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Azzsar The Dreamer - The Great City of Mourkain, In Another Time

The warm night breeze lightly tossed the red silken curtains of the balcony’s awning, whilst the scent of perfumed incense wafted through the air. All around were various exotic planters containing a variety of flowers and small trees, each giving off their own scent borne of a hundred different lands. Amongst this decadent setting a small cadre of pale-skinned nobles wearing soft flowing outfits of various colors reclined on stuffed peacock cushions. A number of servants stood gently fanning them, whilst elegant crystal glasses filled with a dark red liquid was held in each of their jewelry-bedecked hands. One of them took a long drink from his glass before turning to his fellows,

“Brothers I must speak,” He turned to one of the nobles seated across from him, and raised his glass, “Azzsar your hospitality is once again proven to all. I cannot think of a finer night I have experienced than this.”

“Please your thanks is appreciated but unnecessary, what manner of man would I be to not welcome my fellow brothers of the night into my home? You are most welcome here, and shall ever be,” The man he'd addressed replied cheerfully.

“I too must compliment you on your mortal fare. Who were they?” Another man spoke, “The taste is exquisite.”

“A criminal condemned and executed not but this very morning. A merchant who swindled a considerable amount of money from his business partners. I’m told he was of excellent heritage and good breeding.”

“Ha! Very fine indeed, you spoil us brother.”

“Only the finest,” Azzsar said as he stood up, his silken white robes billowed about him as he did so, “Brothers I propose a toast. To Great Ushoran, Lord and King of Mourkain and all the lands of Mighty Strygos. I name him founder of this celebration.”

The rest of the nobles followed Azzsar’s lead, and also raised their glasses,

“To the King!”

Suddenly the billowing curtains leading to the balcony parted and out stepped a beautiful woman in light blue dress, her slender pale hands clasped before her and her deep blue eyes looked at Azzsar with a warm unspoken tenderness,

“Brothers,” Azzsar turned, “I present to you my wife.”

Azzsar reached for her hand, eagerly anticipating her loving touch.

It never came.


Azzsar woke within his stone sarcophagus, there was a brief moment of dawning realization as he raised up his hand, expecting yet to see his wife before him, but instead seeing only dripping rock and the outline of long razor sharp claws that he quickly knew was his own.

All at once her roared and pulled himself up out of the stone coffin. His bestial cry was borne of the horror of a former life long since lost: of friends, of love, and dignity all now torn from him forever. Azzsar swung one of his hands and tore into the rock beside him, tearing bits and pieces of stalagmites and sending them crashing to the ground as he did so.

Several ghouls scurried their way into his chamber from the blackness of the tunnel beyond. The loathsome creatures carried crudely fashioned bone clubs and wore scraps of tattered animal refuse and hide as makeshift clothing. When they saw that Azzsar had awakened, they immediately dropped low in deference, and placed their hunched and deformed bodies as close to the ground as they could.

Azzsar looked at them and strode over, he immediately grabbed one of the ghouls and with a single powerful bite, he sank his fangs into the creature's neck and tore it open. He drank deeply as its lifeblood drained out in a great torrent before him. The blood was wretched and foul, but it was none the less nourishing and he needed to feed after his long slumber. When he was finished, he tossed the exsanguinated ghoul aside. The other ghouls immediately turned and grabbed at their former pack mate, tearing the corpse apart limb from limb as they feasted on its body. Not a scrap would go to waste.

Someone else entered his chamber then, an undead warrior clad head to toe in ancient armor with a sword clasped at its side. A great helm in the visage of a winged dragon sat atop its head and from its now empty eye sockets glowed a bright blue aura. It drew its sword and knelt before Azzsar in noble deference. When it spoke, its voice was unearthly and remote,

“My Lord you have awakened once more. What command do you have for your servant?”

“Verrok,” Azzsar said, as he approached towards the Wight, “How many years has it been?”

“A century at least, Great One”

“I must feed Verrok. I desire sweeter blood: not of these wretched creatures,” He motioned to the gibbering ghouls who were still feasting on their fallen kin, “I would have an unspoiled mortal.”

“Then I will send out patrols to watch the mountain roads for travelers Great One. I shall procure you a human from which you might slake your thirst.”

“And summon all before my throne Verrok. I would hold court this night.”

“As you wish Great One.”

New Horizons Coalition, Svalbard Global Headquarters, Office of Xeno-Intelligence Director Miranda Rockwood (“Aurora”)

“UN Resolution 699...”

Director Miranda read through the printed memo carefully, her face stoic as she finished the small brief. In front of her, Xeno-Intelligence operative Dr. Ronald Varis waited patiently. He’d brought her attention to the memo right away, and was eager to hear her thoughts.

Miranda sat silently for a few moments, staring at the paper.

“At a loss for words Director?” Varis asked, “I know that in my case…”

“Morons….” Miranda finally said, interrupting her subordinate and setting the document aside.

“Hmm. Not entirely speechless then...” Varis quipped, “I suppose you are taking the pessimistic approach then. Global cooperation like this is something the Coalition has been desiring for years is it not?”

“I prefer the phrase ‘necessary caution’. And yes, in some sense it's exactly what we've been looking to see, but not like this. Not with this goal in mind. What we want….what we need, is a global concerted effort to agree on defense countermeasures against the Visitors, not this unrestrained optimistic drive to ‘boldly go’.”

“Faster than light travel would be a large step on the way to equalizing our standing with the Visitors. That’s undeniable.”

“And it's something we’ve feared for years might bring the Visitors back,” Miranda stated, firmly, “The Xeno-Intelligence Division has maintained for years that FTL travel and the potential it brings, while undeniably important for humanity's future in the stars, should be approached cautiously. It’s a latchkey advancement, something that signifies a civilization's readiness to begin exploration and colonization of the galaxy, and indeed, universe proper.”

Varis sighed, “I know. I suppose the futurist in me cannot help but feel excited.”

Ignoring the sentiment, Miranda continued, “It's possible that the Visitors came to earth for the first time, perhaps only to examine humanity from a curiosity standpoint. No different than if we observed a colony of ants digging tunnels deep in the forest. We watch, we observe, and we learn much about a societal structure so implacably different from our own, from creatures that we would consider so many magnitudes below us. It's simply genuine interest and scientific curiosity. Sure we might accidentally step on a few, but there is no harm intended.”

Miranda leaned forward, glaring at Dr. Varis, “Let me ask you a question Ronald, what do we do once those same ants start marching their way into our homes? We exterminate them.”

Varis nodded, “Many within the Director Council won’t see things the same way, I’m sure. Other divisions are undoubtedly going to look at this news more favorably.”

“It's our job to see things in ways that others will never consider,” Miranda replied, as she began typing up an email, “We’re supposed to be the voice of fear.”

“So what are you going to do?”

“We need to get a handle on this. Make some calls, and do some digging. I’m going to get a hold of our UN contacts, and our agents in Brazil. If this resolution is happening, then we need to have a voice in how things proceed. In the meantime, I want you to stay focused on what we found in Paris. Keep investigating Thousand Eyes activity, the Council is expecting a report soon.”

“Right I suppose I have an interview to conduct then….”

Svalbard Global Operations Headquarters, Interrogation Room 1C

Two armed guards in full gear stood outside the door leading to the secure interrogation room at the end of a long hallway. The interrogation rooms were deep within the facility, and a level up from the holding cell block. Coalition protocol was not to keep prisoners long term, as in the cases of artifact smuggling or the like it was up to the country of origin’s own discretion for sentencing and punishment: except in special circumstances as dictated by UN charter. Thousand Eyes Cult members were one such exception,

“He’s inside?” Dr Varis asked as he approached.

“Yes sir,” One of the guards replied sharply, “Are you ready?”

Varis nodded, “Yes I’m under orders from Aurora to begin the interrogation immediately...go ahead and open it Sergeant.”

The guard nodded, and unlocked the door with his key. A secondary retinal scan confirmed the unlock, and the heavy security door swung open, allowing Varis to step inside. The guard quickly closed the door and shut it behind him.

Two other guards were already inside, their P90s gripped firmly in their hands pointed down but ready at a moment's notice to swing them up towards the subject in front of them.

The subject in question, a man covered in decadent tattoos and wearing a yellow jumpsuit, regarded Varis coldly as he approached. A muzzle covered his mouth, while his hands and feet were both bound with cuffs: he said nothing as Dr. Varis sat down in front of him.

“State your name and affiliation, for the clearly as you’re able with that thing on you...” Varis began, trying to assert authority.

The prisoner didn’t respond, seemingly unwilling to cooperate.

“What do others in the Cult call you?”

Still there was silence, only the hateful glare of the man seated across from him.

“Okay I’ll level with you,” Varis continued, deciding to switch his tactics, “You allowed yourself to be taken I understand it, that's a cardinal sin within the Cult of the Thousand Eyes. You’re life there is over. You know that, I know that. If you go back they’ll torture you to death...flay you alive or pour molten lead down your throat…. If we turn you loose into the world they'll find you. There’s a good reason why ninety-nine percent of the time we don’t capture Thousand Eyes cultists alive during a raid. They’re either too insane or too scared to find out what will happen if they surrender and the Cult finds out. However, the rare few who do comply with arrest usually have a damn good reason for doing so. They want out...they want a deal. I’m thinking that’s the same case with you, or am I wrong?”

The cultist balled his hands into fists, but remained utterly silent.

“I’ll take that as acceptance. So why don’t you tell me...what is it you want? I can’t help you or offer you anything if all you do is sit there.”

The cultist lowered his head, and still remained quiet.

Varis stood up sharply, “Alright fine we’re done here. Guards...”

“Wait,” the cultist said suddenly, looking up with a look of fear in his eyes, “I want to die.”

“You...want to die? Well then you could have just let Coalition Tactical shoot you if that’s all you wanted.”

“You don’t understand. I want to die peacefully.... After I’ve told you everything.”

Varis retook his seat, and folded his hands in front of him, “I’m listening. Go on.”

“It's not right. What they’re's not right. I can’t be a part of it anymore.”

“You joined an apocalyptic Death Cult, I’m confused at which point you thought they were in the right,” Varis quipped, “But I’ll bite, what do you mean you can’t be part of it anymore”

The cultist shook his head, “We were told it would be our salvation. That we would be chosen. Taken up and transcended. The Visitors would make us gods once we offered up the planet to them. Then we would rule the stars as their servants…”

“Yes I’m familiar with the cult’s prophecy, what else?”

“The Acolyte...he says it's not enough to wait for the Visitors to return. We cannot wait to be transcended. We must force our transcendence.”

Varis raised an eyebrow, “You’re talking about mutation. NLC mutations have been used by the Cult plenty of times before. Why is this different?”

“Different...” The cultist shook his head, “Different because before only those who desired it would use the compound. Now The Acolyte has found something else...something stronger. And now no-one has a choice anymore.”

“So members of Thousand Eyes are being forcibly mutated, is that it? By a stronger NLC agent? Something the Acolyte found or perhaps crafted from an artifact?”

The cultists nodded, “But the's not like before. It starts as usual, lots of muscle growth, thicker skin...but then the screaming starts….and the screaming doesn’t stop. They scream until their throats tear and eyes burst while the skin bleeds and tears….” The cultist became wide-eyed, fear etched across his face, “And then….”

“Then what?”

“They become something else...” The man lowered his head, seemingly wishing to say nothing more on it.

“And Paris? Why were you there?” Varis narrowed his eyes, unnerved by the man’s confession and unsure whether or not to believe him.

The Cultist looked back up, genuine sorrow etched on his face.

Dawning realization hit the doctor like a brick, “Kidnapping?”

The cultist did not reply, but his expression said it all.

“Escort the prisoner back to his cell,” Varis stood up and motioned to the guards, who moved in to grab him, “I need some time to corroborate this information…”

Obviously still interested in this and planning on playing a Strigoi Vampire somewhere in the Grey mountains.
New Horizons Coalition

Tactical Recovery Team Zulu 43 ‘Night Stalkers’ - Paris, France
Recovery Operation ‘Hammer Fall”

Commander Vahid had stumbled upon something terrible.

Zulu 43 had made their way to the warehouse in quick order, and on his command, had breached the doors and began their raid with pinpoint precision. Initial resistance from the smugglers had been light, as expected, and Vahid had anticipated that the raid would proceed as a standard operation.

What had quickly become clear was that this was far from a typical smuggling ring. The intelligence that had been gathered over the past month had not indicated anything out of the ordinary. The smugglers were suspected to be affiliated with contacts in North America, and the artifacts that had been positively identified as in their possession were not considered to be dangerous. More than likely they’d been acquired either through illegal zone scavenging operations in eastern europe or via illicit artifact trading within the city itself. All in all it was considered a low-level bust, with the potential to at least reveal some valuable info on higher level targets.

Things had started to go sideways once they'd cleared the first floor, and proceeded down into the warehouse basement level. Zulu 43 had neutralized resistance quickly, but soon found themselves staring at an unanticipated makeshift tunnel deep within the basement’s structure. It had seemingly been carved out recently by the smugglers themselves, and a safe bet would assume it was some manner of escape tunnel that potentially connected to other buildings in the surrounding area. Not wanting to lose the initiative and potentially allow any high-level targets to escape, Vahid had made the risky request that Zulu 43 continue pursuit immediately down the tunnel. A request that had quickly been granted by Operation Command.

Activating their night vision optics, and leaving two of their members behind to guard the entrance and await reinforcements, the Recovery Team had probed the darkness beyond. The tunnel appeared to be wired for electricity, but in their haste to escape the smugglers had either not activated it or had shut it off to deter pursuit. Overall the tunnel appeared stable and surprisingly well constructed, which immediately began to tip Vahid off to the notion that this might be for more than just a quick exit.

Those suspicions were confirmed when the team began encountering rooms: living quarters and storeroom areas. Some of them even appeared to be well furnished, especially given the circumstances. They cleared each and every one before proceeding onward. In one of these rooms, Vahid had found and picked up a book of some sort, lying on a nearby table upon which strange symbols had been carved. The cover had multiple languages, French, Latin, Russian, and English. The title had read simply:

“The Prophecies of The Thousand Eyes”

“Shit,” Vahid cursed, as he showed the book to his lieutenant, “I knew something was off here.”

“Thousand Eyes,” The Lieutenant gave a whistle, “Didn’t think we’d seen those psychos here. How the hell did they get into Paris unnoticed?”

Vahid shook his head, “No idea, but we need to fall back. Now. There’s no telling what's up ahead.”

“Commander! Contacts!” One of the soldiers shouted, right before he began opening fire further down the tunnel.

“Damn it!” Vahid cursed, and swung his M4 back up.

Screams echoed further down, and twisted almost inhuman forms could be seen manifesting in his night vision. Unchecked NLC mutations, especially those utilized by the Cult of the Thousand Eyes, were loathsome to behold. Thousand Eyes was a Post-Visitation Doomsday Cult dedicated to the idea that humanity was unworthy of its place in the universe, and ultimately believed it to be only deserving of enslavement or eradication. By hastening this end, members of the cult hoped to be found worthy of transcendence by the ever-watchful ‘thousand eyes’ within the black void of space.

The hulking form of a heavily muscled man-creature covered in all manner of ritualistic tattoos barreled down the tunnel towards the Zulu 43 members as it threw aside lesser mutates in its way. In the confined space, it seemed nigh impossible to bring the NLC mutant down with small arms without it reaching them first. Vahid began waving the rest of his team away to make for the exit back where they’d come.

“Ramón! Light it up!”

One of the soldiers detached a flamer nozzle from a device on his back, and he aimed it down the tunnel towards the rapidly advancing mutant. As it came within feet of the pair of them, the nozzle unleashed a hellish torrent of fire. The sounds of screaming filled the tunnel and the fire illuminated deformed faces caught in utter agony.

“Go go!’ Vahid ordered, and he and Ramón began to beat a hasty retreat to follow the rest of Zulu 43 back out the tunnel.

Svalbard Global Operations Headquarters

“As all divisions are currently present, the meeting may proceed.”

A woman in a cleanly pressed black dress suit took her seat at an empty table in a dimly lit room, all around her on the wall were various screens, upon which six other individuals in similar attire were displayed as they transmitted remotely from locations across the globe. Their faces were obscured and their backdrops were nondescript, a certain degree of anonymity being the desired result.

“I’d like to start by going over the report from Paris, an artifact Tactical Recovery Team, codename Zulu 43, engaged elements of the Cult of the Thousand Eyes during a raid on a suspected smuggling ring. Once it became clear that the cult was involved, Zulu 43 immediately retreated and relayed a request for assistance. A close quarters combat specialist team was deployed and the nest was immediately purged. We’re still gathering evidence regarding the Cult’s activities there in cooperation with French authorities.”

“Thousand Eye’s presence in a major European city is disturbing to say the least,” One of the figures on the screens stated, “We need to make sure everything is being done to ascertain how they were able to slip past Coalition intelligence and establish such a strong foothold.”

“A foothold right under our very nose….” another added solemnly, “Aurora any thoughts on that point?”

The woman perked up at her codename, “I’m taking the necessary steps to do just that,” she replied, “I should have an initial report from my subordinates within the next day or two.”

“Very good, I don’t mean to suggest that this was a lapse in your division’s operations. It is a concerning development that affects us all.”

Aurora nodded, “I take no offense, and concur with the assessment.”

“Very good, we’ll continue monitoring the situation then, and raise our threat level regarding the Cult of The Thousand Eyes worldwide. It's clear that we’ve underestimated their capabilities. Their dangerous use of NLC artifacts poses a threat to mankind as a whole, and they cannot be allowed to spread unchecked.”

“Agreed.” Came the unanimous reply.

Dr. Xavier Morales - The Institute

Xavier sat with a piping hot cup of fresh brewed coffee in his hands whilst he read through the data files plastered on the screen before him. The blue hued glow of his terminal was now the lone source of light within his dimly lit quarters. Quiet hours had fallen over The Institute, and although most of its residents lay asleep, Xavier had business to attend to which required solitude.

The data that the Courser unit had managed to abscond with from the lab was a treasure trove of pre-war knowledge. Information about the facility's purpose, its funding sources, the scientists stationed there, along with detailed notes and reports about the research they’d all been pursuing: all of it was now his to study at his leisure. The terminal he was currently using was secure and isolated from The Institute’s network, an act which was in and of itself a clear violation of internal security protocols. However that particular misdemeanor paled in comparison to the far greater crime that Xavier was committing with the data he had in hand: nothing less than an act of treason against The Director herself.

“The CODE Program,” Xavier said softly in between sips of his drink. The bold headline of the dossier he’d just opened was underscored by subtext which read ‘CLASSIFIED’ along with the official seal of the pre-war Defense Intelligence Agency.

Xaviers eyes grew wide as he delved deeper into the report, the vast potential of the pre-war findings that the scientists at the RobCo Facility discovered grew more and more apparent with each passing paragraph.

He sat his coffee down and leaned back in his chair, a plan and a potential use for the research already forming, especially in light of the errant scrapping of the Gen-3 program. First thing was first however, as with all pre-war knowledge they discovered, he needed to replicate and verify results using The Institute’s own strict experiment standards. Innovative and daring they may have been in many cases, but the minds of the pre-war world were often tainted by the influence of corrupt politicians and meddling corporate concerns: exaggerations and outright falsifications were not uncommon. He needed hard data and proof that what he was seeing was not mere conjecture or outright fantasy. And he needed to do this all without any arousing any suspicion whatsoever from Dr. Li.

The Laboratory in Vault 88 would be invaluable of course, but he also did not want to simply entirely entrust the research to Dr. Zimmer and Dr. Holdren. Holdren he trusted, for the most part, but Dr. Zimmer was another matter entirely, he had no intention of allowing his erstwhile rival to have sole control over this research material and be able to do whatever he wished with it while Xavier was tending to duties in The Institute. For the moment, both of them wished to see Dr. Li removed from power, but afterwards once the Directorship was up for grabs: things would get much more complicated.

He would need some time to think on this and come up with a good solution. For the moment however, he’d have to share his investigation with Zimmer and Holdren first, and then figure out where to go from there. He couldn’t risk giving Zimmer any further reason to distrust him this early on.

Xavier looked at the time on his terminal, it was nearly 6:00am in the morning. He’d spent all night reviewing the material, and he’d have to report for work at the SSIB at 6:30. He quickly shut off the terminal, and left his quarters hurriedly.

Xavier strode into the SSIB facility at 6:20, cradling his umpteenth cup of coffee for that morning. He’d stopped on his way to grab it and a few nutritional supplements from the Commissary, so at least he’d be functional during his shift.

“Director,” a young woman in the black and white of the SSIB approached him, clipboard in hand, “Good morning sir. I think you’ll want to take a look at this right away.”

Xavier immediately took the clipboard and after a brief examination he set his coffee down at a nearby table and began to scrutinize it intently, a surprised look on his face. The clipboard contained a brief report and several surveillance images taken from Quincy by a Watcher pod.

“Just came in this morning sir, shortly before you arrived,” The woman stated, “Watcher pods were performing routine imaging of the area surrounding Quincy, and happened to capture it. It appears to be…”

“A VTOL aircraft, yes I’m fully aware, “ Xavier replied curtly, with a bit more of a bite to his tone than he really intended. He immediately regretted it, “Sorry Clara. I didn’t get much sleep last night. I’m a bit on edge this morning.”

“Think nothing of it sir,” Clara replied with a nod.

“Any other information?”

“None at the moment. I’m not even sure where or if it landed in The Commonwealth. All I can give is a general location of where it might have gone based on its apparent flight path.”

“That’s good enough for the moment, well done Clara.”

“ you think it's The Brotherhood? Are they back?” Clara asked, a hint of anxiety detectable in her voice.

“It's impossible to tell any insignia from the details here...but it's a possibility. However, I wouldn’t jump to conclusions just yet. But I’ll need to report it to the Director right away. She’ll want to be informed.”
Nick Valentine - Diamond City Mayor’s Office, The Commonwealth

Nick waited patiently, sitting inside the Mayor’s office alongside Wiseman and Becky Fallon. Down the hall, in a separate room where a lone Security Officer stood watch outside, was where Kessler was currently interviewing, or rather interrogating, The Mechanist herself: Isabel Cruz. She’d been at it for nearly five hours straight now and Nick was beginning to feel as though Kessler was going overboard.

“Think we should go in and stop it?” Wiseman said, echoing Nick’s own thoughts, “Mechanist or not...what could Kessler possibly be asking her about that she needs this long?”

Becky started shaking her head before Wiseman had even finished, “No. She gets as long as she needs. That was the agreement. We don’t get to dictate how long it takes her to judge Isabel’s sincerity. She’s stuck to her end of the we stick to ours.”

Nick reluctantly nodded, “I just hope she doesn’t need all night.”

Mercifully, as if in answer to his statement, the sounds of footsteps could be heard echoing down the office halfway. The three of them immediately perked up and looked expectantly towards the door. Kessler opened it and stepped through, it was immediately apparent that she was exhausted. Her expression had softened and the look of righteous fury that she’d gone into the interview with had long since disappeared and been replaced with a subdued sense of satisfaction.

“I believe her,” Kessler said after a moment’s pause, “I was so sure that it was all an act. That she was putting on a show just to escape punishment...but I think...I think she’s truly remorseful about what she did. That’s enough for me I guess.”

“So you’ll drop the call for execution then?” Becky asked, hopefully.

“Yes. She doesn’t deserve that. That still doesn't mean that I think she should be set free.”

“Of course,” Nick agreed, “I think we all still agree that she needs to make amends the rest of her life for what happened. It was a mistake...a costly one, but she deserves a chance at least to try.”

“So what’s next?” Wiseman asked.

“Well since Kessler is satisfied with Isabel’s sincerity, we move forward with the council’s vote to keep her under some form of house arrest and of course give her the choice of helping us by utilizing whatever expertise she has in service of The Commonwealth. Only time will tell if that ends up being worthwhile,” Becky replied.

“Sounds fair,” Wiseman nodded.

“Nick...I think it's best that you keep an eye on her when you can spare it, ” Becky continued, “I don’t want to put you on the spot to be her sole minder...but I feel you might be able to help her more than anyone here.”

“I’ll do what I can,” Nick replied with a nod.

“And what of Dr. Li’s request?” Wiseman asked, “Regarding that...proposal she put forward on Isabel.”

“Like hell we’ll accept that,” Kessler replied, “Sincere or not...she doesn’t get a free pass to The Institute. Li can blather all she likes about how much good Isabel would do with access to Institute technology...she can forget it.”

“I tend to agree...although not with those exact words.” Becky grinned, “I think what Isabel needs most now is to work directly with the people of The Commonwealth. Not with Institute scientists of whom I’m sure I don’t need to mention….”

Becky looked to Nick before continuing, who gave a quick nod of assent. He’d thoroughly checked the office for Institute Watchers when he’d arrived. It was safe to continue,

“.....that we all still have our own suspicions of. Chief among them now is the attack that occurred while Nick and the team were within Isabel’s facility.”

“I don’t understand, it was a super-mutant attack was it not?” Wiseman asked, confused.

Becky shook her head, “Think about it Wiseman. How often have super-mutants shown that level of coordination? What they just so happened to stumble upon a secret back-entrance to this pre-war facility just at the very moment that we were attempting to apprehend Isabel? It doesn’t add up. Not to mention the inexplicable loss of power the moment the mutants attacked.”

“Coincidences like that are never just coincidences,” Nick said, “I’m not necessarily sure that The Institute was somehow behind the attack, but it's a logical conclusion. No-one else but the Council knew about the facility. Isabel confirmed that the place had been abandoned since the war when she arrived...and she never gave out its location to anyone but us. While I’m not sure Dr. Li herself is directly involved...others inside The Institute might be.”

“To what end though?” Kessler asked.

“That’s the question that still bugs me,” Nick said, “But I have a feeling if we dig more into the facility...we just might find an answer.”
Boston, The Commonwealth

Nick Valentine had taken the lead of the small team that the Commonwealth Provisional Government had decided they’d send to the Service Center to determine exactly who The Mechanist was and how she should be appropriately brought to justice. A one Captain Joseph Martin, appointed directly by General Shaw, had led a group of seven armed minutemen from The Castle. As had been agreed upon by the Council, their squad had met up with a woman by the name of Wilma Bardin at Bunker Hill who was to be the representative for The Bunker Hill Caravaners, the group perhaps most affected by The Mechanist’s transgressions. Nick had then met them all outside of the ruins of the Old North Church, and from there they’d taken a ferry boat across the channel to East Boston where the Mechanist’s lair was supposedly located.

On the boat ride over, Nick couldn’t help but think of the old pre-war theatrical dramas that had so often played over the radio in Goodneighbor: that of the stalwart Silver Shroud, the daring Mistress of Mystery, and the evil Mechanist. They’d always brought an amused grin to his synthetic face as he contemplated the irony of a robotic Detective listening to a pre-war play about how a vigilante crime fighter would stop a mad-man who wished to replace humans with robots. Now that same Detective was off to stop the Mechanist himself, so did that make him a twisted version of the Silver Shroud in this little farcical play? Perhaps...or perhaps the real tale was far more complicated than those pre-war stories could have ever hoped to portray. After all, was this Mechanist really evil? Or was she simply a girl who’d hoped to change the world for the better and failed? That’s what Nick wanted to find out most of all here.

Outside of the Robo Sales and Service Center the group had met up with the final member to take part in their expedition. Robert MacCready stood leaning up against the brick wall of the building when they approached and he was certainly outfitted for just about any situation. He was armored head to toe in a full suit of heavy combat armor and he wore a belt across his chest and waist with grenades of various types strapped to it. A heavily modified plasma rifle unlike any Nick had seen before was propped up against a railing nearby. It was clear The Institute kept their newest above-ground operative well supplied with both caps and armaments. MacCready regarded the group with a casual glance as they approached and he stood up to grab his rifle before making his way towards them,

“New toy you got there?” Nick quipped, pointing at the rifle.

“Yeah, you could say that. Something the egg-heads gave me to test. A little something they’ve been working on. Ooh I love it. I figured we’d sure as hell need some real firepower here if it comes to a fight. Other than those cute little glowsticks you’ve got there.”

“Watch it,” Captain Martin replied, “Our laser muskets can still blow a hole through that pretty armor of yours with no problems...egg-heads give you that too?”

“Matter of fact they did,” MacCready smiled, “And really...I doubt it would.”

“Cut it out with the dick-measuring contest,” Wilma interrupted, “Let’s talk shop. Where’s The Mechanist?”

“I did a little recon before you all came,” MacCready began, “Took a look around inside the shop and around the perimeter. There’s some sort of massive pre-war security door in there, which must have been hidden behind the wall before the war. Damn near closest thing I’ve ever seen to it is one of those Vault doors. If we would have had to actually break through that...I’d say we’d have been here until the next Judgement Day...but looks like The Mechanist is welcoming us. It's wide open, just like she said it would be.”

“Welcoming us, or it's a trap...” Captain Martin replied.

“Doubt it,” Nick shook his head, “If what you said about that door is true then this is the real deal. The pre-war facility that The Institute was able to identify must actually be in there, and if that’s The Mechanist’s lair, it makes no sense for her to lead us here if she just intended to kill us.”

“The Mechanist’s Lair?” MacCready chuckled, “You’ve been listening to one too many of ol’ Kent’s broadcasts there Valentine.”

Nick gave a shrug, “The Mechanist obviously thought that old character was important somehow. Important for her to build an army and kill over it: intentional or not. The way I see it, we should take that characterization seriously.”

“And they’ll answer for their crimes accordingly” Wilma said definiantly, ‘Lets go.”

“After you,” MacCready said with a grin as Wilma pushed aside and entered the building.


A short time later and the group had reached the elevator that the Mechanist had identified to them in her message. It sat behind the main security check-in for the facility and, just as she’d said, the elevator was unlocked and operational. Without much ado, the group piled into the elevator, only 5 of them were able to fit at one time and so Captain Martin gave the order for most of his Minutemen to stay behind and follow once the elevator returned. It was yet another risk they were taking, and if this did turn out to be some sort of trap, they’d be split up for a brief window of time.

Luckily however, when the elevators opened at the bottom there appeared to be no such welcome waiting for them. They were greeted by a dimly lit hallway instead. Cautiously, and with weapons drawn, they made their way down the hallway, passing a room which looked to be some sort of living quarters for whoever was down here. Finally, they came to a door, MacCready gave a nod to Nick, and the detective opened it, revealing a large control room with consoles and robobrain automatons clicking away at inputs.

Suddenly a figure appeared from out behind one of the consoles, a young woman with dark hair in a green jumpsuit now stood before them. Her posture easily denoted nervousness, perhaps even fear, as she clutched her arms together. The woman raised a single hand to brush away strands of hair that had fallen across her face,


“Isabel?” Nick said, as he began to walk towards her, “Are you Isabel Cruz?”

“Y-yeah, one and the same. Just me down here...well aside from the robots….”

“So are you The Mechanist then? Wilma stepped forward aggressively, gun raised “Do you have ANY idea what you’ve done?”

Isabel put her hands up reflexively, “Y-y-yes I am, but I didn’t do it! I mean….I didn’t mean to. I thought I had everything figured out...but I made a horrible mistake. Please don’t shoot!”

“Wilma! Put the damn gun down!” Nick yelled, and with a huff the Caravener agreed, lowering her weapon. Satisfied, Nick turned his attention back to Isabel, who had begun to cry, “We aren’t here to kill you Isabel, but we are here to take you into custody. Do you understand?”

“Yes….I understand,” Isabel sobbed, “I’m sorry. I really didn’t mean to kill anyone. I was just trying to help.”

“ that….define ‘help’” MacCready replied with no small hint of sarcasm in his voice.

Nick shot him a glare, and MacCready rolled his eyes in response.

“I believe you,” Nick offered his hand, “What’s done is done. Now you need to focus on making amends. I’ll do what I can to help you.”

“Thanks,” Isabel nodded, wiping her tears and nose with the sleeve of her jumpsuit, “I-I really want to try and make things right. I just don’t know how I can do that.”

“Well you can start by….”

A loud alarm suddenly sounded all around them, red lights lit up and klaxons blared through the room,

“Oh no, what?” Isabel suddenly stood up and ran to one of the panels.

“What the fuck is happening?” Captain Martin yelled, trying to be heard over the alarms.

“It's an intruder alert. Someone is inside the facility. Did you bring anyone else with you?” Isabel asked.

“No,” Nick shook his head, “It was just us.”

Isabel quickly clicked a button and a video feed was brought up on the monitor,

“Mutants!” She shouted, shocked at the sight, “They’re coming down the service elevator.” She pointed through the glass windows towards a large open door on the other side of what looked to be a large open area, “I don’t know how they found it! It's okay though I can just shut down…”

The power suddenly cut out, leaving the room in total darkness,

“Uh oh,” Isabel said simply. A few seconds later and the lights returned, but it appeared only the control room they were in was lit up. The rest of the facility appeared to still be in total darkness.

“What the hell was that?” MacCready asked.

“Something’s wrong,” Isabel clutched her head frantically, “The power just got cut and we’re on auxiliary power only now. I don’t understand…” She looked desperately towards Nick. Just as she did so, they all heard a loud screech of metal on metal as something came to a stop.

The elevator…

The sounds of large heavy footsteps followed by the yells and jeers of brainless mutants could be heard streaming towards them,

“Minutemen on me!” Captain Martin yelled, and raced down the hallway to a doorway that led to the area the mutants were coming from, followed swiftly by his men. They each took up posts on either side of the door and behind it, trying to get as many muskets down range as they could. They cranked their Laser Muskets and waited.

MacCready stepped forward to the glass windows as the sounds of the mutants had seemingly died down,

“Fuck,” He muttered, just as the hulking green shapes began to emerge from the darkness beyond what little light the control room was giving off. All of the sudden the shouts began in earnest and a mutant wielding little more than a large board ran towards the open doorway, followed swiftly by three more mutants similarly armed with rusted pipes, sledgehammers, and other random implements-turned-war-clubs.

“OPEN FIRE!” The Captain yelled, and The Minutemen opened up with their muskets, the powerful laser blasts ripping into the mutated abominations and downing three of them. As they fell, muscled mutant hounds raced out from behind and made a beeline for the doorway.

“Fall back!” The Captain yelled, just as the first hound burst through the doorway and tore into one of the Minutemen, before swiftly turning on another. The others began falling back, firing their laser muskets as quickly as they could and finding that the thick hide of the creatures made it difficult to kill them outright.

“Get behind me,” Nick told Isabel as he held up his pipe revolver. Isabel however ignored him, and was furiously typing away at a nearby console, “Come on...come on…” she muttered. Wilma had drawn her own gun and taken up a position behind one of the consoles, beads of sweat poured from her face.

“God-fucking-damnit!” MacCready shouted as he stepped forward and readied his plasma rifle. The sound of the weapon charging up briefly could be heard as static filled the air before he loosed three shots in rapid succession. Blue plasma bolts ripped through the still-living hounds and melted gaping holes in each of them. The remaining Minutemen formed a line beside MaCready and continued firing, killing two more super-mutants as they raced down the hallway with weapons raised.

Things grew quiet as the last of the mutants fell.

“Was that all of them?” Captain Martin asked, looking to no-one in particular to respond.

The sounds of the elevator making its way down again answered his question. Now even more abominable shouts and the howls of mutant hounds could be heard coming from the direction the first wave had just come.

“Got it!” Isabel yelled out excitedly. Just then the lights in the entire area came back on, and the facility road to life as the power was fully restored. The second group of mutants was already halfway to the doorway when suddenly a set of metal security doors to the left of the loading dock opened up, and out strode a massive Sentry Bot that seemed to have been heavily modified,

“Tankbot activated. Beginning security protocols. Civilians standback.”

The robot opened up with two gatling lasers attached to its arms, felling the mutants and their hounds in rapid succession as one after the other fell to its substantial firepower.

When the last mutant had fallen, Isabel turned to the group with a faint smile,

“ security back online,” She said quickly, indicating the Tankbot.

“And just in time too,” Nick said with a thankful nod.


Right as the fighting commenced S3-47 pulled out the holotape from the security terminal at the front desk of the facility. The network scan was complete, and he’d gathered what data he’d been able to from it. The program had worked just as Dr. Morales had intended it to. It shut down the facilities defenses and allowed a brief window of time to access its valuable data repositories while the mutants provided a sufficient distraction for his operation.

S3 placed the holotape in a briefcase, reactivated his stealth field, and proceeded out the main entrance.

Once outside the Robco Sales Building and safely hidden in the ruined alleys of East Boston, he sent an encrypted message to Dr. Zimmer,

“Data retrieval complete. ”

Enclave Operative Issac Jabsco - Poseidon Energy Plant

Following the sending of his message, Issac had commenced reading through the mission debriefing documents that had been loaded on his pipboy: a little *light* reading before bed. It’d been some time since he’d reviewed them last, and he wanted to make sure he had a firm understanding of their contents.

He skimmed the first section,

Establish intelligence overview of the political situation of the COMMONWEALTH OF MASSACHUSETTS. Known entities include: the INSTITUTE, the MINUTEMEN, the COMMONWEALTH PROVISIONAL GOVERNMENT, and THE GUNNERS. The INSTITUTE is considered a MAJOR security threat to the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. They have the capacity to produce energy weapons, combat robots, and other unknown high-tech capabilities. Additionally, there is unconfirmed intelligence regarding production infiltration robots.

Issac thought back to the Synths he’d encountered down on the lower level, the ones that had killed whatever raider gang had been held up here. They certainly couldn’t pass for humans, but if the stories were to be believed, and he’d heard a number of them on his way to The Commonwealth from passing traders, there were Synths that looked just like humans: down to being able to bleed the same as any man.

He continued, skipping down some paragraphs,

Confirm location and status of VAULT 81. Determine if VAULT has been compromised by external personnel and extent there-of.

He’d heard little to nothing of Vault 81, but the information provided for the Enclave gave its location data. It was a secondary objective, but nonetheless an important one. The Enclave’s interest in acquiring still intact Vaults was one that had been known by nearly everyone in the Capital Wasteland after they’d taken over 101.

Issac continued on down to the final section of the debriefing, skimming down to the phrase that always caught his eye:

It is imperative that OPERATIVE does not permit their capture by the INSTITUTE. In the event of probable capture, place muzzle of side-arm under jaw to ensure the maximum destruction of brain tissue. If unable to access firearms, OPERATIVE has been provided with suicide pill in glass ampule.

He fumbled at the dog-tags around his neck, feeling the tiny glass vial that had been attached to them: a lone pill inside. Enclave High Command was taking no chances when it came to The Institute. Of course, they had no assurance that Issac would actually commit to such a self-sacrificing act should the need require, but Issac thought of it less as a way to keep Enclave secrets secure, he knew little of them anyway, and more as a final insurance for himself. There were many, many fates that could befall him in the wasteland where death was infinitely preferable to the alternative. He’d seen that far too often already in his life.

His review was suddenly interrupted by an incoming reply on his pipboy. Direct from EnclaveNet,


Issac was stunned as hadn’t expected that Sutler, and this could only be an order from him, would send reinforcements so early on into his mission. He’d only just arrived in The Commonwealth, and it was Issac’s expectation that he’d only receive support if and when his objective was complete. That Sutler had given the order for support to be sent now could only mean one thing: he was taking this mission far more seriously than Issac had even previously thought. There was no doubt about it now, Sutler was going to be monitoring this operation closely,

“Just 48 hours…” Issac muttered, “That doesn’t leave much time.”

He immediately activated the nearby Gutsys standing guard with a simple voice command,

“Begin maintenance protocol immediately, get this place cleaned up.”

As the Gusty bots sprung into action, Issac laid back down on his bedroll, he’d grab a few hours of much needed sleep and then would be ready to start his own preparations.


As the 48 hours came to an end, Issac waited atop the roof of the building expectantly, watching the skies for any sign or sound of the promised support. As he did so, he took stock of what he’d done to prepare for their arrival.

The Gutsy bots had managed to clear away most of the offending debris from the majority of the plant’s office and plant floor spaces. While they lacked the tailored programming of a Misty Handy, the Gutsy units were still efficient enough at completing such tasks and continuously rotated among themselves between performing guard duties and cleaning the plant. Issac, meanwhile, had completed his own personal preparations. He’d been monitoring the local radio chatter as requested, and most of what he’d heard concerned ‘The Minutemen’ who appeared to have an encampment of some sort in the nearby town of Quincy, a short distance north from the energy plant. All his notes on what he’d heard had been compiled and would be given to whoever the CO of the support contingent was. Along with that, he’d placed the remains of the destroyed Synths inside one of the office rooms in the plant for potential observation. Finally Issac had also managed to repair the plant’s auxiliary power generator, the completion of which he was quite proud of himself for. The building now had limited power, and thus some essential operational systems were restored.

That all done there was little enough time left to do anything but wait. Wait until he could hear the sounds of rotary blades ripping through the air which, before long, he did. Issac rushed down to the plant’s parking lot as the vertibird drew closer and closer, and before long finally extended it’s landing gear and touched down in the center of the vacant lot. Issac stood sharply at attention near the entrance.

The commanding officer that exited the bird was none other than Colonel Granite. It was all Issac could do to contain his surprise, the Colonel was one of the highest ranking members of The Enclave currently and a close friend of the Supreme Commander: that much at least Issac knew. He’d no inkling whatsoever that the Colonel would be the one to arrive here however.

As Granite approached, Issac remained firmly at attention, and raised his hand in the usual salute style of the Americorps, with his palm facing forward,

“Colonel, sir, welcome to The Commonwealth.”

OOC: Report that will be provided to Granite:

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