utterly indifferent to both our pain and our triumphs.

He liked that idea.

This was one of many things that drew him to serve his Dark Mistress, so many years ago. She gave his life (or, rather, unlife...) a purpose in this purposeless existence. She created her own meaning because – like Phyacair – she was completely aware of The Truth. And unlike him, she had a will strong enough to create her own.

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Brady Shea
Artist | Hobbyist | Literature
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Phyacair stood in one of the halls in the newly re-constructed Ashen Citadel – floating safely out of reach between dimensions in the depths of deep, deep space – and stared out of a nearby window. The cold and emotionless depths of the infinite stretched out forever beyond the glass. A strange sensation burbled within the desiccated walking corpse, rustling the cobwebs in his lungs.

He liked this view.

The clever animals on Azeroth (and other worlds he had visited, besides) had all created the illusions of a universe with intrinsic meaning and objective concepts of “right” and “wrong”... but it is nothing but nonsense. It is a fantasy, meant to shield fragile minds from the pain and horrors of The Truth.

The Truth, Phyacair mused to himself as he gazed into the abyss, is that there is no objective meaning in anything. We are – all of us – nothing more than insignificant specks, clinging desperately to a mote of dust hanging in a sunbeam. Adrift in an emotionless void, there are no gods, there is no ultimate higher purpose in life, and nothing has any inherent value. The universe is vast, uncaring, unfeeling, and utterly indifferent to both our pain and our triumphs.

He liked that idea.

This was one of many things that drew him to serve his Dark Mistress, so many years ago. She gave his life (or, rather, unlife...) a purpose in this purposeless existence. She created her own meaning because – like Phyacair – she was completely aware of The Truth. And unlike him, she had a will strong enough to create her own.
Phyacair checked his pocket watch again. Blast. Only five seconds had passed since the last time he checked. This was starting to vex him greatly.

The decrepit walking corpse grumbled to himself as he put away the watch and settled back into his seat overlooking the ruined town of Ambermill. He knew that there was an underground facility beneath the town hall, run by the Kirin Tor. He knew that they called it ‘Joint Base Ambermill,’ for some damn reason, although what that reason was exactly, he couldn’t say. He honestly didn’t care. His only concern right now was for the Dark Mistress: Tuera Ashama. Where is she?

The ruler of the former Ashen Citadel had entered the facility nearly three hours ago, and had yet to return. This was starting to worry Phyacair. Not because he was truly worried for her safety, obviously. That would be ridiculous. He knew that she could take care of herself; this fact had been proven many a time. Her immense power was one of the reasons she commanded such respect, and why Phyacair had chosen to devote his life to her, all those years ago. And it is also why he continued serving her in death.

But her plan had been to venture forth into the facility – using the access she obtained from the Director of Aberrant Magic, one Salazar Demes – and inspect the fourth level: the so-called Chamber of Death. She wanted to know if the research facility would be suitable for her purposes... and to see if there was enough space for The Device.

For such a seemingly simple objective – inspect the facility - three hours did seem to be pushing it, rather.

A twig snapped somewhere behind Phyacair. In a flash, he was on his feet, drawing his obsidian kris from its sheath and infusing his body with shadow magic. Ribbons of dark purple void energy scintillated off his ruined body, filling him with power before evaporating into the crisp night air.

But Tuera did not seem at all worried as she approached him with a smile.

“One of these days, I’ll manage to sneak up on you,” she said, smiling broad enough for her sharpened canines to glint in the moonlight. “But it is not today, I see.”

“My lady!” Phyacair exclaimed, and the void energies rippling across his form disappeared with a pop. As the energies vanished, so too did his strength; with a gasp, he fell to one knee. “Was your... was your excursion... a success?” Phyacair grit his teeth while pain wracked his every nerve. Suddenly, a hand appeared in front of his face, and Phyacair accepted Tuera’s aid. Renewed strength returned to his limbs as she helped him back on his feet.

“Walk with me,” Tuera said, handing the undead man his cane. “We have much to discuss.” She turned on her heel, disappearing back into the woods; Phyacair set off after her, as fast as his bones would allow.

~

The night air of Silverpine was unnaturally still. Even so many years after the invasion of the Scourge, hardly any animals remained... except the animals that walked on two legs. Forsaken assassins stalked the darkened corners, hunting for and hunted by worgen – both feral and Gilnean alike – who called the woods home. But these were of no concern to the two figures striding through the woods, casually as one would walk to the corner store.

“What news, my lady?” Phyacair asked. “After all... you were gone for quite some time. Was there trouble?”

“Strangely enough, no,” Tuera chuckled softly, the expensive silken cloth of her robes flowing behind her like fire licking a tree. “Frankly, I’m still amazed that none in the Kirin Tor have recognized me. After everything I’ve done, I thought for sure they would kill me on sight – but no! The Magus Senate let me in without issue, no questions asked. It’s hilarious, and further goes to prove that they’re all idiots!”

“It’s possible that I may have had something to do with that, my lady,” Phyacair paused, considering his next words carefully. “During your... extended absence –” And then Tuera cut him off.

“You mean while I was dead?” She said with a smirk. Phyacair coughed roughly, nodding his agreement.

“Quite. During that time, I did everything I could to prepare. Not just rebuilding The Device, of course, but... erasing all traces of your existence. Destroying public records, altering memories, eliminating witnesses whose minds were not pliable...” Phyacair coughed again. “You deserved a clean slate, Mistress.”

“And that is why I am glad you’re with me, Phy,” Tuera said with another smile, as the red in her eyes started to burn brightly. “Your loyalty and ingenuity are truly without peer.” Phyacair bowed his head slightly as she spoke.

“I live to serve, Mistress,” he said softly. “But... what of the facility? Will it serve your purposes, my lady?” Tuera tapped her chin several times before finally giving up with a shrug.

“Maybe, but probably not,” she said. “I mean, it’s yet another ‘secret underground facility.’ I swear, I have seen so many of those on this planet over the years... the inside of Azeroth must be practically honeycombed by now!”

“Yes... For some reason, people certainly love building ‘down’ to create dungeons, don’t they?” Phyacair tried to chuckle, but just ended up coughing again. “After all, we contributed at least three of those kinds of bases ourselves, way back when, didn’t we?” Tuera paused, swiveling in place to look at Phyacair.

“No... Not three. It was four. Remember?” Phyacair furrowed his brow, narrowed his pitch-black eye, and tilted his head as he tried to remember.

“Oh, yes...” he said, eventually.

“Regardless,” Tuera said, resuming her stroll through the woods, with Phyacair just behind. “Venturing into the facility, this... Joint Base Ambermill, was illuminating. Certainly, there is interesting research being conducted in the bowels of the facility, and it may prove useful to our endeavors in... some regards.”

“But not all?” Phyacair asked with a raised eyebrow, and Tuera shook her head.

“The transparency within the base itself is far too large a hurdle for us to work around consistently,” Tuera said. “Salazar insisted to me that the lowest levels are ‘his’ domain, and that we could be free to work within, and not worry about the prying eyes of the Kirin Tor. But the upper levels are run by the Magus Senate Ministry of War.”

“That does not sound promising,” Phyacair grunted out.

“Certainly not,” she agreed with a nod. “But more than that, there isn’t nearly enough space to build The Device properly. Enough for a single pod, like the one you built. But not large enough for a proper production line, there’s no space for the cloning vats, the power requirements are completely sub-standard for our needs... really, the Soulstone Network is all that would fit, but I wouldn’t trust it there with the Ministry of War in such close proximity.”

“A long list of negatives,” Phyacair nodded. “We’ll have to find a more suitable location...”

“It does seem that way,” Tuera responded, smiling again. “But thankfully, we have time on our side, for once.” Phyacair furrowed his brow again.

“We do?” he asked. “My lady, if I may... are we not picking up where you left off, before you were unjustly murdered?” Tuera actually laughed out loud, the sound echoing through the tall, plagued trees of Silverpine.

“Oh, bloody hell, no!” she said, calming down to a soft chuckle. “Do you remember what it was like, back in the days of the Crimson Dagger cult? Back when I seriously thought I could bring this world to heel? It was so much work! All the time! And the only result for all of my efforts... was yet more work. It was a nightmare! Whatever rewards I gained were simply not worth the mountains of trouble it took to get to that point. Like fighting a never ending army of ogres, and the only rewards were three copper pieces.” Tuera chuckled again. “I’m not going to work that hard for so little reward ever again. Ever.”

For a few seconds, the two of them continued walking through woods in silence, while Phyacair considered her words.

“So, what are your plans, my lady?” he asked, obviously confused.

“Oh, it’s quite simple, really,” Tuera halted in place, looking back at her minion with a smile. “I’m going to do whatever I want... whenever I want... and however I want to do it.”

“And... The Device?” Phyacair asked, still not quite understanding. “How will that feature into your plans?” Tuera just kept smiling.

“Oh, my dear Phyacair,” Tuera reached out and caressed the top of his bald, scabby head, smiling all the while. “You know me better than anyone. You should know by now what I find fun. Making enemies will be inevitable. So, constructing a device that will allow me to cheat death as much as I want? That’s merely erring on the side of caution.”

Phyacair nodded slowly, and the two of them continued their walk through the woods.

“Yes...” Tuera muttered with another giggle. “I can tell already, this is going to be fun!”
Of Joint Bases and Soulstone Networks
So, this is a short story I actually wrote several months ago. As I'm sure many of you are aware, I play World of Warcraft, and the Tuera in my New Vegas story originally comes from one of my characters, where she is quite a bit different. In New Vegas, she's a well intentioned extremist at worst, or an anti hero at best.

In Warcraft? She's a straight up supervillain. Like a cross between Darkseid, Thanos, Ernst Stavro Blofeld, the Dark Phoenix, and (after she came back the latest time) the madness of the Joker.

I wanted to do a little arc welding, connecting my old scribbles about the character to how she appears now.

As a consequence, I think those Inventory stories may very well become canon... Sheason and the Death Knight Tuera got their happy ending where they metaphorically rode off into the sunset, and just as Sheason predicted, Tuera is going to start some shit.

And she will become someone else's problem.
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Chapter 164: Roundabout



~*~~***~~*~

Guess who’s back, children? That’s right! You can HEEEEEEEAR MEEEEE! THREEEEE DAWG! OW! Ya can’t stop the signal, baby! Sorry for the interruption, but I’m back with a treat for all y’all listening! Some BRAND! NEW! MUSIC! That’s right kiddies, I’ve got some new music not heard since the Big One, and you are gonna hear it here first! Don’t you feel special? Damn right you do! AHWOOOOO!

~*~~***~~*~

I brought my Corvega to a halt in front of the Jacobstown front gate, and the bushes to either side got up and approached me.

“Oh,” the super mutant in the ghillie suit grunted out as soon as he recognized me. “It’s you again.”

“You get many other visitors up here, driving cars with racing stripes?” I asked with a smirk. The bush in front of me rustled slightly.

“Who are they?” The walking foliage motioned with his gun at the Roadkill and the Deuce behind me.

“It’s cool, they’re with me,” I said. “There’s a super mutant from the east coast, wants to see Marcus. I promised him that I’d make introductions.” The mutant in the ghillie suit stared at me for a few seconds (at least, I think he stared. Hard to tell under all that foliage), but eventually stepped aside to let us in.

“Stay out of trouble, kid.”

- - -

“Marcus!” I yelled, waving to get his attention. “There y’are! Been looking all over for you, man!” Even from this distance, his orange metal shoulder made him distinctive from the other super mutants, so it’s not like I could miss him. The large super mutant turned at the sound of my voice, while smoke from his cigar curled around his head.

“Oh, if it isn’t the Courier again,” Marcus pulled the cigar from his mouth and pointed at the vehicles behind me. “And friends!” He chuckled and shook his head, displacing the halo of smoke. “You need a hobby other than collecting people.” Behind me, I heard the top hatch of the Roadkill pop open.

“You know, I get the same spiel from Sarah every time I head back east,” Chris said, stepping out of the hovercraft with a thud. “Though, to be fair, we kinda ended up collecting each other for our adventures the last few days.” Chris paused, cocking his head to the side as if pondering those words. “Er... so to speak.”

Marcus regarded the Vault kid carefully as he approached and held out his hand to the mutant. After a moment’s hesitation, Marcus shook it heartily – though he did seem surprised that Chris’ hand was large enough to not get swallowed up entirely by his meaty fist.

“Nice suit,” he said with a chuckle. “My name’s Marcus. I’m pretty much in charge here in Jacobstown.” Chris nodded, smiling broadly.

“Oh, I know who you are. I must’ve read my father’s journals about a million times over.” Marcus did a double take, and narrowed his eyes in confusion at Chris, who just kept smiling and patted his chest. “My name is Christopher. I’m James’ son.”

Marcus’ jaw dropped.

“You are having me on!” he practically shouted.

“I’m serious! I know all about my old man’s shenanigans as the Chosen One. Guess this kind of adventuring, crazy, heroic spirit just kinda runs in the blood, right?”

Chris made a clicking sound with his mouth and pointed at me with a nod. Before I could question what the hell that meant, he started patting Marcus on the back, leading him to the Roadkill and laughing. To be honest, the whole thing happened so fast that I wasn’t entirely sure I’d actually seen what I thought I’d seen.

“Look, you and I have a lot to talk about,” Chris said as the two of them walked. “I mean, I definitely want to find out what my old man was like back in the old days, before he settled in the Capital Wasteland. But the main reason I’m here is because I’ve got someone who wants to meet you. Hey Fawkes!” No answer. “FAWKES! You awake?”

An indistinct grunt echoed from deep inside of the Roadkill. Chris sighed heavily and shook his head.

“Uh... gimmie a minute. This... could take a while,” he said, climbing back into the hovercraft; the fact that he seemingly disappeared into the darkness entirely and I couldn’t see where he’d gone made me wonder if his hovercraft had some of that ‘bigger-on-the-inside’ alien tech like the Mothership. Marcus stood there, a bit stunned, and I made my way over to his side.

“Yeah, he does that,” I said, folding my arms across my chest. Rather thankfully, because it managed to soften the blow when he backhanded my chest with what he probably thought was a love-tap. It almost knocked my off my feet.

“What the hell! The Chosen One’s kid shows up, and you don’t come to me first?”

“What, just like that you believe him?” I asked. “I didn’t believe him until I saw the Vault 13 suit hanging on the wall.”

“Of course I believe him. He’s practically a carbon copy of James, except with blonde hair instead of brown. This is just the kind of thing I meant when I said ‘call me if things get weird,’ you know?”

“Yeah, I know. I’m sorry, but we really didn’t have time to visit before we had to travel to the lunar surface to fight the Space Enclave in their Secret Nazi Moon Base.”

There was a long pause.

“What,” Marcus deadpanned.

“Don’t worry, I’ll tell you all about it tomorrow.”

“Tomorrow?”

“Yeah, that’s kind of the other reason I’m here, actually...” I glanced back at the Roadkill; it was shaking in midair, but I still couldn’t see either Chris or Fawkes. “It wasn’t just to introduce you to those two idiots. I’ve got a bit of a business proposal for you.”

“Do I even want to know?”

“I’ve spent most of today visiting all the major players in the Mojave, trying to get them together for a meeting in the Lucky 38 tomorrow. The Followers, the Three Families, the Boomers, the Kings... I even talked to some folks from Goodsprings and Novac. So far, everyone has agreed to come – even on such short notice – and I thought I’d extend an invitation to you as well, so Jacobstown can... shall we say, get in on the ground floor.”

“A meeting?” Marcus eyed me curiously, taking a long puff of his cigar. “What kind of meeting?”

“One where we decide on the future of the Mojave once I send both the NCR and Legion packin’ with their tails between their legs,” I said with a smirk. “I don’t want Vegas to be just like it was before the bombs. And it needs to change from how it is now, still trying to shake off House’s influence. I want a place were people can look to the future, rather than clinging desperately to the past and lamenting about how great things used to be. I’m gonna try and make something new, and something better... for everyone and anyone who wants the chance to be better. I want that plan to include you, and everyone else in Jacobstown.”

Marcus thoughtfully rubbed his chin for a few seconds, contemplating the idea. Cigar smoke leaked out of his nostrils in oily, dirty ribbons.

“It’s an interesting idea...” he said, pulling out the cigar and blowing a massive smoke ring. “But how would I even get to Vegas in the first place? There’s a reason Jacobstown is so far out of the way. People just don’t like us muties, and it’s been years since I was able to roll into a town and come out un-shot. And that was just because of James.”

“Well, obviously that’s one of the hurdles we’re going to have to work on. But I think I have a good short term solution to get you to the meeting, so we can all work on a better long term solution.” I leaned to the side to point at the deuce. “You guys can use that. It can hold Stripe in the back hidden by the tarp, no problem, so I’m sure you and a few others won’t have any problem either. Besides, once you guys get close, I’ll dispatch a squad of securitrons. They’ll give you an armed escort all the way through the city, just to be on the safe side.”

“Call me crazy,” Marcus grunted. “But I still think someone is going to notice a super mutant behind the wheel before we even get close to the Vegas wall.”

“And I think you’re giving people too much credit,” I said, unable to hold back a smile. “Nobody has noticed or said shit about Roxie driving the deuce, and she does it all the time.”

On cue, I heard a bark from the inside of the truck cab. Roxie rested her front paws on the window frame and stuck her head out, panting happily and obliviously. Marcus stared for several seconds, his jaw working uselessly and the gears in his head grinding so hard that they were practically audible.

“Yeah... don’t bother trying to figure out how she does it,” I said with a shrug, patting him on the side of the arm. “I haven’t worked it out my own self.”

“... And here I thought my time with the Chosen One meant I’d seen everything.

It was at this point Christopher and Fawkes emerged from within the Roadkill; Fawkes was still rubbing his face, blearily trying to wake himself up.

“Why is it you only ever wake me up when I’m dreaming about the twins?” Fawkes grunted to Chris. “You always manage to wake me up before it gets good!”

“Marcus,” Chris said, hopping out of the hovercraft to get in front of the still waking-up mutant. “I’d like you to meet a friend of mine. Fawkes, Marcus. Marcus, Fawkes.” By now, Fawkes had seemingly regained basic control of his motor skills, and reached out to shake Marcus’ hand.

“Ah, hello! It’s nice to meet you, I’ve heard a great deal about you and your accomplishments. I’ve also heard about this settlement! I’ve been curious to know what a peaceful metahuman community is like, ever since I heard the first rumors...”

“It’s nice to meet you too. And, really, Jacobstown is nothing special,” Marcus said. “We’re honestly all just folk now, trying to get by.” He paused, taking a draw from his cigar to try and mask his deliberation as to how he should phrase his next question: “But... ah... if you don’t mind me asking, where are you from? You don’t look like one of The Master’s or one of those Second Gens...” He chuckled. “I didn’t think we could turn yellow.”

“Ah, yes! Well, I originally hail from Vault 87. They had vats of FEV there, before the bombs, and...”

I didn’t get to hear the rest, because a pair of thunderous footfalls was approaching fast, accompanied by a harsh voice that sounded like someone woke up every morning to gargle some gravel and broken glass.

“Jimmy!” the rough voice said before a pair of familiar hands wearing oversized gardening gloves wrapped themselves around me, picking me up off the ground. “Oh, little Jimmy, it’s so wonderful to see you! Give your grandma a hug, snookums!” Thankfully, the noise had given me time to prepare, so I avoided the same injuries as the last time this happened.

“Hello, Lily,” I said with a smile, wedging my cybernetic arm in just the right spot in her bear hug to keep her from crushing me. “It’s nice to see you too.”

“OH!” she seemed genuinely surprised. “You’re not Jimmy! Of course you’re not!” She paused, her grip around me loosening for half a second before coming back round again. “Well, give your grandma some sugar anyway! It’s been ages since you came to visit!”

- - -

I will remember you!
Your silhouette will charge the view!
Of distant atmospheeeeeeeere!
Call it morning driving thru the sound and even in the valleeeeey!


“Sounds like Three Dog is adjusting to the new music rather well,” I said with a smile and nod. Chris, Cass and I were all up on Mothership Zeta for a bit of well earned relaxation, and Galaxy News Radio was playing on the ship’s intercom. I kicked back in the metal chair bolted to the deck, cracked open a beer on the armrest, and enjoyed the view of the planet and stars beyond the window in front of me.

“Oh, yeah! He thinks it’s great!” Chris swung his leg over the back of the chair next to me and sat down with a fresh six pack in hand. “It’s a bit too soon to say for certain if everyone else will like the change, but apparently he’s already gotten a few calls, praising the new tracks. I think Veronica’d like that.”

“Speakin’ of, where is V? I haven’t seen her since breakfast this morning,” Cass said from somewhere behind me. She was walking around the room, checking out all the various bits and bobs Chris had stored here; apparently, he called it his ‘trophy cabinet’ because this was where he kept all the souvenirs from his adventures.

“Yeah... I don’t think we’re going to see a lot of either her or Christine,” I said, unable to hold back a chuckle. “I mean... you saw the two of them at the table, right? They hardly touched any of the food, since they were so focused on each other!”

“Fair point,” Cass shrugged. “They deserve th’ win.”

“From everything you’ve said about those two, it seems to me like they’ve got a lot of catching up to do,” Chris chuckled along with me. “Good for them.”

“So, here’s a question fer ya,” Cass leaned against the back of Chris’ chair and poked the top of his head before pointing at a spot behind me. “What are you gonna do with th’ Prime head?”

I shifted in my chair to look at where Cass was pointing, and saw the giant severed head of Liberty Prime sitting silently in the corner. The single eye was dim, but not completely burned out, and every once in a while it pulsed softly.

“Oh, trust me. I’ll make good use of the big lug – probably rebuild him. Again. But hey, at least this time I won’t have to start from scratch, right?”

“I’m still surprised you were even able to save that much,” I said, knocking back another gulp of beer. “I thought for sure you’d have been like Cass’n me: too busy worrying about everything exploding to worry about too much else.”

“Well, I had to go back for at least the head. The braincase is where the AI core and memory databanks are located,” he grinned, toasting his glass in the direction of the giant metal head. “Here’s to ya, big guy! I’ll have you back up and on your feet in no time!”

The single eye pulsed brightly, and the robot head tried to stutter out some words. But unfortunately, it was too garbled and unintelligible to understand.

“The thing I want to know,” I shifted to look back at Chris. “Did he win his fight with the Mega Patriot?”

“I think so,” Chris nodded, taking another drink. “I mean, there wasn’t much left when I found him, and there wasn’t much time to check before everything went boom. But I’m pretty sure I saw most of Prime’s sword buried in the Patriot’s face.”

“Good man!” I practically shouted, holding my drink up in Prime’s direction again. “I knew you’d kick his ass!” Chris and I started laughing, but we stopped when Cass spoke up again.

“Hey, Shea! C’mon an’ take a look at this!” I grumbled a bit as I reluctantly pulled myself away from my seat. And I had just gotten myself settled, too. But I eventually got up and made my way over to Cass, who was standing next to a bobblehead stand, emblazoned with the Vault Tec logo on the side. Cass poked a couple, and laughed as their comically oversized heads started wobbling. “I thought he was kiddin’ about th’ whole bobblehead collection!”

“That is certainly a lot of bobbleheads,” was the first phrase to spring to mind. There were twenty of the damn things, all in various poses and all wearing Vault suits, but the really odd thing... “Hang on, did you find these in the wasteland? There isn’t a scratch on ‘em.”

“Oh yeah, I found those all over the place! The whole bobblehead hunt is a great way for stat building if you’ve got the right SPECIAL setup.” Chris took another drink, and Cass wasn’t really paying attention (still flicking the heads of the various tiny statues), but the little voice in my head was screaming his British head off.

“Okay, no,” I said, prodding Chris in the chest. “I’m not letting this shit go by unquestioned anymore. What the fuck are you talking about, stat building? And I want an answer I can understand, none of that incomprehensible gibberish bullshit jargon you like to spout.” Chris looked at me curiously, but kept smiling.

“What, have you never checked out your SPECIAL stats on your Pip Boy? What did you think that ‘STATS’ button meant? It’s been there the whole time, you’ve just got to tab away from the medical diagram. Here, let me show you.” He motioned for me to give him my arm, and I barely raised it halfway before he took the arm computer in hand and started flicking through the functions. “There you go, all your vital statistics, easy to understand on a 1 to 10 scale. Take a look.”

“... huh.” I said aloud as I read what were (apparently) my SPECIAL stats. All fairly straightforward stuff, if it was accurate. Several of my stats – like strength, intelligence, and luck – were a lot higher than I was expecting, but there was one thing about this list that immediately caught my attention because of how low it was (at least, compared to all the rest):

“Hang on, six?” I yelled, tapping the screen, thinking it was a mistake. “SIX?! I have more endurance than that!” Next to my shoulder I heard Cass snort out a scoffing laugh.

“That’s up fer debate,” she laughed, before wrapping her arms around my shoulders and giving me a soft peck on the cheek. I floundered a bit; on the one hand I wanted to be a bit upset, but on the other hand I was not actually upset at all. And then I floundered even more when she started nibbling on my earlobe, casual as you please, and started whispering into my ear: “Ahhh, y’know I’m just teasin’ ya...”

“Hello sir!” a very familiar voice blared out of my Pip Boy after beeping several times, and Cass jumped at the sound. “Do you have a free moment? I have some news!”

“Uh... kinda busy here, Yes Man,” I said. However, Cass pulled away from me, her cheeks already starting to redden. Damn. I’m pretty sure I heard her mutter something about forgetting Chris was standing there. I let out a disappointed sigh. “Alright, what do you need?”

“Well, I think it’s time we talked about the President situation!” Yes Man said cheerfully. “His visit is, after all, fast approaching! Do you think you could come down to the penthouse at your earliest convenience?”

“Uh... sure. I’ll be down soon,” I said.

“Take your time!” Yes Man said. “I’m here to work for your schedule!” With a click, the transmission ended.

- - -

“Alright, Yes Man,” I said, stepping off the teleport platform in a flurry of sparks. “What have you got for me?”

“One moment, sir!” he replied from the other room, his voice booming and echoing through the speakers. “We should probably wait for our other arrival!”

“Other arrival?” I asked aloud, leaning on the railing.

Ding.

The elevator doors opened up, and seconds later Boone emerged. He nodded once at me, and calmly made his way to a spot at my side.

“What’s this about?” he grunted, folding his arms across his chest.

“It’s about the NCR President, Aaron Kimball!” Yes Man said. “As you know, I intercepted and decoded a military radio transmission, and I have conformation that the President is going to make an appearance at Hoover Dam on Christmas Day!”

“Wait, Christmas Day?” I asked aloud. “That... that’s the 25th, right?” Boone nodded next to me, and I paused, thinking. “What day is it right now? I can’t remember.”

“Pretty sure it’s the 22nd,” Boone said simply. I shook my head and sighed.

“Fuck me, where the hell has the time gone?” I chuckled softly, scratching the back of my head. “So, why’s he coming to visit now?”

“Probably to boost the morale of the troops!” Yes Man replied. “However, I’ve been doing some digging into some of House’s files. According to projections Mr. House made, Kimball has an 83.75% chance of being assassinated! Whoops!”

“And that was before we started fuckin’ with the Legion for shits and giggles, I bet,” I said, leaning against the railing. Yes Man’s monitor flickered.

“Yes, indeed!” Yes Man replied. “Anyway, it looks like Mr. House thought it was important to keep President Kimball alive!” That threw me for a loop. Before I could ask why, Yes Man continued. “Mr. House ran projections on how the NCR public will react to a defeat at Hoover Dam! Overwhelmingly, they’ll blame Kimball!”

“So, if we save the President it’ll just make him look like an idiot in the long run?” I asked rhetorically. Cautiously, I turned to Boone. “Would you be okay with that?” Boone shrugged.

“Better than letting him die. Besides...” Boone shrugged. “He’s the whole reason the NCR is even in this God-awful mess in the Mojave. He’s no Tandi, that’s for sure.” He snorted derisively. “I’m... not a fan.”

“Not to mention,” Yes Man continued, drawing our attention back to the screen. “If you save the President’s life, he’s sure to owe you a favor! A favor from a head of state seems like a good draw card to have! However: if Kimball dies at Hoover Dam, there’s no obvious scapegoat for the NCR public to blame. So they’ll blame Vegas instead!”

“That does not sound good,” which seemed like the understatement of the century.

“No, it doesn’t! Mr. House’s only concern was the reduced tourism and the reduced income as a consequence. However, I believe a negative view of Vegas from the NCR public will almost certainly hinder your overreaching plans for Vegas as well!”

“There’s just one problem,” I said, thinking back to my unfortunate meeting with Ambassador Crocker the other day. “I don’t think the NCR really likes ‘The Courier’ all that much. Pretty sure they’re not going to let me even get close enough to the President to protect him.”

“I think that’s why I’m here,” Boone grunted. He turned back to the screen. “Those intercepted transmissions you picked up – did they tell you who’s in charge of security?”

“Yes, they did!” Yes Man replied happily. “A Ranger Captain named Graham Grant is in charge of security for the event!”

“And that’s our in,” Boone smirked. I looked up at him questioningly. “I know Grant from my 1st Recon days. He may be a ‘shoot first, the questions aren’t important’ sort, but he trusts anyone who’s served alongside him in combat. If you let me do the talking, I can get us close enough to help.”

“Fantastic!” I clapped him on the shoulder with a laugh. “Let’s go save President Dumbass then!”

“Kimball,” Boone corrected. I shrugged.

“Whatever.”

“Once the President is safe, there’s one more thing you need to take care of...” Yes Man began, but I held up a finger and he immediately stopped. My Pip Boy was beeping at me, in the same way it always did when I got a message. And that made me slightly apprehensive.

“Hang on... Yes Man, did you just send something to my Pip Boy?” I asked. Yes Man’s monitor flickered.

“No, I haven’t sent you anything. I’m talking to you right now! There’s no need to send you anything!” The bottom immediately fell out of my stomach, as I started to wonder just what the fuck was going on. I fiddled with the knobs until I came to the message tab on my wrist computer. It was little more than a few simple words:

13th and Carson

I stared at the words for a few seconds, unable to make sense of it. Seemed like an address... and the only place those street names would really work would have to be somewhere out in Freeside. I racked my brain, trying to place it on a mental map... And then, it hit me like a sledgehammer to the back of the skull.

It couldn’t be. It wasn’t possible. But my heart skipped a beat just the same, and before I knew what was happening, my feet were already carrying me to the exit.

“...I have to go,” I muttered. As I ran to the elevator, Yes Man called out to say one last thing.

“Be careful out there! It won’t be long before the Legion makes its move!”

- - -

It was pitch dark by the time I reached my destination in Freeside. The point where 13th street met Carson Avenue was a nondescript warehouse... and on the roof was a broken skylight. This was where my fight with Tuera had abruptly come to an end, obviously, and there was only one reason anyone would tell me to come here. I looked around apprehensively... but I was all alone.

Or so I thought.

“You followed my advice,” a soft voice called out to me from the darkness. I turned at the sound, trying in vain to control my breathing.

A familiar female figure walked out into the open, from behind the still dented and broken AC box at the far end of the roof. She was wearing civilian clothes – jeans, a black jacket over a white shirt, with a black baseball cap covering her face – but I knew those curves like the back of my hand.

“Tuera...” I whispered out hoarsely, hardly able to believe it. “How are...” I gulped, trying to swallow away the dryness in my mouth. “How did you survive?” She kept her hands in her jacket pockets and shrugged.

“How did you?” she smiled at me from under the brim of her ballcap. My mouth twitched, and I let out a single, wheezing chuckle. Every fiber of my being wanted to run up to her as fast as I could, wrap my arms around her, and never let go.

Both of us stood at opposite ends of the rooftop, rooted in place.

“When... when you and Panzer squared off, and I... you didn’t...” I shook my head, running my hand across the top of my head. “I thought you were a goner.”

“So did I,” Tuera said calmly, reaching up to grab the brim of her hat and pull it down over her face. Slowly, she started to walk in my direction. “But he left without confirming the kill.” She chuckled. “He always was sloppy. I escaped, fought my way to one of the launch bays, and stole a cargo shuttle.”

“But... what about...” I gulped again; the dryness in my mouth would not go away. “Didn’t you say you wanted to die on your feet?” Without even really thinking about it, my legs started carrying me in her direction.

“I do,” she said calmly, and a shiver went up my spine. “But I was never going to just lie down and let myself be killed. They all tried their best to bring me down...” She looked up, and her eyes caught in the moonlight, glinting slightly. “And they all failed.”

For fuck sake! I thought to myself. Why the hell didn’t she tell me that before?!

“Well, t-there y’go,” I stammered out. Even I couldn’t tell if I was trying to smile or if it was just a full-on grimace. “I told you we’d all make it out of there alive.”

“That you did,” she let out a single, soft laugh. “I guess I shouldn’t have doubted you.”

“You shouldn’t have doubted yourself.” The two of us came to a halt, about an arms length away from each other. “You... you have no idea how glad I am to see you...” She smiled up at me, and my heart leapt.

But then I got a good look at her face: she was trying to hide it with the hat, but her left cheek had a nasty, jagged scar that ran along the line of her jaw, and forked into three prongs as it approached her eye. My breath caught in my throat. I wanted to reach out and touch her, if only to prove to myself that she was really standing in front of me, and I wasn’t just imagining it...

I didn’t budge an inch.

“So,” I gulped back the dryness, yet again, if only to try and calm myself down. “What are you going to do now?”

Tuera was silent for a long time, looking down at her shoes to hide her face.

“Hadn’t really thought about it,” she shrugged. “I suppose I’ll just... keep doing what I’m best at.” She looked up slightly, but her eyes were still hidden. “Survive.”

“You know,” I coughed, desperately trying to maintain composure. “You don’t... you don’t have to go...” She curiously peeked out at me from under her hat brim. “I mean... there’s plenty of room at the 38, after all. We still need all the help we can get to take down Caesar.”

“Less than you might think,” she said with a chuckle. I furrowed my brow, confused.

“What do you mean?”

“About a month ago, I infiltrated the Fort,” she said simply, and that caught me completely off guard. “My mission was to assassinate Caesar, to try and cut the head off the snake. But the job was already done.”

“Wh... hang on, Caesar’s dead?” I asked incredulously. She nodded. “Who killed him?”

“Time,” she shrugged. “I overheard some of the high ranking Legionnaires talking about what happened. Apparently, he’d been suffering from a malignant brain tumor for some time. One day he fell asleep, and just didn’t wake up.”

“Dying in his sleep...” I growled, shaking my head. “That’s too good of an end for that slave trading fuck.” Tuera chuckled, nodding in agreement.

“No argument from me,” she said. I paused, the gears turning in my head as I did the math, and realized:

“His death hasn’t changed a thing,” I sighed. “Has it?” Tuera shook her head.

“Doesn’t look that way.”

“Still, I... well...” I scratched the back of my head, unable to properly figure out what to do with my hands. “Look, the real reason I want you to stay is...” Despite my best efforts, the words were refusing to manifest. “I just... I’d love it if you decided to stick around.”

Tuera slowly shook her head and my heart sank.

“Look, Shea... I... I’m sorry,” she practically whispered. “But I’ve... Hell, I’ve seen the way you look at that Cassidy girl. And I...” She sighed heavily. “I don’t want to complicate things.”

If you pay close attention, you can actually hear the shattering sound of my heart.

“I... I understand.” I muttered. Every part of me felt numb, and I turned on my heel to walk away. “Guess we missed our window...”

A hand reached out to take hold of mine, and I halted on the spot, looking back.

“Shea... I don’t think you do understand.” Cautiously, I stepped back, and she reached out to take my other hand. “I love you. I still love you. I always have, and I always will. But...” Her mouth worked up and down for a few seconds, but no sound emerged. “I can’t have a... a life with you. I haven’t aged a day since the procedure that turned me into... this... thing. I don’t know how long I’ll live. I don’t know if I can even die...” She reached up and gently touched my cheek, and the two of us drew in closer. “Shea, please believe me. I would love the chance to live a normal life with you...to grow old with you... but I physically can’t. Not in this lifetime...”

I didn’t hesitate a moment more. I reached out and grabbed the bill of her hat, tossing it aside. Her hair fell loosely around her face, and I wrapped my arm around her waist, holding her in a tight embrace. I took her face in my hands, and...

For a single moment, everything in the world was perfect.

“Well then,” I whispered to her huskily. “I guess I’ll just have to find you in the next one, won’t I?” Tuera laughed softly, and she wrapped her arms around me tighter. She planted another soft kiss on my lips, pausing just long enough to nibble slightly. Her warm breath caressed my cheek, sending shivers of excitement down my spine.

“I’ll hold you to that.”

- - -

The air was crisp and cool as I walked through the Freeside streets, but there was warmth in my chest, lifting my spirits. When I closed my eyes, I could still taste her on my lips... smell her sweet, intoxicating scent... feel the electric tingle of her fingers on my skin...

I opened my eyes and couldn’t help but smile. The chapter of my life with Tuera may have finally come to an end... but at least this time, I got the chance to say goodbye. And that alone made it worth everything.

I sighed contentedly, and resumed the stroll back to the 38.

“To be continued...”
HERE WE GO

- - -

Tuesday, Oct 11 2281: Flashback in Chapter 1
-Coma-
Wednesday, Oct 19 2281: Chapters 1 and 2
Thursday, Oct 20 2281: Chapters 3, 4, 5, and 6
Friday, Oct 21 2281: Chapters 7, 8, 9, 10, and 11
Saturday, Oct 22 2281: Chapters 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, and 16
Sunday, Oct 23 2281: Chapter 17
Monday, Oct 24 2281: Chapters 18, 19, 20, and 21
-Coma-
Thursday, Oct 27 2281: Chapters 22, and 23
Friday, Oct 28 2281: Chapters 23, 24, 25, 26, and 27
Saturday, Oct 29 2281: Chapters 27, 28, 29, 30, and 31
Sunday, Oct 30 2281: Chapters 32, 33, and 34
Monday, Oct 31 2281: Chapter 35, and 36
Tuesday, Nov 1 2281: Chapters 36, and 37
Wednesday, November 2 2281: Chapter 37, and 38
Thursday, Nov 3 2281: Chapters 38, and 39
Friday, Nov 4 2281: Chapters 39, 40, and 41
Saturday, Nov 5 2281: Chapters 42, 43, 44, 45, and 46
Sunday, Nov 6 2281: Chapters 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, and 52
Monday, Nov 7 2281: Chapters 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, and 58
Tuesday, Nov 8 2281: Chapters 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, and 64
Wednesday, Nov 9 2281: Chapters 65, 66, 67, and 68
Thursday, Nov 10 2281: Chapters 68, 69, 70, 71, and 72
Friday, Nov 11 2281: Chapters 72, 73, 74, 75, and 76
Saturday, Nov 12 2281: Chapters 77 and 78
Sunday, Nov 13 2281: Chapters 79 and 80
Monday, Nov 14 2281: Chapter 80
Tuesday, Nov 15 2281: Chapter 81 and 82
Wednesday, Nov 16 2281: Chapters 83, 84, and 85
Thursday, Nov 17 2281: Chapter 86 and 87
Friday, Nov 18 2281: Chapter 88
Saturday, Nov 19 2281: Chapter 89
Sunday, Nov 20 2281: Chapters 90, 91, 92, 93, and 94
Monday, Nov 21 2281: Chapter 95
-Coma-
Friday, Nov 25 2281: Chapters 96, 97, 98, 99, and 100
Saturday, Nov 26 2281: Chapters 101, 102, and 103
-Coma-
Tuesday, Nov 29 2281: Chapters 104, and 105
Wednesday, Nov 30 2281: Chapters 106, 107, 108 and 109
Thursday, Dec 1 2281: Chapters 110, 111, and 112
Friday, Dec 2 2281: Chapters 113, 114, 115, 116, 117, and 118
Saturday, Dec 3 2281: Chapter 119
Sunday, Dec 4 2281: Chapters 120, 121, 122, 123, 124, 125, 126, 127, 128, and 129
Monday, Dec 5 2281: Chapters 130, 131, 132, 133 and 134
Tuesday, Dec 6 2281: Chapters 135, and 136
Wednesday, Dec 7 2281: Chapters 136, 137, and 138
Thursday, Dec 8 2281: Chapter 139
Friday, Dec 9 2281: Chapters 140 and 141
Saturday, Dec 10 2281: Chapters 141, 142, and 143
Sunday, Dec 11 2281: Chapters 144, 145, and 146
Monday, Dec 12 2281: Chapter 147
-Time skip-
Monday, Dec 19 2281: Chapters 148, 149, 150, 151, 152, 153, and 154
Tuesday, Dec 20 2281: Chapters 155, 156, 157, 158, 159, 160, 161, and 162
Wednesday, Dec 21 2281: Chapters 162 and 163
Thursday, Dec 22 2281: Chapter 164

- - -

Quite clearly, I am insane.

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:iconavenger09:
avenger09 Featured By Owner Edited Nov 21, 2016  Hobbyist General Artist
It's kinda sad/weird how all the previous Games antagonists have been declawed in the sequels. 
The Supermutants who once threatened to overrun humanity and convert them to their Unity. Are have become a common sight with many turning out to be all right people. 

The Enclave. Scattered to the four winds like leaf's from a felled tree, unlikely ever to sprout with the same might in the Radioactive soil. 

Makes me wonder how the Institute will fair in Future instalments. 
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:iconavenger09:
avenger09 Featured By Owner Edited Nov 14, 2016  Hobbyist General Artist
I've always wondered what Marcus though of good old Lou. www.youtube.com/watch?v=8U9T8Z…;
Perhaps he could reference him in conversation with Chris and Shea?
Or maybe share with Chris a photo of his Dad and his group, like this one. andronicusvii.deviantart.com/a…
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:iconhyperdragon97:
hyperdragon97 Featured By Owner Nov 10, 2016  Hobbyist Digital Artist
In your side stories taking place at the Inventory, you said that the character of Sheason Fisher could theoretically fit into almost any game or story. That has me wondering two things. First, what are the definitive traits that all iterations of Sheason would share? And second, what might Sheason be like as an Overwatch character?
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:iconsheason:
Sheason Featured By Owner Nov 10, 2016  Hobbyist Writer
I'm pretty sure Sheason is already there, underneath Soldier 76's face mask.
Now, I know Soldier 76 is the most boringly generic of all the colorful characters in that game, but look at the list:
-Old and grizzled as fuck
-A skilled killer, no matter what weapon he decides to use
-Probably drinks heavily
-Used to be idealistic and is now cynical and jaded, but will still do the right thing as a first instinct, despite himself.
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:iconhyperdragon97:
hyperdragon97 Featured By Owner Nov 10, 2016  Hobbyist Digital Artist
That actually makes a lot of sense. 
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:iconvoltron64:
Voltron64 Featured By Owner Oct 31, 2016
It's a bit of a dissapointment you won't have Tuera around when the Courier meets Lanius himself.

"Chuck? What in god's name is all this?"

"...And a pleasure to see you too, Mary."
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:iconsheason:
Sheason Featured By Owner Oct 31, 2016  Hobbyist Writer
I'm fairly certain he hasn't gone by Chuck in years.

"That name no longer has any meaning for me..."
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:iconavenger09:
avenger09 Featured By Owner Oct 25, 2016  Hobbyist General Artist
Have you ever thought of doing a height chart, so we can see Shea and his companions, against the Enclave, NCR, and Legion, characters?
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:iconavenger09:
avenger09 Featured By Owner Edited Oct 8, 2016  Hobbyist General Artist
This reminds me of the Talking heads we saw in 1 and 2. 
www.youtube.com/watch?v=T9SvLO…
So it's kind of gone full circle. 
The announcement trailer was also something. www.youtube.com/watch?v=ibi4iA…
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:iconvoltron64:
Voltron64 Featured By Owner Sep 24, 2016
I just wanna say, I can't help but visualize Chris as being danza-ed by a certain Mr. Hemsworth. ;)
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