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Nuka World, Nuka Town USA

The sounds of fierce battle filled the streets of Nuka Town as the Operators began their purge. Spurred on by The Institute’s promise of a mutually beneficial relationship, the Black siblings had launched their long awaited plan to seize Nuka Town for their own, and eliminate the other two gangs. Despite the element of surprise things had not gone entirely to plan. The initial strategy devised by William and Mags was to attack and quickly destroy The Pack with overwhelming force before Nisha and her Disciples even had a chance to learn what was going on. However Mason and his gang had not proven easy to dislodge from their little warren. Mags and William both had given a brief moment of introspection to this, and realized how much they’d underestimated Mason’s crew. They’d made a huge miscalculation, and paid the price.

Finally Mason had been killed, albeit only after taking out a few Operators by himself as he fought like a cornered bear. With that done, they could focus their attention on The Disciples. Unfortunately, the delay caused had left The Disciples with time to figure out what was happening and ready themselves. Now, Mags and William found themselves attempting to breach the Fizztop mountain courtyard, which The Disciples had barricaded and now fiercely guarded, leading The Operators into a choke point.

It was here the battle had stalled, and things were getting desperate,

“Fucking mask wearing creeps!” William yelled out over the din of automatic gunfire as he ducked behind a ‘Cappy and Bottle’ statue.

“Will!” Mags yelled to her brother. She could hear bullets whizzing past her head as she lay down behind the fountain, “They're trying to buy time! They’re going to make a run for it!”

“I can see that Sis!” William snarled as he unloaded a few shots at the barricade. One of the bullets struck a female Disciple, and she crumpled to the ground.

Mags could already hear the shots of the Operators she’d sent to swing around the side of Fizztop, evidently having run into Disciples that had been moved to counter just such an encirclement. Nisha was a bloodthirsty monster, but she wasn’t stupid. Mags cursed herself for not realizing that she should have been their first target, not Mason. Mason never possessed the cunning that Nisha had always showed.

“What the fuck do we do now Sis?” William called out again. Mags had always been the brain to William’s brawn. He was no dummy himself, but he’d always relied on Mags to figure out a way to get them out of tight spot. And a tight spot they were in.

“Damnit!” Mags cried out and pounded her fist on the ground, “I really didn’t want to have to do this….this was our fight! Noone elses!”

She withdrew a small white cylindrical object from her pocket, a red electrical warning label was stamped to its side. She pulled the pin and tossed it over the barricade.

“The fuck was that?” William asked incredulously, “The hell did you just do? Was that a goddamn grena...”

Suddenly flashes of blue light began appearing atop and over the barricade, along with the sounds of laser fire….and numerous mechanical voices.

“By order of The Institute, you must be destroyed.”

William knew exactly what she’d done, and he wasn’t happy, “You signaled them?”

“Had no other choice. We fucked up. Plain and simple,” Mags grumbled as she came to her feet. The gunfire had begun to lull as the screams of surprised Diciples faded away with it. A Gen-1 Synth poked its head around the makeshift barricade before stepping out into full view.

“Operation complete. No hostile lifesigns detected in area.”

“Good no lets….wait none at all? What about inside Fizztop?” A worried look crossed Mag’s face.

“No lifesigns detected.”

Mags let out an enraged scream that surprised her brother, “What? What is it?” He pleaded with her for an answer.

“Nisha’s already gone!” Mags fumed, “They escaped!”

Back at Institute SRB, Dr. Secord had watched the entire scene unfold with a discerning eye. The Watchers had captured everything she’d needed for her report,

“Not a good first impression,” She muttered to herself as she ejected the recording holotape. They’d captured footage of The Disciples leaving through the back entrance as well, scattering to the hillside like scrambling rodents. She could order a pursuit, but it seemed pointless. What was one more outcast raider gang amongst the innumerable in the wastes? After The Institute’s synths had appeared, she quite doubted too that they’d ever return to bother Nuka World again. And she cared little for where they went beyond that.

Nisha tracked the groups of her Disciples streaming in, scattered as they were, as they began to rally up on the other side of the mountains. Dixie approached her, with a hand held to her hip and speaking in that incessantly polite southern twang that hid the true darkness of her soul almost as much as her Mask did,

“Looks like the gang’s gettin’ back together Nisha honey,” She chirped, “Got ourselves out of a bit of a tight spot didn’t we? So where we headin’ now boss? We gunna go back and gut William and Maggy? I wouldn’t mind a few swipes at that pretty little face of Maggy’s myself.”

Nisha didn’t bother to turn to her, instead she gazed down at the scrap of crudely skinned hide she held. She didn’t doubt for a moment that the hide most likely hadn’t been that of an animal. It had come to her via a trader, one of many that frequented Nuka World. Something about that one had made her uneasy however, and now she knew why.

A strange symbol lay tattooed on the hide scrap. The same symbol she’d seen calling to her in her dreams for the past year….and told her where to go next,

“West,” She said simply, as she hid the mark back within her clenched fist, “We go west.”

Gunner’s Plaza - GNN Newsroom

“You’re serious then Colonel? We’re actually going through with this?”

Lt. Kilhorn’s confused expression shifted from face to face, first to Captain Wes, then Colonel Cypress and Commander Kaylor. The three commanding officers of the Gunners sat before him on what used to be the old newsroom table,

“Yeah, and why not? It's a job ain’t it? Are you telling me The Gunners should take contracts from anyone but The Institute?” The gruff voice of the aging Colonel was hoarse but still commanding. Kilhorn involuntary chafed under the reproach.

“I don’t think it's just a job Colonel,” Kilhorn meekly replied, “They’re trying to control us.”

“HA!” That’s a good one, Commander Kaylor threw back her head in a laugh, “As if. They’re just looking for some extra muscle. They know damn well they can’t control us. Besides what's the point? As long as they stay underground or in space, or wherever the hell they are, then we get full run of the surface right? Do as we please.”

“Institute caps wouldn’t hurt either. I’m sure they’ve got plenty enough to give us,” Captain Wes added, “We’ll be set for life.”

“I’m not saying we shouldn’t take a job from them….but..”

“And just what are you saying boy?” The Colonel growled, “Because it sounds to me like you’re saying you’re going to disobey a direct order from Gunner command. Do I have that right?”

“No sir,” Kilhorn suddenly snapped to attention, all thoughts of doubt erased by years of regimented discipline, “Forgive me sir. I spoke hastily. I'll let the other officers know your decision right away. Thank you sir.”

“See that you do. Dismissed.”

With that, Kilhorn gave a salute and turned sharply to walk out the door of the studio, leaving the Gunner leaders behind.

Colonel Cypress turned to Kaylor and Wes briefly, giving them a nod of understanding which they returned in kind. Cypress raised a hand to his ear,

“SRB...this is Unit B3-45 reporting. Operation complete.”
Caesar Lucius

“Then let us divide the Khan lands at the end of this war. This war in the east will finish with our victory. When our forces have returned west, after the appropriate period of recuperation, we can fall upon the Khans from the west and south. Would that be agreeable to you Caesar?”

Lucius shook his head, “Forgive me High Elder, I’ve not made my intention clear in this discussion. I will not declare war on the Khans without provocation, without casus belli. Sallow was a conqueror, Kimball Jr….tried to be...both men met untimely fates because of their hubris. I don’t intend to follow either to the grave. The Legion I’m one I intend to be a more stable and productive state than either of them ruled. If you intend to attack the Khans...I will not stop you. As I said, The Legion and the Khans, while amicable, are not allied and I’ve no obligation to rise to their defense. They’ve taken Legion gold in exchange for oaths of battle, but that is all. That being said….I would desire that The Legion be permitted to offer terms of peaceful annexation to the lands of New Canaan and northern Utah. I want to gain what I seek through diplomacy for a change….not warfare. Something Sallow never considered.”

At this point one of the servants handed Lucius a message, indicating that it was from someone waiting outside in the foyer. Lucius quickly read the missive from Barnaky and looked up to see the Lord of The Midwest awaiting the response. Lucius motioned for him to join them. He had no intention of hiding this from Barnaky, nor did it seem, did Gladstone from the tone of his voice.

“However,” he continued, “If you are content to wait until after the war in the east is decided to resolve this, then I’m content with that oath and welcome your support and pledge to do so.”

Once Barnaky entered the room, Lucius address him directly,

“Ave Lord Barnaky,” Lucius said as he rose to meet the robotic construct that served as his proxy, “This meeting has been overdue for far too long, hasn’t it? Please join us.”

Once Barnaky was seated, Gladstone outline his full intentions to join the war, and spoke of an alliance to be forged. Lucius nodded in agreement,

“Your support is welcome, as I previously mentioned. Legatus Aurelius even now marches east to engage the cult. I fear the war will claim many more bodies before the cult is finally defeated.”
Caesar Lucius

“I will raise up the Western Brotherhood to heights it has never known before, we will stride forth and scour the mutant from the land and purge the barbarism of the raiders. As for the Great Khans, I shall be frank. I do not hold anything against them, if it is Caesar’s wish I shall leave them be.”

“Or, perhaps we could carve up their lands between us? An alliance between us would I think be a way to constrain the New Californian Republic from ever moving against us again. An entente against them, you to the south and southeast, and the brotherhood to the north and northeast. I suggest the old highway 80 be the new borders between our lands. And perhaps, befitting of your marital connections, the former lands of New Canaan and all the Mormon territories could be rendered unto Caesar as well?”

Lucius sighed and sat back in his chair, his mind racing with a number of different thoughts. This was going to prove to be an….interesting start to this meeting,

“You put me in an awkward position High Elder. First, to your offer, I cannot deny that reclaiming New Canaan from the Khans has long been a secret desire of mine. Consider it the sentimentality of a husband to his wife, and the desire to right a wrong that I indirectly played a part in by serving Sallow. Had Sallow not encouraged the White Legs to destroy New Canaan, perhaps those lands would still be in the New Canaanites care and out of the Khans hands. Part of me wishes to accept your offer without hesitation...” Lucius gave a sidelong glance to his wife, waiting out in the foyer. She was not aware of the conversation currently going on in the meeting room, and appeared to be discussing some hospitality matters with a few of the household slaves.

“However,” he continued, resuming eye contact with Gladstone, “As I mentioned before The Legion has amicable enough relations with The Khans, and they've proved to be reliable thus far. Even now, Khan mercenaries are fighting side-by-side with your Brothers, and mine, against the greater foe we face in the east. Does that not give you pause at least to consider the implications of war with them? I wonder too, what Lord Barnaky might say about yet another war flaring up in the west. When the true war now lies east.”

Desmond Lockheart - On the Road to Pittsburgh, Outside Yonkers

Desmond strained his eyes as he stared towards the towering broken structures of what used to be the old world city of New York. His recent trip via the molecular relay had left him with a stomach churning sensation, and although The Institute’s personnel had assured him that use of the relay conferred no ill effects, he wasn’t fond of traveling with it. He’d seen enough of those cheesy B-movie horror flicks before the war where some brilliant scientist accidentally teleported half of his body or some other poor sod’s right into oblivion. He didn’t like to use it, and would have preferred his own two feet if he could spare the time.

Still, he couldn’t help but admire its efficiency and speed of travel. The Institute had calibrated the relay to the furthest extent of their comfortable transmission range. It had taken a hell of a lot of power, and would it been entirely impossible if not for The Institute’s cold fusion reactor, but it had manage to drop him not far outside the outskirts of New York, which was a rather considerable distance to travel quickly even in the pre-war world.

SRB had loaded him up with enough provisions to last a good long awhile, but he needed information and speedy, discrete, transport to Pittsburgh, if such a thing was possible. He might find both in New York and if not there, then in The Free Commonwealth, his next destination. The potential difficulties of the journey were not lost on him. He’d heard Pittsburgh was a hell-hole after the war, but rumour was that now it was even worse.

“The hell am I doing this for anyway?” He muttered to himself as he heaved his supply satchel up and over his grimy overcoat. He then stared down at his rotten, necrotic hands, rubbing his fingers together lightly as he tried to remember what it felt like to have skin that didn’t peel off every time he touched it. Thomas’s promise of a new body, a return to what he once was, flooded his mind. It was a gamble...but he had to trust the pre-war popsicle to hold up his end of the bargain.

“Right then,” He sighed, and he double checked to make sure his 9mm was secured by his side, “On the road again….for the upteenth time in a fuckin’ century.”

Caesar Lucius, Santa Fe - Palace of Caesar

“As I see that I am the first to arrive, might I be presumptuous, and enquire as to any matters you might wish to raise with the western brotherhood? Might I suggest an exchange of ambassadors and perhaps the establishment of a trade agreement between our civilisations? In additions to any other matters Caesar wishes to raise with my nation.”

“Ave Elder, and firstly, I thank you for the gifts. They were unnecessary, but not unwelcome. I’ll gladly accept such generosity,” Lucius nodded to a couple of Praetorians standing guard at the doorway, and motioned for them to take the chests of finery away so that they would not clutter up the meeting room.

“As for your second question, yes, I think there is a matter we should discuss. Have a seat. The matter I wanted to discuss with you specifically, Elder, and one of the primary reasons for your invitation to this gathering was to allay some concerns. Your recent militaristic reform of The Brotherhood hasn’t gone unnoticed, especially by your neighbors. The Great Khans. The Khans are not allies of the Legion, and indeed many of them still harbor resentment against us after the learned what Sallow had planned for them in Vegas….however we have good enough relations as it stands. And those Khans who are friendly to the Legion have expressed doubts that your intentions in the region will remain peaceful.”

He paused for a few seconds and leaned in, “And so I'll ask you bluntly, are their doubts unfounded?”
The Institute, Residential Sector 8B Corridor

Thomas stood transfixed as the Synth stood back up, even after the Director’s Authorization override had been used. That, however, was far from the most terrifying part. The true source of his horror was the fact that, in her hand, she now held the single vital component that was her very being. The equivalent of a living human having just torn out their brain with their own hands: that was what he faced. The utter impossibility of it shook him to his very core. The component clattered to the ground at his feet, but he didn’t even give it a second glance.

"I AM THE HEIRESS OF THE PROPHET!" The Synth shouted, the meaning of the words was lost to him, but he was far from concerned about that right now.

“Orders Director?” X6 asked expectantly, but he was unable to respond.

It was then that one of his Coursers simply….snapped. With its neck, mangled and utterly broken, the Courser fell to the ground almost immediately. Thomas took a step back, had the Synth done that somehow? No...that wasn’t possible.

Half-hearted attempts at explanations entered his mind, but he hardly even had time to truly contemplate the occurrence before the Synth began rushing forward.

"YOU ALL SHOULD NOT BE!" She shouted.

Thomas made no move to stop her as she charged the Coursers. Part of him, he was ashamed to admit, wanted to see what would happen next. He was desperate for a logical explanation...something...anything...that might allow this all to make sense that observing her was the only thing he could think to do.

However, instead of continuing to attack the Coursers, she instead honed in on a new, softer, target. She rushed Cait, and grabbed her, lifting her up with an ease that would have been difficult to achieve even for a Synth. It was then that Thomas came to his senses, he hurled a power armored fist at her torso. It was neither a skillful nor practiced blow, merely a very human reaction to someone he loved threatened.

A3’s body splintered under the force of it, and she was forced to drop her prey. Whatever this thing was mortal at least. With Cait clear of her grasp, Thomas gave the order,

“Kill it!”

The Coursers opened fire, a dozen laser shots tore into her arms and legs, searing synthetic flesh and ripping what was left of A3-18 to shreds.

One Hour Later - Emergency Meeting of The Directorate, Directorate Boardroom

The Directorate had been gathered, each member of The Institute's five divisions seated about the white oval table inside the Boardroom on the top level. At the center of the table on a metal surgical tray was the Synth Component, the one that A3-18 had torn from her head and ‘tossed’ to Thomas. Each of the respective Division Heads, shifted uneasily in their seat. Thomas sat with his elbows on the table, his hands folded in front of his face as his bespectacled eyes were fixed on the component. The uneasy silence was palpable.

Finally someone spoke. It was Dr. Holdren, head of Bioscience,

“Sabotage? Perhaps someone illegally modified the Synth somehow. ” He offered a half-hearted suggestion, it was more to clear the air than anything, “Perhaps Dr. Wagner himself, given that he was a member of Robotics.”

“She tore it from her head, Clayton,” Thomas replied flatly, his eyes didn’t leave the component. There’s no amount of modification that can allow a Synth to do that and still be functional. Initially I had thought we were facing a malfunctioning unit, perhaps even one that had been injected with malicious code to bypass the security safeguards, but this….this is something different.”

“Surely there must be some possible explanation? Can you give an opinion at least, as head of Robotics?”

Thomas was silent for a few moments, before he sighed,

“The only thing I can think of is that someone figured out a way to insert a bootstrap loader into the Synth’s component, an embedded piece of code hidden in memory that we were unable to detect during normal security scans, and which initialized a remote connection to some external process that took over operation of the Synth. When the component was removed, theoretically the Synth may have been functioning off those basic received commands. But that type of technology to allow for direct interface with the Synth’s neuromuscular system without the component is theoretical only. We’re decades away from even prototyping such a thing.”

“That’s a terrifying thought in and of itself...” Clayton replied uneasily.

“On that note, I’m more concerned about the weapon that she used to destroy one of the Coursers,” Dr. Li interjected, “The footage from the security feed seems to indicate that she used some sort of, well for lack of a better term, telekinesis. There’s a number of ways such a feat could be explained scientifically with the right parameters in place, but all of them would require a level of technology surpassing our own.”

Dr. Secord nodded in agreement, “So if this is sabotage, we’re dealing with a group far more advanced than we assumed the surface dwellers were capable of,” She turned to Thomas, an expectant look in her eyes, “So then what do we do?”

There was a brief pause as the room fell silence, each of them looking to Thomas as The Director to make the decision. He unfolded his hands and looked up,

“We deal with the immediate security issue first. Whatever this is….whoever we are facing...we have to assume they have the ability to compromise our Gen-3 Synth network. Any non-essential Gen-3 units will decommissioned for the time being and placed into secure storage. Essential workers will be strictly monitored at all times and only be allowed in designated areas. Gen-2 and Gen-1 units will fill any gaps created in the workforce. We’ll also increase security sweeps throughout The Institute.”

“And the Coursers?” Alana asked.

“If the Gen-3 units can be compromised….we can’t take any chances. I’ll order X6-88 to assume command of the Courser units stationed in The Institute and they’ll be garrisoned temporarily on the surface. A base camp inside the CIT Ruins should do fine.”

“It’s an extreme measure, but I can’t say I disagree,” Dr. Filmore stated, “I’d also recommend we run security scans on the old generation synths, just to be safe. Perhaps install a few more security cameras in the corridors for better monitoring.”

Thomas nodded, “See that it gets done Allie. Next….we need to address what A3-18 said. It’s quite obviously a clue to deciphering the identity of our attackers. Alana, I believe you have something to report in that regard.”

“Indeed,” Alana replied and she pulled out a few manilla folders and laid them on the table in front of her, “A3-18 made mention of an ‘Heiress of The Prophet' when it began to...malfunction. Based on the information our Synth units we able to gather from the Vegas affair, we believe we’ve identified who this is referring to. A one Marie Ashur, currently associated with the group known as ‘The Cult of Ug-Qualtoth.’ We have a number of images captured of her and the other leaders of the Cult that attended the conference including their ‘War-Leader’, a vile looking brute called ‘Dosh-Novan’. We had previously built profiles on all of the attendees to the conference that we could successfully identify, so I can provide her file to you Director if that is acceptable.”

“Please do.”

“So this Cult of Ug-K-ua-ltoth….Ug-Qu-alt…..Uggy…...nevermind. This “Cult”, “A confused look crossed Clayton Holdren’s face, “Your suggestion is that they had something to do with this Alana?”

“Perhaps. Or at the very least, someone wishes us to believe they did. Either way, I suggest we accelerate our plans to investigate them.”

“Agreed,” Thomas said, “To that end. I’ll inform Desmond that he’s to begin his journey to Pittsburgh immediately. Likewise, we’ll begin following up any leads to The Cult that we’ve previously identified. Including those in the Maryland and DC regions.”

“Sir if I may,” Alana shuffled the files in front of her about before pulling out a single sheet, “SRB has discovered a pre-war connection to the cult as well based on the information provided to us by Mr. Lockheart during his stay in Point Lookout. Are you familiar with Dunwich Borers LLC?”

“The mining company?” Thomas asked, a bit surprised, “Vaguely yes. I seem to recall them having a quarry not far from the Salem area. They sold industrial drill bits too I believe. Other than that, I’m confused what connection they could possibly have with this?”

“They’re linked to the cult somehow through the owner, Richard Dunwich. We’re still investigating, but we did a database crawl on some of the pre-war CIT records, and there were a number of references to the company before the war being accused of ‘occultic activities’ in several news outlets. The scandal was not very widespread apparently and was quickly forgotten, but I believe it might be worth further inquiry.”

“The Dunwich Quarry is still there I believe then yes? I’ll task X6 and a few Coursers to comb the quarry and see if there’s any records on the company remaining there. Good work Alana, it's at least something we can follow up on. In the meantime,” Thomas continued, turning to the others, “We’ll consider this an isolated security incident and assure our people that its being dealt with. Let me be clear on something as well, I don’t believe in dark gods or evil powers, magic, or the like. I believe as I’m sure each of your do that there must be rational explanation behind what happened in that corridor. If something can be observed….it can be studied scientifically. Let's find that explanation and learn all we can about it. I’ll ask you all to link your divisions...your resources, work together on this and come to me should you require anything.”

A murmur of agreement came from the Directorate, and after a few thank yous and final words, The Directorate dispersed and left the room, leaving Thomas to his own thoughts. After some time he stepped out of the board room and returned to his own quarters. He had one final matter he wanted to attend to.

He accessed his private terminal, and the read the message he’d received only hours before the incident had occurred. His old colleague had come calling.


“I could use some of that cold rationality of yours right about now Robert….,” Thomas muttered and he clicked a button on the keyboard. The data transfer began immediately, but would take some time to complete as it had to bounce through a number of different pre-war satellites before it would finally reach House. The schematics he sent he knew House would be able to understand, perhaps not enough to fully comprehend its workings, but then again he wouldn’t need to. All he needed to do...was build it.
Vulpes Inculta, SAC HQ Bunker

"What do you think, Vulpes? It's the same woman we saw in the earlier clip....that is confirmed....I'm not sure what to make of it. One minute, she basically commandeers a Raider gang from it's leader, with almost no protest....then she leads them nearly a quarter of a mile into a head-on confrontation with a platoon of Knights without flinching, only to flee from the least well armed and armored man there. I can't stop thinking about it. I know there is something there....but what it is just eludes me!"

Vulpes the playback of video clips, ones that the Inquisition had noted were relevant towards his goal of better understanding the cult. And, more importantly, better understanding how to fight them. He had to admit that the incident in question say the least,

“You instincts aren’t falling you Inquisitor,” Vuples replied, his eyes squinting at the terror in the face of the woman, “I believe there may be more to this than we assume. However, it's very difficult to say for sure. The woman’s madness could simply be that: madness. What do we know about her?”

"The woman?", Joseph replied, "She still lives...the Field unit in Indianapolis is holding her. She's largely her old self again. The Psychologists assure me she is completely, and probably incurably, mad, as most every committed Cult member we've interrogated has'll find her most unpleasant. I'll make the arrangements with Inquisitor Stahl in Indianapolis to transfer her to your custody at your convenience. She'll be a good introduction to the kind of Enemy we face, and perhaps you will spot what I've been missing."

“Excellent. And what about the soldier? The one to whom she apparently lost her mind in sight of? Where is he now?”

Lancer-Sergeant Kyle is still in Indianapolis as well", Joseph said, "The Paladin-General's staff is debriefing him, trying to learn what happened in Boston. Spends his free time watching newsreels and films...mostly of our History since the Arrival and the Lord-Paladin himself. I can make arrangements through the Lord-Paladin's office if you would like to interview him as well. He's just as baffled by that woman's behavior as we are."

“I would very much like to, please have the details arranged,” Vulpes smiled, “I cannot say whether or not I’ll be able to discern the truth here, a Frumentarius of mighty Caesar, on my honor I will do my best. The Legate will be expecting his report once his legions arrive at Indianapolis. So I would like to move quickly on this. ”

Santa Fe - Capital of The Legion

Santa Fe is the Legion’s largest city and the beating heart of its empire. A sprawling metropolis built atop the ruins of the former old world city. The ruins of downtown Santa Fe contain derelict skyscrapers and pre-war buildings much of which is the domain of scavengers and scrappers looking to pick apart the carcass of its pre-war legacy. Uptown, however, is where The Legion has constructed the new post-war city that now truly defines it. Started under Sallow when he was still Caesar, the city's architecture is a striking mixture of Spanish style adobe buildings reminiscent of its pre-war heritage, and the Legion’s own unique style of architecture which, of course, Sallow based upon that of ancient Rome as well. Large aqueducts, a facsimile of the originals, carry water drawn from the ground to the city. Great forums and open markets where the goods and wares of the wasteland can be found are scattered throughout the city. Livestock of all kinds along with exotic mutated animals are bought and sold alongside great quantities of grain and foodstuffs from the Midwest, and other items that come from as far as the Keys. Slaves too are a common sight, both carrying supplies to and fro or as merchandise themselves. Legion women dressed in distinctive but simple gowns reminiscent of their historical counterparts haggle with merchants to procure the foodstuffs and goods their families’ require, many of them with their children and household slaves in tow. Gold and silver Legion coin are exchanged in great amounts for all these products, and caravaners and merchants alike come from far and wide to trade in the city.

Along with the exchange of worldly goods, come spiritual ones as well. New Canaanite missionaries and traders from Zion walk freely about the city, protected as they are by Caesar’s orders on behalf of his beloved wife. They speak to any who might pass them, and eagerly greet newcomers on the hope of spreading the word of their Lord. While the New Canaanites freely preach the word of their God, the one to whom the majority of the people of the city devote themselves is Mars: the Legion’s God of War and the sole focus of their worship. At the center of the city lies a great temple to Mars: once a great church before the war, that has been converted and expanded upon by the Legion. A statue of Mars crafted from the steel of the old city stands proudly before its doors: proudly holding aloft a Legion styled machete and wearing armor not unlike a Legion centurion. The Priestesses of Mars, a sisterhood that pledge themselves to the God of War, keep this great temple and attend to the faithful of the city, as well as serve as healers and wise women.

Despite the trappings of cultural exchange, the city itself is unmistakably Legion. That becomes clear with the sight of hundreds of Legionaries patrolling the streets. Drilled contubernia march in disciplined formation up and down the streets and alleyways of the city keeping peace and order. The results of which can be seen publicly displayed in gruesome fashion. Crucified criminals line squares of public execution: drug runners, thieves, drunkards, and chem addicts find themselves nailed alongside murders and rapists. The message is clear: those who break the Legion’s laws in its territories are punished severely. Testament to this strict martial control: a sprawling military quarter of the city houses barracks for numerous legionaries and urban cohorts stationed in Santa Fe, as well as training and parade grounds, kennels and stables for legion beasts of war, and blacksmiths and gunsmiths for the Legion’s arsenal. Next to the military quarter, a great arena constructed from metal and scrap walls hosts gladiatorial games and other blood-sports to pit man and creatures against one another. The clashing of blades and beasts can often be heard emanating from it over the usual din of the city.

Finally, the city’s center is the palace of Caesar, the construction of which once served as Edward Sallow’s own vanity project, although he died long before he could see its completion. Sallow himself took the design from illustrations he found in pre-war books on ancient Roman villas: a walled complex with an inner courtyard garden where he might rule the new Empire he intended to create. Although it seems clear the main structure and perhaps the grounds itself are actually a pre-war building modified to look more “roman”. A faded sign reading “Sante Fe Public Library” make that obvious. Praetorians patrol the grounds of the courtyard and guard their posts within the main villa building itself: where Lucius and his inner household reside. Entering into the villa’s doors, guests would find great numbers of items on display throughout the house taken on the Legion’s many conquests as well as mounted trophies of various wasteland animals.

As they enter, delegates would be be greeted by the wife of Caesar, a brown haired New Canaanite woman. She patiently awaits the arrival of each of her husbands invited guests. Like other Legion women encounter in the city, she wears a distinct style of dress, albeit of a higher quality. A small wooden cross hangs from a necklace as the only piece of jewelry she wears.

“Salve,I am Hannah of New Canaan. Welcome to Santa Fe on behalf of my husband, Caesar Lucius. And welcome to our home, please make yourselves comfortable inside.”

They are then led forward into an adjacent room where a large pre-war wooden dinner table, along with Lucius himself, awaits them. Lucius, while bandaged and still bearing the scars of his battle, is dressed in a crimson Legionary tunic. He looks alive and well and ready to begin the meeting.

The Institute, Director's Quarters

“Warning. Code Black in Residential Sector 8B. Warning Code Black in Residential Sector 8B. Warning…”

Thomas’s glasses nearly fell of his head as he shot out of his desk chair once he heard the warnings, the alarms were blaring throughout The Institute.

“HOLY JESUS FUC…” He heard Cait yell as she tumbled of the couch she’d been lazily dozing in only moments before and crashed to the floor. The half drunk bottle of Nuka Cola Grape that had been at her feet spilled over as her body knocked it aside, “WHAT THE HELL IS THAT?”

As she looked up, she saw a frightened look cross Thomas’s face. One she hadn’t seen on him for a long time.

“No…” Thomas muttered, the dawning horror of what the warning meant sending his mind into a momentary freeze.

Cait pulled herself up, rubbing her sore backside with an annoyed huff, “Goddammit that hurt…oi Tom! What the hell is going on?”

“Code Black,” Thomas replied, as he snapped out of his panic and began striding over to a corner of the room.

“Code Black? The fuck is that?” Cait snapped back. She tried to mentally rewind and remember all the minute details from the protocol briefing that Dr. Watson had given her when she first came to The Institute: she was coming up blank. Probably because she’d fallen asleep halfway through it.

“How the hell am I supposed to remember what that is? Watson had written down like three dozen fuckin’ different safety procedures to follow when someone slips in the damn shower. Tom!”

“Synth Rebellion.” Thomas replied flatly he walked up to the wall. He punched in a code into a small mounted console nearby.

“Wa..” Cait stopped in her tracks, “That’s not supposed to be possible...right?’

“No. Its not. Not with the failsafes I forced The Directorate to implement in the Gen-3 line. Yet here we are.”

The wall Thomas was standing before slid open to reveal a brightly lit hidden storage compartment. As the wall opened up, two large racks of weapons immediately folded out and away to either side of him. The final piece then rolled forward and out of storage: a full suit of power armor. The Institute vitruvian symbol was emblazoned on it atop a coat of bright white paint. The suit was one they’d found after combing ruins of Logan Airport following The Brotherhood's defeat. From the records they’d discovered, The Brotherhood had apparently scavenged it themselves from a place called Adams Air Force Base in the D.C. area. Thomas had the Advanced Systems Division study and improve upon its original design. In her usual way, Dr. Orman had gone above and beyond that call, and it had quickly become an incredibly expensive piece of Institute technology.

Thomas tossed Cait one of the neatly stacked and folded red and white armored jumpsuits stored in the compartment, “Suit up.” He said simply. She quickly stepped into it and zipped it up, feeling the ballistic fiber mesh tight against her skin.

He pulled off his own white lab coat and hastily threw it to the floor. Afterwards, he grabbed one of the many racked Institute rifles and handed it to her, while Cait loaded up on energy cells, along with a cryo grenade or two.

Thomas stepped around to the backside of the power armor, and twisted the release valve, opening the armor swiftly. He stepped inside, and the suit automatically closed around his body, the HUD appearing before him in his helmet gave an indication of the suits status, which was all green. A helpful voice sounded in his ear,

“Welcome Director.”

He squeezed his fist to test the armor and stepped out of the station, and reached for a plasma pistol.

Thomas hadn’t been an actual soldier in the war, the one that had started this whole mess. He’d served as a liaison to the US Army Robotics Division in Anchorage. He was only supposed to be there as part of the arrangement made between The University and the army: a graduate student fresh out and ready to make his mark on the world and help his country. Fighting had not at all been part of his job description, hell there wasn’t even supposed to be a war back then, but he’d nevertheless received some basic training in the event of an emergency situation. The Chinese surprise assault on Anchorage had ensured that the notion that he’d be perfectly safe was so very misguided. There hadn’t been time to get the civilian personnel out, and he did what he had to do to survive. He’d even been lauded as a “war hero” back home, and years after he’d returned he’d still gotten requests to speak at veteran halls and charity events in the Boston area about the importance of “civilian duty” in times of war. In truth he’d been a coward, a coward who’d only fought to save his own skin and in the end, others died so that he could live.

He’d learned an important lesson in Alaska however, one that had served him well when he’d finally emerged into the hell that his own generation had created. The importance of preparation when self-preservation was at stake. He had no idea what the situation outside was like if a Code Black had been initiated, but intended to be ready for whatever it was.

The eyes of his helmet flashed a deep red as he turned to Cait, his voice now emanating from the helmet’s speech emitter,

“Lets go.”

Chaos was what awaited them outside. Thomas and Cait threaded the stream of panicked Institute personnel and their families who were scrambling away from the Sector 8B corridor and towards designated evacuation locations and secure zones. A number of Coursers in their armored uniforms were headed in the opposite direction alongside them, and Thomas took it as a good sign that at least the Coursers were operational and en-route to the situation. Even still, he feared the worst and he was on edge as he approached the ‘ground zero’ of the incident.

It was a horror show. There was no other way to describe it. A female Gen-3 Synth had gone mad. She was tearing apart a Gen-1 maintenance Synth that had responded to the disturbance. Two human bodies lay strewn to the side, the mangled body of a Facilities worker and the bloodied body of a scientist. Thomas did not know the female worker personally, but he knew she’d only recently joined the division and was in-training to become a full fledged Facilities engineer: a future for her that would tragically never be realized. The scientist, however, he knew well. Dr. Harold Wagner. Dr. Wagner was one of the Robotics Division personnel. A member of his Thomas’s own division: a part of his team. Wagner was a bit of a loner, everyone knew it, and he'd always preferred the solitude of his work and the company of Synths to humans. He’d even requested a home assistant Synth for companionship and for help around the house. Wagner had taken to calling the Synth his “wife” which had earned him some strange looks from his fellow scientists, but everyone had assumed it was a harmless eccentricity. One that Robotics division personnel were seemingly becoming known for.

Now he was dead, and lying in a pool of his own blood. It was an ignoble death that he really didn’t deserve, regardless of his oddities. Neither of them deserved this, and it shouldn't have happened. Thomas recalled that a similar situation had happened once before: Dr. Alan Binet’s own “wife” had taken to her role too well. The situation had ended poorly then as well, but the only consequence was Eve’s decommissioning. This was far worse. This wasn’t just a matter of a Synth re-prioritizing their programming: a problem that could be corrected. Something had snapped here.

A line of Coursers was already forming as more of them arrived to the scene: rifles raised and pointed at the rogue Synth. Thomas saw that X6-88 was among them.

“Fucking toasters,” Cait muttered as she raised her rifle, “I’ll send her to the scrap heap..”

Thomas immediately raised an armored hand and pushed her rifle down.

“Wait.” He said simply.

“Orders Director?” X6 asked. None of the Coursers were budging an inch. They were waiting on his word to act. Thomas stepped forward, the heavy footfalls of the power armor reverberating around the area like thunderclaps. The Synth hissed and snarled like some kind of rabid animal and she spun around glaring at the Coursers. Her eyes then fell on Thomas as he came closer to her. He couldn’t shake the feeling of unease as she glared at him. There was something in the eyes he couldn’t explain, a tempestuous gaze that spoke equally to confusion, abject terror, and madness.

“What is the unit’s designation?”

“A3-18, sir.”

“A3-18. Emergency Override. Director’s Authorization Code 03492 Zulu Arcus Tempest. End all active subroutines.”
The Legion - Caesar Lucius, Santa Fe

The cool night air of the desert came blowing in as Lucius stood at the balcony of his chamber and looked out over the sleeping city beyond. So much had happened in the time since the fateful conference in New Vegas a war had been fought and won, and another begun. Alliances had collapsed and lines of battle drawn. A true enemy had revealed itself, one that proved to be far more treacherous than even the great Bear had been. Instead of marching under the banner of false democracy and promises of old world values however, the Cult fought under the banner of their hellish god: Ug-Qualtoth. Lucius had answered the call to this fight because he'd owed a debt to Barnaky and his Brotherhood, but it quickly became apparent that the Cult was a greater evil than any profligate nation could be. To that end, he'd sent Legatus Aurelius with a mission: aid the Brotherhood in wiping away the cult once and for all.

He clutched the missive he'd received moments ago in his hands as he thought about the Legate's forces. The report had indicated that the Legate's legions were on the move, having conferred with Barnaky and organized their offensive. They would be expected to reach Indianapolis soon. Meanwhile, the cohorts sent north to aid Detroit had already arrived. The chess board had been set, and now the play would begin. He'd only wished he could be there himself to lead them.

A twinge of pain struck Lucius as the thought crossed his mind, and he remembered quite well why he could not. Bandages were still wrapped around his torso and shoulder, where Kimball's bullets had tore through and very nearly killed him. The pain had mostly subsided, but the wounds would still take time to heal. The best healers, shamans, and witch doctors in all the Legion's territories had been summoned, but his wife, Hannah, insisted that the doctors of her people: The New Canaanites, be ones to treat him. This had caused great consternation, but seeking to please his wife and set her mind at ease, Lucius had agreed to her request. None could challenge the decision after that.

Lucius understood very well her worry, and he knew that for her sake, he could ill afford to take any chances with his treatment and recovery. The news Hannah had shared with him after he’d survived the battle with Kimball had changed his perspective on life forever. She was pregnant with his child. A child that he hoped to raise alongside her, and perhaps one day see them to become Caesar after him. Yes, he could not be so reckless with his life anymore. Under Sallow: he’d believed that he would die in his service, and thought nothing of a future beyond that. Now….things were very different indeed. He now intended to live for someone rather than resigning himself to dieing gloriously.

As if to drive home the point, Lucius felt a gentle hand on his shoulder, and he turned to find his wife standing beside him, wrapped in the animal fur blankets of their bed. She’d obviously just woken up,

“Sorry I disturbed you,” Lucius said as he squeezed her hand, “There was a rider in the night.”

“What was the message? Ill news?”

Lucius unfolded the slip of paper he held and handed it to her, “Aurelius is marching on Indianapolis with all the legions at his command. We’ve made our first move in the Eastern War.”

“God be with him,” Hannah uttered as she looked over the report and silently reached for the small cross hung around her neck.

“Mars as well,” Lucius once more looked out over the city, “We have to put our faith in the Legatus to do what needs to be done. He’s the finest commander and tactician in the Legion. I, on the other hand, must look to our needs here. The NCR War needs to be put to rest once and for all, and there’s a great many other things I wish to plan for the Southwest that involve The Legion.”

“You speak as if you have something in mind already Lucius.” Hannah replied coyly.

“I do. I wish to invite a number of our neighbors to a meeting. Texas and what remains of the NCR leadership, The Brotherhood chapters, House as you think it would be wise?”

“I think it's a fine idea. Opening The Legion to the world will provide it a path going forward. You’ve already taken many steps Sallow in his arrogance would never have considered. This is yet another my love.”

Lucius smiled and touched her cheek, “I’m glad you approve. I know of no one better to help me ensure its success.”

Letter to all Delegates of the Southwest Conference:

I, Caesar Lucius, Imperator of The Legion invite you to a meeting of delegates in the Legion’s capital of Santa Fe to determine the future of the West Coast and of our respective nations. Safe passage is guaranteed throughout Legion territory to all those that bear Caesar's mark.
Sanctuary Antechamber - ECS Righteous Truth - 1st Fleet of Faithful Intent, Edge of Ecumene Space

“To care for oneself is to eventually, inevitably, care for others. Our natural aim and our greater purpose are one in the same, to bring about prosperity for our species. The Empire was misguided as you say, and perhaps doomed because of it, but even it had that goal in mind. Ressurectionism, and many other ideologies besides, posit a great many things, but ultimately they suggest solutions to the problems which weigh us down and hold us back from attaining the utopia we have dreamed of for as long as we have existed.”

“But, I must imagine you have your own opinion as to that question?”

“Prosperity you say?” Raynald replied with an approving nod, “A fair answer. After all, what point is there for humans to merely exist in this universe? Should we not thrive as well? But I would perhaps extend that question a bit further, is prosperity alone reason enough for our existence?”

Raynald leaned back and briefly gazed upward, towards an elaborate mural on the ceiling which showed a visual depiction of the galaxy and all its vastness,

“I would submit different answer. Prosperity for humanity is only one goal to achieve an ultimate purpose. Humanity’s destiny, I believe, is not only to thrive in this universe, but to shape and guide it. Perhaps our destiny, our purpose, is to be described as gardeners. Tending to the galaxy and even beyond as one would tend to a plot. Prune what is unnecessary and that threatens the plot, but allowing what makes it beautiful to grow and thrive. That, I believe is our true destiny, not only to dominate the universe, but to shepard it. That is what it means to truly attain Orion’s Mantle.”

The high priest gave a subdued chuckle, and waved his hand dismissively,

“I know, a High Priest speaking of religion when answering a philosophical question. What an utterly predictable response. I know, too, that Resurrectionism does not share our belief in Holy Orion. However, I would simply say that one need not believe in Orion’s existence to see the value in his teachings. To believe in Orion, is simply to believe in the great value of the human spirit itself, beyond that of any other species. A Kineticist might try to argue that it is the ‘Spiritus’ or some other such divine energy that permeates the universe and gives it drive and purpose. Rubbish. There is no such thing. Orion was a mortal man, a mortal man who achieved divinity. The only divine will that acts on our universe is that which comes from Orion. And as heirs to Orion’s Mantle, it is our duty to see his will enacted on the universe and by doing so follow in his footsteps towards ascension. That, I believe, is humanity’s true destiny.”

Raynald gave a sigh, and a final word malice-laden word,

“And we won’t achieve that by kowtowing to Aliens or abiding corrupt governments which seek to aid them against humanity. Would you not agree ambassador?”

After a few moments, the Admiral stood up and offered his hand to the Ambassador,

“I think perhaps that is enough philosophy for one day. We don’t wish to exhaust you with such things before you’ve even had a chance to speak to The Conclave.”

“Indeed, forgive an old man his ramblings,” Raynald said as he likewise offered his hand, “I merely hoped to pass the time, and it seems I was successful in that.” He turned towards the double doors leading to the Sanctuary Chamber, which had now begun to open.

“Please, Ambassador, you are welcome inside. This is where we part for the time. As I said, your business inside is between you and The Conclave.”

The doors beckoned the Ambassador within, and closed firmly shut once he’d entered leaving the Admiral and the High Priest behind in the antechamber. The great circular sanctuary chamber was empty and devoid of furniture. The only visible feature being that of a raise dais at its center, illuminated by a single light emitted from the domed ceiling above. As he stepped forward, seven figures appeared in hologram around the dais and greeted him there,

“Greetings ambassador”, a central figure welcomed him warming. The image that of the Archpriestess Vayla Dreethen herself, “We have much to discuss I hope. I do not wish to waste your time further by waxing poetic or standing on elaborate ceremony. Your superiors sent you here to treat with us on our invitation with the understanding that we might both stand to gain from it. I will speak to the point then, The Ecumene of Holy Orion seeks to extricate ourselves from the corruption that is The Coalition and to reclaim the systems they control for the rightful heirs of Orion."

While the rest of the Conclave remained silent, their agreement to this statement seemed beyond question. The Archpriestess was no doubt speaking from authority for the Conclave entirely. She continued,

"To do so, we need allies. Those that are willing to do what needs to be done to ensure humanity’s ascendance. I despise the notion of playing both sides of this conflict or supporting the vile creatures that Orion himself once waged righteous war against. To support them against fellow humans is abominable. However, as the Resurrection currently is, we cannot allow them to threaten The Ecumene itself. I know what your members within the Ideological Council speak of us, whilst the Military Council would seek to supplant us in due time. It is then to the Economic Council that I appeal. If we might secure a firm and lasting alliance with your superiors, then I see no need to even consider support to the Scorpines. In fact, I would go so far as to say then that the final destruction of the Scorpines would be greatly in The Ecumene’s benefit, and indeed, eminently desirable. I trust that the carrier fleet to which you were offered safe passage to will speak to that desire...”
Legate’s Camp, Road to Indianapolis

Thousands of crimson cloth tents stretched across the encampment where Legatus Aurelius had ordered his forces to halt for the day’s march. Such was the Legion’s drilled discipline, that even after a full day’s hard march, they were still fit and able to setup a fortified encampment in less than a few hours. Now, by late evening the camp was dotted with innumerable cooking fires while food was prepared. Each conturbinum was responsible for their own food preparation when the Legion was on the move like this and every Legionary received an equal share of rations which included a hearty portion of grains and meats. Great numbers of slaves busied themselves tending to the pack brahmin, distributing supplies, or fetching water while the Legionaries ate, rested, and regained their strength for the next day’s coming march. Some of the Legionary Veterans and Primes, their experience telling them to always think ahead to the battle to come, sharpened machete blades, cleaned their guns, prepared healing poultices, or sparred with one another in preparation for the fight that they were all heading towards sooner or later. The constant sounds of blacksmith hammers falling against anvils that reverberated around the camp as weapons and armor were being made and repaired were a stark reminder of that fact.

The Legate himself, however, had other considerations on his mind. Inside his large tent at the center of the camp, Aurelius stood with his most senior centurion officers watching a curious scene unfolding before them. A young woman garbed in a bright red robe stood with her arms raised, a sharpened knife held aloft in her right hand. Before her was a brahmin bull, painted decoratively with strange symbols and held in place firmly by two strong Legionaries. The woman rhythmically chanted some strange prayer in the language of the Legion, while sweet smelling incense was burned by two female slaves seated at her feet,

“Father Mars, hear our prayers,” The Priestess chanted, “Accept this sacrifice and give us a sign of your favor.”

At this final utterance, she lowered the blade and drew it swiftly and cleanly across the bull’s neck. Blood gushed from the beast like a torrent, washing over her arms and hands, but she paid it no mind. The bull gave one final brief thrash of life before it collapsed on the ground. The Priestess immediately set to work, cutting the creature open and disemboweling it and further adding to the gore already covering her arms and legs.

As the Legate and his officers looked on with apprehension, she wretched forth the creature’s liver, and one of the slaves quickly brought over a large tray for her to sit it on. With a practiced hand, the Priestess began to studying it carefully, lifting it gently and observing each minute part of the organ like it was a rare book or artifact. After some time, Aurelius finally spoke,

“What of the omens? Are they good or ill? Does Mars favor us?”

The Priestess of Mars stood, turning to face the Legatus confidently and folding her bloodied hands before her,

“Aye Legatus, the omens are good. Mars looks down on you with pride and blesses your warriors. So longs as Caesar’s banner remains raised on the field, you shall find victory.”

The audible sounds of relief came from the Legate and the centurions.

“Welcome news indeed, and what of this demon-god? Ug-Qualtoth? What defense can Mars offer against such an abomination?”

The Priestesses eyes darkened and she lowered her head mournfully, “Sadly Legatus, this is where I can give you no aid. Mars has shown me nothing of this demon. Long have I tried to read the signs for some understanding of what you go to face, but all I see is tendril shadows that obscure my vision. I fear this demon’s power is great indeed.”

“I see...and you say that as long as Caesar’s banner remains raised, the Legion will find victory. What befalls us should the opposite hold true?”

The Priestess bowed deeply as if in mourning, “As the standard falls, so falls the Legion.”

Her ominous statement was met with murmurs from the Centurions, before the swiftly raised hand of the Legatus silenced them immediately,

“So then, we shall simply not allow that to happen. We will be as Mar’s scythe and cut through the demonic shadow that seeks to choke out our triumph. Or shall we let The Brotherhood stand alone against this hellish foe?”

“And shame the Legion forever? Never Legatus!” Answered one of the Centurions.

“Good. Then we march to Indianapolis, and to battle. Heedless of whatever fate may befall us. You may leave us now,” He said motioning to the Priestess, “We must make our preparations.”

“As you wish Legatus,” the Priestess nodded. She then turned to the two slave girls and snapped her fingers impatiently, “Go. Fetch some water so that I may bathe.”

The slaves collected the still burning incense and scurried out of the tent, followed by the Priestess. The Legatus then turned to a hand-drawn map of the region that had been pinned to a large board behind them,

“The bulk of the Legion’s forces will continue the march to the city. However Severus,” He pointed to one of his Senior Centurions, “You will take two cohorts from the second Legion and head north to push with The Brotherhood’s troops in Detroit. A force of Great Khan riders will meet you on the road and will join you in your fight. They are good fighters, do not waste them needlessly.”

“Yes Legatus.”

“Once we arrive at Indianapolis, we’ll immediately engage the cult’s forces there and help break the siege. Once we’re through, we’ll continue our drive east. When we learn more from Vulpes’ frumentarii about the size and strength of our enemy, we’ll adjust our battle plans accordingly. Any questions? Good. Dismissed. Prepare your men for the long road ahead. Each Legionary must reach the city well rested and with the strength to fight.”
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