That meeting left me feeling like I had a thousand pounds on my back. The settlers - my settlers - my people, they wanted a lot from me, and part of me felt doubt about achieving it. They wanted me to, at risk of putting too fine a point on it, to take over Drumlin Diner. To get Trudy to pledge allegiance to Sanctuary, to me, when the act of doing so entirely favors me. They wanted me to take the community at Ridge and make them a part of ours. They wanted me to oversee the process of Sanctuary turning from a forgotten ruin to not just a town but a regional power. They wanted me to, with the unspoken suggestion that I use Preston as a figurehead to do so, to appropriate the identity of the Minutemen just like I'd appropriated the identity of Vault-Tec. I saw it in their eyes as they talked about their ideas. They envisioned a future where Minutemen, Sanctuary Minutemen, would once again bring peace and order to the Commonwealth.
The whole thing excited me and terrified me at the same time. I swear to God, I didn't want to be Queen Charley. I didn't. But inch by inch, my own people were pushing me towards a future where I wasn't just a leader, but where I was an executive. A ruler. I felt trapped.
But at the same time, I wanted control. I wanted to assert myself, to seize my freedom from others, any others who would tell me how to live my life. I relished the excitement of watching people discard all their old mores and inhibitions to prove their loyalty to me. To the ideals that I stood for. Holly could have made another set of clothes for Preston. She could have just defied me and said exactly the same thing she said to me in her own defense, and I think I would have backed down. After all, she was right that I failed to appreciate the nuances of Preston's relationship with the other men. But she didn't do that. She sacrificed her special privileges for him, and when I saw her exposed, when my eyes registered that the hair on her body was the same pretty blond that peeked out from the edges of her beret, it made my heart beat a little faster. It excited me - not for lust of her body, but for the sense that I'd conquered her. She'd submitted to me rules... to my law.
How could I reconcile these two feelings? It started to sink into me that the society I was building wasn't a republic. If I died tomorrow, Sanctuary would fail. If I found my stolen son tomorrow, the settlers would look to him as my successor, no questions asked. I thought... there was still time to right the ship, time to make Sanctuary something I would have been proud of in the days before the war. But I wasn't sure I wanted to change course.
At length, I grappled with the conflict I felt, but I couldn't find a resolution. So I threw myself into my work and tried to distract myself. After taking a tour of the settlement and examining the areas where I could improve on, I returned to my home. By now, it was the last of the old ruins left inside our walls, but I was still dragging my feet on rebuilding it. I'd turned Shaun's room into an office of sorts and laid out a map of the commonwealth to consider our ambitions for Drumlin Diner and elsewhere.
Marcy, Scout, and Preston helped me assess our options, and each time we talked about the way to secure Sanctuary, it boiled down to controlling Concord. Before we could secure Concord, we needed exclusive control of the area around it - else we'd be spending more time fighting raiders than cementing our control of the city. There were three roads into Concord that were still passable: Route 62, which ran east out towards Bedford. It had a chokepoint at the big quarry outside Concord, and Preston was pretty confident we could build an outpost there to control the road.
Also heading east out of town was the Cambridge Pike, which eventually linked up with Route 2. The Drumlin Diner was ideally situated to command this road. Finally, there was Sudbury Road, which ran south to a more westerly stretch of Route 2. That one would be a diplomatic conquest, because the hill commanding the road was already occupied... by the Abernathy family.
Each of my advisors had a solution for one of these objectives. Preston's was the most direct: reconstitute the minutemen and seize control of Thicket Excavations, then turn it into an armed outpost. The nature of the site didn't leave a lot of room for local development, but if we could get reliable logistics lines back to Sanctuary, then surplus food from Ridge - oh yes, Bart was already promising me a surplus of food that he wanted to trade for other supplies - could keep them supplied. Marcy wanted a hard sell for the Drumlin Diner. Roll in and give Trudy a fait accompli. If she didn't accept, make the same offer to Wolfgang, but take over the place and plant our flag.
Literally plant our flag, I should say. One thing they all agreed on was that we needed a clearly recognizable symbol. In Sanctuary that symbol was, essentially, me. Me and the vault suits. But as our influence spread further afield, we were going to need a more abstract symbol - and flags were the traditional solution in that regard.
Then there was the Abernathy Farm. Scout filled me in on our relations with them. Though I hadn't spoken to Blake and Connie for a while now, Scout assured me that we'd had regular contact ever since the snow melted, and that Connie was due to make a large delivery of food as soon as her first harvest came due. She believed that, especially if Winter did the negotiating, that we could get them to throw in with us and join us voluntarily.
I generally agreed with each strategy the three had laid out, and I asked them to start planning for the supplies and support they'd need. After they departed, I made my way up the hill to visit Bart.
Despite the Ridge being shrouded in fog, I could see there was an incredible amount of work going on. Bart's group had thinned out the woods around the town considerably, and scaffolding and half-built structures were everywhere.
"Bart," I said, "what are you working on?"
He gestured to an ASAM sensor near him. "Chicken coop. The sensor says there are wild fowl all over, and it's giving directions to build up a coop so we can get eggs and white meat."
"Well shit," I muttered, "I haven't had fresh meat in... ages. Just jerky or preserved stuff in cans. That'll be a huge accomplishment." I resisted the urge to say 'that'll be a coupe.'
"It won't come a moment too soon," Bart confessed. "The food situation is still tight, and I expect it'll stay that way until we've finished building all the houses and farm plots. Also, we've got just about the right amount of water, but I don't think we can get anything else out of the water table. We're going to need to find an alternate water source, and soon."
I thought about two options - the vault's own reservoir (though I'd rather keep that hidden as a last resort for now), or that water tower I'd been talking about building in Sanctuary. I moved that project up a few notches in my mental to-do list.
We talked a bit longer, and I took a moment to talk to Bart about what he perceived as his timeline for integrating with Sanctuary.
"That's a tough question," Bart said. "A bunch of the folks have been down to Sanctuary to visit the trading post - I'm sure you saw that fellow with the Vault 111 tee shirt - and what I hear is a mix of admiration and anxiety."
"Really? Tell me more. And yes, I was wondering where he got that. I'll have to congratulate LonDon on thinking to stock something like that."
"Well," he said, leaning up against some nearby scaffolding, "the admiration's pretty obvious. You all live in clean houses, with running water, behind strong walls. Everyone looks healthy, and there's rumors that everyone inside there is someone you personally rescued from raiders. You've got something of a legend building up already."
"And the anxiety?"
"How do I put this politely? There's something... odd... about your people. Not just the wild outfits. To be honest, I think my people are getting desensitized to that pretty fast. But it's how they talk, how they act. They're, um, again I'm not sure how to put this nicely."
"Don't worry about it," I told him, "I need to understand this."
"There's something a little dreamy about your people. Like they're not quite living in this world. They seem... ah, they seem happier than they've got business seeming. And not like in-the-moment jump for joy happy but more like, um, I think the word is 'contented.' A lot of my people have heard rumors that Sanctuary is a cult, like the Children of Atom, and that everyone who joins ends up a little crazy."
"Hmm," I hadn't noticed, but now that he mentioned it... I thought Bart was right. Perhaps, I thought, it was the Neural Sentries doing their thing. "I think I understand what they're seeing. Do you think it would help if our communities spent more time together, maybe got together regularly to mingle?"
"Maybe," Bart conceded. "Give me a few days to talk it around with the folks up here. I'll find out what they think and we can talk more in a few days. Fair?"
I agreed, and I left him to his work. On the walk back to Sanctuary, I had an idea about the flag. Or rather, the flags. Entering the gate, I tracked down Mama Murphy and asked her an important question.
"Mama Murphy, how much to people remember about the old world? Do they recognize its symbols? Do they know what they mean?"
She thought on that for a time, then answered in a slow, thoughtful cadence. "Not as much as before... but not as little as they'll one day. Oldtimers who remember back to the Commonwealth Provisional Government, maybe, but when that dream died, so did a lot of their hope."
"That's what I thought," I said. "Thank you, Mama Murphy, I've got some work to do."
I spent the evening working at the Workbench, and then I rested. In the morning, I finished installing the products of my evening labor and then rang the meeting bell.
"Good morning, everyone," I said. "I hope you all rested well."
I heard a mix of assent and grumbles, and I smiled a little at the griping.
"You probably all know by now that I've been working with Preston, Scout, and Marcy to plan how we're going to control Concord. The short version is that, starting tomorrow, we're going to start taking control of strategic points around the city. This project is going to take a long time, but when it's done we'll have the city to ourselves. But one thing we need to make that work is a symbol."
"Other than Mama Murphy and Preston, who knows about the Commonwealth of New England, about America?"
Holly and Lila raised their hands, but the others seemed either uncertain or wholly ignorant.
"Well, the long story's... a long story. But the short story is that before the Commonwealth, we were the Commonwealth of New England, and we were part of a federation of thirteen Commonwealths called the United States of America. From sea to sea, the entire land was ours - until the war. Before most of you were born, the Commonwealth Provisional Government made the first steps towards getting that back, but they failed."
"We won't fail. And we'll fight and we'll win under the flags of the United States of America," I pointed to the stars and stripes in the center of the flag park, "the Commonwealth of New England," I pointed to the red and white flag with the spruce tree in the center, "and us. Vault 111. Sanctuary," I pointed to the blue and gold flag of the vault.
If I had to be a ruler, I wasn't going to be Queen Charley. They could call me Overseer, or Governor, or President, but never Queen. I accepted that I couldn't bring back the old world, but at least I wouldn't let it be forgotten. And Sanctuary was just the first place where these flags were going to fly. Tomorrow, I'd take Winter with me to Abernathy Farm, and we'd have a good, sit-down talk with Blake and Connie, and Lucy too. If all went well, we'd be raising these flags again, and soon.
Behind The Scenes
Going into this chapter, I didn't have a good resource to create the flags I needed. On one hand, I had straight flagpoles from Craftable Animated Flagpoles, but it didn't include the flag textures I wanted. On the other hand, Fallout Faction Flags has the textures I need, but only as non-pole meshes. So we'll start by making new movable statics with material swaps to use the material data from FFF.
With that done, we just need to add crafting recipes and we'll be good to go!
The Material Swap system in Fallout 4 is a lot more intuitive than the one in SSE, though it does depend on external BGSM files, so it's another one of those Bethesda "multiple things have to match" features. As you can see from the final picture, the material swaps worked fine and now we have the desired flags. I expect we'll be going back to this in the future for a few other flags, but one thing at a time!