Vault 111, the Commonwealth, 2227

"Procedure cancelled. Cryogenic sequence... on hold."

Kryger was doused into consciousness by a sudden, sharp pain in his neck. It was still incredibly cold, but he was glad the Vault-Tec staff had the manners to even wake him back up instead of just keeping him suspended indefinitely.

The major reoriented himself on his pod and waited for the door to unseal and reopen, but after a few minutes, nothing of a sort happened. He looked ahead and examined the area in front of the pod after wiping the frost off the glass window with his gloves, and quickly discovered that the corridor lights weren't even on. He tried to steal a glance at his wife and son in the adjecent cryochamber, but the frost covering the machine's window blocked his view.

"There!"

Suddenly, a female voice broke the uncomfortable silence. The major sighed, the staff definitely took their time tending to the other residents.

"This is the one we're looking for." A woman in a strange hazmat suit walked into view, indicating at Kathérine and Shaun's shared cryochamber. She was accompanied by a man in an equally strange armored leather outfit.

"The target is perfectly intact just like the eggheads said... amazing." The man said as he somehow examined the contents of the chamber through the frost coating the glass. The major had to take note of how his bearing reminded him of the many dangerous men he encountered during his tours.

"Unseal the locks and open it." He commanded.

The woman stalked off to the console near the chamber and inputted a string of codes. Immediately afterwards, Kathérine's cryo-containment unit slid open, revealing her alive and a little disoriented, but otherwise healthy.

Kryger breathed a sigh of relief at that.

"Is... is it over? Did you get rid of the radiation at the door?" Were Kathérine's first words.

"Radiation is the least of your worries now, ma'am." The woman said as she approached her. The man took a step back and observed. "How do you feel? Can you walk?"

"A little dizzy, but I should be fine."

"That's just the stimulants talking, I'm afraid. Here, let me help."

Kathérine shook her head as the woman offered to carry Shaun for her. "No, I'm fine, thank you."

"Give me the child, ma'am." The woman insisted, offering again. "You're unbalanced, you should—"

"No, I'm not giving you Shaun!" Kathérine snapped at her. "How many times do I have to tell you? I'm fine!"

The man, who seemed content to just sit back and watch seconds ago, suddenly pulled up a hidden revolver and took aim at Kathérine's head. "I don't have time for this. You've got five seconds to give my partner that child, bitch. Do it now."

Kryger's heart leapt at the sight. Within a second, he unholstered his service pistol and leveled it at the glass. Whoever these people were, they're definitely not Vault-Tec staff. Clenching his teeth together while shielding his face with his free hand, the major depressed the trigger three times.

For his efforts, he was rewarded with an equal amount of useless clicks from his gun. Kryger blinked and retracted the pistol. When he ejected the magazine, to his surprise, he found no bullets in the chamber.

His long stay in cryogenic suspension had addled his mind; he had forgotten that he already used up all his ammunition on his neighbors.

"James!" Kathérine went from frightened to relieved when she caught sight of her husband.

"Ah," The man swiveled his head from Kathérine to her husband, though he kept his gun trained on Kathérine. Through the dimming Vault emergency lights, the major had a good look on the hideous, improperly-healed scar running along the bald man's face.

"They warned me you'd be carrying a gun... looking through your service records, I actually thought I'd be in for a decent fight."

He chuckled in an inoffensive, friendly way. "I just didn't count on you forgetting to bring bullets. How disappointing." He cocked the hammer on his revolver.

Kryger was on the verge of panicking. His mind ran through every solution he could think off right at the bat, but only one proved viable enough. He reared his pistol in preparation to smash the glass open, but just before his gun made contact with the cryochamber window, the man suddenly fired.

What followed was the longest five seconds of his life. The thunderous boom of the revolver going off and the subsequent ringing in his ears that followed would haunt him for the rest of his life. Kryger stared ahead in abject terror and stark disbelief as his wife was callously shot in the head and his son snatched from her lifeless hands.

"Kathérine..." He choked out.

The murderer smirked at Kryger's shellshocked expression. His hazmat-suited partner promptly departed from sight with the wailing Shaun in her covered hands. For all the major knew, they were taking him to be killed somewhere else.

"That unpleasant, churning sense you're feeling right now? That's shame, partner." He smoothly holstered his revolver. "That's how it feels like when you fail to protect the ones you love. It's invigorating, no?"

Kryger ripped his gaze from Kathérine's corpse and to the man. His expression was completely blank and corpse-like, but his grip on his service pistol threatened to shatter it in two.

"Strong, silent type, huh." The man snidely muttered.

Kryger responded by repeatedly striking his gun into the glass. He continued to do so until his pistol broke apart and his hand started bleeding, and after that, he started punching. All his blows only amounted to a few dents and scratches on the fortified glass.

The man shook his head in disapproval as he started walking away. "This should help you simmer down, soldier-boy. Lily, restart the sequence."

"Will do, sir." A muffled, disembodied voice responded.

The door to Kathérine's pod slid down and sealed itself shut over her body, while Kryger felt the familiar chill of the cryosleep process sweeping over him once again.

"Cryogenic sequence: re-initialized. Procedure complete in: 5..."

This time, he didn't resist; his vision went white as he let the machine take him back to his rest.


The Citadel, Capital Wasteland, 2284

"Arise, knight-commander." Elder Arthur Maxson ordered, and the woman obeyed. "For your heroic actions and steadfast dedication to our great cause, I hereby grant you the title of Brotherhood Paladin. Wear your colors well and strive to remain ever vigilant as we bring justice and order back to this unjust, chaotic world."

The newly-minted Brotherhood paladin saluted her elder. "Thank you, sir. Ad victoriam."

"Ad victoriam, paladin." Maxson returned the gesture wholeheartedly.

In the distance, a small group of other Brotherhood soldiers applauded as most of the assembled audience departed to return to their posts, the elder included.

"Paladin Dusk, huh?" Star Paladin Glade smirked as the second half of his unit's sniper team approached. "Never thought I'd live to see the day. Old Man Lyons never would've promoted you for sure."

"On the other hand, I believe our sister has earned her promotion quite well! It's certainly been a long time coming." The other sniper, Knight-Commander Colvin, proclaimed.

"I agree. I didn't think she was given enough credit for everything she did." Paladin-Commander Kodiak nodded. "Wouldn't you agree, Elise?"

Sentinel Winters was completely silent, however. She expressionlessly looked straight ahead at a Brotherhood banner fluttering in the wind, clearly deep in thought.

"Gee, thanks guys." Paladin Dusk beamed at her fellow Pridesmen, even Colvin. "Except for you, Glade. You're my brother, but you're still an asshole."

Glade only laughed, "You love it." Still, he couldn't help but notice Winters moping about. "Ma'am Elise? Something wrong?"

"Knight Morgan probably pissed her off again." Dusk guessed with a shrug. "Or maybe she's still sad about Sarah and Tristan."

"Sarah was a good friend... to all of us." The sentinel finally spoke up. "And in some ways, Paladin Tristan was our mentor. I still miss them like you do, and hell, I even miss Gallows at times."

She weakly chuckled. "But still... they weren't what's been bugging me, though."

Kodiak gave a look of concern for his commanding officer. "You can tell us all about it, sister. We're here for you, as always."

Sentinel Winters took a sip out of her Nuka-Cola bottle in a passive, disinterested manner.

"Arthur just sent Paladin Rockfowl's platoon to clean up the ghouls at the Museum of History — the Underworld, as the people there called it. Ten years ago, while I was still wandering the wastes, I made a lot of friends while there."

She shrugged her power armored shoulders. "Yesterday, I lost two of them to Rockfowl's force... Charon and Sydney. They were executed for resisting the Brotherhood and their bodies were burned along with the rest of the ghouls on our dear elder's own command."

It was no secret among the Citadel personnel that Winters detested the way Elder Maxson changed the Brotherhood upon his ascension to his position, though more than a few harbored suspicions that she was merely incensed at how her ambitions of leading the Brotherhood itself were dashed when the sixteen year old Arthur Maxson suddenly assumed control with the support of the Lost Hills high elders.

Those of Lyons' Pride, however, knew much better. Winters might be more than a little ambitious for her own good, but she always put her friends and colleagues over her aspirations. She was genuinely devastated to hear of Elder Sarah Lyons' abrupt death in battle, and despite having a massive following due to her extraordinary feats against the Vault 87 super mutants and the Enclave, she made no move to replace the fallen elder as head of the East Coast Brotherhood.

"I don't like what the Brotherhood of Steel has become, Pride." Winters confessed. "There are times that I think... we're not fighting the good fight anymore... that we've become only a little better than the monsters we've fought so hard to rid the wasteland of."

Before anyone else could react to what she said, Knight-Commander Colvin spoke up.

"I have been waiting for someone with the courage to say that, sister. I wholeheartedly agree with you." He readily admitted. "Owyn Lyons taught us to protect all citizens of the wastes, not just the ones with the good fortune to stay human. I truly feel sorry that young Arthur never took his lessons to heart."

"I don't know about any of you, but I liked it much better back when civvies were cheering us as we distributed crates of purified water." Dusk was quick to pitch in after Colvin. "Now, we'd be lucky to pass by a settlement without the locals throwing shit and cursing at us. Times have changed."

"And I never was a fan of the elder's "new" policies..." Glade said. "I deserted the high elders at Lost Hills and joined up with Lyons when I saw how pointless and ridiculous the original Brotherhood's mission was. At least Owyn gave us something worthwhile to fight for." He sighed. "If I knew Maxson was just gonna let himself be a puppet for the high elders, I never would've even left the damn bunker."

"Neither Owyn nor Sarah would have liked to see what the Brotherhood has become, sentinel." Kodiak somberly noted. "Something needs to be done, or else we risk losing ourselves to a fate like that of the West Coast chapters."

Winters looked worn and tired, but she seemed pleased to hear what her men had to say. "I'm glad you still see things my way, Pride. We need to make Arthur see reason before he completely subverts the Brotherhood to his backwards way of thinking."

"How do you suppose we do that, sentinel?" Glade piped in. "The elder can't be easy to convince; he's already pretty set in his views."

For the first time ever, the sentinel actually couldn't come up with a decisive plan to solve the problem they faced. All she could think of was, "Wait, brother. We wait for the most opportune time, but for now, it's business as usual."

"Carry on, Pride." She stood up. "Ad victoriam... for what it's worth, I suppose."


Vault 111, October 23, 2287

"Procedu-du-dure... indef-def-def fi-fi-finitely c-c-cancelled. Resi-sident... re-re-released-released."

Kryger awoke as his pod pulled him out of cryosleep for a final time. The door slid upwards and he collapsed on the floor on his hands and knees, shivering and gasping for fresh air.

The first thing he did after reorienting himself was to shuffle over to Kathérine's pod. He depressed the release button on the console once and silently waited until he was granted access.

It was as he feared. The events he witnessed weren't parts of a particularly nightmarish fever dream as he'd hoped. Kathérine was dead and their son was taken by strangers who have infiltrated the Vault. The thought that those people would have likely murdered Shaun as well hadn't escaped Kryger, but he was quick to squelch those thoughts... his son cannot be dead.

Kryger spared a few more seconds with Kathérine until he finally resealed her pod. He didn't have the stomach to bury her. He couldn't even find it in him to look at her any further, deeply ashamed at having failed to protect his own family from coming to harm.

"That unpleasant, churning sense you're feeling right now? That's shame, partner," The bald, scarred man with the revolver told him, as he remembered. Kryger's thoughts shifted to focus on him.

"That's how it feels like when you fail to protect the ones you love."

The major wiped away his tears and made for the exit. There's no point in dwelling in the past... he had a son to seek out and a murderer to repay a debt of pain and suffering.


Sanctuary Hills

He had been wandering the chaotic wastes for more than a decade since the end of his illustrious career. Reduced to no more than a common, aging scavenger struggling to keep fed and alive, he sometimes thought it would've been better off if he was killed back then, instead of spared. Maybe then he'd have some dignity and honor left intact.

He didn't even know where he was now, and he couldn't care any less. He just drifted from area to area, never staying for more than a single day in settlements.

"Pleasant morning, good sir!"

He heard the distinctively cheerful, British-accented tone of a Mister Handy, and within half a second, he had his modified AEP7 laser pistol hovering downrange on the robot, wary of any buzzsaw swings and flamethrower bursts.

"Now, that's not a polite way to treat a humble butler about to offer you some coffee!"

He blinked at the unusual sight. The Mister Handy floating at the doorway of a ruined, abandoned house wasn't trying to attack him, and indeed, the robot had in one of its limbs a somewhat dirty plate with a steaming cup of coffee on it, complete with a teaspoon to stir the beverage with.

"It's not every day a soul passes by this neighborhood of one, so when my sensors picked up your presence, I figured you could use a little pick-me-up after a long journey from... err, wherever you came from!" The robot enthusiastically chirped.

"So, uh, are you going to put that pistol away or should I be hovering away, screaming for my life now?" The robot asked, more nervously this time.

He slowly lowered his gun. "You're not malfunctioning?" His accent was a pronounced, somewhat aristocratic Southern, like a plantation owner from old Civil War era movies.

"I'd tell you if I am! We wouldn't want this sawblade ripping through your throat now, would we? Ha ha," The robot vocalized a little chuckle. "Oh, and this isn't poison by the way. It's actual coffee, heated the way my master used to like his!"

He licked his lips. He hadn't had a drink with more flavor than an irradiated bottle of water since the last two years, and his last cup of actual coffee espresso was at least twelve years ago.

"Where did you get the coffee?" He cautiously asked as he approached he robot.

The Mister Handy floated up in an upbeat manner and his eyestalks whipped around enthusiastically when he learned the scavenger wasn't another hostile, drug-crazed raider he needed to rid the neighborhood of.

"Ah, I've been growing them in my master's backyard just for such an occasion as rare as this, good sir! Truly, it lifts my soul to know there are still people civilized enough to talk to friendly company after all these centuries without the intention of killing me for parts afterwards!" The robot laughed in a world-weary, slightly unhinged manner.

"Hah hah! ...unless, of course, you'd do try to kill me after this." He muttered.

The scavenger arched a brow as he took the plate from the robotic butler. He was acting like his programming told him to, but he certainly seemed more aware of the apocalypse than his other brethren wandering out there in the wastes.

With some slight hesitation, the scavenger sniffed the brown, steaming liquid in the cup and took a wary sip of it. "Hm."

He nodded appreciatively as he stopped tasting and started drinking. "This is actually quite good, robot. Better than what I usually drink, at least. Thank you."

"You're welcome!" The robot tilted itself up and down, imitating a happy nodding motion. "I didn't quite catch your name... do you have one, good sir?"

He finished off the drink and handed back the plate and cup. "The people I've met over the years have a penchant for calling me Gus, but you can call me whatever you want. I'll be dead in a ditch and forgotten soon enough."

The robot seemed to ignore the last few cynical words out of the man's mouth. "My manufacturers at General Atomics gave me the designation: Codsworth! It really is a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Gus." He carefully took back the items.

The scavenger acknowledged the robot with a polite nod. "Not to be rude then, Codsworth, but do you have any more of that coffee from where it came from? I haven't had something so luxurious as a proper drink in more than a decade, you see."

Codsworth made to float off back into his house. "Oh, certainly sir! I've plenty of beans left over from... wait a tick." He stopped just before he could enter.

Gus looked around. "Something grinding your gears, robot?"

"My sensors are picking up a single biological signature approaching Sanctuary Hills..." Codsworth said. "...coming straight from the local Vault."

"It's probably a raider, tired of banging his lead pipe against the Vault door." Gus nonchalantly drew his gun from its holster. "Don't worry, I'm sure we'll both prove to be more a match for one drugged-up wastelander."

"It could very well might be one of those ghastly, murderous hooligans, but sometimes, just a good cup of coffee is all these raiders needed to pull them out of their drug-induced, psychopathic rage!" Codsworth was certainly showing a few loose bolts here and there. Two centuries of isolation would do that to anyone, Gus reasoned, even robots.

The old scavenger sighed as he followed after Codsworth, laser pistol held downrange. He'd rather have the Mister Handy give him a sack of coffee beans first before letting the robot kill himself in a pointless firefight with raiders.


America truly was dead.

Kryger ambled across the desolate, post-apocalyptic countryside towards his old home at Sanctuary Hills. He had taken a stimpak he scavenged from a dead scientist to strengthen his resolve and keep him alert, but his gait was still labored, and he stumbled every now and then from the sheer shock of seeing what his country had devolved into while he was stuck in cryogenic suspension.

On the way to his destination, Kryger came across the dusty skeletons of his former neighbors and the National Guardsmen. Most of them appeared to have mercifully died instantly when the nuclear blast reached their position, though some, judging from the poses of their remains, were not as auspicious.

When the time came that he reached Sanctuary Hills proper, the last remaining member of the United States military still alive was at a complete loss for words.

It was surreal, looking at the dilapidated houses lining the streets and wrecked cars dotting the disused road. He did, however, find the lack of any small litter and general debris rather surprising. A nuclear explosion should've strewn rubbish and bits of rubble everywhere, and yet, the streets were eerily pristine.

"As I live and breathe..."

Kryger stopped in his tracks. He hurriedly whirled around, turning to the source of the mechanical voice. In his haste, Kryger didn't hear the footsteps approaching and came looking straight at the barrel of a heavily customized laser pistol leveled at his head.

"Don't move, wastelander." The older man holding the gun said. Kryger stood puzzled at his choice of dress: a tattered and well-worn army officer's black uniform with a dirty, biege-colored longcoat over it.

"Put your hands behind your head and identify yourself!" The old man demanded in a well-practiced authoritative voice. "Where did you—"

A Mister Handy robot suddenly came into view, barreling through from behind the old man and almost toppling him over. "It's... IT'S REALLY YOU!"

"Codsworth!" Kryger's depressed mood was forgotten at being reunited with his old manservant and friend. "You're alive! But... how are you still here? How long have I been in that Vault?"

Codsworth perked up. "Well, according to my old chronometer, it looks like you're... erm, two hundred and ten years late for dinner— yes, two hundred and ten years, heh heh! I should whip you up a veritable feast to compensate, major! You must be just famished!"

"Two hundred and ten years..." Kryger couldn't believe it. "Wha—"

Suddenly, the old man in the beat-up longcoat roughly brushed Codsworth aside and leveled a wide-eyed glare at the major. "Am I hearing this correctly? You've been... locked up inside that Vault for more than two centuries? H-how is that even possible?"

Kryger narrowed his brows at the man in suspicion. "And who might you be?"

"Oh, it looks like I've forgotten to introduce this quaint fellow to you in my haste!" Codsworth piped in, his trio of mechanical eyes focused on Kryger. "My apologies... this rugged coffee enthusiast is called Gus, master. We've been acquainted since, uh, more or less ten minutes ago!"

The robot then turned to Gus, "And this is the master I mentioned earlier, Mr. Gus. James Kryger is his name, and he's—"

Gus dismissively waved a hand at Codsworth, cutting the robot short. "Yes, now that we've been properly introduced by our mutual robotic friend, would you mind answering my question? Did you really stay confined inside a Vault for that long?" He asked the major.

"Codsworth wouldn't lie to me. It's not in his nature or programming." Kryger shrugged. "I know I don't look like my age, but it helps that I was suspended in cryogenic stasis the whole damn time."

He pinched the bridge of his nose, grit his teeth and sighed — most bitterly. "Jesus Christ... two hundred and ten fucking years! Just... great!"

Gus nodded thoughtfully. "Astonishing... this means you're from an era even before the Great War. This fact makes you older than even most ghouls alive! Fascinating, simply fascinating."

"Cryogenic stasis? Before the "Great War"? Heh heh..." Codsworth laughed nervously. "It would appear that the two of you are both suffering from paranoid delusions wrought on by communist propaganda! Perhaps you'd both forgo listening to Chinese broadcasts for the time being, erm, I should say...?"

"Codsworth?" Kryger approached the Mister Handy and placed his hand over the robot's faded central body, the same way he did two centuries ago on that fateful day. "Is something wrong? You're not acting like yourself lately."

The robot hovered in place and kept silent. Kryger was curious about how Codsworth coped with being separated from his masters, but he knew enough that those two centuries must've been traumatic for him. He retracted his hand.

"Oh, major, all those years have all been just horrible!" Codsworth then suddenly burst into metaphorical tears, from the sound of his voice. "Two hundred of them with no one to talk to... no one to serve!"

"I spent the first ten years doing futile housework to occupy myself, deluding myself into thinking that you'll all be back from the Vault any moment now, but a quick look at the Geiger counter dashed my hopes like a sawblade to a birthday cake! Why, after all the bombs dropped and everything happened, I thought for certain that you and your family were... dead!"

The robot stopped being overly dramatic and made a few sounds mimicking a person sniffling while drying his tears. "But enough about feeling sorry for myself — where are the rest of the Krygers, by the way? I've been playing mum's old gramophone records to amuse myself, and I quickly found myself addicted to Edith Piaf's voice, heh hah! I'm certain Shaun would appreciate hearing me singing to him again, and in French this time!"

All the lightness in Kryger's heart upon reuniting with Codsworth have faded immediately, but he tried to at least keep his depression in check. Now was hardly the time to break down.

"Codsworth... Kathérine... strangers broke into the Vault and just... murdered her." He said, looking down. "And they've taken Shaun away somewhere. I've... I haven't seen him since."

The robot gasped, and old man Gus politely turned away, excluding himself from a private moment.

"Major James... I'm— I'm so sorry." Codsworth choked out.

"Thank you, old friend." The major nodded and smiled, even as a tear rolled down his cheek. "We need to find Shaun. Did you see a group of suspicious men stumble around town on the way to the Vault one day?"

"I'm afraid I know nothing of a sort, sir. I usually power down all systems down over at the basement every 2 o'clock PM to preserve fuel." Codsworth said. "I should say that our first step should be the neighborhood itself. Should I accompany you as we search for Shaun around, or at least evidence to his whereabouts?"

Kryger solemnly nodded. "That would be great."


Thirty minutes later...

Inside the last of the houses in Sanctuary, Kryger watched as Codsworth used his flamethrower to incinerate another of those strange, mutated flies the robot had taken to calling "bloatflies". In the distance, he could see Gus still sticking around, observing them keenly, but never interfering.

"Nothing here... again." Codsworth wasn't exactly thrilled to say. "Sir, I don't think we could find anything we could use to better locate Master Shaun anywhere in Sanctuary! His kidnappers, dastardly villains they were, had been quite the professionals indeed."

"I guess we'll just have to head into town for more information." Kryger sighed, not looking forward to see such a beautiful city as Concord in ruins. "Come on, buddy. Let's head over to Concord."

"Sir...? Are you sure?" Codsworth's eyestalks whirred off to the side. "Concord isn't as friendly as the town we used to visit for picnic supplies and groceries back in the day. The people who have taken residence there beat me with sticks and some even shot at me a few times before I floated off back to Sanctuary."

"And there's the issue of my rather doubtful usefulness to you in combat. I'm afraid I'm just a lowly Mister Handy, sir... you'd certainly get more mileage out of a Mister Gutsy over poor domestic me." He glumly added.

"Then I think it's about time I let you in on a little secret about yourself, Codsworth." Kryger said as he poked the robot's central housing. "Remember the Nuclear, Biological and Chemical modifications I added to your features to help you keep functional in case of a nuke or a chemical weapon going off in Boston? I also modified your programming with some pretty extensive combat imprinting just in case the PLA decides to use paratroopers to invade Boston, so you could protect Kathérine and Shaun."

Just mentioning her name made the major flinch, but he shrugged it off and kept going. "This imprinting's likely the reason you even survived your visit to Concord. Chances are, you "forgot" to mention all those post-apocalyptic thugs you've killed while defending yourself to me, right?"

"Ah..." Codsworth briefly hesitated. "I may have decapitated a raider or ten on the way out of town, I think. I sure do hope they're still alive... somehow."

"If they are, they'd be begging for death when we come visit." Kryger exited the abandoned house, holstering his service pistol as he did so. "Come, let's pass by the armory before we head into town. Did my guns stay intact?"

"A few rats have infiltrated the armory and started gnawing on the assault rifle leather straps and the wood on the Type 93 rifles have rotted away somewhat, but most of your collection should still be in excellent condition!" Codsworth followed him out.

"What about the full set of T-51f power armor in the garage?"

"Blasted scavengers have taken hold of it one day while I was away, gathering solar power near the river! I swear, when I get my hands on those rotters..."

Kryger tapped the side of Codsworth's central housing. "Don't worry about it. You don't have hands and those thieves probably already scrapped it for parts. Also, I doubt anyone can get much use out of power armor nowadays — the nuclear microcells powering all the suits should've ran out of juice by now, to the point that everyone needs fusion cores just to keep the suits functional for twenty minutes."

"Eehh, about that, sir..."

When when the pair passed by their old house and descended the flight of stairs heading to the basement, both were surprised to find the fortified door unlocked. Heading inside, they were greeted by the sight of Gus examining Kryger's collection of the variety of weapons he took from tours like a gun store customer.

"Impressive collection, Mr. Kryger... you should think about having to replace your basement lock, by the way. Breaking in with a bobby pin was all too easy, need I mention."

Kryger folded his arms, "And what do you think you're doing, Mr. Gus?"

"Call me Augustus. That's my name." Augustus said as he tore off the rotted leather strap from a McMillan Tac-50 bolt-action anti-materiel sniper rifle and replaced it with a newer one from another rifle. "I've heard from your conversation with the robot that you're heading off to Concord to find your son."

"That's the plan."

"Concord is a raider stronghold. There will be dozens upon dozens of the damn thugs there, and more will come if an outside force attacked them."

"I couldn't care any less."

"You intend to kill them?"

"They stand in my way, they die."

Augustus nodded in understanding. "You won't survive,"

"I'm a serial survivor, Mr. Augustus." Kryger replied, his voice firm and his features resolute.

Augustus heaved a wheezy chuckle. Some color returned to his wrinkled, normally pallid face. "You didn't let me finish, Mr. Kryger. You won't survive Concord... without my designated marksman support."

Kryger was still suspicious of the old man, but honestly, if he was going off to combat again, he couldn't refuse any help he was offered. It's been so long since he held a rifle in combat, he'd spent so much time commanding soldiers from a desk several kilometers away instead of marching with them.

"Take whatever guns you want, and let's go." Kryger said, as he picked up an old Type 93 with the leather strap still in a serviceable condition. "We've got a long day ahead of us."


Museum of Freedom, Concord. An hour later at midday...

"Any moment now, an' you'll be fuckin' dead, Minuteman!"

"Hand us the fuckin' old broad an' yer hat, an' Gristle will only shoot off one testicle! Maybe 'alf of yer dick, too!"

"How's it feel, Minuteman, being trapped behind a door with no way out?"

Commonwealth Minuteman Preston Garvey ignored the muffled shouts coming from behind the fortified door. He just continued polishing his gun and waiting for an opportune time to act.

If he so much as removes one lock, an entire town of drugged-up lunatics would immediately come swarming through.

"This is all YOUR fault, Garvey!" Marcy Long's dedication to being a bitch was admirable, in a way. She kept up her long-winded tirade for almost sixteen hours straight without any pause. "Sanctuary this and Sanctuary that... look what your stupid decisions got us into!"

Jun Long, her husband, stayed in his corner and continued sobbing. By now, it seemed as if he was only crying for the sake of it instead of mourning.

"Ya thank we're ever gonna get outta here, Preston?" Sturges was fiddling with the terminal in the room, looking positively bored with prolonged inaction. "Supplies're runnin' pretty low now, an' I don't think I'm willing to resort to cannibalism all the sudden! Not after the last time..."

"We're on the right path, don't despair." Mama Murphy still remained optimistic about the predicament, however. "I can see them now... three people — one broken-down old man seeking a purpose, a sphere of unwavering loyalty, and a... a blank slate—"

"For God's sake, shut the fuck up already, you wrinkly, chem-binging fraud!" Marcy shouted, and was promptly ignored. "Your "visions" brought everyone nothing but trouble even before all this shit happened to us, and—"

"You fuckheads drop your dicks, pull up your trousers and get the fuck down from there now!" A raider outside angrily shouted. From the distinctive rasping in his tone, it seemed it was Gristle himself.

"I want you to stop being useless and head over with us to the Main Street — a Gunner, a fuckin' robot and an old bastard have just finished moppin' up the fuckin' floor with our boys out near the bridge!"

"A Gunner? What the fuck is a motherfuckin' GUNNER doing all the way out here in our turf?" One of the raiders half-shouted, half-slurred back.

"Why the fuck do you care? He probably wants to finish what his boys started at Quincy!" Gristle responded. "Just get your lazy asses down from there and help us out! Move it!"

Preston removed his ear from the door. "Sturges, you hear that? Someone's been killing the raiders off — I think this is our chance!"

Sturges opened his mouth to speak when Preston suddenly unholstered his revolver sidearm and tossed it over to him. "Cover me, I'm opening the door! I'll head over to the balcony and provide fire support for our new friends!"

Sturges held the gun upright and headed over next to Preston. "As long as we get to do stuff now, I'm happy. Ya ready?"

Preston had already removed the last lock, however. "Let's go!" He kicked the door down, hoisting his laser musket to level with the nearest raider.

"What the fu—!" The raider didn't have enough time before his head was reduced to ash by a laser bolt.

Preston moved from cover to cover, cranking power to his gun as necessary while Sturges provided him with covering fire near the door. The man's aim was a bit iffy, but a distraction was all the Minuteman needed. Soon, the paltry few raiders still in the Museum retreated outside, to alert Gristle of Preston's renewed offensive.

"Die, fuckin', do-goodin' motherfucker!" The last raider to the balcony sprinted towards Preston, holding a ripper-pattern hand-held chainsaw in her grip. Preston ducked under her swing and crushed her jaw with a strike of his musket's stock upwards. After she fell, he finished her off with a stomp to the head.

The Commonwealth Minuteman propped himself behind a concrete fence at the balcony. There, he crouched to take a good long look of Concord's Main Street below him.

As expected, the area was crawling with hordes of unstable chem-fiends entrenched in cover, their guns pointed towards the area where the intruders were supposed to show up. Preston, in a moment he attributed less to courage and more to stupidity brought on by desperation, took aim with his laser musket downrange and incinerated one of the raiders.

"Jesus!" Preston huddled down under the fence as bullets, lasers and other projectiles chipped away his cover. He wanted to draw some attention away, not all of them.

He continued like this until they ran out of bullets and microfusion cells. As they stopped to reload, Preston stood up from cover again and took aim on a very important target: Gristle himself.

Before he depressed the trigger, however, several raiders at near Concord's exit dropped dead. The remaining ones returned to cover as the three intruders made their entrance, using bursts of fire from a flamethrower to obscure their figures as they moved in close.

Preston unleashed a bolt on the raider farthest to him and closest to his new allies, burning a hole through his head. He needed them to know that the raiders were fighting someone else before they arrived.

In turn, the intruders stopped using their flamethrower and scattered, taking cover wherever near. Now without flames to obscure his profile, the last remaining Commonwealth Minuteman could now see the leader of this group.

Running to cover with his dark green greatcoat flowing behind him like a cloak, the leader was outfitted very much like a higher-ranking Gunner commander, except for the fact that his entire uniform looked pristinely clean and wasn't in tatters. He looked significantly more regal too, what with the amount of golden decorations and service ribbons adorning his outfit.

While this man seemed like he belonged more in a history museum than an actual firefight, Preston was amazed at how quickly and efficiently he dispatched raiders left and right with terrifying ease. He fought like a proper soldier, just as good as a Brotherhood paladin if not even better.

Suddenly, one of the intruders — the old man in the biege coat — jumped up from cover, took aim with his sniper rifle and fired a single shot straight at Preston. The Minuteman widened his eyeds and profusely cursed under his breath as he ducked down to avoid the bullet, dismayed at the fact that the new arrivals were apparently hostiles.

He would've popped out of cover and returned the favor with his laser musket, when a dying raider suddenly collapsed near him, holding a machete in one hand and desperately clutching at a gaping bullet hole the size of a baseball through his neck with the other.

"Son of a bitch..." He exclaimed in surprise. The old man just saved him from being unceremoniously hacked to bits by a flanking raider.


Kryger completely destroyed a raider's face with a five-round Type 93 burst through his head. He didn't relent as he aimed his rifle over his next target, killing her too with just as much prejudice as his last foe.

"SUCK ON THIS, MEATSACK!" One of them shouted as he jumped up from cover and tossed a grenade at Kryger.

The major, acting purely on his honed reflexes, stood up from cover and caught the explosive in his hand as it plummeted from the air. With a slight grunt, he reeled back and hurled the primed grenade back to its owner.

"Holy—"

As the grenade blew up on the raider's face, killed a few of his nearby friends and destroyed cover for the rest, Kryger had already repositioned to a piece of cover further towards the Museum of Freedom's front entrance. The major quickly checked his corners for any incoming flankers and then unleashed another controlled burst on the exposed raiders, adding another four kills to his name.

"Codsworth, with me! Augustus, provide covering fire!" He shouted as he returned to cover.

"On my way, sir!" The Mister Handy hovered away from the wall he was talking cover behind and to his master, shrugging off the bullets impacting his metallic plating.

"Understood, suppressing!" Augustus ejected a spent casing from his heavy bolt-action rifle and doubled the rate of his attacks, accuracy be damned.

Kryger motioned for Codsworth to stay put for a while as he approached. The major pulled himself out of cover to put down a flanking raider with a sledgehammer, when his rifle promptly jammed after ejecting a misfired round.

"Fuck!" He cursed as he threw the poorly-manufactured assault rifle to the ground in a fit of anger, breaking it completely. He made a mental note not to rely on anything produced by PLA armories ever again.

"AH hah hah hah HAH!" The approaching, sledgehammer-wielding raider thought it absolutely hilarious to see his opponent deprived of a weapon. The thug hoisted the hammer up in the air and made to flatten Kryger with it, but he too found himself unarmed when the major unleashed his reverse-engineered shocksword from its scabbard and swiftly cleaved the sledge's wooden shaft in two.

The raider had just enough time to drop his useless bisected stick and regret ever going into melee range of Kryger before his head was messily parted from his shoulders with one practiced swing of the electrified officer's sabre.

"Oh, no!" Codsworth exclaimed as he and his master were bathed in a thick spray of blood gushing from the decapitated raider's stump. As the Mister Handy lamented his predicament, Kryger had unholstered his service pistol and recklessly waded into the fray, sabre-styled shocksword in one hand, 10mm pistol in the other.

Preston, on his end, watched from his balcony in complete awe as Kryger cleaved and shot his way deeper and deeper into the raiders' midst — his electrified officer's sabre conjuring up mesmerizing, bright blue electrical arcs in the air whenever he swung it around to decapitate and dismember. Kryger's ruthlessness and savage ferocity in battle combined with the terrifying display of his brutal yet pragmatic bladework actually managed to scare off most of the raiders fortunate enough to survive his wake, and even Gristle himself was forced to turn tail and run when the major started to come dangerously close to his position.

Eventually, Preston and Augustus' combined fire as well as Kryger's improvised shock tactic either scared away the raiders or killed them off utterly. The Concord Main Street was clear of raiders for now, but more will undoubtedly come.

"Hey!" Preston called out from the balcony as his saviors approached. "You there! We should talk more inside before Gristle calls more of his fiends to finish us off!"

Just before he departed from the balcony, Preston turned to Augustus.

"Oh, and thanks for the save back there, old man! I owe you a beer after this!" He then promptly disappeared from sight.

"Right..." Kryger slowly turned around. "Augustus, stay here and cover our exit — if the raiders come in force, pull back inside the museum and come find us. Codsworth, you're with me again. And this time, try not to get distracted again, please."

Augustus only nodded and took off to find a good vantage point with a clear view of the street. Codsworth sheepishly wiped a bit of blood from his central housing.

"Err... my combat programming says I should kill, but my Mister Handy subroutines keep telling me to maintain a clean, presentable look for you! I'm so sorry!"

"You're not just a machine blindly following your programming, Codsworth. Ignore all irrelevant subroutines for now and give the ones that make sense priority." Kryger said. "Do I make myself clear, soldier?"

"Understood, major!" Codsworth firmly acknowledged, briefly mimicking a Mister Gutsy's gritty tone.

Kryger and Codsworth stepped inside the building and immediately came into contact with the scant few raiders too doped-up to run away when their saner friends did. These thugs were dispatched easily enough, and eventually, the two of them reached Preston Garvey and his charges holed up inside their fortified safe room.

"Man, I don't know who you're supposed to be in that outfit, but your timing — and your bladework — was impeccable." The man smiled earnestly as he extended a hand for Kryger to shake. "Preston Garvey, Commonwealth Minutemen."

Preston was a tall man in an antiquated looking coat, hat and uniform, as Kryger noted. On his hands, he wielded a makeshift, hand-cranked laser rifle as his favored weapon. In the distance, his outline was so distinct, that he could be honestly mistaken for a Revolutionary War era militiaman traveling forward in time.

"Major James Kryger. Southeast Asia Command, United States Army." Kryger forthrightly introduced himself as he shook hands with Preston.

"Southeast Asia Command... United States Army?" Preston seemed understandably confused. "I'm glad you ain't no Gunner, but I've never heard of this organization you serve... though I do know that rank."

"You could say I'm the last of my kind, Mr. Garvey."

"That's something we have in common, Major Kryger."

Kryger nodded. "I see. My condolences, but we have no time to mourn our losses now. How did you people end up here and how do you propose we get ourselves back to safety?"

"We were heading to Sanctuary Hills to settle there, but we were ambushed by raiders while we're passing by Concord." Preston said. "We tried to—"

"They're coming!"

Suddenly, Augustus came barging inside the room, his McMillan bolt-action rifle hanging by the strap over his shoulder. "Raiders, at least sixty of them, have converged just half a klick northwest of here! I suggest we fortify the museum before they come for us!"

"Whoa there, old timer." Preston held up a placating hand for him. "There's no need to panic — we know just the thing we need to get out of this mess with no further casualties."

"Then do please enlighten us of this "thing", lone Minuteman." Augustus scoffed in a typical grumpy old man fashion. "I don't know about everyone else in this room, but I plan to die of natural causes."

"Stay away from Codsworth's coffee next time, Augustus. It makes you irritable." Kryger snarked. "Now, Mr. Garvey, what's the plan?"

Preston turned to Sturges. "Tell 'em, man."


After retrieving the redundant fusion core down at the museum ground floor and dispatching a few more suicidal raiders who have broken through, Kryger, Codsworth and Augustus climbed up the stairs and accessed the roof of the building.

As Preston had told them, there was a crashed VB-001 vertibird, an abandoned suit of T-45b power armor and a minigun still attached to the crashed aerial craft's side.

Kryger looked briefly around for snipers before he walked up to the suit and inserted the used fusion core to the socket at the back. For the time being at least, the T-45b was restored to full combat functionality.

"That suit's a piece of shit, Kryger." Augustus blurted out just before the major could jump into the armor. "That Minuteman, Garvey, was probably trying to kill you with this "foolproof" plan of his. That thing won't hold up against concentrated raider fire."

Kryger smirked as he climbed back down. "Maybe you're right, old man. Why don't you climb into the armor so we could see if that's really the case, then?"

"That wasn't what I meant with—"

"I'll hand over that gun to you for free if you'd kindly get into this suit right now, Augustus." Kryger indicated at the McMillan rifle the old scavenger was holding. "I see you've developed a fondness for it. Don't you want to keep it?"

"You're a wicked man." Augustus walked up to the suit and reluctantly entered it. "If I die in this goddamn sardine can, Kryger, I'll haunt you."

"I'm sure you will." The major shrugged, smiling in satisfaction. "Since you're about to expose yourself to enemy fire, why don't we swap guns for now? You take my part in Preston's plan, and I'll be your sniper support. Deal?"

Augustus grumbled inaudibly as he handed over the massive bolt-action rifle for Kryger to use. "Take care of her."

"Sure thing." Kryger pointed at the minigun inside the vertibird. "Now go get your weapon and let's get this plan in motion. We've used up enough time as it is."

Without another word spoken, Augustus lumbered over to the minigun and detached it from its steel mount. The concentrated group of raiders below the streets and above the other rooftops, taking notice of the loud noise of metal being pulled apart, immediately let loose over Augustus with their pipe weaponry, pelting him with a veritable hailstorm of largely ineffective bullets.

The old scavenger seemed briefly surprised he was still alive, but he quickly returned the favor a second later. Spooling up and taking aim with his minigun, he ripped apart a clustered group of thugs in the most gruesome of manners, scattering torn pieces of leather clothing, blood and viscera all over the pavement.

As the raiders scrambled into cover and Augustus continued enthusiastically mowing those out in the open down, Kryger propped himself near the downed vertibird's nose and leveled his anti-materiel rifle downrange. Recognizing the raider leader's distinctive blue mohawk among his fellow criminals, the major set his scope over at the man's brightly-colored head and fired.

Gristle's head, neck and shoulders blew apart like plasticine before the kinetic might of a well-placed .50 BMG round. As their leader fell and their foes continued picking them off indiscriminately, the raiders started to lose morale. Some broke ranks and ran away, but most still have the nerve to keep fighting.

"I'm not finished with you yet, scum!" Augustus bellowed as he littered the streets with dead raiders and spent bullet casings. "I'll scour the ends of the wasteland to see you all die by my hand!"

Kryger actually was taken by surprise when the power armored scavenger jumped up from the roof and landed down the street. There, he took the fight directly to the raiders, slaughtering the hapless thugs with reckless abandon.

"Augustus, you spry old bastard!" The major was forced to expose himself to enemy fire in order to continue providing sniper support for Augustus. "Codsworth, get down the roof and help the reckless idiot out, right now!"

"My pleasure, sir!" The Mister Handy propelled himself from the roof and gently descended down with his anti-gravity thrusters. There, he used his rotary sawblade and flamethrower on the raiders, easing some of Augustus' workload.

With the major deviations from Preston's plan somewhat alleviated, Kryger dived back down into cover and continued picking off the rest of the demoralized raiders. Preston himself also emerged from his balcony and contributed laser musket fire. The four of them worked in tandem to clear the area and finally free Concord from raider control.

When the last raider met her end via a thorough perforation from Augustus' minigun, Kryger leaned his gun against the crashed vertibird and took a deep breath. He thought he performed better than expected, even after he got a little overboard with his shock tactic down at the street.

"Heads up!" Codsworth suddenly shouted. "My sensors are picking up something quite concerning..."

Augustus pulled his helmet up and started smoking a cigarette. "Just another raider. Why don't they just—"

A massive, scaly hand ending in wicked, unbelievably sharp claws punched through the ground and gripped at Augustus' power armored leg. The old scavenger had just enough time to spit out his cigarette in surprise before a horrifying creature of mutation resembling a greatly oversized, demon-like reptile burst through the pavement from the Concord sewers. The demonic lizard easily lifted Augustus up by the leg, briefly roared at his face and hurled his power armored body away.

"DEATHCLAW!" Preston cried out. "KILL IT! KILL IT NOW!"

Augustus tumbled through the air and met with a building's storefront with a loud crash, sending bits of wood and metal flying all over. He was left lying on his back with a severely injured leg, slightly dizzy from his journey. When the old scavenger recovered enough to clearly see the deathclaw rapidly approaching him on all fours, he was quick to bring his minigun to bear on the creature as it advanced.

From his position above the museum roof, Kryger lined up a bead on the mutated creature. Before he could fire, he witnessed the deathclaw being pelted by a steady stream of 5mm rounds from where Augustus landed from his fall. He briefly marveled at how the animal just shrugged off the bullets with its incredibly thick hide, and with some mirth, thought it would make for a great pelt by his fireside. He fired.

The .50 BMG round actually had a much more pronounced effect on the deathclaw. The round impacted the creature's hide, blew open a grisly, bloody hole and kept going until it reached the other side. The deathclaw briefly paused to look and roar at the sniper taking potshots at it before it started to move towards Augustus in a zig-zagging "serpentine" pattern, deliberately avoiding attacks now.

Kryger, who only had minimal designated marksman training, struggled just to line up an accurate shot on the rapidly-moving creature. He took aim and fired a few times, but he missed every shot. Soon, the deathclaw had reached Augustus and gripped him by the leg again.

Augustus braced himself to be hurled around like a rag doll once more, when Codsworth suddenly came to his rescue. The robot unleashed an extended flamethrower burst on the deathclaw and actually made it recoil in pain.

"Have at you, foul lizard! Die!" The Mister Handy moved in close and slashed at the deathclaw a few times with its rotating saw, but to very little effect. Once the creature recovered, it bared its claws and effortlessly slashed Codsworth aside, slicing a deep trio of trenches into his central housing.

"CODSWORTH!" Kryger felt as if he shared the robot's pain. He shouldered his rifle by the strap and hurriedly sprinted down the stairs before it's too late for those unfortunate enough to be facing the deathclaw directly.

Augustus gritted his teeth as he leveled his minigun against the deathclaw again. Before he could fire another burst, the creature took notice and slashed his gun away, leaving him defenseless. The old man tried to back away from the creature, but a sudden jolt of pain from his injured leg prevented him from moving any further.

Preston had already tripled his fire against the deathclaw, but its hide was too thick for his measly laser musket. He watched helplessly as the man who earlier saved his life got lifted up from the ground by his bad leg once again before he was viciously smashed into the pavement like a human club.

The deathclaw menacingly loomed over Augustus' severely injured body. The old man could only weakly lift up an arm in a half-hearted final effort to stall his long-coming death. Torn to ribbons by a deathclaw: Augustus thought it was a fitting end for a long life of war crimes, unfulfilled visions and even a little bit of regret.

KA-THOOM.

Augustus was showered by a disgusting spray of the deathclaw's blood. It howled in agony as a .50 BMG round rent through its hide and blew away a chunk of its arm, leaving the rest of the affected limb hanging only by a thin strip of flesh and skin.

The deathclaw whined and whimpered like a dog as it examined its ruined arm. It was pitiful, in a way, Preston imagined.

Kryger didn't feel the same way, however. The damned, mutated thing could've killed his robot. With another bullet chambered in his rifle, he lined up a bead on his target over his scope and fired again.

KA-THOOM.

The anti-materiel bullet tore through the only piece of flesh keeping the deathclaw's arm attached. The maimed creature, seemingly unused to such pain, staggered in shock at the complete loss of its limb.

Kryger thought it was his chance to end the fight then and there. Unsheathing his electrified sabre after dropping his heavy rifle to get rid of the excess weight, the major proceeded to break into a dead sprint, straight towards the reeling monster.

Codsworth's trio of eyes looked up from his downed position and vocalized a synthetic gasp. "Sir...!"

Preston's laser musket threatened to break under his steadily tightening grip.

Augustus tried to look up to see what's going on, but he was quickly forced down again when Kryger ran over him and used his chestpiece as a platform for a leaping attack on the deathclaw assailant.

With both hands driving his blade with all the force he could muster, Kryger carved a crosswise slash in the air as he plummeted down towards the maimed creature. His sabre created a blinding arc of blue lightning as it sailed downwards, and it crackled with palpable energy as it effortlessly cleaved into the deathclaw's hide and flesh.

Kryger landed on the pavement on a single knee. He stood up and turned around just in time to see the deathclaw issue a final agonized howl before its body came apart in two gushing halves, neatly cut in a diagonal pattern from shoulder to hip.

Preston's jaw was practically on the floor. He shook his head from the clouds and made to shout something in triumph, but he found that words have promptly failed him. What he just witnessed was without a doubt the most pleasantly surprising turn of events in his entire career, let alone life. He closed his mouth and simply grinned as Kryger helped Augustus out of his battered suit and up to his feet.

"Ha ha! Good show!" The Minuteman was somewhat surprised to see Mama Murphy already at his side, clapping joyfully. "Just as I've foreseen! You'd do well to stick with this man, Mr. Garvey — he is destined to change the wastes as we know it!"

Preston nodded and laughed along with her. "I can see that, Mama Murphy. He's gonna need all the help he can get, I reckon."


A/N:

Fucking autocorrect... :(