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Ecumene of Holy Orion - Onboard ECS Righteous Truth , 1st Fleet of Faithful Intent


"You have my formal surrender Admiral. I'm putting myself and my soldiers at your mercy." The alien Cygnus V captain stood before Admiral Talaran in the hanger bay of the Righteous Truth, after their ship had been captured and the crew spirited away to Ecumene's flagship. She offered her sole remaining weapon, a non-lethal energy pistol as a token of surrender in customary fashion. The weapon was hardly anything worth offering or even valuable at all, but it was a symbolic gesture, and Talaran recognized it as such.

Talaran took the weapon and nodded to her, "And I formally accept your surrender. You and your crew will be treated fairly and according to Ecumene prisoner of war protocol."

"Even the non-humans?" The captain asked, a grimace crossing her face.

"Yes...they'll be processed and tagged. But no further harm will come to them..or you," Talaran replied, knowing full well how she had to feel as a non-human Laaadaruuan asking that question. He wasn't lying, but he wasn't explaining the full truth either. She didn't need to know the details of how the Ecumene processed alien prisoners of war. He would be able to spare her from that at least for now.

"Thank you Admiral." She gave a sigh of what could almost be called relief. But it was clearly tinged with anxiety.

Talaran gave a nod to his men and indicated that the crew should be taken to the brig for holding until the priests were ready to begin. As he watched them leave, a message came through on the HUD of his visor.

"Admiral. Your presence is requested in the Sanctuary. High-Priest Raynald says its urgent."

It was Talaran's turn now to give a heavy sigh, "I'll be right there. Did he indicate what this was about?"

"No sir. Only that you shouldn't tarry."

"Very well."

-----

Minutes later and Talaran, alone, walked into the hallowed Sanctuary of the Righteous Truth, an inner sanctum at the center of the massive ship that was normally reserved only for elite Orionic Priests. It was intended to be a place of prayer, meditation, and introspection. The large room was dimly lit with low artificial light, and its smooth sloping walls gave no impression of elaborate decoration. There were no statues, paintings, or furniture of any kind. The only thing of note was a raised circular dais at its center, where Talaran could see the figure of High-Priest Raynald standing. He approached slowly, and as he walked up the steps to the dais, Raynald turned to meet him.

"I'll leave you alone then." He said simply, showing no signs of arrogance that he'd displayed previously. In fact, he seemed almost a bit unnerved himself.

Confused Talaran watched him descend the steps and then leave out the sanctuary door, the door hissing to a close behind him. As Talaran looked around confused, he suddenly saw the holographic images of seven figures appear around him in a circle, seated on floating chairs. A moment's recognition was all it took, and Talaran fell to his knees.

"Blessed Elders, forgive my impertinence."

The Priests now presenting themselves as holograms were none other than the Conclave. The highest ranking priests of Orion and leaders of The Ecumene. Six of them had their faces obscured by long hoods, but one did not. The Archpriestess of Orion herself, Vayla Dretheen. It was she who spoke first.

"Rise Admiral, there is no need for such shame. You've done well here to bring this planet into the fold of our Holy Ecumene. High Priest Raynald informed me that you acted decisively and without fear in the face of an unexpected enemy attack, and that your losses were minimal. Truly you are favored by Lord Orion. My trust in you is not misplaced."

"I don't deserved such praise from you Archpriestess. I only ask how I might serve The Ecumene further. What do you request of me?"

"The Resurrectionist War with the Scorpines progresses at an alarmingly fast pace," Another of the holographic priests began to speak, "The Martians seek to use the Coalition to intercede on the Scorpine's behalf and supply aid to their forces in an attempt to turn the tide."

Another priest continued, the Conclave priests appeared to be almost taking turns speaking, each one fishing the others thoughts as if they were a single person, "This places The Ecumene in a complicated situation. As official members of the Coalition, we are bound to supply aid when requested and it would look ill if we did not show unity in this matter. However..."

"A Scorpine victory itself is unacceptable. For such non-humans abominations to hold Dominion over a human civilization is the pinnacle of heresy. The Resurrectionists, profane as they may be, at least understand this part of Orion's teachings. An alien's place is beneath the ones who hold The Mantle of Orion. They cannot be allowed to win on such terms."

"Equally so, a complete Resurrectionist victory would be equally unwelcome. To allow their heresy to grow and flourish to threaten our Ecumene is...unwise."

Talaran had thus far been listening quietly with head bowed as the Conclave priests explained the situation, but he had a feeling he knew where this conversation was going. He lifted his head and spoke,

"And so what is to be done then?"

The Archpriestess herself gave the final summation of the plan,

"We will be enlisting certain...unsavory elements, in the galaxy to assist us in our efforts to prolong the war as much as possible. The longer the war continues, the greater the benefit to our Ecumene. Within the Coalition, we will express full support to the Martian's proposal. However, should the Scorpines begin to gain the upper hand, we will begin to supply the Resurrectionist forces with intelligence and munitions through independent channels and criminal syndicate elements that will make it very difficult to trace back to us directly. While also intercepting Coalition supply runs where possible."

"I see...it is not my place to question The Conclave's will, but is this not a dangerous proposition. Should the other Coalition members suspect this sabotage..."

"The Coalition is a useful tool. But its usefulness will eventually come to an end. Without Orion's guidance it cannot last. We must secure The Ecumene's future as humanity's shepherds into a new age. One that will be blessed by Orion's holy teachings as we carry out his Great Plan."

"Of course my lady. I did not intend to question Orion's divine plan. What then do you ask of me?"

"Ready the Fleet of Faithful Intent Admiral. You are ordered to move to the edge of Ecumene space near our border with the Scorpines."

"But surely the Scorpines may see that as an act of aggression and assume we are preparing to attack to aid The Resurrectionist forces?"

"Your official role is to act as a deterrent to ensure that the fighting does not spill over into Ecumene controlled space. The Ecumene wishes for nothing more than to secure its border and protect its people. A perfectly reasonable action. Once Cygnus V is pacified, you are to depart at once. The 3rd Fleet of Enlightened Justice will assume martial control of the system. " Archpriestess Vayla replied.

"Very well. I'll order the fleet to begin preparations immediately."

"See to your expedience Admiral. Orion be with you."

With that, the holographic projections dissipated, and Talaran was left alone in the darkened Sanctuary. The lingering question in his mind was how complicated this war was about to become.

Ecumene of Holy Orion - Onboard ECS Righteous Truth , 1st Fleet of Faithful Intent


A shadow cast itself over the planet below as the massive Heavy Carrier Righteous Truth, pride of the Ecumene Navy, loomed in low orbit overhead. Stationed within the 1st Fleet of Faithful Intent alongside seven other Heavy Carriers and dozens of smaller Ecumene Corvettes, the Righteous Truth served as the fleet’s flagship and a mobile command center for Ecumene High Command, particularly the elite priests of The Conclave, whenever they left the Ecumene’s homeworld: Orion Prime.

The bridge of the Righteous Truth was sprawling, with various consoles and terminals manned by a small army of pilots. At the forefront of the bridge stood Admiral-Lord Talaran, Commander of The Ecumene Navy and the 1st Fleet silently observing the planet below. Since arriving in orbit above the Planet Cygnus V, the 1st Fleet had maintained a threatening stance, but not an outright hostile one. Even without explicit warning, the intent was clear and it was well known what an Ecumene Carrier group was capable of when it came to orbital bombardment. Negotiations had already been opened between Cygnus and the Ecumene, and a delegation of the planet’s representative had been welcomed onboard only hours before to meet with one of The Ecumene’s High Priests. Meeting with a member of The Conclave was out of the question for such a relatively minor negotiation, and so a High Priest had been sent in their stead who was high enough ranked to ensure the delegation would not be insulted.

Lord Talaran shifted easily on the bridge, not out of nervousness or apprehension but out of general boredom. The bureaucratic intricacies of the Priesthood of Orion never interested him. His concern, first and foremost, was leading his fleet in battle. Should negotiations fail he would be given the word to start the assault and that was what he was waiting for. He would not have to wait long.

The doors to the bridge behind him slid open with a soft hiss and High-Priest Raynald stepped inside, the elderly priest leaned heavily on his sacred staff of office and was trailing a long tail of fine robes behind him.

“And?” Was all Talaran said. The question was implicit.

“They agreed to all of our terms.”

“Good. And so what are...”

“Except one,” The High Priest interrupted, “I tried deeply to explain how the faith of Orion was incompatible with their primitive social structure and how The Mantle of Orion could only be held by humanity as our divinely ordained duty and right. They were unconvinced.”

“How unfortunate,” Talaran said flatly, not even attempting to hide his disinterest.

“Indeed. I suspect that the non-human elements of the planet are too ingrained into its power structure. On worlds with a predominantly human population, this is never an issue. We will have to liberate them from their Alien oppressors.”

“I see.”

“Lord Talaran, Cygnus V planetary defense fleet is inbound.” One of the bridge pilots stated.

Talaran turned back towards the bridge and could see the rapidly approaching hostile fleet in the distance, “That was quick,” He murmured, “If I didn’t know any better, I’d say they may have been using the negotiations to stall for time….”

The High Priest simply shrugged, “Perhaps. Such is the treacherous nature of the non-human.”

Talaran sighed and then began walking down towards the front of the bridge, as he did so, he relayed his commands, “All Carriers open fire, target lead vessels. Corvette strike groups Alpha through Delta move to intercept. Fighters and assault craft standby for boarding actions.”

“Yes sir.”

“Strange, it's almost like you were expecting this Lord Talaran,” The High-Priest said, and while his face was covered with his ornate mask, it wasn’t hard to discern that he was probably grinning, “Have you so little faith in our diplomacy?”

Talaran ignored the comment and continued focusing on the fight at hand. At his word, the Ecumene Heavy Carriers began opening up with their forward guns. As might be expected, the bombardment was devastating as it tore through the enemy fleet. The targeted forward vessels were almost immediately destroyed by the Heavy Carrier’s firepower but the smaller light frigates continued their push towards the Ecumene’s battlegroup unfazed in an almost suicidal gambit. The Corvettes as per the battle plan moved to intercept these vessels. The Corvettes were far more suited to this close ship-to-ship action than the Carriers were, and quickly disabled or dispatched the majority of the enemy ships. The few remaining halted their advance, knowing that further resistance was wasteful at this point. Talaran had been wondering if perhaps there was a hidden objective to this ferocious surprise attack, which is why he’d kept the majority of the Corvette groups in reserve, but it seems there had not been. It had simply been the last ditch effort of a strong people unwilling to accept surrender without a fight.

“Admiral, incoming communication from one of the Cygnus ships.”

Talaran nodded and looked up at the holographic projection that appeared on the center of the bridge. The image shown was that of a blue-tinged humanoid female with long wisps of tentacle-like appendages where normally might be human hair.

A Laaadaruuan perhaps? Talaran wondered, Or perhaps an offshoot species? Difficult to say.

“We surrender,” The alien captain began, “You can cease your attacks. We’ll offer no more resistance.”

“I accept your surrender,” Talaran replied politely, “Stand down and have your crews prepare for boarding. I will dispatch boarding parties to all remaining vessels to accept your surrender in person and to disarm combatants.”

“Very well,” the captain replied, and with a slight bow, she ended the communication leaving Talaran to turn back to the High-Priest.

“Send for my guard,” Talaran ordered one of his assistants who was awaiting instructions nearby, “I’ll be meeting with the fleet commander.”

“An expected outcome. Pitiful resistance really, “When will these lesser lifeforms learn that humanity’s place is to act as guides and to lead them to the fulfillment of Orion’s Great Plan? So much violence could be avoided if this was just accepted.”

“They fought valiantly,” Talaran replied matter-of-factly to the High-Priest, “In the face of ignoble defeat, they chose to fight with the slim chance of victory rather than allow themselves to be subdued. I can respect that, even admire it.”

“You always did have strange eccentricities Admiral-Lord Talaran. Were it not for the exceptional favor you’ve curried with the Archpriestess and your exemplary service to the Ecumene, I might wonder if you were a heretic.”

“Respecting the tenacity of a well-fought adversary isn’t heresy. It's a matter of honor.”

“Be sure that respect does not morph into something more….radical.” The High-Priest gave a final warning as Talaran moved to step-off the bridge.

“Noted my lord Priest,” Talaran said as the doors began to close. He barely contained his insolent tone. Technically a High-Priest of Raynald’s age and experience was above him in rank, but it went without saying that he disagreed with that assessment personally. He would never admit it openly, but there were many times where he preferred to deal with enemy commanders, even non-human ones, rather than suffer through a meeting with one of Orion’s elite Priests. He imagined that this would be one of those times as well.

“Time to see if I’m correct…” he muttered to himself as he hit the button on the elevator to take him down to the hangar bays.


Legate Aurelius and Vulpes Inculta - SAC HQ Bunker

"The Cult itself has no positive message, a vision for the future, or really anything to offer the Wastelanders out there", Barnaky continued, "It relies on terror to compel obedience, and even obedience to their commands offer no guarantee of safety. Lift the Cult's boot off their necks, and offer them a future, and the civilians swing right into line....and they know better than anyone who among them needs killing."

“Well said my Lord,” The Legatus replied with a nod, “Very well then. We are agreed. No mercy to be shown to those who call themselves a disciple of that abomination, but those that have no love for their overlords will be treated fairly. I will relay that order to my Senior Centurions. I assure you my legionaries will have no issues with discipline on this campaign.”

“Unless there is something else we should discuss Lord Barnaky, I’m eager to begin. Once my Legions have assembled and are in good order, we’ll begin our push east. Vulpes..I leave you to confer with your equivalents within The Brotherhood about how best to fight this enemy. Should you learn anything, report it to me immediately.”

“Of course. I’ve already sent out some of my Frumentarii to begin scouting ahead for The Legion’s advance.”

“Well done Vulpes. I’m glad Caesar sent you along to support us. We can ask for no better man in The Legion for these tasks.”

“I’m at your disposal Legatus.” Vulpes bowed.

With that Aurelius turned back to Barnaky, “I’m told the Brotherhood salutes their members with the phrase ‘Ad Victoriam’ in the Legion’s own tongue. A fitting phrase I think, and more than rightfully used here. In The Legion, our rallying cry is ‘Legio Invicta’, meaning ‘Unconquered Legion’. A reminder that despite all it has gone through, the Legions of Caesar still stand. However, I will gladly offer a salute in The Brotherhood’s own manner.”

The Legate clasped his fist to his chest in a smart salute,

“Ad Victoriam, Lord Barnaky.”

Director Thomas Milburn, Cait, and Desmond Lockheart - Robotics Technology Facility RB-2851

Flanked by a pair of Gen-2 Synth Security Units, Thomas, Cait, and Desmond rode a large metal elevator as it descended deeper into the concrete lined earth. Desmond had been told little to nothing about where they were going, aside from the fact that he would need to see for himself. While he wasn’t exactly nervous, he was a bit on-edge, knowing full well what sort of horrors these old-world bunkers often held.

In lieu of his usual grimy pre-war wear, which he rarely had time or the inclination to clean in his line of work, he was now wearing a pressed dark grey suit and tie along with a matching overcoat. Underneath his suit jacket was a shoulder holster strapped to his torso, with a brand new .45 auto pistol clipped inside. He’d been offered his pick of The Institute’s energy guns, but preferred to continue using traditional weaponry. “Old reliables” he’d called them. So instead, Institute Facilities had outfitted him the .45 pistol along with the rest of his gear, and a few other goodies that would satisfy a pre-war intelligence agent. Thomas had referred to it as a “Welcome package”, a little something to wet his appetite now that he’d agreed to sign on with them.

Desmond turned to look around, and saw Thomas checking his watch with a bored look. Next to Thomas however, Desmond could see the look of the fiery Irish broad staring right at him with contempt.

“Can I help you with something ‘lass’ or do you always look at your coworkers that way?”

“Not a big fan of the stupid looking wig you’re wearin’. Lets just say you remind me of someone that I hate and leave it at that.”

Desmond caught a glimpse of a brief look of recognition on Thomas’s face, and he guessed that this was some sort of shared history between them.

“Oh...what happened to him then?” Desmond replied, keeping his tone as polite as he could in a way that he was certainly not used to.

“I put two slugs right in his heart.”

“We’re here,” Thomas suddenly interrupted, as the elevator came to a stop and the trio, along with their Synth escorts, stepped out.

The first impression Desmond immediately got was how large the area was, and the next was the sounds of industrial machines coming from what sounded like far deeper into the facility. As they approached what looked to be the glass-encased control him, Desmond looked down to see the engraving etched on the floor.

“United States Army Robotics...where the fuck are we Thomas? Back to old haunts?”

“Not exactly but still a rather interesting location. One we acquired some time back after it was discovered the facility was the source of a robot incursion into The Commonwealth.”

“Robot incursion?”

“Not important right now,” Thomas replied, as they began ascending the metal gangplank leading to the control room, “What is important, is how we can utilize it. But I’ll leave that to her.” He said, pointing into the control room.

Desmond hadn’t noticed her before, but now he could see the nervous looking black haired woman wearing an Institute robotics lab coat that might have looked a size or two too big for her.

“Hello Thomas...sorry….I mean...Director..sir.”

“And who’s this?” Desmond asked skeptically sizing her up.

“I-sabel….Cruz….Isabel Cruz….” Isabel stammered as she offered Desmond a nervous hand, “Sorry I’m still getting used to...people...in general.”

Desmond gave Thomas a ‘Who the hell is this broad?’ look before reaching out to meet Isabel’s handshake,

“Desmond Lockheart,” He replied.

“How do you do Mr. Lockheart.”

“Just Desmond is fine. I don’t exactly get worked up over formalities.”

“Desmond is now a specialized intelligence operative within The SRB. I’ve hired him on to assist us with some of the potential...problems we’ve been facing,” Thomas explained, “And Isabel…” he continued, turning to Desmond, “Is a pre-war Robotics Expert. She’s been tasked with overseeing this facility and our future plans concerning it.”

“Oh? And how’d she get that gig exactly?”

“It’s well...complicated. If you’re concerned about her expertise though, she’s more than qualified. In fact, she initially found this facility of her own accord and got it operational. It's taken her a bit of time to get acclimated to our way of doing things, but she’s got more knowledge about robotics and artificial intelligence than many of my CIT colleagues before the war.”

“Impressive…” Desmond said with genuine surprise. Just by looking at her he wouldn’t guessed she was capable of it.

Isabel blushed nervously and fiddled with her hair, “Oh you know...I’m not all that interesting. Just trying to do what I can to help…..since I kinda...didn’t start off on the right foot.”

“That’s putting it mildly…” Cait muttered, just loud enough for Desmond to hear. Thomas pretended not to notice. Desmond had to wonder what she could be referring to, but thought it best not to ask. Perhaps he’d broach the subject later.

“All in the past. What we need to do now is use this treasure trove of old world technology to our advantage. It’s a massive production facility, with enough industrial output to rival a city. From what we’ve been able to gather, it was a Robotics research facility specializing in the Robobrain Program, but its able to build and refit a variety of different Robco and General Atomics model military robots, and I suspect, much more.”

“Think I can guess where this is going…”

“We’re retooling the facility to produce some of the older synth models, Institute weapons and armaments, as well as modified versions of RobCo and General Atomics military bots...some of my own designs,” Isabel said as she shuffled her feet, “Eventually, we may even be able to start producing larger military hardware as well.”

“This facility’s production capacity matched with The Institute’s should be enough to start supplementing our woefully low military numbers,” Thomas explained, “ We can’t match the sheer military power of many of the states we’ve observed thus far, but hopefully we can at least muster enough strength to give them pause if it comes to it. The Institute’s never needed a particularly large security force, not until The Brotherhood arrived, and from what I understand Robotics was working round the clock during that time to produce more Synths. That can't be the case going forward.”

Desmond crossed his arms, “That’s all well and good, but why exactly am I here?”

“Aside from its uses in production, I want this location to be something of a backup facility, in case The Institute is ever threatened directly. To that end I’ve ordered quarters to be built and the facility expanded to include the necessities required to make it sustainable if we ever need to fall back. It’s well hidden and built to withstand even a direct nuclear strike so I imagine it should be well suited for that. Some SRB and Robotics personnel will be relocating here in the near future. I’ve furnished quarters for you as well.”

“Not exactly the Penthouse Suite, but it's probably better than what you’re used to,” Cait quipped.

“Hmmph. I’ll be the judge of that. About this army you’re building Thomas, I assume part of that had something to do with me as well?”

“Naturally,” Thomas nodded, “In addition to the Synths and the Robots from this facility, we’ll be attempting to work more closely with some human elements in The Commonwealth as well. I’ve already invited the necessary parties to a meeting. I’d like for you to be there. I want this to be cleared out before we start out operation to investigate The Cult.”

“Done. Suppose I can manage a bloody sit-down well enough. Where am I meeting them?”

“Not far from here….Logan Airport. Seemed like an appropriate location. The wreckage of the Prydwen should help them to understand where things stand.”

“Remind me, were you always a dick before the war or did the war change you that much? After 200 years my memory isn’t exactly tip top.” Desmond smirked.

“Between you and Robert….I certainly learned from the best,” Thomas replied as he slapped him on the back, “Don’t be late.”

“Say hi to Maggy for me will ya? Promise she won’t bite.” Cait smirked as she walked over to stand next to Thomas.

“Who?”

“You’ll see.”

Both then suddenly vanished in a flash of blue light, leaving Desmond behind alone with Isabel and the two Gen-2 security Synths.

“So...umm...should I...should I show you where you’ll be staying?”
This looks interesting.
Might be interested if this happens to get off the ground. I'm relatively new to Elder Scrolls RP though, but I know enough about the lore I think I can make it work.
Old Longfellow - The Hull

“It’s good we got Avery, but we need to start preparing the town. That sounded like the last bit of diplomacy we would get. We should get all those projects we had in mind going with the vertibird stuff. Do you still have people good at working on the Hull and other engineering?.”

Longfellow scratched his bearded chin a bit in contemplation, "Not sure really. The Mariner ain't around no more since she left to go find the Red Death. And nobody's really taken up the mantle to keep up the hull. I can maybe get a few strong backs together for lifting and the like, but we could use somebody who can tell them what to do and how to build it up better for protection."

“Rose couldn't have just disappeared,” he said slowly “What if they somehow forced her to run off into the Fog? If she moved quickly, she could have run off in the short time we couldn’t see her. I’m going to check for tracks. They could lead us to the cultists. Can either of you help me?”

"I probably need to head back and make sure everyone is alright. If they grabbed the girl, they might have done something else while we were distracted. Corinne might be able to help you though if its tracking you're after."

--

Castner kneels in the dirt and starts to look for signs of what might have happened. Even without Corrine's help, it would have been hard to miss what he finds. There's a large set of tracks imprinted in the soft earth near the hull leading up to where Rose disappeared. Corrine would likely be able to identify them as Gulper tracks, albeit abnormally large ones. Although given what they've seen so far, its not too surprising. The tracks lead off back into the Fog but its hard to say which direction they go or how far in. The only other thing of note is that there's no sign of blood anywhere to be found. (Roll passed)
Legatus Aurelius and Vulpes Inculta - SAC HQ Bunker Operations Room

The Legate listened intently as Barnaky laid out the strategic situation and explained in detail each of the fronts that The Cult was being engaged on. As Barnaky spoke, Aurelius couldn't help but admire his tactical knowledge, and appreciated the fact that here was a leader whom he could compare to Caesar as a warrior-king, not merely an elected official playing at one like President Kimball Jr. had been. He understood quite well why Lucius had chosen to work with him as an ally.

"That's the situation in a nutshell", Barnaky said, "If you have questions I'd be pleased to answer them."

Aurelius paused for a few moments, studying the large map projected on the wall and mulling over each of their strategic options. Vulpes remained silent, understanding that his place as Primus Frumentarius was second to the Legate's command over the eastern legions, he was there in an advisory capacity only.

"Overall strategic command of this operation falls to your command Lord," Aurelius began, "You're people have been fighting the cult for longer than we've even known they existed, and you best know their strengths and weaknesses. I will defer to your judgement for the duration of this operation, this Caesar has willed as well. That being said, were I given the preference, I would choose to advance my legions along the central front and push to Indianapolis. With our forces joining yours already there, we should be able to turn the tide of the siege and capture the city in short order. From there we can push onward like a spear through to Columbus. That should allow you to redeploy some of your Knights to Detroit then, where I suspect they will be badly needed. Thanks to your railway, all four of my Legions can be deployed quickly and we can use surprise to our advantage, as I doubt they will be expecting The Legion's forces to be arrayed against them so soon after the NCR war."

"Wisely," Aurelius explained, "Caesar ordered more than half of The Legion's total strength to be held in reserve while the NCR invaded. Each of the legions I've brought with me, the Fifth, Second, Twelfth, and Seventh, are at full fighting strength and did not engage with Kimball. In addition to the six legions that fought off the NCR invasion, we have another three full stength Legions waiting in reserve. Of those three, we can bring the Eleventh Legion up if the situation becomes dire here, but I don't expect we shall need them."

Walking up to the map, the Legate pointed towards the northern front and Detroit,

"I don't wish to leave your men in the North without our support however, to that end I would suggest that a detachment of the Legio II Victrix serve as an auxiliary force to your forces pushing into the Republic. Caesar has requisitioned the support of Great Khan mercenaries who are riding east as we speak, a small force of a few hundred riders but they're well armed and good fighters. We can attach them to the Legion detachment and send them north as well."

"Do you have any objections to this plan Lord?" Aurelius asked, "And you Vulpes? What is your opinion?"

"If Lord Barnaky approves, then I have no objections. My only concern is that as the Legion advances east, we have adequate knowledge regarding the terrain but more importantly the enemy we are facing. With that in mind Lord Barnaky, I would ask that my Frumentarii be briefed by your Inquisitors on the nature of the cult and effective ways to counter them. A psychological war may be improbable to fight against madmen, but not impossible. All men fear something: perhaps we can supply it to them."

"On that note as well," Aurelius interjected, turning to Barnaky, "I would inform you that Caesar has ordered me to show no mercy to these cultists. Civilians will not be harmed, but those tainted by the Cult, and any who serve it...we will be crucified. They can howl to their abomination of a god when they're up on a cross...we'll see if it answers them then."

(OOC: I mentioned the Khans mostly just as a reminder that they're still around. If anyone has objections I can do away with it.)

Director Thomas Milburn, Sanctuary Hills(?) - Inside The Institute

Thomas heard the distinctive crunch of broken glass beneath his feet as he approached the scene. Like a pre-war detective walking up on a homicide, he approached the figure of the young girl splayed out on the pavement with both cold indifference and investigative deduction in mind.

“Oh my God!” Mr. Able yelled as he exited his car, “Oh God I didn’t know she was there Tom. Is she alright? Oh Jesus...”

Someone else from the neighborhood screamed, and a crowd started to gather as Thomas knelt down next to Catherine,

“I...where am I?” The young girl wondered aloud in a haze, “I’m...I’m sorry Mr. Milburn I guess...I guess I just didn’t see the car coming out.”

“It’s alright Catherine. I can take the pain away easily. You’ll be good as new soon, I promise.” Thomas smiled kindly as he gently caressed her forehead.

“U4-88, recall code Cinderella.”

Catherine’s eyes suddenly deadend and she went limp on the pavement.

“Tom what happened, what’s going on?” He could hear Nora yelling, “Shaun go back inside! Now!”

Without looking away from Catherine, Thomas simply said,

“Override current environmental response. Return to starting points. Authorization code: Omega 4 3 Ark.”

The expressions on all the neighbors and his wife immediately went blank, and they walked back to their homes without another word uttered between them. Thomas meanwhile continued studying Catherine’s now lifeless form. He pushed his glasses up and noted the injuries to her head and the oddly self-inflicted scratches along her neck.

“What got into you?” He whispered with a mixture of confusion and pure scientific curiosity.

The sounds of approaching metallic footfalls came from further down the road, and soon a trio of Gen-1 Synths was lined up in front of Thomas,

“Hello Father. Do you require our assistance?”

“Yes. Take Catherine here down to Robotics and have Dr. Loken, personally, run a full diagnostic on the unit. Let him know that it's a Class C Abnormal Autonomic Behavior and ask him to log it. Once that’s done, send a team up here to gather all the event log data from each of the units and send it off to Advanced Systems as well. I want them to go line by line and figure out what just happened here and why. Understood?”

“Certainly Father.”

“Go then,” Thomas waved his hand dismissively, and the Gen-1’s immediately began putting Catherine’s body onto a stretcher and carrying it out of the Sanctuary Hills experiment area.

“Odd..but not entirely unusual..,” He muttered to himself as he tried to think through every possible faulty programming scenario in his head, each one seeming more far fetched than the last. He let out a sigh and looked upwards, letting the artificial sun beat down on his face. A sardonic chuckle escaped him, “Even here, in my sanctuary I still can’t escape from work.”

Desmond Lockheart and The Director, Sanctuary Hills(?)

Desmond awoke to feeling of a warm sun on his face and the sounds of cheerful birds chirping. He could hear a lawnmower in the distance, and along with it came the familiar smell of freshly cut grass. His confusion was only amplified as his eyes adjusted and he saw well trimmed green lawns, white picket fences, and tidy homes lining a freshly paved street.

He realized then that he was sitting in a lawn chair up against a patio table in the middle of one of the many lush green backyards. Reclining across from him was a man dressed in plaid shorts, loafers, a short sleeve collared shirt, and sunglasses which screamed suburban life. For a brief moment, Desmond assumed he was in a dream until he looked down and saw his necrotic hands. He was never a ghoul in his dreams.

“Hello Desmond,” The man said as he turned to him, “Enjoying the weather?”

The voice was instantly familiar to him and his memory of the previous events in the Third Rail came flooding back swiftly,

“Thomas. Well I suppose I should be surprised. Where are we exactly? I can guess I’ve been shanghai'd to The Institute, but this...well. Is it a simulation?”

At that moment, a Mister Handy floated up to the pair carrying a metal tray with two drinks,

“Lemonade’s here sir!” The robot proudly exclaimed, “Made it myself and quality-assured by the missus haha!”

“Thank you Codsworth,” Thomas smiled as he took one of the drinks. Codsworth offered the other to Desmond, and the old ghoul hesitated, but finally clasped the cold drink in his hands. He waited for Thomas to take the first sip, and then slowly raised the glass to his own rotting lips. He was surprised to find how delicious it tasted and he couldn’t help but widen his eyes in surprise.

“It's not a simulation, not a virtual one in any case,” Thomas finally replied, “Everything here is real, down to the last blade of grass. The sun is artificial of course and there’s some illusion at work when it comes to the backdrop, but aside from that its an exact copy of my home. Sanctuary Hills.”

“And the people, they’re..”

“Synths yes. Exact copies of each of my former friends and neighbors. They’re memories and neurological makeup taken directly from the bodies of those in Vault 111. The cryogenic stasis they were placed it kept their corpses thankfully very fresh, which is the only thing that made this possible. Their programming has been altered slightly of course so that they’re stuck in the same loops over and over again, to ensure they don’t break the illusion here.”

Desmond looked around the neighborhood and observed each of them going about their business. It was hard to imagine at first glance that they weren’t real. As he panned around, he could see into the window of the home they were in the backyard of, and spied a woman with dark hair. Next to her, he could see the top of a young boy’s head.

“You even copied your wife and child…” Desmond couldn’t help but let out a subdued gasp.

Thomas fell silent for a few moments.

“Yes, I did. Although the child wasn’t my doing really. My son, my real son, created him for me as his way of...making amends for the lost time. He asked me to look after the child before he passed. So I decided to create this place as a way to do that. It allows me, if even briefly, to recapture everything I lost. I love it and hate it in equal measure. Everytime I return here, I swear that it’s the last.”

“How tragic,” Desmond replied matter-of-factly as he leaned back in his chair, “So can I ask what the fuck I’m doing here? You didn’t kill me, so I assume you want something from me.”

“I could say the same. You’re not an easy man to get to Desmond. If you wanted to evade capture, you could have. You walked into the Third Rail knowing that Goodneighbor had long ago stopped being free. Everyone there is a Synth. The illusion of resistance against The Institute is kept up there only for appearances, and to lure in those who still want to fight. Remnants of The Railroad...The Brotherhood...The Minutemen and so on. You wanted to be captured so I assume you’re looking to get something out of an arrangement as well. The Great Game boring you now?”

“Maybe,” Desmond nodded as he took another sip of the lemonade, “Maybe I’m tired of doing this over and over again. Maybe I thought I might finally be able to work with one of my rivals instead of kill them.”

Thomas smiled, “I could use your help Desmond. Back in the day you were the best intelligence agent The British had to offer. Got the DIA out of many a tight jam and served your country, and ours, with distinction. The Institute is just coming into its own on the stage and we’ve already discovered that its much larger and more complicated than we anticipated. Nations have formed that are far more powerful than ourselves. We need information before we can figure out what to do about that.”

“So you need me to lead up your intelligence agency hmm? Can’t say I disagree...it’s the smart choice. Those egg-heads of yours might be smart, but they’re amateurs compared to what we had,” Desmond leaned back smugly in his chair, “But I don’t really see what's in it for me. The country I served is long since blown to hell and I’m not feeling all that loyal to an armed university.”

“I figured you might say that...so what if I told you I could get you something you’ve wanted for a long time. What if I could cure your ‘condition’?”

“Not sure why I’d want to do that,” Desmond shrugged, “Ghouldom isn’t a fucking walk in the park, but it has its perks. Immortality for one. Immunity to radiation for another. Kinda comes in handy this day and age you know?”

“Assume I can offer that along with the promise of a cure.”

Desmond narrowed his eyes, “Keep talking Thomas..”

“It's why I brought you here,” Thomas motioned his hand around, “Why I demonstrated this to you.”

“Synths. So that’s your plan. Build me a new body I supposed, hmm? Alright, I’ll bite. And what exactly is stopping you from controlling me like a puppet once I agree to that?”

“If I wanted that, I could just kill you, scan you, and build a copy and program it to follow my orders to the letter. Let's be frank here Desmond. That’s not what I’m after. I need your mind and I need it whole and unspoiled. A Synth can do many things...many, many things. But despite the appearances, its not wholly up to the task of matching the human mind. It's the one advantage we have over them. There are flaws and limitations that are only perceptible to those that have intimate knowledge of their workings. I’m going through all this trouble for a reason, not because I find it fun. I’m offering this to you in exchange for your help because I know it's the one thing you’ve been unable to get. I know why you’re always wearing that fake wig and mustache. Its because your longing for the old days is almost as great as mine. What I’m offering you is the same thing I’ve found here in this place….a small piece of that.”

Desmond sat back and let out a throaty chuckle, “Figured I might have made the right choice….alright you’ve got a deal. You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours. Just like the old days then. So, what exactly do you need my help with?”

“There’s a group I’m very interested in learning more about. Perhaps even working with if the circumstances permit it. But from what I’ve heard we need to be very precise...and very careful with how we go about it. I think you’ve run into them before as well….in Maryland.”

“Oh?”

“A group called: The Cult.”
Legatus Aurelius of Phoenix and Vulpes Inculta - Brotherhood Territory

The interior of the steam locomotive that was transporting the Legate and Vulpes, along with a cadre of Praetorians and High ranking Centurion officers, was well furnished with the comforts that would be expected of foreign dignitaries. To men of The Legion on campaign, it was certainly a step up from the usual accommodations of a Legion military camp, but their interest was not in frivolities or sight-seeing, The Legate's single-minded ambition was to treat with Barnaky as soon as possible and establish a coordinated plan of attack.

"The iron horses of The Brotherhood are certainly impressive," Vulpes remarked to the Legate as he stared out the window of the train car at the plentiful fields of Nebraska laden with crops and the bounty of what would no doubt be a fine harvest, "Imagine what we might do if we could move Legions East to West with such haste and such ease as they do. I cannot help but marvel at the possibilities."

The Legate shifted uncomfortably in his seat, "Hmm. Perhaps...although I'd much prefer a good steed beneath me than a abomination of metal and fire."

"It can't be helped. If we're to organize the offensive, we need to link with Barnaky as soon as possible. Meeting with him directly to plan it reduces the chances of error and miscommunication. And if we're to represent Caesar's banner, it is the proper form to meet him face to face to show our commitment to this alliance."

"I do not disagree. Besides, I am eager to meet this great leader of The Midwest and see him for myself."

"As am I..." Vulpes once more stared out the window. He thought back to his short stay at the diplomatic meeting in New Vegas. Barnaky was...not what he had expected. He wasn't entirely sure there was a man of flesh there at all and not one of metal.

A few hours more journey had them pulling in to the station at Omaha, and The Legion officers disembarked on to the platform. In usual fashion, the Praetorian guards, regally adorned with crimson plumbed helms and finely crafted armor and shields, exited first and with drilled precision formed a protective ring around The Legate. They likely needn't have bothered given The Brotherhood's own security preparations, but it was their duty to protect the household and person of Caesar. As The Legate was representing Caesar in absentia, they would show Aurelius the same unwavering devotion they would give to him.

Following Aurelius, came the Senior Centurions and finally a contubernium of Veteran Legionaries, whose vexallarius proudly held aloft the golden bull standard of Legio I Arizona. Vulpes, while present, had disembarked with the Praetorians, and was garbed as one of them: not wishing to draw attention to himself.

Aurelius stared out into the curious crowd, intrigued by the sights and sounds of the Midwestern throng. He nodded approvingly at the young soldiers to-be in black and at the power-armored soldiers that ensured the citizens kept a safe distance back. Feeling the need to say something, The Legate stepped forward and addressed the crowd,

"People of The Midwest. I am Legatus Aurelius of Phoenix, Commander of the Eastern Legions. Caesar has ordered me to help you drive the hated Cult from your lands and ensure they are sent screaming back into Tatarus. Know that I do not come alone, and that twenty-five thousand Son of Mars march behind me!"

With the crowds elated cheers, Aurlius could hear Vulpes's voice coming from one of the Praetorians ahead of him, his voice slightly muffled by the covered helmet he wore,

"I did not know you were in the custom of giving speeches Legatus. A fine one. I daresay even Queastor Titus would be envious of your words."

"Hm. I felt it appropriate. Now we shouldn't tarry. Praetorians! Move out!" He shouted the command loud enough for all to hear.

After a short time, the Legate's retinue was taken to a convoy of waiting vehicles, and they passed through the impressive city of Omaha. Unexpectedly however, their journey took them away from this center of population and out into the country. Soon they had arrived at what appeared to be an old pre-war military base, and The Legate and Vulpes both assumed that this must be the fabled "Vault 0" or at least had some connection to it. As could be expected, the base was heavily fortified and run like a well oiled machine. They expected nothing else from The Brotherhood in that regard.

Once inside, Vulpes removed his helm and fell in behind his Legate in his official role now as Primus Frumentarius, the need for disguise had passed. Both and he and Aurelius both were led into what their Brotherhood escorts referred to as the "Operations Room" and saw the robotic construct that was Barnaky, or perhaps controlled by him, waiting along with the applause of his own staff to greet them.

"Legate Aurelius", Barnaky said warmly as he extended his hand, "Welcome to Omaha, your reputation precedes you...it's good to finally meet you!". He then added, "Please forgive the robot, I've found using this form is easier for others to, well, relate to than other methods. How was your trip?"

"Comfortable and expedient, thanks to you my Lord," Aurlius replied as he accepted the robot's offer of a customary handshake with some hesitation. He wasn't sure what to make of Barnaky's stand-in just yet, but was equally surprised by the Lord of The Midwest's informal tone. He wasn't sure what he'd been expecting, but a royal audience and elaborate ceremony had been tossed around in his head. He rather preferred it this way however, no need for pomp and circumstance between warriors.

"I would introduce to you as well, Primus Frumentarius Vulpes Inculta, leader of The Legion's Frumentarii." He continued.

"An honor to meet you once again my Lord," Vulpes said with a bow, "Our brief time in Vegas was unexpectedly short. I'm afraid the treachery of the NCR dogs made certain of that."
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