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Ellen Park, Lone Wanderer
Owyn Lyons and Henry Casdin disagreed on many things, but on one matter they saw eye to eye: the need to establish contact with the High Elders in California again.
well, General Taylor gained the day
For years neither man's side had the resources to make the attempt. Lyons had hoped in secret that he would eventually be able to turn Galaxy News Radio's equipment to that purpose, even if only briefly.
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Owyn Lyons and Henry Casdin disagreed on many things, but on one matter they saw eye to eye: the need to establish contact with the High Elders in California again.
<font color="#ffffff">well, General Taylor gained the day </font>
For years neither man's side had the resources to make the attempt. Lyons had hoped in secret that he would eventually be able to turn Galaxy News Radio's equipment to that purpose, even if only briefly.
<font color="#ffffff"><align=right>(walk him along, John, carry him along)</align></font>
Didn't happen.
<font color="#ffffff">well, General Taylor he gained the day </font>
Casdin had sent Outcast forces to survey the SatCom nav-array towers throughout the Wasteland in the hopes that one might be revived.
<font color="#ffffff"><align=right>(carry him to his burying ground)</align></font>
No luck.
<font color="#ffffff">tell me, where is Stormy?</font>
So they hunkered down, Lyons at the Citadel and Casdin at Fort Independence, and Casdin watched Lyons waste the Brotherhood's resources on flea-scratching Wasteland communities, and Lyons watched Casdin and his Outcasts elevate tech over human lives. And they waited.
<font color="#ffffff"><align=right>(walk him along, John, carry him along)</align></font>
And eventually the both of them came into luck.
<font color="#ffffff">tell me, where is Stormy?</font>
No, not California. Lost Hills didn't reach out to them. Would've been too easy. What they got instead was a Vault dweller, not so different from the first one, the one who knew the Founder's grandson.
<font color="#ffffff"><align=right>(carry him to his burying ground)</align></font>
Casdin got a briefing from his right hand man McGraw about her, after she cracked the Bailey's Crossing armory- and defended him and Olin against their own malcontents. Saw her again later, after she brought him the helm of one of his men, fallen in the wilderness up north.
<font color="#ffffff">we'll dig his grave with a silver spade</font>
Lyons got word of her from his own daughter, after the Behemoth was taken down on the very steps of GNR.
<font color="#ffffff"><align=right>(walk him along, John, carry him along)</align></font>
She wound up with Lyons. Casdin wasn't surprised. Then he heard from her again- well, <i>of</i> her, anyway. There'd been a factory once, a RobCo building. Made Protectrons. It'd been in a bad way, too dangerous to risk his men on. There weren't enough of them to spare, not for so little return.
<font color="#ffffff">his shroud of the finest silk will be made</font>
But she was there, and investigating. Later she flew the Brotherhood flag over the place. And not just as symbol, either; she'd claimed it for the Brotherhood. Brought Lyons' men there. Built wind turbines for power. Started repairing the equipment. Started making it ready to produce again.
<font color="#ffffff"><align=right>(carry him to his burying ground)</align></font>
Everything the Brotherhood was <i>supposed</i> to do.
<font color="#ffffff">tell me, where is Stormy?</font>
McGraw confirmed it. It was all for real. This one time, at least, Lyons was back on course. And more: they were building a radio tower. A <i>hell</i> of a radio tower. You could reach orbit with it.
<font color="#ffffff"><align=right>(walk him along, John, carry him along)</align></font>
And if you had the right frequency- and Casdin sure as hell did, and Lyons did too- well. The Founder'd sent out his final call before the War on that frequency. He'd never had an answer. The Brotherhood still listened on it to this day, wherever they were, whatever they did. Just in case. At Lost Hills they listened extra hard. Just in case.
<font color="#ffffff">tell me, where is Stormy?</font>
Before the War, a century before, there'd been a project. Diana, they'd called it. The men of old'd bounced a radio signal off the Moon, and they'd listened, and they'd caught it on its return. First time Man'd ever reached out and touched another celestial object. They'd done it in 1947. They'd had 1947 equipment.
<font color="#ffffff"><align=right>(carry him to his burying ground)</align></font>
The Vault kid, the one in charge of the project- she had more power than they'd had then. More tech, too. Lyons'd salvaged antennas from the Enclave mobile crawler, and they were up the mast at the RobCo place now. You couldn't reach California straight off, the Earth curved too much, but you could reach anywhere you had line of sight.
<font color="#ffffff">we'll lower him down on a golden chain</font>
That included straight up. That included the Moon.
<font color="#ffffff"><align=right>(walk him along, John, carry him along)</align></font>
When the Vault kid showed up at Fort Independence with two red-robed Scribes and one armored Initiate in tow, she gave her name as Paladin 101. Said Lyons had a message for Casdin. Told him about the mast, about the orbital comms tests, about everything. Said Lyons wanted a second Diana.
<font color="#ffffff">on every inch we'll carve his name</font>
Said they wanted him to be there, or at least to send people he trusted for it.
<font color="#ffffff"><align=right>(carry him to his burying ground)</align></font>
He thought a while, and he asked for the specs. One of the Scribes gave 'em. He asked his Specialists if what Younes said could be trusted. They said it could. He thought some more.
<font color="#ffffff">General Taylor he's all the go</font>
He sent his Specialists first. And when they sent word to <i>him</i>, when they said they were confident 101's little project was gonna do what Lyons said it was gonna do, he went himself, with a squad of his men.
<font color="#ffffff"><align=right>(walk him along, John, carry him along)</align></font>
Met Lyons there, no big surprise.
<font color="#ffffff">He's gone where the stormy winds won't blow</font>
They tested the antenna, both of them, and they verified the signal, and their eyes never met, not once. But they agreed it was good for what it was supposed to do, and they angled it just <i>so</i> and they waited for the Moon to rise. And they called.
<font color="#ffffff"><align=right>(carry him to his burying ground)</align></font>
And they called.
<font color="#ffffff">tell me, where is Stormy?</font>
And they called, again and again and again, as many times as the angle of the Moon's rising and the conditions of the ionosphere would allow, first Lyons and then Casdin and then the Scribes and Specialists, over and over, and there was no answer; not even one, not anything at all.
<font color="#ffffff"><align=right>(walk him along, John, carry him along)</align></font>
All anyone knew, Lyons or Casdin or Younes or 101 or anyone else, was that if there had been any Brother alive with even the <i>slightest</i> of skill, with enough with to flip a switch or push a button, they would have answered.
<font color="#ffffff">tell me, where is Stormy?</font>
And there was no answer. Oh, there was a signal, briefly, towards the end. A faint little ghost of a thing. But it wasn't from Lost Hills. Somewhere east of there, in the Mojave, maybe; a brief burst of code, a gasp of warning. <i>Be quiet,</i> it said. <i>Be quiet, or they'll hear you, and you'll doom us for real.</i> The last word might have been <i>MacNamara</i>.
<font color="#ffffff"><align=right>(carry him to his burying ground)</align></font>
But that was all; as for everything else, trying to call out to the rest of the Brotherhood of Steel was nothing more than talking to the dead.
<font color="#ffffff">General Taylor he's dead and he's gone</font>
<font color="#ffffff"><align=right>(walk him along, John, carry him along)</align></font>
<font color="#ffffff">Well General Taylor he's long dead and gone</font>
<font color="#ffffff"><align=right>(carry him to his burying ground)</align></font>

<font color="#ffffff">tell me, where is Stormy? </font>
<font color="#ffffff"><align=right>(walk him along, John, carry him along)</align></font>
<font color="#ffffff">tell me, where is Stormy?</font>
<font color="#ffffff"><align=right>(carry him to his burying ground)</align></font>
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The nearly-noon Wasteland sun beats down from overhead as Ellen holds her door open. "We're not far from our destination," Ellen says almost apologetically. "This is the closest I could get the door- I don't like making people walk, there's always something out there that wants to cause trouble. There's a homing beacon from the ship in a crater just over that hill ahead. We'll be activating its signal to get Elliott or Sally's attention. Elliott's not comfortable with changing the ship's course or speed, but the ship should be in signal range in a few minutes."

The barren landscape rolls away in every direction, interrupted in the distance by the outline of some kind of power plant or something of that nature. Otherwise, the whole place is sparse, even the passage here- a wooden frame hammered into the stony soil, a red-brown door hanging by ancient hinges. Somewhere an insect is buzzing, and overhead a few birds circle, but for the most part this bit of the Wasteland is quiet today.
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By the angle of the sun through the door, it's mid-morning in the Wasteland. Warm, too, by the feel of it. Ellen's wearing her skin-close black stealth suit and heavily reinforced overcoat from the Anchorage campaign anyway. "It'll be easier this time than last time," she says to Mark. "I moved the door." To Sariel she notes, "The nearest house with a door I can use for Milliways is about a quarter-mile from here. There's a closer building, but it's full of feral ghouls and I don't think we need to take that chance. The human beings on board the ship aren't comfortable with targeting the teleportation beam themselves, so we're going to a homing beacon the ship fired into the Wasteland some time ago. If we activate its signal while the ship is making its pass over the region, we should be good."

The landscape is rocky and dry; the last rains came through here a week ago. Nothing grows nearby but yellow-brown scrub. A pinkish, scabrous thing the size of a beagle, with the yellowing teeth of a gnawing rodent, is digging in the dirt not far off; it seems content to ignore the new arrivals.
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The door from Milliways opens on the early morning landscape of the Capital Wasteland. Beyond the door is stony, blighted territory, the shadows of burnt, weathered stumps long in the morning sun. "The crater where we'll be picked up by the ship is just over that hill," Ellen says, indicating a swell in the landscape ahead of them. "I got kind of tired of walking half a mile to reach the nearest house with a door to get to the Bar, so I tore out an internal doorframe from the building and brought it here instead. It doesn't actually connect to anything, but it gets me back and forth- and we can always go to the house again if we need to, on the way back."

She glances at the Asgardian and adds, "We'll be traveling to the ship by a teleportation beam. There are two humans on board who can operate the controls, so it'll either be Dr. Tercorien or Sally on the other side."
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The door opens on the dim and dank-smelling interior of a house that hasn’t been properly lived in for a very long time. "This is the nearest door to where the ship's beacon landed," says Ellen. "I figured there was no need to make anybody walk except me. If you see anything brown and fast moving that's about the size of a human baby, it's probably a radroach. It's about a quarter of a mile to the beacon from here."
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The first Brotherhood test of the radio signal went well. So did the second- the official one. There were hangovers aplenty on both ends the next day, but the viability of the radio tower at RobCo as a means of communication with the Citadel had been established. A day or two later, after some adjustment and reconfiguration, Scribe Sprunk was able to make contact with Three Dog and then, two hours later, with Agatha. Over the next several days they picked up a few ground-bound signals, but all of them already existed on a list of known pre-War signal sources still operating off ancient fission batteries. They were so unchanging that Brotherhood and Outcast patrols tended to use them as navigation beacons; they had nothing to do with people any more. That was fine. Ellen could deal with that. She and the Scribes scratched those frequencies off their list of things to try, and went on.

On the first day, and the first night besides, despite scanning all the sky they could for all frequencies in the vicinity of the one Ellen remembered her Pip-Boy picking up, there was nothing.

On the second day, Scribe Younes sidled up to Ellen and quietly pointed out that an object in low Earth orbit would be circling the planet once every ninety minutes, and that it would only be visible from a radius of roughly six hundred and twenty miles from the sub-satellite point. Even if they found the right frequency, they were going to have an awfully small window of opportunity to signal their target. That got her a glare, and then a sigh, and a quiet thanks for the unpleasant reminder.

But it didn't stop the scanning, nor the signaling; and on the third night, as the sun set and the D layer of the ionosphere faded into insignificance, a light in the radio room came on that made Younes switch off the recording of Agatha's violin they'd been sending into space.

"-lo? Hello, can anyone-"

"We read you, unidentified signal source," said Younes, who was trying not to dance in her seat. "We're a ground-bound station at latitude 38.873, longitude negative 77.234. Who are we talking to?"

"... are you human?"

Younes did dance a little in her chair at that. "Yes, sir," she said as calmly as she could (which wasn't very). "We are. I promise."

"Oh thank God. I didn't know if anyone was left alive...."

A clatter of feet in the corridor outside the radio room signaled Paladin 101's arrival. Younes lifted a hand in acknowledgment and said, "Unknown signal source, I'm going to hand you over to my superior now. Do not go offline if you can help it."

"Your- wait, what? Who is this?"

"You've been speaking to Scribe Librada Younes of the Capital Wasteland Brotherhood of Steel," said 101, who was making absolutely no effort to keep the smile on her face out of her voice. "She's the technical lead on our radio signaling project. We've been trying to reach you for a while, my friend."

"I- this is- I'm not giving my name or service number until I know who the hell this is!"

"Elliott," said 101, smile broadening into a grin, "it's okay. You know me. You gave me General Chase's overcoat, remember?"


Silently, 101 leaned over and held one hand out to Scribe Younes for a high-five.
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There were worse things to wake up to at three-thirty in the morning than a slightly overzealous robot at your cot's side, announcing "Primary mast structure complete. Notification delivered immediately, as requested." Undoubtedly there were worse.

Ellen would have to think of them later. She was too busy trying to get her heart to stop hammering in her ears.

"... we really built that," said 101, staring up at the outline of the mast's structure silhouetted against the stars of the Wasteland sky. "That whole thing."

"Yep," said Thornburgh. He wasn't particularly pleased at being awakened so early, but hell, the radio project had been kind of fascinating to work on. Being roused three hours ahead of schedule to see the fruit of that labor made real? He could live with that. "All of it. Scavenged and cut the pipes, dug the holes and sank the rebar into the foundation, welded everything in place, ran the guy wires- we did it. Everything except get the dish up."

It might've been just his imagination, but 101 suddenly looked seriously pale. Then again, there was a full moon up. Everybody looked pale under moonlight. "Mind if-" She paused. "Can I get a reason for that?"

"Didn't want it mounted on an incomplete structure. Anything went wrong with the construction, we'd be out one seriously rare and hard to replace component."

"All right," 101 said slowly. "That... makes sense. But it's going up in the morning, right?"

"Sure is, ma'am."

"And someone else is going to get it up there?"

Thornburgh couldn't help but laugh. "Do I look like a climber, ma'am? Don't answer that," he said. "No, don't worry. Younes is going to do it, although she doesn't know it yet."

"Good," said 101. She reached up and rested one hand a moment on the nearest guy wire. "Good. The sooner, the better. Once the sun's up, of course."

"Of course, ma'am."

There were radio sets in the Citadel, plenty of them. Most of them worked, if you pointed them at a frequency that anybody bothered to broadcast on any more. Mostly that meant Three Dog and Agatha these days, ever since the Enclave went silent. They kept an ear out on that frequency, though. Just in case. Vallincourt kept a radio tuned to the old Enclave frequency in her part of the lab; she found the static soothing. It flattened out the background noises of the other Scribes and let her think.

It wasn't supposed to suddenly crackle and squeal like that, though. That was somebody trying to signal, or she was a Deathclaw's uncle. "Go get Scribe Rothchild," she snapped at the nearest junior Scribe. "We've got a-"

"-sorry! Sorry, ma'am, I didn't-"
"Are you all right, Sprunk? Check that thing over- did anything get broken?"
"I'm fine, I just tripped-"
"Ma'am, is that light supposed to be on?"
"Oh, God, the test's not for another two hours. Um. Anyone listening? I'm sorry, this wasn't supposed to- look, this is Paladin 101 of the Brotherhood of Steel-"

Somewhere, Vallincourt was suddenly convinced, the ghost of Marconi was laughing.
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It's stupid. It's so damn stupid.

Doing your job well is- well, it's important, duh. You'd do your best at any assignment. That's the point, right? What's the point of serving the Brotherhood if you can't do it really, really, really well? Might as well just- oh, turn in the red robes and go see if they're hiring in Rivet City or something. Or Megaton, there's guns there in need of service, you could make a living- ANYWAY. That's not important. The fact that you do your job and you do it well, that's something you've always done. Always been proud of.

But, you know, there was that hwoorf and that BANG and later that day Paladin 101 came to you and asked, really nicely, if you were okay. Not just 'status report, Scribe Cancio', but, 'hey, are you all right? How're you holding up?'. So you told her you were better than you'd been, which was true. The whole, you know. Thing. The cold sweats and the wanting to go around back of the factory and heave in the dumpster where nobody could see you. That part was over. You weren't fine but you were better, so you told her that in all honesty, and she smiled at you and asked in this really almost embarrassed tone, of all things, if you wouldn't mind looking over that rifle of hers. Something about it having nearly kicked out her shoulder even if it did save your hide. Didn't hear the details. Probably should've. Too much trying not to jump in the air and knock your heels together (that's harder than it looks in the books) and cackle with glee. Because that gun. That gun. You were- you got to take it into the workroom and take it apart and put it back together and you didn't even have to ask.

You knew right from the start that you were going to give it back to 101 in better shape than when she'd handed it over. Duh. Stupid thing to even have to specify, of course you were going to improve that thing's condition. That's what you were here for, right? Yeah. The weapons, all of them. Hers, the Initiates', the ones they'd build as emplaced turrets, the robots' built-in lasers. All of them. That's why Peabody sent you. Went without saying.

But, you know.

This gun... they don't make them like this any more. Nobody else at the Citadel has anything like it, anything even remotely close. She does. 101 just- she dropped that deathclaw in its tracks, just like that, like it was the easiest thing in the world. With this gun. When the Outcasts came to the factory she was up on the roof, with this gun, watching them and waiting and making absolutely sure they weren't moving on the factory, making sure everyone here was safe for the next minute, and the next and the next. You've seen her with the Gatling laser and that plasma rifle of hers and Mjolnir- which, by the way, she wields like she was born with it on her shoulder, never mind that it's nearly as long as she is tall. And that is a fine sight to see all in itself. But this gun, this particular one, this one is hers and she saved your life with it. Like it was the most natural thing in the world. And then she handed it to you, and she smiled at you, and-

It's so damned stupid. She'd have done it for anyone. You know she'd have done the same for anyone in danger. She'd be a lousy Paladin if she didn't. And you're- it's an Order thing, you're Order of the Sword, you're supposed to fix people's guns, she'd have handed it to Scribe Herzog if he'd been here instead of you and Herzog is old enough to be her grandfather. It's nothing, it's what she was supposed to do.

But, you know... she asked how you were, and she smiled at you. And, you know, you can't find a single damn thing wrong with this gun now that you've stripped and rebuilt it three times over. It's just fine. She asked you to look it over even though-

It was probably just something to keep you from wigging out about the Deathclaw any further. Yeah. She hasn't been a Paladin long but that's the kind of thing decent combat commanders do. Give their people duties to distract them from trauma until they calm down. That makes sense. That's all it was.

(But nobody ever said a combat commander had to smile at you like that.)

Anyway, you've got a job to do. You owe 101 your life. You're going to do that job extra well. She deserves it.

... God, you can't even convince yourself, can you. It's so damn stupid.
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I'm at a point in Ellen's plot when I can either have somebody get shot at by a sniper somewhere to the south, touching off my AU Tenpenny Tower plot, or I can have the radio mast go up and signal the vessel in orbit, triggering the alien starship plot. Who's interested in which?
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When you see your first Deathclaw up close, your life doesn't flash before your eyes. It doesn't have time. It doesn't have room. There's just this hwoorf noise and this dead-meat stench and this world-devouring blur of pink and tan and motion and claws and-


-and red. So much red. All over the place, you, the ground, everything, and you're panting so hard and staring at the thing that it's not until Initiate Dimple comes running up all frantic that you realize the red didn't come out of you. It's the lizard's. All of it.

Dimple's apologizing like her life depended on it and you're not sure why. Didn't she just- wait. No. No she didn't. That wasn't her weapon. She's got an AER9, all the Initiates do. They don't make that noise, they fire coherent light, there's nothing in a laser rifle that can do that. Plasma rifles can't do that. Even a Gatling can't make that sound and it's not like the Initiates have access to Gatlings anyway. So it wasn't Dimple who did this, or Reuben or the other guy. The Deathclaw got past all three of them.

But it's dead now.

Most of the monster lizard thing's head is missing. Something slammed into it like the fist of an angry Frankenstein. One hell of a something; what's left of the skull is thick. It's hard to tell but it looks like whatever it was hit the creature below the horns, near the eye, right as it was leaping.

One shot. One shot took that beast down. From- okay, if it got shot square in the side of the head the projectile (it had to have been a projectile, that's not the kind of wound plasma leaves) had to have come from that direction and there's nobody in that direction. There's just the factory.

... the factory.

Paladin 101's on the roof of the factory, isn't she.

And she's got that.... weird scoped rifle that you've never really had the chance to ask her about before.

You have got to see that woman's gun. And soon. Holy cow that was a glorious shot she made.
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