Bears are really strange animals.
Yew sat on her knees, the moisture from the dirt was seeping into the material of her robes. She was holding her old bear charm up to her face, the band wrapped around her palm and the lifeless creature swaying in the cool breeze.
There's not much to bears. They're big, they're fuzzy, and they have claws and teeth. But nothing very special, like a tail with spikes on the end, or maybe a mohawk. That would make them more interesting.
Her hand dropped to her knee and she refocused on her surroundings. Patches of green grass weren't rare this far south of the Oasis, but they certainly weren't common. Earlier that day she managed to find a particularly soft patch near a tree in its early growth; it was just as high as she was on her knees. Seeing this, she pulled out the thin planks of wood she carried with her on her check-ups, stuck the plank upwards into the dirt next to the tree and tied them together with cloth. Yew's mission was to ensure every tree she found growing would become strong; she loved her work.
While she was tying the dead wood and the growing wood together, a band of armored men walked past her, they didn't stop to talk to her but she did notice some glances. They wore light brown colors and, to Yew's surprise, had pictures of two-headed bears on their shoulders. Once they had walked on, Yew pulled out her charm necklace, the one she had given to Perry so long ago, and compared the creatures.
But then, I suppose having two heads makes bears more interesting. Those men have the right idea.
She examined the growing tree again, the small leaves were swaying in the breeze, the gaps between them constantly shifting, disappearing and reappearing all by themselves. She loved watching this motion, it helped her relax and think of home. But she needed to make sure this new member of the Capitol's tree population was secure, safe and ready to grow.
Yew leaned close to the leaves and whispered, "Harold… Harold?"
Sitting perfectly still she waited. The minutes ticked by, but still Yew sat in silence, the shuffling of the leaves and the breeze being the only noise to fill the silence. Then slowly, so slowly that any other person would have missed it, a single leaf from the branch she spoke into lifted itself up and stood perfectly still. Harold was paying attention.
"Is this tight enough?" She spoke so casually anyone else would have assumed she was talking to a friend, not a plant.
The single leaf slowly moved itself and pointed its tip to the top most cloth that she had wrapped around the plant and plank. Looking closer, she realised the cloth was already tearing itself from the effort, given a few days it would have snapped completely, causing the top of the growing tree to fall sideways. She immediately removed the weak cloth and wrapped a thicker piece of fabric in its place.
"Is that okay?"
In response, the leaf pointed itself upwards again. Yew smiled and said, "Thanks Harold, tell mum I'm going to Tenpenny Tower first to look for the replacement, I'll head home straight after." The tip of the leaf tipped down and back up, in what anyone else would say looked like a person bowing. To Yew, this was Harold's way of saying he understood. She picked herself up from the ground and slung her bag onto her back. She was certainly impressed by the amount of control Harold had shown over the plants in recent years. While he obviously couldn't talk through the plants, his connection to every plant he had ever grown allowed him ways to communicate with the Treeminders while they fulfilled their check-ups.
Yew performed one last, quick check-up of her work and then set off West towards the tower in the distance. So far, finding a replacement for Harold's lava lamp has been fruitless. But Yew was nothing if optimistic. She knew with her charm necklace, her luck will turn around. It helped Perry, it could certainly help her.
Alexa strolled through the crowded market stalls, her ears were assaulted with the sound of people yelling about some new food they were selling or whatever type of gadget they found. The crowds annoyed Alexa, she was starting to wonder if it would have been best to be in her father's armour, the crowd would have given her a wide berth then. But considering the reaction she got in Megaton she decided it might be best to be anonymous, at least until she got to the vault. The constant dodging of people was distracting Alexa from her initial goal.
Find the vault, find Amata, and find out whatever she can about her father and this container.
The outside town of 101 was built out from the vault entrance into what was once a ruined little suburb. According to what the Church told her, the people of Vault 101 decided to connect with the Capitol at large without completely leaving their underground sanctuary. This town they named 101 was the result, using the basic frameworks of the ruined homes they made shops and hotels from materials they bought from Megaton. After Megaton's expansion they had numerous building materials left over to sell. Everything still looked like shit, but then what did she expect?
Alexa kept a rucksack on her back, inside was some caps, food and water, a handgun, and a written letter from Mayor Lucas Simms explaining who she is and why she was there. Ever since a Wastelander was invited into the vault itself and killed several people, Amata made it a rule that no outsider is allowed in the vault without some sort of authorisation. Amata wasn't completely unreasonable, but Alexa wouldn't be surprised if she was starting to get paranoid about the outside.
Alexa made her way to the very back of the small market town and saw two armed guards stationed at the base of a hill that lead up to metal door placed into the stone, which itself had more armed guards. Taking the very obvious clue that this was the vault entrance, she approached the first pair of guards. They both looked her up and down and asked, "Name?"
"Alexa Lyons," she responded formally.
There was a short pause before he said, "Lyons eh? On Brotherhood business?"
Alexa shook her head, "No, this is strictly personal. If you'll allow it, I wish to speak with your Overseer."
The guard squinted one eye and studied Alexa. With a sceptical voice he said, "I see. Do you have any sort of proof?"
Alexa pulled out the letter written by Lucas and handed it to him. He read the typical notice giving her permission to enter the vault and the signature at the end verifying it. But this was still the Brotherhood of Steel knocking on the door; he'd have to warn the Overseer.
"Wait right here." The guard left his post and entered the metal door up the hill, leaving Alexa and the other guard alone. A few minutes passed and Alexa simply listened to the sounds of the crowd, trying her best to pick out any singular words or sentences. She never could, there was simply too much noise. Alexa finally sank down into the dirt, rolled her rucksack off her shoulders and simply laid back into it. The other guard looked down at her and was surprised by her casual nature. She just seemed so… bored.
For someone who is supposedly the child of Sarah Lyons and a member of the Brotherhood of Steel, it was not what he was expecting.
"You don't seem to be taking this very seriously," he stated, not sure if he was judging her or simply stating a fact. The girl looked up at him and for the first time he properly studied her eyes, they were absolutely gorgeous, but there was certainly a look of dullness to them. Not physically, but emotionally.
"Bored? Maybe. Tired? Definitely. It's been an… eventful few days. I guess I'm just a bit drained from the whole experience."
Curious, the guard asked, "What experience?"
"I found out who my dad was."
"That must have been a shocker."
"More like a lightning bolt to the head. It's only been a few days and already this whole thing is wearing me out. I'm not used to this pressure."
The guard raised an eyebrow, "Finding out who your father was is putting you under pressure?"
Alexa threw her head back and laughed. "It would if your father was mine… you're quite talkative for a guard you know that?"
He shrugged. "I'm just a volunteer; I get bored standing here all day, not to mention my knees are freakin' killing me."
"I'd hate to think what terrible things that'd do for your back."
"You have no idea. A while ago I found an old poster for some mattress they had in the old world that massages your back while you slept. If someone found a still working one of those for me I would get on my knees and pleasure them on the spot."
Alexa chuckled. "Well sorry, if I find one I'm keeping it."
The guard smirked, "Bitch."
Alexa smiled up at him, "Cocksucker."
The guard laughed and muttered, "Touché."
A silence fell between the two of them; something Alexa always noticed whenever these sorts of humorous exchanges took place. It's at this point she's supposed to raise a new topic since they ran out of things to say about what they were just talking about. It almost annoyed her how even talking with someone is supposed to have some sort of predictable flow to it, but she couldn't ever find a way out of it.
Considering they mentioned boredom earlier, she brought that back up. "So, you get bored working as a guard? The post apocalypse not as exciting and dangerous as you hoped?"
The guard raised an eyebrow again, "I've never heard someone talk like that before."
"I usually don't, I'm just in a weird mood I guess."
"Right… Well, yes there are hardly ever any problems. Not like the raids I used to hear about, nor any super mutants around to pointlessly kill and attack us to keep things interesting. The most problems we'll ever get is someone trying to scam someone else or people getting drunk and starting fights. That's about all they seem to do these days."
Alexa slowly nodded her head, "Yeah, suppose if the NCR invades they will liven things up, assuming we don't get killed." She was expecting to hear some sort of approval but only received silence. She looked back up at the guard and saw the quizzical look on his face.
Alexa blinked, "You know… the NCR… New California Republic?"
"How haven't… but…" Alexa tried to reason how they couldn't possibly have heard of them. The Brotherhood of Steel were practically pissing themselves when those scouts turned up and demanded our surrender, if they've managed to spread across the entire USA then a lot of people in the Capitol were going to get killed. Surely these people must have heard or seen something of them.
"I have no idea what you're on about. We haven't heard of a single group by that name."
"They're an entire army! They said they're practically on our doorstep and will be moving in soon! You seriously haven't heard anything?"
The guard shook his head, "Not a thing. And we often get news from people coming in all directions, if there was an army on the move we would have heard of it."
Alexa was dumbfounded. Was their information so poor? Or was the Brotherhood's? Before Alexa could say anything the door into the vault opened and an elderly woman with black hair and a face that looked worn by years of leadership stepped into the sunlight. She covered her eyes with her hand clearly not used to the harsh light. She found Alexa sitting at the base of the hill and motioned for Alexa to come up. As she threw her rucksack onto her back the guard she was talking to muttered, "Good luck."
She gave a respectful smile, nodded, and ascended the hill. When she stood before this elderly woman she couldn't help but feel underdressed. She was wearing her simple traveling clothes while the Overseer had her formal jumpsuit and clearly spends too much time on her hair. The Overseer studied her like everyone seems to in this place and held out her hand to the first guard Alexa talked to. The guard handed her Lucas's note which she quickly skimmed. She thrust it into Alexa's hand and muttered, "Follow me, keep your hands to yourself."
Alexa followed without a word. Once she entered the metal door she was greeted to the sight of a large stone tunnel with a gear shaped entrance at the end.
So this is what my father saw the first time he left his home. Did he ever look back just as he left?
Amata kept a steady pace ahead of her; they passed through the mechanical entrance and into the vault itself. There was less security this far in. Perhaps Amata felt no one could get through the front entrance or the guards outside. Even if someone could get here, they could just slide the vault door shut. It just occurred to Alexa that she had just barely entered this place and she was already assessing the viability of an attack. Maybe Amata had good reason to be suspicious of the Brotherhood.
They walked through a series of metal tunnels and eventually into a large room that looked like a centre for meetings and meals. Along the walls were windows into rooms and even though there were barely any people around, Alexa couldn't help but feel incredibly exposed. There was no privacy in a place like this. Perhaps that was the point; in a small, tight community it's best everyone knows what everyone else is doing. Alexa would have despised living here. She likes her privacy.
The two walked up a series of steps, through a room filled with computers, around a corner and at last into what looked like an office. A circular wooden desk was arranged in front of monitors, the placement of which made Alexa think this was the master control centre for the entire vault. The desk had a simple computer, a series of papers, what looked like a metal coffee holder and finally, a framed picture of a man and, what Alexa suspected, was his daughter.
"Cozy," Alexa muttered to herself.
The overseer walked behind her desk, dragging her fingers along the wood. "Home is home, even if you wished it wasn't." She reached her chair and sat down. She motioned for Alexa to do the same on the opposing chair. She immediately sat down in the uncomfortable chair, laid her sack on the ground next to her and simply sat up, her hands on her knees.
Amata leaned back and tapped a single finger against the wood, still looking at the young girl in front of her. Alexa already knew what was going on; the uncomfortable chair, the motion for her to sit, the quiet examination. It was all meant to intimidate her and make her feel like the older woman on the other side of this big desk was the boss. She knew because her mother did the exact same thing.
"Well?" Amata asked expectantly. "Are you going to tell me why you're here or should I just guess?"
"Didn't the letter that the mayor wrote explain why?"
"Oh it did, I just want to hear what you have to say."
Made sense to Alexa. She shrugged, took a short breathe and said in a dramatic tone, "You know what? I'm not even sure why myself anymore. Feels like I'm just going through the motions, doing what other people are telling me to do because they told me."
This response threw Amata a bit.
"I mean, really…. I just don't…. I don't fucking know anymore, so there's your answer. I don't have a clue. Ask the people who sent me, they know what they want I don't have a fucking clue. Does that satisfy you?"
Amata was silent for a moment. "No, not really."
The two stared at each other, neither of them sure what to make of the other. "Alright, new question." Amata leaned forward. "Why did someone send you here and who was it?"
"Alright, that I can answer. It was the Church of the Wanderer, those people who worship my… I mean, who worship the Lone Wanderer."
Amata raised an eyebrow at the verbal slip the girl made. "Your what?"
Alexa groaned at having to say this again, she felt like she couldn't take two steps without having to raise the topic now that she knew. She quietly muttered, "My father."
Amata cupped her hands at stared at Alexa with amusement in her eyes. "Well obviously."
Amata chuckled to herself. "I knew Perry for most of his life; you think I couldn't recognise his daughter when I saw her?"
"So why make me say it then?"
"Just had to be sure, you do look more like your mother, Sarah. But the resemblance to Perry is right there." Amata raised a single finger and pointed at Alexa's face. "But this also raises the question, why would the Church send the daughter of their God to his first home? Do they think you're going to be reincarnated as him or something?" Amata stood up from her chair. "Or perhaps it's the Brotherhood. Have they finally decided to stop playing ruler of the Capitol and try and do it for real? Please, enlighten me."
"What are you talking about?"
"Oh don't give me that. You think I haven't been keeping an eye on your Brotherhood ever since we joined the outside? You're practically the closest thing this place has to a government. And after everything you've done, the Capitol would accept it gladly. But I won't."
Amata leaned forward and picked up the coffee container. "Here," she threw it to Alexa who fumbled it but managed to grab hold. "Do you know what that is?"
Alexa looked down at the uninteresting cylinder in her hands. "Is it a coffee holder?"
Amata tilted her head back and laughed. "A coffee holder! No, child. Turn it around."
Alexa spun the cylinder in her hands, approaching from the other side the symbol of the Brotherhood of Steel came into view. The object froze in her hands, all the possibilities exploded into her head. What was in it, how did she get a hold of it, why was it just sitting on her desk in plain sight?
"See that?" she whispered.
"Yes, it's a symbol of the Brotherhood," Alexa responded plainly, doing her best trying to hide the curiousity she was feeling.
"No, no, not that. That! Those thoughts that just entered your mind. Something that seemed so ordinary, so completely featureless that it was barely worth noticing, instantly changed in your hands the very moment you saw that symbol. That's what I felt when that canister was first given to me, that's the power of a symbol, that's the reaction your Brotherhood has on something so small."
Alexa cradled the canister in her hands like it was a precious stone, terrified what may happen if she so much as dropped it. "What's your point, overseer?"
"My point is that the moment I held that small metal cylinder in my hands I knew I had something you wanted. Something that your Brotherhood would give anything to have. You came here to take it from us, well I'm not giving it up without getting something back."
She thinks I was sent here by my mother to bargain for the canister.
"You've got the wrong idea, we had absolutely no idea you had this. I don't even know what it is!"
Amata stood behind the desk silent for a moment. "Is that so…" she muttered.
"Yes! Look, I just came here because I'm doing a favour for the Church, they mentioned this canister but they just want to know about the Lone Wanderer, that's all."
Amata crossed her arms with one arm up, her fingers stroking the wrinkling skin around her mouth. She was weighing the odds, Alexa could see it in her eyes. She wants to get rid of this canister.
Alexa leaned forward, canister in hand, she said with a dramatic tone, "You have no idea what this is either do you? You just want it out of here but want to try and get something from us at the same time."
Amata kept stroking her mouth and chin. "So what?" she muttered. "I don't trust your Brotherhood and I don't trust that thing in your hands. I'll let you take it out of here and back to your technology-humping elders under one condition." Amata leaned forward and placed both her hands flat on the desk. "Leave my vault and my town alone. Don't ever try to take us or rule us, understood?"
Alexa stared into the eyes of this woman, she could practically see the years of isolation turning into paranoia behind her eyes. "Why do you think we'd keep our side of the bargain after I take this away?"
"Because I never said that was the only canister I found. And this is a sign of goodwill, I don't want there to be trouble, so I give this that you all know I'm willing to play nice. But if you ever come knocking with guns we'll shut the door for good and stay here forever. We lived here for two-hundred years, we can last that long again. I don't want the Brotherhood as allies, but I certainly don't want you as enemies. Now, do we have a deal?"
Alexa could understand her logic and was willing to accept for the Brotherhood immediately, but her initial mission entered her mind as she held herself back.
"Not quite," she responded, taking on a more business appropriate tone. "I also want what I came in here for. Information about my father, and anything of his you still have. Give me that, and you have a deal."
Amata smiled, "Fair trade. Very well, deal." Alexa stood up in front of the woman and they both shook hands. "How shall we do this then?" They both sat back down at their respective chairs.
"Well, do you have a pen and paper?"
Amata slipped a couple of spare pens and a pile of lined paper in front of Alexa. "Alright, if we're going to start from the beginning I'll need some actual coffee." Amata stood back up and made her way to the coffee maker. "Let's see… my earliest memory of Perry would be when I was about five, we played together as kids in the vault playground…"
A/N: Hey everyone, I apologise for the long time this update took. I started a brand new university and a whole new course, added to some other stuff been going on in my life and I just generally haven't been in the right mind to write. But I've still been thinking up ideas when they come to me so I haven't forgotten about this story and I will finish it. Stay tuned.