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Hard Sell (Charley's Story, Chapter 38)


gregaaz

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The next morning, I made my way back to Sanctuary to get ready for my meeting with Trudy. On the way, I ran into Preston, who was wearing some body armor I hadn't seen before. Or rather, body armor that I hadn't seen in a long time.

 

"Last time I saw that was on the security at the vault," I said.

 

He nodded, "that's exactly what it is - genuine Vault-Tec security armor. It's not quite as good as I'd like, but it'll give us an extra edge against any raiders we encounter. At least, unless you can find some more power suits."

 

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I didn't miss the dirt and mud on the vest, observing, "that vest looks like it's seen better days. Is that salvaged?"

 

"Nope," Preston explained, "it's new-built from the Workshop. I've just been giving it a workout, along with the recruits I'm training on the north side of town. Haven't had a chance to wash it up yet."

 

I shrugged, "well, no objections there. How are they working out? Your recruits, that is."

 

"They've got a lot of learning to do. One thing I learned the hard way in the Minutemen is that green recruits aren't just individually ineffective, they can put the whole team in danger. The guys I sent down the farm are far enough along for guard duty, but all of the new recruits need a lot more training before we try to lock down the quarry. At least a few more weeks."

 

"Okay," I accepted, "I'll trust your judgment on that. Do you have a few more who are far enough along to move on to guard duty? If everything works out right, Drumlin Diner will be in our camp today or tomorrow."

 

"Hmmm." Preston thought on that for a moment, then he nodded. "Yes, I have a few who are getting to that point. I'll give them some extra time on security procedures and, well, guard stuff. Just send word when you need them and I'll give them their marching orders."

 

We chatted a little longer about the state of the defenses in Sanctuary and about some lessons I learned wiring up the turrets at the farm, then I let Preston get back to his patrol and headed over to where Tracy and Sturges were working. I greeted the two and then explained that I needed help getting suited up - I expected that in saying so Tracy would break off from her project to help while Sturges went on his way, but I was pleasantly surprised when they both offered to help.

 

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It turned out that Tracy had initially been practicing putting on the suit herself with limited success, and she'd asked Sturges to help out. After he learned the procedure on her, he'd surprised her a bit by asking her if she could help him wear the power suit. Given how form-fitting the suit was on me, I wouldn't have expected it to work on Sturges' broader frame, but the way Tracy told it, it was surprisingly flexible. The plumbing proved a little more complicated, and Tracy noted that some of the male-specific parts were completely missing from the armorer's kit. 

 

She asked me to keep a look out for those missing parts and gave me a pretty clear description of what she needed. Sturges, for his part, chuckled and told me to not make it too high a priority. While he was curious about the suit, he explained, some of the stuff in the manual about inserting needles into sensitive areas was a bit out of his comfort zone. At that, Tracy gave him a good-natured punch in the shoulder.

 

"Sturges, don't tell me you're a little afraid of needles?"

 

"Not normally, but when the family jewels get involved I make a special exception," he shot back.

 

That prompted Tracy to give him a little squeeze on the rump, whispering, "don't worry, Sturges, I'm an expert. You won't feel a thing."

 

The mechanic rolled his eyes at that. "Yeah, well, forgive me if I remain skeptical."

 

I was happy to see those two getting along well, but I had a job to do and daylight was wasting. Thanking them for the quick work they did helping me get into the suit, I checked my equipment and then set out for the gate, looking to get to the Diner before nightfall. As I prepared to depart, I caught sight of Trashcan Carla just starting to set up shop. 

 

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"I see you're all suited up again," she said. "Are the rumors true that you're going to pay a visit to Trudy some time soon?"

 

In accord with trading post rules, Carla had entered the settlement completely bare, but I noticed that she was starting to develop a nice even tan that led me to believe she was spending a fair amount of time disrobed of late. 

 

"I could tell you," I joked, "but then I couldn't let you leave."

 

She laughed at that. "What, you think I'd warn her about your mischievous plans? Forget it. She's better off working with you, and no sense letting her grind her teeth on the idea until she decides to get all stubborn. If it makes you feel better though, I'll be here in town for a few days."

 

"Working on your tan?" I prodded.

 

"Ha," she barked as the extracted a cigarette from a small pack on her brahmin's saddle. "You like it? I think I've got more sun on my skin in the last month than in the year before. It's... different. But I'm not complaining. When in Rome, right?"

 

"So," I asked more seriously, "what about you? If - when - Trudy signs on, you going to throw in with us too?"

 

"That's a tricky decision. I like you folks, and you've got a lot to offer, but I also like trading down in Diamond City."

 

"And how's that a problem? It's not like we wouldn't let you go where you want."

 

"Vault 81's the problem," she said directly. "Have you heard about their... thing with you?"

 

I grimaced inside the helmet. I had indeed heard whispers that the help I'd provided to Vault 81 some time earlier hadn't garnered the enthusiastic reception I'd hoped for. Specifically, it seemed that Vault 81 was telling everyone who'd listen that we didn't exist.

 

"Yeah," I said. "I guess I need to pay them a visit some time and sort that out."

 

"Don't rush it," Carla advised, "they're good folks, but they're really stubborn. A hundred times more stubborn and set in their ways than Trudy... or me. For them, the world stopped two hundred years ago and they don't like it when anyone tries to change things. If you want my advice, let them be for a while. Let them get used to the idea of you... existing. Then go talk to them. Specifically, go talk to Overseer McNamara. She's the one in charge there, and you might as well go straight to the top."

 

"Alright, I'll take it under advisement. As for you... well, far be it for me to reduce my view of that nice body of yours, but if you decide you want to put on the suit, just let me know. After all the help you've given us, as far as I'm concerned you're practically already one of us."

 

I think then I detected just a hint of blush on Carla's face. "Thanks, Charley," she said, "that means a lot. I'll keep you posted - but don't you have a date with Trudy? Get going!"

 

I'd like to say that from that point forward, it was smooth sailing. Unfortunately, that was far from the truth: as I walked through the seemingly-deserted streets of Concord, a gunshot rang out and almost immediately I was spun around by a sharp impact. 

 

!! WARNING !! Flanking fire detected strobed at the center of my viewscreen for a moment and I rolled out of the way, quickly spotting a man crouched in some tall shrubs near the corner of a building. I returned fire, missing with the first shot but catching him square in the jaw with the second. His head literally came apart from the impact as his body slumped to the ground. 

 

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I dashed around the corner, gun ready, looking for more raiders, but this one seemed to be alone. Well, not exactly. Around the corner, I found a woman lashed a makeshift frame of steel debris. Judging from her state of undress and, I realized, the raider's own lack of pants, I suspected that I'd interrupted him just as he was preparing to take advantage of the captive. 

 

"Are you all right?" I asked, "are there more of them?"

 

It took the woman a moment to muster a response, but then it flowed out in a torrent. The man I'd killed was part of a scouting party from Lexington. They'd rolled through here and cornered her, then tied her up and questioned her. They wanted to know about why the Concord raiders had cleared out. They wanted to know if the Rust Devils did it, or someone else. The woman, Eloise, didn't know, and a couple hours ago the main party had left, heading back to report to their boss in Lexington. The one I'd killed had decided to stay behind and have some fun, to his dismay.

 

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I helped Eloise get free from the restraints, then I asked her what she was doing up here and what her plans were. She explained that she'd also heard about the raiders getting cleared out of Concord, and she'd been thinking of moving up here. At a minimum, she wanted to do some scavenging, maybe spend a few weeks here picking over the ruins. In the best case scenario, she was thinking of moving in and setting up a little bolt-hole to use as her base of operations. 

 

I explained to her that I was also thinking of moving down here, but that it wasn't safe yet. She'd seen it herself: raiders from out of down could waltz right in along the main roads with nothing to stop them. However, I told her that if she wanted to move into this area, my folks could always use experienced scavengers. I almost pointed her to Sanctuary, but then I changed my mind and told her to go to the farm instead. As I'd often done before, I told her to seek out Winter so she could get started. 

 

Eloise asked me a few questions about what we'd expect of her and how soon she could move into Concord, and I tried to answer her as honestly as I could without completely giving away our plans. After we chatted on the subject for a bit, she agreed to give the farm a try, and I continued towards the Diner as she headed for Sudbury Road.

 

When I got to the Diner it was late afternoon and Trudy was minding her counter inside the building. Wolfgang was actually the first to greet me, waving me over to him.

 

"Well, if it isn't tall, dark, and shiny. Thanks again for all your help before. You here to talk business?"

 

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"You could say that," I admitted. "It's more of a business proposal for Trudy, but its a venture I want you in on also."

 

"Oh?" he asked, raising an eyebrow, "now that sounds interesting. What do you have in mind?"

 

"How about you come inside with me and the three of us can chat."

 

Wolfgang agreed, and we entered the Diner together. I took a stool across from Trudy's counter, while Wolfgang opted to stay standing.

 

"Well, if it isn't little miss trouble. Been a while since I've seen you down here, though your people sure come through often enough. And I saw you got your hooks into Trashcan Carla, too. So what do you want with me?"

 

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"Well," I said, not seeing much point in dancing around the issue, "there's two things we want. We want to move into Concord and set up a settlement there. We also want to keep you as a trading partner. Problem is, I'm sure that other raider groups would love to move in and set up shop in Concord, too. As I figure it, they'll come in along one of the main roads, and so we're setting up outposts to protect them and keep unwanted guests out of the town."

 

"And what does this have to do with me?" she reiterated.

 

"I want to build one of those outposts, well, here. And I want you and your," I gestured towards Wolfgang, "guests, to join our community."

 

"You mean you want to dress us up in those butts-and-titties costumes your people wear? I don't know if you noticed, but my days of being beautiful have come and gone. That's not much of an enticement."

 

"I don't know," I prodded, "you seem to have held onto your looks pretty well. But that's not all we've got to offer. And the way I see it, it's not just about what we can give you, but the risks you're taking by saying no."

 

Trudy scowled a bit as I said that last part. "Explain."

 

"I came through Concord to get here, and there were scouts from a raider gang operating out of Lexington there. I disposed of them, but they won't be the last. I'm sure I'm not the only one who figured out that your Diner's at a strategic location. I'm not going to send my people to force you to join us, but I don't think the Lexington crowd is going to be so considerate. It's just a matter of time until someone makes a move on you. If raiders take over this spot, I think the best you can hope for is getting kicked out with whatever you can fit in a backpack. Worst case? I'm sure you can imagine the range of possibilities. But if you join up with us, we won't just be giving you protecting. We have a water purification expert who can help you get access to clean water. We can make fission batteries to give you reliable power. Abernathy Farm is already allied with us, and they've got food to spare."

 

"Basically," I concluded, "if you join up with us, your quality of life is going to get a lot better, and fast."

 

"Okay," Trudy said with a shrug, "let's pretend for a second that I'm not completely opposed to your idea. I mean, it would be interesting to see just how much all that drug use has shrunk Wolfgang's balls - not that they were much to start with, I'm sure. We're a trading post. All that cement you're using all flows through here. All the glass your people are buying? Same deal. Everything you just rattled off, we can trade with you for those things. Why do we need to join you? Yeah, yeah, raiders. I get it. And you're right, Lexington is going to be a problem. Not yet, maybe even not till next year, but they're going to be a problem. Are you telling me that if they move on us, you won't help?"

 

I didn't answer right away, and she continued on. "I talked with Preston Garvey when he came through here. He's got his head in the clouds. Totally let me rip him off. All he could do was tell me his sob story about the Minutemen. I hear he's your security guy now. Are you telling me that he won't come running to save us, whether we join you or not?"

 

I shook my head. "Nah, he probably would. He might be a dreamer, but when he sets his mind on something he's hard to stop. The problem is, you'd be dead, or maybe shipped back to Lexington as slaves by then. Same for you, Wolfgang." 

 

The man, who I'd realized we'd mostly been ignoring up until that point, grunted unhappily. "Give me some credit, Charley. I'm not a pushover."

 

"No, you're not. But one guy against twenty is still one guy against twenty. When you and Trudy got in your little tiff, you and your girl against her turned into a Mexican standoff."

 

"A what standoff?" Wolfgang interjected.

 

"Never mind. What I'm saying is, your days of being left alone by the raiders are almost over. If you join up with us now, we can put up defenses ahead of time and make it so you never get into a situation of needing a rescue."

 

Trudy glanced past me as I said that. At first I thought she was looking to Wolfgang, but then I realized she was looking at her son. 

 

"If I join you, what happens with Patrick?"

 

"He's in, too." I promised. "And we'll help him finish getting clean, then get him an apprenticeship. Like I said, we have a lot of people in our community with important skills - skills they need to pass down. Patrick could learn to make and fix water purifiers, he could learn farming, to be a mechanic, whatever. I don't know, what's he interested in?"

 

She shrugged. "Who knows, he's barely an adult. It changes every time you ask him. Ugh, I need to think on this. How about you go take a break on the patio. As much as it pains me to say it, I need to have a chat with Wolfgang."

 

I left them to their discussions and walked the property for a bit. Right away it was clear the plot of land wasn't getting used to its full potential. Not just was the back yard of the place littered with all kinds of salvageable scrap that didn't seem to have been meaningfully exploited, just down the hill from the diner I could see a pond that was practically begging for Seth and Lila to put in a water purifier. I was pretty confident that with some help from Tracy they could find all the parts they needed in the Workshop catalog, after all. I also noted that the diner itself was on terrain that lent itself to easy fortification. We could do a lot with the place as long Trudy and Wolfgang cooperated with us.

 

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Honestly, we could just take it, too. But I didn't want to. While I felt like I got a pretty enthusiastic level of support from my people, I knew some of them would find the idea of us taking over a 'clean' settlement like the Diner pretty upsetting. This wasn't the kind of crowd who would be thrilled if I just declared eminent domain and started building. I think even if I let Trudy keep running her business, no questions asked, the idea of taking her land away from her wouldn't sit well. And honestly, it wouldn't sit well with me either.

 

So I was glad that went I got back, Trudy and Wolfgang had come to an agreement. Recognizing that I'd dealt fairly with both of them before, they'd join - but they had conditions. First, Trudy would be the mayor of the settlement, no matter how many people I brought in, and she'd have the final say on any building plans. Wolfgang would have free reign to keep running his chems business, though he'd answer to Trudy in terms of who he could sell to: their previous deal about him not selling to kids, for example, would remain in effect. Finally, the Drumlin Diner would be an open trading post. We could keep raiders out, of course, but anyone else who wanted to do business here could.

 

None of those caveats seemed like a problem to me. I did clarify that any traders would have to follow our security rules, including leaving their weapons behind. I fully intended to actually have the guards enforce the same 'disrobe completely' policy that existed at the Sanctuary trading post, but I didn't go into that little detail at the moment. I also asked that, while Trudy would have the final say, that I'd at least get an advisory voice in terms of the chems policy. In particular, I explained that I might need certain chems for my own purposes and might want Trudy to make exceptions if she told Wolfgang he couldn't import this or that. 

 

We worked out the details through the afternoon, but in the end all that we had left to do was to decide on the colors for their vault suits. This was actually where one final sticking point came up. Trudy wanted to go with a tan and red color to match the diner livery, though the closest option we had in the catalog was tan and gold, and she agreed to that. But Wolfgang had his own idea. If he was going to have to submit to his business being, as he said, regulated, then he was a real doctor (pharmacist, I corrected) and he should wear a real doctor's outfit. He wanted the whole white lab coat deal, and I wasn't willing to go that far off the uniform. However, I remembered seeing a 'medic' outfit in the catalogue, and I offered that as a compromise. Wolfgang, and any future healthcare professionals, I explained, could opt for that uniform instead of their settlement colors.

 

The deal settled, I returned to Sanctuary the following morning. Fortunately, I didn't run into any further unwanted neighbors, and I was able to make it a round trip, returning with uniforms - as well as several volunteers to start setting up a perimeter wall and getting improvements made to the water supply and power systems. 

 

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In the end, the hard sell route I'd decided on for the Diner hadn't turned out to require all that much pressure. If anything, the lesson I walked away from this with was that we had a lot to offer, and if we were careful with our enticements and our concessions, we were in a strong position to expand our influence. With Trudy in our camp, all that remained in terms of our immediate needs was to make good on our promises to improve her location and then to get control of the quarry. Considering Preston's own estimates on how long it would be until he was ready, I was pretty confident that we had more than enough time to finish our work at the Diner before moving on to our next goal.

 

 

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