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Home Improvement (Charley's Story, Chapter 34)



Getting the Abernathy family to put on the vault suits was just the start of the project, of course. Putting aside the fact that I promised Connie to make immediate improvements to their fort, realistically we had to make those improvements anyway. It was only a matter of time before the raiders in the area came to see Sanctuary as their enemy - not jus potential prey, but a genuine threat to them. And because of that, anyone aligned with Sanctuary would become a target. 


So I had basically three things I had to do immediately. I had Seth and Lila get to work on tuning up the farm's motorized well pump. At the same time, I asked Winter to work with Blake and Connie to identify any small improvements we could make on a really tight time scale - for example, with a little help from Codsworth, we fabricated and hauled over a like-new refrigerator to replace the rusted-out salvage piece that was serving the Abernathys more as a cupboard than a proper appliance. Finally, I consulted with Preston and Holly on how to improve the defenses of the farm. I wasn't ready to start on the actual Minutemen base, and I was still keeping that part of the plan kind of quiet, but I was sure we could harden the structure, and both of my defense advisors agreed. 


A week later, Abernathy Farm was starting to turn into a very different looking place. Seth didn't just tune up the pump, he made some big improvements to the farm's water storage tanks that should make it a lot easier to store up and have what they need on-demand for their crops. I also worked with Blake to set up an agricultural ASAM sensor that we fine tuned to help him with one of his long term projects - getting a plot of razorgrain going. Seth also made an interesting discovery while he was servicing the well. After he told me about it, I brought Connie around and pointed to the equipment in question.




"Is that a solar panel?" I asked her.


She nodded in assent, explaining, "it sure is. It's been on the farm for years - I think it was actually Blake's grandfather who traded for it. No idea where it came from, but it's super helpful. Even when it's overcast like this, we get a trickly of power from it."


"Interesting... I would have thought that photovoltaic cells would be all gone by now. I guess I'll have to talk to Blake and see if he knows any more about where high grandfather got it from. But speaking in power... where are you getting power? Other than the solar panel I haven't seen any generators around here."


She pointed up at the high tension lines. "Don't ask me how it works, but we get some power off the tower itself. I don't know if there's a working generator somewhere up or down the chain, or what, but while we aren't getting much, it's enough to run the lights."


That was very interesting news indeed. I could imagine a scenario where some sort of unintended betavoltaic effect from the background radiation was getting electrons into the transmission lines, but the idea that somewhere connected to the high tension lines had a generator working was intriguing. I'd have to explore up and down the line and see what I could find. 


Of course, notwithstanding the electrical situation, the real hurdle was improving the fort itself. Preston liked the idea of setting up a perimeter wall like we had at Sanctuary, but Holly talked through some alternatives with him and when they finished deliberating they ended up agreeing to table that for the moment. Instead, they looked to improving the structure of the fort itself. After double-checking her calculations with Lila, Holly was confident that the load-bearing parts of the fort could handle removing wall sections bit by bit and replacing them with stronger materials. The real question was whether to dip into the West Everett database for prefabricated sections similar to what we had at Sanctuary, or to go with concrete.


You might be thinking that for a fort-like structure, concrete was the obvious choice, but it was a little more complicated than that. The outer 'tiles' on the Sanctuary homes were steel, and the structural members inside were designed to support multi-story construction, so they were fairly robust in their own right. Moreover, and relevant to the Abernathy family, those parts were a lot more homey. No one debated that the farmhouse was basically a fortified keep, but building it into a bunker was a step further than Connie wanted to go with. So while the folks back in Sanctuary started fabricating new wall sections, I worked with Connie to work out a plan for building up and improving the fort.


As an aside, I have to mention - the farm was in a great location. Every morning had gorgeous sunrises, and while I'm sure some of that had to do with the particulars still in the air after all this time, that didn't change the fact that it looked beautiful. I promised to myself that, at least to the extent I could control it, I wouldn't build up the east-facing part of the farm so much that it blocked out that view.




That thought stayed with me, and it got me thinking more about lighting. The structure of the fort meant that the lower level was going to have to have a high ceiling, and I made a change to the original plan, installing large windows on the east and west sides of the house. I was pretty confident that once everything was complete and we'd cleaned out a lot of the extraneous structure from the original fort, these windows would let in some really nice light into the living spaces - while still being positioned up high enough to not pose an excessive security risk. 


Several days later, events conspired to drive home the importance of security. While I was working on putting a ceiling on the first-floor living area, I started to hear a curious sound in the distance. It wasn't quite the pew-pew of laser discharges that I was accustomed to, but it was close enough that I suspected trouble was afoot. After telling Winter to round up the Abernathys and get them inside, I charged up my laser musket and went to investigate. 


I'm not sure what I expected, but it wasn't robots. I realized that these were the Synths I'd been warned about... and they lived up to their reputation for danger. I tried to greet them, hoping that they - or their operator - would be interested in dialogue, but that just forced me to roll out of the way as they answered with gunfire. From that point, I didn't screw around further, gunning down the two of them with my musket. Both of them were tough, requiring multiple laser blasts before they stopped moving, though with the second I got some unexpected help as Connie appeared behind it and set on it with a baseball bat.




Once I was certain there weren't any more threats lurking nearby, I thanked Connie for her help but pointedly told her to take one of the Synths' guns. 


"I don't want to lose my newest mayor because she brought a bat to a gunfight," I explained, and that seemed to be enough to convince Connie to go along. I helped myself to the other one's pistol. If I was reading the power gauge right, it only threw about half the energy of the fully-charged musket, but I'd observed the Synths firing at a much higher rate, so I suspected the overall destructive potential was a lot greater. I made a note to talk to Preston about the encounter, and I retrieved the destroyed Synths with an eye to sending them back to Sanctuary for disposal in the Workshop. After all, a complex machine like a Synth must contain all sorts of useful materials. 


I spent the rest of the day helping install ceiling panels that, thanks to a rubberized top coating, would double as an impermeable roof for the living area. As the sunlight failed, I wrapped up my work and headed back to the room where I'd been spending the nights. Within, I found Blake Abernathy seemingly staring at the wall.




"Blake," I asked, "is everything all right?"


He paused for a moment before answering. "I was... thinking about these walls. I've lived inside them all my life, and now, bit by bit, they're going away."


I could understand the sentiment. "How do you feel about that?" I asked.


"Part of me wants to be angry. My family built this farm over generations, and now its all changing, and its changing fast. But another part of me wants to be grateful. Those Synths... I've never seen them out in the open like that before. I don't want to think what would have happened to my family if you hadn't been there to stop them - and if we hadn't had those new metal walls to shelter behind."


"I was surprised by that too," I admitted. "I'm glad I could help."


"Yeah, and I appreciate it. I just hope its enough... Preston told me about Quincy, about how it really happened. If the Minutemen could go down like that, what chance have we got?"


"It's a question I've been asking myself a lot. I think our only hope's to learn from their mistakes and not repeat them. Things like we're doing here are an important part of that - we could roll into Concord tomorrow and start rebuilding, I'm sure of it. But if we don't secure our flanks, don't control the roads, then it's just a matter of time until someone gets us by surprise and wrecks everything. So we aren't going to touch Concord until places like your farm as already protected - and strong enough to protect Concord."


"I hope so," Blake said, "and I'll do what I can to make sure you succeed. Even if its just taking care of my plants."


"Don't sell yourself short," I offered, "those plants are going to be the difference between life and death some day - maybe for Concord, maybe for all of us. This farm is important, and we all know it."


Blake nodded at that, but didn't have more to say. I bid him good night before settling down myself, but I thought for a long time on how we were going to keep the farm safe before I finally got to sleep. The next morning, I decided to move up our plans and launch into a more aggressive refit of the farm. 


"Connie, will you be OK if some parts of the farmhouse aren't usable for a day or two?"


"Ah, I think you know that depends on why," she shot back with only the slightest hesitation.


"I want to replace the foundation. It'll eat into our concrete reserves, but I think we've built up the new walls as much as we can without strengthening the foundation, and after that run in with the Synths I want to accelerate the project of improving this place."


She thought on that for a bit, then nodded affirmatively. "Do it. It won't kill us to have a picnic lunch. Just make sure at least we have a safe place to sleep by the end of the day."


I didn't waste any time, sending Winter back to Sanctuary with a priority order while I started taking measurements and removing as much of the old raised wooden foundation as I could without compromising the building. I'd asked for kits to put in a simple concrete foundation, like what the carports had, but evidently Winter thought better of it and also requisitioned the parquet topper kits. By nightfall I'd gotten half of the lower level replaced - with an emphasis on the Abernathy family's sleeping quarters. That worked out pretty well, too - other than some cut-outs to avoid damaging the concrete pilings of the tower's metal framework, the new foundation went in without too much difficulty. Of course, part of that was because Winter came back with Codsworth in tow, ready to make the precise cuts in the foundation materials that I needed. 




In the days ahead, we were lucky to avoid any further incursions by hostile forces and soon finished the structural work on the lower level of the fort. The upper section we still largely unchanged for now, and I didn't plan to mess around with it further until we were ready to expand the facilities in the fort. I'd spoken with Connie about several options, including eventually moving the family's living quarters upstairs and turning the lower level into a sort of meeting hall and recreation center where the future settlers could relax when they weren't working and where the community could come together for meals.


She liked that idea, but correctly pointed out that the interior still needed lots of work before we could start thinking about ideas like that. While the walls and foundation were solid now, the rest of the interior was still largely fitted out the way it had been prior to us joining forces, and that needed a lot of work still. I asked her if she'd prefer I refit the downstairs interior for her family's use first, or if I push ahead and go right to building a new living space on the upper level. That gave her some pause - I don't think she'd really considered that option, and she promised to talk with Blake and Lucy, then get back to me. 




In the meanwhile, Preston and Tracey sent word from Sanctuary. In my absence, they had apparently reactivated the radio beacon and Preston had recruited several more individuals who he was training to do double duty as settlers and as militia. At the same time, Tracey let me know that she had 'a present' for me that she was eager to share with me, and that I should send word as soon as the Abernathy fort had electrical power. 


As I'd finished off the foundation, my mind had also been settling on electricity. I'd done a few experiments with adding more lighting, and I quickly found out that the trickle charge coming off the high tension tower was only barely enough to power what the Abernathy family already had. In fact, we still hadn't got the new refrigerator actually turned on for just that reason. I'd considered trying to broker a trade for a generator, but the added demand for fuel to run Sanctuary's water purifier was already causing some headaches for Scout and LonDon, and I didn't want to become even more dependent on scarce and unreliable diesel supplies. 


So I decided it was time to take a break from the farm project and take a trip I'd been deferring for a long time: a trip to the Wattz Consumer Electronics big-box store in Somerville. My hope was that I could find more of those nuclear batteries or, that failing, enough parts to assemble a close imitation. It was a bit of a gamble, but I thought it was a justified risk considering the reward. 


Behind The Scenes

Some cheating was involved with this chapter. Rather than actually play through the multiple activities (and many in-game days!) necessary to build up the farm, I threw on God Mode and basically just built it up to my vision; at the end, I just advanced the game date with the console to compensate for the off-camera effort. Fallout 4 stores the date information in three globals: gameday, gamemonth, and gameyear. They're exactly what they sound like, with the only wrinkle being Gameyear, which only stores the date in a three-digit format. If I had to guess, this might be for compatibility with functions that are cribbed from Skyrim, since that game also had a three-digit year format.




You can look up the current value of these globals by typing (using gameday for example) Help Gameday 3 in the console. The 3 filters results to only show global variables. Say we wanted to set the game day to the 6th of the month, we'd type in Set Gameday to 6 in the console. 


Another thing that we did behind the scenes was create a premade armor object for the green Abernathy Farm vault suits. This eliminates the need to customize every single item for each new settler - instead, I can just spawn the AF suits directly with the console. 




In addition to just changing the name, we need to preload the mod characteristics to match the changes we're making. Fallout 4 is pretty good about this, where we literally just update the Object Mod settings to reflect the OMOD settings we want, and this will cause the game to spawn new versions of this item with those settings as the default. There are some technical limitations to the OMODs that mean we can't use them for every single piece if we want them to  work right - some of this we'll actually have to do in outfit studio in the future - but for this costume we can do it totally in the plugin.






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