Fallout: Greenclaw by Saturn Knight
Summary:

Fallout multi-chapter Fan Fic with Scalie/Scaly giantess content. (For those that don't know Scalie/Scaly is Furry for lizard people)

After years of hardship, life had finally given Drew the break he needed. He had a beautiful girl, good friends, and a home in a small pre-war town just north of the border in Canada.
All that had ended when the Greenskins AKA Super Mutants had attacked. The love of his life as well as half the town was either taken or killed. Those that survived left and Drew along with his friends Jack, Amy, and Jarik found themselves in a town known as Colville.
There they rebuilt their lives, but the pain and memories remain and now, there is a new threat, one that may threaten the whole region

This is where the story begins.

Note: this is a fetish story with fetishized characteristics. Inspired by the Domclaw pics that are out there.


Categories: Giantess, Sci-Fi, Vore Characters: None
Growth: Amazon (7 ft. to 15 ft.), Mini GTS (16-30ft)
Shrink: None
Size Roles: FF/m
Warnings: Following story may contain inappropriate material for certain audiences
Challenges: None
Series: None
Chapters: 43 Completed: No Word count: 144284 Read: 49695 Published: July 31 2022 Updated: October 22 2023

1. Chapter 1 - Colville by Saturn Knight

2. Chapter 2 - Robco by Saturn Knight

3. Chapter 3 - A Strange Beast by Saturn Knight

4. Chapter 4 - Preparations by Saturn Knight

5. Chapter 5 - The Hospital by Saturn Knight

6. Chapter 6 - Suzy by Saturn Knight

7. Chapter 7 - A Goodbye and a Greeting by Saturn Knight

8. Chapter 8 - Mega Stop by Saturn Knight

9. Chapter 9 - Retrospective by Saturn Knight

10. Chapter 10 - Medical Database by Saturn Knight

11. Chapter 11 - Infatuation by Saturn Knight

12. Chapter 12 - Predators and Prey by Saturn Knight

13. Chapter 13 - The Meeting by Saturn Knight

14. Chapter 14 - The Tapes by Saturn Knight

15. Chapter 15 - Standoff by Saturn Knight

16. Chapter 16 - The Way Home by Saturn Knight

17. Chapter 17 - Surprise Guests by Saturn Knight

18. Chapter 18 - Longing by Saturn Knight

19. Chapter 19 - Friends by Saturn Knight

20. Chapter 20 - Visitors by Saturn Knight

21. Chapter 21 - Of Love and Grace by Saturn Knight

22. Chapter 22 - Peace of Heart by Saturn Knight

23. Chapter 23 - Gemma by Saturn Knight

24. Chapter 24 - A New Threat by Saturn Knight

25. Chapter 25 - Concerns by Saturn Knight

26. Chapter 26 - Full House by Saturn Knight

27. Chapter 27 - First Steps in Building an Army by Saturn Knight

28. Chapter 28 - F.E.V. Wipeout by Saturn Knight

29. Chapter 29 - An Expected Attack by Saturn Knight

30. Chapter 30 - Rough Night by Saturn Knight

31. Chapter 31 - Tingles by Saturn Knight

32. Chapter 32 - Second Steps in Building an Army by Saturn Knight

33. Chapter 33 - Bek by Saturn Knight

34. Chapter 34 by Saturn Knight

35. Chapter 35 - The Quiet Calm by Saturn Knight

36. Chapter 36 - A Day Out wIth Gemma and Kiki by Saturn Knight

37. Chapter 37 - Strength by Saturn Knight

38. Chapter 38 - Preparing for War: Part 1 by Saturn Knight

39. Chapter 39 - Morning Glory by Saturn Knight

40. Chapter 40 - Preparing for War: Part 2 by Saturn Knight

41. Chapter 41 - Refugees by Saturn Knight

42. Chapter 42 - Reveal by Saturn Knight

43. Chapter 43 - The Battle for Robco by Saturn Knight

Chapter 1 - Colville by Saturn Knight

 “Well, shit. Looks like the crazy bastard finally blew himself up.”

Drew had hoped to find something good when he came over to Reginald’s place. It was an old ranch house that stood in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by forgotten fields. Instead of the old house, though, all he found was a hollowed-out decimated property that looked like it had been destroyed from the inside out.

It begged the question: just what the hell had happened? Knowing Reginald, he had found something that was not only unsafe, but he hadn’t treated it with the respect it deserved. It was something that Drew had warned him about repeatedly, especially that one time when an old fusion core had fallen off a top shelf and slammed into hard the floor. It wouldn’t surprise Drew if something similar hadn’t happened here, blowing both him and his house to bits.

On top of being careless, Reginald was also more than a little nutty; or perhaps, rather, he had been. There was no sign that he had survived, but there was also no sign that he had died, either. As to the cause? Considering the odd crackle from his Pipboy, Drew assumed that either a mini-nuke had gone off, or a fusion core, as he had first suspected. Reg had had enough explosives stored away that one explosion could easily cause a chain reaction resulting in the decimated building he saw before him.

Whatever had happened, the house was no more and it was likely that Reginald was no more either. A shame, as Drew had really liked him.

Searching through the wreckage, it seemed almost everything had been wiped out.

Well, at least it seemed that way initially.

Out of the pile of rubble, Drew noticed an armored hand. It almost looked like it was reaching out, ready to grasp something. Moving in closer, he realized that it wasn’t just any metal armored hand but appeared to belong to some power armor.

Getting down on his hands and knees, he began to excavate. If he was lucky, there was a full suit of power armor hiding away beneath the rubble. Though judging by his luck, it was most likely just an armpiece.

“Please be a full suit,” he muttered to himself as he continued to dig.

It wasn’t an easy excavation, though he hadn’t really expected it to be. Ten minutes in, and he had only managed to excavate the heavily dented, pitted and bloodied helmet and down to the left shoulder, which was twisted out of shape. There was also a foul rotting smell coming from the armor which suggested, much to Drew’s chagrin, that there was likely a dead body inside.

By the time he had uncovered the chest, he’d had to put on an old gas mask from his backpack. While it lacked any filters, it did dull the smell enough for him to continue. Though with the smashed chest piece, it was clear that he had uncovered a power-armored coffin.

While the armor itself was a no-go, that didn’t mean that Drew was necessarily heading home empty-handed. With the rear uncovered he was able to pull out the fusion core, which was still warm to the touch. Usually, that meant it still had juice in it, though regardless of whether it did, it would still fetch a nice price.

With the core in his backpack, he decided it was time to head back to town. The sun was getting awfully low and he didn’t want to be out after nightfall.

It took over two hours to get back to Colville, an old-world town that was still mostly standing. It wasn’t just the town that had been spared the horrors of the wastes, though, as the majority of the county and those around it had been mostly untouched by the Great War.

That didn’t mean that everything had been unaffected by the Great War.

The local wildlife for one thing had changed a lot, and it wasn’t due to them mutating. Instead, critters from outside the area had roamed in such as Yao-Guai, Dire Wolves, Radstags, and other such things, and had replaced most of the existing wildlife.

Even so, life was good up here and the local population had no idea just how good they had it.

“Hey, Drew,” the gate guard by the name of Lee greeted.

“Hey,” Drew said in response.

A long time ago, a wall had been built around the center of town. Along it was the occasional guard and turret, all looking out for either predators or raiders, or the wayward haywire robot. It had kept them safe so far, but it needed constant maintenance which was a strain on what little resources they had available.

Lee gestured to his backpack. “Find anything good out there?”

“Not much. I got a fusion core and I found an old chess board with what looks like all the pieces.”

“Oh, wow,” Lee said with a grin. “How full is the core?”

“Had a little heat in it, which means there’s some juice left, but pulled it from a set of smashed power armor.”

“So likely almost empty,” Lee surmised.

“Probably.”

“That’s too bad.”

“Sure is. Catch you later.”

Drew headed in through the gate and down the main street towards the make-shift power station that had been built out of an old substation. While the city did use fusion cores, its main source of power was wind and from the nearby Colombia River, mainly using the water flow from Kettle Falls. Neither produced a lot of power, but it was enough and any extra went into recharging whatever cores they had laying around.

“Sandra!” Drew called out as he stepped inside the main building.

Carter, a guy in his early twenties looked around from an old generator. “She’s upstairs.”

“In her office?”

“Like always.”

“Thanks, kid,” Drew said as he made his way up.

As expected, Sandra was ready for him. “Come on in.”

Drew pushed the door open and stepped inside, taking off his backpack then reached inside.

“What have you got?” she asked as she stood up and made her way around the front of the desk, sitting on it.

“I got an old fusion core,” he said, passing it to her.

She took it and gave it a once over. “Looks to be in good shape.” She walked over to a small machine with a slot in it and placed it inside before stepping over to a terminal.

After a few moments, a smile spread across her face.

“Good condition?” Drew asked.

“Around ninety-five percent integrity. Almost out of juice, but the thing is in great condition. Will take loads of recharges before it starts to noticeably degrade.”

Drew rocked back on his heels, pleased with his find. “You probably shouldn’t have told me that,” he said with a mischievous smile.

Sandra smiled back at him. “You’re good for it,” she said as she opened a wall safe and pulled out a satchel of caps.

“Glad to be of service,” Drew said, taking it from her.

“Glad you thought of me,” she responded as she sat back down behind her desk.

Drew almost said: “I always think of you,” in return, but realized that he would be sending off the wrong message. While she was attractive and fun to hang around with, he couldn’t even think about flirting with her. He still wasn’t over Gemma, even though it had been a few years now since she and the others had been taken by those monstrous Super Mutants.

“I’m heading off to go spend some of this at the bar,” Drew said as he turned to leave.

“If you find any more fusion cores, you know where to bring them,” she called after him as he stepped out of her office.

“You know it,” he called back before closing the door behind him.

That was a lie. The truth was that he kept most of the cores he found for himself, only selling the odd one. The reason was because he needed them, or rather he would need them in the near future. He didn’t plan on staying in Colville forever and he believed he had found just the place to set up shop.

“She’ll be happy,” Carter said as Drew reached the bottom of the stairs.

“Make your day a little better, I assume?”

“She’s not bad to work with, but yeah. Always nice to see her with a smile on her face.”

Drew nodded as he opened the front door. “Catch you later, Carter.”

It was a short walk from the power station to the bar. Most services, stores, and recreational places were located on the main street that ran through the heart of town. The moment Drew opened the bar door, he was assaulted by the smell of cigarettes, alcohol, and food.

There was also the noise from loud patrons who all talked and laughed and whatever else. Compared to other places Drew had been in his thirty-five years, Colville was by far the most lively and the most densely populated.

There were well over a thousand people living there, and yet it managed to support it without people going hungry. At least too hungry. It wasn’t perfect, society never was, not even before the bombs fell, but it was stable.

Drew stepped up to the bar where a friend, Amy, was standing cleaning a glass.

“Hey,” she greeted with a wan smile. “Find anything good out there?”

“Nothing much,” he answered. “Just a fusion core.”

Amy looked around before she leaned forward, lowering her voice. “So, how is that place you found?”

“If you’re talking about the old Robco plant, then I’ve only scoped the place out at a distance. There was at least one patrolling robot that I saw and I don’t know if it was hostile. Haven’t been back there in about a week. Might go tomorrow. We’ll see.”

“I thought you had this big plan to move out there?” Amy asked.

Drew shrugged. “It depends. When I get the chance, I’ll be taking a proper look around.”

“Well, let us know how you get on.”

“You know I will,” Drew said, “Considering you and Jack want to come along.”

“Yeah, we do,” Amy said focusing back on the glass she was cleaning.

“Something wrong?”

“No, I’m fine,” Amy said. “You want a drink or something?”

“Sure, the usual.”

“Coming right up.”

Drew watched as she grabbed a clean glass and filled it using the old pumps. There were few places left in the world that had drinks on tap, most resorting to just handing out bottles of two-hundred-year-old-liquor.

“There you go,” Amy said, passing it over.

“Thanks,” Drew said, taking a sip. “Good stuff.”

“Yeah, well, Kalvin is good at brewing beer. Got to be good at something, I guess.”

Drew was about to ask what she meant by that when they heard a commotion outside. It sounded like panicked shouting, verging on screaming.

With his drink in hand, Drew made his way to the door, along with several other people, and took a look.

It was Jerry, a scavenger, and he looked terrified, disheveled, and noticeably injured. His body was shaky as he leaned forward holding his stomach.

“It…” he began, pointing the way he had come. “I saw it…”

A town guard approached him. “Come on, let’s get you to the doctor’s office.”

Jerry shook his head. “I saw it. It was big and green. It chased me…”

Jerry now had Drew’s undivided attention.

“What did you see?” Drew asked as he stepped out of the bar and strode towards him. “Was it a big green man-like figure with lumpy skin?”

“No,” he said, shaking his head furiously. “It… It had horns and a tail. Looked like a big lizard, but walked on two legs. It also had these big clawed hands and… and.”

“It’s okay,” the guard said, resting a hand on the man’s shoulder. “You’re safe now.”

“Sounds like a Deathclaw,” a voice to Drew’s right said.

Drew looked over to see an old friend, Jarik standing there.

He was right, it did sound like a Deathclaw. Well, apart from the green skin at least. Regardless, it wasn’t good news.

“Maybe diseased?” Drew guessed.

Jarik nodded in agreement. “Deathclaws don’t have green skin. Not usually at least. Radiation maybe?”

“Correct me if I’m wrong,” Drew began, “but Deathclaws can handle a lot of radiation. Lethal amounts, so is it likely?”

Jarik nodded his head. “So can ghouls, but give them too much and their brains start to turn to mush. Makes them feral.”

“I thought that their brains rotted?”

“That too,” Jarik said.

The gathered crowd watched as Jerry was escorted towards the clinic. He’d clearly had a fright and to be honest, if it was a Deathclaw he’d come face to face with, then he was incredibly lucky. Most didn’t live to tell the tale.

Jarik slapped Drew on the back. “Come on, let’s grab a drink, I need to tell you something.”

“Uh, sure,” Drew said as he followed him back inside.

Amy looked up from a glass she was cleaning. “Hey, what’s going on out there?”

“Jerry saw something,” Jarik answered as they both sat at the bar. “Deathclaw.”

Amy looked at Drew. “You’ve mentioned them before.”

“Yeah, and I was hoping they would never find their way up here. I just hope that he saw something else.”

Jarik shook his head. “He saw a Deathclaw. Nothing else fits that description. Well, nothing that comes to mind.”

“You sound certain?” Drew said.

“That’s because I saw one too,” Jarik revealed as he rested both hands on the bar. “I caught a glimpse from the back and the thing was dark green and huge. Like bigger than any Deathclaw I’ve ever seen down south. To say I didn’t hang around is an understatement. I got the fuck outta there as fast as I could.”

“Where was it?”

“Up near Deer Creek Campground.”

“Shit.”

Amy leaned onto the bar. “What was it doing?”

“Something weird.”

Drew raised an eyebrow. “Weird?”

“It had two Radstags over its shoulder. Just slung there. Another weird thing was it seemed more upright.”

“Could the thing be intelligent?” Amy asked.

Jarik took in a deep breath. “I fucking hope not. Deathclaws aren’t stupid, but one that had actual human intelligence would be fucking scary as shit.”

“Yeah,” Drew agreed.

“The thing is, it also looked a little less armored as well. I called the thing a Greenclaw, but thankfully haven’t seen any more of them”

“Greenclaw, huh,” Drew said.

Amy shivered. “Let’s hope there aren’t any nests in the area.”

Jarik gave her an apologetic look. “Sorry, kid, but if it’s up here then there’s a good chance there’s a nest. It won’t be close to Colville as they don’t like to nest too close to large settlements. At least not usually.”

“Let’s hope so,” Drew muttered. “Because if left unchecked, Deathclaws can wipe settlements out. I know.”

“Colville is a very big settlement, so I don’t think we have to worry,” Jarik pointed out as he stood up. “Anyway, I need to get going. Things to do. Stay safe.”

Drew and Amy watched as he left. The thought of there being Deathclaws, particularly a variant breed in the area was not at all a pleasant one and brought back some bad memories.

Roughly a decade ago, when Drew had still been a teen, he had been trapped in a building for almost a week after Deathclaws had wiped out a small settlement. They had prowled outside for days and he had only managed to escape because some unwitting scavenger had blundered into them. While the two claws had torn him apart, Drew had been able to make his escape.

To this day, he sometimes still had nightmares over it.

Amy stared at the door for a moment before addressing him. “You think he’s being serious about seeing that Deathclaw?”

“The so-called ‘Greenclaw’?” Drew asked. “Yeah, he’s not one for bullshitting stuff like that. If he saw a green Deathclaw carrying two Radstags on its shoulder, then I believe it.”

“I guess. It’s just that when I’ve heard them mentioned, it’s always been accompanied with descriptive words such as ‘terrifying’ and ‘horrific’.”

“I’d add ‘nightmarish’ to those descriptors, but yeah. It’s not even the most terrifying thing out here.”

“Don’t tell me, I don’t want to know.”

Drew chuckled. “What’s wrong? Want to be able to sleep tonight?”

“Yeah, exactly.”

“Don’t worry, I think we’re safe here.”

Amy eyed him. “From things like Deathclaws, right? The thing that Jarik and that guy have seen hanging around?”

Drew sighed. “Yeah, maybe we aren’t as safe as we think. I might take a look up there myself.”

“Bad idea,” Amy said almost immediately. “At least without a fully armed team with you.”

“Better to stealth a Deathclaw,” Drew told her. “Have a whole lot of people try and take it down and you end up with a whole lot of dead people. Especially if it turns out there is a nest and there’s more of them. They are faster, stronger and resilient to bullets, and energy weapons making them one tough fucker to bring down.”

“What was that about wanting me to be able to sleep tonight?”

Drew shrugged. “Just being honest.”

“As long as they don’t come near town, I’ll be happy.”

“So will I.” Drew agreed wholeheartedly. “Still want to come with me when I move out to that Robco facility?”

“It’s looking less appealing now that there are seven-foot-tall death lizards out there.”

“Closer to nine feet,” Drew corrected.

“Great, now I’m really not gonna get any sleep tonight.”

“Don’t worry. This place is surrounded by a pretty decent wall and a lot of guards.”

“A wall that was never finished,” Amy pointed out.

“You mean the brick part of the wall? Because a wall does surround the whole town. Well, the center of it at least.”

“While the brick part might, I don’t think the old rotting wood part will give much resistance against a nine-foot monster.”

“Well, they ran out of materials. Besides, the wood wall makes a decent barrier when paired with those turrets.”

“I hope so.”

“Amy, this place is far better defended than… You know… Paulson.”

“And look how that turned out,” Amy said with a grimace.

It hadn’t turned out well at all. Super Mutants had wiped out the town and had taken most of the rest. There were a scarce few that survived, Amy, Jarik, Drew and their close friend Jack being among them.

Their conversation was interrupted by a rather irritated-sounding patron. “Hey! Some service here!?”

Drew stood up. “I better let you get on with your job. I’ll see you tonight.”

“Yeah, see you tonight.”

As he stepped outside, he noticed that it was starting to get dark. The old electric light posts were beginning to turn on, giving the street a strange feeling of serenity.

Colville was a lot safer than most other places. Everyone knew everyone else, and there was also plenty of food, warmth, and shelter. The town also had a basic justice system, one that ranged from short-term incarceration to exile, all the way to a death sentence.

Strangely, exile was rarer than the death sentence and was used as a last resort. There was a reason of course. Roughly twenty years ago a group of exiles formed their own raider group and began striking at the town. They had been dealt with eventually, but since then only six people had been exiled, around one every half-decade.

It was a shame, really, but sometimes punishments had to be harsh and not necessarily to punish the guilty, but to protect everyone else.

Arriving back at his shared home, he found Jack sitting on the old couch listening to the radio.

“Hey, D,” Jack said as he leaned over and switched it off. “How was the scavenging?”

“Could have been better,” Drew said as he sat down next to him, the couch creaking under the added weight.

“Well, things at the purifier could be better, too.”

“How so?” Drew asked. “Something gone wrong?”

“Some components need replacing and the foreman was wondering if you’d get them for him?”

“If I can find them. What does he need?”

Jack shrugged. “He has a whole shopping list of parts.”

“Do you have it on you?”

“Didn’t write it down,” Jack answered. “Wanted to tell you himself.”

“I suppose I’ll have to go see him to find out,” Drew said.

“Yeah.”

“Well, I’ll head down tomorrow, maybe. Tonight I just wanna relax.”

“Same,” Jack agreed. “So, what did you find?”

“Some bits and pieces and an unfortunate scene.”

“What do you mean?” Jack asked, frowning.

“Old Reginald blew himself up, or it seems that way. His house was just debris.”

Jack’s mouth fell open. “Old Reg? Shit. Do you know what happened?”

“As I said; he blew himself up. Not sure how.”

“I guess it was gonna happen sooner or later.”

“Yeah. At least I got a fusion core out of it. I sold it to Sandra.”

“That’s great. How much did you get for it?”

“Enough,” Drew said. “It will help me buy what I need to relocate.”

“When are you heading out there to check the place out?”

Drew leaned back. “I’m thinking about maybe heading out there tomorrow, but I’m not sure yet.”

“Can I come?”

“No,” Drew said firmly. “Firstly, I need you to keep making wage. It’ll help us relocate, and secondly, I still don’t know how dangerous it is. The last thing I want is for you to get hurt.”

“I can take care of myself.”

“Gemma used to say the same thing,” Drew said darkly before he stood up. “I’m heading to bed, need to be up early. See you tomorrow.”

Chapter 2 - Robco by Saturn Knight
Author's Notes:

It will still be a few chapters before we start getting into the actual "Giantess" content. I like the slow build-up as I feel it makes the payoff better. Hopefully, the events will come as a real surprise.

Drew felt nervous. It perhaps had something to do with the patrolling Protectrons that, as far as he knew, were hostile. Or, it could be the fact that the old Robco plant marked the next big step in his life, one that he wasn’t sure if he was truly ready to take.

From where he was hiding behind an old truck and trailer, he could only see two of the robots. One of them was missing an arm and the other one had a cracked glass canopy. While Protectrons weren’t the fastest or most heavily armed type of robot out there, they were still dangerous. Their lasers could severely burn, and if they got lucky with their aim they could easily kill.

Drew knew he could shoot the robots and be done with it. However, he would rather not damage or destroy them if he didn’t have to. They could be useful in keeping a watch over the place as they already had been for the last two centuries.

Then again, they might attack him and melt his face off, and he was rather fond of his face.

“Just shoot the things. You can repair them later,” he muttered to himself as he gripped his laser rifle tighter.

“But repairing them costs time and resources,” he argued with himself. “Resources that I can’t afford to waste.”

Drew peeked back out of cover and took a good long look around, taking note of where everything was from the patrolling robots to the old rusted cars, and that wasn’t to mention the pre-war military tank that was just sitting there out in the open. He figured that if he was careful and quick, he could use them as temporary cover. All he had to do was get close enough to trigger their response routines. If they greeted him instead of shooting him then he knew that he was on a winner. From there, reprogramming them with the help of his Pipboy would be easy.

“Here goes nothing, I guess.”

Clutching his modified laser rifle, he moved out of cover behind the trailer and hurried towards the nearest car, squatting down behind it. The closest Protectron gave him no mind and continued along its preset path with its recognizable robotic waddle. It made them look weak and somewhat goofy, which made it all too easy to underestimate the potential danger they posed.

Keeping his head down, Drew moved from car to car as he made his way closer to the machine. The fact that it hadn’t reacted gave him hope that it was simply a parking attendant robot. If that was the case then it likely wasn’t aggressive. At least not without provocation. Then again, like a lot of robots, its coding could have easily developed faults which often resulted in turning the robot hostile. Thus far, that didn’t seem to be the case here.

He waited and watched as the robot clunked towards the car he was hiding behind. When it was only a few feet away, he took in a breath before he called out to it.

“Hello!”

He waited for a response but the Protectron continued to clank along as though it either hadn’t heard him, didn’t care, or simply didn’t understand.

Cautiously, Drew stood up and observed the robot. At first, it continued on without a care in the world before it finally stopped dead in its tracks. Drew held his breath as the machine then slowly and awkwardly turned around to face him. He anticipated it turning nasty on him. If it did, then he planned on dropping back down behind cover. Thankfully, though, it didn’t.

“Move along, please. No loi-tering.”

Drew smiled, satisfied that it wasn’t going to shoot him. With that burning question solved, he made his way over towards the main building. He wasn’t sure what parking attendant robots were doing at an old robot factory. They were usually at pre-war stores such as a Super Duper Mart, not on private property. He supposed it was possible that it had somehow found its way here from elsewhere, but no matter what its origin he decided to simply leave it alone.

Well, at least for the time being.

The front doors were locked and there was no keyhole so he couldn’t pick it with a bobby pin. Instead, it was protected by a terminal and the doors themselves were thick steel, probably reinforced. The terminal was an easy hack and thankfully the doors hadn’t seized, meaning they opened, albeit with a grind and a rather unpleasant screeching of metal.

Drew stepped inside where he found a typical reception area complete with a desk, desk fan, an old rotary dial telephone, and a desktop computer. He sat down behind the desk and decided to check the inventory. Unfortunately, most of the database was corrupted. This meant that he would have to do things the old-fashioned way and go exploring.

He just hoped that like outside, any patrolling robots he happened to stumble across were friendly.

Drew made his way out of the foyer through another set of double doors. Behind it was a long crusty hallway that didn’t look like it had been touched in decades. The walls were stained with only an echo of old paint and the tiles were covered in a thick layer of dust and grime.

He walked forwards, peeking through the doors one by one. The first on the left was a utility cupboard and the one on the right was a bathroom. The next one on his right was a small room filled with old boxes. Curious, he headed inside and opened one up to find they were full of holotapes. Intrigued, he popped one in his Pipboy and discovered they were programming tapes for Assaultrons.

He closed up the boxes, stepped back out into the hallway, and continued on to the next door before heading inside.

“Interesting.”

Unlike the previous rooms, this one was larger and had a story to tell. On his left was a security door complete with a terminal and on his right was what appeared to be a grimy makeshift workbench. Someone had clearly been here at some point in the relatively recent past, though judging by the grime ‘recent’ could mean a decade, or it could mean fifty years.

Drew turned his attention to the security door terminal. Like the front doors, he easily hacked it. The door clicked open and he stepped through into a much bigger room. All over were half-assembled General Atomics Gutsy robots as well as various other parts all scattered around haphazardly.

“I wonder what you’re doing here in a Robco plant?” he asked himself as he wiped some grime off the shell of the nearest one.

Noting a terminal on a desk in the corner, he decided to check it. It told him everything he needed to know. These Gutsies had faulty engine thrusters, and it was quite clear that they blamed General Atomics. From what he could tell they were manufacturing Gutsies here under license to be used across the border in Canada. The log entry was dated three days before the end of the world.

As Drew stepped away from the terminal, he noticed something tucked away in a dark corner. Using his Pipboy light, he found that it was an old Assaultron with what appeared to be a modified head laser.

“Oh, shit,” he uttered as he stepped closer. “Look at that.”

The head laser was definitely an aftermarket addition. It looked cumbersome and unwieldy, but there was something about it that also looked powerful.

Whoever had modified it was long gone, probably decades ago. He plugged his Pipboy into the service jack and ran a quick diagnostic. He found that it hadn’t been active for the last fifty years. Whoever it belonged to was probably long dead by now.

Drew took a step back as he realized that this was the first Assaultron he’d seen since Izzy.

Izzy had been a good companion that he’d had before he’d met Gemma, Amy, and Jack. For a while it had been just the two of them, wandering around searching for a place to call home. For a robot, she’d had a spot-on sense of humor and often felt more alive than some of the humans they came across. Unfortunately, she had been destroyed by raiders a year back. They had attacked Colville and she had been one of their victims. She had been blown to pieces, her main processor reduced to little more than dust. As strange as it was, he sometimes missed her almost as much as he missed his lover, Gemma.

Deciding he’d seen enough for today, Drew stepped out of the room and re-locked it, before heading back out of the factory. After resealing the front doors he casually walked across the parking lot, once more being accosted by a patrolling Protectron for loitering.

The place definitely had promise, but he knew he’d have to explore more just to be certain. He would have done it today, but unfortunately, he’d had a late start due to having to help fix one of the patrol robots back at Colville. There was also an old bus on the highway that he wanted to check for salvage. If it was worthwhile, then he would return. If not, then the bus would be forgotten.

Thirty minutes later and he almost walked right past it since the bus wasn’t on the highway, but in a ditch. How long it had been there, Drew didn’t know, though apart from a crumpled front and smashed windows, it looked to be in fairly good condition.

The inside was a different story, however. The upholstery was half rotted away, though there was a distinct lack of any bodies, skeletal or otherwise. That didn’t bode well for the likelihood of there being any salvage.

After a minute or so of searching, he found absolutely nothing other than an old smashed pocket watch. While some would probably see no worth in it, the internal components could prove useful in the future.

As he was stepping back out of the bus, he heard the telltale roar of a Yao Guai in the distance. He turned, ready to defend himself if necessary, only to freeze, his eyes widening at what he saw.

There, bounding towards the mutated bear was a huge green Deathclaw. Not only was it bigger than any he had ever seen in his life, but it was also moving at a terrifying speed. With a claw raised, it swatted the Yao Guai away like it was nothing, sending it hurtling several feet before it landed in a crumpled mess.

Drew continued to stare as the massive beast strode over to its fallen prey and squatted, hunching over the now dead creature ready to eat its kill. Both had to have been around five or six hundred feet away, but even at that distance, the Deathclaw was terrifying as hell.

After a few moments of chowing down on its caught meal, the large green creature suddenly stopped then raised its head and began to sniff at the air.

Drew felt the hairs on his arms stand up as not a moment later the monster turned its head towards him.

“Oh, fuck.”

Quickly, he retreated back inside the bus, grabbing his laser rifle off his back, clutching it tightly against his chest as he made his way slowly towards the rear. With a held breath, he slowly and cautiously peered out the back window before he released it with a sigh of relief.

It was looking back down at its kill as though it hadn’t noticed him. He wasn’t sure how true it was, but he had heard that Deathclaws had poor eyesight, which appeared to be true. In the past, he hadn’t put himself in a situation to be seen, let alone stand and gawk like an idiot as he had just done.

The creature stood back up and sniffed at the air a second time, causing him to duck down behind cover. Slowly, he peered back over the rear seats, studying the creature that had to be in the order of ten feet or more in height. That was when he noticed what appeared to be a large growth on its chest.

As though sensing his gaze, the Deathclaw turned its head and its eyes seemed to lock onto his. For a moment, he swore it was staring into his very soul.

“Shit,” he hissed as he ducked back down as quickly as he could.

Right at that moment, the bus was probably the safest place to be. His only hope was that it hadn’t noticed him like the first time. Unfortunately, a minute or so later he began to hear the thumps of heavy footfalls and they were not only getting louder but they were very clearly getting closer.

The giant green Deathclaw was coming his way.

As quietly as he could, Drew hid beneath one of the seats and held his breath. The footsteps stopped right outside the bus and not a moment later he heard a loud creak. Daring to peek, he saw giant clawed green hands were gripped onto the inside wall through the glass-less rear window, its claws digging into what was left of the rear seats. He could hear its heavy breathing and the scraping of its claws against the metal as it shifted its weight, probably to get a better look inside. Drew knew that if it wanted to, it could easily tear through the shell of the bus like it was nothing, yet it didn’t, which he was definitely thankful for.

As gently and as quietly as he could, he twisted the power knob on his custom laser rifle, putting it up to full power. He would quickly burn through his shots and he risked burning out its beam emitter, but a few good hits and he hoped he’d be able to take the beast down.

He seriously doubted it, though, and knew if he found himself in a position where he needed to shoot it, he was probably already dead.

He watched with some relief as the claws retreated, followed by the welcome sound of the monster’s pounding footsteps as they grew quieter and more distant. Even when he couldn’t hear it anymore he still dared not move. The last thing he needed was to be chased by the monstrosity.

It wasn’t until it started to get dark that he finally made a move. His body felt stiff from the lack of movement, and being cramped beneath the bus seat for the last hour or so certainly hadn’t helped matters. He let out an unintentional groan as his muscles protested at the movement.

After peering outside and finding the coast was clear, he quickly departed the old bus and jogged up the highway back towards town. It didn’t escape his notice that the Yao Guai carcass was gone. All the better as it wouldn’t bring any other unwanted predators his way.

His jog soon turned to a full-on sprint as he heard a roar from somewhere behind him. Whether it was the green Deathclaw or something else he didn’t wait to find out.

Thankfully, nothing chased him, but that didn’t mean he slowed down.

The presence of Deathclaws in the area did put a damper on his plans. It made moving his stuff between town and the factory a lot more problematic. His initial plan was to fix up some Gutsies and Protectrons and have them help him move, and while he could still do that, he would need to fix up more robots and arm them to the teeth. The Deathclaw had been a lot bigger than normal and even regular-sized ones could take several cells worth of laser fire. He dreaded to think what it would take to bring that monster down. It had to have been eleven or twelve feet at least. Maybe more.

He could only hope that it was the only one in the region, though he doubted it. In a way, it had changed his mission. He had wanted to set up shop in the old factory and sell robots to the settlements that dotted the region, but now he knew that he had to remove the new threat before it became a legitimate problem. If there was a nest then he had to find it and destroy it. He had to drive the Deathclaws out of the region and the old Robco factory was the key to achieving that goal.

Drew knew that he was going to have to get to work sooner than he had planned. It had been his intention on taking things slow so as to not burn himself out, but now he didn’t really have that luxury. While Colville itself was heavily fortified, there were other settlements including farms in the region that were not prepared at all for a Deathclaw attack, especially not from one that was over twelve feet tall.

He’d seen what Deathclaws could do, he’d seen them wipe out a settlement down south. He didn’t want that to happen up here, not when he knew he could prevent it.

It was time to stop dreaming of getting the Robco plant back up and running and actually do it. It was time to build an army to defend the region.

He just hoped he could do it before any settlements were turned into a Deathclaw banquet.

Chapter 3 - A Strange Beast by Saturn Knight

 “That should do it,” Drew muttered as he attached the repaired thruster unit back onto the Gutsy before putting the panels back on.

He was back at the Robco plant in the room that lay behind the security door. He had just finished repairing the engine jet on the first of many Gutsies, though it hadn’t been an easy task. Between having to find the necessary parts and the lack of sleep due to a nightmare regarding a particular bus and a Deathclaw, it had been a long, long day.

Drew normally didn’t remember dreams or nightmares, yet this one was still vivid in his mind. It had been so intense that it gave him pause every time he thought about it. For as long as he could remember, he had never had a dream like it. Even when his mother, then later his father had died he hadn’t had such intense dreams. Then again, maybe he had and couldn’t remember.

In the dream in question, he had been hiding in the bus under the seat as he had in reality. Unlike reality, however, the Deathclaw had torn off the back of the bus like paper and reached inside. Its arm had been unusually long and its claws were longer, like swords jutting out ready to impale him.

He had tried to run, but it was no use. The bus seemed to stretch out almost like it was made of elasticated rubber and no matter how far and fast he went, escape only seemed further and further away.

The next thing he knew, the bus was normal again. Only normality had been short-lived as it pitched upwards with a jerk, the front window facing towards the sky.

With a scream, he had grabbed onto the back of one of the many seats and looked down through the hole that had once been the back of the bus. Instead of seeing the ground as he expected, he saw nothing but the gaping maw of an impossibly large Deathclaw. It was ready and waiting to swallow not only him but the entire bus whole.

Then the bus went inside the monstrous cavern with him unwillingly along for the ride. Its long wet tongue had coiled around the bus like a serpent around its prey. The frame then began to buckle and twist as the limb-like tongue had squeezed tighter and tighter. Unable to withstand the crushing force, the shell of the bus had then collapsed, crushing both the vehicle and him along with it.

That was when he had awoken. His heart had been racing and the sense of dread stayed with him throughout the night, stopping him from getting any meaningful sleep.

It had been a few days since the nightmare-inducing encounter with the creature that Jarik had dubbed the ‘Greenclaw’, and thankfully he’d seen no sign of it ever since. If he was lucky, then the thing had mutated into infertility, though he knew he couldn’t take that chance. Not with how massive the thing was. Not as gargantuan as it had been in the dream, but absurdly big all the same.

Despite the danger posed by the monster, he had returned to the Robco plant. Truth be told, he hadn’t mentioned his ordeal to anyone including Jack or Amy, and he especially hadn’t told them how close he had come to being disemboweled. He knew they’d worry and try to talk him out of the whole thing. He couldn’t afford for their concerns to delay him, not for a single day. If anything, it made his work even more important. The last thing the region needed was a huge green Deathclaw wandering around freely. That would only lead to disaster, especially if there were more of them. The best way to deal with the creatures without unnecessary death was to let loose an army of robots to destroy them.

After all, he could fix robots far easier than any doctor could fix a person.

Drew gave the thruster jet a visual once over before he reached inside the back panel. “Time to see if your jets work,” he muttered as he activated the robot with the flick of the switch.

As the Gutsy powered up, he took a few steps back and rested his grubby hands on his hips. The Gutsy’s thruster ignited and it rose into the air before it turned all three eyes on him. Then, with a salute of a clawed pincer it spoke.

“Waiting for orders, sir! Let’s go kick some Commie ass!”

Drew had set himself as its commander which had been surprisingly easy to do. He would have expected it to be more difficult but it had the same backdoor as every Handy model did. At some point, he planned on closing some of the security holes in the software, but for now it wasn’t needed, especially since he had disarmed it before switching it on. Even so, he knew to be weary. Robots could be dangerous with or without weapons, especially when the robot in question had a scalding hot thruster jet streaming out ionized plasma.

He was just glad it wasn’t a conventional rocket that kept them in the air. That would have scorched and burned everything around it. Instead, and thankfully, the heat was primarily focused around the exhaust.

A moment later, the robot realized its lack of armaments. “Sir, it appears I am missing my standard issue Commie killers!”

“You’re undergoing maintenance,” Drew told it. “You had a faulty thruster unit which was installed during construction. We are currently running some tests.”

“Understood, sir. Do you require me to shut down my thruster module?”

“No. I want to see how it performs.”

“Understood, sir.”

After giving the Gutsy various tasks to perform around the factory, Drew was satisfied that his fix had worked as intended. Back in the room, he shut it down and began to work on the thruster of a second Gutsy. While the first thruster had taken most of the morning and testing had taken a good chunk out of the afternoon, the repair of the second thruster took a lot longer. The reason wasn’t due to its fault being different, as all of them had the same manufacturing fault, but it appeared as though it had been damaged at some point post-manufacture. Probably when the robot was tossed into the back room and abandoned.

Finally, with the second fixed and tested, he powered it down before checking the time.

“Shit.”

It was half-nine at night, far too late to head home which meant he was going to be spending the night. Considering he planned on moving to the old factory anyway, it wasn’t too much of an inconvenience, apart from the lack of any mattresses or beds. While he had seen an old couch in the lobby area, that didn’t mean it was in good enough condition that he could use it. If it wasn’t, then he might not be getting much sleep.

After cracking open a beer he had found in the cafeteria earlier in the day, he sat back on an old plastic chair and stared at the array of Gutsies in front of him. Once he had them all fixed up and rearmed, they would make a formidable defense. Out of all the robot types, they were by far the fastest and most agile, though that came with the cost of having lighter weapons and armor. He could load them up with more weaponry and armor, but that would slow them down and thus make them more vulnerable.

As his father used to say: ‘It’s a catch twenty-two’; whatever that meant.

Drew almost dropped his bottle in fright when a loud deep thump echoed from outside of the room. He put the bottle down and reached for his laser rifle before standing up, making his way out into the hallway.

He tightened his grip on his weapon as he heard another deep thump. It sounded like it was coming from the front doors, which were thankfully reinforced.

“Please don’t be one of those fucking green Deathclaws,” he muttered to himself.

With a third deep thud, he decided to lock up the room of Gutsies and headed upstairs. He knew there was a room or office that looked down on the entryway since he had seen it on the crude map plans in the foyer. He believed he should be able to get a good look at the unwelcome visitor from there.

Lock-picking the door to the manager’s office was fairly easy. Inside, he found a typical large desk with a computer, a large window, and a door off to the side. He made a mental note to check what was behind the other door later. First, though, he wanted to see what was banging on the door.

In the darkness, he slowly and carefully made his way around the desk and peered out of the window. Down below he could see a green Deathclaw illuminated by an old light post. It was no longer banging on the door and instead appeared to be studying it from several steps back, as though it was looking for a weakness.

“I hope the fucking thing isn’t intelligent,” he muttered as he continued to watch it with a strange mix of terror and fascination.

One thing he noticed was that it didn’t seem to be as large as the one he’d seen on the highway. While that was good news, it came with a caveat; it meant there were definitely more of the things out there just like he had expected.

Drew found himself pressing his face up against the glass as he studied the monstrosity. Like the one he’d seen earlier, it had large growths on its chest, though now that he was able to get a better look at it, he realized that the tumors looked unfortunately like breasts.

That was if they were tumors. But what else could they be? The thing was a lizard and lizards didn’t have tits.

“What the fuck am I even looking at?”

He continued to stare at it for what felt like an eternity before it turned around and began to walk away. It appeared as though it had finally given up when it stopped and spun back around, its gaze turning upwards towards the office window.

“Shit!”

He dove over the desk and hid from view, hoping the monster hadn’t seen him. If it had, then it would likely renew its attack on the door. That, or it would throw something at the window. He’d seen Deathclaws do that before and they had a lot of power behind those arms, enough to turn the window - reinforced or not - into shards of glass.

“This blows my plans to shit,” he hissed.

It had been his plan to eventually bring Amy and Jack here, but at that moment in time, it didn’t seem like such a good idea. Not until he’d activated and armed every damned Gutsy in the factory. The Assaultron would definitely come in handy as well. That was the only way he could see making this place remotely safe. That, and setting up turrets. A place like this was sure to have them already, though they were clearly inactive. He’d have to find a way to reactivate them if there were any or build some if there weren’t.

Drew clutched his chest in fright as he heard something heavy hit the window. He peeked over the desk only to find himself staring into the face of the monstrous beast. Somehow, it had managed to climb up the wall and it was now stood on the eave just below the window staring right back at him, its clawed hands spread out and its breasts pressed up against the glass

At any moment he felt that the thing was going to burst through and murder him. Instead, it kept its eyes locked on him as though it wasn’t sure what it should do next.

Instead of smashing through the window, it thankfully let go and dropped. He heard a thud, followed by the patter of heavy footfalls which got quieter and quieter. Releasing his breath, he rose up and made his way slowly and cautiously back over to the window. Much to his joy, he saw it running off into the distance.

“Thank fuck for that,” he said, breathing a sigh of relief.

That relief was short-lived as a moment later the monster turned invisible. The only sign it was there was a lensing effect on the environment around it, and that in itself grew less prominent the further away it got before it disappeared completely into the night.

“The fucking things can not only climb but turn invisible,” he said out loud. “We are all fucked!”

Feeling weak, he sat down heavily on the old armchair behind the desk, which creaked under his weight. If they could turn invisible, that meant they could set up ambushes. Deathclaws were definitely smart enough to do that. As to how smart these green ones actually were compared to the regular breed he had no idea. All he knew was that they were clever and could easily wipe out entire settlements if they wanted to.

“I need to find where they’re nesting and wipe the fuckers out,” he said as he placed his laser rifle down on the desk in front of him. “For that, I’ll need an army.”

Drew rubbed his eyes with the backs of his hands. He knew that securing this place would have to take precedent. There were plenty of parts to build turrets, but first, he would have to check to see whether there was any hidden away that he could use. No point in building something that already existed.

Given enough time, he could turn this place into a fortress. It already was one to a degree. Reinforced front doors, and reinforced shutters as well as thick walls. It was built to withstand being bombed, which meant that the Greenclaws would have a hard time getting in. Though the doors wouldn’t hold up forever. He needed help and despite the danger, he knew that he needed Amy and Jack here if he was going to make any of it work.

Despite knowing that he should probably get some sleep, he decided that he couldn’t afford to. At least not tonight. He needed to check the front door, and either find defense turrets and activate them or start building some.

Drew’s gaze fell onto the desktop computer. He cracked his knuckles before he rolled the chair over. He switched it on and waited for it to boot up. After hacking his way through the password screen, he found himself staring at strings of corrupted files.

With a sigh, he stood up and headed out of the room. He would have to check the database later when he had more time. First, he needed to take a look at the front door to see the damage.

Much to his irritation and fear, he saw a light crack in the frame. A few more minutes of trying and the monster probably would have gotten through. That meant it was strong, very strong.

Feeling more than a little unsettled, he rushed to the security office and checked the terminal there. Like the office computer upstairs, a lot was corrupted, including the turret control system, which proved the place had some at least. It would take some time to clean up the code, possibly all night, but Drew knew it had to be done. Once that was dealt with, he’d have to check to see if they worked. From what he saw they were retractable and on the roof. They could rain fire on any aerial or ground targets with impunity. If they hadn’t seized and he was able to get them to pop out of their shielded hidey-holes, then he would have solved most of his problems. If not, then it would be a long arduous task of fixing that as well.

“Looks like I’m pulling an all-nighter,” he said as he rolled up his sleeves and got to work.

In a strange way, he was actually kinda looking forward to it.

He just hoped he didn’t get any more unwelcome visitations from any angry clawed monsters.

Chapter 4 - Preparations by Saturn Knight
Author's Notes:

Capital or lower case for deathclaw/Deathclaw? well, when naming an animal species like "fox" or "rabbit" it's all lower case so I'm going to go with that from now on, I think, and since Greenclaw is sort of a nickname for the green deathclaws I'll have that capitalized. As for robot brands such as "Handy" I'll probably keep them capitalized.


Also, I didn't realize there were so many set-up chapters. There's a few more before we start getting into the meat and potatoes of the story. There's giantess content coming, I promise.

-0-

With a yawn, Drew stepped through the front door and dropped his backpack at his feet. He felt beyond exhausted, and it was thanks to the fact that he hadn’t slept in almost forty hours. Even then, thanks to a nightmare, he’d been functioning on only three hours of sleep.

Honestly, now that he was finally back home in Colville, he felt like he could sleep for days.

“Drew is that you!?” Amy called out as she rushed into the room. “Where have you been? We’ve been worried!”

She didn’t sound happy. In fact, she sounded the exact opposite of that. He couldn’t blame her. after all, he hadn’t told either of them that he would be gone for so long. Then again, he hadn’t intended on being gone for so long, either. His plan had been to go up there, spend the afternoon then come back.

“At the Robco plant,” he said as he made his way over to the old tattered armchair and sat down heavily with a groan. “I got the turrets working. Some of them at least. Had to rebuild a lot of code and it’s still not fully repaired. The tracking is still off, but I’ll get to that later. Once that’s done, I have to check how many of the turrets actually still work. So I guess I didn’t get them working. Just the code. Still need to check the turrets themselves. But later. Tired now.”

“You’re rambling,” Amy said.

“Am I? Sorry. Feeling a little tired.”

Jack strode down the stairs. “Hey, D. When are we making the move?” he asked as he reached the bottom.

“To the Robco plant?” Drew asked for clarification.

“Yeah,” Jack said with a nod as he leaned against the wall by the stairs.

“Not sure,” Drew answered honestly. “Eventually.”

“Can it be soon?” Amy asked.

There was something about her tone of voice that told him that something was wrong.

“Why do you want it to be soon?” he asked.

“Because Kalvin is a creep.”

Drew pinched the bridge of his nose in annoyance. He was far too tired to deal with this. “What did he do now?”

“He keeps making passes at me and he’s started doing it in front of customers. Some of them think it’s okay to join in, and when I tell them to stop they tell me that they’re just complimenting me.”

“Do you want me to talk to him?”

“No point. I quit yesterday. He doesn’t know yet, though. He will when I don’t show up.”

“While I would tell you that you shouldn’t just quit without even telling the boss, fuck him. Let him be short-staffed.”

“My thought exactly,” Amy said.

Jack piped up. “And I’m thinking of quitting, too. Those guys that work at the purifier are all assholes. Well, most of them are, anyway. They constantly talk down to me just because I’m not an old piece of shit like they are. Nothing I do is good enough for them, even though they get me to do most of the work.”

Drew had known this was coming for a while. Amy often complained about Kalvin, and Drew had even confronted him about his behavior. Things had seemed to be going better, but it had been only a matter of time before Kalvin’s true self began to peek out once more from behind the cover.

As for Jack; the guys that ran the purifier could learn a thing or two about respect. They treated him like trash because he was young and thus in their eyes meant he was worth less. It didn’t help that Jack wasn’t the kind of guy to stand up for himself. He tended to be more laid back and reserved.

“I would say we need the caps, but we’re good for a little while.”

Jack looked hopeful. “So that means we’ll be moving soon?”

“Within the next week if you want. I can have some Gutsies help us move our stuff.”

Amy frowned. “If you bring Gutsies here, won’t the town want them for themselves?”

“Like Izzy?”

“Yeah, like Izzy,” Amy said with a nod.

“That’s only if we’re still living here,” he pointed out. “Izzy was an exchange. We gave them Izzy and in turn, we could live here.”

“It was a shit exchange,” Amy muttered.

“Yeah, it was,” Drew agreed, not wanting to think about how their robotic friend had been blown to pieces.

“Anyway,” Drew said quickly, getting back on the subject, “we can also move a lot of stuff with the help of Leanne.”

“You mean rent her,” Jack said.

Amy rolled her eyes. “Don’t say it like that, Jack. You make her sound like a prostitute.”

He shrugged. “But that’s what we’re doing?”

“If you mean that we’ll be renting her as a driver for one of her trucks, then yeah,” Drew confirmed. “It’ll be pricey but we can move a lot in that old thing.”

Jack nodded. “I was also thinking that if we’re fixing up the old place we might want some medical supplies. Injuries can happen, I should know, they happen a lot at the water plant and a lot of them happen to me.”

“We could buy them,” Drew said. “Though I could grab them from the hospital in that town north of the border. I want to head there anyway. Hospitals have a lot of good tech and materials we could use. As far as I know, it’s remained relatively untouched since the bombs.”

“You mean the town that was hit by a nuke?” Jack asked. “Are you sure that’s a good idea?”

“It wasn’t hit, it was almost hit,” Drew clarified. “The town itself was missed by a good five miles.”

“That’s still close enough to turn the place into a wasteland,” Jack pointed out.

“You’re right. Even so, I’ve been wanting to check the place out for a while, but it’s too far. At least from here. The Robco plant is about halfway between. All I have to do is follow the main highway.”

“I think Jarik was up there recently,” Amy said. “He told me that there were some crazy orderly Handy robots hanging around and a lot of feral ghouls. We might need to hire some security to come with us.”

“Security shouldn’t be a problem since I fixed up some Gutsies,” Drew told them. “They should be enough to deal with them then I can scavenge them for parts.”

“Sounds like we’ll need multiple visits,” Jack said.

Drew shook his head. “Nah. The Gutsies have storage of their own and I can add to that. It’ll slow them down a little but they were equipped with laser pistols for defense, and the fix I made should give them a little more oomph. And besides, there is no ‘we’. I’ll be headed there alone with the Gutsies.”

Amy frowned. “Why? We could help.”

“No,” Drew said with another shake of his head.

“Why not?”

“Because it’s too dangerous. You could get hurt. Or worse.”

Jack sided with Amy. “We can handle ourselves. We used to go scavenging with you, remember?”

“I can use my shotgun,” Amy said. “It still works and I can still shoot.”

Drew folded his arms. “And what will Jack use? He sold off his rifle, remember?”

“I still have that pistol,” he said with a shrug.

“It’s too dangerous,” Drew said, standing firm.

Amy wasn’t backing down. “If it’s so dangerous, then why are you going?”

“One person is safer than a whole group.”

“Not if you plan on scavenging it’s not,” Amy said. “You need extra hands to help carry the loot.”

“What if you get hurt?”

“And what if you get hurt?” Amy asked right back. “There’ll be no one to help you.”

“Amy…” Drew began, but she cut him off.

“You think we’re weak!,” Amy yelled. “We’re not weak. We can help you!”

“It’s not that at all!” he shouted back. “The more of us there are the more likely something will go wrong. I don’t want anyone hurt because of me. You’re safe here and later you’ll be safe at the Robco plant once all the defenses have been set up. But for now, here is where you should stay.”

“We were never hurt before when we used to go scavenging,” she argued. “Why are you so afraid now? You haven’t let us go anywhere since Paulson!”

Drew slammed his fist down on the arm of his chair. “Because I’m afraid to lose you two!”

Amy’s expression softened. “This is about Gemma and the others isn’t it?”

He was silent.

“That won’t happen,” Amy said. “Not if we’re together. We know what it’s like to lose loved ones, Drew. I lost Angela, Jack lost Grace and Jarik lost Marianne. Those Super Mutants destroyed a lot of lives. We can’t let them keep destroying ours. We have to move on, live our lives.”

“I know,” Drew said as he slumped in his chair. “I still think about her. About all of them. They were taken and we don’t know where or why.”

“And we spent a long time trying to trace where they went,” Jack said.

“And the trail was cold,” Drew said rubbing his eyes.

Amy slowly nodded. “They’re gone. It’s been hard to accept that.”

“Yeah,” Drew said. “Harder to know they were still alive. Who knows what they did to them. How they tortured them.”

“We have to stick together,” Amy continued. “It’s a long hike to that town up north, and to make it worthwhile, you need to be able to carry as much as possible. For that, you need us.”

Slowly, Drew began to nod in agreement. “Yeah, you’re right.”

“We used to make a good team. I miss those days.”

Jack agreed. “Yeah, same.”

“Okay,” Drew said as he slowly stood up. “You’ve made your point.”

“So you’ll let us come along?” Amy asked.

“Yeah.”

“When are we heading off?”

“In a few days,” he told them. “I need to get some rest. A lot of rest, actually.”

“So, what do we do in the meantime?” Jack asked.

“You keep working the purifier.”

“Speaking of that, they keep getting on at me about you fetching those spare parts.”

“Did you tell them I haven’t found what they need yet?”

“Yeah, but they say you’re being lazy.”

“It’s not like I can order the parts out of one of those pre-war catalogs,” Drew mused. “And besides, I have my own stuff going on.”

“I know, but it’s getting kinda annoying.”

“Well, what they need might be at the hospital, so tell them to hang on for a few more days.”

“I’ll let them know but they won’t be happy.”

“Too bad,” Drew said as he looked at the time on his Pipboy.

Jack made his way over to the old refrigerator and pulled it open. “Have you had something to eat today?”

“Nothing much,” Drew said as he lowered his arm back onto the armrest.

“What do you want?”

“What do we have?” Drew asked as he stood up and stepped over to Jack.

“Not much. No one’s been food shopping.”

Drew looked at the bits of meat and bowl of tatos with a grumble. He was sick of tatos and there was too little meat to do anything with.

“You know what,” Drew began as he turned for the stairs. “I’m going to bed before I fall down.”

“See you tomorrow,” Jack called after him.

“Yeah, goodnight,” Amy added.

“Night,” Drew called down as he reached the top of the stairs and stepped into his room. He took off his outerwear and climbed onto the old bed which creaked and groaned under him.

Not ten minutes later, he was fast asleep.

* * *

The following day he got up late. He still felt tired from the extended time awake over the previous two days, but he knew that it would take time to catch up on the missed sleep. Still, he decided to pack more things ready for the move before he headed downstairs and grabbed something to eat. Unlike last night, he found some mutfruit, purified water, and some brahmin milk, which meant either Amy or Jack had gone out that morning to the store to get some supplies in.

He grabbed a mutfruit for himself and headed out, making his way to the old truck depot where the few remaining functional vehicles were stored. As he stepped through the front doors, he found just the person he was looking for.

“Leanne,” he greeted.

She turned her head and smiled at him. “Hey, Drew. How’s it going?”

“It’s going okay,” he said. “Listen, in a few days we might be needing one of your trucks.”

“I figured as much. Moving out, right?”

Drew’s eyebrows shot up in surprise. “You know about that?”

“There’s been some talk,” she said. “Sure, I’ll give you a ride. And since you’ve been helping keep these things up and running, you get a discount.”

“Thanks,” Drew said, glad to see that his help and hard work hadn’t gone unappreciated. “We’ll be moving some things up to that Robco plant.”

“Sounds like you’ve already got it all planned out.”

“I do,” he said. “I was also thinking of hiring you to take us up there in a few days. Maybe Friday. Then up to the town across the border.”

“Why the hell would you want to go there?” she asked.

“Parts,” he answered. “You don’t have to stay. Once you’ve dropped us off, you can head back.”

“And how will you carry these parts your salvaging back?” Leanne asked.

“I have some Gutsies fixed up. They’ll be able to carry some stuff and so will Amy and Jack.”

“It’s a long way to walk,” Leanne pointed out.

“We won’t be heading all the way back to town. We’ll be stopping at the Robco plant.”

“It’s still a long way to walk.”

“If you want to wait for us, you’re free to do so. But if you want to leave, you can. I won’t hold it against you. The town isn’t exactly safe, not since it’s near a radiation zone.”

“Well, if I see any radiation clouds floating my way then I’ll leave. Other than that, I don’t mind waiting for you.”

“There’s not just storm clouds you have to worry about. There’s also feral ghouls, radcats, and mutant bears.”

“I know,” she said with a shrug. “But as long as I stay out of sight I’ll be fine. And if things get hectic, there’s a Gatling laser in the back.”

“If you’re sure?” Drew said.

“We’ll see,” she answered. “What time will you be leaving?”

“Early. Around six. I want to get to the hospital before it gets too late. It’s gonna be a long day.”

Leanne slowly nodded. “Be careful. I heard that place was full of crazed Handy robots.”

“Orderly robots, actually.”

“Handies with a different name is still a Handy,” she said.

Drew had to admit, she had him there. “I’ll see you later, then, Leanne.”

“Sure,” she said with a nod. “And good luck on the move.”

“If things go as planned, then Colville and other settlements should have a lot more robotic security.”

“That’s good. I heard that there were some roving raider groups coming up from down south, attacking the southern settlements.”

That was news to Drew. “There is?”

“Yeah. Well, maybe I’m exaggerating, but there were two attacks. One on Flattop farms and another in Fairview. There’s also those deathclaws that people have seen. The green ones.”

“I know about those,” Drew mused. He definitely knew about them. “Finding where they are coming from and getting rid of them is high on my list of priorities.”

Leanne approved. “Good. The last thing we need is those things wandering about. Makes traveling a lot more dangerous than it already is.”

“Considering a deathclaw could tear through one of your trucks like paper, I’ll say.”

He decided not to mention that he had already seen one of those Greenclaws out on the highway and another at the factory. He knew it was a shitty thing to do, but he needed her truck to make the move as easy and stress free as possible. It was also unlikely that a deathclaw would outright attack a truck. Animals, deathclaws included, tended to be cautious of things they didn’t understand and working vehicles were such a rarity that it was likely a deathclaw had never even seen one.

Leanne’s trucks could also go pretty fast, the condition of the roads permitting. The highway was still in fairly good condition, all things considered, so he was confident they could outrun anything on the road.

There was also the aforementioned Gatling laser in the back, so anything that decided to try and chase them was seriously putting themselves at the risk of death.

Leanne patted him on the arm. “Is that everything?”

Drew nodded. “Yeah, that’s everything. I’ll see you in a few days, yeah?”

“Bright and early. I’ll even have the gun in the back charged and ready.”

“Good stuff,” Drew said as he turned to leave. “See you in a few days.”

“Yeah, see ya.”

He stepped out of the garage and made his way up along the street back home. He was going to take a good few boxes with him, mostly his extensive set of tools, and drop them off at the factory when he went to retrieve the two Gutsies. From there it was onward to the old hospital where he would grab as much as he and the others could carry. If he was lucky, then he would also find the components for the purifier in town. He might be moving out, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t still going to help the people of Colville.

After all, out of all the places he had been on his travels, Colville and the surrounding settlements had been hit the least and was the closest to actually rebuilding a society he had ever seen. It was something that needed to be protected and he would be damned if he wasn’t going to do everything in his power to be that protector.

Chapter 5 - The Hospital by Saturn Knight

It was difficult to fully appreciate the terrible state the roads were in while on foot. In a vehicle, however, the lack of highway maintenance was all too noticeable. Pits and cracks made it slow going and the constant jostling accompanied by the stifling heat wore thin on Drew’s patience.

If that wasn’t bad enough, the journey was made all the more longer because Leanne needed to make a delivery in Orient, which was home to the biggest farm in the region. Thankfully, it wasn’t too far out of the way, and after backtracking for a few miles, they were finally heading west towards the Robco plant.

By the time they had reached the factory, the novelty of being in a truck had long since worn off. Drew had briefly considered telling Leanne that they could walk the rest of the way, but after heading inside the factory, reactivating the two Gutsies, and returning to the truck, he’d had the chance to cool off. Even if the roads were rough and it was hot in the truck, it was still far faster and easier than walking.

With the Gutsies in the back with Amy and Jack, they continued on down the highway towards the old border that had once separated the United States and Canada. Apart from an old decrepit sign and a border booth, there was nothing to differentiate the two sides.

It was another seventy-five minutes before they finally arrived at the old hospital which lay on the outskirts of the abandoned dead town known as Christina Lake. Most of the buildings were crumbling, not only due to hundreds of years of neglect but also due to damage caused by the shock wave blast from the nuke that had landed outside of town. The town itself was apparently already mostly abandoned thanks to the US’s annexation. As to why some small mostly empty town was the target of a nuke, he had absolutely no clue. He supposed it was either accidental, or the intended target was someplace else.

“We’re here,” Leanne said as she pulled to a stop. “Looks quiet.”

“For now,” Drew mused as he opened the truck door.

“Are all three of you headed inside?” Leanne asked.

Drew nodded. “Yeah. Will you be okay out here alone?”

“Sure. I have the gun in the back, remember?“

“If it looks like you’re in danger, leave,” Drew said as he climbed out.

“Don’t worry, if a hoard of ghouls, or those green deathclaws show up, then I’m outta here.”

“I don’t blame you,” Drew said before he made his way to the back of the truck where Amy and Jack were waiting for him. He pulled open the latch and swung open the tailgate.

Jack jumped out and looked up at the hospital. “Pretty big place.”

“Yeah, it is,” Drew agreed. “Though that just means more loot.”

“And more of those Mister Orderlies,” Amy muttered as she climbed out after Jack.

Drew peered into the back of the truck where the two Gutsies were sat waiting. “You two, it’s time to move out.”

“Understood, sir!” they both said in unison before their jets ignited and they hovered out of the back of the truck.

He pointed to the one on the left. “You are assigned to guarding this truck. Make sure you keep it and the driver safe. If the driver has to leave then allow it.”

“Understood, sir!” the Gutsy barked.

“You,” he said pointing to the other. “You’re with us.”

“Yes, sir!”

He looked at Amy and Jack. “Are you two ready?”

Amy clutched her shotgun in her hands. “Yep.”

Jack looked down at the 10mm pistol in his grip. “I think so.”

“Stay close, keep your ears open and you’ll be fine,” Drew said.

The four of them approached the front doors to the hospital with Drew taking the lead followed by Amy, Jack, and then finally the Gutsy at the rear.

“Be ready,” Drew said as he rested his hand on the door. “The moment this opens, an Orderly might rush right at us.”

“Got it,” Jack acknowledged.

“Watch your fire and make sure none of us are between you and the targets.”

“I get it,” Jack muttered. “No need to get on my case.”

Drew frowned. “I’m talking to everyone, not just you in particular.”

“Oh.”

Drew pushed the doors open and took a step back, his weapon raised at the ready. Then, he slowly stepped inside, keeping alert as he looked around the area for any sign of hostiles.

“Looks clear,” he told the others.

The three stepped inside as he made his way to the front desk. His plan was to check the computer terminal to see what information he could glean from it.

“Hostiles!” the Gutsy yelled out as it jetted across the room to the left.

Drew and the others raised their weapons to find an Orderly robot rushing into the room. The Gutsy made surprisingly short work of it, with a blast of its laser rifle and a swipe of its saw-blade, the Orderly crumbled in a heap on the ground.

“That was too easy,” the Gutsy grumbled. “But what can I expect from a Commie!”

Drew agreed. Not on the ‘Commie’ part, but at the ease that it went down. It was likely that it was already damaged from either a previous engagement or due to wear and tear. He hoped the rest would go down that easily, but he doubted it.

“Keep watch,” Drew said as he sat down at the desk terminal.

Logging on wasn’t an issue. The system was wide open, meaning that the security had already been bypassed. How long ago, he didn’t know but it was last accessed a few days ago. He didn’t have any knowledge of anyone else coming out this way other than Jarik, so it was likely either him or someone unknown.

It appeared whoever they were they had accessed the locations of medical equipment and supplies. He knew because the computer was still on that screen.

“Okay,” Drew said as he backed up to the main screen. “I’m gonna look for the Radiology Department. They should have some good parts, including the ones we need. It should also have some good stuff for your friends at the water plant, Jack.”

Jack looked over at him. “Parts for a water purifier in a radiology machine?”

“You’d be surprised at how you can adapt things for different purposes.”

“I guess. We do that a lot but it’s always better to have the right parts. Makes life easier.”

“Well if this hospital has its own water purification system, then we might be able to take it from there.”

Amy chimed in. “Shouldn’t a hospital have one of those?”

“Maybe,” Drew said. “Not guaranteed, though.” He stood up from the chair. “But it won’t hurt to take a look, I suppose.”

Amy adjusted her grip on her shotgun. “Unless there’s a load of Orderlies waiting for us.”

“As long as we take it slow and keep our eyes and ears open, we should be okay,” Drew said. “Unfortunately this terminal doesn’t appear to have a map so we’ll have to do some exploring.”

“Let’s hope we don’t get lost,” Jack said.

Drew held up his Pipboy arm. “This maps as we go, remember? So getting lost is unlikely.”

Amy gestured ahead. “Lead the way.”

Drew led the others out of the foyer and down a long hallway. He kept his eyes open, both on the doors and on his Pipboy for any sign of a way down to the basement.

“Hold on,” Drew said as he stepped over to a blue door and pushed it open.

On the far side, he found a utility closet that held various janitorial equipment. Unfortunately, it was also home to an Orderly, which noticed him almost immediately.

“Shit!”

Drew jumped back and fired point-blank at the robot which rushed him. It staggered but didn’t fall. Not until it got struck in the chassis with a blast of Amy’s shotgun, sending it flailing back into the closet. The Gutsy then rushed forward and finished it off with a blast of its laser pistol.

“Commie neutralized!” the Gutsy declared proudly.

Drew shut the door. “Clearly, that’s not the way to the basement.”

“Clearly,” Amy agreed. “Perhaps be more careful? It almost had you.”

“Nah,” Drew dismissed. “Close, but I had it under control.”

“Sure you did,” Amy derided playfully.

“Let’s just get going,” Drew said as he continued on down the hallway.

The others followed silently, their eyes and ears straining for any sign of movement. The hospital around them creaked and clicked, making Jack, in particular, more than a little jumpy.

After checking the map on his Pipboy, Drew made his way to another door.

“Careful,” Jack warned.

“This might be it,” Drew told the others.

“It might also have an Orderly saw blade on the other side waiting to lop your head off,” Amy said.

Drew reached for the handle and pushed it open before taking a step back, his weapon raised. When nothing rushed out, he stepped inside and peered down the narrow concrete steps that led downwards to a dark basement area.

“If there’s a purifier then it’ll be down here,” he told the others. “And with luck, there’ll also be a fusion core or two.”

“Let’s hope,” Jack agreed.

After turning on his Pipboy light, Drew began to descend down the steps into the darkness. Amy, Jack, and the Gutsy followed behind, Amy taking out a flashlight.

“Not ominous at all,” she muttered sarcastically.

Drew agreed. He didn’t like it at all. There were too many opportunities for them to get jumped by something they couldn’t see,

“Can anyone see a light switch?” he asked as he raised up his arm to get a better look at the nearby wall.

“No,” Jack said. “Can’t see shit.”

“Hold on,” Amy said as she walked over to something.

Drew heard a click, though nothing happened. At least not at first, anyway. There was a flash before the overhead strip lights began to flicker on. One of them burst with a flash and a shower of glass, but the rest all lit up, washing the basement in a warm yellow light.

“That’s a lot better,” Drew said, switching off his Pipboy light. “I think I can hear a hum up ahead. It could be an old generator.”

They continued forward, following some pipes that ran along the ceiling and through a door on the far side.

“Look,” Jack said as he ran over to a machine that appeared to be some kind of water filtration system. “This looks like it could be a purifier.”

“It’s definitely doing something to the water,” Drew agreed. “But whether it works on decontaminating the radiation is another matter.”

“I’ll take a look,” Jack said while Drew turned his attention to an old generator that lay on the other side of the room.

“We have a fusion core,” Drew said.

Amy stepped up next to him. “If you remove it, won’t it make everything dark?”

Drew shook his head. “There should still be enough juice in the system to last a few weeks at least. There might also be other generators ready to take up the slack.”

With a press of a button, he ejected the core and placed it in his backpack before he made his way back over to Jack.

“Figured it out, yet?”

“It has most of the parts we need, but this is just a bacterial filtration unit. Won’t do much for radiation.”

Drew stepped over to the Gutsy and opened its storage unit, taking out his toolbox. “Let’s start taking it apart.”

Amy looked around. “I’ll see if I can find the stopcock and switch off the water flow.”

“I’ll find it,” Jack said as he followed the pipes into another room.

“Go with him,” Drew told Amy.

She nodded and followed him through while Drew waited.

“It’s off,” Amy said as they returned a few moments later.

“Good,” Drew said. “Let’s get this done. There’s still some other bits and pieces I want to salvage from the Radiology Department.”

“It’s still early,” Amy pointed out. “We’ve got plenty of time.”

“You say that, but the day can disappear pretty fast.”

Jack opened up Drew’s toolbox. “Then let’s get this done; just as you said.”

“Sure.”

It took a good half-hour minutes to strip the filtration unit down and it was accompanied by a lot of water. At one point Amy asked if the valve hadn’t shut off correctly, but both Jack and Drew assured her that it was just water left in the system.

With the parts they needed, they left the basement and continued on the search, eventually finding the Radiology Department. Unfortunately, there were a heaping load of hostile Mister Orderlies waiting for them.

The three of them took cover as a cloud of disinfectant erupted from a sprayer arm on the nearest Orderly. Their Gutsy on the other hand charged forward, its laser pistol alight with energy fire.

“Die Commie scum!” the army robot yelled out as it swiped at its target with its saw blade.

“Shit!” Jack hissed as he covered his eyes with the back of his sleeve. “My eyes are stinging like hell.”

“No shit,” Amy said. “The thing just sprayed bleach at us!”

“We need to fall back out of the spray zone,” Drew said as he gripped Jack by the wrist and led him and Amy back out into the hallway.

“What now?” Jack asked.

“We shoot,” Drew answered.

“Would love to, but the Gutsy is in the way,” Amy said. “I can’t get a shot off without hitting it.”

Sure enough, the Gutsy had moved into the doorway, blocking their view.

“Shit!” Drew exclaimed as the Gutsy took a nasty hit from a saw blade.

“This is why Gutsies suck,” Amy said. “They rush in with no sense of tactics.”

“Yeah, but a hit like that on one of us would have taken an arm off,” Drew pointed out.

“And if the thing moved out of the door, I’d be able to start blasting!”

“Gutsy!” Drew yelled. “You’re in the way! Move!”

The robot ignored him.

“You have a laser. You don’t need to be so close! Back up out of the door.”

The Gutsy continued to ignore him, which either meant a malfunction or an incorrect combat setting, neither of which was easy to fix on the fly.

“Fuck!” Drew yelled out as he watched one of the Gutsy’s eye sensors come right off after a rather nasty hit. “You’ve got to be kidding me!”

“See,” Amy said. “It’ll be junk by the time we’re done!”

“Let’s just blast the pieces of crap!” Drew said as he made for the room.

“My eyes are still stinging,” Jack moaned.

Drew tuned him out as he took aim and fired, a beam of energy lancing past the Gutsy and striking a partially visible Orderly. The most irritating thing was that the Gutsy had seemingly taken up residency in the doorway.

“Move!” he yelled at the robot to no avail. “You are blocking us!”

“Almost done!” the Gutsy yelled back. “Sending these Commies back to Hell!”

“We’d be able to send them faster if you moved clear and gave us a line of sight.”

“Unable to comply. I am programmed to protect you at all costs.”

With those words its actions made sense. It was definitely a settings issue and something he’d have to adjust once they were back at the factory. That was if the Gutsy didn’t get itself completely destroyed first.

Seeing a shot open up, Drew took it, blasting what appeared to be the last Mister Orderly square and center. It folded up and clattered to the floor in a shower of sparks.

“Hostiles neutralized!” the Gutsy barked, sounding rather pleased with itself.

It was annoying to know that it felt proud to have hampered their ability to fight. It thought that it was doing everything in its power to protect them, but instead, it was doing the opposite and unintentionally putting them in more danger.

“Let’s just get to the Radiology Department,” Drew muttered as he pushed past the galling Gutsy.

At this point, he just wanted to go and leave this place behind but knew that as long as they had space to carry stuff, they needed to keep searching for parts and supplies.

He paused as he glanced back at the Gutsy. One of its sensor eyes was hanging down clearly broken. He knew he could fix it when they got back to the factory, but he realized that he could deal with it now. After all, there were plenty of parts laying around from the destroyed Orderlies.

He stepped over to the Gutsy. “I’m going to retrieve my toolkit, hold still.”

He opened the storage unit and pulled out the heavy box of tools, placing them down on the floor.

Amy stepped up to him. “What are you doing?”

“I’m going to fix its busted eye,” he told her. “Just need to find a good replacement.”

“Sure that’s wise?” Jack asked nervously. “We could be jumped by more of those robots and I don’t think my eyes can take another spraying.”

“Better to use what we have at hand here than use up the limited components we have back at the factory.”

“I guess,” Jack said sounding uncertain.

“Here,” Drew said as he held out his laser rifle, passing it to Jack. “While I’m fixing the Gutsy, you and Amy keep an eye out.”

“If you’re certain,” Amy said as she stepped over to the nearby door and peered through it. “Just make it quick.”

Drew cracked his knuckles as he looked over the robotic corpses. Most were marked, pitted, and all of them had a degree of rust marring their once polished surfaces, though one caught his eye. A single eye that was in far better condition than all the rest.

“Gutsy,” he said, addressing the robot. “Power down, I am doing a field repair.”

“Understood, sir!” it barked as its legs folded up and it perched itself down on the hard concrete floor.

Amy glanced over. “Maybe we should leave it like that.”

“If you want to be the one to carry it,” Drew retorted as he unbolted the eye and arm from the destroyed robot.

Replacing the Gutsy’s damaged eye didn’t take long, and thankfully there were no interruptions. Roughly ten minutes later, the eye was fixed and they were continuing on, following the few decrepit signs that pointed them towards their destination. Strangely, they didn’t run into any more Orderlies, which they were all certainly thankful for.

“Through here,” Drew said as he pushed an old creaky door open. “This should be the place.”

They all stepped inside, the Gutsy jetting in behind them. The room while just as decayed as all the other rooms and hallways, held some nice-looking tech, even if it had seen better days.

“Field medic detected!” the Gutsy exclaimed.

The three humans rose their weapons, anticipating another fight.

Jack pointed. “Uh, look over there.”

Drew followed his finger to see a white Handy eye sensor peaking out from behind a door. It quickly retracted out of sight. If it hadn’t been for the Gutsy’s thruster thrumming away, it was likely they would have heard the second thruster of what appeared to be a Miss Nanny variant of the Handy line of robots.

“Lower your weapons,” he told the others. They did so, but Amy didn’t look happy about it.

“You sure this is a good idea?” she asked.

“We’ll see in a moment,” Drew answered as he slowly approached the room.

“Don’t blame us if you lose an arm to a saw blade,” Amy called after him as he stepped inside.

The first thing Drew saw was a decomposed body in the corner. It looked like it had been there for well over a century, if not from since when the bombs dropped.

The Miss Nanny was hovering in the far corner of the room staring at him with all three of its eye sensors. From Drew’s experience, the Nanny model seemed the most sentient of all the primary line Handy models, the Gutsy, unfortunately, being the least.

“Hello, there,” Drew called out softly and evenly. “How are you doing today?”

The Nanny didn’t answer. Instead, it kept staring at him as it gently swayed on its thruster.

“Are you able to speak?” he asked.

Two of the Nanny’s eyes looked down at the weapon in his hands.

“This?” he asked. “It’s for protection.”

“Are you with ze nice lady from earlier?” the Nanny asked in its strange accent.

He shook his head. “No, I’m not. There was someone here earlier?”

The front eye nodded. “Oui. ’Er name was Sarah. She needed patching up after ze other robots attacked ’er. I ’ope zhat she got out of ’ere safely.”

“I saw no sign of her, so maybe she did.”

“I ‘ope so.”

Drew glanced back down at the corpse. “What happened?” he asked.

“Ze Mister Orderlies attacked ’im,” the Nanny responded. “Zhey went berserk and begun attacking ze doctors and patients alike.”

He had assumed that their programming had deteriorated over the decades, but the mention of doctors and patients gave him pause.

“Did this happen before the bombs?”

“Bombs?” the Nanny asked, sounding confused.

“Yeah, the nukes. One landed outside of town. You never noticed?”

“Per’aps. Not long after ze strange robots appeared and ze Mister Orderlies went rampant, I did detect a dangerous increase in radiation levels.”

Drew glanced back as he tried to remember if he’d seen any other dead bodies. “What happened to those the Orderlies killed?”

“Zhey disposed of zhem,” the Nanny answered.

“You mentioned strange robots appeared. Tell me about them?”

“Zhey were small, red, and ’ad a star on zhem.”

That didn’t really ring any bells and he hadn’t seen anything like that around here or anywhere for that matter.

“Per’aps I should introduce myself,” the Nanny said, moving closer. “My name is Nurse Suzy.”

“Drew,” he said in return. “Listen, I’m here with some friends to gather some components and maybe some medical supplies.”

“Do you ’ave a requisitions form?” she asked.

“Considering there’s no one here and the whole town is deserted, we decided we’d just take them.”

Her front eye shook from side to side. “Oh, no. You cannot just take ze supplies for yourselves. Non, you must ’ave proper authorization.”

“There’s no one left alive to give that authorization,” he pointed out. “Check your chronometer.”

All three of her eyes looked down at the floor. “It ’as been a very long time since zhis ’ospital was operational.”

“Those supplies will rot away,” Drew pushed on. “Why not have them be used to help people?”

“Zhat is a good point.” The Nanny looked back up at him. “I will take you to ze front desk.”

“The front desk?”

“Yes. Per’aps we can get you zhat permission.”

Drew grimaced. He had thought he was getting through to the robot, that it had figured out that there was nothing left and no one to get permission from, but like most robots, it lay just on the edge of actually being sentient.

“Lead the way,” he said.

The others watched as she hovered across the room and left, Drew stopping for a moment to talk to them.

“Jack, Amy,” he began, keeping his voice low. “Use my toolbox to take some of these machines apart and grab any useful components. You know what to look for, right?”

They both nodded. “We’ve been around you long enough to figure it out,” Amy said. “Plus I have Jack.”

“Good,” Drew said. “I’m going to the front desk with the Nanny. I’m hoping that I can find a way to convince it to return with us without having to reprogram it. We could do with a medical robot.”

“Sounds useful,” Amy agreed.

“I’ll hopefully be back soon.”

“Be careful,” Jack said.

Drew turned to the Gutsy. “Your job is to keep these two safe while they work.”

“Understood, sir!” the military robot barked.

Drew stepped out of the room to find the Nanny waiting for him.

“Come along,” it said as it headed down the long hallway.

Drew got in step behind it, hoping they didn’t run into any more hostile robots. He wasn’t sure how the Nanny would react if he was forced to defend himself. It could very easily respond negatively, seeing him as a threat.

“Please wait ’ere,” she told him as they stepped into the foyer area.

“Why?” he asked. “It’s not like there’s anyone here for me to get a requisitions form from.”

“I know,” Suzy said. “But I am programmed to stop you from stealing supplies. I ’ave informed security, though there is none to call.”

“So what happens? Will you attack me?”

The Nanny shook its front eye from side to side. “Non.”

“I guess we’re at a bit of an impasse,” Drew said.

“Oui.”

He’d run into this issue a few times before. There were a lot of robots out there that were trapped in this strange duality between what they wanted and their own outdated programming. It was often difficult to see where the programming ended and the artificial intelligence began.

The actual sentience of robots was something he had argued with himself about for years. His old Assaultron, Izzy, for instance, had been very human to a point where it was scary sometimes.

The Nanny, Suzy, turned and faced the front doors. “I shall wait ’ere. I cannot stop you if I am unaware of what you are doing.”

“But you are aware. Clearly.”

The Nanny didn’t answer. It simply stared towards the front doors, almost as though it longed to go through them and leave this place. On the other side, he could see Leanne’s truck still parked there.

Drew felt bad for it. The robot had been here since the bombs fell, and while that would make a human go mad, a machine was different. Yet with those differences, there was no denying the similarities.

“I’ll be back shortly,” he said.

One eye turned back to face him for a moment before it focused back on the entrance.

Drew decided to leave the robot be and left the foyer area. While it hadn’t been his main focus to gather medical supplies, he figured he might as well grab some while he was here. Given that it hadn’t all been taken already.

After picking the lock to a storage cupboard, he stepped inside the Cold Room. It appeared that the refrigeration units were still somewhat working, keeping the medicines cool. He picked some Stimpaks, Med-x, Rad-x, and Radaway, placing them in his backpack before he left, making his way back to the others to see how they were getting on.

Between them, Jack and Amy had dismantled one of the machines and were sorting from most to least useful components. In truth, all of it was useful, it was just a matter of what they would be able to carry.

“Hey,” Amy said looking up at him. “Where’s the Nanny?”

“In the foyer, staring out of the front doors forlornly.”

“A lot of good components here,” Jack said. “Could get some good caps for all this.”

Drew glanced behind him as a thought crossed his mind. “We have a truck.”

“Yeah?” Amy said. “So?”

“She has boxes in the back. We could take nearly all the components in this room back to the factory with us.”

“Ir would take a lot of time to move it all to the truck,” Amy pointed out. “There are still a lot of hostile robots in this place and don’t forget the ferals. We get spotted by one and before we know it a hoard is bearing down on us.”

“It’s a risk, but it will be more than worth it.”

“If you say so,” Amy said with a shrug.

Jack started to fill his backpack with components. “I agree with Drew. We take as much as we can.”

Drew nodded. “Fill up the backpacks. Most valuable components first.”

The group made several trips back and forth until they had gathered all the components from the dismantled machine. Briefly, Drew considered taking another one apart but decided it would take too much time, and instead gathered some components from the downed Orderlies. As they were leaving for what would be the final time that day, Drew stopped and looked at the Miss Nanny who hadn’t moved an inch.

He handed his backpack to Jack. “Take this.”

“Sure,” Jack said before he made his way outside.

Drew approached the Nanny and stood next to it. “Suzy, wasn’t it?”

“Oui,” it answered.

“You know, you could come with us?” he offered.

“Non,” she responded with a shake of her front eye. “I am not permitted to leave ze ’ospital.”

“This isn’t a hospital, not anymore,” he pointed out. “No patients, no doctors. Nothing. Just an empty shell.”

“Oui.”

“Then your programming is no longer relevant.”

“Per’aps.”

“Come on, we could really use your skills.”

All three of the Nanny’s eyes turned to look at him. “Do you zhink zhat I can?”

“You mean leave?”

“Oui.”

“Sure. All you have to do is fly forwards through the doors.”

She looked back outside. “I cannot.”

The doors opened as Amy peeked inside. “You coming?”

“Sure,” Drew said. “Just give me a minute.”

“We might not have a minute. A few ferals are scrambling around roughly a block down the road. They haven’t noticed us yet. Might have been drawn in by our gunfire.”

“Okay, I’m on my way.”

“You are leaving?” Suzy asked, sounding disappointed.

“You can still come with us,” he offered.

“I would like zhat. But I cannot.”

Drew reached out and gripped her pincer arm. “Of course you can. I’ll help.”

Slowly, he began to tow her towards the doors. She offered no resistance, letting him pull her along, only starting to pull back when they reached them.

While it would be easier to simply take the input jack in his Pipboy and plug it into the Nanny and reprogram it, he didn’t want to. He felt that it was important for the robot to overcome this by itself.

“Just a little further,” Drew said as he pushed the door open.

The Nanny began to lean backward. “Non. I cannot do it. What if I die?”

“You won’t die, Suzy. You’ll finally be free of this place.”

As the Nanny crossed the threshold it went limp, its limbs flailing as it crashed to the ground.

“What the…”

For some inexplicable reason, it had shut itself off.

With an irritated sigh, he squatted down and with a heave, picked the Nanny up, staggering as he struggled to carry it. With heavy steps, he made his way to the back of the truck and put the Nanny inside with Jack, Amy, and the two Gutsies before closing the tailgate.

“Look after her,” he said.

“Sure,” Jack said.

Drew made his way around the front to the passenger side door.

“We done?” Leanne asked as he climbed inside.

“Yeah,” Drew said with a nod. “We’re done. Take us back to the Robco plant.”

Leanne started the engine and not ten minutes later they were back on the highway.

Chapter 6 - Suzy by Saturn Knight

Neither Amy nor Jack had wanted to go back into town with Drew, which was rather irritating. He wasn’t going back there for the fun of it, he was going because they hadn’t yet moved out. They still had a lot of stuff back at the old house including clothes, equipment, and furniture. He didn’t want to leave any of it and with Leanne parked outside having just brought them back from the hospital up north, he had thought it a perfect opportunity to move the bulk of it.

While convincing Amy ended up being a waste of breath, Jack eventually relented. With a goodbye, they left her alone with the two Gutsies and the seemingly dead Miss Nanny and climbed back into the truck, Jack jumping in the back.

“Ready?” Leanne asked.

“Yeah,” Drew said.

“So, how much are we moving?” she asked as she started the ignition and pulled out of the parking lot onto the highway.

“A lot,” Drew answered. “Might need to use your services again pretty soon.”

“I know you’re good for the caps,” she said. “And as I said before; it’s thanks to you I’ve been able to keep these things running.”

“I know how much they’re needed,” Drew said. “The region depends on them as much as they depend on the caravans.”

“That’s right, and you need them more than most right now. It would have been impossible to move all your stuff without a truck,” Leanne said.

“That much is certain,” Drew agreed.

It took them an hour or so to get back to Colville, and just about as long for them to pack a good chunk of their stuff into the truck, which Leanne had parked in the street outside their place for ease of access. From there, they made their way back to the plant where they unloaded.

With Drew handing over the due caps to Leanne, she headed off back to town while Drew and Jack made their way back inside, meeting up with Amy. From there, they headed to the nurse’s office where they had left the Nanny robot.

“So, what do you think is wrong with it?” Jack asked after Drew had taken a look at the medical robot.

“Programmers, that’s what’s wrong with her.”

Jack frowned. “Programmers? What does that mean?”

“It means that someone was a little overzealous. She couldn’t leave the hospital and when she tried, she shut down.”

“Can we reboot her?”

“Probably. I’m going to have to take a look at her programming, though, otherwise she might just switch herself right back off again.”

After taking off her back panel, Drew took the jack from his Pipboy and inserted it into the slot. After going through the code, Drew shook his head with a sigh.

“What’s wrong?” Amy asked from where she sat on the edge of a hospital bed.

“They had a kill switch for if she tried to leave the hospital.”

“So it’s dead?” Jack asked.

“No, just switched off. I don’t understand why they did it? Unless they were worried she would wander off?”

“Probably,” Amy said with a shrug. “I bet these things cost a lot of caps.”

“Dollars,” Drew corrected. “They used to use dollars. Like the NCR.”

“Whatever,” Amy said with a dismissive wave of her hand. “Can you fix it?”

“Yeah, I can fix it. It won’t take long either.”

“If it won’t take long then why didn’t you fix it back at the hospital?” Amy asked.

Jack answered. “Because you have to take the back panel off.”

“Actually, you don’t,” Drew corrected. “It’s just a helluva lot easier to get it in the slot if you do. Besides, I didn’t realize someone would actually put a kill switch in a Nanny. If I did, I would have tried to fix it there in the hospital. It’s not like it’s an Assaultron or something like that. It’s a freaking Miss Nanny. The thing is harmless.”

“The thing has a buzz saw,” Amy pointed out. “Hardly harmless.”

“It’s standard,” Drew said as he checked that he had properly removed the offending code segment. He needed to make sure that there were no references to it anywhere, otherwise it would throw up errors and possibly cause issues.

“A buzz saw being standard is stupid,” Amy continued. “Who needs a robot with a buzz saw? What’s it doing? Hacking off limbs?”

“Possibly,” Drew said. “Whatever the reason, those at General Atomics thought a buzz saw should be standard equipment on all of their Mister and Miss line of robots.”

“I know it’s standard. I could guess that much considering they all have one,” Amy said. “I was just wondering why?”

Drew looked at her before he shrugged. “No idea. You would have to have asked the ones that designed it. Not important now.”

“Yeah, I suppose not.”

“What is important is that I think I’ve sorted it. I ran the code, got no errors.”

“None?”

“Well, a few. Actually, there’s a lot of errors, but not from my edits. I might go back in and fix the corrupted fragments and recompile.”

Jack groaned. “How long will that take?”

“A few hours,” Drew told them. “While I work on this, do you think that you and Amy could start on plans to make a water purifier? We have parts that should work from the hospital.”

Jack frowned. “I thought we were selling the parts to the guys at the Colville purifier?”

“We are, but we have plenty of spares.”

“So we’re keeping some parts for ourselves?” Jack asked.

“Yeah. I’m not selling all of it. Besides, there are plenty of spares here we can use.”

“I’ll see what I can do,” Jack said. “This place should have a boiler, so we can use that as a base to build a new system.”

“I’ll help him,” Amy said.

“Excellent,” Drew said with a sniff. “The water here isn’t too irradiated, but I’d prefer if we could bring that as close to zero as possible.”

“Agreed,” Jack said.

The two of them left the room while Drew continued to go through the code. There had been clear corruption and degradation over the years, though that was to be expected. Thankfully, it wasn’t that bad. He had seen a lot worse. In fact, his former Assaultron companion, Izzy, had been near inoperable when he had found her. Her code had almost been unsalvageable. But after a few weeks, and a lot of improvements even over the base code, he’d made a companion that would be with him for years. She had even been there when he had first met Jack, Amy, and, of course, Gemma, the woman that would become his love. Then his love lost to the super mutants.

Drew worked well into the night. He still hadn’t quite caught up with his sleep debt from before and knew that a crash day was coming; a day when he would feel absolutely exhausted and wouldn’t be able to do much of anything. Still, he felt that he couldn’t go to bed until he was done.

Finally, as the time on his Pipboy changed from 3:59 to 4:00 in the morning, he finished. He briefly considered activating her, but instead, he turned off the light and climbed onto the hospital bed in the corner and went to sleep.

When he awoke, it was still dark, though considering the room had no windows there was no opportunity for natural light to get into the room anyway.

Drew checked the time on his Pipboy to find that it was half-one in the afternoon.

He climbed off the small bed, yawned, then headed out of the room making his way along the hallway to the bathrooms where he took a piss and a shit. He flushed the toilet using a bucket and water from the sink before he washed his hands and headed down into the basement where he found Jack and Amy.

“Finally decided to get up?” Amy asked with a smirk.

“Sorry, I was up till four fixing Suzy’s corrupted code.”

“Started her up yet?”

“Not yet. Thought I’d wait. How are you two doing down here?”

Amy smiled. “Jack had an idea earlier.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Yeah,” Jack said, smiling proudly. “I remembered how Handy units had water condensers for producing purified water, so I checked to see if there were any parts laying around and sure enough there were. This place has a lot of condensers and purifiers in stock.”

“Well shit,” Drew said grinning. “I never thought of that. Completely slipped my mind. Most Handies out there have lost their condensers over the years, either from rust or by simply falling off.”

“Well with your help we can probably jury rig a few into the system.”

Drew nodded. “That sounds like a solid plan. I also want to take a look at the ovens in there, see if I can fix any up. First, though, I want to restart Suzy. If there’s one thing we need, it’s a medic. Especially considering how much work I plan on doing here.”

“You should do that now,” Jack said. “We’re almost done for the time being. We’ll be up shortly.”

Amy agreed. “Yeah, getting a medic sooner rather than later is a good idea. Earlier, Jack almost had an accident, one that definitely would have needed some medical attention.”

“What happened?” Drew asked.

“It was nothing,” Jack said, glaring at Amy.

Drew decided not to push it and instead headed off back towards the nurse’s office. First, though, he stopped by the cafeteria where they had dropped off some of their supplies and grabbed a mutfruit from the semi-functional refrigerator.

Back in the nurse’s office, Drew squatted down next to Suzy and switched her on, putting her back panel on while she booted up.

Stepping back, he ate the mutfruit while he waited. Finally, after a nervous few minutes, her irises began to move and her arms began to flex.

“What ’as ’appened?” she asked as her thruster ignited and she floated into the air. “Where am I?”

Drew cleared his throat and took a step forward. “What do you remember?”

All three of its eyes focused on him. “I remember you,” she said, nodding her front eye in his direction. “We were in ze ’ospital.”

“That’s right,” Drew said with a nod.

“I do not know what ’appened after zhat.”

“You don’t remember wanting to leave?”

“I ’ave wanted to leave for many years but I was unable. Are you telling me zhat you managed it? What ’appened? We were in ze foyer last I remember. Did you switch me off and carry me out? That is very rude.”

“No, I didn’t shut you down.”

“Zhen ’ow?”

It was clear that she didn’t remember what had happened. She did shut down rather suddenly meaning her last memories were likely either not saved or had been corrupted. He realized that he should have checked her memory for fragmentation before switching her back on.

“It wasn’t easy,” Drew told her. “Unfortunately, you had a kill switch in your programming that shut you down when you attempted it.”

“I see.”

“I fixed it as well as some corrupted code.”

“I zhank you,” she said. “You are too kind.”

He smiled. “Think nothing of it. We could do with a nurse around here.”

“And I would be ’appy to ’elp.”

“That’s great. Today and probably over the next few days we’re going to be working on getting a purification system installed for the water.”

“Clean drinking water is a necessity for a ’ealthy lifestyle. I would like to ’elp?”

“I’m sure we can find something for you to do,” Drew said. “Come on, let’s get to the basement. That’s where the others are.”

“Actually,” Jack said as he stepped through the door. “We’re not. I was thinking of putting some of the condensers into the cafeteria first. There’s those old water coolers in there and I think I could rig them to collect atmospheric moisture and output purified water. Then we’ll have some clean drinking water available while we work on the main system.”

Drew patted him on the shoulder. “Great thinking.”

“Thanks.”

“My idea, actually,” Amy said as she peeked her head inside.

Jack rolled his eyes. “Okay, Amy thought of it. But I’m the one who knows how to rig it up and I was the one who thought about the purifiers in the first place.”

“Good work, both of you,” Drew said with a smirk.

The three of them, plus Suzy, headed out of the nurse’s office, Jack leading them to where the moisture condensers were stored. Together, they took seven of the devices to the cafeteria where they assisted Jack in installing them into the water coolers after cleaning and sterilizing them.

It took a good few hours, but finally, as it turned half-six in the evening, they finished. Though that didn’t mean they could get a clean glass of water. It would still take some time for the moisture to be captured, condensed, filtered and cleansed, which meant it still wouldn’t be ready until tomorrow. They still had some clean water in the form of bottles, but that was finite and they had less than a week left until they had drunk it all. By then, if everything went well, it wouldn’t be much of an issue as they would have plenty of cleansed water from the coolers, and hopefully, they would be halfway to getting clean water flowing out of the faucets.

Bringing the old Robco plant back online had been a dream of his for a while, but the sheer amount of work it would take had always stopped him. For the longest time, he hadn’t even bothered to check the place out, only knowing of its existence from old maps.

Still, they had a lot of work ahead of them, an unfathomable amount, but clean water would be a solid first step. For one thing, it would mean they could actually live there long-term, especially now that they had a medic.

Ever since Paulson, Drew had been living from day to day. Now, he felt like he had an actual goal in his life, something to work towards, something to look forward to.

There was an unfortunate downside, a metaphorical glowing cloud on the horizon that threatened a radiation storm, and that came in the form of the green deathclaws. Thankfully he hadn’t heard of anyone being killed by one of them, though that was certain to change.

He forced that last thought out of his head. He couldn’t afford distractions, not before he had brought the place online. First, though, they needed clean running water, then a means of reliably cooking food. Once the place had been made truly habitable, then he would truly bring the plant back online. He would build robots that would help keep everyone in the region safe. Safe from deathclaws, Greenclaws, raiders, super mutants, and whatever else the world could possibly throw at them.

It was his vow.

Chapter 7 - A Goodbye and a Greeting by Saturn Knight

With Amy more than happy to stay at the old Robco plant like she had the last time, Drew and Jack once more headed into town, leaving her under the protection of Suzy and the two Gutsies. They wanted to hand over the parts to the folks at the water treatment plant, then move the rest of their stuff before finally handing over the keys to the old place.

Since they got up early, they managed to arrive at Colville well before midday, giving them plenty of time to do everything they needed. Even so, they wasted none of it and headed straight to the water treatment plant.

“Where the hell have you been!?” was the greeting they received the moment they stepped through the door.

The one who had spoken was a wrinkled old miserable piece of shit by the name of Nigel.

“I quit,” Jack said with a shrug.

“You can’t quit. You have work to do!”

Drew took off his backpack and began to remove the components, placing them on the table to the side.

“We’re here to deliver these,” he said. “They’re the parts you wanted.”

The man grumbled as he walked over and looked at the parts. “Yeah, these’ll do.”

“I’m glad,” Jack muttered.

“Our payment?” Drew asked.

“Charlie!” Nigel yelled.

Charlie stepped in from the back room. “What’s up?”

Out of everyone that worked there, Charlie was the only one that wasn’t a complete asshole. Sure, he could be a little short with people at times, but considering who he worked with he was like a monk in comparison.

“Got those parts we need. Get the reward payment.”

“Sure thing!”

Not a minute later, Charlie was placing down a box of caps. Nigel opened it up and gathered a handful, placing them down on the table by the parts.

“There you go.”

Drew stared in disbelief. “Twenty caps? That’s it?”

Nigel squinted. “That’ll get you a few beers.”

“Sure, but I was expecting more gratitude considering without these parts you’re screwed.”

“Yeah, and so are you,” Nigel responded with a limp shrug. “You need clean water as much as we do.”

Charlie clenched his jaw. “Just give them a decent reward.”

Nigel folded his arms with a sniff. “Why? They’re lucky I bothered giving them a reward at all. Jack left us in the lurch, remember? I could charge him back the cost of the reward for that alone.”

“We could just take these parts back,” Drew said. “Until we take the caps the exchange hasn’t happened.”

“You dare and I’ll have you thrown out of this town!”

Charlie stepped over and picked up the box of caps. “There’s two-hundred in here. The parts are more than worth it.”

“Don’t you dare!” Nigel shouted, jabbing a rigid angry finger in Charlie’s direction. “It will come out of your wages!”

Charlie pointed a finger right back. “If we want to keep the purifier running then we need a steady supply of parts. We don’t get that if we stiff the ones getting them.”

“It ain’t stiffing,” Nigel objected. “If they want to keep drinking clean water then they’ll get us the parts.”

“That’s not how it works,” Charlie said as he held out the box. “We pay people who do us favors.”

“Thanks,” Drew said, taking it from him.

Nigel stormed off in a huff while Charlie rubbed his eyes with an exasperated sigh. He didn’t deserve to have to deal with all the drama. Unfortunately, it just so happened that anyone that walked through the doors ended up having to endure rudeness and outright hostility.

“You’re one of the good ones,” Jack said to Charlie. “Please don’t turn into a sour old bastard like the rest.”

“I’ll try not to. See you both sometime. And thanks for the parts.”

The two of them offered a wave as they left the water treatment plant and headed out into the street.

Drew glanced down the road. “I want to head to the mayor’s office to hand over the keys to our old place. First, though, I want to make a tally of what we’ve got left to move.”

“Sounds good,” Jack said.

Stepping inside the old house for what could be the last time felt strange. They had only been there for around two years, but it felt like a lot longer and in a way, it had become home.

With everything they still wanted to keep placed near the front door, Drew made his way over to Leanne’s garage. Unfortunately, she was busy so he had to book a truck for another day, paying in advance for the stuff to be moved before he headed back to the house, telling Jack the situation.

With that, they locked up the old place for the final time and made the walk to the mayor’s office.

After waiting in the foyer for a good few minutes, the receptionist finally allowed them through. The mayor, a man by the name of Brenner greeted them with a warm smile and an outstretched hand.

“Good to see you, Drew. How are things?”

“As well as can be.”

“I guess you’re here to hand in your keys?”

“How did you know?” Drew asked as he held them out, them jingling in his hands.

Mayor Brenner took them and placed them down on his desk. “I keep track of these things. Sorry to see you go. You have been a great asset to the community.”

“I still will, that won’t be changing. I just feel that I can do more good if I bring that old robot plant back online.”

“Yes, I agree. I’m aware of the rumors that there may be deathclaws in the area. Not sure what they are exactly but from what little I’ve heard they’re not pleasant.”

“They’re not,” Drew said. “Up to nine feet of muscle, claw, teeth, and horns. Can outrun a man and their thick hides make them difficult to kill. Most who come across one meet their death.”

The mayor shuddered. “Terrifying.”

“It’s why I decided to make the leap and not wait any longer. Once the claws get settled, it could be difficult to get rid of them. We need to remove the threat sooner rather than later.”

“Agreed,” Mayor Brenner said with a nod. “I’ve been speaking with Jarik and he said a similar thing. The problem is we don’t have the weapons or the men needed to deal with it.”

“I hope to get you those weapons in the form of Gutsies and maybe some Protectrons. Still have to look at what the plant can manufacture, but we might also have some Sentry bots or even Assaultrons to send your way in the future.”

“We could certainly do with more of those,” the mayor said.

“We’re still weeks off, but as far as I’m aware, deathclaws are slow to breed so if we’re lucky we still have time.”

“I just hope one doesn’t attack us in the meantime.”

“You’re well enough defended to scare it off or at least take one down.”

“But how many will die doing that?”

“A lot, probably,” Drew conceded. “And if more than one shows up then you’re in a lot of trouble. Short of finding a way to concrete a wall around the entire town, you are at risk and that’s not to mention the farms.”

“Then I hope you’re able to get the old place back online before they attack anyone.”

“I feel the same, but that’s up to the claws.”

Mayor Brenner held out his hand. “Good luck.”

Drew shook it. “Same to you.”

“Anything else?” the mayor asked.

“Just one more thing. Tomorrow, Leanne and a few of her guys will be wanting the keys to pick up the last of our things.”

“That’s fine. I’ll make sure they get the keys.”

“Thanks.”

After the mayor shook Jack’s hand, the two of them headed out, stopping by the cafe near the main gates to grab something to eat before they headed out.

Roughly an hour into the walk back home to the Robco plant, Jack stopped in his tracks and placed a hand on Drew’s shoulder, halting him.

“What is it?” Drew asked.

“You hear that?”

Drew’s ears strained as he listened. At first, all he could hear was the wind, but with a moment of calm, he heard deep rhythmic thumps from somewhere up ahead.

Drew recognized them almost immediately. They were heavy footfalls from a large animal and by the rhythm of each step, it sounded like it was bipedal.

“Shit.”

“What do we do?” Jack asked.

Drew grabbed his friend’s arm and pulled him into the treeline where they both squatted behind a fallen tree. There the two waited, their hearts racing in their chests as the deep pounding footsteps grew louder and louder.

Neither of them spoke. Both held their weapons tightly against their chests, neither daring to steal a glance over the log they hid behind. It sounded like a deathclaw and a huge one at that. If it saw them or even smelled them, it was likely that both of them would be dead soon after. Drew just prayed that the wind stayed settled.

To their combined horror, the pounding footsteps stopped. Drew held his breath as he focused on Jack. His friend’s eyes were wide and the pistol he held was shaking in his grip.

Time seemed to stop as they both waited for any sign of movement. There was nothing, at least at first.

A deep thump echoed through the ground making Jack jump in fright. For a moment, Drew feared he was going to accidentally squeeze off a round but thankfully he didn’t.

With a second thump, then a third, and a fourth, it was clear the creature was once more on the move. Both continued to stay as quiet as possible, listening closely to make sure it wasn’t headed their way.

To their combined relief, the heavy thumps of the creature’s footfalls grew quieter and more distant as it continued on to the south. Even so, they both remained where they were, not daring to move just in case it returned.

“That came from the direction of the plant,” Jack whispered, after what had to be several minutes of silence.

Drew felt his stomach drop. “Shit, you’re right. We need to get back.” He stood up cautiously, his gaze to the south.

“You think the claw attacked?” Jack asked.

“I don’t know,” Drew said, silently cursing himself as they both broke into a run.

He had seen one of them by the factory before, and it had even tried to get in. He had knowingly moved Jack and Amy into the plant despite knowing of the danger. Worse, he hadn’t even told them, keeping it to himself. If anything had happened to Amy, he knew that he would never be able to forgive himself.

As fast as they could, they ran back to the Robco plant. Even when Drew’s legs began to tire and his stomach started to ache, he didn’t slow down and neither did Jack. At least not until they were both in the parking lot of the old robot factory.

“Amy!?” Drew shouted the moment they were inside. “Are you here!?”

A scarce fifteen seconds had passed when they heard the pattering of footsteps. A moment later they saw Amy round the corner and run towards them.

“You’re back!” she said sounding shaken.

“Are you okay?” Jack asked, giving her a hug.

“Yeah, I’m fine,” she said returning it. “One of those green deathclaws stopped by.”

“Did it attack?” Drew asked.

Amy shook her head. “It was chasing a woman. Suzy says she knows her. Sarah or something. I thought we were dead.”

“A woman?” Drew asked, wanting more information.

“Yeah, Sarah or something. I let her in and the Greenclaw lost interest and ran off. It was fucking huge.”

“Yeah, we heard is stalking back up the highway,” Jack said. “Absolutely fucking terrifying.”

“No kidding,” Drew said. “Where is this Sarah now?”

“In the nurse’s office. She collapsed the moment she got inside.”

“I want to see her,” Drew said.

“Sure, this way.”

Amy led the way back to the nurse’s office. Just as Amy had said, the woman was there on one of the beds clearly unconscious. The blue coveralls and the Pipboy on her arm didn’t escape his notice. She was clearly a vault dweller, though he didn’t know of any vaults around here other than the one by Colville, and that one had been abandoned for the last fifty years or so.

The Miss Nanny, Suzy, turned to him. “Ah, you are back.”

“Yeah, we are.” he said. “What can you tell me about her?”

“She is ze nice lady who was at ze ’ospital a few days ago,” Suzy said. “From what I can tell, she overexerted ’erself and ’as collapsed because of it.”

“Yeah,” Jack said, staring at the unconscious woman. “Running from a deathclaw will do that.”

Drew couldn’t say he was exactly comfortable with the prospect of a stranger being there.

“Keep an eye on her,” he told the others. “The moment she’s awake, I want to know.”

“Oui,” Suzy said excitedly. “I am so ’appy to ’ave a new patient after all zhese years.”

Drew didn’t respond. He left the office with Jack and Amy following him out.

“Ame, I want you to stay with Suzy and the patient.”

Amy frowned. “You think she’s dangerous?”

“Potentially, yes.”

“Suzy thinks she’s nice,” Amy said.

“Maybe, but I can’t dwell on it now. I have work to do. It’s only a matter of time before the Greenclaws start killing people, if they haven’t already, and we need to be ready to deal with them. The roads aren’t safe at the best of times but with them about they have just gotten a whole lot more dangerous.”

“I’ll keep an eye on her. See you at dinner, then,” Amy said as she stepped back into the nurse’s office.

Jack sighed. “You think it’ll come back?”

“Maybe,” Drew said. “But not for a little while. Claws are smart. If they think it’s worthwhile, they’ll find a way in.”

“So what’s the plan?”

“We’re close to bringing some turrets online. Time to fix and activate them.”

Jack thought for a moment. “Why do you think they’re green?” he asked. “The deathclaws, I mean?”

Drew made a guess. “Mutation, I suppose.”

“Last time I saw a big green monster it was those super mutants.”

Drew shivered. “I hope you’re not suggesting what I think you’re suggesting?”

“What if someone was messing around and somehow mutated them?”

“Super mutant deathclaws sound terrifying.“

“You think it’s possible?” Jack asked.

“I have no idea and I don’t like what that could mean. If there is a pack of super-claws out there, then we might be fucked. Deathclaws are tough to kill as is. A super mutant variation might make them near impossible to take down.”

“So I guess we better hope that their skin color is just a mutation.”

“A benign one at that.”

Jack shrugged. “Whatever that means.”

“It means that it doesn’t come with any more alterations. If it’s just skin pigmentation then they will be just as easy, or rather, just as difficult to kill as a regular one.”

“If it does come back with more, are we in danger?”

“We’re always in danger while deathclaws are about. Thankfully, this place was built like a fortress.”

“I guess that means we’re somewhat safe.”

“Somewhat is a good way to put it. Come on, let’s get to work.”

Jack rested a hand on his stomach. “Can we have something to eat first?”

“Sure,” Drew agreed as the two started towards the cafeteria. “Then we need to get on the roof and take a look at the dysfunctional turrets. I want full coverage before the week is out.”

“I’ll definitely feel safer. What about the two Protectrons that meander about outside?”

“I’ll bring them in for reprogramming eventually. For now, though, they’re fine doing what they’re doing.”

They stepped into the cafeteria and headed straight for the kitchen. Drew opened up the temperamental refrigerator and pulled out two mutfruit’s, passing one to Jack.

“We got anything else?” Jack asked, looking at it with a frown.

“Sorry, no. We have some meat, but it’s uncooked and we still need to fix up at least one of the ovens.”

“I guess it’ll do,” he said, sounding disappointed as he took a bite.

As they left the cafeteria, they heard the patter of footsteps on the hard concrete floor.

“Drew!” Amy called to them. “She’s awake.”

Jack gestured towards the ceiling. “Do you want me to take a look at those turrets while you talk to her?”

Drew thought for a moment. “Sure, you go take a look. I’ll be up shortly.”

Jack headed off to the roof while Drew and Amy made their way back to the nurse’s office. Inside, he found the woman whom Suzy had identified as Sarah sitting up in bed, her fingers webbed as they rested on her lap.

She looked over at him, a concerned expression etched on her face.

“Um, hello,” she said nervously.

“How are you feeling?” he asked courteously.

“Feeling okay, I guess. Just exhausted.”

Drew nodded, understanding. He would be exhausted too if he had run from a deathclaw.

“Sarah, right?” he asked.

She nodded. “Yeah, that’s right.”

“Drew,” he said pointing at himself. “Amy,” he said, gesturing to Amy.

“Pleased to meet you.”

Drew decided not to beat around the bush and got straight to the point. “What can you tell me about the deathclaw?”

“Is that what it’s called?” she asked.

“Yes, that’s what it’s called.”

“Well, I don’t really know all that much. I found a Red Rocket Mega Stop and decided to see if there were any supplies I could get. I wanted to sell them down at the Riverside settlement further south.”

Riverside was a makeshift settlement. Fishing was its trade, and they did pretty well by it.

She continued. “That’s when I heard a growl. I see the thing stalking towards me. That’s when I notice two more and one of them was huge. Like toweringly big. Like a walking building big. I turned and ran as fast as I could.”

Amy looked at Drew, fear in her eyes. “The size of a building?” she asked with a quiver in her voice. “That can’t be true.”

Drew hoped not. Even so, the fact there were three there made him wonder if it was a nest. There was food and shelter there so it made sense. The fact that Sarah had described one as being the size of a building was definitely concerning, but he imagined that she was exaggerating. Fear often made things look bigger than they were.

“There is one thing I can tell you,” the woman said with realization. “I don’t know much about deathclaws, but they appear to be some kind of lizard.”

“Yeah, they are,” Drew confirmed.

“Well, something is very wrong with their anatomy because I’m pretty sure… Well-I…”

“What?”

Sarah held her hands out in front of her chest. “They had breasts, and big ones at that. That’s a mammalian feature. Lizards, reptiles, or anything else doesn’t have breasts as they don’t produce milk. In fact, it was a human feature considering the placement on the chest, size, and shape.”

Drew and Amy exchanged a glance.

“Are you sure it’s not a growth?” Drew asked.

Sarah shook her head vehemently. “Absolutely positive. I saw areolas and nipples and they were on all of them. The underside looked almost soft like human skin, with thick scales and spikes along the spine. They scared the shit out of me. I ran as fast as I could until I got here. The thing was right behind me the whole way.”

Drew was skeptical. “All the way from the Mega Stop?”

“Yeah. I ran and didn’t stop. I thought the thing was going to kill me.”

“That’s a good four or five miles you must’ve run,” he said.

Sarah stared at him for a moment. “I didn’t realize it was that far.”

Drew rubbed his chin in thought. Something wasn’t quite adding up. “There is no way you managed to keep ahead of a claw all that way.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean that I don’t think it was trying to catch you.”

Sarah shivered. “Are you saying it was toying with me?”

“I don’t know. But for it to stay right on your tail for four or five miles? Either it should have caught you or you should have escaped. There’s no way that your running speeds matched up like that.”

Sarah looked past him at the wall then shivered. “Why would it do that?”

“I don’t know,” Drew admitted. “Perhaps to see where you would run to?”

“Are they that intelligent?” Sarah asked, fear creeping into her voice.

Drew shrugged. “How intelligent deathclaws are is up to debate. Some say they’re just dumb beasts, others say they’re calculating and unnervingly smart.”

“What do you think?” Sarah asked.

“I’d say they’re generally somewhere in between. Either way, it’s best to avoid them at all costs.”

“Unfortunately, they know we’re here now,” Amy pointed out.

Sarah looked down at the floor. “Sorry I led it here.”

Drew slowly shook his head. “Don’t worry about it. It does mean we have to fix up and reactivate the rest of the turrets, but it’s best to do it now rather than later. Speaking of which, I should probably get to that.”

As he turned to leave, Sarah spoke up, stopping him. “Wait, I need to ask you something!”

Drew turned back around to face her. “What?”

. “Do you need a doctor?” she asked, as she started to play with her fingers. Drew put it down to nerves. “I’m medically trained,” she continued. “I’m from a vault.”

“I guessed that from the jumpsuit and the Pipboy,” Drew said.

Sarah looked at his left forearm. “Are you from a vault, too?”

He shook his head. “No, but my dad was. This was his.”

“Was?”

“Dead.”

“Oh, I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be sorry. He’s been dead a long time. Killed on the other side of the country.”

He shivered as he remembered the giant Mirelurk Queen that had risen up out of the water. It was a monstrosity he hoped never to have to face again.

“I’ll think about it,” he said finally, not wanting to mentally relive the details of that attack. “Your offer of being our doctor, I mean.”

Suzy spoke up for the first time, offering her support. “Oui. Please do. It would be nice to be able to work under a doctor again and Sarah is very nice.”

“Like I said, I’ll think about it.” He looked at Amy. “Keep an eye on her.”

“Sure thing.”

He stepped out of the room and made his way up to the roof. There, he found Jack studying a defunct turret. From the looks of it, the thing was seized up solid.

“How’s it going?”

Jack looked over at him. “Rusted up. Water seeped into the housing.”

“We can replace the parts,” Drew said, squatting down next to him.

“So, how’s our guest?”

Drew grunted. “Fine, I guess. Ran all the way here from the Mega stop.”

“Holy shit,” Jack uttered. “That has to be four miles away.”

“Yeah. Four or five. I guess people can do the impossible when they’re scared shitless.”

“I guess. No wonder she collapsed.”

“Yeah. Says she’s a doctor trained in a vault. Has the jumpsuit and the Pipboy, so I’m inclined to believe her.”

Jack gave him a sideways glance. “You don’t trust her, do you?”

“I don’t trust her enough to let her stay here, no.”

“But you do the Nurse robot?”

“It’s a Miss Nanny, and robots don’t tend to be conniving pieces of shit like humans can. Remember Rebecca back a Paulson? The shit she pulled just because her dad was in charge. She did her best to fuck everyone over as much as she could. Glad her dad wasn’t an idiot otherwise she might have succeeded.”

Jack shrugged. “Sure, humans can be pieces of shit, but robots can malfunction, and when they do they have this unfortunate tendency to want to kill everyone around them.”

“I’ve gone over her code and fixed a lot of errors. As long as I do maintenance on her, she’ll be fine. Same with any robot.”

“And I’m sure this Sarah will be fine, too.”

“You think it’s worth the risk?” Drew asked.

“We could do with a doctor,” Jack pointed out. “We’re gonna be dealing with a lot of heavy equipment. One of us is bound to get hurt.”

“We have Suzy,” Drew pointed out.

“Suzy is nowhere near as dexterous as a person. I think she should stay.”

Drew clenched his jaw. “Fine, I’ll feel her out.”

Jack raised his eyebrows.

Drew rolled his eyes. “Keep your mind out of the gutter. What I meant was her personality; what she wants, what she’s after.”

“It’s up to you. You’re in charge.”

“I know, but I value your opinion. Amy’s, too.”

“Then give her a chance.”

“Okay, okay,” Drew relented. “I’ll give her a chance.”

“I hope so,” Jack said standing up. “So, we gonna fix this?”

Drew nodded. “Yeah, let’s get to it.”

With that, they got to work.

Chapter 8 - Mega Stop by Saturn Knight

Drew stepped into the nurse’s office where he was greeted by a rather jovial Sarah. She had one of those infectious smiles and her peppy persona and pleasant manner had a way of putting him at ease.

“Good morning,” she said. “How are you doing today?”

“Good,” he answered.

Regarding whether he was going to let her stay or not, he still hadn’t made up his mind. Amy had taken to her rather well, but he and Jack hadn’t really spoken to her much. They had been far too busy fixing up the turrets so that they had full external coverage.

“And how are you feeling?” he asked back.

“Been busy,” she said. “I’ve done a full stock tally to list what we have and what we need. Some of our supplies have gone bad, so I got rid of them.”

If there was one thing Drew could say about Sarah it was that she was a professional and it was working in her favor.

“You have a list?” he asked.

“Yeah,” she said as she ejected a holotape from her Pipboy. “It’s on here.”

“You keep it for now,” he said. “I’ll check it later.”

“Sure.”

“Besides, when we next head into town you can come with us and see if we can get those things you need.”

“Sounds like a plan,” Sarah said with a nod.

“I’ll leave you to it,” he said as he left the office and headed down into the basement where Jack and Amy were working on the water system.

Today, he planned on going to check out the Mega Stop to see whether the Greenclaws had set up a nest there. His initial plan had been to take the two Gutsies with him, but he had ultimately decided against it. They were far too noisy for one thing, and also, he wanted them here to look after Amy and Jack.

“There he is,” Amy said as he stepped through the door.

“What’s up?” Jack asked. “Come to see how we’re getting on?”

“I’m heading out for a bit,” Drew told them.

“Where?” Amy asked.

“Just out. Wanted to grab some supplies.”

“Want company?” Jack asked.

Drew shook his head. “I want you and Amy to keep working on the water purifier.”

“Sure,” Jack said.

“You taking the Gutsies with you?” Amy asked.

“Yeah.”

It felt weird to lie, but he knew that if he told them he was going to scope out the Mega Stop for signs of a claw nest, they would either want to go with him or try and stop him. There was no doubt that what he was going to do was stupid, but he had to know whether the claws had decided to call the place home.

“See you later,” Jack said.

“Yeah,” Drew nodded as he headed off to grab his backpack.

After making sure he had everything he needed, including some water, a snack, his binoculars, and most importantly, his leather armor and a laser rifle, he headed out.

As he walked along the highway, he went through his plan in his head. If there was a nest, then he would be building as many Gutsies as he possibly could and he would be arming them with nothing but flamers. He’d burn the place to the ground, incinerate everything. Even deathclaws weren’t immune to fire. He just hoped these Greenclaws were the same.

As the Robco factory vanished from view behind him, he decided to get off the road and made for the treeline. The foliage was dense enough that a large beast such as a deathclaw would have difficulty navigating it. It would also shield him from sight and by the looks of it, the wind was blowing northward towards him, meaning they wouldn’t get his scent either. Perfect conditions for scoping out the old Mega Stop.

It took a good three hours to walk the four or so miles. His progress had been slowed due to him moving carefully and silently through the trees and foliage parallel to the highway.

In position on a ridge, he pulled out his binoculars and stared down at the old Mega Stop. Considering that he’d scoped out the place not too long ago, he knew that the deathclaws hadn’t had all that much time to set up a proper nest. If there was even a nest at all. He couldn’t see any obvious signs, at least not from his current position. From what he could see, the place appeared to be abandoned.

They had certainly been there, though. At least something had. The security Protectrons were destroyed. The robots had been hostile, making the place too dangerous to scavenge from. Even so, Drew had given it a shot on more than one occasion. Sometimes he’d even managed to come away with something worthwhile.

With nothing visible on the exterior, Drew realized that he was going to have to take a look inside. He didn’t want to but knew he had to.

Slowly, he made his way down the ridge, emerging from the treeline. He kept himself low, moving across the parking lot which was occupied by a scarce two rusted-out cars. What wasn’t scarce was the foliage that was growing through the concrete as nature retook what had once been its dominion. The only thing keeping it at bay had been the Protectrons, which had crushed the foliage beneath their metal feet and burned the rest away with their lasers. But they hadn’t been able to keep up, and now that they had been destroyed, nature was now sure to win.

As quickly as he could, he moved behind an old rusted car and peeked over the hood trying to see if he could make out anything through the grimed-up windows. He saw nothing and more importantly heard nothing. No deep thumps from heavy footsteps, no growls, nothing.

It was his opinion that there was nothing here. The deathclaws had been, clearly, the destroyed Protectrons proved that much; the same with the front doors which had been smashed in. It appeared they were long gone, likely having found nothing of interest.

Cautiously, he stood up from behind the old car and made his way to the front doors, stepping inside.

It was dark and gloomy with a dusty, dank and rotten smell permeating the air. The rotting flesh smell was likely from the two corpses he could see, their flesh burned from energy fire, likely from the Protectrons. With the robots gone, this place would be stripped clean by scavengers pretty quickly. Drew figured he might as well take first dibs and grab some himself.

But to his surprise, the first isle was surprisingly empty.

“Looks like someone’s already been cleaning house.”

He walked over to the nearest shelf and turned on his Pipboy light, shining it on the disturbed dust and grime. It appeared as though giant fingers had scooped up the preserved food that had been sat there. Looking closer, he noticed that there were scratches and gouges on the metal surface.

“Did the Greenclaws take the Sugarbombs?” he asked out loud.

It seemed stupid, but the somewhat fresh claw marks and the missing food suggested otherwise.

Drew didn’t like it, not one bit.

With most of the food supplies on the floor seemingly taken, he decided to make his way into the warehouse in the back, hoping to find something still there.

As he stepped towards the large door, something caught his eye. It was a first aid box and it had most certainly been torn open and judging by the gouges it had been done by large and strong claws.

“They weren’t here to nest,” Drew muttered to himself. “They were here to gather supplies.”

His heart rate started to rise. These Greenclaws, whatever they were, weren’t typical deathclaws. They were intelligent and frighteningly so.

“Coincidence,” he said, shaking his head.

They couldn’t have known what they were getting. Maybe they smelled something they might have been able to eat inside so they had smashed it open. But there weren’t any supplies discarded on the floor, the same with the shelf of cereal or any of the other shelves. All that was left was the remnants of food that had long since rotted away.

If they were intelligent then everyone in the region was at great risk. Then again one had chased Sarah all the way to the plant as though it was more interested in scaring her away than actually catching and killing her. There was also the Greenclaw he had seen at the plant. The one that had managed to climb up onto the eave and peer in through the window. If it had wanted to, it could have easily smashed through the glass and gutted him. Instead, it had jumped down and sauntered off before turning invisible.

There was also the one Jarik had seen with a radstag over its shoulder, like a human hunter with a fresh kill. That mixed with the fact they were green and seemed to have breasts told him that they were most definitely not regular deathclaws.

The question was: where had they come from and did they pose a threat? Could they be reasoned with?

Drew pinched the bridge of his nose. “They’re fucking monsters,” he hissed. “They can’t be reasoned with, you moron.”

With a sigh, he stepped over to the terminal by the doors to the warehouse and after hacking his way through the login screen, he unlocked the doors and stepped through.

Inside were sealed boxes and crates stacked on palettes. It was strange to think that it had all been stood there since the bombs fell all those centuries ago. He wondered why those that worked here hadn’t returned? Had the Protectrons turned on them like the Orderlies back at the hospital? Suzy had mentioned small robots with stars on them. What if they had somehow reprogrammed all the robots in this region, and if that was the case, then why was Suzy okay?

It was something he would have to figure out later if he could be bothered. For now, he wanted to fill his backpack with supplies and return home before any unwanted guests arrived.

After finding a crowbar in the corner, he started to pry them open, hoping he found something worthwhile inside them.

The first was full of bar lights. They would definitely come in handy as a few back at the factory needed to be replaced. There was also a healthy supply of robot oil and cleaning fluid, which again, would be very useful.

Finally, he found what he needed. It was food that had enough preservatives packed in them to keep them edible even after all these years. He took a few Salisbury steaks, some sugary candy, and some cereal, stuffing them in his backpack.

Just as he was fastening it up, he felt a deep thump rumble through the floor, followed by another, then another.

In an instant, Drew had his backpack over his shoulders and was sneaking towards the store floor, hoping to make his escape.

That thought was dashed a moment later as he reached the door. Inside the store, he could see a Greenclaw illuminated dimly from light coming in through the grimy windows. It raised its head and sniffed the air.

In fear, Drew held his breath as he gripped tightly onto his laser rifle. It didn’t turn his way, though he knew that could change at any moment.

Slowly, he pulled the door closed as quietly as he could, only for there to be a rather loud click.

He held his breath as he silently cursed his bad luck. There was no audible sign that the thing had heard it, but that didn’t mean it hadn’t

As quickly as he could, he moved behind a stack of crates and hid behind them. Barely a second passed before he both heard and felt the thump of footsteps. They grew louder and the tremors grew more intense before they stopped right outside the door. His grip tightened on his rifle as it rattled. If it entered the warehouse then it was certain it would find him. His only hope was to slip out while it was searching and pray that it didn’t see him.

Drew peeked over the crates, his gaze focused like a laser on the door. He expected sharp claws to burst through it and tear it clean off its hinges. Instead, he felt fear roll up his spine as he watched the handle as it began to twitch before it was pulled downwards.

He ducked back behind the crates as it opened. The door creaked loudly before it thumped against the wall. A moment of uneasy silence followed though it was short-lived as he both heard and felt the heavy footfalls of its large clawed feet on the hard concrete floor.

With his heart thumping in his chest, he peered back over the crates to see the Greenclaw standing there menacingly. Thankfully, it was looking away from him towards some boxes he had opened only a few moments earlier. In the darkness, he was just able to make out its shape with dark scales on its back which seemed to become smoother and lighter in tone around its surprisingly large and round buttocks, though it was difficult to get a good look as its thick scaly tail was blocking his view.

Its head turned slightly and he ducked back down, silently cursing himself for staring at the monster’s ass. What the hell was wrong with him?

With the sound of the Greenclaw moving further into the warehouse, Drew peeked over the crates one more time. To his relief, the beast was busy rummaging through some boxes, its back turned toward him. With it preoccupied, he decided it was probably a good time to make haste and get the hell out of there.

With his breath held and his rifle tucked against his chest, he quickly and quietly made for the door, exiting the warehouse.

Only his actions hadn’t gone unnoticed.

The deep thumps came quickly and they were fast. So fast that there was no chance for him to even think about hiding.

“Shit!” he hissed under his breath as he heard a loud deep growl from behind.

Slowly, he turned around and found himself face to face with the towering monstrosity. It had to be eight or nine feet tall and it looked far from happy.

Shooting it at this range was out of the question. All he’d accomplish was to piss it off and he was sure to receive a quick disembowelment as a reward. The only choice he had available to him was to lower his weapon and take a step back, hoping that the thing didn’t see him as a threat, or worse, its next meal.

Who was he kidding? The thing was a deathclaw. He was probably dead already.

It growled at him a second time and in response he took another step back, his eyes drifting down to the two large bare breasts that adorned its chest. It growled louder, indicating its displeasure at where his eyes were focused.

Quickly, he looked back up at its face, noting that there was something strange about it, particularly its eyes. He hadn’t seen many deathclaws, at least not this close, but her eyes looked disturbingly human and on its face there seemed to be the faintest outline of lips.

Knowing he was out of options, he decided to play the only card he had left.

“So-uh… I guess shooting you will just make you mad, huh? Listen, would you be willing to let me go? I promise, everything in here is yours and I won’t come back. Deal?”

Faster than he could react, it reached forward with its clawed hand and clamped it around his chest, lifting him off his feet, its sharp claws cutting through his leather armor, through his jacket, and painfully into the flesh beneath.

This was it. He was dead. His overconfidence had ended the only way it could.

Instead of finding its claws tearing out his intestines, the creature tossed him away like unwanted trash. He sailed through the air for a moment before he found himself slamming into the concrete floor so hard that the rifle skittered from his grip.

“Fuck,” he groaned in pain.

Before he could even think about trying to get up, it grabbed him by the leg and dragged him outside where it rested one of its large feet on his legs, pinning him in place.

Drew expected his death to come shortly after that, but instead, he heard deep heavy footsteps. He turned his head to see yet another of the Greenclaws approaching and this one was bigger, at least ten or eleven feet in height. It also had larger, rounder breasts and thick legs. It also seemed to be standing more upright, and much like the one that had him at its mercy, its eyes were unnervingly human.

With a pat on the shoulder from the larger one, the smaller claw took its foot off his legs before the larger one reached down and grabbed him by them, hoisting him up so that he was dangling upside down, his heavy backpack hanging awkwardly from his shoulders. It then brought his face frighteningly close to its own and stared, its hot breath blasting against him. It appeared to be studying him and he desperately hoped that it wasn’t because it was wondering how tasty he was.

No, it looked confused, not hungry. Clearly, these creatures had intelligence. Neither of them had murdered him yet, though that didn’t mean they still wouldn’t. There was still a chance no matter how slim that he could talk to them. That was if they even understood English.

“Um, hey,” he said. “Can you understand me?”

The creature glanced at the smaller one. It seemed to shake its head before it approached, claw raised with murder in its eyes.

It appeared that this was it. He was finally going to meet his end.

“I guess I’ll be seeing you again, Gemma.”

The larger claw that had him by the legs growled, pulling him in close. Awkwardly, he found his face slipping between its breasts as it wrapped its huge arms around him in a protective hug, his groin pressing up against its chin.

Then, for a moment he swore he heard a deep yet feminine “no”.

He felt rumbles as the Greenclaw took a few steps back. It released its hug and he found his face slipping free out of its cleavage as he fell towards the hard concrete.

Thankfully, the larger Greenclaw grabbed his legs with one hand before he smashed his face into the ground. Then with the other clawed hand, it reoriented him and placed him down. He staggered for a moment as he got his bearings and found himself staring at the stomach of the larger of the two Greenclaws.

He looked up at it, his vision filled by its huge breasts. He took a few steps back, looking at the other one who seemed to have a deep scowl on its face.

His theory was right. There was now no doubt in his mind that they were intelligent and much to his relief it seemed the larger one wasn’t nearly as bloodthirsty as the smaller.

It pointed back down the highway and grunted, clearly indicating that he should leave.

Though he couldn’t, not without his weapon.

He cleared his throat, trying his luck one last time. “Can I… well… can I have my laser rifle back?”

The huge Greenclaw seemed to frown at him.

“I dropped it inside,” he explained. “If I could have it back that would mean a lot.”

For a moment, he thought he had pushed things too far when the larger growled at him. It then looked to the smaller and seemed to gesture towards the building with her head.

The smaller glowered before it headed inside, returning a few moments later with his rifle in hand. It tossed it down at his feet then growled. It looked irritated.

“Thank you,” he said as he picked it up. “You two aren’t so bad. I hope you don’t cause too much trouble. And, uh… Well, try not to scare too many people, yeah?”

With that, he turned on his heels and retreated back onto the highway as fast as he could. He’d had enough for one day. Hell, he’d had enough for several. Somehow he had come face to face with two Greenclaws and had managed to not only come out alive but also communicate with them. He was amazed, he was astounded, but most of all he was emotionally exhausted and he just wanted to get back to the Robco plant and put his feet up.

He felt like he’d earned at least that much.

End Notes:

So there's the first proper meeting between our intrepid MC and the Greenclaws. Gonna try and post every Sunday and Wednesday, though might miss this Sunday due to being a little behind on editing the chapters.

Chapter 9 - Retrospective by Saturn Knight

Some of the trees that surrounded the old Robco plant looked rather beautiful. Those that had leaves shone a vibrant green that almost seemed to glow in the morning sun. Drew felt that he could stand there and stare at them for hours. A lot of places out there didn’t have real living flora anymore, at least not in abundance, so it was nice that up here there was a substantial amount of greenery that was growing and thriving.

Still, the beauty was sporadic, trapped between the dead decaying flora that surrounded it. Despite this, it was still a lot more pleasant to look at than most places. It was one of the reasons why Drew felt so at home here in what had once been eastern Washington. It gave him hope for the future even if he wouldn’t be around to see it.

In truth, the trees, and the view were only a distraction from what was really on his mind.

He hadn’t slept much since the encounter. He hadn’t been able to get the Greenclaws out of his head. Every detail of every event as it unfolded kept replaying over and over again. Of how he had observed the place from afar, of how he had headed inside, and how he had been caught.

The smaller one with the lime-green skin had not liked him at all, that much was clear. If it had been on its own, he genuinely believed that he would be dead now. Looking back, he wondered if the smaller one had reacted the way it did because it saw him as a threat? The other one had clearly taken a bit of a liking to him, but what did it mean? Could he approach them now without fear of death or had it shown mercy and let him go with the understanding that he wouldn’t come back?

Drew thought back to his previous encounters. The smaller one was perhaps roughly the right size to be the one that he had seen at the Robco plant the other day, but its reaction had been entirely different. There, it had jumped up on the eave and gawked at him through the glass. At the Mega Stop, on the other hand, it had wanted to tear him apart.

He had this terrible feeling that there were a lot of these creatures. Sarah had already alluded to there being three, one of them being absolutely massive. If the biggest had the same temperament as the smallest then they were all in trouble, and considering a descriptor Sarah had used was ‘building sized’, it was horrifying to even think about.

He honestly wasn’t certain that he could believe that one of them could be that big. He had seen big creatures before, such as a Mirelurk Queen, but from what he knew, they spent most of their time in the water and not stomping around on land.

The question was, could he communicate with them? It was the question that kept ringing through his head. It was a potentially suicidal thought, but there was something about them that intrigued him, the larger one in particular.

Slowly, he shook his head in disgust. He couldn’t believe he was thinking it, but he wanted to see it – no her – again. He wanted to talk to her, try and get to know her. That was if she could even speak. But he was certain he had heard her say “no” when the smaller one had raised its claw to strike him.

It freaked him out, yet the curious part of him needed to know more. He had to understand them, know their motivations, and most of all he wanted to know where they had come from.

He didn’t know if the Greenclaws frequented the Mega Stop but considering how empty it was and the claw marks he had seen on the shelves, they had been there a lot. Now that he had opened the door to the warehouse, they had a whole new set of supplies to abscond with. Not that they couldn’t have gotten in there without him. From their size, he doubted the door or the walls would have been able to stand up to them for long if they wanted to knock them down.

The worst part was that he didn’t feel like he could tell the others, not even Jack or Amy. It had already been two days since the encounter and he felt the time to tell them had already long since passed. As far as they knew, the Greenclaws were nothing but monsters that wanted to kill everything in their path.

Yesterday, they had fixed up another turret, but Drew now felt conflicted. The Greenclaws were definitely not deathclaws. They had shown him mercy and allowed him to flee. They had done the same with Sarah, which told him that they weren’t inherently dangerous to the settlements, though they were still very potentially dangerous to scavengers.

They also clearly understood English. He had asked for his laser rifle back and they had retrieved it without question.

Honestly, he would have preferred it if they had been regular deathclaws. At least he wouldn’t have felt conflicted about the prospect of killing them. As it was, he was having serious second thoughts. It was why he felt like he needed to go back. He had to reach out to them and form a dialogue if possible. He couldn’t destroy them if they didn’t pose an actual threat, especially if they were sentient.

Drew turned away from the window. He needed a distraction, something that would make him think about literally anything else.

After rubbing his eyes, he moved around the desk and left the office, making his way downstairs.

First, he checked the nurse’s office only to find it empty, so he decided to go to the cafeteria. There, he found everyone sitting at one of the many tables. Even Suzy was there, hovering next to Sarah.

The doctor smiled and waved to him. “Hey, there.”

Drew waved back. “Morning.”

“Good morning,” Amy said.

“You’re up late,” Jack added.

“Just been staring out into the wilds,” he said, sitting down at their table.

He wondered if he should tell them about the encounter and how it was affecting him? He quickly pushed the thought out of his mind. He had come here because he wanted to get away from thinking about the Greenclaws. Instead, he put his focus on Sarah, deciding that he wanted to know more about her.

“So, you’re from a vault?” he began.

She nodded. “Yeah.”

“If you don’t mind me asking, why’d you leave?”

“Because the vault failed.”

“How?”

She tapped her fingers against the tabletop. It was obvious that it was an uncomfortable subject.

“You don’t have to tell me,” Drew said.

Sarah shook her head. “I… They… There were experiments.”

Drew knew about Vault-Tec and their experimentation. Back when he had still been alive, his father had told him all about it and it sounded barbaric. Why they would do the things they did, Drew couldn’t possibly understand. They were supposed to save humanity, not torture them.

“It was horrible,” Sarah continued as she started to fiddle with her fingers.

“What happened?” Amy asked.

“Was your overseer part of it?” Jack added. “I heard they liked to join in.”

Sarah shook her head. “Our overseer didn’t want anything to do with it. We had no choice, though.”

“Your overseer couldn’t stop it?” Drew asked.

“No.”

“Why?”

“Because the vault was built in such a way that it would stop functioning if we stopped.”

“What was the experiment?” Drew asked.

“It was to do with pressure. To see how we all acted, reacted, and whether we could survive under huge amounts of it.”

“What kind of pressure?” Jack asked.

“Emotional pressure, fatigue, stress, that kind of thing. Random things within the vault would stop working. Sometimes, it was only one or two things, other times entire sections of the vault would shut down. It was programmed into the computers and the components were manufactured in a way so that they would break after a certain amount of use. We were constantly on edge and it had been that way since the doors first shut. Well, not quite. Apparently, the first twenty years went well. After that is when it all started to go haywire.”

Drew wished he could say he was surprised. “That sounds like them from what my dad told me.”

“It was all I ever knew since I was a kid,” Sarah continued. “My parents and grandparents, the same thing. Apparently, it was steadily getting worse, probably so we didn’t get accustomed to it.”

“I suppose you got fed up and left?” Amy said.

“No. That wasn’t what forced us to leave. We couldn’t leave, anyway. The door was sealed and no one knew how to get it open.”

Drew was surprised by that response. “What happened?”

“Well, we managed to reprogram the computer to stop it. It took a long time to figure out how it worked, generations in fact. None of us were computer experts or anything, no one in our vault ever was. Our ancestors were probably selected that way.”

“And what about the faulty components?” Drew asked.

“They were still faulty, but fixing the computer system took a lot of pressure off. Enough so that we could start designing our own replacement components.”

“If you fixed it, how did the vault fail?” Jack asked.

“There was a fail-safe, though it didn’t kick in for months. The computer started shutting down section after section. We couldn’t fix things fast enough. We tried to shut down the whole computer system to stop it as a last resort but that shut down the whole vault. We thought we were gonna die and most of us did. We were trapped, unable to breathe. But we managed to get the door open and what was left of us managed to escape.”

Amy covered her mouth. “That sounds horrible.”

“It was. I’m the only one left. That I know of, at least. We got separated by a group of raiders that attacked us. I don’t know if any of them were able to find each other again, but I never did. I just kept searching, hoping I’d find some of them.”

“Well, you’re safe here,” Drew offered.

“Thanks. But I feel I should tell you something. I was only training to be a doctor back in the vault. I never qualified. Never got the chance.”

Drew reached out and patted the back of her hand. “Don’t worry, you don’t need a qualification to stay. As long as you know what you’re doing.”

“I do and thank you,” she said smiling. “Well, Suzy and I better get back to it. We’re setting up a database, though we are missing a lot of data.”

“What do you need?” Drew asked.

She looked at Suzy. “You wanna tell him?”

“Oui,” the Nanny robot said, nodding her front eye. “We need ze data from ze ’ospital up in Christina Lake.”

“Yeah,” Sarah said. “If you have a few blank holotapes, then you can probably copy a good chunk of it over.”

“That is a good idea, right Drew?” Amy said. “Though we might not have to go up north. The data might be in the Colville hospital.”

“There might,” Sarah agreed. “Will they give them to us?”

Drew, unfortunately, knew the doctor there. “I doubt it. Not for cheap at least. Good doctor, but a stingy bastard.”

Jack spoke up. “Then the hospital up north is our best bet. There’s plenty of more supplies we could grab while we’re there. Stuff we could keep and even more stuff we could sell.”

“It’s a long walk without Leanne and her truck,” Amy pointed out.

“It is,” Drew agreed. “But Jack’s right. We can beat two birds with one boulder.”

“Stone,” Sarah corrected. “One stone.”

“Whatever the saying is, I’ll do it. Given I can get enough holotapes together.”

“There’s a load in some boxes in the basement,” Jack told him. “They’ve never been written on, so they’re clean.”

Amy added her thoughts. “We could also probably find the server room and just pull the drives. It would be quicker than trying to download the whole thing.”

“That could work,” Drew said, nodding. “Though, old computer drives can be unpredictable when you try and move them. We might end up losing all the data. Robot memory cores might be a better idea. They can hold a lot more data than a holotape and are only slightly bigger. The transfer rate is a helluva lot slower, though. Still, we find the main server room in the hospital, copy the databanks and get out, hopefully with some extra supplies. Dangerous, but worth it.”

“Thanks,” Sarah said with genuine gratitude. “The data will be a huge help.”

“Oui,” Suzy added. “Zhank you.”

“You’re welcome,” Drew said in return with a smile and a nod. “We’ll gather what we’ll need and Jack, Amy, and I will head off tomorrow.”

“All of you?” Sarah asked, suddenly looking concerned. “Will Suzy and I be here alone?”

“We’ll work out the details later. I’ll see if I can fix up another Gutsy and leave it here as security.”

Suzy rose a pincer hand. “Can I go with you?”

Drew frowned. “Why?”

“Because I know where ze server room is and can also get past ze security.”

Drew nodded with a smile. “If you want to come with us, you can. Amy, you can stay here with Sarah.”

“Sure. I didn’t want to go anyway.”

Drew had a feeling she was going to say that. “Then it’s settled. Jack, Suzy, and I head up there with two Gutsies, grab the data and some supplies and come back.”

“Sounds like a plan,” Jack said.

“Oui.”

Drew stood up. “I’m going to grab something to eat from the kitchen, find some robot memory cores then fix up a few more of those Gutsies stored in that back room.

“We’ll help,” Amy said.

“Thanks,” Drew said as he made his way into the kitchen.

Today was going to be another busy day, as would tomorrow. But in the end, it would all be worth it.

Deep down, though, Drew couldn’t help but wonder if he would have another encounter with the Greenclaws? He both welcomed and dreaded the thought. His only hope was that if he did, it went even better than the first encounter, though he knew what hope did. It gave false expectations, ones that were easily dashed.

If they managed to get into the hospital, get what they needed and get home alive then it would have been a good day. If not? Well, it didn’t bear thinking about.

The rest of the day went quickly. They managed to get two more Gutsies up and running before they all retired for the night, but not before Drew had gathered a small cache of robot memory cores that were found in some boxes in a storage closet.

Thankfully, either due to exhaustion or because he’d been distracted all day, Drew quickly fell asleep, awaking the next morning feeling surprisingly refreshed.

After having some breakfast and grabbing some supplies, Jack, Drew, Suzy, and two of the Gutsies headed out and began their long journey north.

It looked like it was going to be a rather nice, if slightly chilly, day. Drew just hoped it stayed that way.

Chapter 10 - Medical Database by Saturn Knight

The cold that had permeated the air when they had left the Robco plant that morning had not only persisted, but it had gotten even colder as the wind picked up. The two Gutsies, and the Miss Nanny, Suzy, were mostly unaffected other than the occasional gust which caused them to rock and sway.

Drew had been worried about Jack noticing the damage to his leather armor, but he hadn’t commented on it. Drew was certainly glad since it had been damaged by the smaller of the two Greenclaws back at the Mega Stop. He honestly didn’t have an excuse prepared and had no idea what he’d say if Jack did ask. He’d probably have to make something up on the spot.

Eventually, he knew that he would have to tell them, and he wasn’t looking forward to it. Secrets never stayed secrets forever and he would rather tell them before they found out.

He just hoped they took it well.

They had been on the road for three hours when the town north of the border came into view. It seemed quiet, but Drew knew that it was anything but. Roving ferals and predators had been mainstays of the town for as long as people could remember, though thankfully, the hospital was on the outskirts and not in the more dangerous center.

As they approached the hospital, Drew noticed something imprinted in the dirt that was covering the road. It was a footprint and it clearly belonged to a large lizard.

“Hold up,” Drew said as he walked over and squatted down, running his fingers across it.

“One of those green deathclaws?” Jack asked.

“Maybe. It’s either that, a regular deathclaw or some other giant reptile.”

“How long has it been there do you think?”

Drew sighed as he stood up and dusted off his hands on his pants. “Within the last few hours.”

“Shit.”

“Shit is right,” Drew said glumly. “We should probably get inside the hospital as soon as possible.”

“Yeah.”

Moving quickly, they made their way to the front doors only for Jack to reach out, placing his hand on Drew’s chest, stopping him.

“What is it?” Drew asked before seeing them himself.

“Claw marks,” Jack said.

Drew stepped over to the gouges in the wall near the doors. He couldn’t remember them being there when they had last been there which meant that like the footprint it was fresh. It was likely that the Greenclaws had either gone past the hospital or they were inside. As to why they had clawed the wall Drew didn’t know. The only explanation that made sense was that it was a warning to any would-be scavengers or anyone else.

“Not good,” Jack said.

“Yeah, not good,” Drew agreed.

For a moment, he considered calling the whole thing off but decided not to. It was a three-hour walk back making a total of six hours and he didn’t want it to have been a wasted effort.

“We do what we came here to do and leave,” Drew said. “If we find supplies, we grab them, but I don’t think it’s wise to go out of our way.”

“Right,” Jack said, looking at Suzy. “Once we’re in, you’ll take us straight to the server room, right?”

“Oui. Zhat is right.”

Drew pushed the front doors open. “Everyone inside,” he said as he held the one on the left.

Quickly, Jack held open the one on the right and the two Gutsies and Suzy quickly moved past them into the building.

“Listen for any signs of deathclaws,” Drew said as he let go of the door, letting it swing shut, Jack, doing the same. “This includes claw marks, footprints, and deep or heavy thumps or growls. Could be a sign of an unwelcome visitor.”

“Right,” Jack said, a small quiver in his voice. “But, uh… Why would they be in the hospital in the first place?”

“I don’t know if they are, but we still have to be…”

Drew stopped talking as he saw a footprint in the dust. It was large and reptilian and it wasn’t the only one. There were several prints from a single creature leading away from the entrance.

They were in the hospital, or at least one was.

“Shit,” he hissed, clutching his laser rifle tightly.

“What the fuck do we do?” Jack asked, having also seen the clawed footprints.

“We should probably go, but I don’t want to leave empty-handed. We go to the server room as quietly as we can, get the data, and get out.”

He wouldn’t tell Jack, but deep down, Drew almost felt excited. It wasn’t that he wanted to come face to face with a Greenclaw again, more that he wanted to come face to face with a specific Greenclaw; the larger, browner green-tone claw that had let him go to be exact. There had been something about her that felt familiar, something he couldn’t put his finger on.

Drew focused back on the here and now. He couldn’t risk Jack, not for his own curiosity. They were here for data, and perhaps a few supplies, nothing more.

Drew looked at Suzy. “Which way is the server room?”

She raised a pincer arm and thankfully pointed in the opposite direction to where the footprints went.

“Zhis way.”

She took the lead and everyone else followed. Before long, after descending down a flight of stairs, they found themselves among the hum and blinking lights of a very old, very worn, and dirty set of servers.

After closing the door behind them, Drew and Jack took the memory cores out of the storage units on the Gutsies and plugged the first two in. With the help of his Pipboy, he began the transfer, though it would be far from quick. The estimate was thirty minutes per core which meant they would be here for the rest of the day.

With little else to do, Drew and Jack sat down on some old creaky chairs and began the long wait. Five minutes passed. Then ten. Finally, after fifteen minutes of them sitting in silence, Drew decided to strike up conversation.

“So,” Drew began, looking at Suzy, “it must be a little strange to see the world in such a terrible state.”

“I did not see much of ze outside world,” the Miss Nanny answered. “Only through ze windows and most of zhem became so dirty I could no longer see through zhem.”

One of the Gutsy’s spoke up. “This place is filthy! Slacking in maintenance like a Commie would!”

Jack laughed while Drew smirked. That was probably a little of that base ‘Handy’ programming coming through. Though it also showed that the robot didn’t really comprehend what had happened. Given enough time and world experience, Drew was certain that the newly activated Gutsies would start to grasp the basics. Though he still wasn’t certain of their actual intelligence.

There was a sudden deep thump from upstairs which caused dust to fall from the ceiling. Jack gasped as he clutched Amy’s shotgun which she had let him borrow.

“Stay quiet,” Drew said.

“You think it’s a deathclaw?” Jack asked in a low voice.

“Could be something falling,” Drew whispered.

“How long till we’re done?”

Drew checked his Pipboy. “First cores should have finished the transfer in another fifteen minutes.”

Jack didn’t look happy.

“If it was something walking about, it would have been more than one loud thump,” Drew reassured him, but still kept his voice low just in case.

Regardless, he was still on edge, they both were. Giant reptilian footprints inside the hospital were far from a good sign, and from what he had seen at the Mega Stop, it was likely they were here for the medical supplies.

Jack leaned towards Drew. “I don’t hear anything else. I think you’re right, it was something falling over or collapsing or something.”

“Yeah, but we should still stay quiet, just in case.”

Jack nodded but didn’t say anything.

After a few minutes of silence, Suzy spoke up. “By ze way. Before you leave with ze data, I shall need to see your requisition forms.”

Both Drew and Jack stared at her.

Then came a strangely cute chuckle. “Only joking.”

Neither of them knew what to make of that. The last time a robot had made actual jokes that weren’t pre-programmed was Izzy, their Assaultron companion. Thinking back, he wished he had never agreed to hand her over to Colville in exchange for being able to live there. Not only had they neglected her maintenance, but they had also thrown her at the raiders with little concern. Her death still haunted him, like so many others, though it didn’t haunt him nearly as much as Gemma’s death did. The worst part was that he didn’t even know how she had died. He hoped it had been quick, but he doubted the super mutants were that merciful.

There was a loud thump outside the door which made both Drew and Jack jump. For several minutes, they both pointed their weapons towards the door, waiting for anyone or anything to burst through.

Five minutes passed without further sound, other than the odd creak, though they had been hearing those since they had first arrived.

“Jeez,” Jack muttered. “This place is putting me on edge.”

Drew stood up. “The first cores must almost be at capacity by now.”

He plugged in his Pipboy. “Yep, another two minutes and we’ll be swapping them.”

“How many cores do we need to fill?”

“About seven,” Drew told him.

“So five left,” Jack groaned.

“It’s an entire database,” Drew pointed out. “There’ll be a lot that Sarah and Suzy will have to sift through and organize.”

Suzy sounded excited by the prospect. “It will be fun, no?”

“Whatever gets your jets firing,” Drew said as he prepared to pause the transfer and swap data devices.

There was a deep muffled rumbling roar that had Drew instantly raise his rifle. It sounded like it had come from outside the hospital, probably from out on the street.

Jack’s eyes were wide with fear. “Did you hear that!?”

“Yeah, I did,” Drew said as he lowered his weapon and paused the transfer to the cores.

“I don’t think we should be here,” Jack said.

“Just a few more hours. I doubt they’ll come in here, there’s no reason to.”

“And what if they do?” Jack asked.

Drew didn’t want to think about that. He just hoped that he could talk to them like he had back at the Mega Stop.

Drew cleared his throat. “We have two Gutsies ready and willing to fight.”

“You think they’ll be able to stand up to a deathclaw?” Jack asked incredulously.

Drew didn’t answer as he unplugged the memory cores and placed them into Suzy’s storage before plugging in the next two. He re-engaged the transfer before sitting down next to Jack.

“I hate this.”

Drew understood what he meant, but he also felt that they couldn’t leave before getting all the data. It would feel like a wasted effort.

“We came here for a reason,” Drew said. “Once we have what we need, we leave.”

“Fuck the data, Drew. I don’t want to be ripped apart by some deathclaw.”

“Neither do I.” He rubbed his eyes. “If you want to go, then take the two Gutsies with you. I’m staying here, though.”

Jack glowered at him. “I’m not gonna leave you here on your own.”

“Then be quiet. The more noise we make, the more likely it is something will hear us.”

Jack fell silent as he focused on the door. Drew had to admit, he was on edge too. Every creak or settling of the building seemed amplified and he honestly expected something to burst through the door at any moment.

Today was supposed to have been an easy day. He had expected a few Orderlies to come at them and maybe a feral or two, but between the five of them, any hostile should have been easily dispatched.

A deathclaw, green, or otherwise, made it anything but easy.

Then they heard it. It started off quiet, but the thumping of heavy footsteps above them grew louder and louder, dust falling from the ceiling. Eventually, it grew quiet as whatever it was moved on to a different part of the hospital.

“They’re here,” Jack hissed. “We should get out of here before they find us.”

He was right, but Drew wasn’t ready to throw in the towel just yet.

One of the Gutsies decided to give their two cents. “Sounds to me that someone needs to lay off the pies.”

Drew smirked before he brought his finger to his lips. “We’re in hostile territory on a mission to gather needed information. Try to keep it down.”

“Understood!” the two Gutsies barked together.

It was irritating that they didn’t understand what keeping quiet meant. Though he couldn’t exactly blame them. They had been designed to be loud, derogatory, and aggressive in order to draw enemy attention and fire away from the allied soldiers. They weren’t for infiltration missions or anything that required subtlety. No, like all military robots they were there to suppress and drive the enemy back.

“Fuck,” Jack hissed as the thumping upstairs returned, causing more dust to fall.

“Sounds like the Commies brought their wives along,” one of the Gutsies uttered rather loudly.

The footsteps stopped and Drew held his breath, hoping desperately that the Gutsies didn’t say anything else. The last thing they needed was for anything to come investigate the sound.

Suzy spoke in barely a whisper, her three eyes focused on the offending Gutsy. “I do not zhink you should be speaking so loudly.”

She understood the situation, so why couldn’t they? He knew enough about their programming to know that they had the same base subroutines and their internal hardware was pretty much identical. He wondered if it had something to do with their personality? One was programmed to be brash and confident, and the other was programmed to be more reserved and caring.

In a lot of ways, the Gutsy robot was all the worst qualities of a macho man distilled into a metal box.

The thumping returned as the footsteps moved the other way, growing fainter before they once more disappeared.

Jack stood up. “It might be finding a set of stairs to come investigate.”

“It might,” Drew agreed. “Hopefully not.” He checked the time on his Pipboy. “We have another twenty minutes before the next memory cores are full.”

“Do we really need all of it?”

“Probably not,” Drew agreed. “But if you want to sift through all the data to find what’s useful and what isn’t, go right ahead. Might take a few weeks, though.”

Jack sat back down. “This is really stupid, Drew. Why the fuck are we here?”

“To gather data and some supplies,” Drew said even though he knew Jack was well aware.

“There’s one door. If it bursts in here then we don’t have an escape.”

“With at least one wandering about, it might be best to stay put,” Drew pointed out. “I’m not leaving until we’ve got what we came for.”

Jack didn’t look happy but said nothing else. Drew was grateful as he really couldn’t deal with him complaining. Sure, the situation wasn’t ideal, but apart from running away, there was little they could do about it. Besides, running might be the very thing that brought danger their way. If anything, it was best to stay put. It was how he had survived in the past when it came to deathclaws.

Then again, Drew knew that these weren’t regular deathclaws, so any previous experience was rendered moot.

The next hour and a half dragged on, though there were no more signs of movement. Which both of them were definitely thankful for.

With all the data transferred, Drew unplugged the final two drives and told a relieved Jack that it was time to go. After gathering a few supplies, they headed out where they found, much to their surprise, a few dead feral ghouls which hadn’t been there when they had arrived a few hours earlier.

While all of them had deep cuts and gouges in their flesh from claw marks, one appeared to have been completely eviscerated.

“That could have been us,” Jack muttered.

“Still can if we don’t get a move on,” Drew told him as he took the lead. “Come on, let’s get back to the plant.”

“Right behind you,” Jack said eagerly.

As they walked down the old pitted road, Drew glanced back and froze as he saw a Greenclaw peering out of one of the upstairs windows.

Their eyes locked for a moment before it moved out of sight.

“What is it?” Jack asked glancing back towards the hospital.

“I thought I saw something,” Drew said.

It was a lie. He didn’t think he saw something, he knew he saw something.

“Let’s get the fuck out of here before we have an unfortunate encounter.”

“Agreed.”

* * *

“There was a deathclaw in the hospital with us,” Jack told Amy and Sarah. “I thought we were gonna die! Especially because those two Gutsies wouldn’t shut the fuck up.”

After a grueling hurried two-hour and forty-minute stride, they had finally got back to the plant. After taking the memory cores to the nurse’s office and placing the two Gutsies on patrol, Drew, Jack and Suzy had headed for the cafeteria where they were now eating dinner.

Neither Amy nor Sarah could believe what Jack had told them. They looked at Drew, shock etched on their faces.

“A deathclaw?” Amy asked. “And you stayed?”

Drew dismissed Jack’s exaggeration. “It was thumping around upstairs. When we arrived we saw some footprints outside and some inside. But we avoided it, so it turned out alright.”

Jack gestured at the door with his thumb. “Almost didn’t, though. Like I said, the Gutsies wouldn’t shut up and I think the deathclaw might have heard them.”

“Debatable,” Drew said. “It never came to investigate.”

“Doesn’t mean it didn’t hear it,” Jack argued.

“No. But we got the data. That’s all that matters.”

“Next time,” Jack said as he scooped up some mashed tato with his fork, “you can go on your own. I ain’t gonna sit there waiting to be made a deathclaw’s dinner. Especially not with some robots that won’t stop making stupid comments.”

Drew smirked. “This is why I try and talk you out of going places with me. Because you always complain afterwards about how dangerous it was. No-shit. It’s dangerous everywhere.”

“It was only dangerous because we didn’t leave,” Jack pointed out. “The data wasn’t worth the stress.”

“I think it was,” Drew said before looking over at Sarah. “There’s a lot of data there. Tons of it.”

Sarah smiled. “That just means that me and Suzy will have a lot of work compiling and re-organizing it.”

“Sounds like fun,” Amy said sarcastically.

“In a strange sort of way, it will be,” Sarah said with a shrug. “Well, not ‘fun’ per se, but rewarding.”

Amy rolled her eyes as she shook her head. “You vault dwellers are weird.”

“Oh, I was weird, even in the vault,” Sarah joked.

Drew was glad that she had become a part of the group so quickly. At first, he had been weary, but now he was certain that she not only had no ill intent but that she was actually a benefit. The same could be said of Suzy. As for whether the Gutsies would evolve past mere automatons, he would have to wait and see.

Amy looked at Drew. “So, anywhere else you planning on going?”

“Not at the moment,” he said. “Might head out to check the Red Rocket Mega Stop.”

He decided not to tell them that he had already been there.

“Why would you want to check it out?” Amy asked.

Sarah shook her head. “I wouldn’t.”

“I just want to make sure there’s no nest there.”

Amy shook her head vehemently. “And if there is, you’ll be killed.”

“I’ll scout the area out, Ame. I won’t head in, not unless I’m certain it’s clear.”

Drew had a feeling that Amy wasn’t going to let him go. He briefly considered telling them he had already been, but quickly realized that telling them that would make going back pointless. The truth was that he wanted to see a particular Greenclaw again, and while he’d potentially had the chance at the hospital, he hadn’t wanted to put Jack in harm’s way.

Jack clenched his jaw. “If he wants to go, he’ll go. Can’t change his mind once it’s made up.”

“I’m not saying that I’m going for certain,” Drew defended. “Just that I’m thinking about it. If I do, I’ll head into town and get Jarik to come with me.”

Amy looked relieved. “I’d feel better if you did.”

It was a lie, he had no intention of taking Jarik anywhere, and especially not to introduce him to the Greenclaws.

“I’d feel better if you didn’t go at all,” Jack said. “But I know what you’re like.”

“Just thinking out loud,” Drew said. “I’ll probably take it easy tomorrow. Put my feet up and relax.”

“We still have some turrets we need to bring online,” Jack said. “As well as the water filtration system.”

Drew nodded. “We’ll work on the water tomorrow. Get that finished. The water coolers having clean purified water is fine, but we wanna be able to take a shower or bath in clean water too.”

“Definitely,” Sarah agreed wholeheartedly. “I used to shower daily in the vault. Since leaving, I’m lucky if I get to wash myself once a week.”

“Then that’s what we’ll do,” Drew confirmed.

Finished with their food, Drew stood up. “Feeling a little tired. Gonna go upstairs and go relax.”

“See you tomorrow,” Amy said.

Drew waved as he headed out of the room and made his way upstairs to the office. He sat down in the chair and stared out into the darkening wilderness.

His eyes fell on the old military tank. He would love to fix it up one day, but it was something that would be more of a hobby fix than anything else. It would also have to wait until after he had brought the plant back online.

One day, perhaps.

Movement by the security gate caught his eye. He stood up and made his way to the window and stared out. At first, he saw nothing, but from behind the security booth, he saw a Greenclaw emerge.

“What the…” he muttered as he leaned against the glass.

The Greenclaw paused and looked up at him, its gaze piercing.

Nervously, he raised his hand and offered a wave, and much to his surprise it returned it before it turned and left, stomping off onto the highway and out of sight.

Despite not being able to see her all that well, he had a feeling that it was the same Greenclaw that had released him. It seemed, even though it felt absolutely crazy, that he had made a friend. Then again, she could be scoping the place out in preparation for her friends to come and kill them. He didn’t believe that, though. No, there was something about them, something unusual.

He wanted to know more about them, but there was a very old saying, one that predated the great war about curiosity killing the cat.

He didn’t plan on being the cat.

Chapter 11 - Infatuation by Saturn Knight

The past week had been rather busy. Together, Drew, Amy, and Jack had managed to successfully install the purifiers into the water filtration system. This meant they now had clean water coming out of all the faucets, meaning they could now get a drink from anywhere and could even properly wash themselves in the communal showers that the workers would have once used back when the plant was active before the war.

As for Sarah and Suzy, last he heard they were sorting through all the data they had gathered from the hospital. He didn’t envy them. It was a lot of data and he had to wonder how much of it was worthless. He hadn’t bothered sorting what to grab so there was no doubt a lot of useless patient data was on there as well.

Wanting to see if there was an update on that, Drew made his way down to the nurse’s office only to find Jack sitting on the edge of a bed with Sarah looking at his hand.

“What happened?” he asked with a modicum of concern.

Sarah looked around, though it was Suzy that answered. “Jack struck ’imself with ze ’ammer. Very, very silly of ’im.”

Drew smirked. “You hammered your hand?”

Jack’s mouth went into a thin line. “Don’t laugh. It really hurt.”

“Hope it’s not serious.”

Sarah shook her head. “No, he’ll be fine. As long as he keeps his thumb clear of any fast-moving hard blunt objects in the future.”

“It’s not like I went out of my way to smash my thumb with the hammer,” Jack mumbled.

“Well in the future, try harder to avoid it,” Sarah said.

“Don’t worry, I will.”

Drew slowly shook his head with a smirk. “Now that’s out of the way; I did come for an update on that data we got. How’s it been going?”

“There’s a lot of it,” Sarah answered. “We’ve been going through what is needed and what isn’t. Some of it was also not properly indexed, so we’re having to sort through that as well.”

“How long do you think it will be before you’re finished?” Drew asked.

“No idea,” Sarah answered with a shrug. “A while. We’ve been taking a break from it, to be honest.”

“I don’t blame you.” Drew looked at Jack. “Be more careful, yeah?”

“I will, don’t worry about that,” Jack answered.

Drew stepped out of the nurse’s office and made his way back down the hallway. As he rounded a corner, he noticed a door that was usually closed was open. He walked over and peeked inside, finding Amy standing there staring out across the factory floor at all the old crusted up production lines.

“Hey,” she said, looking over her shoulder at him.

“Something wrong?” he asked.

“You really think we can bring this place back to life?”

“Yeah, I do. As long as we’re willing to put the work in.”

She gestured at one of the lines. “I was looking around and found some Assaultron parts.”

“I noticed that a few days ago,” Drew said. “I think that line can be swapped between making Assaultrons and Protectrons. There’s a line for Gutsies and one for Sentries. Unfortunately, I didn’t find many parts for Assaultrons or Sentries but I haven’t actually taken an inventory of what we have in the stock warehouse yet.”

“Hopefully there will be some.”

“Yeah, hopefully.”

“So what’s the plan for bringing this place online?”

“Getting the Gutsy line up and running is first priority due to the amount of Gutsy parts we have. I also wanna convert one of the warehouses into a repair shop. But that will wait until after we have all the lines pumping out robots.”

“Don’t expect Jack to help for a few days,” Amy said. “He smashed his hand with a hammer.”

“I saw,” Drew said. “How did he do it?”

“He was trying to make some armor.”

“With a hammer?”

“It was metal armor and he was trying to get a piece into shape.”

Drew smiled. “He used to be good at that back when we lived in Paulson. That, and making clothes. He was practically the town tailor.”

“He wants to get back into it.”

“I could do with some new armor,” Drew said.

He decided not to mention that his armor had been damaged by a Greenclaw at the Mega Stop. None of them were aware that it had been damaged, or that he’d even been there in the first place.

Drew focused back on Amy as she spoke. “Jack’ll need some materials if he wants to start making clothes and armor. He’ll also need a proper workshop otherwise he’s gonna hurt himself again.”

It was stupid to keep the encounter a secret, he knew that, but he felt like he needed to know more about them. He wanted to know their motivations and he had to know if the bigger one had actually spoken or whether it had been just his imagination.

“What do you think?” Amy asked Drew. “You think it’s possible to make a little workshop for him?”

“Plenty of rooms here that could be converted,” Drew said. “Once we’ve got the main factory working, I’m sure we can convert somewhere especially for him.”

“He’d like that, I think,” Amy said with a smile.

Despite how stupid and dangerous it was, Drew needed to see the Greenclaws again. He needed to understand if they were actually a threat or not. If he could open a dialogue somehow, and get them to understand that he meant them no harm.

With luck, they felt the same. Well, the bigger one might. The smaller one had wanted nothing more than to rip out his intestines.

Drew turned for the door. “I’m gonna take a look around. See you later, Ame.”

“Yeah, see ya.”

Drew headed back up to his office and scribbled out a note, leaving it on the desk, telling them that he was heading out for a bit. After some internal debate, he decided to tell them he was headed into Colville to see if there were any scavenger jobs for him before he grabbed his coat and his rifle and headed out alone.

With every footstep, he argued with himself. On one side he felt like he had to see them again, but the more rational part of his brain was telling him how stupid he was being. These things weren’t cute stray dogs or cats, or even lost children. These things were deathclaws, yet there was something oddly human about them.

As he got closer, he left the highway and took to the tree line, finding a spot where he could watch over the place.

For a good few hours, he sat there, watching, waiting. Apart from a group of radstags, he saw nothing.

Finally, as the afternoon closed into evening, he decided it was time to go home. The last thing he wanted was for it to get dark before he got back.

Strangely, despite it being the reason he was there, he felt relieved that they hadn’t shown up. In truth, only an idiot would want to meet giant death lizards a second time. He didn’t want to believe that he was being stupid, but if Amy or Jack found out what he’d been up to they would think he had gone absolutely insane.

As he stepped through the front doors of the plant, the sun was fast approaching the horizon, washing the sky a bright orange. He wondered if anyone had even noticed he was gone. He supposed he would soon find out.

Drew made his way to the cafeteria where he found Sarah getting a drink from the water cooler. She turned around and offered a wave.

“Amy and Jack have been upstairs all day clearing out the lounge. I told him to take it easy after he flattened his thumb, but that guy is a dynamo.”

“We have a lounge?” Drew asked, his brow raised.

“Yeah, it’s down the hall from that office you claimed.”

He grabbed a piece of mutfruit from the refrigerator. “I guess I’ll have to go take a look.”

“I’ll show you,” Sarah said, taking the lead.

They both headed upstairs, passing the office and several doors before stepping through the one near the end. Inside, Amy and Jack were sat on an old couch and the room itself looked to have been swept, cleaned, and dusted. He could even smell the telltale odor of cleaning products in the air.

“Hey, Drew,” Jack said.

“Looking good,” Drew said, taking a long look around the somewhat clean room.

“Been to town?” Amy asked him. “Saw your note.”

“Yeah,” he lied.

“Bring anything back?”

“Nah, just checked to see if there were any jobs for me.”

“Why?” Jack asked. “Not enough here for you to do or something?”

“Yeah, but I still wanna earn some caps now and then.”

“Were there any jobs?”

“Nothing worthwhile.”

Drew knew that he was building a pillar of lies, one that could crumble and topple at any moment. He had to start reigning it in otherwise he knew that could easily find himself losing the trust of his friends.

“I’m thinking of checking out the Mega Stop tomorrow,” Drew told them. “See if there’s a nest there.”

Jack rolled his eyes. “You still want to do that?”

Amy shook her head. “It’s too dangerous.”

“I said I’m thinking on it, not that I am for certain,” he said, turning for the door. “I’m headed for bed, see you tomorrow.”

Sarah followed him as he stepped out, before she moved in front of him, blocking his way.

“What?” he asked.

“You can’t seriously be thinking about going over there to that Red Rocket coolant station are you?”

“Thinking on it, yeah,” he said. “Don’t worry, I’m not gonna waltz in there. I’ll observe from the tree line to see if anyone or anything shows up.”

“What if something sneaks up on you?” Sarah asked.

“What if a Greenclaw sneaks into this factory?” he asked back. “There’s a risk, sure, but I’ve been doing stuff like this for years. I’ll be fine.”

“Are you gonna take those green robots with you?”

“The Gutsies?”

“Yeah.”

“They’re too loud and are about as stealthy as a flare.”

“So you’ll go alone?”

“Safer that way. Besides, as I said last time, I might see if Jarik is up for it.” He smiled. “Thanks for the concern, Sarah. I’ll be fine, I promise.”

She turned away. “I should head back down to my office. Get things in order.”

“I promise I’ll be fine.”

She glanced back at him. “I hope so.”

“I will be. See you tomorrow.”

“Yeah.”

Drew watched as she walked off. He appreciated her concern but it wasn’t really necessary. Then again, maybe it was. He was being crazy after all.

With a loud yawn, Drew decided he might as well head off to bed. It had been a long, unproductive yet still tiring day.

* * *

The next morning, he headed out early, and like the day before, he took refuge in the tree line, observing the Mega Stop from the relative safety of the trees.

He sat there watching and waiting until midday when he took his eyes off the place to eat some food. Then, after lunch, he continued to watch until four in the afternoon when he finally decided it was time to call it a day.

Unlike yesterday, though, he decided he might as well get something out of it, so he headed inside to grab some supplies.

Though that was easier said than done.

The place was even more barren than the last time. The shelves were empty and taking a look in the warehouse, most of the crates had been clawed open.

He checked them to find most were empty. Eventually, he found some old cleaning products, which he placed in his backpack before heading home.

The following day, he headed out yet again, briefly telling Amy he was going out for a walk. Thankfully, she didn’t barrage him with questions over his recent excursions, but she did give him a look that said she knew he was up to something.

Unlike the last two times that he was there, he didn’t bother hiding himself away in the tree line to observe. Instead, he continued along the road, following the highway off-ramp to the parking lot.

Like yesterday, he headed into the warehouse and began to search the crates for anything useful.

As he was gathering more cleaning fluids, he felt a deep and ominous rumble. It was faint, at least at first, but it didn’t take long for him to notice that there were not only more tremors rumbling through the ground, but there was a rhythm to them like footsteps. From how they felt and sounded, though, the creature making them had to be huge.

As quickly as he could, he darted out of the warehouse and across the store floor. By the time he reached the exit, the vibrations were so heavy he wondered if there was an army of them, all marching in step with each other.

Stepping out of the front doors, he saw a shadow move from down the side of the building. Quickly, he rushed over to a set of dumpsters and hid behind them. There, he waited in silence, barely daring to breathe.

For a moment, he thought he heard talking, but deep yet still strangely feminine. Then the dumpsters vibrated as impossibly heavy footfalls stomped loudly into the ground before once more stopping.

With his heart thumping in his chest, Drew peered around the dumpster and almost screamed out as he laid eyes on an absolutely gigantic basil-colored Greenclaw. Its body shape was feminine like the others he had seen, yet this one had to be upwards of twenty-feet tall.

It was absolutely colossal. So much so that it took him a minute or so to realize that the Greenclaw that had spared his life was standing right next to it.

He ducked back behind the dumpster, his breath heavy, his heart racing. The big one was so large that he had no doubt that it could practically swallow him whole.

Then the humongous one spoke, its voice deep and rumbling, yet oddly feminine.

“Ayma, bring the crates outside and I’ll pack them into that van over there. Then I’ll carry it home.”

Drew covered his mouth, holding back a gasp that threatened to spill out. They could actually speak. He thought he had heard it before, but now it was confirmed.

He peeked around the dumpster and watched as the smaller Greenclaw headed inside, the larger one standing guard, staring out towards the horizon.

It didn’t take long for the one called Ayma to return with not one, but two crates under each arm, showing him that they had unbelievable strength. She placed them down with a thump before her head raised and she began to sniff at the air.

In an instant, Drew moved back out of sight and held his breath. The last time he’d seen one of them sniff the air like that was because it had smelled him. He hoped that wasn’t the case here, but deep down he knew it was.

“What is it?” the behemoth of a Greenclaw asked, her voice rumbling through the dumpster.

There was no verbal answer, though one did come in the form of heavy footsteps. Thankfully, they were not from the giant, but from the smaller claw. Unfortunately, they were getting closer to where he was hiding.

Knowing that his cover was about to be blown at any moment, He darted out from behind the dumpster and ran around the corner, sprinting around the side of the building as fast as he could.

Seeing no other way to escape, he decided to climb a drain pipe, ascending it as fast as humanly possible. The muscles in his arms screamed out, but he pushed on until he was at the top.

Fatigued, he dragged himself onto the roof and behind an air-conditioning unit where he practically collapsed from exhaustion.

“Where did he go?” the larger one asked.

“Kiki, stop talking. He might hear us.”

Drew felt his heart stop for a moment. Kiki? He knew that name, or rather he had known someone with that name. She had been sweet on him, much to his annoyance. If he hadn’t been with Gemma, he would have certainly ended up with Kiki. She, like nearly everyone else, had unfortunately been taken by the super mutants when they had attacked Paulson.

He felt dizzy. Could it be? No, it was impossible, right? Right? There were rumors that super mutants used to be people and that they had been infected by some kind of virus that had changed them. What if they had done something similar to those they had taken from Paulson and turned them into these monsters?

He felt sick. It couldn’t be possible. He refused to believe that Gemma, Kiki, or anyone else could have possibly been turned into one of those creatures. It wasn’t possible and he refused to believe that it was.

He let out an unintentional gasp as a shadow fell over him. He looked up to see two large clawed hands as they ascended over the side of the building. They came down, picking up dirt and detritus as they landed a mere seven feet away from him. They dug into the roof as the building began to groan under the weight. There, he sat frozen in terror as two large horns and then a head peeked over the side of the building.

It stared at him and he stared right back, clutching his laser rifle against his chest. He had felt intimidated by Ayma, but Kiki was absolutely terrifying.

Without thinking, he jumped to his feet and ran. Up ahead was the edge, but below he could see the tall trailer of a truck.

Feeling he had no other choice, he made the leap, only to not quite make it. He slammed into the side before he hit the ground, hard, knocking himself out cold.

Chapter 12 - Predators and Prey by Saturn Knight

Slowly, Drew regained consciousness. It wasn’t a pleasant return to the world as he was greeted by a pounding migraine and a stiff, aching back. Something was propping up his head and it took a moment for him to realize it was his backpack.

As to what had happened, he had absolutely no idea. His memories were hazy, though from what little that he could actually remember, he had a terrible feeling that it might have included the Greenclaws.

“Wha…” he stammered as his eyes drifted open.

His vision was blurry, so he couldn’t quite make out the figure that loomed over him. It was more of a shadow than a person, illuminated by light shining on the side of its body. He was inside and at a guess, he was at the Red Rocket Mega Stop.

Slowly, he began to piece together the events. He remembered the footsteps, going outside, hiding behind the dumpster, and then the colossal Greenclaw as it had peered at him over the side of the roof like a predator hunting for its prey.

Drew rubbed his eyes as he tried to focus on the figure. Had Jack or Amy found him unconscious? Was it a scavenger? He had no idea who it was that was standing over him, though that soon changed as his vision began to clear.

It was a Greenclaw and it was staring right at him.

“Shit!” he uttered in fright as his heart nearly leaped out of his chest.

It, no she, blinked, then glanced outside before focusing back on him.

“Uh, hello,” he said, trying to keep the tremble out of his voice.

It then spoke. “You took a nasty fall,” she said. “I do not think you broke anything.”

She was talking to him, and there was something eerily familiar about her voice.

“Wh-what happened?” he asked, his voice shaky and uneven.

“Kiki terrified you so much that you tried to leap to your death.”

Just at the mention of the gargantuan Greenclaw, his heart rate spiked and his chest started to feel tight. The Greenclaw looming over him was right, Kiki terrified him. He had never seen something so horrifying in his life. The closest that he’d seen was a mirelurk queen, yet somehow, it didn’t feel nearly as terrifying.

“You’re scared of her,” the Greenclaw observed. “Are you scared of me?”

Even though he knew he should be cautious of what he said, he decided to tell her the truth. “Yeah, I am.”

He had been lying far too much recently and he didn’t want to get off on a bad footing, though he feared he’d already done that.

“Not scared enough apparently,” she said as she stopped leaning over him and stood up. She paused and looked back down at him. “I’m Ayma. The other one is Kiki like I said.”

“What are you gonna do to me?” he asked, his voice hitching in his throat.

“Nothing,” she said as she turned away and began to stomp off.

“Where are you going?”

“What we came here to do,” she said as she disappeared down an aisle.

Briefly, Drew considered getting up and getting the hell out of there, but he realized that the ginormous Kiki was probably waiting outside. That was easily enough to keep him exactly where he was. Besides, his back still hurt and his head was still pounding like a tiny man was inside his skull sledgehammering his brain.

Not a minute after disappearing, he heard Ayma’s stomping feet get closer as she returned. She emerged from behind an aisle with a crate in hand and placed it down on the floor next to another by the front doors. She then turned around and headed back towards the warehouse before returning a minute later with another crate. She then stacked them atop one another.

“You taking everything?” he asked.

“Eventually,” she answered. “Do you want some of this stuff?”

“I want stuff for cleaning, mostly,” he said. “I’m fixing up the old Robco plant.”

The moment he told her he realized he probably shouldn’t have.

“I know you are,” she said. “I have seen you there. You waved at me by the gate. Neka and Axa mentioned some people had set up residence there. I figured it was you because that was the direction you went the last time we met.”

Two more names meant there were at least four of them. He figured it was either Neka or Axa that had been the one that had wanted to tear out his intestines before Ayma had thankfully stopped her.

She walked over to him. “What do you plan on doing with the robots.”

Again, he was a little too honest. “Since I arrived in Colville and discovered the plant, I wanted to fix it up. The plan was to secure the region with the robots and make the place safe. It was a dream, but I just wasn’t getting around to it. Then there were reports of green deathclaws in the area, which kicked my ass into gear.”

“So you want to use the robots to hunt us?”

“That was the plan, I guess.”

“Was?”

“Yeah. I’m still trying to figure out if you’re a threat or a potential ally.”

“Ally?” She slowly shook her head. “The towns and settlements would never accept us. They will hunt us down given the chance.”

“You’re probably right,” he accepted glumly. “Still, it would be nice to have you around. You’d be able to keep the region safe.”

“What if we don’t want to?”

“It’s up to you,” Drew said. “But I can tell how strong you are and you’re intimidating as all hell. You could really do a lot to help folk around these parts.”

Ayma held out a clawed hand. “Are you okay to stand?”

“Uh, I think so.”

Nervously, he reached out, his hand looking tiny inside her claw. She gripped him and pulled him up with enough power to almost lift him clean off his feet. He stumbled forward, pain shooting through his back before his free hand made contact with something warm and hard.

It took him a moment to realize that his hand was on her strangely human-like stomach. Unthinking, he ran his fingers down her strong abs, feeling every contour. The muscles underneath felt incredible, like rock, but the thick skin also gave her stomach a peculiar softness.

That was when he realized what he was doing. “Shit,” he uttered snatching his hand away. He felt embarrassed and mortified over what had just happened.

“Enjoying yourself?” Ayma asked. She didn’t sound angry, more amused, but that didn’t mean he hadn’t overstepped a boundary.

“Uh, sorry,” he uttered quickly.

“No, I am the one who is sorry,” Ayma said. “I pulled you way too hard.”

He turned around and picked up his backpack with a pained groan. He hoped his stunt hadn’t permanently messed up his back.

“I’m gonna grab some cleaning fluids and some fuses and stuff,” he said.

“Go ahead. I will be fetching two more crates, then we will be heading back.”

“Back where?”

She tapped her nose, or in this case her snout, an action that reminded him of Gemma when she had known something she didn’t want him to know.

Drew decided not to press her on the issue. If she didn’t want him to know where they had made their nest then it was fair.

He walked off; or rather he limped off, and checked the shelves, finding a few items that he needed. He placed them in his backpack then made his way back to the entrance and waited for Ayma.

Honestly, he was too scared to step foot outside alone. Not with the colossus out there.

“So,” the Greenclaw began as she placed the crate down. “What is your name?”

“Drew,” he told her.

She paused for a moment, a frown crossing her features.

“I know that name.”

Drew stared at her in disbelief, his heart once more starting to race in his chest. “You know my name?”

She nodded. “It sounds very familiar.”

He glanced through the doors. The other Greenclaw wasn’t currently visible, but he knew she was still out there.

“I used to know a Kiki,” he said. “Nice girl. I could tell she had a thing for me, but I was already dating someone.”

“What was her name?” Ayma asked.

“Gemma.”

The Greenclaw’s entire body flinched. “Gemma,” she repeated.

“Yeah, Gemma,” he confirmed, not wanting to even consider the implications. It was too horrifying to even think about.

He was starting to feel sick. He had searched for Gemma and had tried to find out where they had taken her and the others, but he had never been able to find them.

“I know you,” Ayma said pointing as she stepped closer. “I’ve felt that way since I first met you. It was why I let you go.”

“So your friend was actually going to kill me?”

“Depends,” she said. “Usually we scare people away.”

“Usually?”

She looked away before focusing back on him. “Sometimes people attack. They shoot at us, try and kill us.”

“I wasn’t going to shoot you.”

“No, maybe not, but we are also told to kill those that may have discovered our intelligence. She sees them as a threat. She would see you as a threat.”

“You were told to kill people? By who?”

“Our matriarch.”

Drew thought for a moment. The Greenclaws weren’t inherently hostile, clearly, and if he wanted a truce he needed to speak to their matriarch, or at least get a message to her.

Honestly, he would prefer the latter as he didn’t fancy facing their leader. If Kiki was anything to go by, then their matriarch might be absolutely colossal and there was no guarantee that she was as friendly as Ayma.

“Kiki and I agreed to walk you home to the factory to make sure you make it back safely.”

“Uh, you did?” he said, surprised. “You don’t have to do that. It might be better if you don’t. The turrets will shoot you.”

“We won’t get that close.”

He didn’t know if it was possible to talk her out of it and decided not to bother. If they wanted to go with him, he wouldn’t stop them. His only fear was that someone saw them. In all honesty, not many people used the northern side of the highway as the majority of the settlements and towns were all to the south.

Ayma gestured to the crates. “Do you want to help me move them outside?”

Drew looked at them then shook his head. “I’d love to, but I don’t think I can carry them. Too heavy.”

She made a sound that almost sounded like a snort. “I forgot how weak humans are.”

Drew tried to think of a clever rebuke, but nothing came to his still fogged-up brain. Thankfully, his migraine was starting to ease off, but it was still there pestering him as a dull ache that seemed to pulsate in tandem with his heart.

“I guess we are,” he said instead as he watched Ayma walk over to two sets of stacked crates and gawked as she lifted them together.

“Show-off,” he muttered as she carried them outside.

As he stepped towards the exit, he realized he didn’t have his laser rifle on him.

Ayma took notice as she re-entered. “Looking for something?”

“My rifle.”

The Greenclaw walked towards a checkout and reached behind it, pulling his weapon out before she handed it over. It honestly looked like a tiny toy in her massive hand.

“Thanks,” he said taking it, holstering it on his back.

She quickly explained. “I hid it because I didn’t know how you’d react when you awoke.”

“Good thinking, I guess,” he said.

“I thought so,” she said, her mouth forming into a smile, which looked more than a little odd, perhaps even sinister, on her reptilian face

“I’ve got two more crates to take to the van. Then we’ll be taking them with us.”

“Sure,” Drew said with a nod.

She picked up the last two crates and he followed her towards the doors, gritting his teeth as a pain shot down his back and through his left knee, likely a result of the fall.

As he stepped through the doors, he looked around, his eyes falling on Kiki’s gargantuan form as she sat on the dirt hill across the far side of the parking lot.

Fear rose up from his gut and he found himself gripping hold of Ayma’s taught forearm, his eyes locked on the behemoth.

“You seem to like touching me, don’t you?”

The question from Ayma forced him to let go. He stepped away from her, still unable to take his eyes off of the behemoth. In fact, he was so preoccupied that he slammed into the side of the old van.

He heard snickering from Ayma as she placed the crates into the back and pushed the doors shut.

“Did that hurt?” she asked.

It was odd to see a deathclaw smile, let alone laugh.

His fear was rekindled as his focus fell back on Kiki as she stood up. She began to walk their way and even as Amya moved clear of the van, he found himself frozen to the spot, unable to move.

Finally, Ayma grabbed him and yanked him away, almost pulling him off his feet.

“You can pick up the van, now,” Ayma said before she stood in front of Drew, blocking his view of the behemoth. “She is not going to hurt you.”

He wrapped his arms around her forearm, unable to keep his eyes off of Kiki. His fear wasn’t helped when she lifted up the van with ease and rested it on her shoulder like a barrel.

She looked down at them. “I am not scaring you, am I?”

He couldn’t even answer.

“I think you are,” Ayma answered for him. “He is shaking like a leaf.”

Abject terror wasn’t something that Drew felt very often, but a twenty-foot-tall deathclaw had revealed phobias that he didn’t know existed.

Actually, that was a lie.

Memories flashed through his head, ones from long, long ago, back from when he had been a kid.

At the time, he had been living in a settlement far to the east with his parents. It was the only place he had ever known having spent his entire life there.

Every now and then, the town was attacked by super mutants, the big green monsters that no one knew the origin of. They had no idea where they came from or why they attacked.

One day, though, the super mutants had come with a friend. It was a lumbering behemoth, perhaps twenty feet tall, the same as Kiki.

It had torn through their defenses and pulverized those that tried to defend the settlement. Drew had never felt such terror before, watching as it killed everyone.

The cries of his mom still haunted him to this day.

His father had died a few years later.

They had been living further east on the coast. His dad had joined a group called the Minutemen and they had both lived in a place called ‘The Castle’ which had been the group’s central headquarters.

Like the behemoth, the monster that had risen from the sea was crisp in his mind as were the mirelurks that came with it.

The wall of the castle had been pulverized and everyone was in a panic. While they had the means, they hadn’t had the time to take it out. Though they had certainly tried.

His father hadn’t been so lucky, crushed under falling debris in the initial attack before anyone knew what was happening.

Those final moments with his father was something he still dreamed about on occasion. Holding his hand, his father pleading for him to flee. As a final gift, as his organs had shut down, his father had given him his Pipboy. A second parent lost to a towering monster.

There was this fear there, a phobia, one that Kiki provoked by her mere existence.

“I’m not going to hurt you,” Kiki said, bringing him out of his thoughts. “I promise.”

Drew un-holstered his rifle, forcing his attention away from the colossus. “Let’s just get out of here.”

“Are you sure you are okay?” Ayma asked.

He nodded, though it came off more as a jerk considering how much he was shaking.

“I can carry you?” Ayma offered.

“No, I’m fine,” he said.

Ayma stepped beside him. “Your reaction is why we have to remain hidden. Even though Kiki has assured you she means you no harm, you’re still terrified.”

“Let’s go,” he said, ignoring her. “You wanna walk me home, then walk me home.”

Ayma looked up at Kiki. “Stay behind us at a distance.”

“I understand. I feel so bad.”

Drew could have laughed at that. Kiki could swallow him whole and yet she sounded saddened that he found her so terrifying. It was strangely comical and if it wasn’t for her sheer scale he might have even called it cute.

“It’s not your fault,” he said loudly. “Just some things that happened in the past. Bad memories.”

Not much else was said as they left the parking lot and made their way down the off-ramp onto the highway. The deep pounding of Kiki’s footsteps made him feel skittish, like prey that was being pursued by the predator.

As strange as it was, Ayma made him feel safer despite the fact that she was a nine or ten-foot wall of death.

Drew glanced back and saw Kiki looking down at him. She smiled, showing off her teeth, which didn’t help his fear.

Knowing he had to get his mind off the behemoth behind them, he focused on Ayma.

“Where did you come from?” he asked.

“I can’t tell you that.”

“I don’t mean where you’re living right now. I mean before that? Do you remember?”

“Who says we lived anywhere else,” she said before looking down at him. “To answer your question, I think we are from further north. I can’t really remember. Everything from before…” she trailed off. “I do not want to talk about it.”

“Ever hear of a place called Paulson?”

Ayma stopped dead in her tracks, a heavy look of confusion on her face.

The heavy footfalls of Kiki then stopped a few moments later. “Something wrong?” she asked.

Ayma focused on him. “It sounds familiar.”

There were a few more heavy footfalls and before Drew knew it, Kiki was looming over them.

“What are you two talking about?” she asked, leaning in. “Something important?”

Drew held back his urge to run. He kept his eyes forwards, ignoring the rhythmic blasts of her warm breath. Once again he felt like he was the prey at the mercy of the giant predator. If she was so inclined, Kiki could eat him whole and probably without even chewing.

“Paulson,” he repeated loudly. “Have you heard of Paulson?”

“I don’t…” Kiki stopped speaking as Drew found himself trembling uncontrollably in fear. She took a few steps back. “Oh, sorry, I got a little close. Didn’t mean to scare you.”

Ayma rested a clawed hand on his back. “He just wanted to know if you remembered a place called Paulson.”

“I don’t think I have,” Kiki answered. “I’m not sure. Maybe?”

Ayma looked back down at Drew. “We’ve lost most of our memories from before,” she said, speaking loudly. “Kiki has more than most of us, but we’ve still got gaps.”

“Gaps?” Kiki asked, barely able to hear them. “Yeah, lots of gaps in our memories. I remember things from my childhood, but everything after about eight or nine gets really hazy.”

“I don’t even remember that,” Ayma said. “All of it’s a fog for me.”

“I remember a bit about our captives, actually,” Kiki said. “They were big and green. We killed them.”

Drew swallowed hard. “Super mutants?”

Kiki leaned down towards them. “What was that?”

“Super mutants!” Drew shouted.

“Yeah, I think that’s what they were,” Kiki said. “There was this scientist, too. I think he was helping them.”

Ayma stared down at the road. “I don’t remember much. Just pain. It lasted for weeks.”

“I remember that.” Kiki shuddered. “My pain was worse than yours and Lotte’s was the worst of anyone. We were growing a foot a day and we were ravenous. I recall hunting down, killing, and devouring every last… What was it our new friend called them?”

“Super mutants,” Drew said loudly, his voice quivering.

“Yeah, super mutants. We even headed out into the wilds finding food where we could. Memory of that is foggy though.”

Drew didn’t want to hear any more of it in fear that they had been behind the disappearance of a small settlement fifty miles to the west. One day, a caravan had shown up there and the place was deserted.

Most of the small wood huts they had built as homes had been pulverized and there had been a staining of blood covering nearly every surface. The caravaneers hadn’t stayed long and had promptly spread the word to all other traders in the region.

As to what had happened to them, no one knew, but now he had an idea what might have happened and he didn’t like it. Then again, it could be a coincidence. He hoped so because the alternative didn’t even bear thinking about.

Drew looked at Ayma. He wanted to put that thought out of his mind. He felt like he had to show them that he wasn’t scared.

“You know,” he began, “I don’t think I’ve been escorted by a deathclaw before, let alone spoken to one.”

“We are not really deathclaws, we are abominations.”

Drew fell silent. He could hear the hurt in her voice and decided that it was probably best to leave it there. Again, his thoughts fell on that settlement that had been wiped out and he had to wonder if her answer was an admission of guilt?

“Sorry,” he apologized. “It’s just that there’s a lot of questions in my head. I guess I can save them until next time.”

“You probably shouldn’t seek us out again,” Ayma said firmly. “We cannot be friends.”

“Why not?”

He had felt like they had been getting on rather well. Apart from Kiki stomping several paces behind them, that was. She was still terrifying and he couldn’t see himself getting over that anytime soon.

“It would not work out,” Ayma said.

“Why? I think we’re getting on okay.”

Ayma stopped and held up a clawed hand.

“What is it?” he asked, looking around for any sign of danger.

“This is where we will part ways,” she said. “Goodbye, Drew.”

Kiki spoke, echoing what Drew was thinking. “We’re still over an hour away from the robot factory.”

“I know, but this is a mistake. Someone might see us. We should head back home as quickly as possible.”

“The journey only takes a few hours,” Kiki said. “We have the time.”

“No, we do not.”

Ayma rested her clawed hand on Drew’s back once more. She looked almost sad.

Drew swallowed hard. “Is this goodbye, then?”

“Probably, yes. We might not be coming out this way again. It is becoming too dangerous.”

He let out a sad sigh. “It was nice to meet you.” He turned around and forced himself to look up at Kiki. “It was nice to meet you, too!” he shouted, trying hard to keep his composure. The urge to run was almost overwhelming.

“Same,” she said in return as she turned to leave, her massive feet causing the ground to tremble.

“Goodbye,” he said sullenly.

She paused and glanced back at him. “We might be back at the Red Rocket stop in three days,” she said before walking away, Kiki waiting until she had passed before following behind.

In silence, Drew watched as they both headed back up the highway. Without him slowing them down, they moved a lot faster, with Ayma running, while Kiki appeared to be walking at a slow pace with the van still on her shoulder.

“Goodbye,” he said solemnly.

He didn’t know if it truly would be the last time he saw them, but he hoped not. There were too many questions that still needed answering.

He just hoped he got the opportunity to ask them.

Chapter 13 - The Meeting by Saturn Knight

Drew stood there by the door to the cafeteria and watched while Amy told the others a story about Angela, an old girlfriend of hers. He could hear the joy, yet also the pain. It was a tale he had heard before many times. It was of how they had met and of how they had almost immediately fallen in love.

It was a nice story, but he knew that wasn’t how things had gone, not really. The truth wasn’t quite so fairy-tale, especially considering how it had ended.

Sarah seemed enamored by it and Drew couldn’t blame her. It was a nice story, one that a lot of people would be jealous of and Amy told it well. In a different life at a different time, she might have been a novelist. It was a shame that most books were reduced to little more than charred-out husks that were left to rot.

Colville, thankfully, still had its library and the books had been kept in relatively good condition. It was a pity that Drew didn’t have time to read. The last time he’d done any serious reading was with Gemma. He missed those nights when they did little more than read to each other. They used to get so lost in those fictional stories of a world long gone. He missed her. He missed her more than anything, and he knew Amy felt the same way about Angela as did Jack about Grace.

He turned away and headed out into the corridor. It had been three days since he had formally met Ayma and Kiki and he hadn’t been able to get them out of his head. Last night he’d even had a strangely arousing dream where he’d been snuggled between Kiki’s colossal breasts. In the dream, she had been much larger than reality, and yet instead of feeling fear, he had felt safe.

With a sigh, he pinched the bridge of his nose. He had felt appalled when he’d woken up, but at the time, in the dream, it had felt like bliss.

“What is wrong with me?” he muttered out loud to himself.

Before they had said goodbye, Ayma had told him that they would be back in three days, but that had been a maybe. That day was today and he was arguing with himself about whether he should go. He was playing a dangerous game, especially since he was keeping it from Amy and Jack, the closest to family he had left.

“I have to see her again,” he muttered as he made his way upstairs to the office. “I have to find out if my suspicions about Ayma are true.”

After grabbing his coat and his laser rifle, he headed out the door and walked quickly across the parking lot onto the highway. He still ached a little from his fall, but he pushed through it, maintaining his pace.

If there was one thing that made him second guess himself, it was the prospect of facing Kiki. He wasn’t sure he was ready to see her again, though, after last night’s strangely sexual dream about her, he had to wonder if there wasn’t something his subconscious was trying to tell him. Either way, five minutes into the walk and he was already starting to feel very nervous.

Thanks to his fast pace and the occasional periods where he’d actually broken into a jog, he managed to cut down the three-hour walk down to two hours and nineteen minutes. Though it did come at a cost and that was exhaustion.

Seeing no sign of either Ayma, Kiki, or any other Greenclaw, Drew perched himself on the hood of an old car and waited.

The first hour went by, then the second. Roughly a quarter of the way through the third, however, he started to feel the rhythmic thumps of heavy footsteps which grew louder and heavier the closer they got.

It took some effort, but he managed to keep his breathing even, despite his rising fear. That fear spiked as he saw Kiki’s gargantuan form move into view from behind the Mega Stop with Ayma following down by her feet.

He jumped off the hood of the car, drawing their attention. He raised his hand and waved, which received no response from Ayma. Kiki, on the other hand, waved back.

“Oh, hello,” the colossal Greenclaw said, sounding a little disappointed. Wasn’t she happy he was there?

Ayma walked towards him while Kiki stayed back. Drew could tell just from her expression that something was wrong.

“We have a problem,” she said confirming his suspicions a moment later.

“A problem?” he asked. “Did someone find out where you’re holed-up?”

Ayma shook her head. “Kiki let slip your existence.”

“I only told Varan and Neka,” Kiki said, turning her gaze down towards the ground.

“And word spread to the others. Our matriarch found out and she was not happy.”

Drew didn’t like where the conversation was going. “And what does that mean for me?”

“Matriarch Lotte knows you have a Pipboy from questioning us. She wants to speak with you.”

Drew swallowed hard. “In person?”

“Yes, in person,” Ayma confirmed. “The journey will take most of the day.”

“That’s a long way.

“Yes, but if you let me carry you it will only be a few hours.”

Drew regretted coming. The thought of meeting a colony of Greenclaws was far from appealing and meeting their matriarch was even less so.

“I take it your matriarch is big?”

Ayma’s response wasn’t what he wanted to hear. “A third bigger than Kiki.”

He swallowed hard. “And how many of you are there?”

“Twelve,” Ayma said. “More than twelve, actually, but half the group left and went their own way.”

“And how many guys?” he asked. “I’ve only seen females up until now.”

“No males.”

That surprised him. “None?”

“No. Not with us, at least. Too aggressive. Now no more questions. We need to get going. If you have any more, then you will have the opportunity to ask them to our matriarch.”

Drew rubbed the back of his neck nervously. “Uh… right.”

Kiki moved in a little closer. “He doesn’t have to come if he doesn’t want to. Nothing is forcing him to.”

Ayma looked up at her. “Our matriarch said…”

Kiki interrupted. “I know Lotte was adamant we bring him, but we should not force him if he doesn’t want to.”

He felt a little relieved at that.

“We need his help, though,” Ayma said. “You heard what she said.”

“I know, but he should be the one that decides if he helps us or not.”

Drew didn’t know what they needed help with, but it sounded serious, serious enough that their leader was willing to risk revealing their home to an outsider.

Ayma looked at him. “Kiki’s right, it is up to you.”

“What exactly do you need from me?” he asked.

“Holotapes,” Ayma told him. “We need someone that can look at the data that is stored on them.”

Kiki explained. “Before you ask why we haven’t tried to access them ourselves, there is a problem.”

“What kind of problem?” he asked.

“We smashed most of the terminals and the few terminals we have left cannot load holotapes.”

“You smashed them? Why?”

“You have to understand that when we first awoke after coming out of the tanks all we felt was rage. It consumed us and we acted on it. We had lost ourselves.”

“But you got better?”

“Yes,” Kiki said. “In a manner of speaking.”

Ayma raised her massive clawed hand. “That’s not to mention our other problem. The keyboards are too small for us to use and they’re password protected. You might be able to bypass it. We hope you can anyway.”

“So you need me,” he said.

“Yes. Your Pipboy can take the tapes. They may tell us about our origin.”

It was a big decision, yet he knew there was only one choice. The whole point of fixing up the Robco plant was to help people by offering them security. Who was he if he denied the Greenclaws? Besides, if what he believed was true, then he would be helping friends and loved ones from Paulson.

He rubbed his face with his palms. “I’ll do it,” he muttered with a slow nod. “I’ll help you.”

Ayma grinned toothily, which quite honestly, was a frightening sight.

“He has agreed!” she shouted up at Kiki.

“Great!” Kiki said, sounding just as thrilled.

Ayma turned her back to him and squatted down. “Climb on, it will be faster with you on my shoulders.”

Drew stared, unsure how to proceed.

“Come-on, get on,” Ayma urged. “If we let you walk we will not get there until tomorrow.”

“I could carry him,” Kiki offered, taking a heavy step forward.

That was all that was needed for Drew to make up his mind. Quickly and nervously, he approached Ayma from behind.

He still wasn’t sure how to get ‘onboard’ her, though. He didn’t want to hurt her or do anything inappropriate. What he needed was instruction.

“So, how do you want me to do this?” he asked.

“Just climb up me and hold onto my horns. Don’t worry, you won’t hurt me.”

Awkwardly, he walked up alongside her tail before he gently and cautiously placed his foot down at the base of the limb. Resting his hands on her back for balance, he stepped up fully onto her tail before he slowly and carefully climbed his way up her back.

“Now put your legs over my shoulders,” Ayma instructed.

He did just that, sitting with his legs dangling, his crotch pressed up against the back of her neck. The last time he’d done anything like it, it was when he had been on his dad’s shoulders as a little kid.

“Hold onto my horns.”

Drew reached out and took them in his grip and let out a small yelp as Ayma suddenly stood back up.

“Ready?” she asked.

“As I’ll ever be,” he said feeling nervous.

“Kiki, let’s go!”

Drew’s grip on her horns tightened as she began to move. It started off slow at first, but she soon picked up the pace, running faster than he could ever hope to run. Kiki walked quickly next to them, easily managing to keep up.

As they left the parking lot, Drew glanced behind, his gaze falling on Kiki. First, he looked at her massive, powerful legs as the muscles flexed with every step. His gaze then moved upwards, past her stomach, and stopped on her massive breasts.

His thoughts fell back onto the dream he’d had just last night. He could still recall the feeling he’d had laying between them as he had stared up at the night sky. He had felt comfortable and content.

Realizing what he was doing, Drew looked away feeling disgusted with himself. It was far from the time to ogle and creep on women but that’s what he was doing. What made it worse was that it wasn’t really a woman. At least not anymore. Or at least he kept telling himself that.

Drew wasn’t sure why he kept trying to unperson Ayma and Kiki. Maybe it was that he feared that his infatuation with them was more than simple curiosity. His dream last night suggested it was definitely more than that.

How had things gotten so complicated?

The trip took a good several hours. Little was said for the most part, though they did stop for a lunch break, which involved Kiki tearing a freshly caught mutated bear limb from limb and eating it whole, something that almost made Drew want to vomit.

Seeing and hearing them tear through the flesh with their claws and teeth was enough to almost make him forget that they were sentient.

Drew ate nothing, even though they had offered several times. Instead, he kept a lookout while they ate.

Thankfully, they were soon back on the trail and before long they had arrived.

“We’re here,” Ayma said as they passed an old fence and several ‘KEEP OUT’ signs. Up ahead, partially sunk into the earth was a facility. Most of it was hidden, but there was a massive steel door that looked like it was made for vehicles.

“Pretty well hidden,” Drew commented as Ayma squatted down so that he could climb off her back.

With his feet firmly back on the ground, he followed Ayma as she approached the sealed door, which opened with a heavy grind and a squeal.

“Follow me,” Ayma said as she stomped inside.

Drew followed her through the massive doors, his heart racing in his chest. He stopped briefly to watch Kiki as she got down onto her hands and knees and squeezed herself inside. Thankfully, the long corridor was wide and tall, but even so, Kiki had to move on her hands and knees, which looked uncomfortable.

“This way,” Ayma said as she turned left.

Drew continued to follow her and felt his fear spike as a door opened. A relatively small Greenclaw who stood at about seven feet tall stepped out and peered at him almost like a predator eyeing its prey. Unlike Ayma or Kiki, Drew had the feeling that this particular one had no qualms about disemboweling someone.

“Is this the human?” she asked, glowering at him.

“Yes, Bek, this is Drew.”

“I’ll tell the others he’s here.”

“Good. I will show him to the matriarch.”

They continued down the corridor which opened up into a large chamber. All along the sides were giant vats, though that was far from the focal point of the room. That honor went to the absolutely colossal Greenclaw that made Kiki look small.

It had to be the matriarch and she was absolutely vast. She had mint-green skin, thick tree-trunk-like horns that were bigger than he was, and like the other Greenclaws he’d seen, a healthy amount of breast. She also had to be upwards of thirty feet in height. She filled up the end of the room and looked nothing short of a queen on her throne, except the throne was the floor.

His legs started to shake as he stopped dead in his tracks.

The behemoth stared down at him. “So this is the human.” Her voice rumbled loudly, shaking the floor and the walls.

Kiki answered from behind. “Yes, this is Drew the human.”

Ayma looked back at him and gestured for him to walk forward, further into the room. He did, but his legs were shaking so much that he feared he might fall down.

The matriarch seemed to rise herself higher, sticking out her gigantic chest. “Gather the others,” she commanded loudly.

Drew tried to avoid staring at the massive orbs that hung high above him. In fact, he tried to avoid looking at her at all, but he couldn’t help but wonder just how big they really were. Her breasts had to be heavy and he was under no illusion that she could easily crush him with them. Then again, she could probably crush cars with them, and could certainly cave a roof in.

“Bek said she was gathering the others,” Ayma said.

The matriarch nodded. “Then we wait for everyone to convene.”

Drew felt like he was going to pass out as the other Greenclaws started to filter in. As they walked past, they stared at him before they lined up against the tall vats that surrounded the room on either side. All of them were of different sizes and shades of green, though all of them were much taller than he was. Thankfully, none of them were near as tall as Kiki or the matriarch and only two others stood taller than the ten-foot Ayma.

Matriarch Lotte spoke, her voice was deep and loud, yet like the others still oddly feminine. “Kiki and Ayma have brought this human here to help us. Neka believes that the holotapes left by the human scientist may help us understand what has happened to us.”

All eyes were on him and he knew that he was completely and utterly at their mercy. He was like a tiny mouse surrounded by cats.

Drew cleared his throat and took a few steadying breaths before he answered. “I’ll do my best,” he said as loudly as he could.

Despite his best efforts, his voice trembled and he swore he heard a snicker at his expense from one of the smaller Greenclaws. He couldn’t blame them. He must seem so small and weak next to them. All it would take was a single swipe from one of their claws and his guts would be spilling out onto the floor.

He focused back on the matriarch as she spoke, her voice rumbling through his bones. “Ayma, Neka, escort him to where the tapes are and have him study them.”

“Understood, Matriarch,” Ayma said with a bow of her head.

Another Greenclaw stepped forward and Drew believed it was the same one that had been with Ayma during his first encounter at the Mega Stop.

“Follow me, human,” she uttered.

He followed, glad that Ayma was right behind him. She had quickly become an anchor for him, someone who he felt safe with. On the other hand, he didn’t feel safe with Neka. The last time he had seen her she had wanted to disembowel him.

The three of them walked down the large corridor before Neka stepped into a side room. Drew followed, finding the place stained with blood.

He swallowed hard.

The one called Neka picked up a box of holotapes and placed them on the table.

“Here,” she barked.

“Thanks,” he said as he opened up the box and peered inside.

They all appeared to be labeled and taking them all out he noted that they were numbered from one to twelve.

He put the one labeled ‘tape 1’ into his Pipboy first.

As they had said, it was password protected, but it took no time at all to bypass it. It appeared the encryption was just tough enough to stop the super mutants from accessing the data rather than anyone with a brain.

On the tape, there was only a single file in an audio format.

“This is an audio tape,” he told them. “Do you want me to listen?”

“No,” Neka said. “Check the rest, then we decide what to do.”

As he had been instructed, Drew took it out and put in the second. Like the first, it was nothing but audio, the same with the rest. Every single tape, from the first to the last was nothing more than an audio recording, though what those recordings held, he’d have to listen to them to find out.

“They’re all audio tapes,” Drew said.

“So there’s no data,” Neka said in disbelief. “We hoped that there would be data.”

Ayma stared at him. “This was his workshop. The place he was when we killed him. In our rage, we destroyed his terminal, smashed his machines that held data.” She covered her face with her claws. “Only later did we realize what we’d done. We hoped these tapes held that data. We had hoped that they would help us understand what we are. Maybe how to reverse it.”

“They don’t,” Drew told them. “Unless he can convey it audibly.”

Neka shook her head. “Are you sure there’s no hidden data?”

“None,” Drew said. “There are no hidden files that I can see, nothing. Just audio.”

Neka took in a deep breath. “We must go back to the matriarch, then. Let everyone hear what is recorded on the tapes.”

Drew put the holotapes back into the box and picked it up, following Neka and Ayma as they led him back to the large room where the others were gathered. The moment they stepped inside, the matriarch spoke.

“What did you find?”

“Audio tapes,” Ayma said. “Nothing but audio tapes.”

The matriarch didn’t look pleased. A deep growl emanated from her throat and it appeared to be directed right at him. For a moment, Drew thought she might actually kill him.

Instead, she pointed a huge clawed finger down at him. “You shall play those tapes for all of us to hear.”

Neka gestured at a terminal. “If you can plug your Pipboy into that, we should be able to ear it over the speakers.”

“Good idea,” Drew said as he stepped over to it. He plugged in his Pipboy and accessed the intercom system. He then took the first tape, opened up his Pipboy, and put it in.

After a moment of hesitation, he pressed play.

End Notes:

Thanks to everyone for reading. This story has been doing a lot better than I expected. I had assumed that there wouldn't be much interest in giant anthropomorphic death lizards but I guess (thankfully) I was wrong.

Chapter 14 - The Tapes by Saturn Knight
Author's Notes:

A bit of a different style of chapter here. Hope it's not confusing since it is literally just what's on the audio holotapes. More actual story stuff next chapter.

Tape 1

How did it come to this? Trapped here with the super mutants. I’ve been here, what? Six months? The Greenskins have only just started trusting me enough to actually give me some alone time meaning I can finally start recording these.

For the last six months or so, I’ve been working on FEV. They want to continue what The Master started all those years ago, whoever the Hell ‘The Master’ is. For some reason, they think I can do it. I might be from a vault and a doctor, but that doesn’t mean I know anything about this stuff.

Still, in about half an hour the mapping will be complete and I’ll have the entire makeup of the FEV analyzed. I don’t know if that means I can make more of the stuff or not. I’m not sure I even want to. For all I know as soon as I develop the means of reproducing the stuff, the super mutants will dispose of me.

The truth is, if I don’t find a way of developing FEV, then they’ll dispose of me regardless. I’m not the first they’ve had locked up here, and if I fail, I won’t be the last.

Speaking of which, I went over the notes of my predecessors and the first one apparently got the farthest along before the Greenskins lost their patience and killed him. Though it’s difficult to tell when most of those records were lost. The second one had no clue and they killed him pretty much immediately. The third and fourth met the same fate and the fifth managed to escape, but not before wiping away a lot of the progress that had been made.

I don’t have the same illusions of escaping. My leg was broken by one of the brutes when they captured me. It’s healed wrong, and I couldn’t run even if I wanted to. I know, I could have set the bone, and believe me I tried. They tore off the splint calling it weakness, re-breaking my leg in the process. That was six months ago now. Six months of torture.

I had better get back to work, otherwise, they might just decide to do more than break my bones.

Tape 2

So, it’s been about three weeks since I recorded my first log. My intention was to make them a regular thing, but it just didn’t turn out that way. I’ve been too busy and the Greenskins have been breathing down my neck.

Well, suffice to say that I’m not yet dead and that is because I’ve made actual progress. The FEV is a mutagen and an extremely organized one at that. Unfortunately, I don’t think it was ever actually finished. From the old records, it appears that there were two main points of research, maybe more. Somehow Vault-Tec got hold of some samples and decided to continue research in one of their vaults out east near DC.

Well, I guess none of that is important because I don’t have access to any of those records or how their research went. I only have the samples that the super mutants brought me and what research logs I can scrounge up.

This place holds all sorts of secrets well beyond FEV research. As it turns out the United States was up to all sorts of grotesque types of research and this place held secrets on a lot of those projects.

For instance, many believe the deathclaw to be just another wasteland mutant creature, but it isn’t. The thing was made by the US before the war. The most deadly creature out there was made on purpose. It beggars belief.

I plan on erasing all those records at some point. I don’t want anyone finding this stuff. It would be bad for the already precarious future of humanity.

Well, I mentioned some success. That success comes in the form of a sort of super mutant Squirrel that I managed to produce. That thing bit the hand off of one of the super mutants before another beat it to death and ate the thing raw.

Still, they were pleased. Well, the one that lost his hand wasn’t particularly happy, but the others see the potential and I am the first one to actually create a viable test subject.

Super excited to see where this goes. Well, I would be if the end result wasn’t the potential creation of more of those vile brutes.

Well, it sounds like one of the green bastards is coming to see me, so I had better end this.

Tape 3

They brought in some poor soul they found out there in the wasteland. They want me to do my next test on him and I’m honestly not sure I can.

I knew this day would come eventually, but I didn’t expect it to be so soon. I’m supposed to take away this person’s humanity, his memories, and his sense of self. It’s barbaric, but to the Greenskins it’s some kind of reproduction. A means to create more of their kind.

I am honestly thinking of sabotaging it so he dies quickly. That should delay them for a short while at least. If I do that, though they might bring more. They do have cages on wheels down here which they could use to gather dozens or maybe even more if they cram them in there.

Still, they will bring more, that much is clear. But perhaps I can convince them that more animal testing is needed before moving on to humans?

They are pretty dim, even the smartest among them. Not to say they are all idiots. Their leader is almost indistinguishable intelligence-wise to your average wastelander. That makes him especially dangerous.

So, I guess I should also note a potential problem. That problem is that radiation-induced mutation may result in the FEV not working as it should, which is why my predecessors suffered so many failures. I have tried to remedy this, but I don’t know if it’s something I can truly fix. I’ve reduced the chance of catastrophic mutation errors which result in writhing monstrosities, but there is still a chance.

Still, the squirrel and the radstag I mutated late last week survived, but that’s two out of perhaps fifty or more failures.

I’m rambling a little, I know that. The truth is that I don’t know what to do here.

Actually, I do. I’m just not certain I’m truly ready to take a human life.

Tape 4

It has been four months since my last recording and by happenstance, this is the fourth one.

Three more Super Mutants have joined the fold. Not because they turned up on our doorstep, but because I helped make them.

While they survived they are incredibly stupid to the point where they can barely feed themselves. They can follow orders but that is about it.

The super mutant warlord, the one in charge, is rather pleased and feels I am heading in the right direction.

I don’t share his feelings.

Still, I believe I have isolated some parts of the FEV that cause the reduction of intelligence. It is exacerbated by subjects that have had their cells mutated by radiation.

I don’t intend on fixing anything regarding intelligence just yet, though. The last thing I want is to create a super mutant smart enough to take over from me. I would prefer they all remain woefully ignorant of things scientific.

At the end of the day, though, I know where all this must end. I don’t want it to happen, but I know that eventually, it must. I might have a plan, but I don’t know yet.

I guess whoever listens to this will know if it worked or not. Or maybe these tapes will be lost to time.

Tape 5

It feels evil, but I know it has to be done. There is no other real choice.

Slowly, better and better super mutants are coming out of the vats. I have convinced the Warlord to step up production and use all the vats we have available. I want to be able to stick twenty people in and get out twenty monstrosities. I’m not talking about super mutants, either, but something else. All I have to do is give up my soul to do it. But I feel that I gave that up a long, long time ago.

Funnily enough, even though I practically spelled it out to them, and told them I was going to make the strongest, fiercest creatures they’ve ever seen, the dumb bastards actually liked the idea. Then again, they do worship strength above all else so maybe the thought of some monstrosity powerful enough to kill them turns them on in some sick sort of way.

Honestly, I don’t know how this will go. I might be making abominations far worse than the super mutants, but I’ve isolated pretty much every single part of what makes the FEV work and what it’s doing.

I can’t believe I’m saying this because it is monstrous and also because, again, I might be creating something far worse than the super mutants themselves.

What I need is time. Time to make the preparations. Time to see if it can be done and done correctly. The DNA I need is stored right here in this facility. All I need to do is sequence it into the FEV template and with luck, it should work. The keyword being ‘luck’.

Actually, that’s a lie. I know it will work, I just don’t know if the subjects will survive the transformation and I doubt they will survive long after. It is why it is perfect. They kill the super mutants and the changes eventually kill them.

Tape 6

That was unexpected. Very unexpected. On a whim, I made a slight alteration to the FEV, and humans came out of the vats. Six of them. But they weren’t normal humans, they were bigger. The leader of the super mutants was not happy and went to kill them. Managed to kill two but the rest fled and I could swear they were still getting bigger.

The best thing was that they didn’t appear to be overtly hostile. As to where they have gone, I don’t know. But they had to be upwards of eight or nine feet when they left.

Of course, the super mutant leader hit me so hard that I was out of it for a few hours. He said I was lucky he didn’t kill me. He wanted more super mutants, not bigger humans. I’ll give the bastard super mutants. I’ll give him mutants so super he won’t know what to do with them. I’ll make sure that he and the rest of them die. I don’t care if I join them. They are too dangerous to live.

Truth be told, I had decided against doing what I intended on doing but not now. As I said before, I have the DNA right here. All I have to do is sequence it into the FEV template and unlike last time, this time I am not going to be a coward and I am actually going to do it.

Tape 7

There is a small town up north across the border in Canada. I know it is evil, I know that I should probably just erase all my research and end my life, but if I do that then the super mutants will just keep searching and many more will die.

But who is to say that I won’t bring something worse into the world?

Hell to it. It has to be done.

I believe I have successfully integrated deathclaw DNA into the FEV profile. In essence, the FEV will mutate the subject into what I believe will be a fairly good approximation. I have been working tirelessly to ensure that what comes out of those vats will be able to remove the Greenskin threat.

Of course, I understand the risks, but the FEV makes its subjects unable to breed or rather has an extremely high likelihood of doing so. They will have limited lifespans, or at least I hope so. There is still a variable which means they might live five years or they might live for five hundred. I have a terrible feeling that the latter will be true and I believe this due to how the deathclaws themselves were made.

Within the next few weeks, I will make the final decision on whether to proceed or not.

Right now, I feel like I have to go through with it. For good or ill, the super mutants must be stopped.

Tape 8

No, I cannot go through with it. Turning people into super mutant deathclaws is a step too far. Not to mention that what I create might bring far more death and hurt than the super mutants could ever hope to achieve.

Unfortunately, they have already set off to the small town up north, taking the animal cages with them. Within the next week or two, they will have returned with prisoners to be changed.

I could make it so that the super mutants that step out of the vats still have their memories. But I need more time to figure out how exactly to do that. There doesn’t seem to be anything apparent that should cause them to forget. Maybe it’s trauma or the physical change to the brain that causes the memory loss. Ultimately, I don’t know.

Tape 9

They are late. Is it too much to hope they’re dead? I doubt it, but if they are, then maybe there is a chance. The Warlord went with them. If he’s dead, then things might turn out okay after all.

I can only hope

The super mutant in charge here, though, is not nearly as smart or patient as the Warlord. He has been talking about taking the role of leader for himself and I fear that he won’t be nearly as forgiving.

Hold on, I hear footsteps.

Tape 10

To Hell with it. I was right, he isn’t nearly as forgiving. I have sabotaged it all, though the new Warlord thinks everything is fine.

They stick humans in those vats and they’ll get the biggest, meanest proxy deathclaws they’ve ever seen and they’ll be wanting blood.

I need rest. I’ve been working overtime and I don’t know if I got all the calculations right. I believe, though, that it will work. The question, of course, is intelligence and humanity. There is no way to tell if they will keep either. I’m half-willing to step into one of those vats myself.

Fuck it, maybe I’ll sneak in tonight.

Tape 11

The old Warlord wasn’t dead at all. They just got lost on the way back from the old town and after almost a month they’re back and with maybe twenty people.

If only that was the end of it.

The old Warlord killed the new one after he challenged his authority and then sent out more of his people to gather even more poor bastards. He said it was time to create an army. Two weeks after that, they returned with another twenty-five.

Turning twenty into those monstrosities is one thing, but forty-five? Oh, God, what have I done? If they stick those people into those vats then they’ll be changed forever and not into super mutants who have no memory of who they were. They might remember everything. If they’re lucky they won’t. If we’re all lucky, then they’ll kill all the super mutants and then each other.

Shit, this is bad.

Shit.

Fuck it. Let it happen. I don’t care anymore. Let the end come. I welcome it. Those green bastards deserve to die and honestly so do I.

Tape 12

It is done. They stuck the first of the prisoners into the vats. When they brought them out, they were changed and they were definitely not super mutants and thankfully not conscious. I thought the warlord would kill me there and then, but he grew excited and stuck more in. Altogether that will make forty of the monsters. Forty of them that I have unleashed on the world.

He should have waited. The ones that went in first have awoken and they are not happy. I am in my office and even now I can hear the fighting outside. They are monstrous beasts with impossible strength, especially the males. They are far more hostile and violent than the females, so much so that they are attacking them as well. It is by sheer chance that the females are bigger than the males, but the ferocity of them makes up for it.

I suppose this will be the end. Either the warlord finds me and kills me or one of the green proxy deathclaws do. Either way, I’m dead.

Strangely, I’m okay with it. Let the end come. I deserve it.

End Notes:

Fun Fact: This was the first chapter I wrote for this story.

Chapter 15 - Standoff by Saturn Knight

With a click, the Pipboy opened, and Drew removed the final holotape, placing it back in the box by his feet. He then unplugged his Pipboy from the terminal and took a step back, all without saying a word.

He didn’t know what to say. What could he say? It was hard to believe that any of it could be true, but the evidence was standing all around him, their unsettling gazes on him like predators eyeing their prey.

It also confirmed everything he had suspected. The Greenclaws had once been human, but not only that, but at least some of them were the ones taken from Paulson. From the tapes, it also sounded like there were seven or eight-foot giants roaming around, though he had heard absolutely nothing about them, not even rumors. That meant they had either quickly died or were no longer in the region. That, or they were keeping their heads down.

“It is an admittance of guilt, nothing more,” Matriarch Lotte said suddenly.

The booming loudness of her voice was enough to make Drew jump in fright.

“The ramblings from an evil man.”

Drew wouldn’t quite call the recordings that, but he could understand where she was coming from. The scientist, whoever he was, had tried to do what was right but in the most monstrous way possible. He had sacrificed so many people, and turned them into beasts so they could destroy the super mutants.

It made him shudder thinking about it.

The matriarch spoke again, this time directly to him. “Thank you for putting what was on those tapes to rest.”

Drew looked up at her but had to quickly look away, unable to maintain eye contact. He felt tiny and insignificant in her presence, like a rodent.

He cleared his throat again. “I would say you’re welcome, but that seems a little hollow after what we just heard.”

He kept his gaze focused on the ground as he walked into the center of the room and said the only thing he could. “If there’s anything else I can do, please ask.”

“Yes, there is,” the matriarch uttered sharply. “While I thank you for what you have done for us, I regret what must happen.”

Before she had even finished speaking, large clawed hands wrapped around him and he let out a yelp as he was sharply pulled backward with enough force to lift him clean off his feet. His head was then enveloped by something as he was hugged tightly from behind. It took a moment to realize what it was, or rather, what they were.

His head was between a large pair of breasts.

“No,” he heard Ayma’s voice rumble through him. “Not him.”

Drew realized that it was Ayma who had grabbed him. For what reason, he wasn’t entirely certain, but from what the matriarch had said and by Ayma’s response, it couldn’t be anything good.

He heard the matriarch’s voice rumble, though the volume was thankfully muffled by Ayma’s flesh. “There is none that can know we are here. He will reveal our location to those he knows. He is a threat to all of us!”

“No I’m not!” he said loudly. “I came here to help you.”

“Yes, you did and we thank you for that.” Matriarch Lotte said. “But that does not change what you will do once you have gone. You will betray us, perhaps not intentionally, but you will. That much is certain!”

Another Greenclaw spoke up in his defense, but due to the large breasts pressing against the sides of his head, he struggled to identify the voice and wasn’t sure he even recognized it.

“He didn’t have to come. He could have refused, but he didn’t. He did us a favor. He helped us and we’re gonna repay him with death? You don’t need to eat this one.”

Drew was thankful that Ayma was holding him up because at that moment his whole body turned to jelly. He couldn’t believe what he had just heard. The matriarch not only wanted to eat him, but the implication was that she had eaten others.

“Axa!” the matriarch shouted louder than Drew thought possible, her voice shaking the very air. “You always object, but you know it must be done! He is a threat!”

“I’m not a threat!” he shouted. “I came to help you!”

“Your words mean little, human,” the matriarch said. “You tremble at the sight of us. You fear us and that fear is what makes you dangerous.”

“He’s not!” Ayma shouted, her breasts pushing against the sides of his head as she hugged him tighter.

“You are protective of him,” the matriarch’s increasingly muffled voice said. “But you have to understand that he will bring others to kill us. You know it’s true. That will only result in more death. To protect the humans and to protect us, he must die.”

Another voice chimed in, though she sided with Lotte. “Listen to our leader. She has kept us safe from the humans!”

“Remember Sally?” yet another voice asked. “We found her injured, brought her here, and nursed her back to health. She repaid us by bringing her brethren here to kill us!”

“I wouldn’t do that!” he tried to tell them.

“Sally said the same thing!” a fourth voice added.

“She is right,” another voice said. “You remember how Kiki and Varan were hurt because of Sally? You trusted her, too. You and Axa defended her. You wanted to help her and she tried to kill us!”

Drew felt Ayma’s grip on him start to loosen.

The matriarch continued. “I know you care for him, Ayma. I know that you feel you knew him from before, but you also know what I am saying is true. Humans have to destroy what they fear. It’s in their nature. He fears us so he will destroy us, and if what you say is true then he will return with an army of robots to do it for him. We cannot allow that to happen. This is the best way. This is the only way. Because of Sally, we lost Kenna. If we let him live someone else might die. It might even be Kiki.”

Drew had to admit that what the matriarch was saying made a lot of sense, though it didn’t apply to him, not in this situation. Unfortunately, it seemed that Ayma agreed with her leader as she released her hold on him, causing him to stumble on his trembling legs and almost fall.

“Ayma,” he heard Kiki utter from behind. “What are you doing?”

“Sh-she’s right,” Ayma stammered.

Drew shook his head as he turned to face her.

“She’s not right, Gemma,” he uttered as he reached out to her. “She’s not right. I would never do that to you, you know I wouldn’t.”

Ayma twitched at the mention of the name, something she had done before at the Mega Stop. He wasn’t absolutely certain that she was actually Gemma, but she had given a lot of clues that suggested she was. Enough that he believed it was true. Enough to use it as a last-ditch attempt to save his skin.

“She is right,” Ayma said, unable to meet his eyes.

“You know she isn’t,” he tried to argue.

It fell on deaf ears.

The ground trembled and Ayma took several steps back, her gaze turning upward to the matriarch. As a giant hand closed around him from behind, he knew he was doomed. He didn’t even have his laser rifle on him, he’d left it in the room where they’d retrieved the holotapes.

With a rush of nauseating speed, the matriarch rose him up towards the ceiling. At eye-level, she reached in with her left hand, and with a pinch of her clawed forefinger and thumb, she plucked him from her right hand and held him with the tips of her claws, gripping his body painfully between them.

There was no escape now.

From his perspective, he could see all the Greenclaws looking up at him, including Ayma. Even from up there near the rafters he could see the look of sadness and sorrow on her face.

“I love you, Gemma,” he shouted out loud. “I accept what you’ve become and I don’t hate you for it. I’m sorry I couldn’t save you from what happened.”

The matriarch rose him up high above her head. Her colossal mouth opened and her gargantuan tongue flopped out. It then began to swirl menacingly from side to side as she held him high above her waiting and eager throat.

As Drew stared down into his cavernous demise, he remembered a dream he’d long since forgotten. It was the one where he was in the bus being eaten by the gargantuan deathclaw. That nightmare had been triggered by being trapped inside a bus while one of the Greenclaws had prowled outside. In fact, if he recalled that had been his very first encounter.

The deathclaw in the dream had been absolutely humongous and while Lotte was big, she was nowhere near as big as it had been. Even so, she was still easily big enough to swallow him whole.

“Stop!” The yell hadn’t come from Ayma, but Kiki. “You can’t eat him, Lotte! This isn’t right, I won’t let you!”

The maw closed and Drew found himself in front of her snout being blasted by her hot breath.

“You won’t let me?” she asked, incredulously as she turned her gaze down to her brazen subject. “You plan on stopping me?”

Kiki didn’t back down. “He knew us from before. I think I’m starting to remember him. If we kill him then we kill a part of ourselves!”

Drew started to feel hope again. He had been absolutely certain that he was going to die, and yet, Kiki was coming to his defense.

“She’s right,” a Greenclaw he didn’t recognize agreed. “If we keep killing people, especially those that help us, then maybe we deserve to be hunted.”

Much to his surprise, Neka showed him her support as well. It was a surprise since when they first met she had wanted to kill him. “Eating him isn’t the answer. He’s already had plenty of opportunities to betray us, but he hasn’t.”

Drew decided that now was probably a good time to speak. “The man in the recordings,” he said loudly. “He spoke of a settlement up north where they took twenty people. That had to have been Paulson.”

A Greenclaw which stood by the matriarch’s side, both physically and metaphorically, wasn’t swayed by any of their arguments. “Eat him and finish this.”

He looked at Ayma. “You’re Gemma, I’m sure of it.”

She looked away.

He focused on Kiki. “I remember you. You went by Kiki back then, too. You were beautiful and had a crush on me, but I was with Gemma.”

“I think I remember,” Kiki said.

Drew looked at Neka as he tried to think of who she was, but there was nothing obvious that gave it away, so he looked at another and pointed.

“What’s your name?” he asked.

“Axa,” she answered.

Drew thought of who she could be for a moment before she beat him to the punch.

“My name is Lexa,” she said, her eyes growing wide. “I think I remember.”

Drew turned his head to face the matriarch. She had been referred to as Lotte, which gave him a clue.

“You must be Charlotte,” he said.

“My name is Lotte,” she uttered loudly. “Matriarch Lotte to you.”

“But you weren’t always called that. Don’t you remember?”

“No,” she said as she once more raised him up above her head and opened her mouth.

“You were a pretty muscular girl, even back then,” he said quickly, knowing his time was limited. “You were tall, too. Do you remember the time we headed out to take out that troublesome Yao Guai pack?”

Lotte frowned as she closed her mouth and lowered him back down to eye level.

“Do you remember?” he asked, hopefully.

“I think…” She shook her head. “You are trying to confuse me.”

“No, I’m not.”

“Listen to him,” Kiki urged. “He can help us remember who we are.”

“We need him!” another voice shouted.

“You eat him and we might lose the only one left who knows who we are!” Axa said.

“Listen to them,” Neka added. “They’re right.”

Lotte shook her head. “No, they are not.”

She rose him back up, opened her mouth, and then…

And then…

And then she did nothing. She stared up at him, a frown forming on her face before she yet again lowered him back down to eye level.

Drew barely dared hope that he would survive the encounter after all.

“You got your pants caught on the branch of an old fallen tree,” she said, the faintest hint of a smile flickering across her face.

“Yeah, and I tore them,” he said.

“I do remember that.”

For the first time, Lotte looked genuinely conflicted.

Drew decided to try and push it in his favor. “I love Gemma, Charlotte. I’d never do anything to put her at risk, no matter what she has become. You know that.”

“A nice sentiment,” Lotte said, “but I’m not sure I can believe it. Things have changed. Kiki holds Ayma’s heart now. You are just a human. Small, weak, fragile.”

“There’s room in my heart for one more,” Kiki said.

For the first time since letting him go, Ayma spoke, agreeing with Kiki. “Yes, there is room for one more in our hearts. Ever since I first saw him, I felt a connection. I can’t lose him, not again.”

Lotte focused back on Drew before she lowered him down to the concrete floor and let him go. He dropped about three feet and stumbled before falling onto his hands and knees. He felt like he was going to vomit.

The matriarch’s voice boomed overhead. “What will you have me do with him?” she asked.

“Keep him here,” Kiki said.

“Humans are too slimy and sneaky.” Lotte shook her massive head. “No, we can’t keep him here. He is a risk.”

“Then what?” Neka asked.

The matriarch took in a deep breath before she closed her eyes. “I don’t know.”

Ayma offered an option. “If we cannot keep him here, then I would like to return him home to his factory.”

Lotte smiled. “Yes, that’s it!” she exclaimed loudly.

“Return him home?” Ayma asked, confused as to why she sounded so excited about the suggestion.

“A test,” Lotte said. “A test to see if he can be trusted.”

“What kind of test?” Kiki asked looking nervous.

“A potentially stupid one,” the matriarch answered before explaining her plan. “I want Ayma and Neka to go with him back to his factory.”

Neka was surprised. “Me? Why me?”

Kiki raised a clawed hand. “I could go.”

“No!” Lotte said firmly. “I want them to observe him to see if he is a threat, which will be difficult for you due to your size.”

Drew pushed himself up off the floor, barely able to get his footing on his shaking legs.

“There are others there with me,” he said, his voice trembling like the rest of him. “Two of them are also from Paulson.”

“Who?” Lotte asked.

“Jack and Amy.”

One of the Greenclaws made a peculiar noise which the others picked up on.

“It looks like Glower recognizes one of the names,” Neka said.

Drew continued. “There’s also a doctor there, Sarah.”

“Do you get frequent visitors?” Lotte asked him.

Drew shook his head. “We don’t get any visitors. At least not at the moment.”

“Good. Then Neka and Ayma will accompany you back there tomorrow. Then in a week, they will return with their findings. If they do not return, then I will know you betrayed us. We will then come to your factory and I will personally devour you. But I will eat your friends first. Understood?”

“I won’t betray you,” he promised.

“And what of the others?” Lotte questioned him. “Will they betray us?”

“I can speak for Jack and Amy. For Sarah, I don’t know.”

It was a lie, he couldn’t speak for Jack or Amy. He had no idea how they would react when he returned with two Greenclaws in tow. He doubted it would be anything positive.

“Then it is settled,” Lotte said. “Ayma, Neka, he is your responsibility now. He will spend the night here and you will leave tomorrow. Now, all of you depart, I want to be alone to dwell on the day’s events.”

Ayma walked back over to Drew and threw her arms around him in a hug, lifting him up off his feet and unintentionally shoving his face once more between her large mammaries. It was something that was very quickly becoming a thing between the two of them.

“I’m glad you’re okay. Come on, I’ll take you somewhere you can sleep.”

She released him and he followed her out of the large room and headed down the corridor to a small barren room that was adorned by a single metal-framed bed with an old mattress, and a broken chest of drawers.

“You’ll sleep here tonight,” Ayma told him before she turned to leave.

Drew held out a longing hand. “Can you-uh… Stay?”

“You want me to stay?” Ayma asked, turning back around.

“I think I’d sleep better if you were in the room.”

She smiled at him. “I’ll go get your laser gun and bring it here.”

“And you’ll stay?”

She nodded. “Unlike you humans, we don’t need beds. I’ll sleep on the floor near the door.”

“If you’re sure,” he said. “And thank you.”

His limbs began to shake anew as she turned and left. He practically collapsed onto the bed as he started to dry-heave. He couldn’t believe how close he had gotten to being eaten. If it hadn’t been for Kiki, he was sure he’d be dead now. That, or slowly being digested alive.

It was horrifying and unconscionable. When he had first arrived, there had been absolutely no thought of betraying them, but now? Now that he knew that Charlotte ate people? He couldn’t believe it and he certainly couldn’t understand it.

The door opened and Ayma stepped back into the room. She placed his laser rifle down on top of the old chest of drawers.

“There you go.”

“Thanks,” he muttered.

“Are you okay?”

“Not really,” he admitted. “Almost being eaten alive has taken it out of me.”

Ayma looked away, shame etched on her reptilian face. Drew couldn’t be mad at her for not standing up for him. Things had been difficult and with her sketchy memory, he was practically a stranger.

“I should have fought harder,” she said. “It took Kiki, Axa, and Neka to speak for you to make me realize that Lotte was wrong.”

“So it wasn’t the fact that she was going to eat me!?” he asked, feeling his ire rise. He forced it back down. “Sorry.”

“Why are you sorry?” she asked. “You’re the one that was almost eaten. It is us that should be apologizing.”

“Yeah, I know. I was there dangling above her gaping throat.”

Ayma sat down on the floor at the base of the bed. “I’m the one that’s sorry, Drew. I let you go and almost got you killed. I don’t even know how we got here. Lotte eating people? Somewhere things went wrong.”

“It went wrong when the super mutants took you from Paulson,” Drew said. “I couldn’t stop them. I wasn’t strong enough.”

“Don’t think about it. Go to sleep,” Ayma said as she curled up onto the floor after switching off the light. “We have to get up early tomorrow.”

After what had happened, he wasn’t sure he’d be able to sleep. Images of dangling above Lotte’s mouth were burned into his brain. He had been a few words from being devoured alive and he felt that he wouldn’t be safe until he was back home at the Robco plant.

Unfortunately, that would lead to something else he was dreading and that was introducing Ayma and Neka to the others. He had absolutely no idea how he was going to do it and was considering trying to hide them somewhere. He knew that wouldn’t work, though. Amy and Jack liked to explore the place and anywhere he hid them they were certain to find.

There was no way out of it and he knew that events had fallen out of his control. For good or ill, Ayma and Neka would meet Amy, Jack, and Sarah, and events would unfold however they unfolded.

No matter what happened, he knew he wasn’t looking forward to it, but with the contents of the holotape saved to his Pipboy, at the very least he could let the man responsible for it all explain it for him.

“Are you still awake?”

The question caught Drew off guard. He glanced over to see her staring at him from where she was laying on the floor.

“Yeah,” he answered. “I’m still awake.”

“What was I like?” she asked. “Back before. When I was human.”

It took him a few moments to gather his thoughts. “You were funny, beautiful and amazing. I thought we’d spend the rest of our lives together. We completed each other.”

“I think we did,” Ayma said. “When I saw Neka drag you out of the building at the Red Rocket stop, I immediately felt something. Like recognition.”

“Is that why you picked me up?” he asked.

“Yeah. I wanted to get a better look at you. Even the way you smelled felt familiar.”

“I hope it’s not a bad smell.”

“No, it’s a nice one,” she said. “I’m sorry that I’m not her anymore.”

“I think we’ve apologized enough to each other. Let’s just accept what’s happened and move on. It’s the only way we’ll get through it.”

“I suppose,” she said. “Well, we need to be up early tomorrow, so goodnight.”

“Goodnight,” he said, rolling over and closing his eyes.

Tomorrow was going to be an interesting day, one that he was certainly not looking forward to.

Chapter 16 - The Way Home by Saturn Knight

Drew let out a gasp and a whimper as he awoke to a large deathclaw looming over him. Its eyes seemed to burrow into his very soul and for a moment he thought he was going to die.

He didn’t because it was Ayma, though it took a good few seconds for him to realize that. By the time he did, adrenaline was already coursing through his veins and he was half-ready to leap off the bed and bolt to the door.

“Sorry,” Ayma said, moving away. “I didn’t mean to scare you.”

“It’s fine,” he said, rubbing his eyes with his shaking hands. “You just startled me, that’s all.”

“It looked like you were more than startled.”

“I guess I’m not used to staring a deathclaw in the face. Most that do aren’t alive for very long.”

“Well, I’m not just any deathclaw.”

“That much is certain.”

“Anyway, enough that. Get up, Neka is here.”

He looked over to see the other Greenclaw standing by the door. She had something in her hands and it took a moment for him to realize it was a box of Sugarbombs, though it looked more like a pack of potato chips in her large hands.

She raised them up. “Brought you breakfast.”

“Oh, thanks,” he said as he sat up and slid his legs off the side of the bed, resting them on the floor.

Neka walked over and shoved them against his chest. “Eat up, we are leaving soon.”

“Any water?” he asked.

“Only from the faucet.”

“I guess that means it’s irradiated.”

Neka snorted. “Aww, does irradiated water make your tummy grumble?”

Drew decided not to complain. “I need to go to the bathroom,” he said instead.

“We just shit outside, but if you’re worried about your delicate little ass getting too cold out there, then…”

“Neka!” Ayma shouted irritatedly, interrupting her. “Be nice.”

Neka turned on the heel of her foot. “Sure. The toilets still kinda work. Follow me.”

He headed out with his laser rifle in hand, following Neka, with Ayma walking closely behind him. She waited outside, holding the box of sugar bombs and his rifle for him while he used the bathroom. After washing his hands and taking a drink from the faucet, he splashed his face and stared at his reflection in the grimy mirror.

From what little he could see, he looked like shit. He hadn’t slept well last night, constantly waking from nightmares about being eaten alive. Thankfully, Ayma had been a sound sleeper as she hadn’t been disturbed a single time by his waking cries of terror.

He splashed his face a second time before he headed back out where Neka shoved his rifle and cereal box back into his hands.

“Are you ready?”

He looked at Ayma. “Yeah,” he said. “Let’s head home.”

As they turned for the entrance, Drew noticed that there was a Greenclaw standing by the shallow ramp that led up to the exit door. Drew didn’t know which one it was, though he believed it was one of the ones that had defended him against Lotte.

“Axa,” Ayma greeted.

“Ayma, Neka,” Axa replied before looking at Drew. “I feel I have to apologize about yesterday. Do not judge us based on the actions of our so-called matriarch.”

He smiled or at least tried to. Axa was one of the ones that had stood up for him and for that, he was grateful. After all, she likely helped convince Lotte not to eat him.

“I hope you don’t see us as disgusting monsters,” Axa said.

“I did at first,” he admitted. “But Ayma and Kiki won me over.” He looked down at his feet as images of Lotte’s gaping throat flashed through his mind. “Your matriarch, on the other hand…” It was enough to send a shiver down his spine.

“I know,” Axa accepted. “I sometimes think I should have gone with the others.”

He looked back up at her. “I’ve heard others mentioned before. Ones that left?”

“They didn’t want to stay,” Axa said. “Though, for different reasons. Some thought Lotte was too brutish, others just wanted to see the world. I along with the rest stayed because we didn’t really see any other realistic alternative. Here we have shelter.”

“Shelter in exchange for letting your leader eat people,” Drew said sourly. “Those that left might have had the right idea.”

Axa looked away while Neka answered. “We weren’t always like this.”

“I know, you used to be human.”

Ayma shook her head. “She didn’t mean it like that. What she meant is that we started off more feral. It is only in the last several months that we have started to truly get our…” She paused for a moment. “Well, get our humanity back.”

Neka continued from where Ayma left off. “Axa was one of the first, the same with Kiki. Glower on the other hand still doesn’t speak. Either she can’t or doesn’t want to.”

Ayma cut the conversation short. “This is something we should talk about later. We need to be going. We have a long journey ahead of us.”

“Of course,” Axa replied. “We’ll see you in a week.”

“Hopefully,” Neka said.

With Ayma taking the lead, Drew in the middle, and Neka walking behind, the three of them made their way up the shallow concrete ramp and out of the facility.

Outside, Ayma squatted down. Her back facing toward him. “Climb aboard,” she said.

“Can I eat my breakfast first?” he asked as he shoved a handful of the sugary cereal into his mouth.

“You can eat on the way,” Neka said. “Get on her back. I want to get there before nightfall. And before you talk about how it didn’t take you that long getting here, I ain’t as big as Ayma or Kiki so I can’t move as fast.”

While she was talking, he decided to eat as many as he could before discarding the box onto the floor. He knew if he tried to eat while on the move he would be sick. Then again, he might be regardless since he had just eaten, though he had to admit, riding Ayma was a lot smoother than he would have expected.

“Done?” Neka asked.

He nodded. “Yep.”

“Then get on her back and let’s go!”

Drew awkwardly climbed up onto Ayma’s back and sat on her shoulders, gripping her horns tightly.

“Ready?” Ayma asked.

“As I’ll ever be,” Drew answered.

Ayma stood up and the two Greenclaws began to run, making their way eastward.

Roughly three hours into the journey, Neka slowed to a slow walk with a raised hand and a grunt. Ayma followed her lead and the two moved closer together as they both squatted down.

Drew resisted the urge to ask what was going on and waited. He didn’t think they were tired, as they weren’t breathing heavily, so he suspected they had heard something.

Neka began to creep forward, moving with surprising fluidity considering how big she was. She moved towards a small ridge, her steps slow and methodical. She looked like a predator stalking its prey and it was terrifying to witness.

It only became more terrifying when her skin seemed to change color momentarily before she practically vanished, Ayma doing the same beneath him. Apart from the shimmering of refracted light, they were nigh on invisible.

They had definitely either seen or heard something and still being on Ayma’s back, he couldn’t help but wonder what he must look like from afar. To anyone that happened to catch a glance, it would look like he was flying.

As to what they had spotted, he didn’t know. There was an incline and a small dirt ridge ahead of them. Judging by the wind direction, it was blowing towards them which meant they had likely smelled something.

A moment later, Drew found out as the heads of a radstag popped up from the other side of the small dirt ridge and let out a shrill call. In an instant, other heads popped up and they all began to flee, disappearing back behind the mound of dirt.

In an instant, not only did Neka break into a sprint but so did Ayma. Drew held on for dear life as it felt like she was trying to buck him off.

Neka caught the slowest of the stags, becoming visible moments before she struck it with a raised claw, practically eviscerating it with a single strike.

Ayma bolted past her, continuing her pursuit. It was clear that the stags had the advantage on the uneven ground, and with the tree line up ahead it was evident that Ayma was going to lose them without help.

“Hold up a second!” he yelled. “I can take a shot.”

“I can catch them,” Ayma shouted back.

“No you can’t, they’re almost to the trees. You’ll lose them in there, you’re too big.”

Much to Drew’s surprise, Ayma became visible again as she slowed to a stop, allowing him to raise his rifle and take aim. With a lance of energy, he struck it in the hip, sending it crashing to the dirt.

“Go!” he yelled, holstering his rifle.

In an instant, Ayma was running again, and once more Drew found himself gripping her horns tightly. With a raised claw, she took a swipe for its head which practically exploded on impact, killing it instantly.

“Holy shit you’re powerful!” Drew uttered in shock.

Without missing a beat, Ayma squatted down over the kill and tore its skin open with her claws so that she could get to the tender meat inside. Unable to look away, Drew watched from his vantage point as she ripped away at the flesh and devoured it. The sounds, the blood, it was genuinely terrifying to witness and it reminded him that they were predators built for killing. If they wanted to, they could destroy entire settlements perhaps even small towns.

Ayma stopped eating for a moment. “You want some, Drew?”

“Ugh, no thanks,” he said, trying to hide his disgust. “I prefer my meat cooked. I’ll pass.”

“Oh, right, sorry,” she said before she continued eating.

He looked away as he heard heavy footsteps coming up from behind. He looked around to see Neka stomping up behind them with blood on her claws and face.

“Uh,” he said, looking at her. “You might wanna have a wash. You’re kinda bloody.”

Neka grunted at him. “There’s a stream near here. We’ll wash in that.”

Ayma stopped eating and turned her head, almost throwing Drew off her shoulders in the process. “You finished already?” she asked.

“I started before you,” Neka responded.

Ayma stood up. “Race you to the river.”

Once more Drew found himself holding on for dear life as both Ayma and Neka bolted forwards. At first, their destination wasn’t obvious, but soon he saw the glistening of a small river.

It was clear that Neka was going to win, which went against what she had said earlier about Ayma being faster. He supposed Neka was faster for shorter bursts, while Ayma could run faster for longer.

With a huge splash, Neka dove into the water, and not a few moments later, Ayma did the same. As much as he tried to hold on, he found himself airborne as he was thrown clear.

Unfortunately, he didn’t land in the water and instead came down hard on the muddy bank on the far side.

“Ouch,” he muttered, his head spinning.

He heard splashing followed by Ayma’s large horned head coming into view, blocking out most of the sky.

“Are you alright?” she asked.

“I think so,” he wheezed.

“I forgot you were on my back,” she said rather sheepishly.

“It’s fine,” he said. “Give me some space so I can sit up.”

“Sorry,” she said as her head disappeared from view.

With a groan, he pushed himself up into a seated position, before he slowly stood up. He turned around to see Neka in the water washing off the blood while Ayma was only partially submerged, looking at him with concern.

“I’m fine,” he reassured her. “Go wash yourself down so we can continue.”

“If you are sure?”

“Yeah, I’m sure,” he said as he sat back down on the bank.

Ayma moved back into the water and Drew found himself staring at her mostly submerged chest. For some strange reason, seeing the water wrap around her breasts was oddly arousing. It made it look like she had huge cleavage.

His gaze moved to Neka as he heard her chuckle. “He’s checking you out.”

It was at that moment it dawned on him how strange and surreal the whole situation was. From an outside perspective, he was hanging out with two big-breasted deathclaws. Though he knew they were actually humans mutated by FEV into the creatures they were today. It was evident by how they spoke that they were more human than claw on the inside, regardless of outward appearance.

“Yeah,” he said smiling wistfully. “I am checking her out.”

Both of them stared at him for a moment before Ayma smiled. “Be careful, I’ll eat you alive.”

Images of hanging over Lotte’s open mouth flashed through his mind. He grimaced for a moment before forcing a smile “Promise?” he asked.

“You two are gross,” Neka said. “Just don’t start fucking before we get to that robot factory.”

“You’re just jealous,” Drew joked.

He had been so caught up in the moment that he hadn’t realized what he was doing. Was he really flirting? How could he still love Gemma when she had the body of a beast? He had told her yesterday that he wasn’t disgusted by her form, but why wasn’t he? Was his love for her so powerful that he could look past her new form and into her heart? Or was he secretly fucked up and preferred her new form?

He feared the latter might be true and he didn’t want to accept it.

“I still love you,” he said, his voice barely a whisper.

Her smile vanished and she averted her gaze. Neka looked uncomfortable and Drew knew that he probably shouldn’t have said that.

“Sorry,” he apologized.

“It is complicated,” Ayma said, looking back at him before looking at Neka. “We should probably be going. Have I got all the blood off?”

“Yes,” Neka answered as she made her way out of the water. “You’re clean.”

Drew looked at her wet naked glistening breasts for a moment before he focused on the dirt. He wasn’t about to start ogling other women, especially when Ayma was right there. Though he suspected he might be the only person on the planet that considered them that.

“Climb aboard,” Ayma said once she was out of the water.

Like before, Drew climbed up her back and sat on her shoulders, his crotch pressed up against the back of her neck. Not a moment later they were back on the move, heading eastwards.

Very little was said. Drew had questions, but he decided they could wait. He had to focus on what he was going to tell Amy, Jack, and Sarah. Having two Greenclaws stay with them for a whole week was going to be the most difficult sell of his entire life.

Though thinking about it, it would definitely be a big help. They were very strong and tall, which meant they could help fix up some of the production lines as well as move the heavier components around such as those for the Sentry bots.

If they could get past the introductions then them staying there might actually be beneficial.

The introductions, of course, were the big point of contention and the thing he was fearing the most. He had to wonder what was going through Lotte’s head when she had suggested they stay for a week. He supposed he might never know. It certainly complicated his life.

Two hours after they had eaten lunch and had the dip in the stream, Drew saw a familiar sight ahead. It wasn’t the factory, it was a giant red-painted rocket marking the Mega Stop.

“We already have a lot of history here,” he said.

“Yeah,” Neka agreed. “When we first met, I wanted to scare you shitless, but Ayma decided to just let you go.”

“I was already scared shitless,” he said. “But I thought you wanted to kill me.”

“I thought about it,” Neka said. “But I wasn’t going to. I just wanted to make you shit your pants.”

“That’s a relief,” he said.

“Want anything from inside?” Ayma asked him.

“Well, we could do with a bit more cleaning fluid.”

The two Greenclaws slowed to a walk as they entered the parking lot. Ayma squatted down and Drew climbed off, stretching his legs. After so long sitting on her back, his legs ached.

“I think I’d like to walk the rest of the way,” he said. “It’s only three more hours.”

Neka shrugged her massive shoulders. “If you say so.”

Drew led the way inside the main building and headed straight for the warehouse. Most of the crates were gone now, leaving a few stacked in the corner.

“Will you help me with these?” he asked.

Ayma did so immediately, while Neka stood in the corner. With the crates un-stacked, she removed the tops and peered inside.

“See anything useful?” Drew asked as he made his way over.

“Alcohol,” she answered.

Drew peered inside and whistled. “Wine,” he said. “If I took this crate into town it would fetch a nice heap of caps.”

“You wanna take it?” Ayma asked.

Drew thought for a moment. “Neither of you minds carrying a crate, do you?”

“No,” Ayma said immediately.

Neka on the other hand wasn’t quite as open to the idea. “Only if you make it worth my while.”

Drew was cautious. “Okay, name the price.”

“You want to bring this robot factory back online, right?”

“Yeah.”

“Well, I’ve been itching to get these hands working on something. I want to help while we’re there and I want you to give me some bots when we’re done.”

“Deal,” Drew said without question. “I could do with the help anyway.”

Ayma looked at Neka confused. “What do you need robots for?”

“Robots are cool,” Neka said with a shrug. “Besides, I’ve been thinking of going out on my own.”

“Why?”

“Because Lotte acts like a dictator and I wanna do my own thing.”

Drew could definitely understand that. “Well once the week is up, if either of you wants to stay then you’re welcome to.”

Neka accepted the offer immediately. “I’ll hold you to that.”

“We’ll still have to report to Lotte,” Ayma pointed out.

“Yeah, but nothing’s stopping us from returning after that,” Neka said.

Drew patted the side of the crate. “Come on, let’s see if we can find one with cleaning fluid in it. When we do, we can get back on the road.”

Neka walked over and pulled the top off another of the crates. A horrible smell permeated the air.

“Sludge in this one,” Neka said, quickly putting the lid back on before moving over to the next.

It took a few tries, but they finally found one that had what Drew needed. With the two crates in the Greenclaw’s hands, they headed out and made their way northwards.

Back on the highway, Drew decided they had to discuss something that had been plaguing his mind.

“I don’t know how the others are going to react,” he said.

“I do,” Neka said. “Horrified and terrified. This is gonna go badly.”

Ayma agreed. “It’s going to be tough.”

“Lotte’s an idiot for suggesting it,” Neka said. “My bet is she wants it to go badly as an excuse.”

“Excuse?” Drew asked.

“To come gobble you and your friends up. I think she enjoys it.”

It was unfortunate but Drew feared that it might be the truth. Drew was just thankful that they acknowledged it. He doubted it would make things any easier, though.

Drew decided to be optimistic. “Give them time,” he said. “They’ll come around.”

He hoped his words turned out to be true, but there was a deep-seated fear that it was all going to go badly just as Neka said.

The rest of the walk was filled with rising apprehension. Apart from the odd comment, little else was said. At least not until the old Robco plant came into view.

“Looks like we’re almost there,” he said, looking at Ayma, his eyes falling on her generous chest.

“Like the view?” she asked.

He looked away, focusing on the factory ahead. “You’re going to have to wait outside while I deactivate the turret defenses. I’ll then have to add you to the no-shoot list.”

“How close?”

“You can move in a little bit closer,” he said. “The range is to the edge of the parking lot.”

They continued down, stopping by the security office by the gates. Drew took in a deep, slow breath, trying to calm himself for what was to come.

“I’ll be back soon,” he said as he walked forwards.

He was not looking forward to what was to come.

End Notes:

I might have to change to posting once a week. Almost didn't get the edit for this chapter done in time.

Chapter 17 - Surprise Guests by Saturn Knight

 “Where the absolute fuck have you been!?” Amy demanded to know.

Her hands were on her hips and she had a fierce glare on her face. She wasn’t usually an intimidating person, being around a foot shorter than him and built like a pole, but at that moment, Drew found himself feeling a little intimidated, which was strange considering he’d spent the last day with a bunch of Greenclaws.

“Where were you, Drew? We were worried.”

It wasn’t how he had wanted the conversation to start. He honestly wasn’t sure how he wanted it to go. Less hostile, that was for sure.

Drew raised his hands disarmingly. “I met up with some old friends and lost track of time,” he said. “Now, listen, I need you to gather everyone and get them to the cafeteria in ten minutes.”

She folded her arms with a pout. “Why?”

“There’s something I need to tell everyone. Something very important.”

Amy frowned. “And that is?”

“We’re going to be having some house guests.”

“Okay,” she said, giving him a cautious look. “You gonna tell me who they are?”

Drew had anticipated problems, but that had been after he had introduced their new half-mammal/half-reptilian guests.

“I know you’re pissed about me not coming home yesterday, but believe me, when I introduce them you’ll understand why.”

Her harsh gaze softened. “You look nervous. What’s wrong?”

“You’ll find out soon. Just gather everyone, it’s very important.”

“Is everything okay? Who are they?”

“Again, you’ll find out soon. Just get everyone gathered, please. You’ll understand once I tell you.”

“Okay,” she said. “I’ll go do that.”

“Thank you. I need to check on something in the main office, first.”

“Will we need weapons?”

His eyes widened. Did she know something? “Why would you need weapons?” he asked quickly.

“Well, by ‘old friends’ and ‘guests’ and the fact that you look like you’re about ready to shit yourself, I’m guessing they’re not welcome.”

“Amy, no one will need weapons, I promise. It’s just that these are people I never thought I’d see again.” He rubbed his eyes. “Now can you please gather everyone.”

She eyed him suspiciously before she finally shrugged. “Okay, sure. I’ll go tell everyone to head to the cafeteria.”

“No weapons.”

“Sure, no weapons.”

“I mean it Ame. No weapons.”

“Okay, okay. I’ll go get Jack and Sarah.”

With them both going their separate ways, Drew rushed up to the main office and sat himself down behind the terminal. The old computer was networked, meaning he was able to shut down the turrets from there. With that dealt with, he stood back up only to notice the intercom system attached to the phone sat on the desk. He realized that he could have probably just told everyone to gather in the cafeteria using it.

“Too late for that now,” he muttered as he made his way downstairs. “Time to check up on Amy and the others.”

As he approached the cafeteria, he realized that he should probably find the patrolling Gutsies and shut them down for the time being. The last thing he needed was for them to start blasting at Ayma and Neka.

Thankfully, their patrols were set so they weren’t hard to find. He shut them down before he continued on his way to the cafeteria, finding everyone gathered, including the Miss Nanny, Suzy.

Jack looked confused. “What’s going on, Drew? Amy mentioned you bumped into some old friends. Are they other survivors from Paulson?”

“I’m going to be honest,” Drew said with a long sigh, feeling his tension reach breaking point. “Things are about to get really fucking weird. I’ll explain in a minute. Please wait here for me to get back.”

He left the cafeteria and jogged down the long hallway to the foyer. As he opened the thick front doors, his hands began to tremble.

“This is fucked,” he muttered as he stepped outside and jogged across the parking lot towards the security office by the gates where the two Greenclaws were waiting patiently.

“Turrets are down,” he shouted. “So are the Gutsies. Should be safe to approach.”

Both Ayma and Neka began to walk forward and he slowed to a stop until they reached him. He then turned around and walked with them towards the main building.

“I have everyone gathered in the cafeteria,” he told them. “I’m going to go in alone and ready them up before asking you two to enter. I am expecting this to go very, very badly.”

“We’ll try not to scare them too much,” Neka said.

Ayma grunted. “Let’s try not to scare them at all.”

Drew appreciated the sentiment but knew that scaring the shit out of them was an inevitability. They were deathclaws in every way except their eyes and their chests.

“We’ll have to find a way to ease them into it,” Drew said. “No matter what happens, when they see you they’re gonna be scared shitless.”

Drew pushed the doors open and stepped inside with Neka and Ayma practically having to get on all fours to get through.

It was evident as they made their way down the hallway towards the cafeteria that while the others couldn’t see their reptilian guests, they would undoubtedly hear them due to their heavy thumping feet.

He glanced back. “Can you try to walk a little lighter,” he asked. “We don’t want to scare them before they even see you.”

The two slowed down and much to Drew’s surprise, their footsteps became a lot lighter. He could still hear them, but they weren’t nearly as imposing. It sounded more like someone was slapping meat on the ground rather than a giant predator coming in for the kill.

“Okay,” Drew said as they reached the doors to the cafeteria. “I’ll head inside and try to prepare them for what the hell is about to happen.”

The two of them moved out of sight as he stepped inside. Everyone was looking at him and they all looked worried.

Jack was the first to speak. “Who the hell have you invited in? I heard thumping.”

Drew could feel himself starting to sweat.

Amy picked up on it immediately. “What’s wrong?”

Drew raised his hands up in a disarming manner. “All I’m asking is for you not to freak out.”

“Freak out?” Jack asked. “Why? Did you bring the Brotherhood of Steel in here or something?”

Sarah raised her hand. “Uh, what’s going on exactly? Amy said you’d brought guests. Who are the Brotherhood of Steel and why did those footsteps sound like really big animals?”

“Okay, so this is gonna sound like I’ve gone nuts, but the reason they sound like big animals is because they are big.”

Amy didn’t look happy. “You brought wild animals into the factory!?”

“They’re not wild,” he tried to explain. “It’s really complicated.”

“What is?” Jack asked sounding increasingly worried. “What’s going on?”

This was already going poorly, but how was he supposed to explain that the green deathclaws were in fact their old pals and loved ones from the place they used to live. That they had been altered by some kind of super secret goo, which also had been responsible for making the super mutants.

As Drew ran his hand through his hair in exasperation, wondering how the hell he was going to explain everything, he remembered something. He had saved the recordings of the scientist responsible on his Pipboy. Those recordings were the best and pretty much the only way of conveying what was happening quickly and easily. Though he also knew that it was only the start. He anticipated a lot of terror when Ayma and Neka finally stepped through the doors. Even if they were friendly, outwardly they were still horrifying killing machines with big teeth and claws. Well, they also had big tits but that was definitely secondary to everything else.

“Listen,” he said as he walked over to the table they were sitting at and pulled up a chair. “I am going to play you some audio logs.”

“What does this have to do with anything?” Amy asked.

“Everything,” he said, resting his Pipboy arm on the table.

“It better,” Jack said. “Because so far you’re coming across as a crazy person.”

“Listen carefully,” he said. “Because this will explain everything.”

He scrolled down through the stored recordings to the first one before he pressed play. Everyone sat there and listened as the unnamed man’s voice came through the small speakers. He spoke about being a prisoner to the Greenskins and the FEV.

The moment it finished, Amy frowned. “What is FEV?”

“Don’t worry about it,” Drew said as he selected the second recording. “This will explain.”

Pressing play, it explained almost immediately. It told of how it was a mutagen and how deathclaws were made by the US before the war.

With the end of the second tape, no one asked any questions so he started the third. They all listened intently to what the man said. About the Greenskins catching a wastelander and how he considered altering the FEV so it killed him quickly and didn’t turn him into another super mutant.

The third recording ended and Drew played the next few tapes

Jack spoke up when the batch of recordings came to an end. “This is fucked up.”

Amy was glaring at him. “You didn’t bring super mutants here did you?”

“Wait,” Jack said his eyes growing wide. “Are you trying to tell us that people from Paulson were turned into super mutants?”

Drew shook his head. “No, not super mutants.”

“Then what?”

He hit play on the next batch of tapes and they listened to the man talk about a small town across the border in Canada and how he had sent the Greenskins there. He also told of how he had integrated deathclaw DNA into the FEV. Sarah gasped at this, covering her mouth as the rest of the recording played out.

“Oh, no,” Sarah uttered once it had finished. “Those Greenclaws. They were people.”

Drew nodded as he played the rest of the recordings. They all listened intently, a mixture of negative emotions etched on their faces.

It was a tough sell, he knew that, but the man laid it out in a better way than Drew ever could. Mainly because he had been the one responsible.

“That’s all there is,” Drew said as the final recording came to an end.

“I don’t understand,” Jack said in confusion and shock. “Those Greenclaws used to be people? Is that what that man is trying to say?”

“No way!” Amy said. “You can’t turn people into deathclaws. It’s not possible.”

“They’re monsters,” Jack said.

“They chased me and tried to kill me,” Sarah added.

“They’re not monsters,” Drew said, knowing that he could quickly lose control of the conversation.

“Then what are they?” Amy asked. “They’re certainly not people.”

“They are people. Just changed.”

Amy’s eyes went wide. “And you fucking brought them here, didn’t you!? You fucking idiot!”

“Fuck no!” Jack said. “I’m not staying here with fucking deathclaws you crazy bastard!”

“Jack, Amy, they’re from Paulson,” Drew said quickly, trying desperately to diffuse the situation before things got out of hand. “The small town up north he mentioned was Paulson. Those people they took were our friends. Our loved ones.”

“No!” Amy yelled. “Angela is not some abomination. They took them and ate them. She’s dead. They’re all dead!”

Jack looked at her, uncertainty etched on his face. “But what if it’s true?”

“No!” she yelled again.

“But what if it is?” Jack said, tears in his eyes. “What if Grace is still alive? What if…”

“What if she is!?” Amy demanded to know. “You gonna fuck a monster!?” She looked at Drew. “No, this has to be a joke, right?”

Jack stared at Drew’s Pipboy. “You heard those logs.”

Amy shook her head. “He didn’t come back last night, which meant he had more than enough time to make them.” She glared at Drew. “Did Jarik put you up to this? Is this some stupid prank?”

“No, Amy, he didn’t. The reason I wasn’t here was because I was with the Greenclaws. They’re not inhuman monsters. Well, not all of them anyway.”

“Prove it!” Amy spat. “Prove that this isn’t some fucking joke!”

He glanced back towards the doors. Feeling that it was still to early to ask them to come in, he decided on a different tactic, at least at first.

“Ayma, Neka, you can speak now if you want.”

It was Neka that answered first with her deep yet still feminine voice. “What do you want us to say?”

Drew watched as their eyes all grew wide as they stared at the doors.

“Anything,” he shouted back.

He heard Ayma speak. “You heard what the man said in the recordings. We don’t remember much. Our memories are fractured.”

Amy looked at Drew. “How many are there!?”

“Two,” he told her. “Well, there’s two here. There’s twelve back at the place they’re staying and more elsewhere.”

Sarah gulped. “How big are they?”

“The two here? Big. One is around ten feet tall and the other is maybe eight-and-a-half.”

Jack gripped the side of the table so hard the ends of his fingers turned white. “Can we-uh. Can we see them?”

Amy added. “To make sure this ain’t some sick joke.”

Drew looked back at the doors. “You heard them. Time to show yourselves. Make it nice and easy.”

He took in a deep breath and gulped hard. This was the moment he had been dreading.

Before they’d even entered, he got a reaction just from the sound of a first footstep. They all stared, wide-eyed towards the doors. With a squeak, he heard the doors open and somehow their eyes grew even wider as they entered.

“Oh, fuck!” Amy uttered.

“Shit,” Jack breathed.

Sarah’s reaction was quite different. Her eyes rolled up into the back of her head and she slumped forward onto the table.

Suzy, who had remained quiet, focused all her eyes on Sarah’s unconscious form. “Oh, dear,” she said. “She ’as fainted.”

Honestly, it was a better reaction than he had been expecting. Far better. Still, Jack was holding on to the side of the table so hard it looked like he was about to snap his fingers off, and Amy looked like she was ready to leap from her chair and flee.

Drew looked behind, seeing the two Greenclaws standing inside the cafeteria by the doors. They looked massive in front of the door frame and more than terrifying. He’d had the benefit of getting used to them over the last day or so, but to the others this was their first actual meeting.

He wasn’t expecting the following few minutes to be pleasant.

Then something unexpected happened.

“I know you two,” Ayma said, staring. “I know you.”

Jack shook his head, his mouth falling open.

Amy also shook her head, but she also pushed herself backward, her chair squeaking across the floor. “No!” she yelled. “No, this cannot be real. It’s impossible. They’re talking!”

“It’s real,” Neka said. “And you also just heard us talking outside.”

“This is fucked!”

Drew had to agree. “It is, but it’s also real.”

He wondered if he should tell them that he believed Ayma was Gemma but decided against it. At least for the time being.

“This is going well,” Neka snarked.

Ayma took a step forward, her heavy feet pounding against the floor.

Jack ducked down behind the table. “Don’t come any closer!” he yelled.

Ayma raised her clawed hands, palms outward. She was trying to appear non-threatening, though it was proving difficult. “We don’t mean you any harm,” she said. “I just wanted to get a better look at you.”

“Why?” Jack asked, his face turning pale as he peeked over the edge.

“Because I know you. The same as I knew Drew.”

Ayma continued to stare at them, which was clearly not helping their fear. She then looked at Drew.

“I remember them,” she said. “I knew them before I met you. You found us and we were scared of you.”

Amy jumped up onto her feet, tears streaming down her face. “No, don’t you dare!”

“Amy,” Ayma said out loud. “Jack.”

Jack stared. “It knows our fucking names!”

Amy was shaking and it wasn’t out of fear. She looked distraught.

“You can’t be Gemma,” Amy wailed as she collapsed against the table. “This can’t be real. You’re dead. Angela is dead. They’re all dead!”

“I’m starting to remember,” Ayma said with a sniffle. “I’ve missed you.”

Amy lowered her head into her hands as she began to weep while Jack slowly pushed himself up onto his feet, his hands resting on the table. “You’re really Gemma?” he asked.

“Yes, I am.”

“No, you’re not,” he said, shaking his head. “No, this is a trick. You’re both robots or something. You have to be.” He looked at Drew. “You almost had me going there. Really sick prank to play, though, you piece of shit.”

“They’re not robots,” Drew assured him. “And when it comes to Gemma, you know I would never play a prank like this.”

“He’s right,” Ayma said. “We’re flesh and blood.”

“Flesh and Blood? This is fucking crazy!” Jack shouted. “What the fuck even is this!?”

“It’s messed up,” Drew agreed. “But they’re real and they’re people.”

“Those are not people!” Jack yelled, pointing a finger at them. “What the fuck is wrong with you?”

“It wasn’t my idea to bring them, and I know it’s difficult to understand or even accept. I’m still struggling with it myself.”

Jack stared across the room at the two Greenclaws then back at Drew.

“It’s okay,” Drew said. “They’re not gonna hurt you.”

“How can you say that!”

“Because I know them.”

Jack closed his eyes and took in a deep breath.

“The big one is Gemma,” Drew said. “It’s Gemma. She remembers me and now she’s starting to remember you.”

Jack looked back at her, hesitation on his face. “I don’t understand how this can be real.”

“It’s real,” Neka muttered, her voice coming across as more of a growl.

Jack took in another deep breath. “Are you really Gemma?”

“Yes, I am,” she said, looking at Drew. “I am Gemma. That is my name.”

Drew smiled wistfully. Out of all the scenarios that had played out in his head, none of them had gone nearly as well as it had in reality. It had positively gone fantastic, far better than he could have dreamed. Though he knew they had only taken the first step and there were a lot more to go.

Jack asked the pertinent question. “What happens now?”

Drew looked at Sarah who was still slumped in her chair. “They’re staying for a week,” he said.

“Good,” he heard Amy sniffle quietly.

“A week!?” Jack asked in disbelief, his eyes wide.

Amy rested her hand on top of Jack’s. “If that really is Gemma, then she won’t harm us. She has to stay.”

“Why?” Jack asked.

“Because It’s Gemma.”

Jack looked conflicted.

“And we have so much to catch up on,” Amy continued.

“Yes, we do,” Ayma said as she looked at Drew. “First thing’s first, I don’t think I want to be called Ayma anymore.”

“You want to be called Gemma?” Drew asked hopefully.

Gemma nodded. “It’s who I am. Who I was. It feels right.”

“It is right,” Drew said smiling. “We’re back together again after all these years.”

“Together,” Gemma repeated.

There was silence.

The initial encounter wasn’t over yet, but so far things were going better than he had anticipated. They were starting to accept them, though he knew one wrong word or one wrong move and it could easily come undone like a loose threat snagging on a tree branch.

“You’re scary as fuck by the way,” Amy said with another sniffle. “But it’s good to see you.”

“Thanks,” Gemma said warmly.

Jack sat back down at the table. “That can’t be her. It can’t.” By the way he said it, it sounded like he was trying to convince himself, but Drew knew that deep down Jack knew it was true.

“It is,” Drew said. “And you know it is.”

“I don’t think I’m ever gonna get used to this.”

Drew disagreed. “It’ll take a while, but I think you will.”

The moment was ruined by a loud scream.

All eyes snapped towards Sarah who leaped out of her chair and staggered back, her eyes on the two Greenclaws. She was clearly terrified and was reacting in a way that Drew had honestly expected everyone to react.

Drew stood up and quickly made his way over to her, putting his arms around her in an attempt to comfort her. “Sarah, it’s okay. They’re not hostile.”

“Th-they chased me,” she uttered. “They were gonna kill me!”

Neka dismissed the claim. “No, we weren’t. We just wanted to scare you away. There was a lot of good stuff there we wanted. Couldn’t have you take it.”

“It talks!” Sarah screamed.

Neka snorted. “You forget already?”

Ayma, no Gemma, scowled at Neka. “Be nice, she has a right to be scared. We were scared of each other at first.”

“Speak for yourself,” Neka said.

“Fine, I will.” Gemma looked at Sarah. “We don’t blame you for being frightened of us. I hope that with time you can overcome it.”

Sarah pulled herself free of Drew’s grip and hid herself behind Suzy. “Are they leaving soon?” she asked.

“They’re staying the week,” Drew answered, knowing that it wasn’t at all what she wanted to hear.

“Oh,” she said, her voice a squeak.

Jack could empathize. “I feel the same way,” he muttered. “I’m just about ready to shit myself.”

“Boo!” Neka shouted loudly.

Jack jumped back in his chair so hard that one of the legs broke and he found himself falling to the floor. Sarah, on the other hand, whimpered and cried.

“Neka!” Gemma shouted. “Stop that!”

“Why? It’s fun.”

“You’re being nasty for no reason.”

Neka shrugged. “Fine, fine.” She held out her arms wide. “I’m sorry. Can I hug you both better?”

“No,” Sarah said, gripping hold of Suzy tightly as she receded even further behind the Nanny robot.

Drew waved his hands over his head, getting everyone’s attention. “Okay, okay. This is uncomfortable and scary, I know that. So what I think we should do, is have Gemma and Neka sit on the far side of the room to keep a safe distance and we talk to each other for a few hours. We need to get to know each other if we want a chance in hell of this working.”

Gemma had another idea. “Maybe we should all sit in silence and not force conversation. Get used to each other’s presence.”

“It’s up to you,” Drew said.

Neka stomped over to the far wall and sat down on the floor, while Gemma walked more lightly, almost looking like she was tip-toeing so as to not seem as threatening before she sat down beside her.

Drew started back for the table before he decided he could make a statement by sitting between Gemma and Neka on the floor. With his legs crossed, he leaned back against the wall. Taking his lead, Amy did the same and sat down on the floor next to Gemma on the far side.

Jack and Sarah stared at them from the table as if they couldn’t believe what they were seeing. A week ago, Drew doubted he’d have believed it either.

“It’s only skin deep,” Drew said out loud, placing his left hand on his heart. “It’s what’s in here that matters.”

He heard a snort from his left. He looked to see Neka roll her eyes.

“What?” he asked dumbfounded. “It’s true.”

Neka didn’t say anything.

“You think what I said is cheesy, don’t you?” he asked.

“A little,” she answered.

Gemma showed her support for Drew. “I thought it was beautiful.”

Neka shrugged her massive shoulders. “I guess it is a nice sentiment.”

“And it’s true,” Gemma said.

“Sure.”

Neka didn’t seem convinced.

“Um…” Sarah started suddenly. “I think Suzy and I should head back to the office and continue indexing all that data we recovered from the hospital.”

She didn’t wait for a response as she ran out of the room, leaving Suzy behind.

“I ’ad better go and ’elp,” Suzy said as she calmly followed.

Neka couldn’t help but comment on it. “I guess she’s had enough.”

Drew sighed. “No doubt.”

Neka yawned. It was a sight that was absolutely terrifying to behold. “I’m feeling tired, anyway. Is there anywhere we can sleep?”

Drew pushed himself up onto his feet. “There are some rooms down in the basement area. We don’t have anything for you to lay on, unfortunately.”

“That’s fine,” Neka said. “We usually sleep on the floor anyway.”

“Come on,” Drew said. “Let’s get your rooms set up. It’s getting late.”

So far, the day had gone rather well. He just hoped the rest of the week went just as well.

End Notes:

This story will be updated once a week from here on out. This Sunday I want to start posting another shorter story.

Chapter 18 - Longing by Saturn Knight

Drew lay there in the small side room by the office and stared up at the ceiling high above him. He was thinking over the day’s events and it was strange to think about how much had happened in such a short time.

With Gemma and Neka needing a place to sleep, they had cleared out the majority of the two rooms downstairs and Drew had even swept the floors. It wasn’t perfect but Drew hoped it was good enough for the two to get a good night’s sleep.

He would be lying if he said he didn’t feel bad for them. They didn’t have a mattress, even a lumpy one that smelled bad like the one he was currently laying on. No, all they had was the cold hard floor. They had told him it was fine and they were used to it, but he wanted to figure something out that would increase their comfort.

Unable to sleep and with his throat starting to feel dry, Drew climbed out of bed and made his way down to the cafeteria to grab a cold drink from the water cooler.

With the purified water in hand, he started back towards the stairs, but instead of heading up, he decided to go down into the basement instead. He wanted to check on Gemma to make sure there weren’t any problems that had arisen.

The stairs seemed a lot longer and steeper than he remembered, as was the corridor that followed. He rubbed his eyes, putting it down to being tired. He knew he should be in bed, but he couldn’t keep Gemma out of his mind.

The truth was, while he knew she was probably asleep, he hoped she wasn’t. They had been apart for so long and now that she was here he felt like he had to be close to her, not sleeping upstairs so far away.

With apprehension, he made his way to Gemma’s room and lightly tapped on the double door that led to the old storage room. There was no response, which he had anticipated considering the time of night. As he turned to leave, though, the doors opened and he glanced back to see Gemma’s massive form standing there in the doorframe, though she seemed oddly smaller than he remembered. Or was it that the doorframe was larger? Something seemed off about the scale and he couldn’t place his finger on it.

“Oh, uh sorry for disturbing you,” he said, deciding that it was probably just his imagination.

She smiled down at him. “Come on in,” she said, stepping back away from the doors before sitting down in the middle of the room.

Drew made his way inside. “Sorry for not having anything for you to lay on.”

“I’ve told you, we’re used to sleeping on the floor.”

He grabbed a chair from the side and sat on it, resting his hands on his knees. That was when he realized he had misplaced his glass of water, though he couldn’t remember putting it down anywhere. He shrugged it off and once again put it down to being overly tired and focused back on Gemma.

“We haven’t really had time to talk,” Drew said as he leaned forward. “At least not just the two of us.”

“Want a heart-to-heart?”

“Yeah,” he said wistfully. “Things have been tough, really tough. I’ve thought about you often. I have dreams about you, about us. Dreams where we’re back together. Dreams where you were alive back before I knew you were alive. I dreamed about going on dates, stargazing, and even the stuff that came after.”

Gemma smiled at him. It was a pleasant smile, just like the one she used to have. “So have I,” she said. “Since seeing you I’ve been having these thoughts. These feelings. They’re strong feelings. Very strong feelings.”

“Things have been so complicated. I’ve really missed you, Gem. I really miss being together and I miss all those things we used to do.”

Tears started to swell in his eyes as he tried to hold back his emotions. He wasn’t the type to cry in front of others but it was so overwhelming he wasn’t sure he could stop it.

“I felt so lost,” he said, wiping his eyes before taking a sip from his glass of water. “I felt like I’d failed you.”

Gemma held out her arms wide, inviting him in for a hug. He took it and felt her strong arms as they wrapped around him, pressing him against her bountiful chest.

“I’m so sorry this happened to you,” he cried. “I wish it had happened to me instead.”

“Don’t be sorry,” she said softly, almost sounding like she used to when she was human. “This is who I am now. Am I really so grotesque.?”

“Never!” he yelled. “You’ll never be grotesque to me. No matter what.”

He looked up at her and she looked back down. She was still beautiful to him and he felt like he needed to prove that. With some effort, he pushed himself up onto his toes and kissed her on the mouth. For a moment, she seemed surprised before she returned it, pressing her lips against his.

“I love you,” he said. “I’ll always love you.”

Her obscenely long tongue rolled out of her mouth and she licked his face, covering it in saliva.

“You taste good.”

Drew licked her snout. “So do you,” he said back.

She let out a laugh and he joined in. He felt the sadness and sorrow melt away as they were replaced by a need and a want that he hadn’t felt since Gemma had been stolen away by the super mutants.

Gemma stuck out her tongue and probed it down his front towards his crotch. He let out a gasp as the strong muscle massaged his manhood through his pants. In response he grabbed her massive breasts in his palms before he went in with his mouth and tongue, sucking and licking her left nipple.

“I want you,” Gemma whispered huskily.

“And I want you, too,” Drew said right back.

“You’re growing hard,” she said before her tongue once more probed his crotch.

“It could be these massive tits of yours. They are incredible.

“So it has nothing to do with my tongue?”

“Oh, there’s that as well.”

“I want to see you naked.”

Eagerly, Drew stepped away and without missing a beat, he dropped his pants then took off his shirt, casting them aside. Gemma’s eyes stared down hungrily at his raging hard cock. His body was ready and waiting.

She grinned at him, licking her lips. “You want to see what this tongue can do?”

He nodded eagerly as she got down onto her hands and knees, her insanely long tongue once more rolling out of her mouth. Then she licked him from groin to neck, her powerful tongue almost lifting him off his feet.

“Like that?” she asked as she sat up and puffed out her chest, making her already huge tits look even bigger.

“I loved that and I love the view,” he said as he gawked at the incredible sight.

“I’m glad you’re enjoying the view,” she said. “Now show me just how much you like it.” Her eyes drifted down to his cock. “Cum on me.”

He gripped his dick in his hand and started to jerk himself off as he gazed at the incredible view. Pleasuring himself to a deathclaw even if it did have tits wasn’t something he thought he’d ever do, but this was Gemma, and no matter the form, she was still beautiful to him.

“Stop, I want to fuck you,” Gemma said, just as he was starting to feel a familiar rise in his loins.

“I want to fuck you, too,” he said as he stepped over to her.

She leaned back. “Fuck me!”

He grabbed her knees and moved in, only to stop when he gazed at her smooth featureless crotch.

“Fuck me, please!” she begged.

Drew felt the mood shift as he continued his search for her womanhood. He couldn’t see it, in fact, he couldn’t see anything.

“Why aren’t you fucking me?” she asked, sounding upset. “Fine, if you won’t fuck me, then I’ll fuck you.”

She stood up suddenly, knocking him to the floor in the process. He hit the floor hard, yet felt almost no pain. Things had gotten out of hand and yet he wasn't sure what to do to stop it. If she sat on him then it was likely she would kill him. She was ten feet of muscle fat and bone and there was no way his comparative puny body could hope to survive it.

"Gemma," he uttered after a few moments. "We need to stop. I can't take your weight."

She appeared to ignore him. "You could have been the one fucking me, but now I'm the one that's gonna fuck you!"

That was when she dropped. He gasped as what had to be a good few tons of flesh came rushing down towards him at lethal speeds.

She never made contact. instead, he found himself staring up at a dark ceiling.

He was back in the small side-room by the office laying on the old lumpy mattress.

“What the fuck was that?” he uttered out loud

He was covered in sweat and his heart was racing in his chest. He also had a raging boner, though it thankfully began to quickly grow soft.

After checking that he hadn’t made a mess of himself, he climbed out of bed and stepped into the dark office, sitting himself down on the old armchair. There he stared out of the large window out into the darkness beyond.

Drew couldn’t believe he’d had a sex dream about a Greenclaw, even if that Greenclaw happened to be Gemma. It felt strange, it felt wrong. She looked so bestial that it made him feel disgusted even thinking about it.

“Why?” he asked the void as he held his face in his hands.

Conflicted was how he felt. Loving an animal was wrong, but was she even an animal? She was a heavily mutated human that just happened to look like a deathclaw. Was it wrong to still love her?

Since first realizing that Ayma was Gemma, he’d gone back and forth as to whether there could still be something between them. He’d argued with himself to no end as to whether he wasn’t a freak for still having feelings for her.

“I can’t let her go,” he muttered to himself.

There had been nights where he’d laid awake wishing desperately that Gemma wasn’t dead. Hoping that one day she would turn up alive and well. He had never expected it to happen, let alone happen as it had.

Feeling parched, he decided to get up and head down to the cafeteria to grab a glass of water. This time, though, he gave himself a sharp pinch on the arm to make certain he was awake before he grabbed some purified water from the water cooler.

He sat down under the old humming strip lights and leaned on an old table as he nursed his drink. He wondered if he should go open the crate of wine they’d brought back from the Mega Stop and drink a bottle, but decided against it. Drinking had never helped in the past, it had only made him hurt more.

The main concern he had was how Amy and Jack would respond if they found out he was still madly in love with Gemma? Would they truly understand or would they be disgusted with him? He knew for a fact that if the roles were reversed he would be. He’d wonder what Jack or Amy could possibly be thinking, loving a wasteland monster.

They weren’t monsters, though. They were their friends and loved ones. It would be more monstrous to discard and abandon them after what they’d been through.

He lifted up the old cup and took a sip of water before resting it back on the table.

Did Gemma even still share his feelings? Back when Charlotte had been threatening to eat him, Kiki and Gemma had seemed to agree that there was room for him in their hearts, but had they meant that or was they just saying that in the hope that it would stop their leader from eating him? Even if they had meant it, he wasn’t sure he’d be happy sharing Gemma with Kiki. Even if he was, Kiki was so huge that he couldn’t see it working. There was also the fact that he found Kiki’s sheer size genuinely terrifying.

Kiki had always scared him, even back before the super mutants had attacked and dragged them away. Not because she was big, hostile, violent, or anything like that, but because of her advances towards him. Even though she knew he and Gemma were together, that didn’t stop her. In fact, she had suggested threesomes several times, and while he’d found the concept arousing, he’d been too scared to even consider it, let alone ask Gemma for her thoughts on it.

The truth was that if he had never met Gemma, then he and Kiki would have most certainly been a couple. Now it seemed that Kiki and Gemma were a couple and he honestly wished them well. As to whether he could be part of their relationship? Just the thought was enough to make his heart race.

Drew looked up from his cup as he heard the doors open. He saw Sarah step inside, only to stop when she noticed him.

“Oh, sorry,” she said. “I didn’t know anyone else was in here.”

“No need to be sorry,” he said, limply shrugging his shoulders.

“I came for some water,” she said.

“Same,” he said, holding up his mug.

She made her way over to the water cooler and grabbed a drink before sitting opposite him.

“Can’t sleep?” she asked.

“No,” he said.

“Same. Every sound I hear, I expect a green deathclaw to burst into my room and tear me to shreds.”

Despite knowing he shouldn’t, Drew couldn’t help but chuckle at that.

“How can you be comfortable with them here?” she asked.

“Because I know them,” he said. “They’re not violent, not really.”

His thoughts fell onto Charlotte and how she had wanted to eat him. He decided it was best not to mention it, not if he wanted any chance of Sarah warming up to their house guests.

“What were they like?” Sarah asked. “Before?”

“Normal,” he answered. “Gemma and I used to be together. She was kind, considerate.”

“Must be hard to see her like that.”

“Very hard,” he said. “She was the love of my life.”

“And now?”

Drew took a sip of his water before answering her question with another. “Is it messed up if I still love her?”

Sarah looked down at her own drink. “Yeah, I’d say it is. But I think I can understand. You knew her from before and love is a strong emotion. It’ll take time to get over her.”

“I’m not sure it’s gonna be that easy.”

“It’ll be tough.”

“You don’t understand,” he said, staring at the water in his mug. “I told her over and over that no matter what happened that I’d always be there for her and that I’d always love her. I promised her. Am I supposed to break that promise just because she’s a ten-foot green deathclaw?”

“You think you’re betraying her?” Sarah said.

“I don’t think I am, I know I am. That promise I made means nothing if I betray it.”

“You’re not betraying anything.”

“Yes, I am.” He drank the rest of his water and slammed the mug back down onto the table.

“I’m sorry,” Sarah offered. “This must be really difficult for you.”

“That is a gigantic fucking understatement!” he snapped. “I’m still in love with her and I don’t know if it’s even possible for us to be together.”

“It’s not,” Sarah put frankly. “She’s a ten-foot monster and you’re a human.”

He rested his hand on his heart. “She’s still human in here.”

“Maybe. But…” She paused as she shook her head. “I don’t know. I guess if you still love her… I don’t know. This is complicated.” She took a sip of water. “I don’t have any advice other than it would probably be best to forget what you had with her and move on. Anything else is immoral.”

Drew had no intention of doing any of that. He wasn’t going to betray his promise. If he did, then it had meant nothing when he had made it.

He shook his head as he focused back on Sarah. “How are you doing?”

“Not well,” she answered. “They scare the shit out of me.”

“It’s not their fault, you know. They were taken and changed against their will. It’s my duty to show them that they haven’t been abandoned. Like I did with Zachary.”

“Whose that?” Sarah asked.

Drew smiled wistfully. “A ghoul I used to know. Good man. Died when the Greenskins attacked Paulson. Others wanted him out of there, but I defended him. We needed him and he needed us.”

“I’ve heard about ghouls.”

That surprised him. Not the fact that she’d heard about them, but that she’d only heard about them. “You’ve never met a ghoul?”

“No. Not one that didn’t want to tear my skin off at least.”

“Well, they’re people who have been mutated by the radiation. Instead of dying, they become almost like rotting walking corpses, only they’re not actually rotting. Not in the usual sense. Then again, maybe they are. I don’t actually know. What I do know is that their skin flakes off in large chunks and they can be disgusting to look at, but they’re still people. Unless they turn feral that is. But you can usually tell when that’s gonna happen because they start to get really paranoid and they start losing their ability to speak coherently.”

Sarah looked saddened. “That sounds awful.”

“Yeah. Don’t get many ghouls out this way. Other than the Canadian town up north, but they’re all feral.”

“You sound like a good man,” she said. “Not many like you around these days. Gemma’s lucky to have known you.”

“Is she?”

She frowned. “Is she what?” she asked, sounding confused.

“Lucky?” he answered. “If it wasn’t for me, she, Jack, and Amy might have never ended up at Paulson. Gemma might still be human.”

“You can’t beat yourself up over it. It’s tragic, I get that, but it happened.”

“Why can’t I?”

Sarah looked at him with genuine sympathy. “If you still love her, then you have to tell her that.”

“I think she already knows.”

“You need to discuss it, just the two of you. You need to come to a conclusion of where you both want to go.”

“I thought you were against it?”

“Against you and Gemma resuming where you left off? Yeah, it’s disgusting if I’m honest.” She drank down the rest of her water. “But at the end of the day, it’s up to you and her. You’re both consenting adults and whether it makes me feel sick thinking about it is irrelevant.”

Drew stared at her for a moment. “That’s kinda open-minded in a completely closed-minded kinda way.”

“Just being honest. She could tear you to pieces completely by accident. They are powerful, fast and, deadly. Just remember that.”

“And you remember that they are friends and loved ones. You might see them as monsters, but I see them for what they were.”

Sarah didn’t seem convinced and she had every right not to be. It was difficult to look at Gemma’s reptilian face and see anything human. But her eyes told a different story. They were full of emotion and intelligence.

“They need protecting,” he said standing up. “And I plan on protecting them.”

“I doubt they need protecting from anything.”

He shook his head. “They are not invincible, especially not when it comes to their emotions. They’re still people and they’ve gone through unimaginable trauma. It’s up to me to help them.”

“Us,” Sarah said, her eyes full of sadness. “You’re right. They have been through a lot of trauma and while I’m still terrified of them, I’ll try to help if I can.”

He smiled. “Maybe you can get past your prejudices after all.”

“It’s not a prejudice to fear a predator.”

“Maybe,” he accepted. “Thanks for listening.”

“Always, Drew.”

He made his way out of the cafeteria and briefly considered going down to see Gemma but decided against it. He would have plenty of opportunity tomorrow and he was going to make the most of it.

She deserved better and he planned on helping her in any and every way he could. In his mind, there was no other choice. At least none that he could live with.

End Notes:

Struggled with this chapter. Couldn't seem to get the dream sequence to work right. Hopefully, it's okay. The original concept was a lot more jarring and didn't at all fit the tone of the rest of the story. The tone in the dream sequence still feels off to me, but I guess that might help sell that it's a dream.

Anyway, hope you enjoyed it.

Chapter 19 - Friends by Saturn Knight

A wide yawn left Drew’s mouth as he stepped into the cafeteria for the second time that morning. The first time it had been dark, but now there was light streaming through the grimy windows that sat high up on the walls.

That was when a pungent odor struck his nose.

“What the fuck is that stink?” he asked before he noticed two dead radstags had been dropped near the counter which separated the cafeteria from the kitchen.

“We brought you some food,” he heard Neka say.

He looked behind him to see her and Gemma ssitting in the corner leaning up against the same wall as the doors. It was why he hadn’t noticed them when he had entered.

“Uh, thanks,” he said, feeling like he might have accidentally insulted them. “Do you want them cooking or…?”

Gemma waved her clawed hand dismissively. “We’ve already eaten, thanks.”

He heard the doors squeak open and he looked back over his shoulder to see Amy enter. She held her nose as a look of disgust washed over her face.

“What is that smell?”

He pointed at the offending corpses. “Our guests brought us something to eat.”

Amy looked at the dead radstags. “Where are they now?”

“Who?”

“Gemma and Neka.”

He pointed. “Sat over there in the corner.”

Amy’s entire body stiffened as she looked over at them.

“Resting after a morning hunt,” Neka said.

Amy looked nervous. “Oh, hello. I hope I didn’t offend you.”

“Of course not,” Gemma said with a smile.

Drew was glad that things were progressing so well. Even so, he decided that today they were all gonna sit in the cafeteria and talk, especially Jack and Sarah. By the end of the week he wanted them to not necessarily be comfortable with them, but at the very least not be scared.

“Amy, can you go and fetch the others,” he said. “I think we need to have a good long chat.”

Amy nodded. “Sure,” she said as she quickly turned and left.

Drew turned back to the two dead radstags. It would take a good few hours, but he was sure that with the help of the others they should be able to get a good amount of meat off of them. In fact, Drew believed that dicing up the stags was the perfect distraction for getting everyone more comfortable with Gemma and Neka. At the very least it would give them something to do while they talked.

At some point, he wanted to get a pot so he could make some strew and keep it on the boil. He hadn’t had the chance back at Colville, mainly because the power to the house hadn’t been particularly reliable.

“So,” Gemma began as she stood up. “How are you this morning?”

“I’m fine,” he said. “How are you?”

“Slept a little rough. This place has unfamiliar sounds and smells.”

“I slept fine, thanks for asking,” Neka added.

The doors opened and Amy stepped in with a nervous expression. Behind her was a worried-looking Jack and a rather terrified Sarah.

“Morning,” Drew greeted.

“Uh, yeah,” Jack said, looking at Gemma, then down at Neka who was still sitting in the corner on the floor.

“I-uh…” Sarah began, her voice trembling. “I wanna try and um… Get to, you know. Get to know our-uh… guests.”

Drew appreciated her trying despite her clear terror.

He gestured to the radstags. “Neka, Gemma, do you mind taking those into the kitchen? We’ll all be through shortly.

“Of course,” Gemma said, making her way over immediately.

Neka, on the other hand, complained. “I just got comfortable.”

“I know,” Drew said. “But I want everyone in the kitchen so we can all talk and work at the same time.”

Neka groaned. “Work? We went hunting this morning. We’ve done our work.”

“You don’t have to do anything. Just take the other radstag into the kitchen and then you can sit in a corner.”

Gemma picked up both of them. “Don’t worry, I’ll do it.”

She ducked down and squeezed herself through the double doors into the kitchen while Drew folded his arms and slowly shook his head at Neka.

“What?” Neka asked.

“Nothing.”

Neka let out a groan. “Fine, I’ll go help,” she said as she pushed herself up off the floor onto her feet. “As long as I don’t have to move for the rest of the day.”

“I won’t ask anything more of you,” Drew assured her.

“Good.”

She stomped across the floor and ducked through the doors into the kitchen.

“Was that a good idea?” Sarah whispered. “Talking to it like that? What if it got violent?”

“She won’t,” Drew said assuredly, though he quickly remembered how Neka had wanted to rip him apart when they had first met. She had since claimed she hadn’t but he had his doubts. “Their looks are deceiving.”

“If you say so,” Sarah said, sounding timid.

“Come on,” Drew said waving them onward. “Let’s get into the kitchen and prepare those radstags.”

He led the way, with the others following him close behind. He pushed the doors open and stepped inside finding Neka sitting in the far corner and Gemma standing in the middle of the room.

“I placed them down on that table,” she said, gesturing.

Drew smiled at her. “Thanks, Gem. You can sit with Neka, we’ve got it from here.”

Gemma walked over to Neka and sat down next to her while Drew got to work. He grabbed a large knife from the drawer and plunged it into the stomach only for Amy to stop him before he went any further.

“Hold on, before you do that…” She walked over to a cupboard and opened it. “There are some aprons I found the other day. Should help keep the blood off our clothes.”

“Good thinking,” Drew said, taking one from her. “Everyone go get an apron.”

Jack and Sarah both grabbed an apron and put them on while Drew made his way back to the radstags. With the knife back in his hands, he cut it open.

“Disgusting,” Sarah muttered as she turned away.

“Any other knives?” Amy asked.

“None that will do the job of skinning,” Drew told her. “You can help me with the skin, though.”

Amy stepped over and helped him peel the skin off the animal before they did the same with the other. With the skins off, Jack collected them and rolled them up before placing them in the corner.

“Jack,” Amy began, “Those skins look to be in good condition.”

“Yeah,” he agreed. “I was thinking of making something out of them later. Maybe some new leather armor or something.”

Sarah glanced at the Greenclaws before quickly looking away. “How about making them something to wear?”

“Who?” Jack asked.

Sarah nervously ran her hand through her hair. “Uh, Gemma and uh, the other one. So they aren’t… You know… swinging all over the place.”

“Neka is my name,” Neka said. “And yeah, if you wanna make us something to wear then I’m up for it. Can get cold in the mornings.”

“I’ll do that,” Jack said. “But later.”

Drew agreed. “Yes, it will have to be later.” He looked at Sarah. “Have you done this before? Skin an animal I mean.”

“No,” she said, looking a little sick.

“I can tell. Jack, you and Amy take this one and I’ll prepare the other one with Sarah.”

“Sure thing,” Jack said.

Drew could already tell that he was going to do most of it by himself. He had hoped that by being a doctor that she was a little less squeamish. Though he supposed the sight of a skinned animal was perhaps a little too much for her. It had been for him when he was younger, but with the life he lived, he’d gotten used to it. They all had.

As they made cuts of the meat, Neka couldn’t help but comment. “Glad we don’t have to do that anymore. Seems like a hassle.”

“It’s worth it,” Drew said. “Mainly for the lack of vomiting that can come from uncooked meat.”

“Weak stomachs like everything else.”

Drew held up a hand and wiggled his fingers. “At least my hands are still dexterous enough to work a computer keyboard.”

“See if you can once I bite them off!”

Sarah gasped and moved around to the far side of the table while Gemma slapped Neka hard around the head, the sound echoing loudly through the room.

“Owww!” Neka said, rubbing the back of her head. “I was only joking.”

Gemma gestured towards Sarah. “You’re scaring them.”

“So? Can’t blame me if they can’t take a joke.”

Amy stopped what she was doing and stared.

Neka stared back. “What? Have I got something on my face?”

“No,” Amy said.

“Then what?”

“You’re Veronica,” Amy said. “The same sense of humor and way of talking. You’re definitely her.”

“I wish I could say you were as familiar to me as I clearly am to you,” Neka said. “The name sounds familiar, though. Veronica. I like it.”

Gemma agreed. “You want to be called Veronica from now on?”

“Call me whatever you want.”

Drew smirked as some less-than-kind names popped into his head. He decided wisely not to verbalize them.

Veronica had been Angela and Amy’s friend. He hadn’t spent all that much time with her other than when he had needed her help. She had been very good with computers and while he wasn’t a slouch, he was more of a mechanics kinda guy.

Jack cleared his throat loudly, causing everyone to look at him. “Uh, is there a Grace living with you? At you’re um… place you live?”

Gemma answered. “I am not going to say she is, but it’s possible. Most of us survived. The females at least.”

Amy opened her mouth to say something but closed it again as she focused back on what she was doing. Drew knew she was going to ask about Angela, but at this point, it was probably best not to. Not until they had got back more of their memories. If they got more of them back that was.

“It will come back to you,” Drew said out loud, deciding to remain hopeful. “We just have to help you remember.”

“Appreciated,” Neka said, before adding, “You know I’m only teasing you, right?”

“I know,” Drew said. “If Amy’s right, then you liked to tease your friends before as well.”

“Did I?”

Amy nodded. “Yeah, you did. You used to tease me and Angela all the time. You were a good friend.”

Neka smiled her strange Greenclaw smile. “Maybe we can be friends again. I’d love to give you a piggyback ride sometime.”

Amy smiled at that. “Yeah, sounds like fun.”

Neka looked at Drew with a sparkle in her eye. He already knew what was coming. “Drew seemed to enjoy it when Ayma gave him a ride. If you ask me, he liked it a little too much.”

Drew felt himself blush, though he quickly hid it as he got back to work. Unfortunately, Neka seemed to pick up on it.

“I think I embarrassed him.”

He knew he could either try and deny it, ignore it, or roll with it. He decided on the latter.

“It wasn’t the first time I’ve ridden her.”

There wasn’t a response, at least at first, and Drew decided to keep himself busy as he could feel everyone’s eyes on him.

“Gemma’s blushing now, too,” Neka said a few moments later.

He glanced over and his eyes met with Gemma’s. She quickly looked away, her cheeks crimson. He felt his heart flutter as he focused his attention back on the radstag’s insides.

Amy then spoke up. “How much do we need?”

“Need of what?” Drew asked looking over at her.

“We’ve cut enough meat between us to last two weeks. Any more and it will go bad before we can eat it.”

He agreed. “You’re right. Clean up the meat in the sink and then I guess we’ll let Gemma and Neka dispose of the rest.”

Neka stood up. “We can take them downstairs for an evening snack.”

“Later,” he said. “We’ll clean up the meat, put it in the freezer, then go back into the cafeteria.”

“Fine by me,” Neka said as she sat back down.

It didn’t take long for them to wash most of the blood off the cuts of meat and place them in the freezer. With their aprons off and their hands washed, they all headed back into the cafeteria where they sat themselves down, with Gemma and Neka perching themselves on the cold hard floor.

Drew felt bad about it. “We’re gonna have to make you two something to sit on.”

“We’re fine,” Gemma said. “Doubt anything you made would be strong enough. We’re very heavy.”

“Speak for yourself,” Neka said.

“Umm…” Sarah began nervously. “We should also give you both a-uh… a-um medical exam at some point. Your changes might have unseen complications. We should catch them early to avoid problems later on.”

Neka agreed. “Sounds like a good idea.”

“It does,” Gemma also agreed. “However, let’s leave it a little bit. Don’t want to put Sarah through any unnecessary stress.”

Sarah visibly sighed a breath of relief which of course Neka picked up on.

“If you’re still feeling uncomfortable with us, you could always come and sit on my lap. I’ll hug it out of you.”

Gemma groaned though it came out as more of a growl. “Leave her alone.”

Sarah began to nervously rub her hands. “Anyway, speaking of checkups and things, I want to grab more equipment from the hospital. Not right now, but eventually.”

Neka offered her assistance immediately. “We can help with that. It’s one of the places our sisters have been grabbing supplies from. If you go it would be best if we went with you to avoid any unwanted interactions.”

Amy frowned. “What do you mean by ‘unwanted interactions’?”

“We’ve been scaring anyone off that gets too close to us or are near any supplies we want. If they refuse or get violent, then… well…”

Sarah stared at them wide-eyed. “Have you killed people?”

Neka didn’t pull any punches. “Yes, we have. People that probably didn’t deserve it, too. People who were just trying to survive.”

Gemma looked down at the floor, a look of shame on her face.

“It’s not like we wanted to,” Neka continued. “And some of them definitely deserved it. Just a month ago some raiders shot at us near a rest stop further east. We tried to scare them away and one got Axa good in the butt. So we killed them. Tasty, too.”

Sarah gasped and covered her mouth while Amy stared in shock. Jack, on the other hand, went pale.

“It was a joke,” Neka said.

Gemma quickly tried to repair the damage her friend’s comment might have caused. “Neither of us has eaten any humans. I promise.”

Sarah let out a nervous laugh, but in all honesty, it sounded more like a sob. Meanwhile, Jack and Amy continued to stare at them, eyes wide.

Gemma glared at Neka. “Nice going, idiot!”

“Not my fault if they can’t take a joke.”

“We’re trying to prove to them we’re not monsters. That’s a little difficult if you go making dangerous jokes like that.”

“Dangerous?” Neka asked incredulously. “It was a joke. How is that dangerous.”

Gemma looked back at the group. “I assure you, we have never eaten human flesh. Only the matriarch has done that.”

Renewed shock rocked through Jack, Amy, and Sarah, while Neka literally face-palmed, a sight that Drew found rather peculiar on a deathclaw.

“Why did you have to bring that up?” Neka asked in despair.

“I’m sorry, it was a slip of the tongue,” Gemma defended. If it was possible for a deathclaw to look like they were going to cry, Gemma looked it at that moment.

“Now who’s saying dangerous stuff.”

“I’m sorry.”

Neka focused back on the group. “No one is going to be eaten, I promise.”

Things had been going so well, and now Drew could see the trust was starting to erode away.

Amy looked at Drew. “Did you know about this?” Her tone sounded accusatory.

He had lied so much recently and knew further lies could only do harm. He had to tell the truth.

“Yes,” he said. “Their matriarch was intent on eating me until we managed to convince her otherwise.”

There was silence. It was the most uncomfortable silence Drew had felt in a long time. All eyes were on him, both human and Greenclaw.

“I don’t blame any of you,” he said. “Not Gemma, Neka, Axa, or Kiki, or anyone else. Charlotte was out of line, though, you all know it.”

“We know,” Gemma said.

“She can’t just eat people just because she can.”

Sarah held her mouth. “I’m gonna be sick.”

Drew continued. “I think it’s important to say that Neka and Gemma were among those that defended me.” He decided not to mention how Gemma had initially relented to Charlotte. “If it wasn’t for them, I’d be dead. I owe them both my life. I trust them implicitly.”

“Thank you,” Gemma said.

“We’re safe with them here,” Drew assured the others. “Safer than if they weren’t.”

Once again there was silence. Things had been going so well before Neka had made that stupid joke about eating some raiders and then Gemma’s slip of the tongue. Now he could feel a thick layer of tension permeating the air.

“As I recall,” Drew said after several moments, “Sarah said she needed some equipment from the hospital.”

“I don’t need it,” Sarah said, her voice shaking. “But it would be nice to have.”

“Then we should take a day trip out there. It will be good to take a walk, get some fresh air, and with Gemma and Neka with us, we should easily be able to carry whatever you need back here.”

“That will take hours,” Amy pointed out.

“Yes, it will. Three or four.”

Neka cautiously raised a clawed hand. “If we carried you like Gemma did with Drew, we could get there in a third or a quarter of the time.”

“Riding deathclaws?” Jack asked nervously. “That sounds terrifying.”

Sarah shook her head. “Forget I ever said anything. I can make do with what I’ve got.”

“Don’t worry,” Neka said. “I’ll protect you.”

Gemma glanced at her. “I think it’s us she’s afraid of.”

Drew held up his hands disarmingly. “Okay, so this is starting to take a bad turn. Maybe we should all start again. Get a fresh slate Let’s introduce ourselves to each other. I’m Drew.”

There was silence except for Gemma. “My name’s Gemma.”

“Anyone else?”

“I’m Neka.”

He looked at Amy, Jack, and Sarah who all averted their eyes.

“Are we gonna start again or are we gonna let this bad aura hang over us?” he asked. “My name is Drew,” he repeated.

Amy cleared her throat. “My name is Amy.”

“Gemma.”

“Uh… Jack.”

Neka looked at Sarah before she spoke. “My name is Veronica.”

Drew smiled at her using her former name before he looked at Sarah, who swallowed hard.

“My name is Sarah,” she said. “Uh… Nice to meet you.”

Drew was pleased. “Now that’s out of the way, let’s tell each other a little about ourselves. I’ll start.”

He cleared his throat before he began. “My dad was a vault dweller and my mom was a wastelander. They fell in love and eventually my mom had me.”

Gemma’s eyes grew wide, something that didn’t escape Drew’s notice. “Your mom was killed by super mutants,” she said. “And your dad died to mirelurks.”

Drew nodded slowly. “You remembered what I told you?”

She smiled. “I do.”

He continued his story. “After both my parents died I wandered, slowly making my way west. I spent a good few years alone until I found a disabled Assaultron and fixed it up and called her Izzy. We were together for a while before we met three people. They became my close friends and I fell in love with one of them.”

Drew stared at Gemma and she stared back.

“Eventually, we found our way to a place called Paulson. It wasn’t the plan originally to settle down there, but life has a strange way of taking you down paths you don’t want to.”

Drew decided not to tell them how that had ended. They all knew. Well, apart from Sarah. The super mutants had come and wiped the place off the map.

Amy rose a hand. “I guess I’m next,” she said.

“Yeah, you’re next if you want to be,” Drew said.

“My story, Jack’s and Gemma’s is mostly the same. Our town was attacked and wiped out by this group called the Caesar’s Legion. Most were captured but we managed to escape. Before then, me and Jack didn’t really know Gemma, but the two of us, me and Jack, had been friends since we were little kids. We drifted for years, never settling in one place. Then we met Drew. At first, Gemma told us to be cautious of him as she didn’t really trust him.”

“I remember that,” Gemma said. “I thought he wanted to use us. Like that guy, Troy did.”

“Troy,” Jack repeated. “I’d forgotten about him.”

“Same,” Amy said. “Wow, your memory really is coming back.”

“Yeah, it is,” Gemma said. “I’ve also been having dreams about when we were locked up by the super mutants.”

“That must have been awful,” Amy said.

“In the dreams, we were terrified.”

What about the men?” Amy asked. “There were also men taken with you, remember? Are they still alive?”

“No,” Neka said. “Well, mostly. None of those that are still alive are with our group.”

“What happened?”

“They were very dangerous,” Gemma said. “Most came out of the tanks feral. We were forced to kill most of them. Even then there were more of us, which I might have told you, but half the group left.”

“Yeah,” Veronica said, “Because they didn’t want to follow Lotte.”

“I think it was because they were from a different settlement,” Gemma said. “I think the ones that stayed were mostly from Paulson. I think we stuck together because deep down we knew we were friends.”

Sarah looked unsettled. “So that means there are other Greenclaws out there wandering?”

“Yes,” Gemma confirmed. “That’s exactly what it means. Mostly female with a few males.”

Sarah slumped while Jack asked the obvious following question. “How many were there?”

“Maybe ten or eleven went their own way,” Gemma said.

“I thought it was more,” Veronica said.

“Our memories from back then are a little hazy.”

Amy leaned forward in her chair. “Do you know how long you were in those cages? Before they… You know… Changed you?”

“I feel it was a long time,” Gemma said. “I don’t know how long we’ve been changed, but I feel like it must be months.”

“Months in captivity?” Drew asked

“No, months since we were changed. Like maybe eight or nine months.”

That didn’t add up. “Paulson was attacked almost two years ago.”

Both Greenclaws stared at him. It was clear from their expressions that they hadn’t realized so much time had passed.

“It’s true,” Amy said. “We’ve been living in Colville for something like eighteen months.”

“Nineteen,” Jack corrected. “Or maybe twenty now that I think about it.”

“I can’t believe it,” Veronica uttered. “Two years? Has it really been that long?”

“Close to it,” Drew said. “Two long years.”

“Yeah,” Jack said. “It’s been really tough.”

“They’ve had it worse,” Drew said, gesturing at Gemma and Veronica. “I can’t imagine it. Becoming what you’ve become. It must be really difficult.”

“It is sometimes,” Gemma said. “But we’ve learned to live with it.”

Drew heard a sniffle. He looked to see Sarah wiping her eyes. Life had been tough for all of them, but for those that had been turned into the Greenclaws, life had definitely been tougher. He almost felt guilty for thinking what he’d gone through was even remotely the same. At least he was still human. He could go to Colville or Riverside if he wanted to. Neither Gemma nor Veronica could do that. They’d be shot on sight, killed, and might even have their heads mounted on a wall.

He slouched in his chair. “I think we should call that a day. I wasn’t expecting the conversation to get so heavy.”

Despite having only woken up less than two hours ago, he felt exhausted.

Sarah stood up. “It has been fun,” she said a little too eagerly. “Suzy and I are busy finishing indexing that data we got from the hospital and I’d like to try and finish it today.”

Drew checked the time on his Pipboy. “Sure,” he said as he saw that it was only ten-fourteen in the morning. “We’ll cook some of that stag for lunch which I guess should be ready around one-ish.”

“Okay,” she said. “Hopefully we’ll be done by then.”

“Still up for heading north to that hospital tomorrow?” Veronica asked.

Sarah looked at her nervously. “Uh, sure,” she said before she hurried out of the room.

Drew also stood up. “I think I should head to the factory floor, I’ve been slacking on bringing this place back online.”

“Need help?” Gemma asked.

“I do, actually,” he said, before looking at Veronica. “You up for it?”

“Sure,” she said, standing up.

Amy also stood up and so did Jack, and together, they all headed out of the cafeteria.

Chapter 20 - Visitors by Saturn Knight

Drew sat on the hood of an old pre-war car as he stared out towards the highway that ran past the Robco plant. Amy, Sarah, Veronica, and Suzy had headed out with three Gutsies to the hospital in the town to the north. Sarah had wanted to grab a few more things from there and while at first, he had intended on going with them, he had ultimately decided to stay at the factory and get to work with clearing out and cleaning up more of the production floor with the help of Jack and Gemma.

It had taken most of the day and there was still more to do, but he was happy with the progress. A few more days and he believed he’d have a line fully working. Though since the Greenclaws weren’t as hostile as he’d once believed, the sense of urgency had gone. It was nice to know that he could take it easy and go at his own pace.

Drew glanced back as he heard steady thumping from behind him. It was Gemma.

“Still not back?” she asked as she stood next to him.

“No, not yet,” he said as he checked the time on his Pipboy. “Another hour and it’ll start getting dark.”

“Worried?”

“A little. I always worry when either Amy or Jack are out. You know that.”

“I’m sure they’re fine.”

He hoped so. His only fear was that they had run into trouble. He would never forgive himself if anything happened to any of them.

“Have you thought of fixing that up?” Gemma asked suddenly.

“What?” he asked, confused as to what she was talking about.

“That pre-war military vehicle.”

He followed her gaze to see that she was looking at the old pre-war tank. “That? Yeah, I have. But it’ll be a project for the future once I’ve finished bringing the factory back online.”

“How long do you think it will take?”

“Honestly? I’m hoping sometime in the next few months, but there’s likely unforeseen issues that will delay that.”

“I’ll help as best I can.”

He smiled at her. “Thanks.”

Drew’s attention turned back to the highway as he heard something on the wind. It sounded like Greenclaw footsteps, but there seemed to be two sets of them. Unless it was an echo?

“You hear that?” he asked.

“What?”

He waited a moment, looking down the highway as far as he could. The trees blocked most of his view, but he caught a glimpse of what appeared to be a Greenclaw through the trees.

“I think some of your friends have come for a visit.”

“Huh?”

A moment later the two Greenclaws emerged from behind the foliage, fully visible on the far side of the steel fence that surrounded the factory. They were carrying some stacked crates which appeared to be from the Red Rocket Mega Stop. One of them was bigger than the other by quite a bit and judging how she appeared when compared to the fence, she had to be over ten feet tall. Maybe even over eleven. Also, her breasts were so big that the crates were partially between them, pushing them apart, a sight that Drew found uncomfortably arousing

“What are they doing here?” Gemma asked.

“I have no idea,” Drew answered, despite knowing the question was rhetorical. “They’re your friends.”

“Has Lotte decided to cut our stay short?”

Drew jumped off the car’s hood. “Let’s find out.”

The two of them walked to the security gate to meet the two Greenclaws. Drew thought he recognized one, the shorter one, but he couldn’t recall her name. Though it was one of those that had defended him against Charlotte when she had wanted to eat him.

“Afternoon,” he called over to them.

The shorter one responded. “Wait, did you know we were coming?”

“No,” he answered.

The much taller one, who was bigger than even Gemma in every way, put down the three crates she was carrying as they reached the gate.

“We figured you’d want these,” she said.

“Thanks,” Drew said, before asking, “Remind me. What are your names?”

The bigger one answered first. “Sekka.”

“Axa,” the smaller one said. “But you knew me as Lexa. I’ve been thinking of changing it back to my old name. From before. Thanks to you, I’ve been remembering things.”

Drew felt happy knowing that he was having a positive effect. “Glad I could be of help.”

“So am I.”

He looked at the crates. “And what’s in those?”

Sekka answered. “Tools, some grease fluid, and other stuff.”

Axa added, “Lotte sent us out to see if there were any last supplies we might need. She wants to stop sending us out this way. Too many settlements and people.”

“Find anything you want?”

“Not that we needed,” Sekka said. “But thought that you might, so we brought them here.”

“Thanks,” Drew said again, before glancing back at the turrets on the roof of the factory.

“Something wrong?” Axa asked.

Drew looked back at them. “I’ve put the Greenclaw profile into the turret’s green list so they don’t open fire, but that’s based on Gemma and Veronica. Not sure how they’ll react to you two.”

Sekka frowned. “Gemma and Veronica?”

“Gemma is what Drew called Ayma back when… Well, you know,” Axa said. “I guess Veronica is Neka’s real name.”

Gemma nodded. “Yeah, we’ve been remembering more about our pasts.”

Axa looked up towards the roof. “So the turrets might shoot us?”

“They shouldn’t, but I should probably switch them off to be sure.”

Sekka stepped forward into the parking lot. “I’ll test them out. How close do I need to be before they shoot at me?”

“A few more steps should do it,” Drew said.

Sekka ran forward, the ground trembling with every step. Though the ground wasn’t the only thing that responded to her heavy footfalls, her huge breasts did too, which bounced, swayed, and swung. Drew couldn’t help but ogle, something that he felt embarrassed about but he honestly couldn’t help it. They were a sight to behold, one that he couldn’t pull his eyes away from.

Thankfully, the turrets ignored her which either meant he had profiled them correctly into the green list, or he had accidentally disabled them.

“Seems fine,” Sekka said as she stomped back over to the three stacked crates and picked them up.

“Yeah, it does,” Drew agreed, feeling a little flush from seeing her bouncing bare chest. “Uh-come on, I’ll show you inside.”

He took the lead, forcing his fear down as he felt three sets of heavy footsteps shake the ground behind him. There was something deep down, something primal within him that still feared them, particularly the two newcomers who he hadn’t had much experience with. There was nothing to fear, he knew that, but his body reacted the way it did because of the innate built-in sense of self-preservation. There were large creatures near him that could tear him apart and devour him with ease and he had absolutely no recourse against it.

“Through here,” Drew said as they reached the front doors.

“Seriously? Through there?” Sekka asked in disbelief. “I don’t know if I can fit through them.”

“The rooms and hallways inside are bigger,” Gemma told her. “You’ll just have to squeeze through the doors.”

Drew opened them and used the small hooks to hold them open. Axa stepped inside the foyer area and placed the two crates she was holding down in the far corner before returning to the entrance, but not before Gemma had squeezed herself through on her hands and knees.

“Put the crates down, Sekka,” Axa said. “I’ll bring them in one by one, then you can squeeze yourself through.”

Sekka placed the three crates she was carrying down in front of the door. One by one, Axa carried them inside, placing them down by the others.

“Is it alright to leave the crates here?” Axa asked.

“Of course,” Drew answered. “They can always be moved later. Come on, I’ll show you the cafeteria.”

Sekka rested a clawed hand on her stomach. “We’ve already eaten.”

“That’s fine,” Drew said. “It’s just that it’s one of the larger rooms. It’s sort of become a common room where we hang out. There is an actual common room upstairs, but it’s a mess right now. We might clean it up eventually.”

Drew and Gemma led the way to the cafeteria with Sekka and Axa stomping along behind them. They were much louder than Gemma and he wasn’t sure if it was because Gemma was more light-footed, or if it was because she had learned to walk lighter as to not unsettle him or the others. One thing was for certain, there was a lot of dust that was now falling from the ceiling.

He pushed the doors to the cafeteria open and they all entered, with both Gemma and Sekka having the most difficulties, though Axa who was only slightly shorter than Gemma, still had to practically crawl through due to being over nine-foot tall.

Gemma immediately went and sat on the corner on the same wall as the door, while both Axa and Sekka took a look around.

“Bigger than I expected,” Axa commented, referring to the large cafeteria.

“Sorry, there’s no chairs you can sit on,” Drew said.

Sekka walked over to Gemma and sat down next to her. “Don’t worry, we’re used to not having anything to sit on. Just the other day I tried sitting on a bed back at our place and I broke it in two.”

Drew snickered at the thought. “Well, I’m gonna go fetch Jack. Tell him we have guests.”

“I look forward to meeting him,” Axa said.

“Same,” Sekka agreed.

Drew wondered where Jack could be as he stepped out of the cafeteria. His first thought was the main factory floor, but stepping inside he found it empty. Well, not completely as there was a Gutsy standing guard by the door.

“Evening, Commander!” the Gutsy barked. “Nothing to report!”

“Excellent,” Drew said. “We have two new Greenclaw guests, so don’t shoot at them.”

“Understood, Sir!”

He stepped back out and decided that it would probably be easier to find Jack if he knew he was looking for him. He made his way upstairs to the office and decided it was time to see if the old intercom system still worked.

With the press of the button, he spoke. “Jack, if you hear this, head to the cafeteria, thanks.”

As he headed back out of the room and made his way down the stairs, he saw Jack walking past in the direction of the cafeteria.

“Hey, Jack!” Drew called to him as he quickly made his way down to the bottom of the stairs.

Jack stopped and turned to him. “Are they back?”

“Not, yet,” Drew said. “What have you been up to?”

“I was clearing up one of the back rooms.”

“That’s great.”

“Why did you want me to go to the cafeteria?”

“We have some visitors,” Drew told him.

Jack frowned. “Visitors? Who? Has Gemma hidden herself so she’s not seen?”

“She doesn’t need to. The visitors are Greenclaws. They’re friends of Gemma and Veronica.”

Jack didn’t look happy. In fact, he suddenly looked nervous. “More of them? Here?” He sounded nervous, too.

“Yeah, I was wondering if you wanted to say hello?”

“I guess,” he said, scratching the back of his head. “How big are they?”

“One is smaller than Gemma and the other is bigger. By maybe a foot or two.”

“Shit. Well, I hope they’re as friendly as Gem and Veronica.”

“Don’t worry, they are.”

As Drew turned to head back to the cafeteria, Jack stopped him.

“Hey, one more question before we go.”

“Yeah?”

He held out his hands in front of his chest. “Do they have? You know?”

Drew knew what Jack was talking about but decided to play dumb. “Have what?”

“You know what I mean. Both Gemma and Veronica have big you-knows.”

“Tits?”

Jack’s face went flush. “Yeah.”

Drew snickered. “Yeah, they do. I try not to pay too much attention. Kinda distracting, especially Sekka the big one. Her boobs are fucking gigantic.”

“Wow,” Jack muttered.

“Yeah, wow.” Drew waved forward. “Now, come on.”

The two of them headed to the cafeteria. Drew headed straight in, while Jack hung back, probably to psyche himself up.

Drew was sitting down when Jack finally stepped inside. He turned his head and gasped at the sight of them.

Axa waved. “Hello.”

“Uh, hello.”

Sekka didn’t say anything. Instead, she stared at him as he sat himself down next to Drew.

Axa nudged Sekka on the arm. “See, I told you Lotte was wrong.”

“Wrong?” Drew asked.

“She thought that Ayma and Neka would be forced to kill you all.”

Jack frowned. “Why would they kill us?”

Sekka answered. “Because she thinks you’ll be so scared and intimidated by our kind that you’ll turn on us. But I know you won’t, Jack.”

Jack glanced at Drew nervously. “Did you tell them my name?”

“I think I mentioned it when I said I was gonna go and look for you,” Drew said with a shrug.

“Yeah, he did,” Sekka said, continuing to stare at Jack which was clearly making him uneasy. “You also mentioned Jack and Amy to Lotte.”

Drew decided to quickly change the subject. “I know this place isn’t much to look at right now, but that’s gonna change. By the time we’re done, this place is going to be producing robots like it used to before the Great War.”

All the focus fell onto him. “What kind of robots will you make?” Sekka asked.

“Gutsies, some Assaultrons, some Sentry bots, and Protectrons. Those are the lines and parts we have available. Will probably drop making Protectrons for now, though. The others are more useful.”

Sekka thought for a moment. “Will a Sentry fit through the front doors?”

“There’s big shutters to the warehouses,” Drew told her. “There’s one that is a sort of a stock warehouse that is towards the front of the factory and another for dispatch at the back.”

“Why didn’t we come in that way?” Sekka asked. “It would have been easier.”

“I don’t know if the shutters work,” Drew explained. “I’ve yet to test them, They’re big thick things designed to take a blast I think. Besides, you’d still have to crawl through all the internal doors.”

“I suppose,” Sekka accepted. “Pity they didn’t have the forethought to make them bigger.”

“I doubt they expected people to be turned into giants,” Drew said.

“Yeah, they probably didn’t,” Sekka accepted as her gaze once more fell onto Jack.

With the way Sekka kept staring, Drew was starting to suspect that he knew who she was. Or rather who she had been before the change. He knew he could be wrong, but if Sekka was Grace, the girl Jack had been in love with, then it made sense that she couldn’t take her eyes off him. She hadn’t been able to back then, either. Regardless of who she was, it was clear that all the attention was making Jack uncomfortable.

Thankfully, Gemma noticed. “Sekka, you’re staring.”

Sekka glanced at her before she turned her gaze downwards. “Sorry,” she apologized.

For a moment, Drew thought he felt a thump. His ears strained and sure enough, he heard heavy footfalls growing louder from outside in the hallway. Not ten seconds after that the doors swung open and Amy and Sarah entered followed by Suzy and Veronica, who ducked below the door.

“Got some stuff,” Sarah said, before letting out a yelp as she saw Sekka and Axa sitting in the corner with Gemma. Without missing a beat, Sarah moved behind Veronica, something that didn’t get past Drew’s notice.

“We have some guests,” Drew said unnecessarily.

Veronica frowned. “Has Lotte called us home?”

Axa shook her head. “No, Neka. We were in the area and thought we’d come for a visit.”

Gemma decided to introduce them to Amy and Sarah. “This is Sekka and Axa. The humans and the robot are Amy, Sarah, and Suzy.”

Amy offered a shy wave as her gaze fell on Sekka’s bountiful bosom. “Hello.”

Sarah patted Suzy’s outer shell. “Yes, nice to meet you. Suzy and I should really go through the equipment we brought back. See you later.”

Sarah quickly rushed out, dragging Suzy along with her by her pincer arm.

Veronica chuckled. “She’s a shy but sweet little thing. Don’t mind her.”

Amy moved over to the table Jack and Drew were sitting at and perched herself on a chair.

“Did you get everything?” Drew asked.

“Not quite,” Amy answered. “She wanted some things that were too big for us to carry.”

Drew thought for a moment. “If she wants them we should probably go get them. I’ll take Sarah, Suzy, and a few Gutsies with me into town tomorrow and see if Leanne is available to rent. She can drive us there and we can grab those things.”

“They’re pretty heavy,” Amy said. “I don’t know if we can move them.”

“None of them?”

“Well, some of them.”

“Can they be taken apart?”

“I think so,” Amy said. “But that would take all day.”

“It might. I guess it depends on how beneficial they are. I’ll talk with Sarah about it later.”

“From what Sarah said, she’d like to have them but it’s not necessary.”

“Then we’ll leave it,” Drew said. “I have been thinking of heading into town at some point, regardless. I want to grab some supplies and maybe sell a Gutsy or two to Devon’s Caravan Company. I also want to sell some of that wine we grabbed the other day. Should get a nice price for them.”

“Sounds like a plan,” Amy said.

Drew couldn’t help but notice that Sekka was once more staring at Jack. It was clear that he was going to have to get the two to talk to each other, preferably alone, but at that moment he knew it was unlikely if not impossible. There was no way Jack would even entertain the idea of having a private conversation with Sekka, even if Drew suspected that she was Grace. After all, his assumption was based solely on the fact that she wouldn’t stop staring at him.

Though perhaps there was even more evidence. While Drew would never say it out loud, Grace had always had big tits and Sekka’s were considerably bigger than the other Greenclaws he’d seen, to the point where they had to be a hindrance.

Drew cleared his throat before speaking. “How long will you be here?”

Axa was the one that answered. “We were thinking of staying the night if that’s okay?”

It was perfect. “Yeah, sure. Sounds good.”

Gemma slapped Sekka on the arm. “Why are you staring at Jack again?”

Sekka’s cheeks went flush. “I-uh… I’m not sure.”

Drew saw an opportunity and took it. “Sekka, what do you remember from before?”

“Before I was this?” she asked, gesturing to herself.

Drew’s eyes unintentionally flicked down to her enormous chest, but he forced himself to look back up at her face as he nodded.

“Not much. Kiki is the one that remembers the most.”

“I want to know what you remember?” Drew said, glancing at Jack. “Do you remember him?”

Sekka looked at him but didn’t answer. At least she didn’t immediately. She took a good look, almost as though she was studying his face. Jack meanwhile struggled to maintain eye contact and kept looking away.

Sekka shook her head as she looked away. “I’m sorry, Jack.”

“You don’t remember him?” Drew asked, feeling sure that she did.

“That’s not what I meant,” Sekka said, tears forming in her eyes. “I do remember him. I-I… I think I was in love with him.”

Jack clenched his jaw as well as his fists as he stared at her.

She stood up. “I was in love with you. I remember. We were staring up at the stars. You kissed me.”

Jack slammed his fist on the table as he jumped up on his feet. “You are not Grace!” he yelled as he stormed out of the room.

Sekka started after him, but Gemma grabbed her by the arm, stopping her.

“He needs me!” Sekka said, pulling her arm free.

Gemma disagreed. “He needs time to process what he just learned. I think we all do.”

Sekka glanced towards the door before she sat back down on the floor with a slump, tears glistening in her eyes.

Drew looked away. He felt guilty for what had just happened. It was his fault. He was the one that had pushed due to his suspicions. While it appeared he had been proven right, he had hurt those he cared about in the process.

Slowly, he pushed himself onto his feet. “I’ll talk to him,” he said as he turned his gaze onto Gemma. “I know what he’s going through.”

“Thank you,” Sekka said.

Drew headed out of the cafeteria and looked both ways down the hallway. There was no immediate indication of which way Jack had gone, but then he noticed the door across the way was ajar.

He stepped over and gently pushed it open to see Jack sitting there, his head in his hands.

“Are you okay?” Drew asked, before realizing it was a stupid question.

Jack wiped his eyes as he looked up at him. “I don’t know what’s worse. Grace being dead, or her being one of those creatures.”

“It’s not pretty,” Drew accepted. “Not many people have to deal with what we’re dealing with. I never expected Gemma to be alive, let alone be a ten-foot green deathclaw. It’s been really difficult.”

“I want to remember her as that beautiful sweet girl. Not some horned giant lizard monster.”

Drew rested a hand on the younger man’s shoulder. “I know it hurts, but just think what she’s going through. If you had been mutated into a deathclaw, would you want Grace to despise and hate you or would you still want her to love you?”

“I’d want her to be happy,” Jack said. “I wouldn’t want her to feel like she had to love some monster.”

“Is that how you really see her?”

Jack shook his head. “I don’t know. I love her, but I can’t love what she’s become.”

Drew gave his shoulder a squeeze. “I think the two of you need to have a long talk.”

“I don’t know what I would say.”

“Maybe not, but I think you’d regret it if you don’t. Grace is alive and she’s in the cafeteria right now. Do you really want to alienate her simply because she doesn’t look the same?”

“It’s not the same, you know that. She didn’t find some hair dye in some store and give herself green hair. She’s an eleven-foot monster with horns, sharp teeth, and claws.”

Drew slowly nodded. “Which is why you need to talk to her. See past that frightening exterior.”

“Can you see past Gemma’s exterior?”

“It’s tough, but yeah, I can. Inside she’s the person I fell in love with. Does her new look bother me? Sure, I’d be crazy if it didn’t, but it’s only skin deep.”

“It’s more than skin deep,” Jack said. “They’re deathclaws.”

“Not quite.”

“So they have tits, so what? It doesn’t make them human.”

“You seemed pretty excited before when I told you one of them had giant knockers. Turns out she’s Grace.”

Jack clenched his jaw. “I was trying to cut the tension. I was being dumb.”

Drew wasn’t convinced. “Were you?”

“Listen, Drew. Their tits are really distracting. They’re these lizards apart from their chest down to their crotch and ass where for some reason it’s smooth like skin. I’m a guy, they look good. Their tits I mean. But no matter how good their tits look, I don’t think I can love one. Even if it is Grace.”

“You need to talk with her.”

“Why?”

“Because I think she deserves it, don’t you?”

Jack took in a deep breath before letting out a long sigh.

Drew patted his shoulder. “You know I’m right.”

“Yeah, you’re right,” Jack agreed hesitantly, “she does. But I don’t know if I can face her. How can I look her in the eyes and tell her that I can’t love her?”

“You don’t,” Drew said. “All you have to do is talk. Maybe, just maybe, you’ll find a way to look past what she’s become.”

“Like you and Gemma,” Jack said before he took a deep breath.

Drew wished that he could say that he had looked past what Gemma had become. In reality, he couldn’t. It was getting easier, but he knew deep down that if his love for Gemma hadn’t been as strong as it was, then he would have discarded her like an old busted robot. Loving a lizard lady was not something he felt he could do, yet he also couldn’t not help but love her.

It was complicated.

Jack rubbed his eyes. “I’ll talk to her.”

“I’ll make sure no one bothers you.”

Jack hesitated. “Could you… You know…”

“I can be there for emotional support if you want me to.”

“I’d like that.”

The two of them left the small room and made their way back to the cafeteria.

Chapter 21 - Of Love and Grace by Saturn Knight

Nervous. Drew felt it and he could tell that Jack felt it too. He was sat on the far side of the dispatch warehouse watching Jack who was with Grace. Neither of them had said anything yet, though in truth it had only been ten minutes.

Drew had positioned himself where Jack could see him, though he made sure not to stare. In fact, he was keeping himself busy deleting old unneeded files off his Pipboy which he’d been meaning to do for a while. Occasionally, he would stop what he was doing and look over to make sure Jack was doing okay.

Sekka’s voice interrupted Drew as he was reading through an old note he’d left roughly ten years ago regarding the location of some parts.

“I still don’t remember much,” she said, breaking the silence. “Some memories from when I was little and other bits and pieces. I also keep having these dreams. You’re in them and I’m… Well, I’m normal.”

Jack who had been staring at his feet, looked up at her, then quickly looked away.

“I know, I’m hideous,” Sekka said. “I can barely look at myself either.”

Jack’s gaze rose back up to meet her eyes, but he didn’t refute her. Instead, he slowly nodded before looking back down at his feet.

“You mentioned remembering us under the stars,” Jack said quietly. “We did that a lot. Is there anything else you remember?”

Sekka glanced over at Drew, who quickly looked back down at his Pipboy.

“It’s okay,” Jack said. “I wanted him here. I trust him not to repeat what we say. Not even to Gemma.”

Sekka focused back on Jack. “I remember us laying there next to each other. You were telling me all the shapes the stars made.”

“Constellations,” Jack said.

“Yeah, constellations.”

Jack smiled wanly. “We did that often. You were so excited. You loved it when we stared at the stars.”

“I remember you proposed to me one night.”

It was Jack’s turn to look over at Drew. “I had wanted to ask you that for a long time. I spoke to Drew and Gemma about it and they said I should go for it.”

Both eyes were on Drew now and he decided to speak. “I’d actually wanted to ask Gemma to marry me, but I was too scared like Jack. Easy to give advice, harder to do it yourself. It only put more pressure on me and I knew my Gem was waiting for it. I felt I had to wait though as I didn’t want to steal your thunder.”

Jack nodded then looked back at Sekka. “I was so happy when you said yes.”

“I know you were,” Sekka said, bringing a clawed hand to her mouth. “You climbed on top of me and kissed me passionately.”

“Because you completed me.”

“And you completed me,” Sekka said as her hands drifted down and rested on her breasts. “I remember how you caressed my body. How your hands slipped up my shirt. You made me feel wanted. You made me feel like the luckiest girl in the world.”

“And I was the luckiest guy,” Jack said, wiping the tears from his eyes. “I thought you’d never want to be with a guy like me. When we first arrived, you didn’t seem to like me.”

“I don’t think I did,” Sekka said. “I wish I could remember. I wish I knew why I changed my mind.”

Drew knew exactly why she’d changed her mind and given Jack a chance. Gemma had talked to her and explained how Jack came off as weird and creepy because of his nervousness. Gemma had told her that Jack was a really nice guy with a lot of love to give for the right girl. When they had got together, Drew had felt so happy for them. True love had blossomed quickly and he had thought they would be together forever.

Unfortunately, life had decided that none of them deserved their shot at true love.

Jack sniffled. “We never got the chance to get married. A few days later the super mutants started their attacks.”

“I don’t really remember that. I recall a cage with other people.”

“That must have been awful,” Jack said. “I thought they had killed you. The first time they attacked we weren’t in town. Drew, Amy and I were out scavenging with Gemma. When we got back you had been taken with a load of others. We were planning on hunting them down to try and rescue you before they killed you, but before we could organize it they attacked again, taking Gemma and the others.”

As Jack wiped his eyes, Drew felt tears prickle his own. Jack had gone after them with Amy and a few others while Drew was too injured to move. There had been a firefight, but several had been killed, Jack had been seriously injured and Amy had almost died. They managed to escape, but by the time they had all recovered, the super mutants were long gone.

“We looked for you, for months,” Jack said. “But we never found you. All we found were the remains of someone half-eaten. We thought they’d done the same to all of you.”

Drew spoke up. “Now that I’ve been to where the super mutants took them, I know why we couldn’t find them. It was because they were smart enough to lead us astray. They headed the wrong way for twenty-five miles. We could have looked for years and never found them.”

“So why now?” Jack asked. “Why were you out here?”

“The Red Rocket Mega Stop,” Sekka answered. “It was on a map in the facility and Lotte thought it could hold a lot of supplies.” Sekka looked at Drew. “The map also shows this place and Colville as well as another military facility to the south.”

“Another military facility?” Drew asked. “I don’t know anything about that.”

“Lotte has been thinking of sending a team out that way to check it out.”

“Why?” Jack asked.

“For supplies,” Sekka answered. “Or at least that’s what she claims.”

“You don’t trust her?” Jack surmised.

“There’s a fracture forming. There is team Kiki and team Lotte. Kiki has more on her side, but Lotte is so huge that she could probably kill all of us just by herself.”

“Whose side are you on?” Jack asked.

“Kiki, all the way.”

“I remember Kiki,” Jack said, looking over at Drew. “She was really nice. Had a thing for Drew.”

“She still is,” Sekka said. “She’s twenty feet tall but super sweet. She’s almost a motherly figure far more than Lotte will ever hope to be.”

“So why is Lotte in charge?” Jack asked.

“Because she’s thirty feet tall, an extra third bigger than Kiki. She took control back when we were still confused and more animalistic.” Sekka shook her head. “I don’t want to talk about that, Jack. I want to know more about us. I want to remember things. Tell me, how did you ask me out?”

“I didn’t,” Jack said. “You were the one that asked me. Well, you didn’t actually ask me out. One day, you asked for help. One of the sprinklers had failed for the crops and you wanted me to help fix it.”

Sekka shook her head. “I don’t remember.”

“Well, I told you that Drew would be the better person, but you said Drew was busy with something else. So I fixed them for you.”

“I wasn’t busy,” Drew said. “And Grace knew I wasn’t.”

Sekka frowned. “I did?”

“After that, you started hanging out,” Drew continued. “I’ve never seen two people hit it off so quickly. Well, once you gave him a chance that is. You were perfect for each other. I had never seen Jack so happy.”

“I was happy,” Jack said sadly.

“I wish we could be again,” Sekka said with remorse. “I wish I’d died rather than…” She gestured at herself. “… Rather than become this.”

Jack reached out for her, but she was too far away. “Don’t say that.”

“It’s true. You said so yourself.”

“Grace, I was wrong. I thought that I couldn’t still love you, not like this… But I think I do. It’s just… I don’t know.”

“I do, Jack. I’m an ugly reptile.”

“You’re not ugly, Grace. Not where it counts.”

“And where does it count?”

Jack looked at Drew before resting a hand on his heart, tears streaming down his face. “Like Drew said. In here. All that matters is in here. I wanted to spend my life with the person, not the body. The body that you’re in doesn’t matter. Just the mind.”

“My mind is broken, Jack. Until today I couldn’t remember my old name. I had been searching for it for so long and every single time I hear it from your lips it makes me feel sad.”

“Why?”

“Because I don’t want you to feel like you have to love me. There is a nice normal human girl out there that is looking for a man like you.”

“There is a nice girl right here that needs me more.”

Drew stood up. “I think this is where I leave. You two need to continue this alone.” He smiled sadly. “I hope that you both can find what you need.”

Drew made his way out of the warehouse and headed back to the cafeteria, wiping the tears from his eyes as he went. He hoped they could find a way to be together just like he hoped that he could find a way to be with Gemma again. But what about Kiki? Could he really share his heart with her as well? Could Gemma and Kiki share their hearts with him? What if Gemma ultimately chose Kiki over him?

Back at the old government facility, Kiki had said that there was room in her heart for both Gemma and him, and Gemma had said the same. He still wasn’t certain if they had meant it, or if they had simply said it to save his life.

He stepped inside the cafeteria to find Amy talking to Veronica, Axa, and Gemma. They turned to look at him, with Amy being the first to ask about Jack and Sekka.

“How’s it going? Are they getting on?”

“Great,” Drew said as he sat down next to Amy at a table. “They’re bonding faster than I expected.”

“Have you been crying?” Amy asked, studying his face.

He rubbed his eyes. “It’s been really emotional.”

Amy understood. “I don’t know how I’d react if I saw Angela again as a Greenclaw. I think it would be too much. I’d be a sobbing mess. It’s too awful to think about.”

“But you’d want to see her, right?” Drew asked. “To know that she was alive?”

“I honestly don’t know,” Amy said. “I guess it depends on whether she was happy.”

Veronica looked at Axa. “Axa could be Angela.”

“No,” Axa said, shaking her head. “I don’t think I was. I think I loved a guy and I think he was in the cells with us.”

“Oh,” Veronica said, awkwardly. “So we probably killed him.”

“A few of the males escaped,” Gemma pointed out. “So he might be out there somewhere.”

“Hunting, killing, and eating people,” Veronica muttered.

“Maybe,” Axa accepted. “I just hope they started regaining themselves just like we did.”

There were murmurs of agreement from Gemma and Veronica.

“Can you tell me the names of your friends?” Amy asked. “How many live there?”

“Twelve,” Axa said. “First, there’s Lotte our matriarch.”

“Which I think is Charlotte,” Drew said.

Axa continued. “Then there’s her right-hand woman, Charan. She’s third tallest after Lotte and Kiki.”

“Who we definitely knew,” Amy said.

“Then there is Varan, Darla…”

“We knew a Darla,” Amy said.

“She doesn’t remember much like the rest of us,” Veronica said. “But she remembered her name.”

Axa continued, listing off the rest of them. “Then we have Grunt. We called her Grunt because she used to grunt a lot. Eventually, she started talking, unlike Glower who does nothing but glower at people. Finally, there’s Bek, and then of course there’s me, Veronica, Gemma, and Sekka.”

The door to the cafeteria swung open and Jack stepped inside, followed by Sekka who crawled through the door. Jack let her pass before he followed her to the other Greenclaws. She sat down next to Gemma while Jack stood next to her.

Veronica eyed them. “Went well?”

“Yes, it did,” Sekka answered. “We have come to an understanding.”

“Yeah, we have,” Jack said as he sat down on the floor next to her and leaned against her giant arm which was thicker than he was wide.

Veronica grinned. “Maybe you should sit in her lap?”

“Let’s not,” Sekka said. “I think we need to take it step by step.”

“Yeah,” Jack agreed. “Step by step.”

It was beautiful. Drew could see that there was still some reticence between them but they had made amazing progress. He found himself staring at Gemma and she stared right back. He knew that he would have to have a long talk with her before the week was out to see where they stood regarding their relationship. He wasn’t looking forward to it, but he knew that it had to be done.

Drew stood up. “It’s been a really long day and I think we should get some rest.”

“Yeah,” Sekka agreed. “I am feeling tired, too.”

Drew looked at the two visitors as he realized they didn’t have anywhere to sleep. “So, we haven’t got any rooms for you.”

Axa shrugged. “We’re fine sleeping here.”

“Are you sure?”

Sekka nodded. “Yeah. We’re comfortable.”

“If you’re certain,” Drew said. “Just note, if Sarah comes in here try not to scare her.”

“Don’t worry,” Veronica said. “I think I’ll sleep in here too. The basement’s too far away.”

“Same,” Gemma agreed.

Drew looked at Amy. “How about you?”

“I’ll sit here for another half-hour then call it a night.”

“Okay. I’ll go tell Sarah that our guests are sleeping in the cafeteria tonight.”

Veronica grinned. “You mean warn her?”

“Yeah, warn.”

Drew headed out of the cafeteria and made his way to the nurse’s office. He pushed the door open to see Sarah sitting at the desk typing on the computer.

It was Suzy that greeted him. “Oh, ’ello. ’ow are you this evening?”

“Fine, Suzy,” he answered before focusing on Sarah. “I came to let you know that our guests will be sleeping in the cafeteria.”

Sarah glanced at him. “Thanks.”

“So, how did you get on with Veronica today?”

“It was okay,” she answered. “She’s more human than she looks.”

“They all are.”

“She’s funny, too. And very scary when she wants to be.”

“Wants to be? What happened?”

“Some zombies attacked. She pretty much killed them all by herself.”

“You mean feral ghouls?”

“Yeah, ferals. We were leaving the hospital and they came out of nowhere. She was on them in a second, her claws ripping them apart. I was more terrified of her than them.”

“You seem to have gotten over it.”

“Yeah, well she gave me a hug. That was terrifying too, at least at first. But she’s a pretty good hugger considering what she is.”

“Sounds like you two bonded.”

“Maybe a little. She’s still scary as hell. She could kill all of us if she wanted and we wouldn’t stand a chance.”

“How have you been sleeping?”

“Not well. I’ve been having nightmares about them. Last night, I dreamed that Gemma came into my room and ate me alive. It was horrifying.”

Drew took in a slow breath. “I do have a solution, but you’re not gonna like it.”

“You’re gonna tell me to talk to them. Get to know them, aren’t you?”

“Yeah.”

“I did talk to Veronica today. A lot. Well, Amy talked to her. I mostly listened.”

“And?”

“And just like I said; she can be really funny. When she hugged me, I fought like hell to get out of her grip, but she’s really strong. I’d still like to give her and the others a medical exam.”

“If you think you’ll be comfortable enough.”

“I won’t be comfortable, far from it. I think I’d want you or Amy in here with me.”

“Well, when you decide to give them a medical, let me know.”

“Sure thing.”

“I hope you have a better night tonight.”

“Me, too. Goodnight.”

“Night.”

Drew left the nurse’s office and made his way upstairs to the manager’s office. He sat down on the chair and stared out of the window into the darkness beyond.

The last few days had been very strange, but what was more odd was that it was starting to feel normal. The fear was almost gone, yet there was still some anxiety there, particularly when they were behind him. He wondered if it would ever go away. He hoped so because he would hate to think that he would never truly be comfortable with Gemma again.

That thought was enough to break his heart.

After staring out the window for a few more minutes, he stood up and made his way to the side room, and laid down on the old mattress. It was likely that Axa and Sekka would be leaving tomorrow. He would be sad to see them go, but also happy that they would be able to tell Lotte that there was nothing to worry about.

After everything that had happened, the day’s events told him that things might turn out just fine after all.

Chapter 22 - Peace of Heart by Saturn Knight

Drew and Jack stood by the main doors as they watched Sekka and Axa step through the front gates on the far side of the parking lot. As Sekka glanced back, Jack rose his hand and waved, which she promptly returned.

“Goodbye for now,” Jack said with a heavy sigh.

“You good?” Drew asked, resting a hand on his shoulder.

“Do you think it could possibly work?”

“Why couldn’t it?”

“Are you serious? She’s an eleven-foot lizard.”

“I thought the two of you had come to an understanding?”

Jack kicked at the dirt. “I thought I had. Everything feels so muddled in my head. I don’t know what to do.”

“As long as you two love each other, does it matter what she is?”

Jack let out another long sigh. “I appreciate what you’re saying, but there’s no way. Grace is dead. Sekka might have been her once, but she’s not really the same person. Not any more.”

Drew couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “Of course she is.”

“How?”

“Just because she can’t remember things, doesn’t mean she’s a different person. She deserves better than that, Jack.”

“Yeah, she does.”

“Then why are you putting up this wall?”

“Because I’m scared, Drew. To have feelings for her feels messed up. I might as well fall in love with a radstag.”

“When was the last time you had a long conversation with a radstag?” Drew asked.

Jack glared at him. “You know what I fucking mean, Drew! She’s not human! Not anymore!”

“And I keep telling you over and over that she’s human…”

“… In her heart,” Jack finished. “I know. I just feel really confused.”

“I understand that feeling. I feel the same way. It is confusing, it does feel a little messed up.”

“More than a little,” Jack added.

“But does it really matter? If Gemma really wanted to continue our relationship, even as she is, I honestly think I’d go for it. That’s how much I love her.”

“How far would you go, though?” Jack asked.

“All the way.”

“All the way?”

“Yeah, all the way.”

Jack stared at him for a moment. “Seriously?”

“Seriously. I found her appearance off-putting at first, but it’s really grown on me. I like how the thick spines that grow from her back arch down into her tail. I like the shade of green she is and I like the way her tail visually divides her perfect butt.”

“Way too much info, Drew,” Jack said.

“Get ready, Jack, because there’s a whole lot more I could list about her that I find hot. Like that tongue of hers. That thing is looooong.”

“Let’s just get back inside,” Jack muttered while shaking his head.

As they both turned around, they saw Gemma standing there smiling at them. Drew felt his stomach drop and his face grow hot.

“Uh…” he stammered.

“Did you mean that?” she asked.

“Well… I…”

Her long tongue rolled out of her maw and snaked down before it slid back into her mouth. “Want some of this, huh?”

Before he could say anything, she turned around and began to walk off down the hallway, swishing her ass and tail in their direction until she disappeared out of sight around a corner.

“Well shit,” Drew muttered. “That’s mortifying.”

“I don’t know whether You’re in trouble or not,” Jack said.

“I think I might be in trouble either way. She’s probably packing a ton of flesh and muscle.

“You think she’d be top?”

“She used to like being top,” Drew muttered. “Let’s just get inside.”

They both entered the main doors and Drew closed and locked them with the terminal. He then turned to Jack.

“I might check on Sarah.”

“Sure. I’m heading down into the basement to do some checks on the water purification and filtration system.”

“I’ll catch you later, then.”

Drew watched as Jack walked off before he made his way to the nurse’s office. He gently knocked and pushed the door open, finding Sarah, Suzy, and Amy inside talking.

“Hey,” Sarah said as they all looked over at him. “Have they gone?”

“Yeah, Sekka and Axa have left.”

She breathed a sigh of relief. “I think I’ll sleep a little easier tonight.”

Amy rolled her eyes. “They’re not gonna kill you, Sarah.”

“Tell that to my half-asleep brain when I hear a loud creak in the middle of the night.”

Amy looked back at Drew. “How are you doing?”

“Good,” he said. “You three?”

“Good,” Amy answered.

“Better,” Sarah said.

“I am doing well,” Suzy said. “We ’ave completed our task of organizing and indexing all of ze data from ze ’ospital.”

“Good to hear,” he said. “Speaking of completing tasks, we’re close to having a line operational. Might even be this week.“

“That was quick,” Amy said.

“Yeah. Only problem is that the plant is running on the backup generators. Once we start running the lines, we’re gonna start draining the fusion cores pretty quickly. We’re gonna have to find a way to recharge them or build alternate sources of power. I can rig up some wind turbines, but they’ll take a good few weeks, and wind power isn’t exactly reliable. At least not on the scale we’ll be using it.”

“How long with they last?” Sarah asked.

“The fusion cores? Well, centuries if running basic things like lights. A factory, though? Could drain within weeks or even days.”

Amy didn’t see the problem. “I doubt we’ll be making that many bots considering the limited parts.”

“There’s tons of parts,” Drew said. “Those Orderlies in the hospital up north are themselves spare parts. Also, I want to be the one that people come to if they want maintenance on their bot.”

“What about Gemma and Veronica?” Amy asked.

“What about them?”

“If we have people bringing their bots here, they’ll see them.”

“We can hide them,” Drew said.

“If you say so.”

“Besides, I want to set up a storefront at the security office by the main gates. Don’t want people wandering in and out of the main building.”

“That’s a good idea.”

Drew looked at Sarah. “How’s that stuff you grabbed from the hospital the other day holding up?”

“Both medicine mixers appear to work as does the sterilizer which I’m going to use for needles. The only thing missing, at least regarding the mixers, is ingredients to actually make the medicines. During my time out there in the wilds, I cataloged different flora and fauna that could work to make medicines. I’ll have to do some experimentation.”

“Sounds promising,” Drew said.

“It is. But I’ll need to expand my working space a little.”

“I think we can manage that,” Drew said. “We don’t need the locker rooms anymore and I think the male bathroom could be axed. The downstairs female bathroom has all the stalls we could need. About six I think.”

Amy spoke up. “I also think we should build some grow beds either in the parking lot or on the roof to start growing some food. Hunting is all well and good, but I want some fruits and vegetables.”

“I don’t want too much up on the roof,” Drew said. “So the parking lot will have to do.”

“If I put the crops out near the fences then we won’t have any issues of the main building casting shadows over them.”

Sarah perked up. “We could also grow crops needed for medicines. Also, I’ve been thinking.” She held up her Pipboy. “You and me are fine when it comes to radiation exposure. We can track it. Amy and Jack on the other hand don’t have that luxury.”

“You need a radiation scanner?”

“That’s the idea, yeah. The hospital has one but it’s an old bulky model. A vault, on the other hand, may have more compact versions. Something we can move.”

Drew shook his head. “I don’t know of any vaults in this region. At least none I feel comfortable exploring.”

“I do,” she said. “Abandoned, too.”

“That’s what I meant when I said there were none I felt comfortable exploring. Vaults are dangerous.”

“Just a thought,” Sarah said with a shrug.

“I’ll keep it in mind,” Drew told her. “But if we can move the one from the hospital, then we should take that option first before we start digging around in underground tombs.”

“Probably the best idea,” Sarah agreed. “And thanks for understanding how important all this stuff is. A lot of knowledge regarding medicines and preventative measures have been lost. I want to rediscover it.”

Amy smiled. “She sounds like you, Drew. Except instead of tech it’s medicine.”

“And unlike me, her goals are more noble.”

Sarah disagreed. “Your goals are noble, too. You want to protect the people that live around here. I do too. Maybe together we can improve people’s lives.”

“That’s the goal,” Drew said.

Sarah tapped her chin. “I don’t know much about the settlements around here. Are they separate or unified?”

“Separate,” Drew said. “Unlike further south with the NCR. Actually, the NCR is up here too, but we’re living in a pocket of wilderness separate from everything else. They might get here eventually which might not be the best thing for the settlements around here.”

“NCR?” Sarah asked.

“New California Republic. Their goals are noble on paper, but they aren’t often nice about the way they do things. If the region you’re in is dangerous and chaotic, then it’s a boon to have them, but if it’s relatively peaceful like up here, then their presence would be a net negative. Of course, the peacefulness of this region has wrought its own issues. When a raider gang came up this way a year back, they destroyed a few settlements and displaced those that lived there. They even had a shot at taking over Colville, which was what initially gave me the idea to fix this place up. More robot defenders and less people would have died. Robots can take hits people simply can’t and don’t have the issues people have with killing.”

“Maybe we should unite the settlements under a shared banner?” Sarah suggested. This place would make a great central base of operations. We have tons of empty rooms upstairs and down in the basement.”

“That would be a lot of hassle,” Drew pointed out. “It’s a good idea, but this is not the place for a base of operations. Colville would be more suited for that.”

Sarah continued. “We could also build a load of Handy robots to help rebuild…”

Drew held up a hand, stopping her. “We can’t build Handies. This is a Robco factory and even though it can build Gutsies, that was done under license.”

“Oh.”

“And while I’d love to re-jig the Gutsy code to be more like a Handy, I’d want an actual coder for that and there’s not many around these days.”

Sarah nodded in understanding. “I used to know a coder. We were separated a few years back and I lost contact. Last I heard, he and his kid were palling around with a modified Assaultron.”

“It’s a goal worth pursuing,” Drew said finally. “But it’s something for other people to figure out. I have no desire to play mediator between settlements.”

Amy agreed. “Yeah, we should keep out of politics like that.”

“Absolutely,” Drew said with a nod. “Anyway, I’ll leave you three to it.”

Sarah waved while Amy said. “I’ll see you later.”

“Later.”

As he stepped out of the nurse’s office, he briefly considered going to the factory floor, but instead decided to take the day off and maybe play some Rocket Blaster on his Pipboy.

Reaching the stairwell, he caught sight of Gemma as she made her way up them from the basement, her massive feet covering the shallow steps.

“Hey,” he said.

“Hey, Drew,” she responded as she reached the landing.

“How’s Veronica?”

“She’s lazing today.”

“That’s what I plan on doing, too,” he said.

Gemma stared at him for a moment. “What you said outside.”

“Sorry about that,” he apologized. “I shouldn’t have said those things.”

“I’m not mad. I just want to know. Did you mean it?”

Drew nodded slowly. “Yeah, I did.”

She stared at him some more. “How?”

That confused him. “How what?”

Gemma gestured at herself. “How can you still love me?”

“Haven’t I said already?” he asked as he rested his hand on his heart. “It’s what’s in here that counts. And besides, you have a nice ass and nice thick thighs. I have to admit, it does it for me.”

She smiled at him. “You really mean that?”

“Yeah. I have to be honest, it was a struggle at first to see anything but a green deathclaw with tits. But you’re so much more than that, Gem. Those things I listed earlier are just bonuses.”

Before Drew knew what was happening, she had scooped him up in her massive arms and squashed him against her huge breasts in a tight hug.

“Thank you so much,” she sobbed.

“Think nothing of it,” he tried to say, but his words were muffled in her flesh.

Gemma released him, slowly and carefully placing him back down on his feet before she wiped her eyes with the back of her hands. “Sorry, I got a little emotional.”

“Don’t worry, it’s fine,” he assured her.

Gemma glanced down into the basement area. “Listen, tonight I want you to come to my room. I want to talk, just the two of us.”

“We could talk now.”

“We could, but I don’t want any interruptions. I want to feel free to talk about anything we want.”

“Veronica is in the room next door,” Drew pointed out. “She’d hear us.”

“Veronica’s been sleeping on the roof.”

Drew’s brow raised in surprise. “She has?”

“Something about liking the cool air and watching the stars.”

“Sounds romantic,” he said.

“She’s alone.”

“Still sounds romantic,” he said. “Okay, I’ll come down to your room tonight. Then we can talk.”

“Thank you,” she said as she turned and headed back down into the basement.

He stood there for a minute or so before he made his way upstairs.

Tonight was going to be interesting and he couldn’t wait.

Chapter 23 - Gemma by Saturn Knight

The sunset was always beautiful, though Drew found that it was particularly pretty from the roof as he was discovering. He had tried to enjoy the sunset from the office, but as the sun descended down toward horizon, the light hit the windows in such a way that they turned near opaque due to all the grime and dirt.

At some point, he’d have to clean them. He’d bought enough cleaning fluid to give it a shot, but there was the risk of smearing the glass and if there was one thing worse than dirty windows, it was when it smeared, causing streaks of light to reflect off of it.

Drew glanced around as he heard the sound of the roof access door opening. He saw Veronica as she awkwardly squeezed through the doors.

“Evening,” he greeted.

She looked his way. “I wasn’t expecting anyone to be up here.”

“Just watching the sunset,” Drew replied as he peered back out over the horizon.

Veronica stepped up next to him. “It is a lovely view,” she said.

“Do you come up here often?” he asked.

“Every night. Been sleeping up here.”

“Not worried about the rain?”

She pointed to a covered area of the roof. “Been sleeping under that.”

“Don’t you like the room we’ve given you?”

“It’s fine, but I prefer the cool night air. I like the way it feels on my skin.”

“I think I’d be too cold,” Drew said.

“Well, you don’t have the thick skin I do.”

“No.” He looked at her. “Does it ever bother you, being naked?”

“Kinda. When we first turned, our higher brain functions were more muted. We weren’t animals by any means, but I guess we were closer to your regular super mutant in terms of intelligence.”

“But that obviously changed?”

“Yeah. Back then, we didn’t care about being naked. Then, as we started to get our intelligence back it started to bother us. Well, most of us. Lotte didn’t seem to care. Neither did Kiki, or Glower or Grunt for that matter. Eventually, though, we got over it. Being naked became normal. But honestly, if I could get something that would fit me, then I’d probably wear it. You, Jack, Amy, and even Sarah keep staring at my tits.”

“Sorry.”

“You’re all getting better at not looking, though.”

“Well, it’s not like seeing girls walk around with their funbags hanging out is a common thing.”

“Not for you.”

“No, not for us,” he accepted before he decided to change the subject. “So, how are you and Sarah getting along?”

Veronica shrugged her massive shoulders. “As well as I can expect. Honestly, the way she’s reacting is closer to how I thought everyone would react, but Jack and Amy seem a little more accepting. Even if they are still weary.”

“It’s taken some getting used to having you and Gemma wandering around the plant. But I’m glad you’re here.”

“So am I. You and the others have triggered memories that I thought I’d lost forever. Thank you.”

“No thanks needed,” Drew said, patting her arm. “My mom used to have a phrase. Sounded old-timey. It was ‘do unto others that which you’d want done for you’. Or something like that.”

“Sounds nice. Glad you took those words to heart.”

“I wish I could say that it’s served me well in the past, but people do like to take advantage. Still, I give everyone a chance and if they fuck with me, then I fuck with them.”

Veronica stared out towards the horizon. “I need to ask you something?”

“Yeah? What’s that?”

“Gemma and I spoke to Sekka and Axa before they left. It’s about Lotte.”

“What about her?”

“If our group fragments, would you be willing to let us stay here?”

“Of course. You’re always welcome.”

“Glad to hear it.”

“I mean, having you lot here would definitely secure this old factory. No one would dare fuck with us.”

Veronica chuckled. “You’re right there.”

Drew patted her arm again as he turned on his heels. “Been a nice talk, but I think I’m going to call it a night.”

“Goodnight, then.”

“Goodnight, Veronica.”

Drew made his way to the roof access doors and headed down the stairwell all the way down into the basement. He pushed the doors open and slowly walked down the dark gloomy corridor, stopping outside Gemma’s room.

“You’re here just to talk,” he muttered to himself as he raised his fist and knocked on the double doors.

There was no answer.

He knocked again after several moments and again there was still no answer.

“Gemma?” he called through the doors. “Are you in there?”

As he raised his fist to knock a third time, the doors opened and Gemma peered through and looked at him with a sleepy frown before she smiled.

“Oh, sorry,” she said, rubbing her eyes with the backs of her clawed hands. “I dozed off.”

“I didn’t come too late, did I?”

“No, the timing’s perfect. Come on in.”

She moved across the room as he entered, his eyes falling on two mattresses on the floor.

“Amy got them for me,” Gemma said. “Can’t use them, though, I’m too heavy. I’d wreck them.”

“We’ll have to make you something,” Drew said.

“Thanks, but I’m fine sleeping on the floor.”

“I still want to make you something. Veronica, too,” Drew said. “And I’m sure Amy and Jack will want to help. You shouldn’t have to sleep on the cold floor.”

“Thank you. That means a lot.”

She took a quick glance around the room. “I would offer you somewhere to sit, but there aren’t any chairs in here.”

Drew stepped over to the mattresses and sat down on one of them, crossing his legs.

Gemma smiled. “I guess they were useful after all.” She sat down next to him on the floor, which looked rather uncomfortable with the way her tail bent. She stared at the back wall, clearly lost in thought. Drew was going to ask her what she was thinking, but decided to let her work out her own thoughts in her own time.

“I’ve been remembering more and more,” she said, looking down at him. “I might have told you this before, but meeting you has opened a blockage in my mind.”

“I’ve been told that a few times, including from Veronica.”

She slowly reached over towards him with her massive clawed hand, her palm facing upwards. Without hesitation, he rested his relatively tiny hand inside before she closed her hand gently around his.

“Look at how monstrous my hands look when compared to yours.”

“I keep telling you this, Gemma. Nothing about you is monstrous. You are still beautiful. To me at least.”

She released his hand. “I wanted kids with you one day,” she said. “I wanted to marry you. I wanted a family. All that is gone now.”

Her words struck him hard. He too had wanted those things, but he had also long since given up on the idea. When he believed Gemma was dead, his goals in life had changed. All he had cared about was making Jack and Amy as happy as possible. To help them through the grief and loss of losing their loved ones.

“I’m so sorry, Gem. I wish I could have done something.”

“You did all you could,” Gemma said.

“It wasn’t enough!” he said, feeling angry at himself. “I let them take you. I should have stopped them! For so long, I told myself that I’d have done anything to have you back. And now you are back and I don’t care what you look like. You’re Gemma, the woman I love. Nothing will change that. Nothing!”

“If being turned into a mutant deathclaw isn’t enough to make you stop loving me, then I guess you’re right. Nothing will.”

“Do you feel the same way? Do you still love me?”

Gemma looked away and once again stared at the back wall. She was conflicted, he could see it in her eyes.

“It couldn’t work,” she said finally.

“Because of Kiki?”

“No, not because of Kiki. If she were here she’d want to bring you into our relationship. She always had a thing for you. For the both of us I guess.”

“Then why?”

“Because I’m scared I’d hurt you.”

“You’d never hurt me,” Drew dismissed. “The same as I’d never hurt you.”

“Not on purpose. But I am so much bigger and stronger than you, that I could hurt or even kill you by accident.”

Drew leaned over and hugged himself against her arm. “I’m tougher than you think.”

“And I’m stronger than you think,” she retorted. “You’re not invincible. I’m heavy and have more muscle mass than you can imagine. I could tear you in half with one hand with barely any effort.”

“Honestly,” Drew began as he softly stroked her arm. “I kinda find that hot.”

She laughed, but it turned into a sob. “I sometimes wish we hadn’t bumped into you at that Red Rocket stop.”

“Why?” he asked, feeling confused as to how she could possibly feel that way.

“These memories… I remember being human. I wish things were like they used to be. I wish I were human again. I wish we could make love like we used to. I’ll never feel you run your hand through my hair or put your arms around me, I’m too big for you to cuddle, now, and I don’t have any hair.”

Drew felt tears sting his eyes. He released her arm and stood up, moving in front of her. He reached up and cupped her large face in his hands.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I never meant to hurt you.”

“You have nothing to be sorry for,” she said. “You might have made me remember what I’ve lost, but you’ve also made me happy. I haven’t felt this human in a long time.”

She wrapped her arms around him and scooped him up, hugging him against her large chest.

“Thank you, Drew,” she sobbed.

“No, Gem. Thank you.”

She hugged him tighter and he felt his head begin to sink between her breasts. He didn’t fight it, he embraced it. Gemma was surrounding him, encapsulating him. He felt warm and he felt safe, though he also felt incredibly aroused.

“I love you Gem,” he said, his voice muffled.

“I love you too, Drew. Whatever Kiki and I have, I want you to be part of it if you’re willing.”

“I am willing, Gem. You, me, and Keek. It’s the best outcome I could ever hope for.”

“You, me, and Keek,” she agreed.

Drew wasn’t sure how he’d make a relationship with the two work, but at that moment he was willing to give it a shot. He wasn’t sure how he’d feel once he was face to face with Kiki again, though. Her size honestly still terrified him.

Gemma’s arms relaxed. “Sorry if I’m pulling you into my breasts.”

He pulled his head out and looked up at her, grinning. “Don’t be sorry. I’m kinda enjoying this. Besides, you’ve done it to me a dozen or so times already.”

She smiled down at him, her eyes half-lidded. “You can touch if you want.”

He felt his heart begin to race in his chest as he reached out with his left hand and placed it on her right breast. His hand looked tiny against her flesh, his palm barely able to cover her areola.

“Wow, so firm and yet so soft,” he breathed before he reached out with his other hand gripping her other breast. “They feel amazing.”

“So do your hands,” Gemma said as her whole body shuddered. “But you were always skillful with them.”

“And you always had nice tits,” Drew said as he continued to caress them. “They’re a lot nicer now, and absolutely huge. They’re incredible.”

“No, you’re incredible.”

“Well, you’re stunning, beautiful, and sexy.”

She giggled. “You always know what to say to me.”

“Do I? I’m just telling you the truth.”

She grabbed him and tossed him onto the mattresses. For a moment, he thought he’d said something wrong, but that fear was washed away a moment later.

“Take off your clothes,” she said huskily.

He gawked at her for a moment, before he took off his shirt and pants, tossing them both to the side.

Gemma looked him up and down. “Nice to see that you still don’t wear any underwear.”

“Too restrictive and they’re also really hard to find these days.”

“It’s also nice to see you’re ready,” she said as she stared at his hardening cock.

She reached out for him and he let her pick him up. She raised him towards her face and sniffed him.

“You smell nice.”

“I had a shower earlier. A few of them still work.”

“Is that so? Well, I don’t have to worry about stinking so much.”

“You don’t?”

“I don’t sweat anymore.”

Drew was about to comment on what she’d just said when her tongue rolled out of her mouth and the tip began to probe at his rock-hard penis before she licked him from crotch to head.

“Delicious,” she uttered, before opening her mouth wide ready for another lick.

As her tongue rolled from side to side images began to flash through his mind. In an instant, he was back at the Greenclaw facility being held above Lotte’s gaping hungry throat. He was moments away from being eaten alive and he was helpless to do anything about it.

“What’s wrong? Drew?” Gemma asked, snapping him out of the memory.

Drew tried to answer, but he found his breath short.

“Did I frighten you? I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to.”

He shook his head. “N-no. I… Charlotte.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Her mouth…”

Gemma appeared confused for a moment before her eyes grew wide. “When she almost ate you.”

He nodded.

“I triggered a memory?”

He nodded again.

“You should have told me.”

“I… I didn’t know,” he said. His breath felt like lead in his chest. “I didn’t realize it had affected me so much.”

Gemma carefully placed him down on his feet. “Maybe you should go. This was a mistake.”

He reached out for her but lowered his hand and his head. He felt guilty and he felt like a liar. He’d gone on and on about how he didn’t see her as a monster, yet when he’d stared into her mouth, that was all he had seen.

“Please go,” Gemma said as she sat dejectedly in the corner.

“I don’t want to go,” Drew said, forcing himself to look at her. “I’m sorry that I hurt you.”

“Drew,” she said, sounding short. “You can’t say that. Not when it was my fault.”

“No, it wasn’t your fault. It was Charlotte’s.”

“I still brought those memories flooding back. I should have realized. She almost ate you alive. That will scar you. I should have known that. I should have known how something like that would stay with you. I should have known.”

Drew walked over to her and threw himself against her arm, hugging her as best he could. He couldn’t lose her, not again. He wouldn’t let Charlotte’s prior actions destroy what he had started to rebuild.

“I need you,” he said, tears starting to roll down his cheeks.

“I need you, too,” Gemma said as she reached around with her other hand and gently stroked his back. “We were only supposed to be talking. I pushed things too hard too fast.”

“I was at fault too,” he said, taking his share in the blame. “But I love you so much.”

She patted his back. “Go on, put your clothes back on. I think we should go back to just chatting.”

“Yeah,” he said with a sniffle, wiping his eyes. “That sounds nice.”

“Take things slower from now on.”

He nodded in agreement as he let her go and made his way over to where he had tossed his clothes. He put his pants on first, then his shirt before he sat down on the old mattresses.

Gemma stared at him before she stood up and sat nearer. Neither said anything and in a way, Drew was glad. He enjoyed her company, regardless.

He laid himself down and stared up at the ceiling.

“Drew,” Gemma began. “Things between us are going to be difficult.”

“Yeah, I know.”

“I think that anything we decide, we should do it with Kiki.”

“Agreed.”

“I want you to know that the time I spent with you. Before the super mutants took us. They were the best times of my life.”

“I know. I feel the same way.”

Gemma laid down on her side on the floor next to him. “Do you remember when we found Paulson?”

Drew nodded. “Yeah. We’d stayed in some town for a few months but found it too busy. I don’t remember the name. North Ridge or something, wasn’t it”

I was the one that found it too busy,” Gemma corrected. “You and Jack liked it there. I don’t know if Amy did. She didn’t seem to care as long as we were all together.”

“It was okay.”

“But do you remember how we discovered Paulson?”

“It was a caravan that let us know Paulson existed,” Drew said. “We went with them. You, me, Amy, Jack, and Izzy.”

“What happened to Izzy? Was she destroyed?”

Drew sighed. “Yeah, bandit attack on Colville.”

“I liked Izzy.”

“Me, too. She was a good companion. Never met a robot with a better sense of humor.”

“Remember that merchant who thought it was all fake?”

Drew chuckled at the memory. “Yeah, I remember. He thought we were using some kind of radio setup so one of our ‘friends’ could speak through her.”

“That was funny,” Gemma chuckled. “Do you also remember when Jack got a crush on her?”

Drew looked at her with surprise. “Was that what that was?”

“Yeah,” Gemma said. “Before we got to Paulson, Jack started to get a crush on Izzy.”

“Now that is hilarious. Could you imagine him dating an Assaultron?”

“You seriously didn’t notice?” Gemma asked in disbelief.

“No, I honestly never noticed. Well, I noticed but I didn’t realize it was because he was crushing on her.”

“It was kinda cute. That ended when he met Grace, though.”

“Did Izzy mind?” Drew asked.

“Not that I’m aware of. She certainly didn’t share his feelings.”

Gemma rolled onto her back and stared up at the ceiling. It looked rather odd due to her body shape. Because of the way her back was shaped, her hips were pushed upwards like she was thrusting at the ceiling.

“That doesn’t look comfortable,” Drew observed.

“Actually, it is,” she said, turning her head in his direction. She couldn’t turn it all the way, though due to her horns.

“You look comfy to lay on,” he said. “Like a big comfy bed.”

“You just want to lay your head on my boobs.”

“I’ve already had my head between them more times than I can count.”

Gemma patted her bosom. “Maybe you want to see how comfy I am to lay on?”

“Maybe I do.”

The smile on her face disappeared and she stared back up at the ceiling. “It’s probably best you don’t,” she said. “I don’t want to hurt you again.”

“How would laying on you hurt me?”

She shrugged awkwardly. “I don’t know. You might have a panic attack. Like you did before.”

Drew stood up off of the old mattresses. “I don’t care if I do, Gemma. I can’t have a wall between us. Besides, it was your open mouth and swirling tongue that triggered it.”

“I didn’t think.”

“And neither did I. But I’m ready for it now.”

Gemma didn’t look like she believed him. “How can you ever be ready for something like that? I wasn’t.”

“How do you mean?”

“There were times when I saw a reflection of myself where I’d have a panic attack. I’d see this monstrous face staring back at me and it was horrible.”

“But weren’t you seeing that face like that everywhere with the others?”

“They weren’t me,” Gemma said. “Seeing a deathclaw face on the others I got used to it fairly quickly. On myself, it took a lot longer. Even though I couldn’t remember anything from before, it felt wrong. I’m still not fully used to it.”

Drew walked over to her and leaned forward, kissing her on the mouth which was only made possible because she was lying down.

“Well I don’t care,” he said. “All I see is the woman I love.”

“Unlike earlier when you saw Charlotte ready to eat you.”

Drew kissed her again. “We both know this won’t be easy for either of us and not for Kiki either. But I can’t lose you. Not again. Whatever hardship and hurt awaits us, I’m ready for it.”

“I’m not sure I am. I don’t like seeing you scared or in pain, Drew.”

He stroked her snout. “I know, Gem, I know.”

She closed her eyes. “That feels nice.”

“How about this?” he asked as he began to massage her head with his other hand.”

“Mmmm, yeah,” she said sleepily. “That feels great.”

He continued to massage her head, a huge grin spreading across his face as her breathing slowed and a soft snore escaped her throat.

“Wow, I must be good at this,” he muttered to himself.

Somehow, he had managed to put her to sleep. He hadn’t expected it, but it was certainly welcome.

“Goodnight, my little Gem,” he said as he gave her one last kiss before he made his way over to the light switch and turned off two of the three bar lights.

Drew stared at her for several moments, watching as her large chest gently rose and fell. He then made his way over to the mattresses and lay down. He watched her as she slept in the darkened room, his gaze frequently falling onto her large chest.

Despite the hardships that were sure to plague their relationship, it was worth the effort. The woman he loved might no longer be human, but that didn’t matter. She was still the woman he loved.

A large smile was on his lips as he closed his eyes and fell asleep.

Chapter 24 - A New Threat by Saturn Knight

Drew awoke and stared up at the ceiling high above. It took a mere few moments for him to remember that he had spent the night with Gemma.

Taking a look around the room, he saw she was gone. He sat up and yawned with a stretch before he slowly climbed off the mattress.

Last night had gone very well, but there had also been quite the shock. He had discovered that he had some trauma from when Charlotte had wanted to eat him. He knew it was something that was going to be with him for a long time. The only positive was that he was now aware of it and he was thankful that it had happened with Gemma and not with any of the others. He knew he could trust her to help him overcome it.

Drew headed out of the room and made his way up to the bathroom where he took a piss and a shit. Ten minutes later, he was stepping into the cafeteria where he found Gemma and Veronica sat talking in their usual corner.

“Morning,” he greeted.

Gemma smiled at him. “Good morning, Drew.”

He made his way into the kitchen and grabbed some mutfruit before returning to the cafeteria where he sat near the two.

“So, how was your morning?” he asked.

Veronica answered. “We caught breakfast, then gave the corpse to Jack.”

“Why?” he asked. “What for?”

“He said he wanted the materials,” Gemma answered.

The doors opened and Amy stepped in with Sarah.

“Morning,” Drew greeted.

“Morning,” the two said together as they made their way inside.

“Either of you two got any plans today?” Drew asked.

Amy answered. “No, but I do have something I need to ask.”

“Go ahead.”

“Can we head into town at some point?”

“What for?”

“I wanna grab some more supplies.”

“Like?” Drew asked.

“Like some more food so we can eat something other than mutfruit and radstag.”

Drew looked at Sarah. “How about you?”

“I’ll come, sure.”

“I’ll have to ask Jack to see if he wants to come as well.” Drew looked over at Gemma and Veronica. “Sorry, but you two probably should stay here.”

“It’s for the best,” Veronica said. “I think the townfolk would probably shoot at us.”

Drew made for the door. “I’ll go see Jack and see if he wants to come now.” He paused as he glanced back. “Actually, this gives me an opportunity. We’ll take two Gutsy’s with us and see if we can sell them in town to Devon’s Caravan or maybe to the town.”

“Sounds like a plan,” Amy said.

* * *

Four hours later, Drew, Amy, Sarah, and Jack had arrived at Colville with two Gutsy’s in tow. Normally the walk was just over three hours, but Sarah wasn’t quite as fast on her feet as the rest of them.

Regardless, it had been a pleasant walk, especially now that they knew they didn’t have to worry about being a green deathclaw’s dinner.

“This is Colville,” Drew told Sarah.

“Yeah, I know. I’ve been here once. I spoke to the resident doctor and he was nasty to me for no reason.”

“Maybe saw you as a threat,” Amy said.

Jack agreed. “You are one of those fancy vault doctors after all.”

“Yeah,” Sarah accepted, “you’re probably right about that.”

The group made their way down the main street towards Devon’s Caravan Company building, the biggest caravan in the region. Unlike other caravans which were mostly made up of single traders, DCC, as it was also known, had ten caravans under its belt, all in near constant rotation around the surrounding settlements, and some even moved in and out of the region.

“Wait out here,” Drew said as they stopped in front of the DCC building.

He stepped inside and made his way to the front desk. The receptionist, Janice, looked up at him from her computer screen.

“Oh, hey Drew. Need something?”

“Is the boss in? I have a proposition.”

“Yeah, he’s in. I’ll call you through.”

Drew waited as she pressed down the intercom on her desk.

Yes, what is it?”

“Mister Devon, sorry to disturb you, but Drew is here.”

Send him right through.”

“You can go through,” she told him.

“Thanks, Janice.”

Drew stepped through into Devon’s office which lay just off to the right. Devon stood up and gestured to the seat opposite, which Drew promptly took.

“What can I do you for?” Devon asked as he sat back down. “You want a caravan to frequent that Robco plant you’ve taken over, or are you here for another reason?”

“Another reason.”

“Oh?”

“Yeah. I have two Gutsies outside and I was wondering if you were looking for some robotic caravan guards?”

Devon stroked the stubble on his chin. “Only two?”

“For now, yeah.”

“I’m interested, sure. I could do with phasing out those butler robots. Replacing them with something more formidable against the wildlife would definitely be a boon. Heard rumors of deathclaws in the area and then there’s those Yao Guai.”

“How many robots do you have?”

Devon raised his hand and began to count them off on his fingers. “Well, I have three of those army butler robots, fifteen butler robots and the rest are human guards. The butler robots aren’t nearly as tough as the army ones but I use them because I don’t really have any other choice.”

“So you have fifteen Handies and three Gutsies,” Drew said. “No Protectrons?”

“Nah, walk way too slow. If I had one of them as a caravan guard and it would take fifty years for them to get anywhere.”

“They can walk fast when they need to,” Drew said. “Though they do become a little unstable at higher speeds and bits tend to start falling off.”

Devon checked the clock. “Listen, can I make an exchange?”

“Exchange?”

“I’ll give you a butler robot or two and you give caps-off purchase price of those Gutsies.”

Drew considered his offer. Having access to Handies would be a benefit. He could profile and duplicate their software. They were certainly less irritating than Gutsies, but honestly not by much.

“Okay,” Drew said. “It’s a deal.”

“All the caravans are currently out, but I should have two back here at the depot by the end of the day. Do you think you could come back in let’s say… Five hours?”

Drew checked the time. It was just after one in the afternoon, which meant if he waited it would be dark or at the very least it would be getting dark by the time they got back to the Robco plant. Still, since the Greenclaws had proven to be non-hostile, at least mostly, he wasn’t nearly as worried about his safety. That didn’t mean there weren’t dangers, though, particularly in the dark.

“Sure, I can come back in five hours,” Drew said.

“That’s great,” Devon said standing up and reaching over with his hand.

Drew stood up and shook it. “I’ll see you in five hours, then.”

“Look forward to it. We’ll make the exchange then. Just one more question, though. How much?”

“With the exchange?”

“Yeah.”

“Two thousand caps.”

“Okay, sure. Sounds very reasonable. That for both or separately.”

“That’s the full price. Honestly, I don’t know if I could even carry more caps than that around with me.”

“Well, I’ll inspect the Gutsy robots later when it’s time to make the exchange.”

“I shall see you later,” Drew said.

“Later.”

Drew turned and left the office, giving Janice a wave as he headed out the door.

Jack spoke first. “So, are they buying them?”

“We return in five hours and find out.”

“Five hours?” Amy asked. “Why?”

“He wants to do an exchange. We get two Handies, or ‘butler robots’ as he calls them, and he gets a discount. But we have to wait for one or two of the caravans to get back.”

“That sounds reasonable,” Sarah said. “But five hours is a long time to wait.”

“It is,” Drew agreed. “But I think it will be worth it.”

“So what do we do?” Jack asked.

“First, we go get some lunch from Joey’s stall.”

“Then?” Amy asked.

“Not sure. Might go see if Jarik is in town.”

“He’ll be hanging out at the bar,” Amy said. “I don’t really want to go in there.”

“You don’t have to if you don’t want,” Drew said. “Besides there are a few tables outside. We don’t have to go inside if you don’t want.”

“We do if Jarik is inside.”

“I’ll ask him to come out. Then we can see if he has any updates on our Greenclaw friends.”

Sarah looked around nervously. “You sure you should mention them here?”

“Don’t worry. It was Jarik that named them that. Besides, all he knows is that they’re green deathclaws.” Drew lowered his voice. “He doesn’t know they’re sentient, though I suspect that he suspects.”

Amy looked uncomfortable. “Do you think he knows?”

Drew shrugged. “He is the curious type, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he hadn’t scoped out the Robco plant. Or even saw Sekka and Axa.”

“What if he knows?”

Drew didn’t have an answer for that. It was clear that if he did, he hadn’t gone around telling everyone, but then again that wasn’t his style. Well, Drew didn’t know that for certain. Even though he had lived in Paulson for years, he had always been somewhat mysterious, never letting anyone get too close.

Finally, Drew answered. “I guess we go find out. First, though, let’s go get lunch from Joey’s.”

The group moved away from the caravan depot and made their way further down the street. Joey’s stall was located off a side street in the poorer area of town. It was beyond the concrete wall that had been constructed around the center of town, and was instead protected by a more sporadically built timber wall.

“I stayed in this part of town,” Sarah said as they walked the streets. “A lot bigger than most settlements down south.”

Drew concurred. “Towns like this tend to be dangerous. Filled with ferals, predators and other equally dangerous things. Somehow this place was spared all that horror. Well, not all of it. A lot of people starved after the bombs fell. There were apparently riots, killing, homes being burned to the ground. It was a scary time. A very scary time.

Sarah was intrigued. “How come you know so much about it?”

“It’s part of the town’s history. I read it on a terminal in the library.”

The group turned down a different street and made their way toward the market. It was fairly busy with all different kinds of folks all perusing the wares.

“I thought about buying something from here,” Sarah said. “But I’m kinda fond of my jumpsuit.”

As they got into line at Joey’s stall, Drew looked at the others. “As the one holding the caps, what do you guys want?”

“Meat-Feast burger,” Jack said instantly.

“Same,” Amy said.

“I suppose I’ll have that, too,” Sarah said.

“Then it’s four Meat-Feast burgers. What do you want to drink?”

Jack answered first again. “I would say a Nuka Cola, but they’re rarer up here and pricey. So I guess water.”

“If they don’t have a juice drink then water for me as well,” Amy added.

“Water,” Sarah said. “As long as it’s purified.”

“It’s all purified in Colville,” Jack told her. “All the water runs through the purification plant which is an old converted brewery.”

“I thought so,” Sarah said. “When I stayed here, though, my Pipboy did detect trace amounts of radiation in the water.”

“It ain’t perfect,” Jack said. “But it’s the best we can do.”

Slowly, they moved up the cue until it was their turn to make their order.

“Hey, it’s Drew and the gang,” Joey said, grinning. “And an extra soul, I see.”

“Yeah, that’s Sarah,” Drew said gesturing.

“Nice to meet you,” Joey said.

“Uh, same,” Sarah said.

“What you all having?”

“The Meaty-Feast burger. Four of them and since I see you’re all out of berry juice we’ll have four waters as well.”

“Coming right up,” Joey said as he scooped the meat off of the hotplate with his spatula, placing them in the homemade buns.

After taking the burgers and drinks and paying for them, the group of four, tailed by the Gutsies made their way over to a low brick wall and sat on it while they ate.

Finished, they handed the empty bottles back to Joey for a two-cap return fee per bottle before they made the trip to Kalvin’s bar, though they made a stop at Jarik’s house since it was on the way. As expected, he wasn’t in, so they continued on to Kalvin’s bar, his favorite haunt. Well, it was when he was in town.

As it turned out, he was in town and he was sitting outside at a table sipping a drink.

“Well, well, well,” Jarik said as he laid eyes on them. “Look who it is.” His eyes focused on the two Gutsies then on Sarah. “New companions I see.”

“I built them,” Drew told him as they sat down at his table.

“The two Gutsies are about what I’d expect from your skill level, but the girl…” He whistled. “Now she’s impressive. How long did it take to make her?”

Drew frowned. “That’s Sarah.”

Jarik grinned like an idiot. “Well, it’s nice to meet you Sarah. Where did he find you? You weren’t hiding out in that factory were you?”

She shook her head. “No, I wasn’t.”

Drew explained. “She was chased by one of those Greenclaws. Found her way to the plant.”

Jarik’s brow raised in surprise. “And she managed to get away?”

“Yes, she did,” Drew said. “Pretty impressive.”

“Impressive indeed,” Jarik said, eyeing her up. “You must be quick on your feet.”

Sarah shrugged awkwardly. “Uh, I guess.”

Drew decided to steer the conversation. “So, heard or seen anything lately?”

“Actually, I did. Just a few days ago I saw two Greenclaws carrying crates in the direction of your little Robco plant.”

Jack laughed. “Seriously? They were carrying crates.”

“You’ve not been on the Med-X have you?” Amy added.

Jarik shook his head, looking straight at Drew. “Peculiar, isn’t it?”

“Sounds it,” Drew said wanting to take the conversation in literally any other direction. “Did you see where they went?”

“I told you. Towards your factory.”

“Well, we didn’t see them,” Drew said with a shrug.

“I’m sure you were too busy building your little robots,” Jarik said. “I also heard a rumor in Riverside.”

“Regarding?” Drew asked.

“A scavenger apparently spied a group in power armor along the southern highway. Nasty looking bunch.”

“Where were they headed?”

“West somewhere.”

“You think it’s Brotherhood?” Drew asked him.

“I have no idea. If they are, then you might be in trouble. They don’t like common folk like us to have anything nice, especially not a factory that can build robots.”

Drew knew he was right and he didn’t like it. What made it worse was that if it was Brotherhood, then it was likely they knew of the plant’s existence and it wouldn’t be long until a scouting team scouted them out.

“This isn’t good news,” Drew said after a few moments. “If it is Brotherhood, then it looks like my work is cut out for me.”

“Yeah. Might be,” Jarik agreed. “Though it might be best to gather what you can and leave. Let them have it. There’s no way you can win a war against the Brotherhood of Steel.”

Sarah raised her hand. “Who are the Brotherhood of Steel?”

Drew answered. “They’re a faction from down south. Rumor has it that they were military before the great war. Now they go around taking technology off of normal folk like us, usually by force.”

“Why?”

“Because they think the easier our lives are the more likely we’ll start lobbing nukes at each other again. Or some such shit. They think they’re the only ones that can be trusted with a working toaster because we might burn ourselves with it. Can’t have us making toast. Might end the world.”

“He’s exaggerating a bit,” Jarik told Sarah. “Suffice it to say, if they found out he was trying to restart an old Robco plant, they would burn a hole in his head with a laser rifle and take control themselves.”

Sarah looked nervous. “So we’re in danger?”

“We’re jumping the gun a bit,” Drew said. “We don’t know for certain that it’s Brotherhood or anyone else. Besides, last I heard they weren’t doing so well. The NCR gave them a bit of a bloody nose.”

“We should be cautious, though, right?” Sarah asked. “Just in case?”

Amy agreed. “Yeah, we should definitely be cautious.”

Drew nodded. They were right, they did need to be cautious, but there was also no need to abandon their new lives out of fear.

“We do what we came here to do,” Drew said. “We do the exchange with Devon, buy some supplies, and then head home. Tomorrow, we start working on actually bringing one of the production lines online.”

“Sounds like a plan,” Jack said.

“Let me guess; you’ve been slacking?” Jarik said.

“Maybe just a little bit,” Drew said.

Jarik shook his head with a smile. “You are so dead if it does turn out to be Brotherhood.”

Drew disagreed. “Don’t be so sure. That factory is like a fortress and we have plenty of materials to build an army.”

“Given you have time to build it,” Jarik pointed out. “But it’s you’re gig.”

“Yeah, it is my gig. Though I do have a favor to ask.”

“Name it.”

“Can you keep an ear out? I want to know as much about these guys as possible.”

“Don’t worry, I plan on finding out who they are regardless. Folks wandering around in power armor, especially in a group, is bad news. Until we find out what their intentions are they’re a potential threat. Much like those Greenclaws, wouldn’t you agree?”

“Of course,” Drew said. “Just like those Greenclaws.”

Jarik nodded before he stood up. “Say, do you have some time to waste?”

“A few hours, why?”

He gestured inside. “How about a few games of Pool?”

Drew looked at the others. “You all down?”

“Sure,” Amy said.

“Definitely,” Jack added.

“What’s Pool?” Sarah asked. “I don’t have a swimsuit or anything.”

Jarik chuckled. “I like her.”

“Come on, we’ll show you.”

* * *

A few hours later and Drew was stepping back into Devon’s Caravan’s main office. Almost immediately, he was greeted by Janice, though she did look concerned about something.

“Afternoon, Drew. Devon is waiting for you in his office. You may go right through.”

“Thanks.”

He made his way to the left into Devon’s office and the man immediately stood up and gestured to the chair opposite.

“Please, sit down.”

Drew did so, knowing that something was wrong. He could tell with Janice’s expression and now with Devon’s.

“Something the matter?” Drew asked, verbalizing his thoughts.

“A caravan’s gone missing.”

“One of the ones that was meant to come in?”

Devon shook his head. “No, they’re here. But one of them always cross paths either at the rest stop or on the southern highway. They haven’t been seen at Henry Farm which they always stop off at. Neither were they seen at the small settlement along that same highway. Nobody knows where they are.”

“You mean it just vanished?”

“Seems that way. The settlement said they saw a bunch of folk in some kind of heavy armor walking past with a bunch of butler robots, which is what the caravan used as guards. Could be a coincidence.”

“Did they spot any insignias or markings on the guys with power armor?” Drew asked.

“Power armor? You know what they were wearing?”

“Jarik heard something about people in power armor down that way.”

“Think it’s the same folk?”

“Very likely, yeah.”

“Are they dangerous?”

“That’s why I asked about markings.”

“They didn’t mention any. Just that they were covered head to toe in heavy armor and had a kind of wheel valve on the back. Or that’s what it apparently looked like.”

“Definitely power armor, then,” Drew mused unhappily. “Which means if it is Brotherhood of Steel, then those Handies were most likely yours and that caravan is gone. Even so, Brotherhood don’t usually pal around with Handies, they pal around with Sentry bots or Gutsies.”

“You mean they’re dead?”

Drew nodded. “Though they don’t usually go for Handy robots. They’re low down on their list of acquired technology. It’s likely that they need them for spare parts for Gutsies. That, or they’re gonna reprogram and refit them with heavier weapons.”

“What do you think I should do?” Devon asked.

“It’s gonna cost you more in wages, but I suggest human guards only for the time being. No energy weapons either. Ballistic weapons only. They should have no reason to target you, then. Though that isn’t guaranteed.”

“And who do you think they are again? Brotherhood? What’s that?”

“A bunch of assholes is who they are. The Brotherhood of Steel. They take tech they think is useful to them and they don’t usually bother making an exchange other than their lasers in your dead corpse for whatever you have on you.”

“So they are very dangerous?”

“I guess it depends on the Chapter, but yeah. Generally speaking, they are very dangerous. My mom and dad used to talk about them a lot. From what they told me, they’re a nasty bunch.”

“So you’ve never met them yourself?”

Drew shook his head. “Haven’t had the misfortune.”

Devon rubbed his eyes. “I guess this means our deal is off?”

“For now, yeah.”

“And I guess my claim of having the safest caravans in the region is also out the window.”

“Depends on how many guards you hire,” Drew said.

“Not enough to replace the robots. They are easy to maintain and cheap to run and I also didn’t have to pay them a wage.” Devon sighed. “I’ll have to think about all this.”

“I understand.”

“I think I’ll hire Jarik to go search for the missing caravan. Don’t want to leave them out there to rot, even if they are dead.”

“No,” Drew agreed.

“I think that’s everything. Thank you for coming by.”

Drew stood up and shook his hand. “Sorry, we couldn’t make the exchange.”

“Maybe some other time.”

As he left the office, a sense of dread filled his heart. While Drew hadn’t had direct contact with the Brotherhood, he had heard enough about them to know he should be concerned, even worried. They would strip anything and everything from the area that they deemed ‘dangerous’ leaving nothing but scraps.

He had been slacking off for far too long. He needed to get his finger out and bring the Robco plant back online.

If he didn’t, then the Brotherhood, if it was them, would have free reign to do as they pleased in the region.

Drew would not allow that. These people had built a life, one that was far better than in most other regions. He would be damned if he would let anyone take that away.

That was a promise.

Chapter 25 - Concerns by Saturn Knight

Both Gemma and Veronica sat and listened while Drew explained what Jarik had told him regarding the team of power-armored-clad troopers.

They were all sat in the cafeteria, even Suzy, who hovered next to Sarah. All of them had eaten dinner, though Drew’s plate was left mostly untouched due to all the talking he had been doing.

“I don’t know if it really is the Brotherhood of Steel,” Drew said, “but other than captured power armor from the NCR, I don’t know any other group that uses it. Well, other than the Enclave. But their existence is more of a legend and most people don’t think they ever even existed.”

Neither Gemma nor Veronica looked particularly happy about the news. Any of the major three were a threat and two of them were mutphobic to an extreme degree. The NCR was less mutphobic but they still saw ghouls or other mutated people as undesirables, often treating them as second-class citizens.

“Are we in danger?” Gemma asked.

“Well, from what my limited knowledge of the Brotherhood, they usually send out small scouting groups into a new area. They were miles south of Colville heading westward so that group wasn’t headed here.”

“Where else could they be headed?” Veronica asked.

“Likely the old power station. Or there could be something else out that way we don’t know about.”

Gemma rubbed her large elbows nervously. “So what do we do?”

“What we do is the original plan.”

“Which is?” Veronica asked.

“Which is to bring this place online, but we need to shorten the timetable considerably. We need to bring this place online and quickly. We can’t mess around any longer. Not if the Brotherhood are in the region.”

“When do we start?” Veronica asked.

“Tomorrow. It’s late, we need to get some rest.”

“Right,” Gemma agreed with a nod.

“Are they really such a threat?” Veronica asked.

“They’ll kill you two straight away,” Drew said to Gemma and Veronica. “They’ll kill the rest of us, simply because they’ll see us as a threat for merely thinking about bringing this place back online.”

Drew looked to Jack, Amy, and Sarah who had been quietly listening in. “Any questions?”

Sarah raised her hand. “Is it worth the danger?”

“Do we have a choice?” Drew asked back.

“What do you mean?”

He gestured at Gemma and Veronica. “Like I said, they’ll kill them outright. Or are you okay with that?”

“Of course not,” Sarah said defensively. “I didn’t mean it like that. Maybe we should just leave, instead.”

“I’m not running away from some bullies in power armor,” Drew said firmly. “And besides, we’re not even certain they’re an actual threat. It might be just some guys who found some power armor.”

“Maybe we should find out?” Sarah suggested.

“It would be nice if it was that easy,” Drew said. “It may turn out to be nothing but I don’t want to take that chance. They may have already attacked a caravan and taken their Handy robots. As for the caravaneers, they went missing. Likely dead.”

“Do you really want to start a war with them?” Sarah asked.

Drew looked at Amy and Jack, then across to Gemma and Veronica. “We might not have a choice.”

“Yeah,” Amy agreed. “They’re the outsiders. If they think they can come here and attack us, then we need to show them how wrong they are.”

Drew looked over at Gemma and Veronica. “You two might need to go home a little early to warn the others.”

“Understood,” Gemma said with a nod. “We can set off tomorrow.”

“I want to have this place ready to start producing robots before you leave,” Drew said. “We’re almost there but we’re gonna need your help.”

“We’re almost at a week anyway,” Veronica pointed out. “At this point, it might be best for us to stay the allotted time and then leave when we were originally supposed to.”

Drew had to admit, he had lost track of time. He couldn’t even remember how long they had been there, but it felt like it was a lot longer than a week.

“Okay,” he accepted. “Tomorrow I want at least one line ready to start producing. Preferably the Sentry line. Then I want the Assaultron line. Eventually, I want the Gutsy line.”

“How many can we build?”

“Sentry bots is maybe a dozen. Depends on how many components we have in the stock warehouse. Assaultrons, I’d wager, we have a few more parts. Already I can tell that we have way more head lasers than heads, so we might have to repurpose some of them. We have plenty of Protectron and Gutsy parts, so they will make up the bulk of our forces.”

“Forces?” Jack asked. “Like an army?”

“Like an army,” Drew confirmed. “Though we have to assume that the Brotherhood have some way of disabling robots, such as EMP so we’re gonna have to figure a way to shield their core systems.”

“Why assume that?” Amy asked.

“Because those guys palling around in power armor were seen with Handy robots such as those used as guards with the caravan. If they are the robots from the missing caravan then that means they were able to disable them long enough to reprogram.”

“Makes sense,” Sarah agreed. “How do you protect against EMP?”

“Faraday cage,” Veronica answered.

“Yep,” Drew agreed. “We would have to build a sort of wire cage inside the shells of the robots, primarily around their core systems to stop them from being knocked offline. Most robots have protections against EMP’s anyway, which is why most of them are still active after the nuclear war. But anything more direct can still knock them out.”

“It’s gonna be a lot of work,” Jack pointed out.

“It is,” Drew confirmed. “But this is why we’re here in the first place. To bring this plant back online.”

He looked down at what was left of his cold food and quickly ate it before standing up. “I think everyone should get an early night. I’ll do the dishes.”

“I’ll help,” Sarah said.

They gathered the plates and took them through to the kitchen. Drew washed while Sarah dried. Finished, they parted ways, and Drew headed towards the stairs while Sarah headed back towards the nurse’s office.

As he stepped into the stairwell, he found Gemma stood waiting for him.

“Oh, hey,” he said.

“Veronica’s gone up to the roof,” Gemma said.

“Okay.”

“You know last night? Can we… You know… Do you want to sleep with me… In the same room as me, I mean?”

Drew smiled warmly. “Sure. I enjoyed talking last night.”

She smiled back at him. “I did, too.”

She led the way down into the basement and Drew noted how awkward and uncomfortable it looked as her massive feet dwarfed the steps.

In her room, Drew sat down on the mattresses while Gemma lay down on the floor on her side facing him.

“I had a dream last night,” she said.

“Yeah? What was it about?”

He noticed her cheeks grow red. “Nothing,” she answered.

He raised an eyebrow. “You had a dream about nothing?”

“Drew,” she said, sounding a little exasperated. “Please don’t.”

“Don’t what?”

“You know what!”

Drew felt a little confused, though he had a feeling he knew what kind of dream it was judging by the way she was blushing.

She growled. “Fine, it was a sex dream.”

“Was it good?”

“You were in it.”

“Was it good?” he asked again.

She smiled, her cheeks growing even redder. “Yeah, it was good.” The smile then vanished. She looked sad.

“What’s wrong?”

“I was human again,” she told him. “You made love to me like you used to. Then Kiki showed up. She was human too and she joined in.”

“It sounds like it was really nice.”

“It was until I woke up.”

Drew’s heart ached for her in more ways than one. His heart ached in sorrow. Her pain was his pain, her hurt was his hurt. His heart also ached with longing. He still felt a separation between them and he desperately wanted to be as close as they once had been.

“Do you…” Gemma began. “Do you think that it’s possible to still have children?” She looked at him. “I mean, I know it sounds stupid considering what I am. But do you think it’s possible?”

Drew wondered if she wanted him to be honest or if she wanted him to entertain the idea. He’d always had a hard time lying to her, even if it was to protect her feelings.

“No,” he said, “I don’t. I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t see how.”

“Same,” she said. “I don’t think I can, even if we were still compatible. I think whatever changed me probably made me infertile. I don’t have periods anymore, which kinda proves it.”

“We could always adopt,” he suggested. “There’s an orphanage in town.”

Gemma shook her head. “No, that wouldn’t work. The kid would be terrified by me. I’m the monster under the bed. I’m the creature peering through the cracks in the walls.”

“For the last time, Gem. You’re not a monster.”

“I am!” she yelled. “Just because you don’t see me as one doesn’t mean I’m not!”

Drew stood up off of the mattress and walked over to her. He reached out and gently stroked her head, doing his best to comfort her.

“You’re my monster,” he told her before he kissed her on the mouth. “I still think you would make a wonderful mother, despite your outward appearance.”

“You’re a bad liar.”

“You of all people should know I have a hard time lying to you.”

Tears began to fill her eyes. He didn’t like seeing her upset, yet he knew that a good cry might be just what she needed. He suspected it was what they all needed. There was a lot of pent-up anguish that needed to be released.

“You’re my special Gem,” he told her. “And no matter what, you always will be. You might see a monster, Gem, but do you know what I see? I see a protector. Like in those old pre-war Hubris comic books.”

She gently shook her head. “Drew, stop lying to yourself. Characters that looked like me were always the villains.”

He kissed her again. “You’re a hero to me, Gem. You always will be. You protected Amy and Jack when they were just kids. You kept them safe and helped them grow up into wonderful people. You took my heart and you made me feel joy like I hadn’t in a long, long time. When I thought you were dead, that joy, that spark vanished. Now that you’re back, I feel it again. It’s weak, but it’s growing stronger. You make me stronger.”

The tears began to flow freely, streaming down the sides of her face. Gently, Drew wiped them away before he gave her another kiss, this time on the cheek.

“I love you my precious little Gem. I love you with everything I have.”

“You have more love in you than I would have,” Gemma sniffled. “If things had been different. If I had been human and you’d been…” She gestured at herself. “… If you had been this, then I don’t think I could do it.”

“I wouldn’t have believed I could either,” Drew said honestly. “When I first realized it was you, I didn’t think I could ever get over what you had become, but I did. That’s how strong our bond is.”

“What about Kiki?”

He sighed. “It’s not going to be easy and I’d be disappointed if it was. I always liked her and I felt guilty because of it.”

“Guilty?”

“Yes, because even though I rejected her advances and pushed her away, I felt like I was still cheating on you because I liked her. I liked her a lot. Maybe it was because she was always so nice to me. To you. To us.”

Gemma nodded. “I’m sorry.”

“About what?” he asked confused.

“I feel like I’ve betrayed you by falling in love with her.”

“It’s not a betrayal, Gem. It’s honestly expected.”

“It is?”

“Yes, it is. You two would have made a lovely couple.”

“But I also love you, Drew. I love you both.”

“And I think I love the both of you as well. I won’t lie to you, Gem. Getting over Kiki’s transformation is going to be a lot more difficult. She scares the shit out of me.”

“She is big,” Gemma agreed.

“She’s bigger than big. She’s huge. I guess it reflects her heart.”

“What about Lotte? She’s even bigger?”

“Let’s not ruin the mood,” Drew said with a soft chuckle. “But yeah, she’s huge too, but it certainly doesn’t have anything to do with her heart.”

“I think she might end up being a problem,” Gemma said honestly. “I’m really concerned. Some of the things we’ve done. I think given the chance, she’d turn us into a pack of raiders. The only reason she hasn’t is because she would get too much resistance. She already gets a lot of resistance.”

Drew frowned as he went over what she said. “Some of the things you’ve done?” he asked. “What do you mean?”

“We wiped out a town.”

“Why?”

“Well, we found an injured girl. Well, she was a woman and it was Axa that found her. Her name was Sally.”

“I think you mentioned her before. Back at the facility. Something about her betraying you?”

“Yeah, well Sekka doesn’t think she did. We don’t actually know what happened to her except she was with a large group that were armed to the teeth. They wanted to kill us. She looked scared. Or Sekka said she did. Axa agreed.”

“How many were there?”

“Maybe two dozen. They were armed with rifles, both bullet, and laser. They didn’t stand a chance.”

“You killed them all?”

“A few escaped including the girl. After that, Lotte told us to destroy their town so we did.”

“You killed everyone?”

“A lot of us didn’t kill anyone. It was mostly Lotte, Charan, Bek, Grunt, and Glower.”

“Did you kill anyone?”

Gemma looked away.

“You did, didn’t you?”

“I don’t want to talk about it.”

Despite wanting to know if Gemma had murdered people without mercy, he decided not to push it. At least not at that moment. Gemma had been through a lot, all of them had. Also, she had alluded to how it had taken them a while to start regaining their humanity. He hoped that was the reason. He couldn’t bear to think that she and the others might have killed children while wiping out that settlement.

Drew stepped away from her. “Perhaps we should go to sleep,” he suggested. “It’s too late to be talking about things like that.”

“Yeah,” she said quietly. “Will you uh… be sleeping here again?”

“If you want me to, yeah.”

“I do,” she said. “Do you want to… Sleep on me?”

Drew’s eyebrows rose. “Sleep on you?”

“Yeah,” she said sounding nervous. “Back at home at the facility I often sleep on Kiki.”

“You do?”

“Yeah, it’s really comfortable.”

“How comfortable?”

“More comfortable than any bed.”

Drew had to admit. The thought of laying on her and resting his head upon her breast was very appealing.

“Okay,” Drew said. “Let’s do it.”

Gemma rolled onto her back, her hips looking like they were thrusting at the ceiling due to the shape of her body. He walked down between her massive legs before he stepped up onto her tail.

“Do you want help getting on?” Gemma asked.

“Nah. I’m gonna conquer you like a mountain.”

“Sounds kinda kinky. But I’m not a mountain. Kiki’s the mountain.”

“Well, I look forward to conquering her as well,” Drew said as he pushed himself up onto her stomach.

Gemma chuckled. “I kinda wish the three of us had gotten it on before, you know?”

“Yeah, that would have been really hot,” Drew agreed as he reoriented himself, sitting up on her chest, facing down towards her feet and protruding tail. “But I think our heads were in a completely different place.”

“They were,” Gemma agreed. “Still kinda sad we missed the opportunity.”

“Yeah,” Drew said as he laid himself down, his head going snugly between her breasts.

“Oh, wow,” he said. “This really is comfortable, just like you said.”

“Yeah,” Gemma said as she brought up her arms and wrapped them around him. “You’re like a big teddy bear.”

“And you’re like a big warm bed,” he said in return. “Yeah, I could get used to this. Very snug. Just don’t roll over in your sleep.”

“I don’t roll, you remember that, right?”

“Your ability to wake up in the morning in the same position you fell asleep? Yeah, I remember that. I also remember you complaining a few times because I was tossing and turning.”

“Well, you won’t be doing that tonight,” she said. “I’ll keep you in place.”

“I don’t think you’ll have to,” he said with a yawn. “I’m comfortable enough as it is.”

“Glad to hear it.”

“Yeah. Never thought I’d sleep with my head between a pair of huge juicy tits.”

“Yeah and I never thought I’d fall asleep holding the man I love like a stuffed animal. But here we are.”

“Here we are,” he agreed with another yawn. “Goodnight, Gem.”

“Yeah, goodnight, Drew.”

Chapter 26 - Full House by Saturn Knight
Author's Notes:

We've just passed the halfway mark of the story.

Amy’s loud voice echoed through Drew’s head, rousing him from his sleep. At first, he thought she was standing over him calling his name, but her voice sounded muffled.

He opened his eyes and tried to sit up only to realize that he was being held in place by Gemma’s huge arms. It wasn’t the worst place to be in the world as his head was nestled rather comfortably between Gemma’s huge breasts which explained why Amy’s voice hadn’t been clear.

She wasn’t there, though, meaning he had either dreamed it or she was trying to talk to him using the intercom system. Then again she could be standing right next to Gemma and he’d never be able to see her due to the massive breasts blocking most of his vision.

A few moments later, as he heard her muffled voice again, he realized it was the latter.

“Gemma!” he shouted loudly as he tried to squirm free of her grip. “Wake up, I think something’s wrong!”

Her response was to squeeze him tighter, but thankfully not uncomfortably so.

Drew, where are you?” Amy’s voice echoed. “You need to get up to the office now!”

“Gemma!” he yelled out. “Something’s wrong, Gem! Let me go!”

He squirmed some more and managed to get an arm free. As he tried to pull himself out of her grip, he unintentionally placed her hand on her breast and he felt her large hard nipple poke his palm.

“Hmmmmnn,” Gemma hummed quietly.

“Gem!” Drew shouted again. “Something’s wrong!”

“What’s that?” Gemma asked sleepily. “What’s up?”

Amy’s voice echoed over the intercom again. Drew, they can’t get close because of the turrets and you’re the only one that can disable them!”

Gemma’s grip on him eased and he wasted no time sliding down her chest, out of her grip and landed on her tail between her legs.

“Sorry,” he said as he quickly climbed off.

“What’s happening?” Gemma asked as she rolled onto her side.

“I don’t know,” Drew answered as he glanced back at her. “Something’s wrong.”

He hurried out of the basement and made his way up to the manager’s office where he found Amy and Veronica. Amy was behind the desk while Veronica was standing on the near side. Neither of them looked particularly happy.

Veronica scowled. “There you are,” she said angrily.

Amy peered over the computer “Where the fuck were you? How do we turn off the fucking turrets?”

“What’s going on?” he asked as he rushed over to the desk.

Amy gestured out of the window and he went to look. To his surprise and fear, he saw Lotte along with Kiki and the others standing by the main gates. His heart rate immediately jumped, especially when he noticed they looked injured.

“Did our turrets do that?” he asked.

“No, they were attacked,” Veronica answered.

“Who was attacked?” Gemma’s voice asked from behind.

They looked behind to see her step into the room.

“Your friends,” Drew told her as he stepped behind the terminal and quickly disabled the turrets.

He looked up at Gemma. “Tell them the turrets are off. They’re at the main gate. They should be able to approach now. Also, tell them to go around back. I’ll open the dispatch warehouse door and they should be able to get in that way. It might be a squeeze for Lotte, though.”

“I’ll join you,” Veronica said as she followed Gemma out the door, their feet thumping along the concrete. With her gone, Amy scowled at him as she rested her hands on her hips. She didn’t look happy.

“I can explain,” he said. “I was down in the basement with Gem.”

Her look of anger turned to one of confusion. “I sent Jack down there. He told me he didn’t see you.”

“Maybe he didn’t,” Drew said with a shrug as he looked back out of the window.

He saw Gemma run across the parking lot with Veronica past the old armored tank towards the gates. Lotte ducked down and the two spoke before the group began their approach.

“I’ll head down and open the dispatch warehouse door,” he said.

“I’ll come with you.”

They both left the office and made their way down the stairs to the warehouse where he made his way quickly to the shutter control. He slammed his hand down on the button and the door slid open with a shower of sparks and an ear-piercing screech.

“Oh, shit!” he heard Amy utter from the far side of the warehouse as a large shadow moved in front of the door.

Drew gulped as he moved away, keeping his gaze on the open door as Lotte moved into view. The warehouse door itself was maybe sixteen or seventeen feet in height, meaning that they saw her from her belly downwards.

Drew stepped beside Amy on the far side of the warehouse by the interior doors and watched as Lotte got down onto her hands and knees, the ground quaking under the pressure. She peered inside, her eyes locking onto them.

“Nice of you to drop by,” Drew said loudly, thankful that his voice didn’t betray his fear.

She crawled inside, the others following behind. Then, without saying a word, or even asking permission, she grabbed one of the racks along the walls and ripped them out of the ground, causing highly stacked boxes of pre-assembled robots to come crashing down to the ground. She then shoved it towards Kiki who was still standing outside.

“Dispose of this.”

“Uh, sure,” Kiki said, taking the large rack from her.

Lotte was far from done. She grabbed the rack nearest and an Assaultron tumbled free and fell nearly twenty feet, striking the ground only a few feet in front of them.

Amy let out a cry of shock as the two retreated through the doors and into the hallway.

“She’s smashing the place up,” Amy said unnecessarily.

“Yeah, I can tell,” Drew grumbled. “I was hoping to grab those robots eventually once I had fixed the crane.”

“What’s that noise?”

The both of them looked around to see Jack approaching with Sarah and Suzy, the Nanny robot.

“Charlotte is making herself at home,” Drew answered.

“So they’re all here?” Sarah asked, looking genuinely terrified. “Jack said something about them showing up.”

“Yeah, it looks that way.”

Amy chimed in. “They were apparently attacked. I don’t know much of the details.”

“Which means,” Drew began with a sigh, “that this isn’t a fleeting visit.”

Sarah looked stricken. “Back to sleepless nights, then.”

More crashes echoed from the warehouse making Drew wince and Sarah whimper in fright. He hoped that Charlotte wasn’t going to completely wreck the warehouse, but he knew that no amount of hoping would change the reality.

Thankfully, the sounds of crashing and smashing eventually stopped. As Drew took a step towards the double doors that led into the warehouse he heard Charlotte’s voice boom. “I wish to speak with all the humans that are staying here!”

The voice was so loud that it made the walls and floor rumble. Sarah hid behind Suzy, gripping onto her white shell tightly.

“I guess that’s our cue,” Drew muttered.

He could already tell that this wasn’t going to go well. Charlotte undoubtedly believed that the old Robco plant was now hers and he anticipated her telling him and the others to; and in no uncertain terms, to ‘fuck off’ as the old saying went.

“Come on, then,” Drew said as he rested his hands on the doors. “Let’s get this over with.”

“Do we have to?” Sarah asked. “Maybe I should head back to the nurse’s office?”

Drew shook his head. “I think it’s best we get this whole thing done with. She’s asked for all of us and unless you want to piss her off, you have to go into the warehouse with us.”

“Shit!” she uttered as she gripped Suzy’s shell even harder.

He pushed the doors open and heard a whimper from Sarah before he heard Jack utter. “Oh, shit, they’re huge. They didn’t look that big from the gate.”

Drew stepped inside the warehouse, followed by Amy. Jack was more reticent and Sarah allowed Suzy to guide her inside while she continued to hide behind her.

Charlotte’s gaze was on Drew and she didn’t look very happy. All he knew was that they had been attacked but he didn’t know by whom, at least not yet. He was certain that she was going to tell them.

Not a second later, she did. “We were attacked by people in power armor. They had missile launchers, laser and plasma weapons, and mini-nukes. I want to know how they knew we were there?”

Drew glanced at the others before responding. “How or why would I know that?”

Gemma came to his defense immediately. “He wouldn’t do that.”

Veronica then added, “None of them would.”

Charlotte looked at the two of them. “Are you sure about that?”

“Yes,” Gemma said firmly. “We are.”

Sekka added her voice. “I agree.”

“So do I,” Kiki said.

“Same,” Axa agreed.

Charlotte’s gaze fell onto Suzy and Sarah. “Who is that hiding behind the robot!? I want to see your face.”

Drew stepped over to Sarah and rested his hands on her trembling shoulders. “It’s okay, Sarah. We won’t let anything happen to you.”

Slowly, Drew helped her step out from behind Suzy, where she promptly stared at the floor.

“Look up, I want to see your face.”

Sarah turned her face upwards but didn’t make eye contact.

“You are the only one I don’t recognize,” Charlotte said.

Sekka answered. “She’s the doctor we told you about.

“I don’t know her. She could be the one that told.”

“No,” Veronica said firmly. “Sarah wouldn’t do that. She has a kind soul.”

“We’ve dealt with kind souls before,” Charlotte said. “They turned out not to be as kind as they pretended to be. She could have talked.”

“She hasn’t had the chance even if she wanted to talk,” Drew said. “No one here is to blame.”

Charlotte rested her hand on her stomach. “You know, all these lies are making me feel a little peckish.”

Kiki stepped in front of her, the ground quaking under her heavy footfalls. “You are not eating anyone!” she shouted.

Sarah began to shake so much that Drew thought she was going to collapse.

Charlotte glared down at them past Kiki. “All they have to do is tell me the truth, then I won’t have to.”

Drew found himself growing angry. He stepped in front of Sarah, shielding her as he confronted her. “The only one here who knows where that facility you lived at was me!”

“So, you want me to eat you, then?”

Drew pushed down the rising fear in his gut. Memories of her holding him above her gaping maw filled his head. He looked down at the ground, averting his gaze.

“Scared little man?” she mocked.

“Leave him alone!” Gemma shouted as she moved over, placing herself between him and Charlotte. “If you must know, I have an idea of who it might be. Drew found out a few days ago.”

“You have my ear,” Charlotte said.

“You mentioned people in power armor,” Gemma said. “Well, some matching that description were spotted on the southern east-west highway. A caravan went missing down there and they had robots that the caravan was using with them.”

Plucking up some courage, Drew stepped beside Gemma. “There are three groups that have been known to use power armor, though not all three use the same power armor.”

“Explain,” Charlotte said.

“What color was their armor?”

“Metal gray.”

“Which means it probably wasn’t the Enclave. Their armor was rumored to be black. That leaves Brotherhood of Steel and NCR, though NCR power armor is heavily modified and they usually just use bits and pieces to cobble together something of their own.”

One of the other Greenclaws which Drew didn’t know the name of spoke up. “They had gears on their armor and a sword. A sort of emblem painted onto their armor.”

“That sounds like Brotherhood,” Drew said, not liking the implications. “If they’re up here then that’s bad news. This region has been cut off from the wastes in its own little bubble. It looks like that is about to end.”

Charlotte slowly shook her head. She didn’t appear convinced. “Am I supposed to believe that he has nothing to do with it? Not a week later after we show him our home a small army shows up and he’s somehow not involved? I do not like coincidences.”

Gemma stood firm. “He’s not lying. He wouldn’t lie to me and he wouldn’t put my life at risk.”

“It wasn’t your life at risk, though, was it?” Charlotte asked, peering down at them from up high. “He sent them after us!”

“I didn’t send them anywhere!” Drew shouted. “And if you thought I had, then why come here? Why not go elsewhere? Why even have this conversation in the first place?”

“Then explain how they knew where we were?”

“I don’t know,” Drew said, looking down at the floor. “But if they’re Brotherhood, then it’s possible they knew the place existed. It’s also possible they sent out a scout.”

The large Greenclaw Drew still didn’t know the name of nodded eagerly. “Bek did kill a man the other day who was snooping around. He had a radio on him.”

Drew nodded to himself. She had probably killed a scout.. “No matter what you think, Charlotte,” he said, looking up at her, “it’s clear that we have to prepare. First of all, what happened to those that attacked you?”

It was Kiki who answered. “We killed most of them. But we were forced to flee.”

“So they’ve taken the facility?”

Axa shook her head. “Unlikely. They mini-nuked the fuck out of it. The place was half collapsed when we left.”

Drew rubbed his chin in thought. “Which means their primary goal was to kill all of you.”

“They managed to kill some of us,” Kiki said sadly.

“Varan and Darla gave their lives bravely,” Charlotte said sounding almost proud.

It was clear to Drew that his slacking was going to bite them in the ass. He shouldn’t have made the excursions to the hospital or lazed around as he had been doing. Instead, he should have been working on bringing the factory back online.

He took in a deep breath. “We have to prepare,” he said. “There’s no doubt in my mind that they will eventually show up here and when we do we need to be ready.” He looked back up at Charlotte. “Were you followed?”

“No, we were not,” Charlotte answered.

Despite her apparent certainty, Drew decided it was best to err on the side of caution. If they saw the Greenclaws head in the direction of the factory, then there was absolutely zero doubt in his mind that they would send a scouting party to investigate and it would happen sooner rather than later. When it did, it was likely they would be non-the-wiser and an army could be descending down on them before they knew it.

Drew ran his hand through his hair. “Things have become extremely complicated very, very quickly.”

Gemma agreed. “Yes, they have.”

“The question,” Sekka spoke, “is what do we do? We can’t hide here forever.”

“No,” Drew said loudly. “We need to find out where they are hiding out. We need to build an army of robots and we strike first.”

Charlotte frowned down at him. She didn’t look impressed. “And how do you suppose we find out where their base is?”

“I could go into town and ask around. Jarik already knows about them so I might ask him if he has any more insight.”

“No,” Charlotte said. “I do not trust that you won’t tell someone we’re here. For all we know, you’re the one that sent that army after us in the first place.”

“You know I wasn’t,” Drew said, unable to believe the accusation. “We need to do something. Those power-armored goons haven’t just attacked you. They’ve attacked a caravan as well. Possibly more.”

“If you are speaking the truth.”

“He is,” Veronica said, backing him up.

Charlotte wasn’t impressed. “Oh, so you were there when he was informed of this?”

“I don’t need to have been there to trust him, Lotte. You shouldn’t either. This is Drew we’re talking about.”

Charlotte visibly clenched her jaw before she looked away, something which took the others by surprise. It seemed that she was actually relenting on something, or at the very least admitting to herself that he wasn’t the type to betray his friends.

Kiki then spoke up. “Actually, we might know where they’re coming from.”

All eyes fell on her and Charlotte’s gaze was intense.

Kiki explained. “We know of an old military base down south. It was marked on a map, remember?”

Axa spoke up. “I do. The map is probably gone now, obliterated with most of our home.”

“It’s also not guaranteed they’re there,” Sekka said.

Drew disagreed. “Oh, they’ll be there. They didn’t lug all that firepower across the country. The military base is the type of place they like to occupy. That also means that they are well-equipped and have likely sent scouting parties all over. One might have even been here.”

Charlotte peered down her snout at him. “If they try anything, then we’ll be ready.”

Kiki wasn’t so sure. “That didn’t go well back at the facility. The place was almost flattened and we’re all suffering from burns from missiles, laser fire, and even more burns from being too close to a mini nuke blast.”

Charlotte growled with displeasure. “I am getting tired of you constantly testing my authority. I am in charge here.”

Drew raised a finger. “Actually, you’re not. You are a guest here.”

Charlotte’s head snapped to him as another growl escaped her throat. He took a few steps back in fear before he was able to compose himself.

“This place belongs to me now,” Charlotte said firmly. “I am the one that will make the decisions around here. You humans are lucky that I’m allowing you to stay!”

Kiki shook her head. “No, you’re not in charge here. Drew is, and I trust him to make the right decisions.”

“I don’t care what you think, Kiki. I am the matriarch. You follow me or you can leave!”

Drew had long since grown tired of Charlotte’s power trip, though there wasn’t much he could really do about it. Not when she could crush him to death with a single slap of her hand or poke of her clawed finger.

Kiki, on the other hand, was more than happy to keep on challenging her. “We’re family,” she told Charlotte. “This includes Drew, Amy, and Jack…”

“And Sarah,” Veronica interrupted.

“…And her,” Kiki accepted. “We might no longer be humans, but that doesn’t mean we have to distrust our friends just because they still are.”

Drew latched on to what she was saying. “You are all from Paulson,” he said loudly. “We lived together in a tight-knit community for years. Charlotte, you were the newcomer, hell, most in Paulson saw me, Jack, Amy, and Gemma as newcomers too, even after we’d been there for five years. It didn’t matter how new you were, though, as you were a valued member of the community.”

Charlotte’s gaze on him was harsh. He half expected her to either squash him flat or pick him up and eat him whole. Thankfully, she did neither.

Drew continued, despite not at all feeling safe. “We mourned you all. What happened broke us, made us feel worthless. We made our way to Colville to try and reconnect, but even there none of us were really happy. I saw bringing this plant online as a challenge, as a means to take my mind off how I have lost nearly everyone I have ever cared about.”

Drew looked at Amy and Jack. “That’s the reason I didn’t want you going out there with me on scavenger hunts. It was because I feared something would happen to you.”

He focused back on Charlotte. “I’m not gonna let anything like that happen again. Not while there’s something I can do about it. This place is almost operational, we just need a few more days, maybe less and we’ll be able to start producing Sentry bots. There’s also a few more turrets that need to be repaired and brought back online. When they find us here, I will do my very best to ensure that all of you remain safe. That is my promise.”

Axa stepped over to him and turned to face Charlotte. “I trust him.”

Sekka was the next to show her support. “I agree. Drew, Jack, Amy, they are our friends.”

“Yeah, they are,” Veronica agreed.

Gemma was the last one to speak. “And you know where Kiki and I stand.”

Charlotte growled. “Fine, I will trust you. For now. But if you betray us, then you will find a place in my stomach.”

Something in Drew broke. “Would you stop threatening people with that!” he shouted.

He didn’t know if it was the deep-seated fear from being held above her gaping maw a week earlier, but his fight and flight response had been triggered and he had decided to fight.

“You have to stop eating people. If you eat a single person while here, then you’re out!”

The Greenclaw that was Charlotte’s right-hand spoke. “You cannot do that! She is the matriarch. She decides where she can and cannot stay and who she can and cannot eat!”

Drew didn’t respond. Instead, he turned and left, followed closely by Sarah and Suzy then by Jack, Amy, and finally Gemma.

As the doors closed behind them, he heard Gemma speak. “You know he’s right, Lotte,” she said. “We’re in this together.”

Drew hoped that Charlotte could see that. Unlike the others, it seemed that the thirty-foot Greenclaw enjoyed being a monster and he feared that sooner or later she was going to have to be dealt with.

Thankfully, he had plenty on his side. There was the one called Bek, the one he didn’t know the name of, one that had yet to show her allegiance; which he assumed was the one the others called Glower, and there was the other one that had glared through the whole encounter, and then there was Charlotte herself. That meant it was five claws potentially against five and with Charlotte’s size that meant the opposing team had the edge. At least until he built his robots.

Still, he hoped that he could appeal to what humanity she had left. He didn’t want to have to destroy her, but at the moment he felt that Charlotte might not give him any other option.

He hoped he was wrong. At that moment, though, it didn’t matter. He had to get to work. He had to bring the old Robco plant back online.

There was no other choice.

Chapter 27 - First Steps in Building an Army by Saturn Knight

Amy and Sarah stood in front of Drew in the manager’s office. Gemma was sat in the corner, listening in as the two passed on what they had heard from town.

“Some scavengers saw a group at the old military base,” Amy said. “They had power armor, Gutsy’s, and a working truck.”

Drew nodded. “Just like we thought,” he said with a long sigh. “That place was heavily fortified, which is why none of the scavengers wanted to touch the place. Too many turrets and too many robots.”

“What do we do?” Sarah asked. “Do you really think we can fight them?”

“I’m gonna give it a shot,” he said, “Good work, both of you.

“Thanks,” Amy said.

As the two stepped out of the office, Gemma stepped over to his desk, though she had to stoop due to the low ceiling. “If Lotte finds out they left the factory yesterday afternoon and didn’t get back until this morning, there will be trouble.”

“Lotte can go fuck herself,” Drew said firmly. “For all we know, it was her actions that drew them to you in the first place. Stories of Greenclaws were already being passed around.”

“We didn’t kill if we didn’t have to,” Gemma said, seemingly out of nowhere. “We scared them away.”

Drew stared at her for a moment. “You might have scared them away, Gem, but those people remembered.”

“So you agree with Lotte then?”

He frowned. The conversation felt like it was quickly going off the rails. “How do you mean?”

“Lotte wanted us to kill people if they saw us, but we convinced her that scaring people away was better. It looks like she might have been right. There wouldn’t have been any stories of us being passed around if there was no one left alive to spread them.”

Drew took in a deep breath. Her initially seemingly divergent conversation suddenly made sense. “It wasn’t the correct course of action if you wanted to keep hidden, but it was the right thing to do.”

“We thought so, too,” Gemma agreed. “Though that means it was us that drew their attention.”

“Maybe,” Drew said, feeling uncertain. “Still, it was the better of the two options.”

“We know.”

He stood up. “Enough of all that. It’s time we got to work. Where are Veronica and the others?”

“In the cafeteria, I think,” Gemma answered. “If you’re talking about us Greenclaws then most are in the big warehouse.”

“Can you bring her and anyone else that wants to help to the factory floor? I want to do some final checks on the Sentry bot line before we do a test run. Then we can start bringing another of the production lines back online.”

“Sure thing.”

Gemma left the office, her feet thumping across the concrete floor with every step, it only stopping when she paused to crawl through the doors and out into the hallway beyond.

Drew leaned back in his chair as he spun around and stared out of the large segmented windows. He was mentally preparing himself for the hard day ahead of him. By the time he went to bed tonight, he hoped to have had at least some Sentries built, though he also knew that he had to anticipate a plethora of things going wrong.

“Just stop overthinking it,” he muttered to himself as he stood up out of the chair. It was thoughts like those that had stopped him from fully committing. If he’d decided to put the work in and stop procrastinating, he’d have had one or more lines active by now and he would have been in a far better position.

With renewed determination, Drew headed out of the office and made his way downstairs, though unfortunately, the walk from the manager’s office to the factory floor was far from uneventful.

As he left the stairwell, he bumped into the smallest of the Greenclaws who appeared to be waiting for someone. Her unexpected presence gave him a small fright, which she seemed to relish.

“Bek, isn’t it?” he asked.

She appeared surprised. “You remembered?”

“Of course.”

Her look of surprise faded into a menacing frown. “You know, it’s pretty dangerous to be walking around unattended when there are dangerous predators lurking the halls.”

Drew stared at her for a moment. He wasn’t sure whether it was a threat, a warning, or both. Something about her was familiar, though. There was an air of arrogance and the name ‘Bek’ gave him a hint.

“I’m guessing you were Rebecca.”

She wasn’t impressed. “My name is Bek,” she said as she raised up her claws and began to grind them against each other as though she was sharpening them.

Clearly, it had been meant as a threat. Her whole demeanor was threatening, and considering he believed it was Rebecca, it didn’t surprise him. She had been the daughter of the town leader back and Paulson and had been a spoiled brat. She was and had been the cause of a lot of unnecessary conflict and mainly because she had wanted more than her fair slice. She had even started using her position as the leader’s daughter to try and coerce people, promising retribution and punishment if they didn’t do what she wanted. At one point she had accused Jack of sexual harassment. Thankfully, Grace and a few others had been a witness to her threats and it hadn’t flown.

Now that Rebecca was a Greenclaw, she no doubt felt a power she had never felt before, especially considering that she could eviscerate him with her claws without even trying.

Thankfully, she didn’t act on her threats and simply walked away, but not before shoving him aside into the wall.

It was a show of power. She was telling him how much stronger than him she was, and how she felt that he was beneath her. He knew that he would have to keep an eye on her, for no other reason than to ensure the safety of the other humans here. Not that he could do much against her, but Gemma, Veronica, Kiki, Sekka, and Axa certainly could.

Shaking off the unpleasant encounter, he continued on to the factory floor where he found Veronica sitting next to another Greenclaw, one he hadn’t talked to yet.

They both looked over at him and Veronica gestured to her friend. “Have you met Glower, yet?”

He shook his head. “No, I haven’t. It’s nice to meet you.”

Glower didn’t respond, though from what he could remember from what he was told, she apparently didn’t speak.

Veronica confirmed it a moment later. “She doesn’t talk.”

“It’s still very nice to meet you, Glower.”

Veronica stood up. “So, what’s the plan?”

“The plan is to get the Sentry line up and running.”

“Looks like it’s nearly there already.”

“One can hope,” Drew said as he headed over to the line in question.

He grabbed his toolbox from the locker and walked along the length, checking every bolt while also making sure the conveyor belt was properly aligned. It looked good for the most part, and it was certainly a lot better than when he had found it. Still, he had to tighten a few bolts and required Veronica’s help to realign parts of the belt. With that done, he grabbed a current tester and began checking the wiring.

Finally finished, he walked over to the panel on the far wall and hit the button. He listened as the soft hum of flowing electricity emanated from the Sentry line.

Drew looked over at Veronica. “I’ll start a test run. No building anything yet. I just want to make sure all the parts are moving.”

“Okay,” Veronica said. “Do you want me to do anything?”

He pointed over to a big red button on the wall. “You have your hand on that emergency button ready to shut the whole thing down if something goes wrong.”

Veronica walked over to the button and stood next to it before she nodded. “Ready.”

Drew looked at the board. “Got a few red lights on the Sentry line, but nothing serious.”

“It’s up to you,” Veronica said.

He made his way over to a terminal. “Okay, I’ve selected test settings, and I’m going to go through a single sequence. This will either go well or badly.”

“How do you think it’s going to go?”

“My bet is that it has no issues. The warnings are mostly maintenance-related such as it wants the conveyor belt to be replaced, which ain’t gonna happen.”

“What if things go badly?”

“Well, that could set us back a few weeks or months depending on how badly things go,” Drew answered. “Now, let’s not dwell on what-ifs and do the test. I will start it up in 3… 2… 1…”

There was an initial judder before everything sprung into life, followed by a loud hum. The three of them watched as it ran through the test sequence. All the parts grunted and clanked, but thankfully nothing broke or seemed like it was going to break.

As the test sequence completed and the line powered down, Drew clapped his hands together happily. “It might actually work.”

“Appears that way,” Veronica agreed.

“The next step is to do one full sequence and have it build a single Sentry bot.” He quickly checked the log. “There were a few red marks on the test sequence but it’s all to do with needing to replace components, which we can’t do. They only need to last long enough for us to get through all the Sentry components we have in stock.”

His gaze snapped over to the double doors as they opened. Jack stepped inside followed by Sekka and finally Gemma.

“You’re just in time,” he said, rubbing his hands together. “We’re gonna construct a Sentry. Thankfully, munitions aren’t part of the manufacturing process so we don’t have to worry about that part going wrong and blowing us all up.”

“Wait,” Veronica said. “We don’t have munitions?”

“We do have some in the stock warehouse but like I said, they aren’t part of the construction process. At least not in this particular factory.”

He flexed his fingers before he went through all the settings, making sure everything was set up correctly. The last thing he wanted was to get this far only to mess things up due to an unchecked box.

“Everything looks okay,” he said.

“So we’re ready?” Jack asked.

“I think so. If this works, then I want to fix up the Assaultron line next. I checked over it last night and it seems to be in good shape. It just needs lubrication and a few bolts tightening and a few other things adjusting and it also needs cleaning and the conveyors checking over.”

“Not much then,” Gemma commented.

“We could have that production line up and running by the end of the week.”

“What about the Gutsy line?” Veronica asked. “I noted that we have far more parts for those than anything else.”

“Correct, but unfortunately there’s a snag. For that to work, we need a direct connection with General Atomics. It’s part of their licensing agreement. Unfortunately, the link is down and there’s no way to re-establish it. I was looking at it last night. We don’t have all the manufacture data available, so we might have to build the Gutsy’s by hand.”

“That sounds bad,” Sekka said.

“It is,” Drew confirmed. “Anyway, I want to move the Sentry components into their slots ready for manufacture.”

Jack stepped forward. “I’ll help.”

“We all will,” Veronica said. “Gemma and I will deal with the heavier stuff.”

The five of them headed into the stock warehouse where they gathered the necessary components. It took a few trips, but eventually they had all the parts in their respective places ready to begin.

“Okay,” Drew said as he stepped behind the terminal. “According to the system, all components are in place. All we need to do is start the process.” He looked up at the others, then to Veronica who was once more standing next to the kill switch. “Kinda glad that most of it is automated.”

Drew looked through all the warnings, making sure there wasn’t anything critical. It was the same warnings as before which he wasn’t too concerned about. He just had to make sure no one was near the line while in operation and that someone had their finger on the emergency stop button, which there was.

He cracked his knuckles. “Veronica, are you ready to do a second test run and build ourselves a Sentry robot?”

“Let’s do it,” she said.

He did a quick check of the settings, and decided to put the speed from ‘high’ to ‘lowest’. He didn’t need it built quickly, and the slower it went, the less wear and tear there would be. There was also less chance of something going wrong, or if it did, it wouldn’t tear the whole line to pieces.

Satisfied that everything was finally ready, he input the command and they all watched and listened as the line hummed back into life and began its operation.

The group watched as the machine slowly constructed a single Sentry bot. As the pieces were moved into place, robotic arms would come out to either weld or rivet them into place, all while it moved along the conveyor. Separate parts were built separately, before they were all grabbed by large arms and moved into position, constructing the final form of the Sentry bot at the end of the line. Then, with the robot constructed, a tiny little arm plugged itself into the processor and began to input its basic programming before it closed the access panel, finishing the construction.

“Is that it?” Gemma asked. “It seems way too easy.”

Drew glanced at her. “What? Worried it’s gonna fall to pieces?”

“Kinda, yeah.”

“Well, it’s not done yet. I want to run a diagnostic on its programming to make sure it’s good, then we have to make sure it’s put together properly, and if it is we still have to activate and test its weapon systems.”

He stepped from behind the terminal and made his way over to the Sentry bot and opened the rear panel. He plugged in his Pipboy and began to run a diagnostic. It came out clean with no errors. He then made sure to enable himself as the main owner/operator.

Still, he had to use chicken wire or something similar to cover the parts that were vulnerable to EMP’s to give them extra protection. While not foolproof, it would give some extra protections. Unfortunately, that would have to wait until later.

With the programming passing the test, he began to tug and pull on various parts and components to make sure they were firm and secure.

“Looks to be all good,” he said.

Veronica moved away from the emergency stop button and made her way over to him. “I guess the next step is armaments testing, right?”

“I suppose that would be a good idea,” he agreed.

“Where do you plan on doing it?”

“Outside in the parking lot will be adequate. For now, though, I feel like cracking open an old Gwinnet Stout.”

“Sounds like fun,” Veronica said.

Jack scratched the back of his head. “Can you Greenclaws even drink alcohol anymore?”

“I honestly don’t know.”

Gemma walked over. “There is one way to find out.”

“You mean have a drink?”

“Sure,” she said. “Been a while since I had a good drink.”

“I don’t think you should risk it,” Drew said. “Perhaps it’s time you paid Sarah a visit. She could run some tests, find out what you can eat and drink.”

“That does sound like a good idea,” Gemma said.

“It is a good idea,” Veronica agreed. “Been having this pain in my left knee. Annoys the heck out of me.”

“Should we all go?” Sekka asked. “Maybe we should go one by one and not together. Sarah is still afraid of us and all three of us going down might spook her.”

“Agreed,” Drew said, looking at Veronica. “Since you have a dodgy knee, you wanna go first?”

“Sure.”

Drew looked over at Gemma. “I’ll see you this afternoon, then.”

“I’ll be with Kiki,” she said.

He looked to Jack and Sekka who were standing side by side and smiled. It was nice to see how easy the two were with each other. “I’ll see you two later as well.”

“See you this afternoon,” Jack said.

They all stepped off of the factory floor and then parted ways, with Gemma heading to the dispatch warehouse, Jack and Sekka heading to wherever it was they were going, and Drew and Veronica making their way to the nurse’s office.

Drew felt a modicum of worry and fear as he saw Bek leaving the nurse’s office. She looked over at him, then at Veronica before she stomped off.

Veronica was confused. “What was that about?”

“Let’s go find out,” Drew said as he began to hurry.

As he pushed the door open, Sarah’s head snapped over to him, fear in her eyes. It was clear that Bek hadn’t been there to make friends.

He stepped inside. “Everything okay?” he asked.

Sarah looked away. “Everything is fine.”

She jumped again as Veronica peeked her head inside.

“It doesn’t look like everything’s fine,” Drew said.

Veronica ducked under the door and squeezed inside. “Bek isn’t giving you trouble is she?”

“No, no.”

“Tell us if she is,” Veronica said. “I’ll give her a good slap and put her in her place. No one messes with my friends.”

Sarah clenched her jaw as she looked down at the floor.

“What did she say?” Drew asked softly.

The doctor cleared her throat before speaking. “I sent Suzy out to go fetch some of that cleaning fluid so I could sterilize a few surfaces. That’s when she came in. She threatened me. Told me how easy it would be to kill me and how no one would ever know.”

Veronica sat down on the floor. “Maybe I should stay here with you for the time being. At least until Lotte and the rest find somewhere else to live.”

Drew shook his head. “I don’t see that happening for a while.”

Sarah sat down on a chair. “So, why are you um… here?”

Drew answered. “We thought that it would be a good idea for you to give one of the Greenclaws a once-over. Get to know a little about their bodies. We want to know what they can eat and drink, any health issues, that kind of thing.”

“I can do a basic checkup, though I don’t know how much good it will do. For more than that, I honestly need more equipment.”

“From the hospital, I assume?” Drew guessed.

“That’s not a problem, is it?”

“Not really. Though with those Brotherhood types wandering around it might be more dangerous than normal.”

“I could take her,” Veronica offered. “Just like last time.”

Drew noticed a small smile creep onto Sarah’s lips. “Yeah, that might be fun.”

Veronica looked at Drew. “When is a good time to go?”

“Tomorrow,” Drew told them. “The sooner the better. I should also ask Jack about making some armor for you and the others. I don’t expect him to be able to do it alone, so he’ll need some assistance. That’s something to think about for later, though.”

“We could all definitely do with some extra protection,” Veronica agreed.

“He used to love making clothes and armor and stuff,” Drew mused. “He saw it as a challenge. Hasn’t really touched it since Paulson.”

“Here’s his chance to get back into it,” Veronica said before cupping her bountiful chest. “Would be nice to finally be able to put these things away. You all keep staring at them and it’s irritating.”

“Sorry,” Drew said before steering the conversation back to the hospital. “I suggest that you head off early tomorrow and I’ll have some Gutsies go with you. Maybe even the Sentry bot we just built. I also want you to take at least one other Greenclaw with you, someone we can trust.”

“I might take Sekka,” Veronica suggested. “She’s big and friendly.”

“Perfect. Just make sure no one follows you.”

“Understood.”

Drew turned on his heels. “I’m going to go over the rest of the production lines. See what needs to be done.”

“Want company?” Veronica asked.

He glanced back. “You stay here with Sarah.”

“I can do that.”

“If Bek comes back, tell me.”

“If she comes back, then she’ll have a few new scars,” Veronica promised.

Drew nodded before he left.

He had been anticipating problems when Charlotte and the others had appeared on their doorstep. It was an issue he didn’t want to have to deal with but knew it was likely he would have to at some point.

He just hoped that it didn’t interfere with his work. All of their lives depended on him getting all the lines up and running and nothing, even a spoiled brat like Rebecca, could stand in the way of that.

Chapter 28 - F.E.V. Wipeout by Saturn Knight

Charlotte had called to meet with Drew and he was feeling nervous. He was assuming that it had something to do with Veronica, Sekka, Sarah, Suzy, and two Gutsy’s heading out to the hospital up north. They hadn’t got the ‘matriarch’s’ permission, and he figured it bruised her ego to know she wasn’t as in charge as she liked to believe.

He was walking with Bek, the one that had been sent to fetch him. Thus far she hadn’t made any threatening comments, though she had tried to make herself look bigger than she was. It wasn’t really necessary, she could easily eviscerate him without the posturing.

Her attempts to make herself look bigger only looked even more futile a few minutes later as he stepped into the dispatch warehouse. Most of the other Greenclaws were there, including the gigantic Kiki and even more gigantic Charlotte.

The self-proclaimed matriarch of the group looked down at him. “Punctual. I like that.”

She didn’t seem irritated, annoyed, or angry, so he assumed he wasn’t in trouble. Then again she could be looking forward to threatening to eat him yet again. She did seem to rather enjoy that.

“What did you want to see me about?” he asked. “I did plan on working on fixing up another production line today.”

“That will have to wait,” Charlotte said. “There is something else that needs your attention.”

“And that is?”

“Shut up and I will explain,” she said. “The F.E.V. that mutated us. It is still there at that facility. I need you to destroy it so no one else can use it.”

Out of everything he had expected her to say, wanting him to destroy the F.E.V. was not one of them.

Though, there was of course a problem. “I don’t have the tools to do that,” he said.

“Then make the tools,” Charlotte said sternly.

Drew thought for a moment. “Well, there are some explosive munitions in the other warehouse so I suppose I could use those to bring the building down. Then I can only hope that the rain dilutes the stuff without mutating the wildlife around it too much.”

“Good,” Charlotte said. “Nekka said that she found some detonators in the basement while she was wandering around. She says she stashed them in her room.”

“I could work with that,” Drew said as he started to think. “I could also load up the Sentry bot with some missiles just to be certain.”

“Very good. Take Gemma, Kiki, and Glower with you.”

“Sure thing. I’ll go take a look at those detonators Veronica found and see if I can slap something together.”

“I want you on your way today, so whatever you do, do it quickly.”

“I’ll start now,” Drew said as he turned to leave.

“One more thing,” Charlotte called out. He paused and glanced back.

“I know you and some of the others have been making plans behind my back. Sending them out on errands and missions without my permission. That stops.”

He didn’t respond as he left the dispatch warehouse and made his way down to the basement. The detonators were where Charlotte had said they were, in Veronica’s room, though she hadn’t really been using it much since she had been mostly sleeping on the roof.

With detonators in hand, he made his way to the main factory floor where he found Gemma stood talking to Jack and Amy.

“Good morning,” Jack said. “Gemma tells us that you’re heading out to their old place today?”

“Unfortunately,” Drew said as he held up the detonators. “Veronica found these and we’re gonna use them to bring the place down.”

“What about the mutagen stuff?” Amy asked.

“We don’t have the tools to destroy that outright. All we can hope is that the rain dilutes it enough to make it inert.”

“It sounds dangerous,” Gemma said. “What if it mutates insects, wildlife, or other stuff?”

“We either leave it as is, or we blow the building to hell. Charlotte’s right, we can’t leave it standing.”

“I guess we blow it up, then.”

“I’ll come, too,” Jack said.

“No. Charlotte wants me to go with Gemma, Kiki, and Glower only. I’ve already pissed her off by sending Sarah and the others up north to that hospital.”

“We’ll stay here, then,” Jack said. “Work on bringing this place fully back online.”

“Sure,” Drew accepted. “Firstly, though, we’re gonna grab those missiles from the stock warehouse and arm the Sentry. Time for it to go on a test run.”

“You taking it with you?” Amy asked.

“Yep.”

Gemma didn’t like the idea. “It’ll slow us down.”

“Not if Kiki carries it,” Drew said.

Jack chuckled. “That’d be funny to see. Never seen anything pick up and carry a Sentry bot before.”

“Funny but necessary,” Drew said as he started for the stock warehouse. “Come on, let’s get those missiles loaded. Charlotte said she wants us heading out today and I want to be back before tomorrow.”

The four of them walked over to the far side where they entered the smaller of the two warehouses. Drew made his way over to the back corner and peered inside the half-empty crate that held the missiles.

“Prime pre-war advances right here,” he said, lifting one out. “Not as powerful as they would have been when first manufactured, but the explosives in these things will last for centuries.”

Gemma stomped over. “Want me to carry the crate to the Sentry bot?”

Drew placed the missile back inside. “Sure. That would be easier.”

He took a few steps back and watched as Gemma gripped the crate and heaved it off the ground.

“Looks heavy,” he commented.

“It is heavy,” she answered. “I doubt you could even lift an eighth of this weight.”

“You’re right, I wouldn’t.”

Drew followed behind Gemma as she carried the crate back onto the factory floor and over to where they had left the Sentry bot. After placing it down carefully on the ground, Drew got to work arming the large military robot.

With that done, Drew activated it and took a few steps back as it seemed to grow taller as it extended its wheeled legs.

“Ready to accept orders!” it said in its deep synthetic voice.

“For now you are to enter non-combat mode,” Drew told it. “Only attack if we are attacked.”

“Understood. Combat parameters accepted. Entering passive mode.”

“Are we heading out?” Gemma asked.

“I think We’ll take a few Gutsy’s with us as well. Just in case those guys with power armor are hanging around.”

“Good idea,” Amy agreed.

“I’ll go grab the explosives, then find two of the Gutsy’s,” Drew said as he quickly made his way back into the stock warehouse and retrieved what he needed.

After handing the explosives over to Gemma to hold, he quickly made his way up to his office to grab his backpack and rifle before finding the two Gutsies on patrol.

With everything he needed, he returned back to Gemma, took the explosives, and placed them in the storage unit of the Sentry bot.

“I think that’s everything,” Drew said, before turning to Jack and Amy. “I want you two to find Axa and stick with her. Last I saw she was in the dispatch warehouse. Do something with her. Just stay away from Bek.”

“Got it,” Jack answered.

“We’ll walk there with you since we have to be there anyway to get Kiki and Glower. There’s a good chance we might not be back until late tonight so when Veronica and the others get back, tell them where we’ve gone.”

“Understood,” Amy acknowledged.

They made their way to the larger warehouse where Charlotte gazed down on them, a look of displeasure on her face.

“I told you that you will go with Gemma, Kiki, and Glower.”

“I know,” he said.

She pointed towards Amy and Jack. “They are not going.”

Drew realized the misunderstanding. “Oh, they’re not coming with us. They just needed Axa’s assistance with something.”

“What do they need her assistance with?”

Amy answered quickly. “Work still needs to be done with the factory lines.”

Charlotte thought for a moment, her jaw clenching. “Very well,” she relented. “Axa, go with them.”

Axa seemed more than happy as she, Jack, and Amy left the warehouse, heading back into the main building while Drew and Gemma made their way to the rear shutters, followed by the Sentry bot and the two Gutsy’s.

“Ready?” he asked, looking back at them.

“I am,” Kiki answered.

Gemma looked at Glower who was currently glowering. “Are you ready?”

She responded with a low growl of dissatisfaction. Drew didn’t know if it was because she didn’t want to go or because, as he discovered once he opened the shutter, that it was drizzling outside.

“Well, this is gonna be fun,” Gemma muttered sarcastically.

“Come-on,” Drew said with a wave of his hand. “Let’s get going.”

With them all outside, Drew closed the shutter before Gemma squatted down. “You want a ride?” she asked.

“Absolutely,” Drew said before he had powered down the Sentry bot and looked up at Kiki. “You think you could carry that, Keek?”

“Sure thing,” Kiki answered as she bent down and picked it up like it was nothing. Still, it looked rather large in her hands.

“Will you be okay carrying that?” Drew asked.

“It’s not as heavy as it looks,” Kiki answered.

“She’s strong,” Gemma told him. “I saw her pick up Lotte when she fell when we were fleeing those powered armored pricks. Heaved her up right off the floor. It was impressive considering the size difference.”

Drew stared back up at Kiki. Comparatively, she was two-thirds the size of Charlotte. It was like a ten-year-old picking up a full-grown man. For some reason, he found the thought of her incredible strength a turn-on.

He shook the errant thought out of his head. “Come on, let’s not waste any more time.

He walked over to Gemma and climbed up her back, dangling his legs around her neck and over her shoulders while gripping her horns like handlebars. Not ten seconds later they were off, the wind and the rain whipping at his face.

It didn’t drizzle for long, though that didn’t mean it stopped. Roughly ten minutes into their journey, it began to thunder down in a torrent before it stopped altogether, but not before they were all soaking wet.

Two hours into the journey, they were almost dry in no small part due to the wind and how fast they were moving through it.

At three hours they decided to take a break. Apart from a lone scavenger who had fled at the mere sight of them, they had seen no one. Drew sat with Kiki while Gemma and Glower went off to gather some food to eat.

“So,” Kiki began to speak after several minutes of silence, “Haven’t seen much of you since I got to your place.”

He glanced up at her, shaking off the fear he felt at her intimidating size. “Been busy.”

“Gemma talks about you every time we see each other. Unfortunately, we don’t get much privacy.”

“What about on food hunts?” he asked. “I know some of you have been going out on some.”

“I haven’t,” she said. “Too dangerous for someone as big as me to be out too much. Besides, I tend to scare everything away before I even see it.”

“What’s it like?” he asked.

“What’s what like?” she asked in return, wanting clarification.

“To be big?”

“Well, the world feels like it was made for small children. It also takes a really long time to piss.”

That statement took him by surprise. “How so?”

“Not everything scaled up with me,” she answered.

A wave of alarmed arousal flowed through him as he considered what she meant and the implications of it. He had noted that there was no obvious genitals around their groins and had wondered if they were hidden behind a fold of flesh, or if there was another reason? It still felt a little inappropriate to ask and he didn’t want to get caught staring too closely.

“So you’re… um. Small down there?” he asked before cringing. He couldn’t believe he’d asked that.

“Yeah, I am. I bet even you would feel massive inside me.”

The comment took Drew off guard and he found himself coughing. He heard her laugh which didn’t help matters. Being hit on by someone that was bigger than most wasteland houses was a bizarre experience.

Drew had to admit, though; the thought of bringing someone as massive as Kiki to climax was incredibly hot. He would feel like a god and he began to wonder if there was a way to get it to happen.

“So,” he began feeling nervous. “How long do you think the others will be?”

“Why?” Kiki asked.

“No reason,” he answered as he looked down at his feet.”

“Wanna see if you can fuck me?”

He coughed again, feeling his cheeks grow hot. He couldn’t believe she was being so brazen.

“I was joking,” she said, though there was something in her tone that suggested otherwise.

Still, Drew laughed awkwardly. “Yeah, I know. I was just wondering how long the others would be?”

“Not long. And besides, when we do it I want Gemma to be involved.”

“Really?” he asked feeling another wave of arousal flow through him.

“Sure.”

“But you said it was a joke.”

“That was a lie. I’ve wanted to fuck you ever since we lived in Paulson. I wanted to have a threesome with you and Gemma. I wanted it so badly. I still want it.”

Drew was starting to wish Glower hadn’t come along with them. He honestly felt that he’d have the chance to actually fuck them, but with Glower being present, it just wasn’t going to happen. Not without it being a little uncomfortable. Then again, he supposed it would be uncomfortable, regardless. It would certainly be weird fucking two large beasts, even if they were once human.

He realized that he needed to stop thinking in those terms. He was trying to justify his feelings and desires to himself by reminding himself of what they used to be. They weren’t what they used to be, they were something different. He knew that if he wanted to make any kind of relationship work with either or both of them, then he had to accept that they weren’t human and he had to let go of the images in his head of their old faces. Those faces were gone and they were never coming back.

“What are you thinking about?” Kiki asked.

“Us,” Drew answered. “How this is gonna work.”

“So you want to try?” Kiki asked hopefully.

“Yeah, I want to try.”

“That’s great news.”

“Gonna be a bit strange, though.”

“Oh, definitely. You’re like a little cat or something when compared to me.”

“Well, this ‘little cat’ is gonna make you cum.”

“Promise?”

“Definitely.”

“Like you did with Gemma? You know, back at Paulson when we were human.”

Drew frowned. “How do you mean?”

“Some of the noises that came from your place at night. Well, it sounded like you were giving Gemma the time of her life.”

“You were listening in?”

“How do you think I got myself off?”

Drew fell silent as he processed what she had just told him. He found the thought that Kiki had been pleasuring herself while he pleasured Gemma extremely hot.

Kiki continued. “I used to fantasize about jumping you and then fucking the shit out of you. If I tried that now, I’d crush the shit out of you, literally.”

“Yeah, but what a way to go, eh?” he joked with a chuckle.

“Disappointing that I’ll never get to sit on your face.”

“No, but I get to lay between your massive tits,” he said, eyeing them up. “Must be more volume on just one of those than in my entire body.”

“I heard that you’ve slept with your head between Gemma’s. How was that?”

“Haven’t slept so well in ages.”

“Yeah? Well, your whole body will fit between mine, and from what Gemma says it’s the most comfortable place in the world.”

The two massive orbs were very inviting. He couldn’t help but imagine what they must feel like.

Drew shook the thoughts out of his head as he saw Gemma and Glower approaching with five fresh kills. He supposed that Kiki was likely to eat three of the radstags to herself, while Gemma and Glower would have one each. He, on the other hand, had brought his own lunch with him.

Kiki ate hers first and she wasn’t exactly pleasant about it. She tore them apart with her claws and teeth before swallowing the huge chunks whole. It was rather terrifying to behold and it only reminded him that she could practically eat him whole, unlike Charlotte, who could actually swallow him whole with ease.

Not long after that, the group was once more heading westward with Drew riding on Gemma’s shoulders. A dozen or so times, he found himself looking across at Kiki’s over-sized breasts as they bounced while she ran. They weren’t as out of control as he would have expected, meaning there was undoubtedly a firmness about them. On more than one occasion, she even caught him looking. Her response each time was to grin at him and he grinned back.

Finally, after five-and-a-half hours in total, they arrived. The place certainly looked a lot different than he remembered. For one thing, there were a lot more holes in the roof and parts of the structure had collapsed. There were also large craters in the dirt, suggesting that a whole lot of ordnance had been used and to devastating results.

What Drew found strange, though, was the lack of bodies. That meant that those that had attacked had cleaned up afterward, which only further supported the evidence that it was Brotherhood of Steel. Whether or not they were still in the area was the most important question at that moment and while it didn’t appear that they were, that also didn’t mean they weren’t.

What was certain was that they were going to have to stay vigilant and keep their eyes and ears open. The last thing they needed was to be caught off-guard.

“They must have really wanted you dead,” he said as he stood at the side of a small blast crater from what had to have been from a mini-nuke.

Even though it had been only a few days, it already had two feet or more of water pooled in the bottom. It had clearly been raining around here, he was just glad that it still wasn’t. They had gotten wet enough when they left the Robco plant.

Gemma stood beside him. “They see us as a threat and to some degree, they’re right, but only to people like them.”

“Lotte is a threat to everyone,” Kiki pointed out as she put the Sentry bot down on the ground. “I think she might see herself as some kind of goddess.”

“Well, she is thirty feet of pure power,” Drew pointed out. “Regardless of how she sees herself, she’s right about having to destroy this place. We need to bury that mutagenic goop, and also destroy all the data here that might be left.”

“Then we shouldn’t waste any more time,” Gemma said as she made her way for the entrance.

Drew looked up at Kiki. “You keep a watch out. I’ll leave the two Gutsy’s out here with you.”

“Sure. I’ll shout really loud if I see any guys in metal armor.”

After giving the two Gutsy robots instruction, he followed Gemma inside with the Sentry bot and Glower.

They didn’t waste time and made their way to the central chamber. Without Charlotte, Kiki, and the others filling up all the space, the place looked a lot bigger. There were also catwalks that he couldn’t recall seeing before. Another thing he couldn’t remember seeing the last time he was there were the giant holes in the roof, a sign of the attack that had happened. The floor was also wet, signifying that the rain had gotten in. There was also a strange smell in the air and he felt a strange tingle against his skin.

Drew took off his backpack and placed it down on the floor before opening it. He took out the detonators and put them to one side before he opened up the storage unit on the Sentry bot and took out the explosives.

“Okay,” Drew said, holding them in his hands. “We need to figure out which are the support walls. We can’t go wasting these.”

“Well, what about those columns?” Gemma said pointing.

“Might not bring the place down,” Drew pointed out. “We need support walls.”

“Well, we could just collapse this room.”

“That’s probably a better plan,” Drew said. “There are not enough explosives to take out the whole place. Not that it will take much to bring the rest of the place down,” Drew added as he heard the worrying groaning of metal from somewhere high up above.

Drew rubbed his chin. “I think the corners would be a good place to start. Also, taking out the group of the pillars towards the center of the room would definitely increase the chances of the place collapsing. We could also take out some of the missiles I armed the Sentry bot with and use those to boost the explosion.”

“Sounds like you’re figuring it out,” Gemma said.

“Slowly but surely,” Drew answered. “I’ll set the charges, but before we detonate, I want to find all the terminals in this place and wipe them. Make sure that nothing survives.”

“Just be careful near the vats,” Gemma said. “Looks like some have started to overflow due to all the rain coming in through the roof.”

“Don’t worry, I have absolutely no intention of getting any of it on me,” he assured her.

“If you did, you’d probably turn feral like the other males did and I’d have to kill you.”

“Let’s not let that happen,” he said as he walked over to a support pillar and planted the first explosive. “I plan on destroying all this remotely, so there won’t be any chance of be getting splashed when the place goes up.”

He planted the next to explosives on the neighboring pillars before he made his way to the front wall and planted more on either side of the doors midway to the outer walls. He then made his way over to the steel stairs in the corner and climbed up them, placing the remaining few explosives higher up before returning down to the bottom.

“Now, the best part is the explosives are remotely triggered by these detonators.”

“Or they should be,” Gemma said.

He smirked and nodded. “Yeah, they should be. If not, then we’ll have to wire them up and detonate a little less remotely.”

“Let’s hope it works then.”

“Let’s hope,” Drew agreed.

“Yes, let’s hope,” a third unknown voice added.

They all looked up to the source of the voice, to find a group of a dozen or so power-armored goons stepping onto the catwalk above them. They were also heavily armed with rocket launchers, plasma rifles, and other weapons Drew didn’t recognize.

Things had just gotten a whole lot more complicated.

End Notes:

With it being Christmas, I might end up missing posting next week. Things are a little busy this time of year.

Chapter 29 - An Expected Attack by Saturn Knight
Author's Notes:

It wasn't my intention to not post again until the start of February. My original plan was to only take Christmas off, but I caught the flu or covid or something which knocked me out for a while. I'm back and will try and post a chapter to this story weekly every Wednesday.

-0-

The palpitation was real, as was the uneasy standoff. No one had spoken since the power armored soldiers had first introduced themselves.

How they hadn’t heard them thumping around, Drew wasn’t sure, but the moment they had stepped out onto the catwalk high above them, the metal walkway had clanked so loudly even the deaf would have been able to hear.

His only guess was that they had heard them arrive and had decided to lay low. Since they had come from a room attached to the catwalk it was logical to assume they had been hiding in there, waiting for the right moment to show themselves.

Finally, after what felt like an eternity, the one Drew assumed was the leader spoke. “I must say,” he said, his voice slightly distorted through his helmet, “I didn’t expect to see the deathclaws with a human thrall. Are you their prisoner, or a traitor to your own kind?”

“Neither,” Drew answered. “I’m a friend.”

“A traitor, then.”

“That’s a bit of a leap,” Drew argued. “I am not a traitor to anyone.”

“Don’t you see the company you keep? I wonder how many they’ve killed and eaten? How many dead children have stained their claws red with their blood.”

“How many children have stained your armor with their blood in your frenzy to control everything?” Drew asked right back. “All because they had the audacity to use a toaster.”

“You think you’re being clever,” the man said. “But you’re a traitor. You don’t see the problem with those monsters? Wouldn’t you rather be with your own kind?”

“I didn’t realize it was an either/or type deal,” Drew said. “Who are you, anyway? Brotherhood?”

“It’s a complicated answer. Let us just say that we’re here to do what our leaders no longer have the heart to do. We’re here to destroy the cancer that is spreading across this world. We are here to ensure that there is a future for humanity. That future doesn’t involve plagues such as these mutant deathclaws.”

“You want to destroy them, but you don’t even know who or what they are,” Drew said.

“Mutant deathclaws. That’s all we need to know.”

“My point exactly. They’re not deathclaws. They’re humans who have been altered by FEV.”

“Enough! We’re here to ensure that nothing like the Great War ever happens again. We are here to ensure the survival of humanity and that means removing all the abominations from this world. It also extends to those that ally themselves with them! You are putting our future at risk and for what? For these things?”

“You’re fighting a battle here that doesn’t need to be fought,” Drew tried to point out. “We’re here to destroy the vats, nothing more. We work together, then part ways. If you force a fight then some of you will die and for absolutely no reason.”

“We can deal with the vats. First, though, we need to take care of your friends.”

“They aren’t a threat!” Drew shouted. “They are victims. They need compassion, not to be wiped out.”

“Look at them,” the power-armored man said, pointing. “I mean really look at them. They’re monsters. Abominations. They are dangerous.”

“I have really looked at them, unlike you,” Drew rebuked. “I can see past their exterior and to the hearts inside.”

“All you see is a pair of tits,” the man accused. “You fucking them? Is that why you’re so protective? Can’t get with a human woman so you have to get your rocks off with some wasteland abomination?”

Drew felt himself starting to grow angry. Their accusations, while close to the truth, weren’t the reason why he was defending them. He was defending them because they deserved a chance at life, but he could see that there was no way he was going to convince the man or his comrades. They were going to attack, the question was why they hadn’t already.

Drew gestured at the Sentry bot, one of the reasons he assumed they hadn’t attacked. “We are willing and able to defend ourselves.”

“One Sentry bot isn’t going to save you. Judgment will come.”

“If that’s the case, then why hasn’t it yet?”

The man raised a hand and then pointed at the Sentry bot. One of the soldiers rose a strange weapon Drew didn’t recognize and pointed it then fired. A bolt of energy shot out and struck the robot. It juddered for a moment before it returned fire with a blazing barrage of lasers.

“Get to cover,” Drew shouted as he ducked behind a pillar while Gemma and Glower took refuge behind one of the vats.

As he peeked around, rifle in hand, Drew watched as the power-armored troopers tried to flee back into one of the upper rooms, only for the Sentry bot fired a missile at the catwalk they were standing on. It struck with a loud boom, followed by the screeching of twisting, bending metal.

From the ferocity of the explosion he thought he was going to see some bodies fly, but their suits offered enough protection to keep their feet firmly on the floor. Well, that was until the catwalk fell from under them.

Only two of them managed to make it back to the room, while the rest found themselves falling. Three landed on their feet, the vibrations rattling the floor, while the rest smashed into the ground, either on their sides, backs or in one case, directly into one of the vats.

“Disable that fucking Sentry!” the one in charge yelled.

Drew took that as his signal. He raised his rifle and fired at the one that was armed with what he assumed was a pulse gun, only for another to fire a bolt of crackling energy, striking the Sentry bot a second time. Like the last time, it shuddered for a moment before it fired another missile. It not only went wide but struck near one of the explosives he had planted earlier.

They were having a battle in the worst possible place. Not only were there explosives all over, explosives that he himself had planted, but the place was already on the verge of coming down on top of their heads.

The next thing he knew, there was a loud deafening explosion and the pillar he was standing behind began to crack. Realizing that he might be crushed under debris, he began to flee from his cover only to have his feet washed out from under him. Then, he found himself momentarily underwater before big strong arms gripped him and pulled him out.

It was Gemma

“Glower, run!” she yelled loudly.

With Drew firmly in her arms, the two Greenclaws bolted out of the room and down the long hallway toward the entrance. More explosions shook the building, causing both Glower and Gemma to stumble, the latter almost dropping Drew.

The charges had gone off, albeit unintentionally and it appeared as though the Brotherhood types would be buried along with the Sentry bot.

“What’s going on!?” Kiki asked as they bolted out of the collapsing building.

“They came back!” Gemma shouted as she put Drew back down on the ground. “How are you feeling?”

“I’m okay,” he answered quickly. “Just a little shaken.

“Why is he wet?” Kiki asked, concerned.

“He got covered in that mutagen stuff.”

“Is he going to be okay?”

“I’m fine,” he repeated, looking back at the facility as it started to collapse in on itself.

“The rain might have made it inert,” Gemma said, though she didn’t sound too certain.

Drew nodded before he tried to wipe some of the liquid off with his soaked sleeve. “Let’s just get out of here. We don’t know if they survived and we sure as hell don’t know if more of them are on the way.”

“You sure you’re okay?” Gemma asked as she squatted in front of him to get a better look at his face.

“I lost my rifle and my Sentry bot. But apart from that, yeah, I’m fine.”

“You don’t feel any tingling do you?” Gemma asked, continuing her line of questioning.

Drew answered, shaking his head. “All I feel right now is cold, wet, and miserable.”

“We should find a river and wash it off,” Kiki suggested.

“There’s one a mile to the north,” Gemma answered as she scooped Drew back up into her arms. “You can strip off and wash yourself down.”

“I’ll be fine.”

“I’m not taking the chance,” Gemma said.

“It’s probably irradiated,” he pointed out.

“Well, your Pipboy will tell you if it is,” she said as she started running with Kiki, Glower and the two Gutsy’s following behind.

Despite his dour mood, being cradled by Gemma did perk him up a little. It was nice to know she cared so much and he felt protected and safe in her large strong arms.

It didn’t take long for them to reach the river and despite Drew’s protestations that he would be fine bathing clothed, Gemma was insistent that he should strip off and wash his clothes separately.

While the river was in fact irradiated, as far as water sources went, it wasn’t that bad. He figured a few Radaway when he got back to the plant would be enough to repel whatever rads he gained there, not that he thought it was a good idea to mess around with radiation.

Drew stripped off, thankful that Glower had the good sense to not look. Instead, she stared out back the way they had come as though she was watching out for unwanted visitors. Gemma and Kiki on the other hand seemed more than a little interested in watching him take his clothes off. He climbed into the water and washed himself down as quickly as he could while Gemma washed his clothes. Well, washing was not the right descriptor. More splash water around a bit until she was satisfied they were somewhat clean.

The moment Drew got out of the water he held his hand out toward Gemma.

“Can I have my clothes back now?”

Gemma held his clothes to her chest. “They’re wet. They’ll need to dry.”

“That will take hours,” he pointed out.

“Well, I can hold them up while we run. That will dry them quicker.”

“And what will I do while you’re running with my clothes?” he asked.

“What we did before. You ride on my shoulders.”

“Naked?”

“Well, yeah.”

He was going to argue, but he was honestly too tired. Well, that and because he found the thought of riding naked on her shoulders kinda hot. Even so, he knew now was not the time or the place to be having thoughts of a sexual nature.

“Fine,” he relented. “Let’s just get out of here.”

Gemma squatted down and Drew grabbed his backpack and put it on before he climbed up onto her shoulders. He held onto her horns as she stood back up, his clothes in hand.

“Glower,” Gemma called out. “We’re heading off, let’s go.”

With Gemma taking the lead, they began their journey back eastwards. Unfortunately, it wasn’t long until Drew started to feel the bite of the cold.

“Gem,” he said loudly.

“What is it?”

“You’re gonna have to stop.”

“Why? Need the bathroom?”

“No, I’m freezing.”

“It’s not that cold,” Gemma argued. “It’ll only be a few more hours.”

“Not sure I can last a few more minutes. My fingers are starting to grow numb.”

Kiki chimed in. “Maybe we should have waited until he had dried off and warmed up a bit.”

“Are you really that cold?”

“Yeah, I’m really that cold.”

Gemma slowed to a stop then squatted down. “Climb off, then.”

He carefully climbed down her back, only to stumble and fall on his ass.

“Careful,” Gemma said as she turned around.

He got back to his feet. “I’m gonna gather some wood and try to start a fire. I need to warm up.”

Gemma handed him back his clothes. “I’ll gather some wood. You rest.” She turned to Glower. “You wanna help?”

Glower nodded and the two headed off while Drew put his still-damp clothes back on, hearing a few crackles of his Pipboy rad counter as he did so. He wasn’t particularly worried. One or two rads wouldn’t kill him and he’d be able to deal with whatever he gained once he was back at the plant.

He then sat down and waited.

It didn’t take long for the two to gather enough wood to start a fire. Starting it on the other hand was a lot more difficult. The wood was slightly damp, but eventually, he got a fire going and wasted no time sitting next to it to get warm.

Gemma sat opposite and Glower sat nearby while Kiki kept her eyes on the horizon.

“How are you feeling?” Gemma asked. “No itching or anything?”

“Cold is how I’m feeling,” he answered. “And no sign of the FEV. effecting me.”

“That’s good.”

“It’s likely that the radiation mixed with the rainwater made it inert.”

“I hope so. It could be that being cold is a sign of a change?”

“I doubt it,” Drew dismissed. “You might not get cold anymore, but I do.”

“I suppose you’re right,” she accepted. “Just worried. That stuff flowed right over you.”

“If I was going to change, I think it would have started by now.”

Yeah, I guess you’re right.”

“I am. I appreciate your concern, though. It means a lot.”

She smiled. “Your acceptance of me and the others means a lot, as well. My worst nightmare is that you would have rejected me, but you haven’t.”

“I’d never reject you. You’re my Gem.”

“Awww,” Kiki uttered. “You two are so adorable.”

Drew smiled warmly as he stared at the fire. It brought back memories from when he, Jack, Amy, and Izzy had left Paulson after the attacks. Jarik had been there with them for a little bit before he had gone off on his own, finding his own way to Colville.

Now, another group was threatening their future and unlike last time he had every intention of putting a stop to it. As to who they were exactly, from what they had said, he believed they were a splinter faction of the Brotherhood of Steel. That potentially made them far more dangerous.

“I have to step things up,” he said out loud. “We need to stop them. They won’t stop until they’ve hunted down and killed all of you.”

“We know,” Gemma said.

“I promise that I won’t let that happen. We will destroy them, first.”

“I heard you in there,” Gemma said. “You tried to reason with them. Tried to make them see the truth, but they didn’t want to know. All they see when they look at us is monsters to be slain.”

“They won’t be slaying anyone,” Drew said. “Not if I have anything to do with it. I have the means to stop them and I’m gonna stop fucking around and wasting time. I need to build an army of robots and stop them.”

“So glad you’re on our side,” Kiki said. “If you weren’t, I think we’d be fucked.”

“I’ll always be on your side, Kiki. Unlike them, I know your hearts. But we do have a problem.”

“Charlotte,” Gemma said.

Drew nodded. “Whether I like it or not, I might have to eventually deal with her.”

“We know,” Kiki said.

“And that would make you the Matriarch,” Drew pointed out.

Kiki shook her head. “No thanks. Someone else can have the job. I just wanna have fun.”

“There is a very old saying,” Drew said, looking up at her. “That the best leaders are the ones that had no aspirations to lead. Or something similar to that.”

“You can be the leader,” Kiki suggested. “I’d follow you.”

“Same,” Gemma said.

Drew looked at Glower and she nodded, meaning she understood what had been said.

“Thanks for having my back,” he said.

“Always,” Gemma replied.

“Still, I think Kiki would make a fine leader if she wanted to be. The world needs more leaders with big kind hearts. We certainly need less that only want to destroy things they can’t understand or control.”

“What about me?” Gemma asked. “Do you think I would make a good leader?”

“Sure,” he answered noncommittally. “Anyone can under the right circumstances.”

Gemma frowned. “That sounds like a ‘no’ to me.”

“You know I can’t lie to you,” Drew defended.

“It’s fine, I guess. I wouldn’t want to lead anyway. Too much pressure.”

“A lot of pressure,” Drew agreed as he stared back at the fire. “We’ll wait until this has gone out then we’ll get moving.”

“Feeling better?” Gemma asked.

“Much. Feeling warmer as well as dryer.”

“We could leave now?” Kiki suggested.

“I’d love to, but I don’t like leaving fires unattended.”

Kiki moved closer and with a powerful slap of her hand and a lot of displaced air, she put it out.

“Done,” she said.

Drew stood up. “Then let’s go.”

Gemma squatted down. “Climb on.”

He did so, resting his legs over her shoulders and grabbing onto her horns as she stood back up.

Not a minute later they were once more running through the wilderness.

* * *

Even though they didn’t take any breaks on the journey back to the Robco plant, it was still well after dark by the time they got back. Drew had to admit that he was both in awe and a little intimidated by their stamina.

They made their way around back to the large shutter that led into the dispatch warehouse. With a press of a button, the shutter slid open revealing the Greenclaws sat inside, including an irritated-looking Charlotte.

She turned to them. “Is it done!?” she demanded to know.

“In a way, yeah,” Drew answered as they all stepped inside before he closed the shutter behind them.

“What does that mean?” the matriarch asked. “Is it done or not?”

It was Kiki that answered. “Those guys that attacked us were waiting for us. We blew the place up, but Drew, Gemma, and Glower were still inside when it started. They bolted out as the place went up in flames.”

“What of the attackers? Did they follow you here?”

“I doubt they’re in a position to do anything much,” Drew answered. “Best guess is they were buried. They certainly didn’t follow us. We moved quickly.”

“Too quickly to follow,” Gemma added. “But I doubt we’ll be safe here forever. They’ll know about this place and they’ll come sniffing around sooner or later.”

“My thought exactly,” Drew said. “Which is why we need to be ready. I lost a Sentry bot today, but I’m gonna replace it with a dozen more. I’m gonna have Assaultrons waiting to melt the chassis of their armor. I’m going to make them wish they had stayed down south.”

Charlotte no longer looked irritated. Instead she appeared to be smiling.

Drew rubbed his eyes. “That can wait until tomorrow, though. I’m exhausted and need to go to bed.”

“Goodnight,” Charlotte said. “And thank you for dealing with it.”

Drew nodded, somewhat surprised that she had thanked him. “Goodnight to all of you as well.”

“Night,” Kiki said.

“Night,” a few of the other claws added.

As Drew made his way to the double doors that led into the corridor, Gemma caught up and walked with him.

“How are you feeling?” she asked once they were out of the warehouse.

“Tired,” he answered. “How are you feeling?”

“I’m asking because of the bath you took in that green goo. My advice is to go see Sarah in the morning.”

“I’m fine.”

“It couldn’t hurt, Drew. Unless you’re worried about what she’ll find?”

“I’ll think about it, Gem.”

“Do more than think about it. Do it.”

Drew shrugged. “I think I would have noticed something by now if it had affected me.”

Gemma sighed in exasperation. “Just get checked out. It won’t do any harm.”

“Sure.”

“Goodnight,” she said.

Drew stopped walking as did Gemma. She looked at him expectantly.

“Tonight can we…” he began but trailed off.

“Can we what?” Gemma asked.

“Well since Kiki arrived we haven’t… you know.”

“Slept together?”

“It was really comfy,” he said. “Sleeping on your chest. I could hear your heartbeat.”

“Yeah, been sleeping atop of Kiki. You wanna join us?”

He shook his head. He wanted to, but he didn’t want to do it in front of everyone else. “Not tonight. And not where others can see us.”

“Sure. Maybe when things have calmed down a little.”

“Yeah.”

“Goodnight, Drew.”

“Goodnight, Gem.”

With a goodnight kiss on her cheek, Drew headed up to the office and grabbed a Radaway before he headed into the side room and flopped down onto the mattress. Not five minutes later he was fast asleep.

Chapter 30 - Rough Night by Saturn Knight
Author's Notes:

A shorter chapter today

 Drew awoke to a fever. His head was damp with sweat, yet he felt cold as though he were outside in the wind. His throat was also dry and his eyes felt sticky.

He climbed unsteadily to his feet and stumbled to the door, his stomach rolling. He didn’t feel well at all, and his thoughts immediately went to the FEV bath he had endured when the explosives had gone up.

He dismissed the notion with a shake of his head. He reasoned that it had to be the Radaway. He’d had a bad one before, one that hadn’t been sealed properly. The symptoms had been similar, though not nearly as pronounced as they were at that moment.

Feeling that he might vomit at any moment, he stumbled out of his room, through the office, and towards the nearest bathroom.

Uneasily, he staggered inside and almost fell onto the sink where he stared at his reflection in the old grimy mirror. He looked like shit, with pale clammy-looking skin and sodden damp hair.

Leaning in, he turned on the faucet and waited until the water had turned clear before he washed the sweat off of his face.

Again, his thoughts fell onto the watered-down FEV that had engulfed him. He leaned in closer to the mirror and checked his eyes which thankfully appeared normal with no signs of reptilian features. He then checked his teeth, which again, appeared normal.

Drew washed his face a second time before he walked out of the bathroom and back to the manager’s office. He was feeling much steadier on his feet and wasn’t nearly as nauseous.

After grabbing a towel from his room and drying his face and hair, he decided to head down to the cafeteria to grab a cold drink of water. He certainly felt like he needed it.

Slowly, he made his way down the stairs and along the corridor. It was quiet, though he could hear deep Greenclaw voices from up ahead. From his guess, someone was in the cafeteria already.

He checked his Pipboy to find that it was around three in the morning, far too early for anyone to be awake. For a moment, he considered heading back upstairs but decided that there was no reason to. He really needed some water after what he’d just sweated out and the water cooler was a lot more appetizing than straight from the grimy faucet.

After checking his brow to make sure he was no longer sweating, which thankfully he wasn’t, he pushed the doors open and stepped inside, seeing two Greenclaws Veronica and Sekka sitting in the corner talking. Instantly they looked over at him.

“How are you two, tonight?” Drew asked, his voice sounding a little deeper and raspy than he expected.

Veronica answered. “We’re doing okay. You’re up early.”

“Needed a glass of water,” he told them as he headed straight for the kitchen to grab a glass before making his way to the water cooler.

“Was it scary?” Sekka asked.

“What do you mean?” he asked back, unsure what she was referring to.

“You fought those power armor guys, right?”

He nodded. “Yeah, it was tense,” he answered before changing the subject. “So, what are you two doing up?”

Sekka answered. “Keeping our ears open for anything unusual.”

Veronica then added. “Heard you lost that Sentry we built.”

Drew nodded as he sat at the table nearest to them, placing his glass of water down. “Yeah, but we can build a dozen more if we need to.”

“You alright?” Sekka asked as she squinted at him. “You look a little off.”

“Off?”

“Yeah. You’re not feeling sick are you?”

“It was a busy day yesterday,” he answered, wanting to avoid the question. “Stressful, too. Been a while since I’ve felt so worn out.”

“Make sure you get plenty of rest,” Sekka said.

“After I’ve drunk my water, that’s exactly what I plan on doing.”

“Good.”

He picked up the glass and took a small drink before putting it back down. He certainly wasn’t feeling great and he feared if he drank his water too quickly, he might bring it back up again.

Drew looked back over at Sekka. “How are things between you and Jack?”

Her eyes lit up. “Oh, wonderful. He’s still intimidated and a little scared of me, but we hugged yesterday. He felt so soft in my arms.”

Drew smiled. “I’m glad.”

“So am I. He’s so amazing.”

Veronica smirked. “You two fucked, yet?”

Sekka looked as shocked as Drew felt at the unexpected and rather crude question.

“No,” Sekka uttered. ”Of course not. I’m content with just cuddling.”

“Sure you are,” Veronica said, not sounding convinced.

“I am,” Sekka said defensively. “I think the size difference would make anything like that awkward.”

“Physical size, sure. But we’re still the same size down there.”

Drew gulped down his water as quickly as he could. The conversation was starting to go in an uncomfortable direction.

“I think he’d feel great,” Veronica continued, either unaware or uncaring of Drew’s discomfort. “I remember you telling me back when we were human that he had a huge dick.”

Drew stood up. “I’m heading back to bed,” he said.

They both looked at him. Sekka looked uncomfortable, but Veronica was grinning.

“Aww, feeling embarrassed?” she teased. “You haven’t fucked Gemma yet?”

Sekka slapped her friend playfully, though to Drew’s ears, it sounded rather loud and painful. “That’s really inappropriate,” she said with a nervous laugh.

Veronica laughed, but it soon faded. “At least you guys have someone. My guy’s dead.”

Sekka rubbed her shoulder. “We’re sorry.”

“You’ll find someone,” Drew offered.

Veronica stared at him unimpressed as she gestured to herself. “Looking like this, my options are a little limited.”

“You might be surprised,” Drew said with a shrug. “There’s a lot of freaks out there.”

Veronica tilted her head. “Does that make you a freak?”

“For Gemma and Kiki, I’m always a freak.”

The moment the words left his mouth, Drew regretted it. Especially when Veronica grinned widely, showing off her sharp teeth.

“Kiki, too, eh? I thought so.” Her smile grew even wider. “Did you three get up to anything fun on your trip?”

“No,” he said firmly. “Besides, Glower was there.”

“I doubt she’d tell anyone.”

“Neka…” Sekka said, also grinning. “You’re being really horny tonight.”

“Yeah, I guess I am. Kinda been needing a release.” She held up a clawed hand. “Been trying to file these down so I can take care of it myself, but no such luck.” She looked at Drew. “You don’t wanna help me with it, do you?”

“No!” he uttered before she had even finished speaking. “Ask someone else.”

“What is one more?” she asked. “Come on, you have Gemma and Kiki. You could easily add me and make it a foursome.”

“No,” Drew repeated.

Veronica pouted, or at least she pouted as much as a Greenclaw could.

“Fine, you win. I’ll just have to find another way.”

“You do that,” Drew said as he headed for the door. “I’m going back to bed.”

He left the cafeteria and made his way back up to the office where he headed back into the side room and lay down on the old and rather lumpy mattress.

As he tried to sleep, Veronica’s offer kept going through his head. Had she been serious, or was she joking? A small part of him wished he’d accepted the offer but the rest was glad he hadn’t. Still, he felt guilty for even remotely considering it. It felt like a betrayal to Gemma and Kiki. Still, he hadn’t had sex in a long time other than with his hand, so no one could blame him for being at least a tiny bit tempted. The closest he’d gotten was with Gemma the other day, but as it turned out, Charlotte nearly devouring him whole had affected him more than he thought and as a result, he had unintentionally ruined the mood.

That opportunity had passed him by, at least for the moment, and he knew that he didn’t have time to think about sex. He really had to focus on restarting all of the lines and producing an army of robots. Thus far, he’d done a lot of talking about it, but not much actually doing it. Sure, the Sentry line was up and running but to be effective the rest had to be as well.

Regardless, tomorrow he would bring at least one more production line back into operation. He didn’t care if he felt ill, worn down, or anything else. It was time to get it done.

There was no other option.


Chapter 31 - Tingles by Saturn Knight

“Great, just great.”

Drew had woken up with a headache. It wasn’t bad, but it was one of those types that he knew would probably get worse as the day went on. He lay there on the old mattress for several minutes, seriously considering taking the day off, but despite feeling like shit, he knew that he had work to do. Work that he had been seriously neglecting.

With a lot of reluctance, he climbed off the mattress and made his way into the office. Light was streaming in through the grimy windows meaning that he’d already gotten up late. He knew he could check the time on his Pipboy but decided he didn’t want to know.

As he turned to head out of the office, he felt a strange tingling all over his skin, stopping him dead in his tracks. It felt strange, almost like small insects crawling all over him. It quickly passed, but that did little to quell the unease he felt. There was something wrong with him and it wasn’t a dodgy Radaway. More and more he was starting to believe that the diluted FEV he had been bathed in was affecting him. To what extent, he didn’t know, but it didn’t seem like a whole lot. He hadn’t grown any horns or scales yet and he also didn’t feel particularly aggressive, which meant he likely wasn’t turning feral.

Or rather he hoped he wasn’t.

While he knew he should probably go see Sarah for a checkup, much like the time, he didn’t really want to know. Besides, he didn’t have the time to sit around getting tests done. He needed to be on with his work otherwise it wouldn’t matter if he was being changed from the inside out.

Pushing the unpleasant thought out of his head, he made his way down to the cafeteria where he found Jack and Sekka talking.

“You’re looking better,” Sekka observed as she watched him step inside.

“I’m feeling better,” Drew said before adding. “Don’t you ever sleep? You were in here at like two in the morning.”

“Don’t worry, I had a great night’s sleep. Got up, had breakfast then went for a hunt with Neka and Ava., It’s almost lunch so we’ll be heading off soon to eat what we caught.”

“That late, huh,” he muttered as he made his way towards the kitchen.

As he stepped into the kitchen an incredible smell touched his nostrils. Something was cooking and it smelled absolutely delicious.

He stepped back out. “Someone cooking something?” he asked.

“Yeah,” Jack shouted over. “I’m cooking a roast. I did some maintenance on the oven while you were out yesterday and now it’s working perfectly.”

“How long until it’s ready?” Drew asked.

“Another thirty minutes.”

Drew held his rumbling stomach weighing on the pros and cons of waiting. Pros were that he would be able to eat an absolutely delicious roast. The cons were that he’d have to wait.

In the end, it wasn’t much of a choice. He stepped back into the kitchen and grabbed some mutfruit as a snack to tide him over before he headed back into the cafeteria and sat down at the same table as Jack.

“I’ll need your and Amy’s help today,” Drew said to him. “Probably Veronica, Sekka, and Gemma’s too. I want to start bringing the other production lines into operation.”

“You’ve wanted that for over a week now,” Jack pointed out.”

“Yeah, I know, and I’ve been slacking off,” Drew accepted, “Things keep coming up and once I found out the Greenclaws weren’t hostile, I kinda put it on the back burner. Unfortunately, we no longer have that luxury.”

“No, we don’t,” Jack agreed. “Not with power-armored crazies out there.”

They all looked over to the doors as Sarah stepped inside with Suzy the Miss Nanny in tow.

“Morning,” Drew greeted.

“Afternoon, actually,” Sarah answered.

“How are you two?”

“Good,” Sarah replied.

“I am well,” Suzy answered also. “We ’ave been busy bringing the nurse’s office up to scratch.”

“Sounds like a lot of work,” Drew said.

“Oui,” Suzy agreed.

“So, have either of you seen Amy?”

“Not this morning,” Sarah said.

Jack answered. “I saw her at breakfast.”

“I’ll go see if she’s in her room,” Drew said standing up. “See if she wants anything to eat.”

“I hope so,” Jack answered, “because there’s a lot of meat on that roast.”

“Don’t worry, we’ll get it all eaten,” Drew said as he left.

Despite it not being very far to Amy’s room, Drew had the misfortune of running into Bek who was stalking down the corridor. He noted that she looked decidedly more like a deathclaw in her movements. She was menacing, like a beast on the hunt.

The moment she caught sight of him, she moved to his side of the hallway and shoved him hard. He staggered slightly but somehow managed to keep his footing.

Bek stopped and stared at him, seemingly surprised that she hadn’t sent him crashing down on the floor. She leaned in close and stared at him before she began to sniff, almost as though she had smelled something on him.

A deep frown crossed her face before she moved on, all without uttering a single word. Drew stared after her, wondering if she had sensed something, or rather smelled something on him. Without her telling him, there was no way to know, at least without asking her and he certainly wasn’t going to do that.

After standing there for a minute or so lost in thought, he decided to continue on to Amy’s room. As he rounded a corner he saw Amy further ahead facing away from him. Even though he couldn’t see her face, he could tell she was upset about something, it was all in her posture.

“Are you alright?” he asked as he walked over to her.

She turned around with her head down. “Yeah, I’m fine.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah.”

She didn’t sound alright. She sounded upset and considering that Bek had come from this direction it didn’t take him much to put two and two together.

“Did Bek do something to you?”

“No,” she said as she turned around and walked past him in the direction of the cafeteria.

He followed. “Are you sure?”

“Yes,” she said tersely. “It’s just that things have been difficult. You have Gemma and Kiki, and Jack has Grace.”

She was trying to give a reason as to why she was upset other than the obvious, but Drew wasn’t buying it.

Amy continued. “I was hoping that maybe one of them was Angela, but I don’t think any of them are.”

“It’s been difficult for all of us,” Drew said.

“I guess,” Amy accepted. “I just wish everything was back the way it used to be.”

“I know that feeling.”

Drew didn’t believe her. Bek had upset her, he could tell, and Amy was not saying something either out of fear or because she didn’t want him confronting the Greenclaw and risk getting eviscerated.

He stepped in front of her, stopping her in her tracks. “You look like you need a hug.”

She nodded and he wrapped her arms around her, hugging her tightly. She hugged him back.

“Things will get better,” he said. “I will make sure it does.”

“I hope so.”

They hugged for a few more moments before Drew let her go.

“How was that?” he asked.

“You squeezed way too hard, but overall it was a nice hug.”

“I did?” he asked. “I guess rebuilding all the production lines has bulked me up a bit. Don’t know my own strength.”

“How are the other lines doing?” she asked.

“I want at least to have the Assaultron line operational by tomorrow or at the most by the end of the week and I’ll need your help to do it. I have no doubt that within the next few weeks, we’ll have an unwelcome visit.”

“Those guys in the power armor?”

Drew nodded. “Yeah. We have to be ready when they do show up.”

“What if we aren’t?”

“We will. We don’t have any other choice.”

“No,” she agreed solemnly.

“Come on, the others are in the cafeteria and Jack is cooking something up.”

They continued on, only stopping when they saw Sekka and Axa leaving the room.

“Hey,” Axa greeted. “We’re heading to eat with the others in the big warehouse.”

“You don’t want to try some of Jack’s cooking?” Drew asked.

“Thought about it,” Sekka said, “But cooked food isn’t something we really eat anymore.”

“Have you eaten any cooked meals since becoming a Greenclaw?”

“No, but it’s just not appetizing anymore.”

“Besides,” Axa added, “we eat a lot. More than Jack can possibly cook.”

“Fair enough,” Drew accepted. “See you later then.”

“Don’t worry, we’ll be there to help you make your robots.”

“Good. We have a lot of work to do,” he said before he and Amy stepped inside the cafeteria.

The delightful smell that drifted over from the kitchen only made Drew more glad that he had decided to not have any breakfast.

“Smells amazing,” Amy said as she and Drew sat at the same table as Sarah.

“Haven’t eaten a proper oven-cooked meal since I left the vault,” Sarah said. “On a fire, sure, but not in an oven.”

“There’s some good places in Colville to get cooked food,” Drew said.

“I could never afford it,” Sarah admitted. “I mostly ate berries, to be honest.”

“But you’re a doctor,” Amy pointed out. “You’re a sought-after commodity.”

“Yeah, but I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I’m a bit weird around people I don’t know.”

“You don’t seem that weird,” Drew said. “In fact, you seem fairly normal.”

“I guess I felt at ease with you all. But generally speaking, I can be really awkward. I kinda have a hard time getting to know people and I tend to keep to myself.”

“We have noticed that much,” Amy said. “But yeah, even if we don’t see you much, you’ve become part of the group. Suzy too.”

“Glad to be here.”

“Me as well,” Suzy agreed.

They all looked over as Jack peered out of the kitchen. “Will be ready soon,” he called over. “I will need some help bringing it through.”

Drew stood up. “I’ll come help,” he said.

“Thanks. It won’t be long.” With that, he disappeared back into the kitchen.

“If you’ll excuse me,” Drew said to the others before he made his way through to find Jack peering into the oven.

“Missed this,” he said as he closed it back up.

“We never did get a proper oven back in Colville.”

“Not one that worked properly,” Jack added.

“So what are you making?”

“Cooking that Radstag. Mixed those berries and some herbs for some added flavor, but only a touch. Too much and it would make it taste disgusting.”

“Berries?” Drew asked. “What berries?”

“Veronica and Axa collected them this morning.”

“Are they safe to eat?” Drew asked, feeling a modicum of concern.

“Don’t worry, they’re blackberries,” Jack assured him. “I even made some berry juice from them.”

“Taste good?”

“Yeah, actually. It’s in a jug in the refrigerator.”

Drew stepped over and opened it, taking out the jug before giving it a sniff. “Smells good.”

“Why don’t you go grab some glasses and take them through. There’s enough for everyone.”

“Good idea,” Drew agreed, closing the refrigerator door.

After grabbing some glasses, he headed back into the cafeteria and placed them down on the table.

“Need some help?” Sarah asked.

“We might,” Drew said as he headed back to the kitchen.

Sarah followed him and watched as he picked up the jug of blackberry juice.

“What do you want me to do?” she asked.

Jack answered. “I’ll be serving up. You start taking them through when I do.”

“Okay,” Sarah said.

Drew headed back into the cafeteria and placed the jug down in the center of the table before returning to the kitchen.

As he stepped through the doors, he found Jack taking the meat out of the oven and it smelled really good. It had been a long time since he had looked forward to a meal as much as he was looking forward to this one.

“A nice Radstag roast. Just what the doctor ordered.”

“I didn’t order it,” Sarah said. “But it’s welcome all the same.”

With the cuts of meat on four plates, they took them through with Sarah and Drew carrying two plates each with Jack bringing the cutlery.

“Looks and smells delicious,” Amy said as Drew placed her plate down in front of her. “The fruit juice is nice, too.”

“Blackberries,” Jack said. “Veronica and Axa picked them this morning.”

Amy laughed at the thought. “Greenclaws picking berries? I honestly can’t picture that. Must be a really bizarre sight.”

“I’ll bet,” Drew agreed. “Surprised they didn’t crush them.”

“They can be gentle when they want to be,” Jack said.

Drew agreed as he grabbed the jug of juice. “That they are.”

He poured himself a drink before having a taste. He nodded his head in approval. It certainly was nice, though considering he had been drinking mostly stagnant or flavorless water, he supposed anything would taste good

“I was just thinking,” Jack began. “When are we gonna open some of that alcohol we grabbed from the Mega Stop?”

Drew put his glass down. “I actually want to sell most of it, but what we keep I want to save for a special occasion. That stuff is vintage, it would be a shame to just drink it all up without a care.”

“I suppose.”

“Besides, you can get some fresh beer from town.”

“A long way to walk just for a beer,” Jack said.

“Just a little,” Drew agreed with a smile as he picked up his knife and fork and finally started tucking in.

It was absolutely delicious. Jack had always had a knack for cooking. It was one of his many, many talents.

“How is it?” Jack asked.

“Incredible,” Sarah answered first. “I’ve never eaten anything better.”

“What she said,” Amy added.

Drew grinned. “It’s definitely delicious.”

Jack beamed at the praise. It was clear that he took pride in his work, be it cooking, fixing things, or making clothes and armor. He always tried his best and it always showed in the result.

As Drew reached out to grab his glass of blackberry juice he felt a tingling at the base of his neck. He reached back and rubbed it only for the sensation to spread down his spine and across his arms and legs. It was as though his whole body was covered in static, though it quickly started to feel more akin to pins and needles.

That was when he started to sweat. Normally, he would put it down to meat sweats, but he hadn’t eaten nearly enough for that. No, he’d felt something like it before just that morning and he still didn’t have an explanation beyond the scary possibility that it had something to do with his FEV exposure.

He shivered at the thought as he gulped down his juice. The last thing he needed was to turn into a Greenclaw, though, in all honesty, he doubted that would happen. It was more likely that he’d get some crippling disease instead. That or maybe mutate into a tumor-filled blob.

He shivered again, though this time it was more than just because of the unpleasant thoughts. He was starting to feel cold, just like he had last night when he had awoken drenched in sweat.

Just as things had finally started to take a turn for the better, life had found a way to throw another metaphorical lump of radioactive sludge in his face. He had finally started to get the plant back online and had discovered that Gemma and some of the others from Paulson were still alive. Things had looked like they were on a positive, but with the splinter group of Brotherhood in the region and now his exposure to that mutagenic, it appeared that his rotten luck had finally decided to make another house call only this time instead of fucking over those he cared about, it had decided to actually fuck him over instead.

“Are you alright?” Sarah asked, a look of concern on her face.

He wiped the sweat off of his brow as he focused on her. “Uh, yeah. Just feeling a little warm.”

“You look sick,” Sarah said.

All the others were staring at him now, including Suzy.

“Just feeling hot for some reason,” he said, pulling on the neck of his shirt to let some air through.

“You’re looking a little green,” Jack said. “I hope I haven’t poisoned you by accident.”

“I’m fine,” he said as the tingles started to subside. “Just been feeling a little off lately.”

“Maybe I should give you a checkup,” Sarah offered.

“No, I think I’ll be fine.”

“Certain?” Amy asked. “You look really sick.”

“Yeah. I probably shouldn’t eat so much so soon after getting up.”

“No,” Sarah agreed. “You probably shouldn’t. Must have been a tiring day yesterday?”

“Yeah, it was,” Drew said with a nod.

“It could be stress,” Sarah said. “You should probably take the day off.”

“I can’t,” Drew said. “Need to bring all the lines online as soon as I can.”

“In that case, I suggest being foreman and getting the others to do as much as they can. You won’t be doing anything if you burn yourself out.”

“She’s right,” Jack agreed. “We’ll take up the slack for you.”

“Thanks, guys,” Drew said, feeling thankful. “Means a lot.”

“Still, I’d like to do a checkup,” Sarah said. “Best to catch anything early than late.”

“Maybe tonight,” Drew said even though he had no intention of doing so.

In all honesty, he was terrified of what Sarah might find. He felt that it was probably best if he didn’t know.

Not wanting to think about it any more, Drew focused on eating the rest of his roast. He had a busy day ahead of him and he needed his head in the game if he wanted to accomplish his goals before the enemy waltzed up to their front door and blasted it open with a missile launcher. It was imperative that he meet that force with not only an equal one but one of greater strength. He couldn’t allow some shivers and sweats to delay what had already been delayed for far too long already.

“Alright,” Drew said after finishing his last mouthful as he pushed himself up onto his feet. “It’s time to get to work.”

Chapter 32 - Second Steps in Building an Army by Saturn Knight

They had taken the Assaultron line to pieces and were making sure that every component was cleaned and ready. Drew had already de-crusted and polished most of the machine parts, but now he had to ensure that once he started them up, they didn’t stop until he had an army.

“Clean as it will ever be,” Amy said.

“Without spending weeks or months scrubbing, that is,” Jack added.

Drew had to agree, yet he still felt a little apprehensive. Starting up old machines was always a gamble.

“Okay, we’ll put this all back together, then while I’m running a diagnostic on this line I want you two starting up the Sentry bot line,” he said looking at Amy and Jack. “It’s time we made some more of those. I want something to bolster those Protectrons that are wandering around the parking lot. And speaking of those Protectrons, I still need to bring them in for maintenance and reprogramming.”

“How many Sentry bots do you want us to make?” Jack asked.

“Not sure yet,” Drew said as he heaved up a heavy component and slotted it back into its housing. “We’ll probably do five and see how it goes from there.”

They wasted no time putting the Assaultron line back together and five and a half hours after they had first taken it apart, the newly cleaned production line was back together. During that time, Gemma and Veronica brought robot components through from the stock warehouse ready for assembly

It was time-consuming and tiring work, yet Drew knew it would be worth it. He needed to protect his home and those he cared about and that included the Greenclaws.

The doors to the stock warehouse opened and the two Greenclaws stepped in for what had to be the fiftieth time and placed the large boxes down along the rear wall.

“We nearly done?” Veronica asked. “I feel like I’ve been doing this for hours.”

“We have,” Gemma said. “But I agree, how many more components could you possibly want in here?”

Drew took a quick look through all the boxes before he answered their question. “Can you two find more boxes of Sentry bot parts?” Drew called over.

“Sure,” Veronica said. “Anything else?”

“No. Just bring in a few boxes. That should be enough to get a good few dozen Assaultrons and a handful of Sentries built.”

He headed over to the terminal and logged in before starting the diagnostic on the Assaultron line. He watched as it began to scroll through all the components each with an ‘OK’ next to it. The only issues that arose were the same ones on the Sentry line, those being maintenance checks and recommended parts replacements.

“Looks like it’s fine,” he said. “We’ll put the Assaultron components in ready for manufacture, but before that, I want to run a test cycle.”

Drew’s fingers rushed against the keyboard and the Assaultron line hummed to life. It ran through its cycle before ending with the green letters on the screen telling him that it had been completed successfully. Just like it had done with the Sentry bot line.

“Looks like it’s ready,” Drew told the others. He quickly checked the time, seeing that it was six-fifteen in the evening. “You guys want to stop for something to eat?”

Jack shook his head. “Let’s make sure it all works, first.”

“Agreed,” Drew said. “Place all the Assaultron components in their slots. If this goes well, then we’ll have an army of them by week's end.”

Jack sighed. “I wish the autoloader worked.”

“We don’t need it,” Drew said. “We won’t be running any of this anywhere near full speed and we need the components from it as spares.”

The doors on the far side of the room swung open and Drew looked over to see Sekka as she stepped inside, crawling under the low frame.

“Just in time,” he said. “I’m about to build our very first Assaultron.”

“We have a problem,” she said as she strode over, her footfalls heavy on the concrete floor.

“What kind of problem?” Drew asked. He could tell from her tone that she didn’t have good news.

“Bek and Axa were out on patrol around the perimeter and they caught someone in some strange-looking metal armor spying on us. They got away.”

Drew took in a deep breath as he fully took in what he had just been told. It wasn’t good news, that much was clear. Anyone spying on them, whether they be Brotherhood or not could impact his plans negatively.

“What kind of armor?” he asked.

“Not big like power armor, but tight. Covered most of the head. Just the face was exposed.”

“Could be a scout,” he said as he rubbed his eyes.

Amy walked over to him. “What do we do?”

He rolled his shoulders. “We continue doing what we’re doing.” He glanced back at the production lines. “It’s gonna be a looong night.”

“So we pulling an all-nighter?” Jack asked.

“We don’t have a choice.”

At that moment, Veronica and Gemma stepped back from the warehouse with boxes full of Sentry bot parts.

“What’s going on?” Gemma asked. “You look dour.”

“Possible scouts,” Drew answered. “Which means that we could have a fight on our hands within the next few days.”

“That soon?” Veronica asked, sounding unsettled.

“That soon. Which means we need to bring the timeline up a lot. We need to have a small army by the end of tomorrow.”

Drew pointed to the console. “Jack, turn the Sentry line on.”

Jack rushed over while Drew headed to the crates. “We need to start placing these parts into their hoppers.”

He glanced at Amy. “Can you go fetch Sarah? We might need her help.”

“Can do,” she said as she hurried out of the room.

He stepped up next to Jack as the others got the Sentry line ready to start a production run.

“You think we can do it?” Jack asked.

“If we can’t then some of us will die. Simple as that.”

“Right, so we better do our best,” Jack said.

“We have to,” Drew said with a nod before he went to help the others.

Before long, both the Sentry bot line and the Assaultron line were ready to be started.

“Okay, we’ll pump out one Sentry and one Assaultron,” Drew told the others. “Then if nothing goes wrong, we’ll start proper production.”

“Should I start the Sentry line?” Jack asked.

“Yes,” Drew confirmed. “I’ll focus on the Assaultrons.”

“Okay, setting up to make one Sentry.”

Drew did one final check before he too set up his line to produce a single unit. He glanced over at the Sentry line as it rumbled into life before he hit ‘execute’ on his own terminal.

The sound with both lines running was immense. A few hours of it and he knew they would all be well on their way to being deaf.

“I think we’ll need to find some ear protection,” Drew shouted.

“Yeah,” Jack agreed. “I think I saw some in the small office on the back wall.”

“What about us?” Sekka yelled. “I doubt those ear protectors will fit over our heads.”

“You can wait outside. Jack, go fetch four of them, two for when Amy gets back with Sarah.”

As Jack hurried off, Drew kept his eyes on the lines, moving between both consoles to make sure nothing was awry. Soon, he was back and Drew put on the ear defenders. Almost immediately, the sound level was cut in half.

“Perfect,” he shouted.

The doors opened and Amy stepped inside with Sarah and Suzy. Jack promptly headed over and passed the ear defenders over to them.

After putting them on, they all made their way over to Drew.

“What do you need help with?” Sarah asked.

“At this moment, I want you to stand over by that big red button on the wall and press it if I tell you to.”

“Is it an isolation switch?”

“It’s an emergency stop button. Halts the entire plant. If I see anything going wrong, I want to mitigate potential damage.”

“Got it,” Sarah said as she hurried over to the button.

Even though the Sentry line was started up first, an Assaultron was the first off the end fully constructed.

“Look at that,” Drew said as he stepped over to it. “A dozen or so of these and those idiots would have to start rethinking their position here. These along with the Sentry bots, and they will seriously have to rethink things. These added with the turrets on the roof and they would be stupid to attack.”

A Sentry bot rolled off the line next and Drew wasted no time running a diagnostic on both, which they passed.

“This is it,” Drew said, looking at the others. “We can actually do this. The only line left is the Gutsy line. We can convert the Assaultron line for Protectrons, but I don’t think they’ll be needed.”

“How many do you want us to make?” Jack asked.

Drew thought for a moment. He really wanted to just start up the lines and let them run, but he knew it was safer and there was less chance of something going wrong if they produced one at a time. He also knew that would take forever.

Drew rubbed his chin. “If we can make five and there are no issues, then we’ll start producing in bulk.”

“Sounds good,” Jack said. “Do you want me to do another one?”

“Yeah, make another one and I’ll make another Assaultron.”

“How many do you want to make altogether?” Amy asked.

“Until there are no more parts,” Drew answered. “Tonight, let’s make five of each. Then tomorrow, we’ll start anew and pump out as many as we can. I was thinking an all-nighter but I think it’s best if we’re rested up and ready in case those power-armored goons do show up looking for trouble”

“Good idea,” Amy agreed. “No point in messing up our sleep schedule if we don’t have to.”

Drew nodded. “Once we have a sizable force, we’ll start work on fixing up the Gutsy line.”

Drew watched for a moment as the Sentry line rumbled back into action before he started the Assaultron line with an order of one unit.

Again, the Assaultron was the first to be finished and Drew immediately ran a diagnostic on it. Like the first, there were no errors, or at least none that were of any concern. He then ran a diagnostic on the Sentry bot as its construction finished and he found the same.

“Fantastic,” Drew said.

“Want to make a third?” Jack asked.

Drew took off his ear defenders. “You know what? Maybe we should put these four on patrol around the perimeter. Those Protectrons are next to useless.”

“Good idea,” Veronica said as she and Gemma peered in through the door. “Make sure they don’t shoot at us.”

“You’ll be safe, don’t worry,” Drew promised. “I’ll put all of you on the ally list. Like I did with the turrets.”

“Didn’t they shoot at Lotte when they first arrived?” Gemma pointed out.

“I fixed that,” Drew said as he stepped over to the terminal.

“I hope so,” Gemma said before she and Veronica disappeared back behind the doors.

“I’m going to give them a route around the perimeter. One Sentry and one Assaultron going clockwise, the other two going anti-clockwise.”

“Sounds good,” Amy said. “I’ll sleep a little better knowing they’re out there.”

“I agree,” Sarah said from where she stood by the emergency button.

He moved away from the terminal and over to the first Sentry bot.

“Okay, I deactivated their remote control systems,” Drew told everyone. “This means I am going to activate them manually.”

“Why do that?” Jack asked. “Wouldn’t it be better if we can shut them down remotely?”

“It would, but we don’t know if those assholes can hack the frequency.”

He unhooked his Pipboy jack and plugged it into the first Sentry bot. Not a moment later, a mechanical hiss emanated from its hydraulics as it rose up on its three-wheeled limbs.

“Awaiting command!” it uttered in its deep robotic voice.

“Stand by,” Drew said as he unplugged his jack and stepped over to the first Assaultron, plugging it into its port. A few moments later, it whirred into life as it stood up straight.

“Instruction required,” it said, looking at him.

“Okay, I have set you two as Unit-One-A and Unit-One-B. I have issued a patrol route on the exterior of this facility.”

The Sentry bot answered first. “Affirmative.”

“Understood,” the Assaultron added a moment later.

“I will activate Unit-Two-A and Two-B and you will all head outside together.”

“Affirmative.”

Drew quickly activated the other two robots and told them the same thing before turning to Jack.

“Show them outside. Take them through the stock warehouse.”

“Yessir,” he said excitedly. “Follow me.”

The four robots rolled and strolled after him noisily while Drew walked back over to the main console. They were still a long way from being secure, but it was a definitive step in the right direction. A pair of Sentry bots and Assaultrons along with the turrets for support should easily deal with a small group of aggressors, even if they were wearing power armor. He planned on having ten more by the end of the night, five of each, though he would settle for four if it got too late.

“They’re on patrol,” Jack said.

“Right, go tell the Greenclaws can go rest.”

“Sure thing,” he said as he walked off.

“Sarah, you and Suzy can go as well. Amy, Jack, and I can deal with it from here, I think.”

“Are you sure?” she asked.

Drew nodded in affirmation. “Yeah, I’m sure. Things have been going far better than I anticipated.”

“Don’t jinx it,” Amy warned.

Sarah took off her ear defenders. “What do you want me to do with these?”

“Take them with you. Might be handy to have.”

“Okay, I’ll do that,” she said, holding them against her chest.

Jack stepped back into the large room with Gemma and Sekka close behind.

Drew looked over at them. “Didn’t Jack tell you that you could go rest?”

“Yeah,” Gemma said. “But we wanted to be here just in case.”

“Okay,” Drew said with a shrug. “We’re going to produce five more of each, put them on patrol, and call it a night.”

“Are we going to do it one by one?” Jack asked.

“Yes, like we discussed,” Drew confirmed. “We’ll check the lines after every single one we build. Can’t afford to have something go wrong.”

He and Jack made their way to their respective consoles and after a quick check, they started them up with another order. The lines rumbled as the parts were put together. A robot came off the end of their respective lines and they both moved them before doing a diagnostic and a quick line check before repeating the process. By the time they had completed all ten, an hour and fifteen minutes had passed. Satisfied, he considered putting them on patrol like the other four but decided to hold them back, just in case. Besides, it was best not to show the enemy all his pieces, at least not before he was ready.

Amy stepped over to him and slapped his back. “We’re actually doing it,” she said. “We’re building an army.”

“It’s not an army yet, but we’re getting there.”

“Don’t forget you have us, too,” Gemma pointed out. “I think we can already defend this place pretty well.”

“Let’s get to the point where we don’t have to use you to fight,” Drew said. “Fourteen robots is really good for one day, but let’s bring that up a little. I also want to get the Gutsy line pumping out robots as soon as possible. I think the lines are good, so we can leave them to work autonomously, given that we keep the feeds for the components and parts stocked up.”

“We’ll be ready,” Sekka said.

Drew nodded slowly. He was hopeful, more hopeful than he had been that morning, but they still had a long way to go until he was truly happy that they were well-defended. Being safe, was only the first step. He ultimately wanted to drive the Brotherhood splinter group back out of the region. Only then could he truly say the Greenclaws were safe.

Deep down, though, he knew he couldn’t say that. He hadn’t really been thinking about it due to his attention being elsewhere, but there was also the fact that he doubted the locals would react well to the Greenclaws either, even if they were friendly. There would be tensions, even hostilities and he currently had put no thought into how he was going to deal with the inevitable fallout when news of intelligent Deathclaws that used to be people started to spread.

Drew came out of his thoughts as Gemma approached him.

“Hey,” he said smiling.

“Hey,” she said right back. “You’ve done really well.”

“Thanks.”

She looked around at the others and then back to him. “Well, goodnight, I guess. I want to see how Kiki’s doing.”

“Sure. Send her my best.”

“I will.”

Drew watched as she left before he addressed the others. “I’m calling it a night. I’m feeling kinda tired.”

“Same,” Jack said.

“Yeah,” Amy agreed. “Been a busy day.”

“Been a busy couple of days for me,” Drew said. “Will be a busy week. Hell, it’s gonna be a busy month.”

“Goodnight,” he said.

He made his way up to the office and stood at the window and stared out at the darkening sky. There he stood for several minutes before he sat himself down in the chair and continued to stare out, keeping his eyes on the highway.

The enemy was coming. It was only a matter of when.

Chapter 33 - Bek by Saturn Knight

Drew’s eyes slowly drifted open to the sight of the large bay window and the view of the parking lot. It hadn’t been his intention to fall asleep in the chair in front of the large windows, but that was what had happened.

He rose his left arm and checked the time. It was half-six in the morning, the perfect time to grab a shower undisturbed.

The shower felt invigorating. Well, at least until Drew realized he was losing more hair down the drain than normal. Not only that, but he somehow managed to cut open his scalp with one of his nails.

“Shit,” he hissed as he looked down at his finger.

His fingernails looked a little pointier than usual, and not only that, but they also looked a little thicker.

“I do not need this,” he muttered to himself before he checked to see how much his head was bleeding. Thankfully it wasn’t much, but it did still sting, especially under the running shower water.

With his morning already thoroughly ruined, he decided to head outside and check up on the patrolling robots. Thankfully, they had not only successfully survived the night, they were also running well within acceptable parameters. In fact, they were operating well above what most wasteland bots were functioning at. They were practically new, after all. Only time had degraded their components, and even then, they had been well-packed meaning the degradation had been minimal.

Happy that his ruined day had taken a small turn for the better, he headed back inside and made his way back to his office where he found Veronica.

“Morning,” he said as he moved around the desk and sat down. “Any news?”

“No,” she answered. “Just wondering how the robots you sent out on patrol are doing?”

“Great. I’ll have to add some protection against EMPs. Well, more protection. As military robots, they already have some.”

“The chicken wire stuff?”

“It works,” Drew said. “Not perfect but it’s extra protection. Will make it a little more of a headache to do maintenance, but it will hopefully be worth it.”

“How about welding more plates of armor on them?”

“Maybe,” Drew said as he thought about it. “It would offer more protection against ballistics and explosives, but it would slow them down making them even easier to hit. It’s a balancing act. Armor versus dexterity.”

Veronica gestured at herself. “We have both.”

“You’re quick on your feet, I’ll give you that. The only problem is your tits flap about all over the place.”

Veronica held her breasts. “You wouldn’t know that if you weren’t staring.”

Drew cleared his throat. He felt a little embarrassed that he had brought it up. He had no idea what had come over him. The words had kind of just spilled out of his mouth.

“Well, they’re kinda hard to miss,” he said cautiously. He had a feeling that he was irritating her.

“It’s not our fault they’re massive,” Veronica said a little aggressively. “Imagine if your balls were so big you couldn’t fit them in your pants? Would you want people staring and commenting on it all the time?”

Drew figured out a way to get himself out of the potential hot water he had put himself in. “We’ll have to make you some armor at some point,” he said quickly. “Something that covers your softer parts.”

“You should probably get on that sooner rather than later,” she suggested.

“Depending on how well today goes, it will likely be this week.”

“Then we’ll smash the shine right off their power armor.”

“Their armor is already pretty dull,” Drew pointed out. “Time has worn the shine away.”

“Well, we’ll make it even duller.”

“Let’s hope,” Drew agreed.

“Kinda wish I could do more to help,” she said, looking at her large clawed hands. “These things are useless.”

“They’re not useless. They’re just useful for other things,” he said.

“Like disemboweling.”

“If that’s what you think of first, then I don’t know what to tell you.”

“Alright, you tell me what I can do with them?”

“Whatever you want.”

“I want to sew.”

“Well, not that,” Drew said, realizing she was going to be difficult about it.

“Then what?”

“You can carry things. You could help the local farmers till the soil. You could help build things, you can help in so many ways. All of you can. Some things you might need to relearn, but those hands might be big but they are still very capable. You’re still very useful, Veronica.”

“You know, if it wasn’t for Gemma and Kiki, I think I might actually fuck you.”

Drew felt his cheeks grow warm. “I’m being serious here.”

“So am I,” she said before she turned and left.

Drew swiveled in his chair and stared out of the large bay window into the parking lot. The thought of building a harem with the Greenclaws was strangely appealing. When he had first laid eyes on them all he’d seen is monsters and now he saw attractive beings with wide womanly hips, heaving breasts and shapely figures, and kind hearts.

Well, mostly.

Movement caught his eye. He saw the Sentry bot and the Assaultron move across the parking lot. At first, he wondered what had caught their attention when he saw beams of laser fire erupt from behind the armored tank.

A figure in power armor and another in far lighter clothing darted out of cover as the sentry fired a barrage of missiles. The one in the power armor wasn’t quick enough and was caught in the explosion, sending him careening to the ground.

That was when laser fire shot out from above the window from somewhere on the roof. Drew figured it was one of the defense turrets he had up there.

Drew pressed down the intercom. “Everybody remain inside for the moment, we have some unwelcome visitors.”

He released the button and continued to watch as a second Assaultron and Sentry joined the fight followed by two of the Gutsy’s. The two interlopers didn’t stand a chance. The one in the lighter armor was struck several times before a beam of blinding light erupted from the face of one of the Assaultrons turning him almost instantly to ash.

The one in the power armor tried to flee, but another barrage of missiles sent them once again to the ground where a flurry of energy bolts quickly dispatched them before the power armor exploded.

In an instant, the robots all disengaged and went back to their patrol as if nothing had happened. It was honestly quite frightening to watch.

He pressed down the intercom a second time. “Our unwanted guests have been dealt with.”

He turned to the door as Amy stepped inside the office. “Who were they?” she asked with some urgency.

“Our Brotherhood friends,” Drew answered. “Two of them. Our robots easily defeated them.”

“So they’re dead?”

Drew nodded. “Some yesterday afternoon and two more this morning. They are definitely scoping this place out.”

“So we don’t have much time,” Amy surmised.

“Likely not, no.”

“So today we’re gonna be making more robots?”

“As many as we can,” Drew answered.

“I’ll go fetch Jack,” Amy said.

“I’ll be on the factory floor.”

Amy left while Drew took another look out of the large window at the pile of ash and the melted power armor before he too left, heading the way his friend had just gone.

He headed down the corridor and down the stairwell where he almost tripped over Glower who was sleeping while leaning up against the wall. He stepped well clear before moving around the corner to see Bek shove Amy hard against the wall.

“Hey!” he shouted. “What the fuck do you think you’re doing!?”

Drew stormed over, his fists clenched tightly. Being aggressive to him was one thing, but assaulting his friends was another thing altogether.

Bek looked at him with disinterest as she pinned Amy against the wall with her clawed hand.

“I asked what you were doing!?”

“Nothing,” she answered. “Absolutely nothing. Just forget what you saw here, otherwise, someone will get hurt.”

“Let her go!” he fumed through clenched teeth. “I won’t ask again!”

Bek released her and took a step towards him, her claws raised as though she was ready to attack. Despite feeling absolutely terrified of what she might do, Drew stood his ground.

“What do you think you are doing!?” he demanded once more.

Bek spoke, but it wasn’t to answer his question. “You can’t tell me what to do.”

“I can if you want to stay here.”

With Bek distracted, Amy tried to sneak away only for Bek to swivel around and backhand her, knocking her to the floor.

Drew was so angry he honestly thought he was going to pop a blood vessel. “How dare you!” he hissed. “What do you think will happen if one of the others saw you?”

“They won’t.”

“The arrogance!” he spat.

“They won’t because Lotte has called a meeting and she does like to drone on. She thinks she’s in charge but she’s not really. They don’t even like her. Well, except for Charan.”

“That’s obvious,” he said. “But you do realize that the only thing between you and those pieces of shit in the power armor is me, Amy and Jack and our ability to build a defense? Or are you stupid?”

“I don’t really care. Lotte and Kiki can deal with them. Maybe they’ll even die.”

“You really don’t care, do you?”

“Why should I? I’m here to have fun.”

“This is not fun. You’re taking it too far!”

“Oh, I can take it much further.”

Bek swung a claw at him and somehow he managed to jump clear, avoiding a certain loss of his head.

“You really want to do this?” he demanded to know. “You really want to be tossed out? Do you really want to be alone?”

“Lotte won’t let you throw me out,” Bek said sounding certain.

“You think she won’t? Even after she finds out that you’ve attacked us?”

“Lotte doesn’t need you. She doesn’t need any of you. If you die, then she won’t shed a tear. In fact, it would be one less headache for her to deal with. My guess is that she would be upset that she didn’t get to eat any of you.”

With that she lunged at him, slamming him hard into the wall. He felt something give way, and thankfully it wasn’t his rib cage, rather the wall buckled and bits of dust fell down on his head.

Bek took a step back and watched as he dropped onto his hands and knees, his breath heavy.

“Wow, that didn’t kill you. I’m impressed.”

He looked up at her with a fierce glare. “You’re really intent on throwing everything away aren’t you.”

“Nothing will happen to me. Lotte won’t allow it. You see we are a family. You, Amy, Jack, and that doctor are all outsiders. It’s why she didn’t call you to the meeting.”

Drew realized something. “Wait, then why aren’t you in the meeting with the other Greenclaws?”

She paused for a moment, a look of confusion on her face before she shrugged. “Lotte doesn’t care if I go. I don’t wanna go anyway.”

“It’s because you’re the smallest, isn’t it?” Drew realized. “She doesn’t see you as useful. It’s why you’re lashing out, isn’t it? You feel inadequate so you’re taking it out on us! You’ve always felt inadequate even before you were changed.”

A look of uncertainty crossed her features. “You don’t know what you’re talking about,” she uttered.

“I think I do.”

“No, you don’t. I don’t care what Lotte thinks of me. That’s got nothing to do with any of this.”

“With this?” Drew questioned. “I’ll tell you what this is. It’s just a small scared little girl trying to act tough.”

“Fuck you!” she screamed as she raised her large foot, ready to stomp him into the ground.

Somehow, he managed to catch it, and hold her foot at bay. A look of shock crossed Bek’s features before she shifted her body weight forward causing his arms to start shaking under the strain.

“I’m genuinely impressed,” she said. “But playtime is over.”

She raised her foot off of him and planted it down next to his head with a thud. Drew wasn’t able to catch his breath before she kicked him hard, sending him sprawling.

“You might be able to put up some resistance, but I know someone who can’t.” She turned and stomped over to Amy who was still laying in a heap on the floor. “I won’t kill her, but Amy needs to know what it’s like to be ugly. She needs to know what it’s like to see her reflection and see a mutilated face stare back.”

Drew rolled over and tried to get back on his feet, but her fierce kick had knocked the wind out of him.

“Stop!” he wheezed.

Bek ignored him as she raised a clawed hand. “Time to fix that pretty face of yours.”

That was when Glower seemed to appear from nowhere. She slammed her body hard into Bek, knocking her away from Amy’s unconscious form. The hallway was filled with animalistic roars as Glower began her onslaught. Bek managed to block the blows, but not without the skin on her arms being flayed by Glower’s sharp claws.

Bek gave as good as she got, swiping at Glower with powerful blows. Drew saw blood dripping onto the floor as the two continued to fight. It was honestly one of the most terrifying things he had ever seen.

With some mental effort, he managed to pull his eyes away from the carnage and focused on Amy. She was starting to stir and he knew he had to get her to safety. With two large Greenclaws fighting mere feet away, the risk of her being crushed by a wayward foot was too close.

Without further thought, he forced himself up onto his feet and staggered over to Amy.

“Are you alright?” he asked.

“What happened?” she said drowsily.

“Bek attacked you. Glower is fighting her.”

He helped her up onto her feet, her arms and legs trembling under the strain.

“Come on,” he said, leading her slowly away from the fight before he sat her on the floor further down the hall.

His attention moved back to the fight as he heard an almighty crash. Glower had sent Bek clean through a wall. A moment later, Bek came flying back out, knocking Glower to the ground. She raised her claws above her head ready to strike.

“What is going on here!?” a voice boomed.

It was Gemma and she looked furious.

The two Greenclaws stopped fighting in an instant and turned to look at Gemma. There was a shocked look on both their faces as though they hadn’t expected the interruption. They should have, considering the noise they were making. Drew didn’t doubt that everyone in the plant had heard them.

Gemma looked at Drew and Amy. “Are you two alright? You weren’t hurt in the fight were you?”

“Not in the fight, no,” Drew said. “Bek was harassing Amy and she attacked me when I tried to intervene.”

Gemma looked at Bek. “Is that so.”

“She also threatened to tear up Amy’s face. That’s when Glower showed up and fought her off.”

Gemma glared at Bek before she looked at Glower. “Come over here Glow. You’re not in trouble, but Bek is.”

“Why?” Bek asked as Glower strode over and put herself firmly between Bek and Amy.

“You know why, Bek.”

“I was only playing. I didn’t mean any real harm. They would have lived.”

“You’re not making your actions look any better,” Gemma said. “We could hear the fight from the warehouse.”

“So?”

“So, you’re going to follow me. Lotte needs to hear about this.” She looked at Drew, Amy, and then Glower. “You three as well.”

“She won’t care,” Bek said with a shrug. “You’ll see. She doesn’t care about the humans.”

“Come along!” Gemma said loudly.

The group followed, with Bek trailing several yards behind. Drew, unfortunately, sensed that there was more truth to what Bek had said regarding Charlotte than any of them would like. Their so-called matriarch had already proved her apathy towards humans. She would likely be disinterested in the accusations. At least that was Drew’s feeling on the matter.

They stepped through the double doors into the large dispatch warehouse. Every Greenclaw was there, just as Bek had said.

“What was all the commotion?” Charlotte demanded. “Did one of the human’s robots go haywire as I suspected?”

“No,” Gemma answered, looking down at Drew. “I’ll let Drew explain.”

He cleared his throat before he began to describe the events for the second time. “Bek attacked Amy. She shoved her into the wall. When I intervened, Bek turned on me. She threatened to kill us. She planned on ripping up Amy’s face with her claws.” He gestured to Glower. “Glower came and fought her off. That was the commotion you heard.”

“I see,” Charlotte said, looking disinterested just as Bek had said. “And what does Bek have to say?”

“I was joking,” she said. “Just having a bit of fun with them. Not my fault if they took it seriously.”

“Nothing about that was a joke,” Drew rebuked. “You meant all of it.”

Charlotte raised a massive hand. “Do not interrupt her while she is explaining her side of the story.”

Bek continued. “They fear us so they took it the wrong way. We can’t live with people who might stab us in the back. He’s building robots, who says he won’t turn them against us.”

Drew held his tongue. Bek was trying to stir trouble and by the expression on Charlotte’s face, he realized it might actually be working. The matriarch had never truly trusted them, and now she was having someone reinforce that distrust. He knew that Bek could undo everything that he was trying to build and he couldn’t allow that.

He took in a deep breath and began to speak. “Charlotte, you know she’s lying. You know she’s vindictive. She has threatened me before and I’m certain she’s threatened others.”

“Are you certain of this?” Charlotte asked, peering down at him. “You have no proof.”

“I trust him,” Gemma said.

“So do I,” Kiki agreed.

“Same,” said Veronica.

“I agree,” added Axa.

“I believe him as well,” said Sekka.

It appeared that Drew had most of the Greenclaws on his side which only emboldened his position. Still, beyond his word and perhaps bruised ribs that he was certain to have by now he had no evidence.

Amy took a nervous step forward. “I have proof,” she said, her voice shaky.

“You do?” Charlotte asked. She sounded surprised.

It was news to Drew, too. Beyond what he had just told them he didn’t know of any actual proof unless Amy had been secretly recording her threats.

Instead of producing a holotape, she turned around, facing her back to the group before she raised the back of her shirt. There were some old bandages wrapped around her torso, but after pulling against them they fell away revealing deep gouges.

Drew stared in stunned silence while Glower growled.

“They look like claw marks,” Gemma said.

“She scratched herself,” Bek dismissed.

“They’re Greenclaw marks,” Gemma said. “Small ones at that. Only Bek or Glower could have done them.”

“You calling us ‘Greenclaws’ too, now?” Bek asked. “Like the humans do?”

“It is a good descriptor,” Gemma said.

“Whatever,” Bek muttered. “It doesn’t matter because the human made it up because she hates us and wants us out.”

Sekka came to Amy’s defence. “That’s not true. Amy is kind and sweet.”

Veronica concurred. “We’ve been working well together. Drew is capable of turning this place into a real home for all of us.”

Axa looked up at Charlotte. “Bek has always been a problem. When we first changed, she was always trying to pick fights with the rest of us. At least until we outgrew her. It makes sense that she would use her superiority against the humans.”

“I agree,” Kiki said.

Charlotte turned to her right hand who stood beside her.

“What do you think, Charan?”

“My memories from before have started to return,” Charan answered. “I remember Rebecca as she was. Spoiled, destructive. She has always been weak, using her power as the mayor’s daughter against everyone. But she was smart enough to only push so far. She is vindictive and weakens us with her presence.”

“What of Glower?” Charlotte asked. “Does she not weaken the pack, also?”

“She makes herself useful, despite her inability to speak,” Charan answered. “But if you wish to expel both, then I will agree with it.”

Charlotte nodded. “I shall think for a moment then come to a decision.”

For the first time, Bek started to look genuinely concerned. Drew didn’t know if the matriarch was actually going to toss Bek out, but if she also tried to throw Glower out, then he would defend her.

“I am not going to expel anyone,” Charlotte said. “We are a family and need to look out for each other. Though, that does not mean I condone your actions. You are to leave the humans alone, Bek. If you do not then I may just change my mind.”

“But…” Bek began.

Charlotte interrupted. “No, do not even argue. Be grateful. Find your fun elsewhere. And that does not mean destroying any of the robots. We need them.”

Drew breathed a sigh of relief, though that sensation was replaced by a primal fear when Charlotte turned her gaze onto him. He doubted he would ever get used to her sheer scale, especially when she made the giant warehouse look like a doghouse.

“You need to finish building your robots,” she said.” I doubt it will be long now before they attack.”

“Agreed,” Drew said with a nod. “Another few days and we should be able to deal with whatever they throw at us. Given they don’t have an entire army of robots of their own.”

“How likely is that?”

“Very plausible, but I doubt it. They’d have used a robotic force like that against you guys.”

“That we can agree on,” Charlotte said. “Now get to it, we don’t have forever.”

“I’ll help,” Gemma said.

“Me, too,” Veronica added.

“Come on, then,” Drew said as he turned for the door, stopping for a moment to address Amy. “Are you alright? Do you want to go see Sarah?”

“I’ll be fine,” she said before turning to Glower. “Do you want to come too?”

Glower’s face lit up as she followed them out.

Chapter 34 by Saturn Knight

The loud whirring and droning of the machines had long since become monotonous but Drew put up with it only because it meant that progress was being made, even if that progress was slow. He had the production lines on their slowest setting and while he could dial it up, he wanted the old machines to last. He couldn’t exactly order new parts when the old ones wore out.

Another issue was the lines kept halting for maintenance mode. He knew he could probably disable it, but he honestly didn’t want to go messing around in the settings too much in case he accidentally fucked something up.

Drew’s attention wasn’t entirely on the two production lines as he was also trying to figure out how to get the Gutsy line to work. The main problem was that not all the construction data was stored locally. It had been part of the agreement between Robco and General Atomics and without a satellite connection, he simply couldn’t manufacture them.

Frustrated was how he felt. He didn’t fancy putting them together manually as that took time and a lot of time at that. He could maybe manage two in a day, but he wouldn’t be able to keep that up day after day.

He turned to Amy. “Can you keep an eye on things?”

“Heading somewhere?”

“Yeah. I’m hoping Robco management were scumbags and kept the missing program files hidden somewhere. Otherwise, we’re gonna be building the Gutsies manually.”

“Couldn’t you fill in the missing data?” Amy asked.

“Could, yes, but don’t want to risk it. If I make a mistake then we fuck the line up.”

“You think they’d do that?”

“What, keep the missing data they weren’t supposed to have hidden away somewhere?” he asked sarcastically. “This is a pre-war corporation we’re talking about. They probably had the stolen information locked up somewhere.”

“Right,” she said.

Drew quickly left the factory floor, taking off his ear defenders as he stepped through the doors.

He knew that the best bet was to head up to the manager’s office and check his computer. There were still a lot of files he had yet to access, though what he had accessed had shown him how much callous disregard they had for the safety of their workers. Any safety concerns raised were put down with claims of communistic thoughts.

It boiled down to if a worker didn’t want their limbs crushed due to lack of safety, then they were probably a communist. Apparently, a true capitalist reveled in the thought of losing limbs if it was for the profits of their corporate overlords.

Drew hurried up to the office and sat down at the desk, logging into the terminal. He began looking through the files he had yet to look through, finding more and more things that made him feel angry. One such occasion was how they had used a certain troublesome employee as target practice. He was seen as troublesome only because he believed that there should be more safety checks. Management had falsified documents that made it appear that he was a communist spy.

It seemed the ‘C’ word was used a lot to terrorize the workers. Speak up, or too eagerly voice concerns about health and safety and they would label you a communist. Sadly, it was far too common in pre-war America.

Drew looked up from the terminal as Amy stepped inside followed by Glower.

“Something up?” he asked.

“We’ve run out of parts for the Sentry bot line.”

“We have?”

“Yeah. Gemma and Veronica are checking through the stock warehouse but aren’t having much luck.”

“Well shit,” he said leaning back in his chair. “How many have we got?”

“We have ten,” she answered. “We have some parts, but not everything. If we find the missing components we should be able to make one or two more.”

“How about the Assaultrons?” he asked.

“I think we have twenty of those so far. Things are slow because the line keeps shutting itself off for maintenance.”

“Right. Well, the Gutsy line is proving to be a problem.”

“Still can’t find the missing code?”

“If it’s on here, then it’s well hidden.”

“If it’s not on the manager’s computer, then maybe they’re on holotapes?”

“Could be,” he said as he rubbed his eyes. “I just wish I didn’t have to look. But General Atomics didn’t trust Robco to only make what they were contracted to make. Par for the course for those pre-war companies. Requiring satellite link to fill in the blank code was a genius way of holding Robco in check but now that means that code is lost to the ether. Unless, of course, we happen to come across a General Atomics plant and find the missing code there.”

“You checked all these filing cabinets?” Amy asked, gesturing.

“Yeah, there’s some holotapes in that one by the door. I haven’t had time to check them, though.”

Amy walked over to it and pulled it open, grabbing a handful of holotapes. She placed them down on the desk before grabbing more.

“I’ll be honest,” Drew said as he picked one up at random and slotted it into his Pipboy, “I’m not sure we’re gonna find the missing data. I might have to figure it out on my own.”

They weren’t off to a great start as the first holotape was empty, as was the second. The third was password protected, which gave him some hope. It took a few minutes to get through and when he did he was shocked to find it was full of pictures of naked women.

He took it out and placed it next to the two empty ones before checking a fourth to find once again it was empty. The several after that were the same story, though with the eleventh holotape he found another that was password protected.

It was a little tougher to crack than the first which again gave him hope, but there was also some doubt.

“Huh,” he said as he started looking through it.

“Found something?” Amy asked, leaning in.

“It seems there’s stuff on here regarding a few companies such as Versicorps, which I’ve never heard of, Imperial Robotics which is apparently is, or rather was, some British upstart company. There is also data on Implied Hypnotics, Arcjet systems. Ah, here we are. General Atomics International.”

“Let’s hope it has that info you need.”

“Let’s hope,” he agreed as he looked inside. “Okay, it’s not here but it tells us which holotape it is. It’s a red one with a black dash written on it in marker.”

He began to look through the remaining holotapes on the desk while Amy searched through the filing cabinet.

“Found it,” Amy said, pulling out a red holotape with a red dash on it.

Quickly, she passed it to him and he placed it into his Pipboy. Just as he expected it was encrypted. It was much tougher to crack than either of the other two, but when he did he was greeted by the beautiful sight of the missing code.

“And there it is,” he said, scrolling through it. “The code that could have got Robco sued to oblivion.”

“Sued?”

“Some ritual they used to do to each other in the old world,” Drew said as he stood up and moved from behind the desk. “Now it’s time to see if it actually works.”

Quickly, they headed back down to the factory floor where he made a beeline to the Gutsy terminal. He put the holotape into the slot before promptly installing the missing components from the construction code. He then ran a quick diagnostic.

Drew then looked up as he heard thumping to see Veronica walking over.

“Good news,” she said. “We found the parts we were missing, which means we can build more Sentry bots.”

“That’s great,” Drew said. “How many?”

“Well, it’s only two for now but we only need to find a hydraulic thingie for the legs and we can make three.”

“Hopefully there is one. If not we might be able to get one from town. But not today. Hell, not in the foreseeable future. Best we stay put for now.”

“We also have plenty of armaments,” Veronica said. “I do have to wonder what a Robco factory needed with so many missiles. Wasn’t it a civilian company?”

“Things were pretty dire,” Drew explained. “Robco had a contract with the military that meant they delivered the robots fully armed and ready for combat.”

“Pretty scary when you think about it. No wonder they destroyed the planet.”

“Yeah. They seemed pretty intent on doing it.” Drew cracked his knuckles. “Now that we have the missing code in place it’s almost time to bring the Gutsy line back into operation.”

“So we’re starting it up?” Amy asked.

“Not quite yet. I want to clean the parts just like we did with the other two lines. By tonight I want to have produced something.”

He made sure the Gutsy line was completely shut down before he grabbed his toolbox. It was time to get to work.

* * *

By the time the Gutsy line had been put back together after having every component, nut, and bolt cleaned and polished, it was fairly late. While the others had gotten something to eat at both lunch and dinner, Drew hadn’t eaten all day. He wasn’t hungry. He just wanted to get it done. He wanted to be ready as soon as possible.

Drew made his way over to the Gutsy terminal, momentarily glancing over at the Assaultron line as it powered down.

“That’s it,” Jack called over. “We’re out of components for the Assaultrons.”

Drew nodded. He didn’t ask how many they had built. It would have to be enough and judging by the amount in the corner he figured it might actually be more than enough. At a quick glance, he counted maybe thirty Assaultrons. It was strange to think about, but he was actually starting to accomplish his goals.

“Okay, so we’re gonna do the same thing as we did with the other lines. We are gonna run a test sequence first, then build a single robot.”

He went through the process and ran the test. It was successful. He then produced a single Gutsy and again it was successful. He checked the programming and it passed, just as he had come to expect.

With all that done, it was time to start producing Gutsies at last. Drew let out a yawn and rubbed his eyes. He was starting to feel tired all of a sudden. He wouldn’t let it stop him, though. He intended on making at least five Gutsies before the night was done.

As he was about to hit the start button, a sudden pain shot up his spine causing him to gasp and hold onto the sides of the terminal.

“You okay?” Jack asked.

Drew nodded. “Been at it too long. Think I pulled something in my back.”

He wasn’t even sure he was lying. He had been hard at work today, but a now all-too-familiar sensation of chills and tingling danced across his skin told a different story.

“Take it a little easier,” Jack said.

“Sure,” Drew said. “Done with that anyway. Standing behind terminals for me from now on.”

He ignored the chills and the tingling as he put in an order of five Gutsies, making sure the line was on the slowest setting to reduce strain. He then stood there and watched as the Gutsies started to roll off the line. One by one, he sent them out on patrol until all five had been produced and sent out.

“That’s it,” he told the others as he took off his ear defenders. “Time for bed.”

Jack and Amy stepped over to him and patted him on the back.

“Good work,” Amy said.

“Yeah, good work,” Jack agreed.

“Same to you,” Drew said, a smile forming on his face. “Goodnight,” he said.

“Have you eaten yet?” Amy asked.

“Yeah, I had a snack,” he lied. “Tired, off to bed.”

He headed out of the production room and made his way swiftly towards the stairs where he found Bek stood waiting. She stared at him for a moment before she stalked away, allowing him to head up to the side room just off the manager’s office. There he laid down on the old mattress and promptly fell asleep.

Chapter 35 - The Quiet Calm by Saturn Knight

It was strange how beautiful the wilderness could still look, even after a nuclear apocalypse. There were few places where the wilderness still flourished and while the flora and fauna no longer looked as they did in the old holovids, it still held its own beauty.

Drew’s eyes fell on Jack, Amy, Sekka, and Glower as they walked across the parking lot towards the exit with a Gutsy and an Assaultron trailing behind them.

“I can’t believe they talked me into it,” he muttered as he turned away from the window and sat down in the large chair behind the desk.

They were heading into town and the reason was to hire Jarik to scout out the old military base to the south. Their goal was to gauge the strength of the Brotherhood troops. It had been Amy’s idea and with a lot of convincing Drew had gone along with it, though he had some serious doubts. For one thing, Amy and Jack were gonna stay in town until Jarik got back so as to not give him any reason to make his way to the Robco plant. If he arrived here then it would be a short order before he discovered the Greenclaw house guests and Drew had absolutely no clue as to how he would react. Badly he suspected.

As to why Sekka and Glower wanted to go? He suspected Glower’s reason was that she had become almost inseparable from Amy. It was cute in its own way, and Drew was starting to suspect that Glower might be Angela. There was no proof other than Glower’s overly protective nature of Amy, but to Drew, it was enough to raise his suspicion.

Drew shivered as he felt the irritating sensation of static dance across his skin. He still wasn’t sure what was causing it, other than his FEV bath, but it wasn’t nearly as intense as it had been and he was definitely thankful for that. He also hadn’t been getting cold sweats or any pain. He figured whatever was affecting him, was now on the mend. Or at the very least he hoped so.

He stood back up and stared out of the window down towards the armored tank. He wondered if he should take a look at it to see if he could repair it. He supposed he should at least take a look at the main gun. It could prove useful, even if it wasn’t attached. Hell, Kiki could probably wield it like a shotgun, except instead of firing slugs or buckshot, it would fire tank rounds.

Drew smiled at the thought, though it was interrupted by a sharp pain that ran up his back.

So much for getting better.

He turned away from the window and stared at the door as he considered going to see Sarah. He had already put it off for far too long and he knew he shouldn’t ignore it. Not when there might be something seriously wrong with him.

“Hell to it. Might as well find out if I’m gonna die now rather than later,” he muttered as he moved around the desk and headed out of the office.

While he doubted what he had was terminal, he did fear that there was nothing Sarah could do about it. That was the news he was most afraid of hearing.

Drew arrived at the nurse’s office to find, much to his surprise, Veronica was in there talking with Sarah and Suzy. He lost his nerve and decided that his diagnosis could wait.

“How are you doing?” he asked as he closed the door behind him.

“Good,” Sarah answered. “Veronica has some interesting stories.”

“Is that so?” Drew said. “I’d like to hear some.”

“I’d love to tell you,” Veronica said. “Though I heard that Gemma wanted to talk to you about the other warehouse. The one that had all the parts in it.”

“What about it?” he asked with a shrug. “It’s half empty now, with us manufacturing all those robots.”

“Over half, now,” Veronica corrected. “Most of the crates were moved out onto the production floor.”

“So what does she want with it?”

“I’m not sure. She didn’t tell me. From the sound of it, it sounds like she wanted to stay in there with Kiki.”

“I don’t see why they can’t,” he said. “The door is smaller than the one in the main warehouse, so Kiki might struggle to get in.”

“I think she’s used to that,” Veronica said.

“I’ll go and check the door. I think it was sticking a little.”

Leaving the nurse’s office, he made his way across the factory floor and into the stock warehouse where he headed straight for the door terminal. He input the password he had set for the whole facility and the thick reinforced shutter began to open in a shower of sparks before it ground to a halt. It then slid closed again with a loud thunk.

“Shit,” he muttered. He hoped it was just because the rollers were sticking and just needed lubrication. If not, then it was likely that Kiki would be staying in the dispatch warehouse with all the others.

Taking a glance around, he saw some extendable ladders propped up against the back wall. He made his way over and grabbed them, taking them over to the roller door and propping them up on the wall beside them. He then headed out of the stock warehouse to the janitor’s closet where he had stored some lubricant from the Mega Stop.

With lubricant in hand, he made his way back to the warehouse and climbed the ladders, lubricating the runners along the door.

Done, he moved the ladders clear of the door before trying the shutter again. It started to slide up like before, though this time there were far fewer sparks. As it reached the point where it had stuck before, it slowed down causing Drew to hold his breath. Luckily it didn’t grind to a halt or close but instead sped up, opening all the way. It was clear that it had misaligned over the centuries and he would have to take a look at it eventually. For now, he was just glad that it opened.

With the press of a button, the door closed again, grinding all the way down, once more slowing at the problem spot.

Satisfied that it would be okay, at least for the time being, he put the ladders back in the far corner and returned the lubricant to the store cupboard before he made his way to the dispatch warehouse. There, he found most of the Greenclaws dozing, which thankfully included Charlotte. Kiki and Gemma, on the other hand, were sitting talking in the corner.

Quietly, he made his way over so as to not wake any of the dozing claws and waved as Gemma noticed him.

“Afternoon,” he said.

“We heard that you sent Amy and some others to Colville?” Gemma said keeping her voice down.

“Was that a good idea?” Kiki asked.

“Was actually Amy’s idea,” he said.

“And they’re off to see Jarik?” Gemma asked in a whisper.

“He’s a good scout,” Drew said. “Amy believed he’d be a good asset in finding out what we are up against. Sekka and Jack agreed.”

“And you? Do you think it’s wise?”

“I think it’s a good idea in principle, but I think there are too many ways it can go wrong. It’s why I told them to stay in town until Jarik got back. I don’t want him coming here.”

“That’s a good precaution,” Kiki agreed.

“Anyway, I didn’t come here to talk about that.”

“No?” Gemma asked.

“I heard you wanted to stay in the other warehouse. I’ve checked the door and it works. To a degree at least. If you want to stay in there you can.”

“Great,” Kiki said grinning, showing off her sharp teeth.

“Come on, let’s head around.” Drew made his way over to the large shutter door and opened it. The three of them headed outside and he closed it behind them before he led the way around to the other side of the building. After keying in the password into the terminal, the door slid open, sticking slightly in the usual spot. They stepped inside and he promptly shut the door behind them.

“Here we are,” he said. “Not much to look at but it’s away from the others.” He looked at the terminal which controlled the door. “I’ll have to add a big button eventually to make it easier for you to get in and out.”

Kiki sat down. “Not as big as the other warehouse.”

“No, but I think it’s big enough, right?”

“Yeah,” Kiki said nodding. “It’s big enough.”

“You okay sitting on the hard cold floor?” Drew asked her.

“I’m fine.”

“I wish there was something soft you could sit on.”

“I think I’d crush anything you put under me,” Kiki said. “Besides, my ass is soft enough. It’s like a cushion.”

“I’ll take your word for it,” he said.

Kiki stood back up. “You can see for yourself if you want.”

She then turned around with her tail in the air before she bent forward, giving a full view of her humongous ass.

Gemma giggled. “Stop messing with him.”

“Who says I’m messing?” Kiki asked. “I want him to feel how soft my ass is.”

Gemma looked at Drew. “It is pretty soft,” she confirmed

Drew hesitated for a moment. He wasn’t sure if the giant Kiki was being serious or not, but he had a feeling that she wanted him to touch her up.

“Come on,” Kiki urged. “I think you’d be surprised. Each cheek is like a massive cushion.”

“Fine,” he uttered.

Slowly, he made his way over feeling more and more intimidated by her size the closer he got until it loomed over him, just out of reach.

“You gonna touch?” Kiki asked.

“I would, but your ass is a little too high.”

The next thing he knew, the ginormous backside was descending toward him. He jumped back, fearful of being squashed beneath the behemoth posterior.

“Careful,” Gemma warned. “Don’t want his head going up your ass.”

“Whoops, sorry,” Kiki said, lifting herself back up.

“It’s okay, I’m clear,” Drew assured her.

She lowered her ass down again and he took a tentative step forward. The whole situation felt surreal and the sexual tension was making him both uncomfortable and aroused simultaneously.

“Go on,” Gemma said as he started to reach out only to hesitate. “She has really soft buns.”

“This seems inappropriate,” he said, pulling his arm back.

“Just feel her ass, Drew,” Gemma said with a roll of her eyes.

He reached back out and touched her ass. First with his fingertips and then with his palms. They were right, her ass was surprisingly soft. That wasn’t to say her cheeks weren’t firm, they were, but they also felt like giant pillows ready for him to rest his weary head.

Before he knew what he was doing, he found himself massaging her massive butt cheek. The moment he realized, he snatched his hands away and took a few steps back.

“Uh, yeah,” he stammered. “Uh, your ass is very soft.”

“Wow,” Gemma said, grinning. “I can’t believe you did that. I thought you’d have a quick feel, but you were going at it.”

“I can’t believe it, either,” he muttered.

“You’re definitely good with your hands,” Kiki said as she stood up and slowly turned around to face them. “Felt kinda nice. I just wish your hands were bigger.”

“Your ass felt nice, too,” he said, feeling awkward.

“You wanna feel the softness of my breasts next?”

Drew started to cough as he felt his face grow hot. “I should probably get back to the Gutsy line. There are more bots to build.”

“That can wait,” Gemma said. “We have plenty of robots and you need a day off.”

“Yeah,” Kiki agreed. “You’ve been working really hard. Let us take care of you.”

“I think I’ll be fine,” he said. “Besides, I don’t think I should delay things any longer.”

“I think taking one day off will do you good,” Kiki said. “As I said, we can take care of you.”

“Yeah,” Gemma agreed. “We’ll take care of you.”

It was an enticing offer, he certainly had to admit that, but it didn’t feel right and it wasn’t because they weren’t human. With all the other Greenclaws in the place and with the warehouse being so big, it didn’t feel as intimate as he would have liked.

“I’ll tell you what,” he began, “I’ll return tonight and we can sit down, and spend some time together.”

“Sounds good,” Gemma said. “Or, we could do that now.”

“We could, but I want to make sure we are absolutely prepared.”

“You’re a workaholic, that’s your problem,” Kiki mused.

“I just want us to be safe,” he said, despite not wanting to build robots today. “What happened at Paulson, I won’t allow it to happen again. If that means I have to work hard, then I’m gonna work hard.”

“You’re working too hard,” Gemma said. “But promise that tonight you’ll come back and at least talk for a bit?”

He nodded. “I can promise that much.”

“Good,” Gemma said.

There was a loud rumble and Drew shot his gaze towards Kiki where the sound emanated. “What was that?” he asked.

“My stomach,” she answered.

“Have you eaten today?”

“A little earlier,” Kiki answered. “There’s some radstag left in the other warehouse. Maybe you could go fetch it for me.”

Drew rubbed his stubbly chin as a thought crossed his mind. They were right, he did need a day off from the factory floor. His motivation was rock bottom and he felt like he needed to clear his head. It was why he hadn’t already started despite it being just after lunch.

“I’ll tell you what,” Drew began. “Why don’t we get some fresh?”

“Fresh?” Gemma asked with a frown.

“You’re right, I do need a rest from everything and maybe heading out to grab some extra food would do me good. Fresh air and all that.”

“Sounds like fun,” Kiki agreed.

“We can’t be away for too long, though,” Drew said. “Who knows what might happen.”

“Always the worrier,” Gemma said with a smirk. “Still, just the three of us…”

“Plus two Gutsy's,” Drew added.

“Plus two of your robots sounds like a fun day out.”

“Afternoon,” Drew corrected.

“Whatever,” Gemma said.

Drew headed for the shutter terminal and opened it, the door predictably catching on the sticking point halfway up.

“We heading out now?” Gemma asked. “Without telling anyone?”

Drew realized she was right. He also hadn’t got the two Gutsy’s he’d just said would be accompanying them.

He closed the shutter again. “Come on, Gem. Let’s find Veronica or someone and tell them we’re heading out.”

As the two made their way out of the warehouse and across the factory floor, Drew felt a sense of excitement. Even though he’d only been out a few days ago, it felt like forever and he desperately needed to get out and take his mind off building robots for a few hours.

With luck, it would do him some good. If not, then at least he was spending time with Gemma and Kiki.

Chapter 36 - A Day Out wIth Gemma and Kiki by Saturn Knight

Drew took in a deep breath, letting the fresh air fill his lungs. He hadn’t realized just how much he needed to get outdoors until he was out and on the trail.

While his initial plan had been to bring some Gutsy’s with them, he had decided not to since they would likely ruin the mood and in all honesty, he doubted they would need them. As such, it was just the three of them: him, Gemma and Kiki.

They hadn’t strayed too far. The smoke stacks were still visible through the trees, giving him the assurance that if the Brotherhood goons did attack while they were out, they would still be able to run and get help and fight them off.

The place had an army of robots now, and they weren’t Protectrons, even though they did have two roaming the parking lot. They now had enough firepower, including the turrets on the roof to fend off any aggressor.

Though he had been neglecting the added E.M.P. protection, mainly because he had been focusing on just getting the robots off the end of the line. That was something he would have to fix, sooner rather than later

Drew let out a sigh as he realized his moment of relaxation was likely over. His brain was starting to focus back on his work, instead of on having a nice afternoon out with Gemma and Kiki.

Drew felt the ground tremor and watched as a large tree was smashed over as Kiki came running over excitedly with a large dead Yao Guai and four Radstags in her hands. Drew couldn’t help but notice the sway of her large bare breasts as she stomped towards them.

“Easy there, Keek” Gemma shouted. “You’re gonna knock a tree over on top of us.”

“Sorry,” she said as she tossed the dead animals down on the ground, causing a cloud of dirt and dust to erupt into the air which made Drew cough.

“Sorry,” Kiki apologized again looking embarrassed. “It’s just that I’m excited to be out with just the two of you.”

“Veronica seemed happy about us heading out too,” Gemma said. “A little too happy if you ask me. I think she’s gonna find a way to tease us about it later.”

Drew didn’t care if she did or not. He was just happy that she was alive to be able to tease them. Even now, it sometimes felt surreal to know that Gemma, Kiki, and the others had been changed into Green Deathclaws. Thankfully, they were a damned sight prettier than the average Deathclaw. For one thing, Deathclaws didn’t have tits and soft round asses.

He smirked, but only for a moment. It promptly disappeared the moment they started eating. They tore at the flesh with their teeth like the wild animals they appeared to be on the surface. It was so unsettling to look at that he had to turn away.

“Is everything okay?” Gemma asked as she stopped eating for a moment.

Drew glanced back at her. She had some blood around her face. “Just thinking about things.”

“Our eating didn’t put you off, did it?” Kiki asked as she licked the blood off her face with her surprisingly long tongue.

“Oh, right-yeah,” Gemma said suddenly, as though she just remembered something. “Did you get checked out?”

“Checked out?”

“The mutant goop. Did you get checked out by Sarah? I keep meaning to ask but I keep forgetting.”

“No,” he said. “And if something was going to happen, I’m sure it would have happened by now.”

“You should still get checked out.”

“He’s fine,” Kiki said with a dismissive wave of a clawed hand. “A little bit of mutation might do him good. Especially if he’s gonna be with us. He could do with denser bones and a stronger pelvis.”

Gemma frowned. “I’m being serious here, Keek.”

“Yeah? So am I. When we…” She paused and looked away, her face growing red. “When we get down to… You-know… well…”

Gemma folded her arms under her large bosom, unintentionally pushing up her breasts. “I’m asking if he got checked out after being swamped by a mutagen, and you’re thinking about fucking him?”

Kiki’s answer sounded more than a little defensive. “Yeah, so? Aren’t you?”

“I want to be with him and sure I’ve thought about it, but I don’t think it’s something we should pursue too eagerly. We could easily break him, Keek, especially you.”

“I’m a bottom anyway,” Kiki muttered with a shrug.

“I don’t think we’ve put enough thought into this,” Gemma continued. “We really need to think about how this is going to work. Earlier, I thought you were going to crush him with your ass.”

Drew held up a hand. “We have talked about this before,” he said. “I remember saying that I was willing to take the risk and I still am. I care about you. Both of you. I’m not gonna let a little mutation or size difference get in the way of that.”

Gemma didn’t look convinced. “I’d never forgive myself if I hurt you,” she said. “And that could easily happen. Humans are fragile. You’re fragile.”

“I’m not fragile,” Drew argued. “How many more times do I have to tell you? I’m not made of glass. You won’t hurt me as long as we're careful.”

Kiki agreed. “He’ll be fine, Gemma. He’s a survivor.”

“I appreciate the worry,” Drew continued. “I really do. It lets me know that you really do care, but you’re not going to break me.”

“You might not be saying that after a night with us,” Gemma said.

“A night with us and he’d never want a human girl again,” Kiki said with a giggle.

Gemma rolled her eyes before she unintentionally joined in. Kiki had always had one of those infectious laughs and sometimes it was hard to resist.

No matter how many times he had seen them laugh, he still wasn’t used to it. For one thing, the expression of joy looked almost foreign on their reptilian faces, but at the same time, it was pleasant to look at and before he knew it he was joining in.

It felt good.

Over the next hour, they talked, laughed and had fun before they decided to finally head back to the factory.

The good mood Drew was in turned sour when he opened the shutter doors for the stock warehouse and it ground to a halt halfway up in a shower of sparks. An alarm sounded and he heard the straining of metal before it slid back shut.

“Shit,” he muttered.

“The door got stuck,” Kiki said unnecessarily.

“Yeah, well it’s old. Might have to strip it all down to fix it,” he said, not at all wanting to have to do that.

“Does this mean we’re gonna have to go to the other warehouse?” Gemma asked.

“Nah,” Kiki said. “I can get it open.”

“I don’t want it torn off,” Drew said. “Let’s try it one more time. If it doesn’t open then you’ll have to go to the other warehouse.”

The door slid open and again it slowed to a grinding halt at the same troubled spot. Kiki took a step towards it.

“No, you’ll break it,” Drew warned knowing what she intended.

Kiki ignored him and placed her large hands on the side of the door and gave it a quick shake. To Drew’s surprise, it slid all the way open.

“The runners are rusty,” Kiki commented.

“Yeah, it’ll be a bitch to clean,” Drew said as he headed inside, followed by Kiki and then Gemma.

He then closed the door, it once more slowing as it reached the middle, before it slid all the way closed with a clunk.

“At some point, I’ll have to deal with this door,” he said.

“That can wait,” Kiki said, sitting herself down, causing a rumble to roll through the warehouse.

“I know it can,” Drew agreed. “I need to finish building the Gutsies first and I still need to reinforce them against E.M.P’s.”

“You can do that tomorrow,” Gemma said sitting down next to Kiki.

“I know,” he said as he made his way over and sat down next to Gemma. “You convinced me to take the day off from all that, so that’s what I’m gonna do. Besides, it’s a little late to start.”

“You had fun, right?” Kiki asked.

“Yeah,” he said with a nod. “I had fun. Was nice to hang out with just the two of you.”

“It was,” Gemma agreed. “We should do it more often. The fresh air is good for the lungs.”

“Up here it is,” Drew said. “In some of the places I’ve been in my life, it’s sometimes healthier to stay indoors. Otherwise, your lungs might get burned out.”

“How did people live in a place like that?” Kiki asked.

“It wasn’t all the time, but these fierce radiation storms would roll through. You sometimes get them up here, but not as bad as they are in other places. When they did, it was best to get inside and cover your face. The really bad ones could fuck up crops. I remember making a machine once that would scrub food of dangerous radiation so it was safer to eat. Big heavy thing. They laughed at me, even though they were slowly turning into ghouls.”

“You’ve told me this before, I think,” Gemma said. “You tried to figure out a way to make their lives better.”

“Yeah. Didn’t stay there long,” Drew continued. “Especially when they stripped the machine down for parts to fix one old busted laser pistol. In the end, I think it’s likely they were either ghoulified or died. Likely a mixture of both. They didn’t want to move and they didn’t want to make the food safer to eat. They didn’t want to do anything. They had lived their whole lives and they didn’t want to do anything about it.”

“Wasn’t it the nuclear waste site that caused it?” Gemma asked.

Drew nodded. “Yeah, it was. Most of it had been buried, but an earthquake and a landslide had exposed a lot of old waste drums. It seeped into the river and that river water would evaporate and then it would create these nasty radiation storms. It didn’t help that they were sat in the middle of several impact zones. One of the worst places to live. It was their home and they didn’t want to leave it.”

“People can be strange,” Kiki said. “To not know how bad things are and not look for something better seems crazy.”

Drew nodded in agreement. “People can also not realize how good things are. It’s why I’m so intent on defending the region. There is still a lot of life up here. I don’t want to see what could be the restart of true civilization fall apart. The NCR is giving it a go down south, but they’re corrupt as hell.”

“Weren’t government corrupt before the great war, too?” Gemma asked

“I guess,” Drew agreed. “I suppose civilization always has its warts. Up here it’s better than most places. A lot better. I don’t want that to disappear. I don’t want an army clad in power armor to take what little good people have away from them. I don’t want them to force people to struggle all because they think they don’t deserve a better life.”

“For that, we might have to take the offensive,” Kiki pointed out.

“Which is why Jack and Amy are in town hiring Jarik for a job. Sooner or later they’ll come here and we’ll give them a bloodied nose. Then we’ll break it with an attack of our own.” He let out a long sigh as he slouched against the wall. “Maybe it’s all some stupid fantasy. Maybe wanting to be able to live life isn’t something that’s achievable. Maybe things are destined to always turn to shit.”

“Don’t think like that,” Kiki said. “You’re doing your best and we’re behind you all the way. We’ll win, you’ll see. With all these robots there’s no way we can’t.”

“Keek’s right,” Gemma agreed as she reached down and rested her clawed hand on his legs. “We’re strong, especially now that we’re back together. I know how much it hurts you that you weren’t able to do more when the Super Mutants came, but we’re prepared now.”

“I hope so,” he said. “Because if we’re not, then a lot of innocent people might die.”

“You’re putting too much pressure on yourself,” Gemma said. “You’re not some hero that can save everyone. All you can do is your best.”

“That’s what scares me.”

“You can’t carry the world on your shoulders,” Kiki said. “We’re here to help you.”

“Thanks,” Drew said. “I’m so glad to have you around.”

“Same,” Gemma said. “So glad we ran into you when we did. And sorry about Veronica. She was set to kill you, you know.”

“Which I still don’t agree with.”

“Neither do we,” Kiki said. “Or I didn’t. Axa, too.”

“Axa was always the one trying to steer us in a better direction,” Gemma said.

“Sounds like she should be in charge,” Drew said.

“Maybe no one should be in charge,” Kiki suggested.

“That never works for long,” Drew mused. “Sooner or later someone always takes charge. It’s just how things are.”

“Unfortunately,” Kiki said. “Better for it to be someone with a good heart, I suppose.”

“Yeah, but in reality it’s the asshole who usually takes up the role of leader.”

“Not all the time.”

“No, but most of the time,” Drew said before yawning. “Listen, today’s been really fun but I think I should head off and get an early night.”

“You could always sleep here with us?” Kiki suggested.

“I would, but there’s no mattresses in here.”

Kiki smiled a sultry smile. “Maybe you don’t need a mattress.”

Drew started feeling a little nervous. “What do you mean?”

“Gemma usually sleeps on my chest,” Kiki said. “Actually, when she was away I had some trouble sleeping without her being there.”

“You want me to sleep on your chest?”

“No, I think Gem should sleep on my chest and you sleep on hers. From what she tells me you did that one night just before the rest of us showed up.”

Just the thought of laying on Gemma’s chest again was enough to cause an increase in blood flow to his crotch.

“You don’t have to,” Gemma said. “We won’t hold it against you.”

He held up a hand. “Just give me a moment to think about it.”

“I think he wants to,” Kiki said. “He’s blushing.”

“You’re right I do, but it sounds kinda dangerous. I know that Gemma doesn’t roll around in her sleep, but what about you?””

“Don’t worry. I don’t roll around in my sleep. At least I don’t since the change. I wake up in the same position I fell asleep in so there’s no risk of you being crushed.”

Despite already having made up his mind, he tried to think of a reason not to but nothing came to mind. Nothing that convinced him anyway. Besides, it wouldn’t be the first time he had slept in Gemma’s arms and he certainly hoped it wouldn’t be the last.

“It’ll certainly be an interesting experience.”

“So that’s a yes?” Kiki asked.

He nodded. “Yeah, it’s a yes.”

She clapped her massive hands together loudly, causing Drew to wince at the sheer volume.

Kiki laid down on her side, scooping her tail so that it was between her legs before she rolled onto her back. Like Gemma, the shape of her spine thrust her hips forwards and as he had noted about Gemma, it looked like she was trying to make love to the ceiling.

“You’ll like it,” Gemma said as she climbed up onto Kiki and laid down, her head nestled between her huge breasts.

“Your turn,” Gemma said.

With some apprehension, he stepped over to Kiki’s colossal form and began to climb onto her arm, his erection stiffening as he did so.

Kiki raised her arm slightly, giving him the position needed to climb onto her stomach which slowly rose and fell beneath his feet.

Her flesh felt spongy under him as he made his way carefully over to Gemma before he climbed onto her and sat himself down on her stomach. Gemma’s huge arms then wrapped around him and pulled him down onto her chest, his head between her large breasts. Almost immediately, he felt comfortable and safe, but it also felt a little surreal to him. Especially when he looked to his left and right, seeing not only Gemma’s massive breasts surrounding him but also Kiki’s colossal ones. It made him feel tiny.

“Comfortable?” Gemma’s voice rumbled through him as she continued to hug him against her chest.

“Very,” he answered. “I could definitely get used to this.”

With that, his fatigue took over and before he knew it he had fallen asleep.

End Notes:

I'm gonna try to post twice a week until the story is done. Emphasis on try. Likely be Wednesday and Sunday. The story is done except the last chapter.

Chapter 37 - Strength by Saturn Knight

Drew awoke with a bit of a headache. He assumed it was all the hours he’d put in over the last two days adding E.M.P. protection and armor reinforcement to the robots.

A smile crossed his face as he gripped onto Gemma’s arms which tightly held him. It was the third morning he’d woken up in her arms with his head between her boobs as she lay there between Kiki’s even bigger boobs. He had to say, they had been the best well-rested nights of his life. Well, until this morning when he found that he still felt a little tired.

“Have a good night?”

At first, he thought it was Gemma who had spoken, but the lack of rumbling from beneath him let him know it was someone else.

He shuffled in Gemma’s grip to get a look at who it was and found Veronica standing in the middle of the warehouse with an amused expression on her face.

“Have a good night?” she repeated.

“It was okay, I guess,” he answered before he let out a wide yawn. “I would get up but I’m kinda in a bind.”

“I can see that. I’ll have to try that with Sarah. Looks comfy.”

“Got a thing for her?” Drew asked.

“No,” Veronica said a little too quickly. “Looks comfortable is all.”

“So, did you need me for something?” Drew asked.

“They’re back. Sekka, Glower, Amy, and Jack.”

Gently, Drew shook Gemma’s arm. “Gem. Amy, Jack, and the others are back.”

She gave him a squeeze before her arms relaxed. Drew used the opportunity to start wiggling out of her grip, which proved difficult. Eventually, he managed to squeeze himself free before he climbed down onto Kiki’s stomach, which roused the much larger Greenclaw.

“Is it morning?” Kiki asked with a yawn.

Drew waited until he had climbed off of her before he answered. “Yeah, it’s morning. Amy and the others are back.”

“Oh, that’s good,” she answered. “You clear?”

“Almost,” he said as he walked over to Veronica. “Clear now. Gem’s still asleep.”

“I’ll wait until she gets up,” Kiki said.

“And as soon as I know, I’ll come and tell you what they found out,” he said. “See you later, Keek. And give Gem my love when she wakes up.”

“Daww,” Veronica said grinning. “So adorable.”

Drew frowned at her. “Sure. Where are they?”

“Your office. Amy and Jack are, at least. Sekka and Glower went to the warehouse to get some rest.”

“That’s fine,” Drew said as he headed for the exit with Veronica walking behind him. “Do you know what they did while Jack and Amy were in town? I can’t imagine they just hung out in the bushes waiting for them to return.”

“No idea,” Veronica said with a shrug. “You’d have to ask them.”

“I might,” he said as they made their way across the factory floor and out the door on the far side.

“You know if they were successful?”

“In getting Jarik to go scout out that military base? I would think so.”

They made their way up the stairs, Veronica struggling slightly due to her large clawed feet. Soon, though, they were setting foot in the office where Amy and Jack were sitting waiting for them.

“How are you?” Drew asked as he moved around the other side of the desk and sat down.

“Good,” Amy answered. “Glad to be back.”

“Been up to anything good?” Jack asked.

“Just improving the protections on the robots,” Drew answered as he leaned back in his chair. “So, how did it go?”

Amy answered as she pulled out a crudely drawn map and flattened it out on the desk. “Jarik sketched the place and it looks pretty well fortified. There are at the very least fifty people with probably more inside. Turrets, robots, energy weapons and at least fifteen have power armor. He said he also saw some missile launchers and two mini-nuke launchers. They also have some Gutsies and at least a single Sentry bot.”

Drew steepled his fingers as he rested his elbows on the tabletop. It wasn’t good news, but it was what he had been expecting. Any conflict would have heavy losses and yet he knew that it was likely an unavoidable inevitability.

Jack continued the report. “They also attacked another caravan guarded by robots. The merchant managed to get away, but both his robots were knocked out with some kind of energy weapon. He thinks they took them because when he returned a while later they were gone. They left most of his stock behind.”

“They are actively declaring war on the whole region,” Drew said. “It’s like they think we can’t stand up for ourselves, but I’m gonna show them that error.”

“It’s a lot of people to fight,” Veronica pointed out. “Do you think we’re up to it?”

Drew swiveled in his seat and stood up as he stared out of the large grimy window. “Fifty to a hundred or more combatants with defense turrets and an unknown amount of robotic aid.”

“You agreeing, or…?” Veronica asked.

“I’m agreeing, it is a lot. Fatman launchers are definitely a problem. An all-out attack would be a stupid idea. What we need to do is whittle down their forces before we turn our attention on their main base of operations.”

“Do what to their forces?” Amy asked, confused.

“Whittle. It means…” He paused as he tried to think of what it actually meant. He knew it fit the context, but its exact meaning eluded him.

“I guess it means to pick away like a crow at a corpse,” he said. “We don’t have to wipe out their base, at least not yet. We start by taking out their patrols.”

Amy had an idea. “We could find out when a caravan is heading out and follow it at a distance. When they attack, we come in and kill them.”

Jack disagreed. “That’s a sure way to end up dead.”

Drew leaned back in his chair. “We’ll have to figure something out. If we work together with the caravans and scavengers then we have a better chance.”

“What about us Greenclaws?” Veronica asked.

“Not sure,” Drew answered honestly. “You’re still largely unknown to the local population beyond rumor and I think it might be best to keep it that way. For the time being at least.”

“One more thing,” Amy said. “Jarik thinks that they are a splinter faction of the Brotherhood.”

Drew nodded. “We already figured that much from what they said when Kiki, Gemma, Glower, and I went to blow up the vats. Or at least they believe they are continuing the true mission of the Brotherhood.”

“He also wanted to come here, but I managed to talk him out of it.”

“That’s good,” Drew said. “The last thing we need is anyone finding out about the Greenclaws before we’re ready. We don’t want to risk having to fight these Brotherhood types and the local settlements at the same time. In some ways, Charlotte is right. People will attack them out of nothing more than fear.”

They all fell silent as they heard heavy footsteps outside the office in the hallway. They all waited to see who was coming to see them and it didn’t take long to find out.

The doors swung open and Gemma ducked as she stepped inside, squeezing her large form through the doors.

“Good morning,” she greeted. “Good to see you made it back safe. What did you find out?”

Drew answered. “That there is a lot of them and they are well equipped.”

“That’s not good.”

“No. I’m going to have to have a meeting with Charlotte.” He pushed himself up onto his feet. “I just wish we didn’t have to do any of this.” He looked at Gemma. “I’ll have Kiki move back around to the main dispatch warehouse because I want her to hear this as well.”

Gemma gestured to the intercom. “Why not use that?”

“Because I want to speak to everyone in person. Though, I can make the call for everyone to gather, so good thinking.”

He pressed down the button. “This is Drew. I need everyone to report to the dispatch warehouse, that’s the main warehouse. I have an update on those power-armored zealots that we need to discuss. Again, I would like to see everyone in the dispatch warehouse. That is the one that you Greenclaws have been staying in if you didn’t know. Thank you.”

He released the button and addressed Gemma. “Let’s go fetch Kiki. The rest of you, head down to the warehouse.”

Understood,” Veronica said, leading the way.

Drew turned and took one last look out of the large bay window before he and Gemma followed the others out.

* * *

Everyone had gathered just like Drew wanted. Even Sarah and Suzy were there, and it didn’t escape his notice that the doctor was standing rather close to Veronica.

Charlotte peered down at him from high above, her presence felt by everyone in the room. “Now that everyone is present, I would like to know what you have discovered?” the behemoth of a Greenclaw asked.

Drew cleared his throat before he answered, speaking loudly and concisely. “There are a lot of them and the military base they have taken is well fortified. They’ve also attacked at least one more merchant caravan due to the robot guards. So far, they appear to be a bit more hostile than regular Brotherhood when it comes to tech which might just work in our favor.”

“And how did you come across this information?” Charlotte asked. “Does this have anything to do with that group that left the other day without my permission?”

Drew knew he’d have to explain himself, even though he knew he shouldn’t have to. She wasn’t in charge here. She was a guest and yet her size and power meant that she could take charge and she knew everyone else knew.

“It was important that we learned what we were up against. I had them hire Jarik to scope the place out.”

He noticed Charlotte’s right hand, Charan, straighten up a little, clearly recognizing the name.

Charlotte seemed unimpressed. “I could have sent one of my own.”

“Your own are very noticeable. Giant Deathclaws aren’t subtle and if there’s one thing that Jarik can be, it’s subtle.”

Charlotte grunted. “Some of us can turn invisible. Did you forget that fact?”

“No, but he’s still the best choice.” The truth was, he had forgotten, but decided not to reveal that fact.

Charan agreed with what he had said. “He’s right, Jarik is the best choice.”

Charlotte grunted a second time, clearly not pleased.

Drew continued. “Now we have somewhat of an idea of what we might be up against. I doubt they would send everyone to fight us and I believe that if they attack we can defend ourselves.”

Charlotte grunted again. “Waiting for them to attack us is a mistake. We should take the offensive.”

“That would be a huge risk, especially for you. You have no armor or weapons.”

Charlotte held up a colossal claw. “We have weapons. I rendered one of those power armored men nearly in two with this and crushed several others like you would a tin can. They would not stand a chance.”

While her confidence was inspiring, it was also foolish. Drew knew her size and power made her feel invincible, and he had to admit, if every Greenclaw was her size then she might have been onto something, but there was no way he was sending the others into battle without at least some armor.

Then Gemma came up with an idea. “While gathering the boxes from the warehouse, we found a crate full of those Assaultron head laser things.”

Drew looked at her as he began to think. That was a huge find. Assaultron lasers could possibly be jury-rigged into some kind of heavy weapons.

“I might be able to make something out of that,” he said. “There’s also some missile launchers left over from the Sentry bots. I might be able to do something with those, too.”

“And armor?” Veronica asked.

Jack raised his hand. “I’ve been working on something on and off with Sekka.”

“Yeah,” Sekka agreed. “Some basic armor for us smaller claws.”

“We don’t need human armor,” Charlotte said. “Or human weapons for that matter.”

“Speak for yourself,” Axa said. “I wouldn’t mind going into battle with a giant rocket launcher or something.”

“Regardless,” Drew continued, “having big powerful weapons that only the smaller claws can operate will be a huge advantage. It’s something I doubt they would ever expect.”

“Yeah, I doubt it, too,” Gemma agreed. “I’d love to see the look on their faces. I bet it would be a picture.”

Charlotte looked down at him. “Then there is no time to waste, is there?”

Drew nodded. “You’re right. The sooner we have weapons made for you the better we’ll be defended.”

Jack agreed. “And I’ll continue working with Sekka on making some armor pieces.”

“We’ll help,” Amy said.

Drew made his way to the factory floor followed by Gemma, Veronica, Amy, and Glower who, predictably, stayed close to Amy.

“Which crate holds the lasers?” he asked.

Gemma stepped over to a crate and pulled off the lid. “This one, I think.” She shook her head before taking the lid off the crate next to it. “No, it’s this one.”

Drew peered inside and grinned. “The things I could make with these. The only problem is energy, but I think you’re big and strong enough to carry a large battery pack. The only issue is that they can explode, so I’ll have to find a way to shield them.”

“What are you thinking of making?” Gemma asked, intrigued.

“I’m thinking of a rotating barrel like a Gatling laser. The main problem is heat, but these things have a long discharge time, so if they fire one by one, then by the time the last has fired the first will have hopefully cooled down. Might have to go into town to get some parts but that shouldn’t be too much of an issue.”

Veronica’s eyes started to sparkle. “The thought of carrying around a giant rotating death Gatling laser turns me on.”

“Eww,” Gemma said. “I did not want to know that.”

“Doesn’t it you?” Veronica asked. “Having a massive weapon in your hands to swing around?”

“It sounds like fun, sure, but I wouldn’t say it turns me on.”

“No, it’s Drew that turns you on,” Veronica said, grinning. “Any chance I could get into some of the action sometime?”

Gemma folded her massive arms and frowned. “There is no ‘fun’ to get in on.”

“You haven’t fucked yet?”

“None of your business!” Gemma snapped at her, her frown turning into a glare.

“Didn’t mean to rile you up,” Veronica said with a shrug. “But if you don’t hurry, I might try and steal him from you.”

“You wouldn’t dare,” Gemma seethed.

Drew interjected, fearing a fight might break out. “What about Sarah? Thought you had a thing for her?”

“Yeah, but she has absolutely no interest in me.”

“Neither does Drew,” Gemma stated.

“Worth a shot,” Veronica said with a shrug. “Just don’t let what you have slip away, Gemma. Drew is a catch in a million.”

“I know,” Gemma agreed, looking at him. “He is.”

Veronica glanced at the door. “Maybe I could get in with Jack and Sekka,” she said out loud. “Or maybe Amy. But I think Glower wouldn’t be too happy with that. She seems to have taken a shine to her.”

“Want my advice?” Drew asked.

“Sure, why not.”

“Don’t force these things.”

Veronica shrugged. “Can’t anyway. It was tough finding someone to love before, but now that I’m a horrifying monster, I think it will be a lot tougher.”

Drew looked at Gemma and then back to Veronica. “People find love in the strangest places. Once we’ve dealt with the Brotherhood, you’ll have plenty of time.”

“Sure, whatever you say,” Veronica said as she turned around and moved off. “I’m going to see what Sarah’s doing.”

They both watched her stalk out of the room. Drew felt bad for her. She was lonely, he could tell that much and due to her change, it would be next to impossible to find anyone that would be accepting of her. Hell, it would be difficult to find anyone that wasn’t absolutely terrified of her.

“I wish you the best,” Drew mumbled.

“So do I,” Gemma said. “I feel bad for her.”

“Yeah,” Drew said as he turned back to the crate. “Come on, let’s start building some weapons.”

It was going to be another busy day.

Chapter 38 - Preparing for War: Part 1 by Saturn Knight

It felt like forever since Drew had last set foot in Colville. He wasn’t there alone, though. With him were Amy, two Gutsy’s, two Assaultrons, and a Sentry bot which had had its missile launcher removed and replaced with a make-shift storage unit.

“Drew, Drew!” a voice shouted.

Both He and Amy looked over as the mayor eagerly strode up to them.

“Morning,” Drew greeted.

“I heard you were here with some robots. Are you here to sell us some? We could really use them.”

Drew glanced at Amy before putting his focus back on the mayor. He sounded desperate. “Yeah, I am.”

“Oh, good. We’ve been losing merchant caravans to attacks from those power-armored hooligans. Just yesterday, Leanne came in injured. They took one of her trucks right from under her! They also raided a nearby farmstead and took the farm bots.”

“They’re becoming a serious problem,” Drew said with a heavy sigh.

“Very much so. Without those farm bots, they won’t be able to produce enough food to feed the town. We’re sunk without them.”

“Which is why we need to take them on,” Drew said. “I’m building an army of robots and thought you could do with some Gutsies and Assaultrons.”

“What about the big one?”

“I’m using that to carry supplies I intend to buy, but from what you said, I’ll come back with a Sentry bot or two if I have the time.”

“Oh, that would be lovely,” the mayor said, clapping his hands together excitedly. “You want anything in return for the robots?”

“Maybe a few things from the armory. I plan on heading to the gun and armor store afterwards.”

“Four robots for something out of the town armory sounds like a good deal,” the mayor said. “We have an old busted Fatman launcher we never got around to fixing.”

“I’ll take it,” Drew said without hesitation.

“Great!” the mayor said. “Follow me, I’ll show you the way.”

It didn’t take long to reach the armory. With a friendly hello to the guards who stood by the front door, they stepped inside. The first thing Drew took a look at was the Fatman launcher. It was pretty battered just as the mayor had said. Still, it would be an easy fix.

After signing over the two Gutsies and Assaultrons to the mayor, he let Drew take a few more things, notably spare parts such as a few Fatman launcher slings and an old diesel motor. The motor itself was useless, but the parts inside were invaluable.

With it all tucked away in the Sentry bot’s storage box, they parted ways and Drew, Amy, and the Sentry bot made their way to the weapons and armor store where he browsed the stock. Thankfully, due to all the guns, weapons and parts, he’d brought in over the years, Drew had developed a cordial relationship and as such got a discount. Even so, with a minigun, two laser rifles, a long-range ballistic rifle, some armor, a lot of energy cells, and ammunition, his cap-purse was certainly feeling lighter by the time he was finished.

After placing them in the Sentry’s cargo, the group made their way to their last stop, which was little more than a junkyard on the outskirts of the city. There, Drew spent the last of their caps on scrap metal, screws, rivets and all sorts of other materials that he’d need.

With no more caps to even buy some lunch, they headed out, meeting up with Gemma and Axa a good thirty minutes later.

“How was it?” Axa asked.

“Got most of what we needed,” he said, looking at the large duffel bags that the two Greenclaws had over each shoulder. “How about you two?”

“Pulled those parts off that bus like you wanted,” Gemma said.

“Gemma was a little rough,” Axa added. “Some parts might be broken.”

“They were rusted up,” Gemma defended. “Either that or leave them in.”

“Let’s just get back to the factory,” Drew said. “We can worry about what is and isn’t broken when we get there.”

The group started to walk along the highway.

“So, what did you get?” Axa asked.

“Some weapons including a minigun and a Fatman launcher along with a lot of spare slings. I plan on converting both so that you Greenclaws can use them. I think Glower would look pretty cool with a minigun.”

Axa cringed. “Don’t know if I’d trust her with a weapon like that.”

Amy disagreed. “I would. She’s actually very smart. And kind.”

Gemma smiled warmly. “She likes you a lot.”

“She wanted to come with me here, but I told her to get some rest.”

“She can talk now?” Axa asked.

“No, but I think I’m starting to understand her from her body language.”

“Aww, that’s sweet,” Gemma said. “I bet she loves being understood.”

“I think she does,” Amy said.

“Glad you’re getting along,” Drew said, truly believing that Glower might be Angela, Amy’s former girlfriend. Still, he was reticent to say anything in case he was wrong.

Amy continued. “I think she’ll be happy when I get back. She gives weirdly nice hugs.”

“Anyway,” Drew said, interrupting. “I’m going to return with two Sentry bots to sell to them.”

“Is that a good idea?” Gemma asked.

“I said I would and I like to keep my promises. Besides, I think we’re almost ready to defend ourselves against any attack the Brotherhood might be willing to throw our way. I doubt they would commit everyone and those they do commit…”

“…If they attack,” Axa quickly interjected.

“Yes, if they attack. Those that they do send, we have to ensure don’t make it back. We have to kill them to lower their numbers. It’s necessary if we want to ever have a chance of striking at their base of operations.”

“What if they have mini-nukes?” Gemma asked.

“The plant is built like a fortress. It should hold.”

“Should?”

“Yeah, should. As long as it’s not near any windows or shutters. They’ll shatter and buckle easily.”

“So not built like a fortress,” Axa surmised.

“Kinda built like one,” Drew corrected. “The walls are tough. The doors not so much.”

“A shame they’re hostile,” Axa said. “Imagine if they weren’t?”

“The dream,” Drew said. “But in reality people are assholes. All we want is to build ourselves a life, one that benefits all of us and they won’t let us even have that.”

“It sucks,” Axa agreed.

“I thought that being this far north meant we wouldn’t have to deal with them, but I guess they’re like radroaches. They’ll show up anywhere and at the worst time.”

“They’re disgusting,” Axa agreed wholeheartedly.

“Good snacking, though, I bet,” Gemma joked.

From there it didn’t take long for them to get back to the old Robco factory. Thankfully, nothing was amiss and it was just how they had left it with the various robots patrolling around the building, including the two Protectrons who waddled about seemingly non-the-wiser to the extra guards.

It was a welcome reminder of just how far they had come since first arriving. Not even the turrets on the roof had been functional.

Drew and Amy headed to the cafeteria to get something to eat before Drew made his way up to the office. He wanted to grab a few things such as the desk fan and telephone and repurpose the components and use them in the weapons he planned on building for the Greenclaws.

As he stepped through the door, however, he found an unexpected and unwelcome guest sitting in his chair behind the desk.

It was Jarik.

“What are you doing here?” Drew demanded, his heart racing in his chest.

“I wanted to see you,” Jarik said. “To see how you were getting on.”

Drew clenched his jaw as he stared at the man. He had wanted to avoid this, but it appeared that Jarik’s curiosity had gotten the better of him.

“Was wondering when you’d get here,” Jarik said as he leaned back in the chair. “Been waiting here for hours.”

“I went to Colville,” Drew said.

“Ah, I see,” Jarik said.

“How the Hell did you get in here?”

“Believe it or not there’s a route through the basement. There’s a pipe that leads all the way to the river. Got in that way.”

“You’ll have to show it to me,” Drew said.

“It is a security risk,” Jarik agreed. “Like a bunch of Greenclaws might find their way in here. Though it would be tight. The pipe is only just big enough for people to get through. Certainly not large enough for a bunch of green deathclaws.”

Drew held his breath.

“But I figured that you’re the one that invited them in here.”

Drew’s initial shock started to turn to anger. “What do you want!?”

“As I said: I came to see how you were getting on. Now, I have a new interest. The Greenclaws. They seem intelligent.”

Drew clenched his jaw. He knew he had reached a fork in the road and yet there was only one direction he could go down.

“Yeah,” Drew muttered knowing he was going to have to come clean.

“How did you find out and secondly how the fuck did you gain their trust?”

“I’m not sure how to tell you this,” Drew said before glancing down at his Pipboy. “So I guess I’ll just play you these logs.”

Drew sat down on the chair opposite the desk to Jarik, and one by one, he played the logs from the imprisoned scientist who was responsible for the Greenclaw’s creation.

By the time he had finished playing the final log, Jarik was staring at the back wall.

“That’s it,” Drew said. “That’s my explanation.”

“So they were human,” Jarik said almost in disbelief.

“Not only that, but I think you can figure out where they got some of their victims.”

Jarik’s brow furrowed before his eyes widened. “Paulson?”

“Yeah.”

“Some of them are from Paulson?”

“I think all of them might be. I’ve already figured out who almost all of them are. And Jarik, one of them is Marianne. She goes by Charan now.”

Jarik stared at him for a moment before he shook his head. “Fuck you, Drew. You knew how much I loved her? She is not some ugly fucking monster. I wanted to marry her.”

“They’re not monsters, Jarik.”

“You have eyes, right?”

“Yeah, I do. I also have a heart.”

Jarik stood up and stared out of the window into the parking lot.

“I know you’re seeing someone,” Drew said. “It must be awkward to know that Marianne is still alive. I should know. I went through the same thing. The same denial, the same hesitation. I didn’t know what to believe.”

Jarik glanced back at him. “I’m not seeing anyone. It didn’t work out.”

“I’m sorry.”

Jarik shook his head and then pinched the bridge of his nose with his fingers. “No, this is Brahmin shit, it has to be. They’re lying to you. They have to be. There’s no way those creatures were once human. Deathclaws with human DNA, sure, but the other way around?”

“You heard the tapes,” Drew said raising his Pipboy arm. “And they weren’t the ones that started to figure it out, it was me.”

Jarik shook his head again. “If those Brotherhood breakaways find out they are here they’ll blow you to shit.”

“They’ll attack regardless. We have robots and it seems they want to seize all the robots and tech in the region.”

“And you think you can defend this place?” Jarik asked.

“Yes, I do.”

“And what about the Greenclaws?” he asked. “Do they pose a threat?”

“It’s complicated.”

“How is it complicated?”

“Well, Charlotte is their leader and she’s like thirty feet tall.”

“Fuck you!” Jarik almost shouted. “Thirty fucking feet? That’s shit your spewing!”

“You can go see for yourself if you want.”

“I’ll pass,” Jarik said as he sat back down. “I know what the Brotherhood are like.”

“Which is why we need to drive them out.”

“And you think the Greenclaws and your robots can do that?”

“I’d prefer not to involve the Greenclaws, but I’m gonna make some weapons just in case.”

Jarik leaned back. “Charlotte was always suspicious and secretive.”

“Well, I’m not making a weapon for her. She doesn’t want one or really need one.”

“Who else survived? Gemma? Kiki?”

“Both of them, yes. Kiki is around twenty feet and Gemma is something like ten.”

“Jeez,” Jarik uttered. “I knew the Super Mutants used to be people, but the Greenclaws? That’s fucked up. If I’d been turned into one of those things I think I’d end it all.”

“They didn’t remember anything at first, so they were able to adapt to their new selves before they realized what they’d lost. It hasn’t been easy, but they aren’t willing to give up. They want to live and they aren’t monsters or anything else. They’re still people in their hearts. Just bigger and stronger.”

“And have horns and sharp teeth and claws and a long tail,” Jarik added. “They also look almost exactly like deathclaws, the scariest thing in the wasteland. I have no idea how you’re comfortable living with them.”

“They’re intimidating, sure,” Drew agreed. “But I’ve gotten used to them. We all have. They aren’t what you think they are. Most of them are really sweet.”

“I have no idea what to think,” Jarik admitted. “I think I need time to think it through.”

Drew knew Jarik well enough to know he wouldn’t tell anyone. He was a trustworthy guy, but also incredibly secretive. Jarik was an enigma that Drew still hadn’t figured out after years of knowing him.

“I need time,” Jarik repeated as he stood back up and headed for the door.

Drew watched him go before he himself stood up and made his way over to the window and stared out. Jarik didn’t trust easily, which could prove to be an issue especially since what he had just been told was bordering on unbelievable. Drew knew the only way Jarik could really make an informed decision, was if he actually met them and he knew that wasn’t going to happen any time soon.

Then again, he hadn’t expected to find Jarik in his office.

He started to wonder what had happened to the scarce few other survivors from Paulson. Had they found somewhere to live or had they died out there in the wilderness?

Knowing he couldn’t dwell on the past, he headed out of his office only to stop when he remembered why he had gone there in the first place. He turned around, grabbed the phone and the desk fan and headed out. He needed to continue his work and build weapons for the Greenclaws.

Chapter 39 - Morning Glory by Saturn Knight
Author's Notes:

This chapter is where some fetishized body proportions come into play

Drew woke to an unexpected yet pleasant sensation. Something was rubbing against his crotch through his pants. He looked down to see Gemma’s giant clawed hand over him, the heel of her palm gently rubbing him off.

“Sorry,” she apologized, quickly stopping. “I woke up and noticed you were hard. So I-uh. Well…”

“And you thought you’d rub me off just like you used to,” Drew whispered. “It’s okay. You can continue. Though I must warn you, I don’t have a change of pants with me. They’re upstairs in the side room from the office.”

Gemma shifted her arms, wrapping them around him before she sat up, hugging him against her soft bountiful chest. Still holding onto him, she inched her way down Kiki’s stomach on her behind then jumped off onto the floor before putting him down.

“I had a dream last night,” she said. “It was of us. Of the fun we used to have.”

“That’s funny because I think I might have been having the same dream. I’ve also had a few dreams of you as you are now, using that long tongue of yours.”

Gemma smirked at him, then licked her lips before she visibly hesitated.

“What’s wrong?” Drew asked with concern.

“I don’t want to hurt you. I’m really strong and powerful, and if I get carried away, I could really hurt you.”

Drew inched onto his tiptoes as he tried to kiss her, but she was too tall, so he kissed her left nipple, instead.

Gemma took in a sharp breath as she stared down at him, her mouth falling agape, her chest rising and falling heavily.

“I don’t care,” he said. “I want to be with you.” He looked at Kiki’s massive form. “I want to be with both of you. I want to give you pleasure. I want to hear you moan just like you used to.”

Gemma smiled as she glanced back at Kiki.

“I know you want this,” Drew said. “I want it, too. Stop denying yourself.”

Gemma licked her lips with her tongue as she glanced back at Kiki for a second time. He could tell she was mulling it over. The question was would she relent?

“You’re right,” she uttered. “I’m fed up with waiting. Let’s do it. Today, this morning, right now.”

Drew felt his heart begin to beat harder. “I’d like that.”

“Let’s wake up Kiki,” Gemma said. “Stand back, it’s time to start the fun.”

Drew took a few steps back as he watched Gemma move between Kiki’s giant thick legs. Unable to see what she was up to, he moved around to get a better view and watched as Gemma ran her blunted clawed hand down across her crotch before she bent forward, her long tongue protruding out of her mouth.

He held his breath as he watched her tongue glide across the massive Greenclaw’s front before penetrating her small previously unseen vagina.

Kiki’s whole body shifted and a soft moan escaped from her lips. Drew continued to watch, his cock harder than it had been in a long, long time.

“I love that,” he heard Kiki’s low drowsy voice utter.

As Gemma penetrated deeper with her long muscular tongue, one of Kiki’s legs suddenly lurched, causing Drew to take a few more nervous steps back, fearful that she might accidentally kick him in the throes of pleasure.

“That’s amazing,” Kiki uttered as she slowly sat herself up, her eyes half-lidded. “Keep going.”

Feeling both brave and the need to join in, Drew slowly and cautiously approached them, walking between Kiki’s treelike legs before slipping between Gemma’s thighs, his back to Kiki’s crotch. If Gemma didn’t know he was there, she did moments later as he began to run his fingers across her crotch, finding her relatively small and considerably wet opening.

Gently, he rubbed his fingers across the scaly flesh on either side of her womanhood. He then moved in with his mouth, inserting his fingers inside her as his lips made contact with her clit.

A moan escaped her lips as his mouth, tongue and fingers got to work. As Gemma began to gyrate to the rhythm of his tongue, he pulled out his fingers and gripped her large thighs and used them as leverage to increase the pressure of his tongue against her clit.

Her moans grew louder and her gyrations grew faster, as did Kiki’s as Drew’s performance informed Gemma’s as her long tongue continued to stimulate Kiki’s clit and opening.

Then, before Drew knew what was happening, Kiki grabbed Gemma from the back and pushed her fiercely against her. With alarm, he found his face pinned between Kiki and Gemma’s crotch with crushing force.

The fear of suffocation only lasted a few moments as he heard Gemma speak up. “Drew’s between my legs and you’re crushing him.”

The pressure immediately stopped and Gemma took several steps back, disengaging the encounter.

Drew smirked. “Well, that was interesting.”

Gemma didn’t seem quite as cheerful. “This is why I think it’s dangerous.”

“What happened?” Kiki asked.

“You pushed me against his head. We could have crushed it.”

“You blocked my breathing, that’s all,” Drew said.

“That’s just as bad,” Gemma said.

“Than having my head crushed?”

Gemma frowned. “Drew, we could have hurt you.”

“You knew something was wrong the moment it happened,” Drew pointed out. “I’m fine. I’m tougher than I look.”

In all honesty, Drew was actually surprised it hadn’t hurt more. He had felt the immense pressure and felt that it should have hurt him, yet it hadn’t.

Drew looked down at his fingernails which were noticeably thicker than they used to be. Was the F.E.V. responsible? He had felt the aftereffects with the tingles and cold sweats and he had also noted that he was stronger. He had managed to stop Bek from crushing him the other day by literally holding up her weight when she had tried to stomp him with her foot.

If the strange compound had affected him, it was clearly and thankfully superficial. He just feared that the changes might not be over yet.

“We should stop,” Gemma said, bringing him out of his thoughts.

“No,” Drew said tersely. “I don’t want to stop and neither do you.”

Gemma shook her head. “You’re right, I don’t, but it’s still too dangerous.”

“As I said, you were on it the moment it happened. I don’t think we have anything to worry about.”

Kiki agreed. “Yeah, you were straight on it. Besides, it sounds like he wants to finish.”

“Yeah, I do,” Drew said. “Can’t get me all worked up then pull the plug just because of a little scare.”

Gemma didn’t look so sure. “We still have to be careful.”

“We will,” Kiki said.

Gemma sighed before she sl