"Danny, please, we're friends! Let me in! Nat's waiting for me!"
The woman, wearing a dull red leather coat and a matching hat, seemed to be getting increasingly anxious as she pleaded with the intercom. Before long, it crackled back. "Sorry, Piper, but Mayor McDonough says you can't come in. I think you really got him heated up with that last story."
She let out a little screech then, before blasting back, "Daniel Sullivan, you---"
Whoa, whoa, whoa, hold up, Blue. I did not "screech." I... confidently asserted my rights.
Ha, maybe, Piper, but that's not how I remember it. And besides, I thought this was for your oral history project, not an interview. I'm supposed to be the one telling the story.
Yeah, but you're supposed to be telling it right. Not making up slanderous intimations about my conduct.
Slanderous intimations? Are you channeling McDonough now? Come on, let me get back to telling the story.
Argh, fine, not like I could stop you anyway. Tell me, Blue, what other pathetic things did I do?
Hey, I never called anyone pathetic. But the woman in red? She was getting pretty worried. We were still hearing gunfire in the background and while in retrospect I knew DC security was holding the line, it sounded like it was creeping closer. It didn't help that there was this strung-out looking trader hanging around the gate looking really amused by the whole situation.
Oh, God, I'd forgotten about that. Was that Cricket? She's a real bitch, isn't she?
Yes, it was Cricket, but you're supposed to be listening and recording, not reminiscing. Anyway, if you're listening to this, and if Piper didn't go back on her promise to not edit these tapes, then the identity of the woman's already been spoiled for you. This was Piper Wright, investigative journalist, adventurer, and all-around troublemaker. And right about then, she noticed I was there.
She must have heard me approaching the gate because she spun around kind of defensively, not quite flinching, but definitely not thrilled to hear someone getting close. Then she saw me and her eyes went a little wide. She looked me up and down, taking in my outfit and, I saw, pausing on the Vault 111 tattoo on my brow. From that point I could almost see the wheels spinning in her head and she made a slow, tight smile.
"Hey, you," she half whispered, "you're from Concord, aren't you? You want in?"
Do you really have to make me sound so conniving? I mean, I was right, wasn't I? I totally figured you out at first glance. And you did want to get in, after all.
I never said you were conniving. Though... what's that phrase you like? 'Every accusation is a confession'?
Whatever. Go on, put some more words in my mouth.
I didn't really get a chance to answer you, er, to answer Piper. Before I could say anything, she shushed me and turned back to the intercom.
"You hear that, Danny? There's a trader here from Concord. Looks like she's got enough supplies to stock the general store for a month. You gonna open the gate, or are you gonna be the one to explain to Crazy Myrna how you lost out on all those supplies?"
She was really hamming it up, and I'm pretty sure Danny knew that it was a bluff, but fortunately I think he was just looking for an excuse to let Piper back in.
"Geez, alright," he crackled back through the intercom, "no need to make it personal, Piper. Give me a minute."
"Better head inside quick before Danny catches onto the bluff," you told me, and as soon as the steel gate started to come up we both slipped under and into the park. The guard, Danny, was behind the old ticket counter and obviously wasn't happy that I didn't have any supplies in tow with me.
"So tell me, newcomer," you said, looking me over again, "what do you think about freedom of the press? Cuz the mayor here's trying to throw the news into the dumpster." You were really getting worked up and, as I'm sure you're aware, you're kind of cute when you get angry.
I answered more or less on reflex, "I'm all for freedom of the press," and before I could qualify it with some words of wisdom about how things had gone sideways in my own time, your eyes lit up like a Christmas tree.
"You sound like just the kind of person we need here in Diamond City. Someone who doesn't take the Government line without wanting to see the facts."
Of course, at this point I didn't have much of a frame of reference to go on - you hadn't explained the politics to me yet and certainly hadn't told me about your big exposé where you access McDonough of being a synth. So I kind of shrugged.
"This place looks pretty impressive," I told you, "but I'm guessing there's problems behind the scenes?"
"Oh, yeah," you said. "It's impressive... the most impressive house of cards in the Commonwealth. Until the wind blows, at least..."
Hey, that's not how it went. I remember, I asked you about why you were here first.
No, I'm pretty sure your house of cards speech was first. But either way, yeah, after that you grilled me on why I was here and I told you the truth: I was looking for a missing person, an infant boy.
And I was shocked to hear that. I remember how I warned you not to expect too much from DC security, not with all the other disappearances recently. I told you to...
You told me to see Nick Valentine, yeah. Is this my story or yours we're recording?
Fine, fine, it's yours. But I wish McDonough had me us at the gates like in all the stories you hear. I would have grilled him so hard. I'd start out like, "this is ridiculous! You can't even assign one Diamond City officer to help!" and then I'd really stick it to him, "I want the truth, McDonough! What's the real reason security never investigates any kidnappings!?"
Too bad he wasn't there. He's just like the mythical deathclaw in Concord. Wishful thinking by people who want me to be some kind of superhero. I note also you're dodging the part where you were a little skeptical of me. If I remember, and don't let me stop you if I've got anything wrong, it went like this...
"Looking for an infant boy, huh? I notice you didn't mention if her was related to you or not. Very interesting... but I think I can help you out. After I get some answers from you."
Yeah, yeah, that's about right. But can you blame me? You show up all naked and mysterious, I was curious, and we'd all heard the rumors about you Concord folks.
Speaking in how I looked, you wrapped up by inviting me to come by your office... but not until I'd visited Fallon's Basement first. Did you have a problem with how I looked?
With how you looked? Not really, to be honest. I mean, you're gorgeous, and it take a lot of confidence to show up wearing just that vault suit. But I had enough people upstairs trying to smear me, figured you better get decent before you're seen spending time with me.
'Get decent,' huh? Funny how that turned out in the end. But that's fair, I understand what you were dealing with, and your advice did get me pointed in the right direction. We split up then - you stayed behind to talk to Danny and I went through the gates and into Diamond City itself.
Diamond City was a mess, but it was an impressive mess. Again, as you can guess from the name, the city was built on the pitch of the ballpark, and even after generations of development it didn't take a rocket scientist to see that this started as a refugee camp, going back to right after the bombs dropped. The way the locals tell it, "the Lieutenant" - his name is apparently lost ot history - helped survivors of the war get away from the riots and looters by organizing and defending a camp here in the stadium. That's why, by the way, the mayor wears that gold bar on his lapel. It's the Lieutenant's badge, passed down from mayor to mayor over the years.
But I digress. Piper did me a favor by pointing me towards Fallon's basement, since I could feel a lot of eyes on me as soon as I showed up. The Vault 111 dress code certainly hadn't caught on here in Diamond City, and the only people showing this kind of skin were obviously working girls. I did detour briefly to visit the clinic and get my arm checkout out - fortunately, nothing was broken or dislocated, though it was going to get a nasty bruise - then I headed straight for the clothing store. As I made my way there, I did see plenty of people with body armor, and I wondered if I should have just brought the power suit. But I don't know, I think the helmet and the vocoder might have spooked people.
Crazy Myrna would have thought you were a Synth for sure if you showed up in that suit.
Not just her, either. The guards were watching me closely enough as-is, I'm sure if I turned up looking like a latex robot, there would have been a confrontation. And incidentally, if you're listening to this recording, you should be aware that there were no Synths in Diamond City, no Ghouls either. Mayor McDonough had thrown out the latter and had a shoot-on-sight policy for the former. Like I said, it was an impressive mess, but it was still a mess. Piper's comment about the house of cards wasn't too far off, and there was a sort of low background hum of hostility to the people who lived there. In that moment, I wasn't sure of the source, but I'd quickly come to realize it was birthed from fear. The siege mentality in this place was dug in deep, and not entirely unjustifiably given their history, but it created a constant background tension here that took some getting used to.
Having said that, Fallon's Basement at least was a welcoming environment. I got the joke right away, and I think that helped break the ice. If you don't know, Filene's basement was a chain of discount department stores that existed in the Commonwealth before the war. For a while, they'd all been online, but as travel got less and less safe and reliable, the company had started reopening brick and mortar stores. There was kind of a weird competition between them and New Hampshire-based Fallon's Department Store (formerly Fallon's Furniture), but then the bombs dropped and the issue vanished from anyone's cares.
But before I go down that rabbit hole, I should tell you a bit about Becky Fallon. She was a kindly looking woman, older, with graying hair, but her well worn leather jacket and barbed wire armlet told a story of someone tougher than she looked. When I made my way down into her dugout, she greeted me with a simple, "hello, have you been here before?"
"No," I told her, "this is my first time."
"Well, there's a few rules here. No charity, clothes are for sale if you have the money. Otherwise, the door's right the way you came." she explained, before adding, "though I hope you've got money, because you look like you could use some clothes."
"Yeah," I agreed, "so I'm told. But I have some, ah, special requirements."
That was apparently what she wanted to hear, because a smile crept over her face. "Not a mooch and looking for custom tailoring? You just made my day. Tell me more about your, ah, special needs?"
I ran down the basics, about my skin sensitivity and how the sensors on the suit had to stay in contact with my skin. She asked me some more questions, about other things I'd tried in the past, other materials, cuts, styles. Becky might have been a wasteland survivor, but she knew her trade. While we talked shop, we also chatted about the history of the place. Becky's grandfather had dug it out in left field during the early days of Diamond City, and his last name being Fallon, and it being a literal basement, the name just made sense. The play on the Filene's-Fallon's rivalry also got a laugh from that first generation of survivors. And from there it became a family business - important enough that Becky's husband Charlie took her last name when they got married.
A sad look came over her face when she mentioned her husband, and maybe against my better judgment I pried a little deeper. Charlie Fallon, it turned out, was one of those disappeared citizens Piper had been talking about. He'd been kidnapped - and Becky was sure the Institute was behind it. Making matters worse, DC security not only refused to investigate, they put Becky on a blacklist. No business with security anymore, no protection from shoplifters, nothing. I started to understand why Piper was so fired up about investigating the mayor.
After some more discussion, Becky came up with an idea. Hearing about the material of the power suit, she wondered out loud if my skin would tolerate very soft leather, specially if we stitched it into the vault suit so it didn't have to cling up against me so tightly. She had me undress and take a seat while she started on the alterations, and we chatted a bit more about Diamond City. Becky gave me a good feel for how the whole place was laid out, where to find the different services and businesses, and what spots to avoid after dark. She also explained to me the class system, with the ordinary folks living down on the green and the upper class - including the mayor - living up in the stands. Apparently the actual luxury suites weren't in use - too much frontage on the outside and risk of damage from stray bullets - so instead the strange petty aristocracy of the place had built their homes on the inside of the wall, using the seating rows as a solid foundation.
"And what about you," she asked, "with this 111 suit," she pronounced it one-one-one, "I had you pegged for one of those fake vault cultists that Overseer McNamara's people are always complaining about. But that looks like a real Pip-Boy you've got on your arm."
"Well, if you strike out the 'fake' and the 'cultist' part, you got it in one. I am indeed one of those Vault 111 folks that McNamara apparently doesn't like, and it is indeed a real Pip-Boy. I don't know how the rumor got started that 111," I pronounced it One-Eleven, "but it's just a rumor. We've got a real vault way Northwest of here, and we're cleaning up Concord with an eye to turning it into a safe place for settlers."
"Very interesting," she said, slowly, "and what brings you to Diamond City?"
"Officially? A vacation. But unofficially, I'm looking for a missing person. A baby boy who was kidnapped from our vault."
Becky momentarily looked a little stricken. "Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to pry." Then, immediately proceeding to pry, she asked, "have you found any clues?"
"Not yet," I confessed. "Piper Wright, the newsgirl, sounded interest--"
Well, you're a reporter, and you're a girl.
I'm an investigative reporter. A newsgirl, like, puts newspapers on peoples doorsteps. Or gets on a soapbox and hawks the special edition.
So your sister? Your sister's a newsgirl but you're an investigative reporter.
Nat's a... um. Yeah, actually, you got it. I'm an investigative reporter. Nat's a newsgirl.
Glad to clear that up. I'm sure she'll be delighted to hear the way you categorize the two of you.
Hey, don't you dare tell Nat---
OK, enough Piper, let me get back to the story. So I told her that you might be able to help with the investigation. No surprise, she also suggested that I talk to Nice Valentine.
Naturally. I mean, I told you to talk to him too. And so did Mama Murphy, as I recall.
So we talked a while more while she worked, and then she came back with the altered suit. I pulled it on, she made a few final adjustments, and I have to say, it was pretty comfortable. The new leather parts hung very loosely and the material was soft and didn't chafe my sensitive skin and my hypersensitive nipples at all.
"How'd you pull it off?" I asked her.
Becky just winked. "Sorry, that's a professional secret. But if you need more clothes made for your special needs, come see me again. By the way..."
She paused and I raised a questioning eyebrow.
"I don't want to criticize your looks, because you're a very attractive woman," she said.
Sure she did.
She did. Maybe you haven't seen this side of Becky, but she can be quite a flatterer under the right circumstances. Anyway, as I was saying, she said, "but you should really visit John at his barber shop. He could do some amazing things with that hair. Maybe," she smiled bashfully a little, "also talk to his sister Cathy about a trim, ah, downstairs too. I couldn't help but notice you've let everything grow out a bit."
I had been thinking of getting a shave and a haircut - the last time I used the powersuit, things had been getting kind of cramped in there. So I thanked her for her advice and made my way over to the barber shop. Unfortunately, it wasn't an uneventful walk. I came out of the basement to the sounds of cries and shouting, and I found a man holding up another at gunpoint. This was Kyle and Riley, two scavver brothers who were regulars of the DC market, and Kyle was accusing his brother of being a Synth.
Maybe foolhardily, I pushed myself between the two.
"Stop it, stand down," I said. In retrospect, this was a doubly foolish move. Not only did I have no idea what was going on, but I wasn't wearing the protective sheath of the power suit. While I was less uncovered than before, if I'd got shot in the chest right then, Becky's soft leather addition to my vault suit wouldn't have done a thing to save me.
But I never got the chance to regret my actions, because as soon as I got between the two men, a Diamond City security man shot Kyle in the back of the head. He fell the floor, spasming once.
"Kyle, no!" Riley cried out, running to cradle his brother's lifeless body. The security man looked at me then.
"What were you thinking? You could have got shot."
The smart response would have been to admit that I'd screwed up, but something about this whole affair had got me heated and I challenged him back. "What about you? I was trying to stop them and you shot the man in the back!"
The DC guard just glowered at me. "I haven't seen you around here before, so you must be new. I'll cut you some slack this time. Listen up, and listen good. Accusing a man of being a Synth is as good as saying you're going to murder him. And we don't tolerate murderers. Kyle was a dead man as soon as he raised that gun and opened his mouth, and you'd be smart to remember that.
He turned then, and walked past me, setting to work dispersing the crowd. I shook my head, still trying to make sense of what had just happened. On one hand, I knew the policy for Diamond City was "shoot on sight" for Synths. But at the same time, I was hearing things that made it almost sound like DC security was... protecting Synths? Or maybe protecting the Institute? First the thing about them refusing to help Becky and giving her the cold shoulder, now this - executing a man for accusing someone else of being a Synth? Something wasn't right here and I found myself really wanting to get to the bottom of it.
I tracked down John and his sister, and they also seemed a little rattled about what had happened in the market. I tried to question them lightly about it, but they steered the conversation back to my hair. John had some ideas, and after talking it through he sat me down and started snipping. In the end, we went for a short style that would be comfortable in the tight fitting powersuit helmet.
John also floated an interesting idea - shaving my head completely and using a wig. He explained that this would let the helmet fit with the most comfort, but still let me keep a longer hairstyle when I wasn't using the suit. He even showed me some very nice looking wigs that he kept in stock. I'd be lying if I told you I didn't consider it, but in the end I decided to just stick with a haircut. Likewise, I tabled the idea of asking his sister to do something with my pubic hair. Becky probably had the right idea, but I was fine with leaving it the way it was for the time being.
By the time I got back to Piper's place, it was starting to get dark. We were well into dusk, and even though salvaged street lamps throughout the city had kicked on, they weren't sufficient to hold back the gloom. As I approached, I saw a woman in the same red trench coat as Piper hawking papers on the front porch. As I got closer, it became clear that this wasn't Piper - though the young woman had the same hair color and general build of the investigative journalist. This was Nat, Piper's younger sister by a few years, and apparently while Piper had been off doing whatever she'd been doing that got her locked out of the city, Nat had been running the family business.
We chatted briefly, but she wanted to get back to selling papers to the residents. Apparently she'd rushed out a broadsheet covering the 'breaking news' of the shootout near the pitcher's mound, and she wanted to get them into folks' hands while they were fresh. She took a moment more to show me the way to the building's side door, then got back to work.
Inside I found Piper working on an old-fashioned printing press. She started to stand as I approached, not quite turning to me.
"How you holding up, Blue? I hear things got a little rough in the market today."
"Holding up all right - Becky Fallon was a big help. But yeah, I was there when the shootout happened. You're right, this place has got some problems. My favorite ballpark's become a shanty town, too."
"Interesting you mention that, seeing as you're from a vault. The vault suit's a giveaway, you know. So here's the deal, I want an interview. You do that and, ah... I'll tell you what: I'll come with you. Watch your back. Help you find the missing kid. "
"What kind of interview, exactly, is this gonna be?" I asked.
"I ask you who you are, get your opinion on life out there, just softball questions, I promise."
Hey, that's not what I said. I told you I'd load up the tough questions, so you could make a splash with your opinions.
I don't know, Piper, that's not how I remember it. I remember you promising me a cushy interview and then you snared me into talking about all the controversial political stuff in DC so you could stick it to McDonough. Have I got it wrong?
Ah... well, I did ask you all those tough questions. But I'm sure I warned you up front. I'm one hundred percent sure.
Either way, I gave you the interview. I told you about how we'd been frozen in the vault, though I left out the part about the experiments they did on me and the other people there. You caught onto the implications of that right away, and we pivoted for a while to talk about the old world. I told you how I was a lawyer back then, and when you pressed me, I told you about how the justice system was a mess.
Power-hungry bastards who locked up everyone who got in their way. I remember that. Man, that was like, a shocking revelation, but also was one of those "things change, but they stay the same" moments.
Yeah, that's the words I used. Then you wanted to know how the way things are now compared to the old life. I remember saying that seeing the way people are hanging on - even rebuilding - gave me hope. I talked to you a little about Concord and what we were doing up there, though I kept the details vague.
I remember that. I thought you were hiding something. I thought I was so clever, generously offering to accompany you and watch your back. But I was also kind of planning on spying on you.
OK, I was totally planning on spying on you. But can you blame me? You were the most interesting scoop that had come across my desk in months.
Nah, I don't blame you. And you ended up really helping me out. But on your interview, after we talked about Concord, then I told you about Shaun. Of course, you immediately pivoted to the Institute, and whether or not they were involved. At the time, of course, I had no idea. I told you about the kidnappers, I didn't know his name at the time, but I described Kellog and how he'd shot Nate. Then at last, you dropped me right into the shark tank by asking me to make a public statement about kidnapping. The answer I gave you was more blunt than was politically correct in Diamond City.
"Find who's responsible and make them pay, simple as that," if I remember right.
Yeah, you remember right. I'm surprised Mayor McDonough didn't ban me from the city after you published that. I'm sure it would have made Gwen happy.
No doubt. But of course, McDonough was never one to cater to McNamara's desires. He had different masters.
Fine, fine. We're getting near the end of this tape. Anything you want to wrap up with?
No, I think that covers my first day in Diamond City. After that, we had some dinner and then crashed, if I remember right. Then the real work started the next morning. Oh!
I almost forgot - I did tell you before we called it a night, we had to pay Becky another visit.
Oh, haha, you did drop that on me right away, didn't you?
Well, turnabout's fair play, right? If I have to dress up special for DC, you'd need a special outfit for visiting 111 territory, right?
Edited by gregaaz