By now we'd learned through long experience that the grip we wanted for Concord started with walls. After a rather lively debate, where I had to throw cold water on the idea of fortifying all of Concord - and even building an Athenian style long wall down Route 62 all the way to the Red Rocket or even to Sanctuary - we settled on starting by walling off the city blocks immediately adjoining Route 62. This would give us more than enough space to start our work in, and ensure we controlled the city center until we could expand further. Callie wasn't all that thrilled about this idea, in no small part because her house would be outside the walls, but we just didn't have the resources to fully encircle the city; at least, not if we didn't want to tear up all the pavement for raw materials.
In the days that followed, the walls started to go up and we started cleaning up our safe area, organizing and collecting the scrap for recycling. Callie ended up taking the lead on that project, helping our crew work out an efficient plan for gathering up the scrap. It was pretty obvious to me that she'd been thinking about this for a long time, it the main thing holding her back was her isolation.
Shortly after Callie's team finished clearing out the bar across the street from town hall, we received some immigrants of a sort - Lily, the girl who I'd help get settled in Ridge after she'd fled from an outbreak of disease in her home settlement, showed up dressed in a Sanctuary vault suit and eager to get to work. It turned out she'd be hassling Bart and Old Paul non stop since my last visit about opening a store. Unfortunately, Ridge just didn't get the number of visitors it would need to support something like that - anyone looking to trade stopped at Sanctuary and didn't press further north. So here she was, looking to get into business. And with the bar just cleared out, this seemed like a perfect opportunity to give her what she wanted.
Not that it was exactly a restaurant - not yet. More of a distribution center for the food and water coming in from the Farm. Still, she took on the task excitedly, on the one condition that I'd let her set up a real business once we were set up. I didn't have a problem with that... in fact, I wanted Concord to become a center of business in the region. While a lot of the Concord crew was currently working on material and food gathering to supplement what we were bringing in from the other settlements, long term I wanted to rely on the outer settlements for that so we could concentrate on developing the city. That was going to take time, but I was confident that sooner or later we'd get there.
The big sticking point we had was power. Concord had a municipal plutonium well, and every diagnostic Sturges did on the power drops said it was operational, but we were only getting a tiny trickle of power. If we wanted to get the lights on, so to speak, we were going to need to fix the system. Unfortunately, what exactly was wrong with the system was thus far a mystery. Callie didn't have much to offer either, other than the locations of the different utility access areas in this part of town. She warned me, though, that the underground areas of town were infested with radroaches and mirelurks, so I'd have to be cautious if I wanted to explore down there.
The other potential problem was defense. We'd started putting up guard posts near the main gates, but without a reliable power source we couldn't get sentry guns working. I sent word up to Sanctuary to send down one of the fission batteries, but before that could happen I got a very rude wake-up call to our weaknesses.
It was the dead of night of April 19th when I woke to the sound of gunfire. Grabbing a weapon, I dashed downstairs from my little apartment over the town hall and joined in the defense. The immediate threat was some kind of combat robot - not a cobbled together piece of junk like the Rust Devils had but a real, honest-to-goodness armor-plated machine like the army had back before the War. We only managed to stop it with concentrated fire from Preston and his crew, and while we were distracted with the robot, the real threat tried to flank us.
These enemies weren't undisciplined raiders. These were trained soldiers who knew what they were doing. Honestly, I'm surprised we came out on top. The only reason we were able to put up any kind of real defense was the fact that they had to file through a couple of narrow alleys that we hadn't walled off yet. We managed to bottleneck them as they pushed in, and that let us catch them in enfilade fire (my word of the day - Preston explained the very short version of the concept as we tried to kludge together our defense).
When the gunfire finally slacked off, I took a moment to examine the fallen enemies. They didn't have any distinguishing marks on their uniforms - no patches or insignia - but I was pretty sure I knew who this was. These soldiers had every characteristic of the group called the Gunners, and I'd been repeatedly warned by Preston and many of the other settlers that I needed to watch out for them.
Fortunately, it seemed that I had a little bit of luck on my side. Responding to a shout from the direction of Lily's bar, I found a survivor. She'd taken several gunshots to her arms and legs, but her body armor protected her from suffering a mortal wound. Taking care to kick her weapon out of reach, I covered her with my weapon while Preston secured one of his shock collars around her neck. Only then did I let my people offer some first aid - though they seemed a bit reluctant. I assured them, however, that we needed her alive for questioning.
After we made sure the woman wasn't in any danger of bleeding to death, I tried to ask some preliminary questions, but it was pretty clear that she had no interest in cooperating. Preston had already had a few more sets of restraints fabricated back at the vault, with raiders in mind, and I had him install one of them by my office. Then I locked the hydraulic bar around her wrists and neck and went to check in with the rest of the settlers. Fortunately, they'd only sustained minor injuries, and after I made sure everyone was getting properly looked after I caught a couple hours of rest.
When I woke, the sun was up and I set about making a second attempt at interrogating the captive. Preston had already searched her thoroughly, divesting her of her weapons and armor, though I noticed with some curiosity that he hadn't taken her clothing. In fact, now that I thought of it, he hadn't stripped the raider we captured either. Evidently sensing what I was thinking he just winked and told me that he'd explain when we were out of earshot.
We tried asking our questions again, but once more she refused to engage. Even the old good cop/bad cop routine, with me offering her some food and water while Preston kept pushing for answers didn't do any good. Exasperated, I finally challenged her to say something. After all, I pointed out, she's supposed to give me her name, rank, and serial number.
Unfortunately, it seemed that cliché hadn't survived the War, and she just looked at me blankly. I threw up my hands and looked at Preston.
"So what do we do with her? Just treat her like a raider and put her on trial?"
Preston shrugged. "That's one option. As far as I'm concerned, the Gunners don't deserve any better. Honestly, they deserve worse. If you'd see what I saw at Quincy, you'd understand."
That, surprisingly, got a laugh out of the Gunner.
"So you really are Preston Garvey, huh?" she asked.
He spun, anger in his eyes, and that was apparently all the answer she needed.
"Clint's been looking for you, Preston. Looks like he's found you, too."
Preston's response to that was to lift up his leg, and I realized he was about to drive his heel into her face. I put a hand on his shoulder to stop him.
"Hold up," I said, "let's give her some time to stew." I gestured towards the stairs that led up to the rooftop. Some previous occupant had planted a rather extensive roof garden up there, and it was one of my preferred places to relax between jobs.
"Alright," I said, "I think you need to tell me who Clint is, and why that name gets under your skin."
Preston fumed for a moment before he answered. "Clint is, was, a Minuteman. He cut a deal with the Gunners and sold out the rest of us. He's a big reason why Quincy turned into a massacre. And apparently he hasn't given up on finding me."
"Why's he after you?"
"Seems to me like he wants to do a clean sweep. Wipe us out for good."
I groaned. "Come on, Preston, you know that's now what I mean. I can tell that this is personal for you, and not just because he's a traitor. You two go back further than that, don't you?"
He nodded, slowly. "Clint had a ideas. A lot of fucking ideas. He thoughts the Minutemen shouldn't do what we do, what we did, for free. I'm pretty sure he egged on Jim Wire to start shaking down Bunker Hill, and, well, as you can see he made friends with the Gunners. He also, ah..."
I could tell this was the part that really got to him. Part of me wanted to let it go unsaid, but I wasn't in the mood for Preston to be keeping secrets on me at that moment. "Spill it," I said, with just a little steel in my voice. That was not a request, it was an order, and I made sure my tone reflected it.
Preston let out a long sigh. "Clint has it out for... men like me. He thought that the Minutemen wouldn't be on the ropes if they were more picky about who they let in. And that means not letting in people who weren't 'real' men, by his judgment. He was fine with women, mind you... as long as they were, ah, receptive to him. And that's the sticking point. Clint made it crystal clear to me that we'd get on great if I'd be one of his women. When I said no to him, he made sure my posting in Quincy was... unpleasant. I'm pretty sure he didn't intend for me to survive the massacre, and it sounds like..."
"Yeah, I get it," I said. "It sounds like he's still got a bone to pick with you. Thank you for explaining, Preston. I understand the situation a lot better. Now what are we going to do with this Gunner?"
"Hang her, I suppose. Not much else to do. Unless..."
Preston looked at me with a burning anger in his eyes. "Charley, how would you feel if I told you that I had Tracy work on a side project for me?"
I tried to keep a neutral temperament. "I'm not going to like this, am I?"
"I know you don't like some of the more dramatic punishments," he admitted. "No mounting them on rebar or feeding them to the mirelurks, right?"
"So I was thinking about other ways to encourage people to talk. Tracy was telling me that she found some, ah, toys in the Workshop catalog that might be relevant to her, to our interests, and one of them caught my eye."
He proceeded to describe something that I recognized as an old-fashioned 'magic wand' vibrator, but with electrodes that provide electrical stimulation in addition to vibration. The then went on to describe his plan and it was... unique.
When he finished, I found myself massaging my forehead, part in through and part in exasperation. Torturing prisoners was exactly the kind of thing - indeed, literally the kind of thing that I went to law school to stop. On the other hand? Well, in the scope of torments that you could visit on someone, this did sound reasonably humane. And frankly, the woman was going to die on a rope anyway unless she did something to justify her survival. We didn't have anything even remotely resembling a proper jail, much less prison facilities.
"Alright, Preston, consider this an experiment. The goal is to coax information out of her, not to torture her. If this just turns out to be an elaborate torture scenario, then we won't be repeating the procedure in the future."
I wasn't sure how to read Preston's expression. I thought I saw some disappointment there, but he also seemed pleased to get permission to proceed.
Preston spent the next couple of hours assembling his interrogation 'chair' before removing the rest of the Gunner's clothes and leading her to where the contraption awaited. He strapped her in, prompting a litany of curses and threats. However, when Preston flipped the switch, his prisoner's demeanor changed almost immediately.
Over the next half hour, I watched a curious progression of behaviors that reminded me a great deal of my own response to some of Vault-Tec's procedures. First she demanded that we stop and release her. She threatened us with the power of the Gunners, which Preston's face told me was almost certainly exaggeration. Then the first electric shocks started, and while they didn't quite bring out screams, each one came with a sharp gasp. Throughout, the Gunner's skin started to take on a sheen of perspiration and she squirmed, trying to get away from the vibrating bulb and the metal contact rings. Then came gasping and panting, sudden tensing and releasing of muscles, more begging for Preston to stop along with the unmistakable signs of a forced orgasm.
After a while longer, the vibrator slowed and Preston asked if the Gunner was willing to talk to him now. She responded with bargaining, offering information if he'd stop. Preston looked at me, and shook his head. Not yet, he mouthed as the devices started to ramp up again.
After three rounds, the Gunner was drooling, her eyes had taken on a wild look, and she was literally shouting at Preston trying to find out what he wanted to know.
"I think she's almost ready," Preston said, before leaning back to watch her clinically through another round of 'the treatment.'
"Where's Clint's base?" Preston asked.
She whipped her head to the side, looking right at Preston. "On... on the overpass of I-95 South. They have a camp set up there."
Preston look at me and grimaced, shaking his head. "No it's not. She's still lying. Leave her be, let's get some lunch."
But I could see that the only purpose that was going to serve was cruelty. The Gunner's eyes were rolling back in her head and she was spasming now. As I watched, a trickly of urine starting running down onto the floor and I shook my head in dismay. Just like any other kind of torture, it just made her tell us what she thought we wanted to hear, not the truth.
"No, we're done here. Shut it off and lock her back up. Sorry, Preston, it was worth a try but this won't get us the answers we need."
Behind The Scenes
In case you were wondering, the toy that Preston describes does actually exist.