Chapter 157: Patriotism
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“FALL BACK! FALL BACK, NOW!” One of the Enclave soldiers yelled over the clamor and the confusion. “EVERYBODY OUT! GO! G-” He tried to finish his thought, but his words evaporated in midair... along with the rest of him. I had to shield my eyes, because a huge fuck-off laser blasted the air right in front of this giant robot, turning every Enclave soldier in the vicinity into ash and cinders.
A giant robot. A giant robot called Liberty Prime. Fucking Liberty Prime! I couldn’t help but shake my head. Even the fucker’s name is over the top and ridiculous!
“Fuck me!” Cass said, unable to hold back laughter. “Well, okay, what d’we do now?”
“Usually whenever Prime is on the field, I tend to just follow him,” Chris shrugged, the servos in his power armor whirring. Off in the distance, I could hear the clamor of the few survivors still running away.
“Well, I mean...” Cass gestured to Prime, who was standing surprisingly still. “How’s he gonna get out of here? S’not like he’s gonna fit through the door...”
And then Prime spoke up again.
“OBSTRUCTION DETECTED,” the robot boomed, his voice shaking the ground beneath our feet and echoing off every wall. “COMPOSITION: TITANIUM ALLOY, SUPPLEMENTED BY SATURNITE REINFORCEMENT, REBAR STEEL, AND FASCISM!” With a bellow of robot motors and whining engines, Prime lifted up his right arm and reached back behind his head, making a fist. “PROBABILITY OF MISSION HINDRANCE:”
Prime slammed his fist into the wall with the force of a bomb. The wall swayed and moved in waves for the brief seconds it still existed – and then, the entire far end of the room buckled in on itself, flying apart like it was made out of paper. All of us (even Chris) had to steady ourselves from the blowback and all the shaking.
“ZERO PERCENT!” Prime’s voice thundered, just before he strode through the collapsed wall. As soon as Cass stopped choking from all the dust and smoke still swirling around us, she spoke up again.
“Ask a stupid question...” she chuckled.
“Shall we?” Chris gestured to the newly created hole, and Liberty Prime beyond it. The giant robot’s eye lasers fired again, and something exploded off in the distance.
“Okay, stop!” I held up my hands, and (amazingly) everyone stopped. “Before we go on, you need to explain something to me.” I pointed at Liberty Prime, who was standing still just outside the rubble, firing off another laser. “What the fuck is this thing?! Where did it come from? Where the fuck were you hiding it?”
“My guess is, he was keepin’ it up his ass,” Cass said with a shrug. “Seems t’be what he’s pullin’ everything else out’ve.”
“Eh, near enough,” Chris said. “Liberty Prime was a robot built by the pre-war army. They wanted to use him to help liberate Anchorage from the Chinese during the Resource Wars, but they couldn’t get him running before the bombs dropped. So he sat underneath the Pentagon for 200 years, collecting dust, until the Brotherhood of Steel fixed him.”
“Let me see if I’ve got this straight,” I said, ironically unable to keep a straight face. “We’re on a secret Moon base fighting the remnants of the old US government that have gone completely fascist, and on our side is a secret Army superweapon in the shape of a giant robot.”
“That shoots lasers out of its face!” Cass added.
“Well, not exactly,” Chris nodded.
“What do you mean, not exactly?” I asked.
“The original Liberty Prime only ran two missions before it was hit by an orbital missile strike and blown to smithereens. As far as I know, Rothchild and Ingram are still trying to rebuild that one. This one is Liberty Prime 2.0, and I built him using Zeta tech.”
“What,” I offered up flatly. Cass and I were both staring at him in slack-jawed astonishment. “Hang on, you built him?” I tried to imagine Muscles McMuscles building anything, and all I was picturing was a series of Rube Goldberg machines spontaneously bursting into flames.
“Well, Sally helped a bit,” Chris nodded.
“I’m calling bull,” Cass fired back.
“Fine, fine, she helped a lot,” Chris admitted with a chuckle. “We did have to make a few trade offs for this one, though. Unlike the Brotherhood, I don’t have an infinite supply of mini-nukes for him to throw like footballs, so Sally and I had to give him a few different weapons. Not to mention, the original Liberty Prime was programmed to see every enemy he fought as communists. I mean, yeah, it was funny watching him stomp around spouting anti-communist propaganda while fighting the Enclave. But it did limit his intelligence somewhat. So I... tweaked his personality a bit.”
“Tweaked it to what?” Cass asked, but she didn’t get an answer.
“ALLIES,” Liberty Prime’s booming voice filled the room as he gripped the edge of the destroyed wall and stuck his head inside. “WE SHOULD NOT LINGER. HOSTILE VECTORS ARE CLOSING ON OUR POSITION.”
“Sure thing, big guy!” Chris yelled back, giving the robot a thumbs up. “You go do your thing, we’ll be right behind you!” Slowly and methodically, the robot nodded. The single horizontal eye on his metallic face flashed, and he turned away from us, shifting his feet and bringing his arms up in a defensive posture. His whole body seemed to fill the hole in the wall, and... wait, was he shielding us?
“WARNING: ENCLAVE AIRSTRIKE INBOUND! DEFENSIVE MODE ACTIVE!” Prime bellowed. As he spoke, a pair of explosions hit him, sending out plumes of fire and smoke that curled around his left shoulder and his lower torso. The fire started raining down, but he barely moved from the impact of the detonations. “DEPLOYING SWORD.”
“Wait, what?” I asked. “Sword? Is that what he said?”
Prime reached back with his right arm again, like he was winding up a punch, and several plates on his forearm opened up. There was a series of heavy metal clunks, and a series of huge, shiny metal plates folded out of the arm, like it was connected to a chain. Prime dropped his arm, the chain snapped taught, and the pieces snapped together into a single sharpened blade with a humming, metal scraping sound.
One of the aircraft streaked overhead in a blur, almost too fast to see... but Prime was ready for the second. He lifted up the sword high over his head, and the second aircraft crashed headfirst into the blade’s edge. The two pieces of twisted metal that used to be an aircraft burst out of the explosion, flying in opposite directions away from the sword. The tumbling wreckage screamed overhead and out of sight, before crashing somewhere behind us.
“Holy fuckin’ shit!” Cass yelled, laughing raucously. “That was awesome!”
“ALLIES! ROLL OUT!” Prime said, lowering his arm and retracting his blade. Each piece returned to its sheath within his forearm with a heavy clunk. “THE ENCLAVE MUST BE STOPPED... NO MATTER THE COST!”
“Well, we should probably get a move on, then!” Chris said cheerfully, resting his big gun on his shoulder and stomping off towards Prime. He was no longer carrying his gatling laser, but I couldn’t see it discarded anywhere. Cass followed soon after, reloading her shotgun as she jogged behind him, trying to keep up. I was about to leave as well, but I looked around at the smoking remains of what was left of this giant room, and I realized: Tuera was still missing.
“Wait, where did... Tu?” I asked aloud, looking around (but still making my way to the giant hole in the building). “Tuera? Where di –” Before I could finish, someone grabbed the crook of my left arm and dragged me to a nearby darkened corner. There was a shimmer, and Tuera appeared in front of me, having somehow already hooked up a few wires from her Pip Boy into mine.
“I’m uploading the maps of the facility to your Pip Boy,” Tuera said, and then I realized she was speaking so softly that her voice was coming through my headset mic. “There’s also a cracker program, to help get you into the system. I don’t know how long it will last against Eden if he starts re-writing the code, but...”
“Hold on, what are you saying?” I cut her off. She just kept looking down, transferring the files between the computers.
“I can keep a better watch over you from above,” she muttered. “But it’ll be safer if...” She paused as her Pip Boy beeped, and then she pulled out the wires. “You’ll be the one to complete this mission. Not me.”
“Hey, you knock that shit off!” I said, grabbing her by the shoulders to try and get her to look up at me. “It’s like I told you before, Tu. We’re gonna get through this. We’re all gonna get through this.” Tuera stared at me with her expressionless helmet, and the both of us started to shake from an explosion off in the distance rocking the ground beneath our feet. So I pointed at the big hole in the building next to me with my thumb. “Besides, we’ve got a big fuck-off robot blowing up everything in sight. We’ll be fine!”
Tuera didn’t say a word as she vanished with a shimmer.
- - -
Following Liberty Prime is quite the experience, let me tell you.
“PEACE WILL NOT BE A CASUALTY OF OUR WAR! TYRANNY WILL NOT PREVAIL!”
Chris, Cass and I were following behind Prime as close as we dared. Tuera, meanwhile, only stayed with us for a grand total of two minutes before vaulting up the side of a nearby building and disappearing behind the rooftops. But I knew she’d be able to follow Prime, because... well...
Take a guess.
“FREEDOM IS THE RIGHT OF ALL SENTIENT BEINGS!”
Prime was way out in front, stomping away and blowing up everything in sight. The Enclave appeared to be mostly in a full retreat – where they were retreating to was anyone’s guess. Every once in a while, a pair of missiles would be fired from an alley or the upper levels of a nearby building, or another pair of aircraft would streak overhead in another attempt at a strafing run... and every time, the explosions just seemed to bounce off him like butterfly kisses. Fuck, he was like a scaled up version of Chris!
“DEMOCRACY WILL NEVER BE DEFEATED!”
“You know, as much as I enjoy watching the Enclave liquidizer going about his day job,” Chris said, just as Prime put his fist through a nearby building; the whole structure collapsed in a shower of debris and smoke. “I think we may have a bigger problem.”
“Eden?” I asked. Chris nodded.
“I’m gonna be honest with you,” Chris said with a sigh. “I’m not sure how we’re going to deal with him this time. I tried killing him before by blowing up Raven Rock, and that... well, obviously, it didn’t work.”
“You’re stumped, huh?” Cass asked.
“Blowing shit up is kinda the only string to my bow. If blowing shit up isn’t going to deal with a power-mad AI, then I’m not sure if I’m gonna be able to fix this if... if...” Chris trailed off, looking ahead. “Hang on. He’s stopped.” Cass and I followed his gaze, and sure enough, Prime had come to a stop right in front of a large wall. Except, it wasn’t a wall: it was a huge door. It was big enough that even Prime could have walked through it easily, and with plenty of room to spare. Above the door was a sign, with lettering large enough that I could see it clearly, even from as far back as I was.
“Patriot Launch Bay?” I asked aloud. “What is...”
“OBSTRUCTION DETECTED,” Prime bellowed. “SCANNING...”
And then the laughter started again.
“Oh, Christopher...” Eden’s laughing voice was broadcast from some unseen speakers all around us, and the sound started to echo off of everything. All of us – even Prime – seemed to look around to try and find the source. “I must say, you really have become so predictable, haven’t you? Marvelous!”
“Uh oh.” Chris said, definitely worried now. “That ain’t good.”
“I knew that you would resurrect your dear Liberty Prime,” Eden continued in his blatantly mocking tone. “He was your only defense against our might... and I knew you would bring him straight to me.” He started laughing again. “Did you think I would spend these last four years simply waiting for you to turn up? Only a fool would wait. I have been quite busy, as you will soon see...”
Klaxons sounded, and the door in front of Liberty Prime cracked open, in a shower of dust and smoke billowing out of the darkened interior. Liberty Prime took half a step back, bringing his arms up in another defensive posture.
“ENERGY SPIKE DETECTED,” Prime bellowed, pulling his left arm back behind his head. “PLASMA CANNON DISCHARGE IMMINENT. DEPLOYING SHIELD.” As he spoke the gigantic blast doors continued to grind inexorably open, but they were absurdly slow. It gave Prime the time he needed to deploy the shield. The panels on his forearm opened, and curved metal poles emerged, one at a time. It built the framework of a disk – with a five pointed star in the center – and it crackled to life with a series of red, white, and blue colored force fields.
The door wasn’t completely open yet, but something emerged out of the darkness: a massive cannon. The muzzle alone must have been ten feet across. The interior began to glow with an ominous purple light. Prime brought the shield to bear, and braced for the impact mere seconds before the plasma cannon erupted in fire.
Prime held onto his shield arm to brace against the impact... but the force of the plasma blast was massive. The ground beneath his feet started to get chewed up as he was pushed back towards us. Stray plasma started deflecting off the energy shield, setting fire to everything it touched. The three of us started backing up so we weren’t crushed underfoot.
And then things got even worse.
“I studied all of Liberty Prime’s combat data,” Eden’s voice returned once the cacophony of plasma fire died down. “I designed a weapon to counter your little toy... and thanks to the Zetan Mothership that crashed in central Illinois nearly four years ago, we were given the means to construct him!”
Chris froze completely.
“No...” I could hear him whisper through my headset. “Oh no... but... that means...”
“The researchers at Joliet always wondered where the alien starship came from, of course,” Eden continued as a low bellow of a growl rose in volume. “But I think I always knew, deep down, that you were responsible for gifting us such a boon. Only you could cause destruction on such a scale. But from that ruined alien spacecraft – like a phoenix rising from the ashes – came our greatest weapon!”
Four ominously glowing red eyes stared out from within the darkness of the room... and a pair of gigantic metal hands gripped the edges of the door. The metal buckled and strained, twisting under the grip as the doors were forced open by the behemoth inside.
“BEHOLD!” Eden said triumphantly. “The Enclave’s answer to your stolen superweapon! I give you... the MEGA-PATRIOT!”
A deep, guttural, mechanical laughter preceded the giant robot that emerged. It was roughly the same size as Liberty Prime, but for a few significant differences. The head was the biggest difference: four glowing red eyes peering out from beneath a horned helmet, and a maw of shiny, sharp teeth. Its limbs were much more heavily armored than Prime, which gave the thing a bulky appearance. Mounted on its right arm was the plasma cannon, and it was just as large as the enormous muzzle suggested. Hanging from the left shoulder was a proportionally large American flag, tattered on the edges, mounted like a side-cape. The Mega-Patriot opened his toothy maw, revealing a harsh orange light, like fire burning from deep within.
“LIBERTY PRIME...” The monster bellowed with a laugh, stepping through the ruined doors fully. “I EXPECTED SO MUCH... MORE!” His laughter shook the ground beneath our feet, and both Cass and I started to back up... but Chris remained rooted where he was. Prime drew back his right arm, and the panels for the sword opened up.
“RECOMMENDATION: ALLIES SHOULD SEEK SHELTER.” Prime turned his head to look at us over his shoulder, and the blade in his arm emerged with an almost audible sharpness. “I WILL DEAL WITH THIS ONE!”
With a speed I didn’t think possible from a being of his size, Liberty Prime charged forward and thrust himself straight into the Mega-Patriot. The plasma cannon on the Patriot’s arm started to glow again, and the two robots struck each other in a shower of sparks and swinging metal fists. The sound of bellowing laughter rang in my ears as the two metal titans clashed, and disappeared into the blackened darkness beyond the ruined blast doors.
“What the fuck...” Cass muttered, backing up with her shotgun raised. As the rumble of the two metal behemoths grew more and more distant, another sound took its place: the thunder of hundreds of armored footfalls, getting closer.
More Enclave troops were on their way.
“We gotta move,” I said, patting Chris on the arm to try and rouse some life out of him. But he remained still.
“It’s my fault...” Chris muttered, shaking his head and remaining rooted in place. “When... when I shot down the support mothership... It’s my fault... I thought it burned up in the atmosphere... It’s my fault...”
“HEY!” I jabbed the butt of the Jury-Rigger against the side of his helmet, hitting him with a clunk. “Move now, guilt later! COME ON!”
“There they are!” One of the power armored Enclave troops rounded the corner. “Surround th –” He barely had a chance to finish his command – or even raise his rifle – before a bright blue energy beam cut through the air from somewhere above us, and his head was rendered into a fine mist.
“That’s our cue to leave!” Cass said, grabbing me by the arm and pulling me away from Chris. I couldn’t tell if he’d snapped out of it yet. Another energy beam erupted from the rooftops, firing at the alley where the troops seemed to be coming from.
“Take cover!” I heard one of the Enclave troops yell. “Find the sniper!” Bolts of blue energy started firing over our heads, aimed at the rooftops... but then, a few of them started firing at us, as well. Cass and I just took off, and the two of us vaulted behind some nearby cover.
“FUCK!” Cass muttered after landing on her front. She scrambled to get back up, same as me, and we both took shelter behind this metal barricade. “What’re we gonna do now?!” A plasma bolt whizzed over our heads, blowing a chunk out of a nearby building, and Cass responded with a few blind-fire bursts from her shotgun. I didn’t get a chance to answer, because at that moment a massive purple ball of plasma burst out of the launch bay doors; I ducked down on reflex, although I doubt that would’ve done anything if it had been close enough to kill me as it soared overhead.
“I think...” Chris said, finally moving; a pair of plasma bolts deflected off his armor, and he started running. “... we... should... SCATTER!” Like he did back in the hangar, he crashed fist-first into one of the Enclave troops firing on Tuera, and subsequently disappeared into the alley. His voice buzzed in my ear, among the sounds of violence. “GO! I’ll hold them here!”
“C’mon!” I got up, grabbed Cass by the shoulder and started pulling her forward out of cover. “We’ve gotta move!” I aimed the two of us at a nearby door, but it was locked. So I gave it one solid punch with my cybernetic fist, and suddenly it wasn’t locked any more. I urged her inside, snapping off a few LAER shots. It seemed like power armored soldiers and robots were spilling out of every darkened nook and cranny. There just didn’t seem to be any end to them!
“What about the plan?” she yelled back. I fired twice more before rushing into the building behind her.
“Forget the plan!” I yelled back, not stopping as the two of us returned to the same type of twisting, narrow corridors we’d seen earlier. “The plan just exploded! We are ad-libbing!”
- - -
“D’ya... d’ya think we... we lost ‘em?” Cass asked. It was about a half an hour later, and she was leaning against a nearby bulkhead, trying to catch her breath. I shook my head, with the Jury-Rigger still trained on the hall we’d just left.
“No,” I said simply. “We are deep in enemy territory, surrounded on all sides by those power armored fuck-nuggets. Whichever way we go, there’s going to be more of them, and it’s only a matter of time before they find us again. The only way we’ll lose them is if we manage to get out of this base and back to Earth.”
“I meant,” she sighed, “did we lose that latest patrol?”
“Oh,” I paused, feeling a bit silly. “Well, then yeah. I don’t think they’re following us anymore. We probably shouldn’t linger, though.”
“Fuuuck,” Cass pushed off the wall, and checked the ammo on her shotgun. “I’m startin’ to think we’re in over our heads here.”
“Yeah, I was thinking that a while back,” I muttered, scanning the hall ahead.
“So, where the fuck are we, anyway?” She asked. I honestly wasn’t sure, so I checked the map on my Pip Boy.
“Well... according to this, we should be within sight of the Proving Grounds, whatever the fuck that is. I just know Tuera said we’d have to cross them to get to our objective...”
I checked on the wall for some kind of control panel or button. Sure enough, there was a small switch, and with a hiss of hydraulics, several of the panels in the wall opened up. Beyond it was a large open field, rather than the buildings I was expecting. It was fairly hilly, and must have extended for miles, but the terrain was blackened, broken, and very heavily scarred. It wasn’t until I saw some of the wrecks littering the terrain that I put two and two together:
“Tanks,” I sighed. “It’s a tank proving ground. And from what I can see on this map, Tuera was right. Going through there looks to be the only way to get to our objective. So now we’re gonna have to deal with fuckin’ tanks. Great.”
“Aw, fuck me,” Cass started laughing grimly. “As if the giant robots weren’t bad enough!”
“Yeah...” I nodded slowly. “We’re definitely in over our heads. And not just because of all this bullshit that keeps piling up...” I motioned with my head, and we moved away from the window. “All this military crap – the army, the robots, the tanks – it’s all just a distraction from the real problem.”
“You talkin’ about Eden?” Cass asked. I nodded.
“It’s like Chris was saying, right before everything went to shit. Even if we get to the reactor like we planned and set it to go off... it’s likely that fuckin’ AI has an escape route all ready to go. He already managed to escape once when Chris blew up Raven Rock. I mean, hell! The last time I fought one of these AI things in the Big Empty, I tried blowing the fucker up and that didn’t –”
I came to a dead stop, because a light bulb had just lit up over my head.
“What? What’s up? Why’re we stopped?” Cass tapped me on the shoulder. I turned around to look at her slowly, the gears in my head grinding together furiously.
“I’ve got a plan,” I said, finally managing to eke out the words. “I honestly don’t know if it’ll work or not.”
“Well, that’s par fer th’ fuckin’ course, then, innit?” she laughed.
“Keep a look out. I’ve gotta make a call.” Cass nodded, and checked the ammo on her shotgun again. I shouldered my rifle and scrolled through the functions on my Pip Boy until I found the frequency to contact Yes Man.
“Hi there!” he said; satisfied that the connection was stable, I grabbed my rifle, and the two of us made our way down the hall. “What can I do for you today?”
“Yeah, I kinda need to ask a favor, Yes Man...” I began. But before I could finish, Yes Man, in his typically cheerful manner, cut me off.
“Say no more! I already planned for this!” he said, not knowing what I was going to say at all. “Patching you into the local battle net now!” There was a burst of static, and suddenly I heard the sounds of combat in my ear.
“Wait, battle net?” I asked aloud. Cass looked back at me, just as confused – could she hear this too?
“Who is this?” I heard someone bark. “What are you doing on this frequency?”
“... Boone?” I asked, finally recognizing the voice. There was a burst of gunfire, followed by an explosion during the long pause before he responded.
“Fisher? Is that you?” There was a brief pause. “What am I saying, of course it is,” he sighed, and there was another more distant explosion. “Are you checking up on us?”
“Not... intentionally?” I said. “But yeah. How are things going down there? I assume the Enclave has arrived?”
“Yeah,” Boone grunted out. “Thanks for the heads-up, by the way. They had to drop in outside the cloud cover, so when they reached the north gate, we were already well entrenched. It’s practically a turkey shoot.”
“Sounds like you guys are having an easier time of it than I am...” I said with a weak laugh. There was another distant explosion. “... sort of. Are you sure you guys are alright?”
“We’re fine. The Enclave can’t say the same.” Again, there was a distant explosion. “They’re having a tough time figuring out the landmines.”
“Landmines?!” both Cass and I shouted at once. Ah, so she could hear it. “Holy shit, you planted landmines?”
“Yup,” Boone grunted, and I could practically hear the smile in his voice. “Don’t worry about us. We were prepared for a full-on tactical assault, and what we got was a company of power armored dipshits running dick-first into enemy fire. We’ll be fine.”
“Well... okay then. You guys really are having a better day than me,” I chuckled. “Hang tough, and give ‘em hell. Yes Man? You still there?”
“Hello!” he said happily, followed by another burst of static; the transmission became clear, and distinctly lacking in explosions.
“I actually wanted to ask you something else,” I said quickly, trying to get some words in before Yes Man made another assumption. “Here’s the problem, and I’ll cut to the chase: the Enclave is run by a hostile artificial intelligence. Blowing him up probably isn’t going to work, and I need a way to stop him before we blow up the base. You know how we came up with that plan to stop that hostile AI underneath the Big Empty? You know, flooding her system with porn, so she’d just stop functioning? Think you can send me up a copy?”
“Oh, I can do a lot better than that, sir!” Yes Man said happily. The bottom of my stomach dropped out.
“What do you mean, better?” I asked. “What are you –”
My ears were filled with a horrific screech that felt like it was trying to drill a pair of holes directly into my skull. I clutched at my helmeted head, trying to get the noise to stop, and I could barely see – but that’s because my eyes were shut from the pain. I tried to force my eyes open, and I saw Cass a few paces ahead of me, clutching at her head as well, thrashing against the wall.
“HOLY... FUCKING... FUCK!” I yelled, as soon as the screech started to die down. My head was spinning, and I was starting to feel dizzy. But I was aware enough to notice that something strange and altogether unwelcome was happening to my Pip Boy.
The screen had suddenly become yellow. Line after line of code began scrolling quickly across the Pip Boy’s tiny screen... and then a voice filled my ears. Cold. Clinical. Mechanical. And utterly terrifying.
“I thought I made my point quite clear, the last time we spoke, human...” The hostile AI underneath the Big Empty growled in my ear. “What do you want?”