Fallout Fridays – Homecoming

A newly-illuminated sign which reads “Sanctuary Hills” stands in front of a bombed out suburban home.

I was with those railroad children for an entire week while they slept in a sewer playing Church Crypt Clubhouse. But it’s over now. I got the code. They got the chip. That was the deal.

Desdemona tried to give me a mission before I left but I told her the only thing I cared about was finding my baby and getting the fuck out of there. I’m not here to play secret agent. I’m just thankful Tinker Tom knew what he was doing and they didn’t get us killed.

Nick and I sat on a park bench looking out to sea after we left. The salty air was a refreshing change from living in a sewer with kids calling me Codename: Professor. Nick lit two cigarettes and handed one to me.

I thanked him and asked with a smirk, “What’s the point of a robot smoking anyway?”

“Just a bad habit I picked up I guess. Goes with the outfit. Gotta put out a proper image to be a proper gumshoe, you know. But what about you, kid? Where are we going to build this enormous contraption of yours? We’re gonna need the resources and labor of an entire town if we want to get this done.”

“Funny you should mention that. Did I ever tell you about my first day out of the Vault?”


It’s a two-day journey from the church back to Sanctuary, but thankfully the day was uneventful. I figure these people owe me one since I saved their skins and gave them my old neighborhood.

It’s funny, according to my older entries I went back there once to retrieve power armor for that trip through the Glowing Sea, but I have absolutely no fucking memory of that whatsoever. Okay, maybe “funny” isn’t the word for it. I tried to ask Nick if he knew anything about it, but he just got quiet and changed the subject.

We made camp along the overpass, high above the ground and safe inside a hollowed out trailer. Nick eyed me intensely as I grilled a slab of molerat meat, sipping my lukewarm Nuka-Cola and vodka.

“Your story about those Minutemen has got me thinking a lot about the first town I encountered after The Institute tossed me out like garbage.” He stared into the fire, making his glass eyes seem hollow, the illuminated irises barely visible as he furrowed his brow.

I flipped the steak onto an emptied out Fancy Lads box and began cutting bites with my hunting knife, “With a freshly wiped memory that must have been a helluva rude awakening, huh?”

“You don’t know the half of it! Here I am, waking up in a literal trash heap, with a mechanical body, believing myself to be a cop from your time. Needless to say, I…well I panicked a little.” His hands shake as he pinches a cigarette out of his coat.

I let out a sardonic laugh, “Boy that’s relatable. What did you do?”

“The only thing I could do. I ran, until I finally came across a tiny town. It’s a wonder they didn’t shoot me on sight, a naked metal man screaming toward them.” The image made us both laugh.

“The first human who ever talked to me was a young boy. I think his name was…Jim. He was full of questions. And answers, at least for someone who had no idea where or when he was. Pretty soon the whole town came out to marvel at the mechanical man. They treated me pretty decent once they realized I wasn’t a threat.”

I gave Nick a smile. He’s one of the only people I know who remembers what it was like before The Day. “Prewar” as everyone else here calls it. I began to unroll my sleeping bag as I said to him, “Maybe we could go back there some time and say hello.”

Wrong. You fucked up, Dori.

Nick leapt from his seat and kicked the campfire, sparks flying everywhere. I instinctively drew my pistol and pointed it directly between his eyes.

“I CAN’T because they’re all fucking DEAD! MURDERED by raiders like they were nothing but animals, and all I could do was RUN AWAY! Like a FUCKING COWARD!”

He punched the side of the trailer and a long, low hum echoed inside our shelter. He finally speaks again, in a low whisper. And I finally lower my pistol.

“I’m supposed to be able to Protect and Serve. I know I’m not the real Nick Valentine, but his memories are all I’ve got. And you would think a cop would be able to take out a few punks with guns but I just…I had no idea. I didn’t know this brave new world had such people in it. I thought I could take my time, do a little farming, live an easy life out in the country and heal.”

Neither of us knew what to say. Nick shuffled his way toward the entrance of the trailer and sat down, standing guard for me to sleep. I poured unfiltered water over what remained of the fire.

“Doesn’t matter,” he finally muttered, “that was probably a hundred years ago, anyway.”


We didn’t talk much the next day. We passed the old drive-in. And that diner where I killed those two chem pushers. Once we reached Concord I began to worry. What if these people didn’t make it?

They asked for my help setting up camp and I just left them there. And why can I not remember going there before? Were they all dead? Was it so traumatic I just blocked it out? Are we about to walk into a horror show? Or maybe even worse, a new raider camp?

But as we cross the Red Rocket station I hear a familiar bark. It was Dogmeat!

“Well I’ll be damned,” Nick chuckled, “He’s been waiting for you to come home this whole time.”

I threw my arms around him before realizing he had some sort of “armor” made out of old tires and sharpened bolts. On the side somebody had written “Minuteman Dogmeat”. So that Minuteman guy must still be alive!

Dogmeat happily trotted ahead, leading us to the wooden bridge which was now heavily fortified. The Minuteman hopped from his guard post and waved back toward the houses.

Two wooden guard towers and two automatic turrets are guarding the end of a wooden bridge. On the right tower is a sign which reads "protected by the Minutemen". A black man in a blue military uniform and black ranger hat is standing in the entrance to greet the viewer.
Two wooden guard towers and two automatic turrets are guarding the end of a wooden bridge. On the right tower is a sign which reads “protected by the Minutemen”. A black man in a blue military uniform and black ranger hat is standing in the entrance to greet the viewer.

“Hey everyone! The General is back! Here comes the General!”

Nick elbowed me in the ribs and muttered, “Kind of an overly enthusiastic hero’s welcome, don’t you think?”

The Minuteman ran down the bridge toward us, “General, permission to shake your hand?”

I stammer for a moment while Dogmeat bounds around the three of us, “Um, yes, sure. Uh, at ease, soldier.”

He escorts me over the bridge after giving me an eager and firm handshake. At least a dozen people are there to meet us at the guard towers and they all salute me as I approach. Which is…weird? What the hell is with this General business? Did something happen when I was here last time?

A rusty playground consisting of a spaceship-themed jungle gym, a teeter-totter, pink flamingos, and ride-and-rock rocket ships stands in front of a basketball court laid over The Sumners' former foundation.
A rusty playground consisting of a spaceship-themed jungle gym, a teeter-totter, pink flamingos, and ride-and-rock rocket ships stands in front of a basketball court laid over The Sumners’ former foundation.

Where the Sumners’ house used to be is now a basketball court and playground. I pull the Minuteman to the side so we can hopefully talk privately. But everyone keeps staring at me with a creepy expression of adoration. I don’t even recognize half of these fucking people. What gives?

I look at the Minuteman’s uniform and hope the name stitched on it is actually his because I can’t remember it, “Um, listen Mister…Garvey? The reason I’m here is because I found a way to get to my son. But it’s going to require a lot of power and a lot of space. And I’m going to need your help.”

After many praises and cheers and way too much attention from everyone, I asked Garvey if he could give me some damn space. Everyone else leaves but he leads me along the road, insisting on showing me what they’ve done with Ms. Rosa’s home.

Standing on the basketball court, a hoop is visible in the foreground. In the background is the side of Ms. Rosa's collapsed house with three neon signs along the entire visible wall. In blue in the center is a sign reading "Sanctuary Hills - Home of the New Minutemen". On the left in red neon reads, "All Are Welcome". On the right in red neon reads, "Raiders Get Shot". A large cornfield is just barely visible beyond a hedge fence.
Standing on the basketball court, a hoop is visible in the foreground. In the background is the side of Ms. Rosa’s collapsed house with three neon signs along the entire visible wall. In blue in the center is a sign reading “Sanctuary Hills – Home of the New Minutemen”. On the left in red neon reads, “All Are Welcome”. On the right in red neon reads, “Raiders Get Shot”. A large cornfield is just barely visible beyond a hedge fence.
Ms. Rosa's garage now has [from foreground to background] a well pump and several barrels of purified water, a settler checking inventory shelves, a settler standing guard with a shotgun, Sturges (a white man in overalls) is tinkering with a broken motorcycle. In every nook and cranny are workbenches and storage shelves filled with scavenged components.
Ms. Rosa’s garage now has [from foreground to background] a well pump and several barrels of purified water, a settler checking inventory shelves, a settler standing guard with a shotgun, Sturges (a white man in overalls) is tinkering with a broken motorcycle. In every nook and cranny are workbenches and storage shelves filled with scavenged components.
Inside Ms. Rosa's home has been completely cleared out to make room for a makeshift barracks. In the center of a room is a coffee table topped with clutter and a checkers game, surrounded by mismatched seating. In the back corners of the room makeshift bunkbeds are visible, as well as a small wetbar with scavenged drinks.
Inside Ms. Rosa’s home has been completely cleared out to make room for a makeshift barracks. In the center of a room is a coffee table topped with clutter and a checkers game, surrounded by mismatched seating. In the back corners of the room makeshift bunkbeds are visible, as well as a small wetbar with scavenged drinks.

Finally Garvey lets me go to my own home. Which is apparently a diner now.

“As I live and breathe! Good evening mum!”

Codsworth. Of course.

My former house, which is now illuminated with electricity. A scavenged "Diner" sign has been placed above the front door.
My former house, which is now illuminated with electricity. A scavenged “Diner” sign has been placed above the front door.
A full but cluttered kitchen in my former home. On the walls are two signs which read, "Clean up and keep this place clean" and "Today's Menu: Take it or leave it". The bar is stocked with vegetables, prewar food, nuka colas, pots and pans. In the background is a counter, stove, sink, and stocked refrigerator. Next to the fridge is a commercial ice cooler.
A full but cluttered kitchen in my former home. On the walls are two signs which read, “Clean up and keep this place clean” and “Today’s Menu: Take it or leave it”. The bar is stocked with vegetables, prewar food, nuka colas, pots and pans. In the background is a counter, stove, sink, and stocked refrigerator. Next to the fridge is a commercial ice cooler.
My former living room is now a mess hall. On the walls are a mounted Deathclaw head, a mounted radroach, and a mounted feral ghoul head. The room is occupied by a long metal table with mismatched chairs and equally mismatched meals scattered all over the surface.
My former living room is now a mess hall. On the walls are a mounted Deathclaw head, a mounted radroach, and a mounted feral ghoul head. The room is occupied by a long metal table with mismatched chairs and equally mismatched meals scattered all over the surface.

 

“Now I realize the home looks a bit of a fright but don’t you worry Mum. Master Long and I have seen to it that yours and Master Shawn’s rooms are expertly prepared for your return. Um, where is Master Shawn, mum? Is he with you? Did you find him?”

I turn down the hallway to our bedrooms and my heart stops, “Codsworth, I need you to shut the fuck up right now and tell me what the hell this is!”

I’m just gonna put a picture in here because honestly I can’t even deal with this shit right now. I’m going to bed. I’ll write again when I get some answers.

A shrine of flowers, chems, and fruit surrounded by candles lies in front of a Vault 111 jumpsuit and minigun proudly on display.
Fallout Fridays – Homecoming
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Fallout Fridays – Off the Rails

A white redhead woman smoking a cigarette in an underground brick room.

As soon as we walked through the door, Nick and I were blinded by floodlights.

“Halt Outsider. We’ve been following you since you left the Commons. You have exactly one chance to answer truthfully before we blast you apart. Who are you and what do you want?”

I lowered my pistol and tried to deescalate with the desperate mom routine. Cry. Talk. Find Shawn.

“Please, I’m trying to find The Railroad. I have spent months trying to track down my baby. He was kidnapped by The Institute. I have murdered every single agent of theirs across the Commonwealth. I have had my brain scooped open and contaminated with a psychopath just so I could gather some basic intel about them. I have been to The Glowing Sea and back again to talk to a sentient Super Mutant who used to be their top scientist so I could get schematics. And now, finally, after all this fucking time, I just need this Courser Chip decoded so I can break in and Find Shawn.”

*THUNK*

The floodlights went dark. As vision crept back into my corneas I could see a raised platform above us. On it was an olive skinned woman with white hair like mine, pointing a minigun directly at my chest. Next to her, a white redheaded woman smoking a cigarette and eyeing me with suspicion. In the corner, a boy in a blue jacket and newsie cap hiding his face. And on the stairs, blocking my path, a white man in Aviators wearing a plain white tee and jeans.

He was the first to speak, “The Courser Killer finally graces us with her presence.”

The redhead shot him an annoyed look and snapped back to me, “So it’s true then. You’ve actually seen a courser. And you killed it? And you recovered a chip from it’s brain?”

I pulled the cold metal component out of my bra, where I’d been hiding it ever since Dr. Amari recovered it. I held it flat in my palm as the redhead eyed it closely. Suddenly her eyes grew wide and she snapped back to attention, barking orders.

“Glory, lower your weapon. Drummer Boy, go get Tinker Tom. Deacon, I want every piece of intel you’ve gathered on our new friend. On the double, go!”

Glory eased her minigun slightly and stood at ease while the two boys clambered past each other into a hallway behind the leader.

Nick and I carefully approached the women on the platform, chip still in my hand. The redhead took a long final drag of her cigarette before flicking it away.

“I’m Desdemona, leader of The Railroad. Sorry about the rude welcome but you are about to become the only outsider who has ever set foot in our headquarters. But before I can allow that, I must ask you something crucial: Would you risk your life for your fellow man? Even if that man is a synth?”

A loud laugh escaped my mouth before I could compose myself. I thought about it for a minute. Truthfully, I had no desire to risk my life for anyone. Synth or human or otherwise. Had I put myself into dangerous situations for others? Sure. But always with ulterior motives. Find Shawn. The rest is secondary.

“Maybe I could answer that question for you: Yes. This woman risks her life every day for at least one synth. Not only did she rescue me from a sealed vault, she even managed to fast talk our safe passage out of there when things got too hot. And believe you me, you’d much rather be her ally than her enemy.”

Nick placed a hand on my shoulder and gave it an affection squeeze. Desdemona and Glory both seemed impressed.

Sure, I stick my neck out for Nick all the time. But that’s because I need Nick to Find Shawn. What would I do if I didn’t need him anymore? What happens after I Find Shawn?

A red light flashed, then we followed Desdemona through the hallway into a large open crypt-turned-military-operation. All eyes were on me and Nick.

“We’re going to need time to decrypt this Courser Chip of yours and make sense of these…very crudely drawn schematics. In the meantime, Deacon and I will brief you on everything we know about the Institute. I have a feeling we could be great allies. Welcome to The Railroad.”

An underground brick room light by candles. Several people stand around a circular table covered in notes, maps, and cigarettes. This is the Railroad HQ.
An underground brick room light by candles. Several people stand around a circular table covered in notes, maps, and cigarettes. This is the Railroad HQ.
Fallout Fridays – Off the Rails

Fallout Fridays – Trailing Tour

When I woke up the next morning, Magnolia was nowhere to be found. Which saved me the trouble of any awkward goodbyes.

“Oh good, you’re awake.” I heard Nick opening my hotel room door behind me as I finished getting dressed.

“Dr. Amari got the chip out while you were wetting your beak last night. But she says we’re gonna need some help getting it to dance for us.”

I held the surprisingly clean microchip in my hand and sighed, “What does that mean, Nick?”

“It means we’re going to have to make some new friends along the Freedom Trail. A group that fancies themselves abolitionists. Call themselves The Railroad.”

I never did much in the way of Bostonian tourism before The Day. Or if I did, I don’t have any memories of it. As far as I can remember, my husband and I had only just moved here. But everyone knows about the Freedom Trail downtown. Even now, it seems.

Our would-be adventure started in Boston Commons, which is rumored to be the home of a giant monster named “Swan”. Thankfully, I can still neither confirm nor deny the truth of that rumor. In front of a broken fountain was a crude spray-painted sign reading “At journey’s end, follow freedom’s lantern.” Below our feet we found a State Seal with the number 7 pointing toward an “A” in crude graffiti.

Next is the State House, L4.

Then the Old Granary Cemetary, A2, which is naturally covered in feral ghouls.

Old State House is O6.

The Old Corner Bookstore was nearly a deathtrap between more ferals and raiders. But I’m still alive so – 3I.

At Faneuil Hall, a large gathering of Super Mutants put a hold on our progress. One of them had a missile launcher, which he was using to gleefully blast holes in the ground to prevent boredom.

Nick looked at me between worried peaks over our cover, “How do you wanna handle this, kid? I don’t think we can take them head-on and live to tell about it.”

I looked through my bag and dug out the Stealthboys we had salvaged off Kellogg and the courser. I tossed one to Nick.

“We can’t outgun them, so we’re gonna have to outsmart them. Use this to get to the other side of the courtyard without being seen. I’ll distract them by sniping a couple of the weaker looking ones. As soon as they start moving toward my location, that’s when you start shooting. That gives me time to cloak and relocate. Then I’ll pull them off of you from another corner of the yard. With any luck, they’ll be too confused until it’s too late.”

Nick stroked his plastic chin with a concerned look before admitting, “It’s suicide, but it might be foolish enough to work.”

The plan started off well.

I followed his hazy camouflaged figure through the scope of my rifle before lining my sights with the head of the “smallest” Super Mutant. Exhale and squeeze, Dori. Wait for the pink mist.

That’s when it goes wrong.

As soon as the first mutant fell, a missile came screaming toward my location, forcing me to fall back and reveal myself. Nick popped off a few shots so I could cloak, but then I began to hear a frantic beeping getting closer and closer.

That’s when I noticed the Super Mutant holding an active Mini Nuke in his hands like a football, charging toward me without hesitation.

“Fuuuuuuuuuuuck!”

I ran backwards as fast as I could while unloading half my bullets into that beast’s head. He dropped and I immediately hit the dirt, waiting for an explosion that never came. Nick’s cries for help pulled me back into the fray. As I ran back I slammed a big hit of Psychojet. Everything seemed to slow down except for me, while I felt a murderous surge of chemicals fill my bloodstream. I rushed toward Nick’s location with my shotgun in hand, and somehow managed to squeeze off a round into the last two Super Mutants’ heads before they noticed me. I unleashed the kind of yawp I imagine would be right at home among vikings, while I continued to bash their skulls in with the butt of the shotgun.

“Need I gently remind you we have a trail to follow?”

Faneuil Hall – 5R.

Paul Revere’s House – 8D.

And finally the end of the line, Old North Church – 1R.

1R, 2A, 3I, 4L, 5R, 6O, 7A, 8D.

R-A-I-L-R-O-A-D?

Are you fucking kidding me?

If this is the smartest band of people in the Commonwealth, we might be in more trouble than I thought.

Fallout Fridays – Trailing Tour

Fallout Fridays – Like a Goodneighbor

It should come as no surprise the Courser is dead by my own hands.

Nick and I found him at the nearby Greentech Genetics, waging a one-man war against a squadron of military-styled mercenaries who apparently call themselves “Gunners”. Not that it matters. They’re all dead now.

As I approached the Courser he managed to hear my footsteps. With a gun in my face, I told him I needed what was inside his head and he was about to meet his friend Kellogg. That must have spooked him, because instead of shooting he attempted to use an old military Stealthboy to escape. But not before I tackled him to the ground and forced my combat knife deep into his neck.

When he stopped moving, I ripped the whole damn thing off his shoulders and placed the gruesome prize in my rucksack. I know that chip is somewhere in his brain, but frankly I don’t feel like performing surgery out in the wild. I also stripped him of his superior armor, even though it is a bit too black-trenchcoat-over-black-clothes for my taste.

Turns out the Courser was there to track down a synth who escaped The Institute, only to be captured and sold by these Gunners as a slave. So naturally, I executed the slavers and freed the synth. But the synth was terrified of me, and refused to leave until I was gone. Given what she just witnessed me do, I can’t say I blame her.

I am no hero. I’m just a bigger monster than these other monsters.

This was confirmed by the screams of Dr. Amari when I plunked the head onto her desk in Goodneighbor.

“What the hell is that thing?!”

“It’s a courser. Or more accurately, it’s a courser head. I need you to get the chip out of its brain so I can decode it and get into The Institute.”

“Are you insane?! How did you even track down a courser, let alone kill it?”

“I’m…I’m not entirely sure. My memory is still a bit…untrustworthy, since the last time I saw you.”

“Yes. Yes I worried if there were going to be lasting side effects of such an unprecedented procedure. But you were quite insistent!”

Nick interrupted, “If we could just get back to the decapitated head in the middle of the room…”

Dr. Amari agreed to help me recover as much as possible but said it would take time. So I bought us a room at the Hotel Rexford and told Nick I was going out for a drink. I expected he might warn me, or tell me to be careful, but he never did. He knows me too well for that now. I can see it in his eyes when he thinks I’m not looking. The look of a man who is in way over his head but doesn’t know how to leave.

I made my way over the The Third Rail, a bar in what used to be State Station. Before The Day happened and turned my world into…this.

The bouncer is a ghoul in a nice suit. The bartender is a robot wearing a bowler hat. But the singer, yes the singer, is a stunning older woman in a sequined red dress.

She asks if I liked the song when she steps off the stage and sits at the stool next to mine. I guess I was starring a bit more obviously than I intended.

“I’m sorry, I just haven’t heard live music in a very long time.”

“That’s okay handsome. I love a captive audience. And you have the look of someone who could use it.”

I buy us a few rounds and we get to talking. She quickly evades any questions I have about her life, but is also polite enough to return the favor. Every time she calls me “handsome” I squirm a little too obviously on my stool.

During the evening she gives my left hand a sly look and says to me, “I may be wrong, but if I’m not mistaken that’s a wedding band.”

“It is. My husband gave it to me less than a year before he died. Before our child was kidnapped right out of his arms.”

“Oh honey, I’m so sorry to hear that. This wasteland takes everything it can.”

Whitechapel Charlie continues to pour drinks. Magnolia and I continue to drink them, the alcohol making us feel warm and safe. When her next set starts, she asks if I have any special requests. So I ask for Billy Holiday. She sings “The Very Thought of You”. Just for me.

For the first time I can remember since I woke up in that Vault, I feel tears stream down my face. Her voice is so beautiful, and she is so kind. She is the first person in this awful world who hasn’t asked me for anything upon first meeting them.

“What’s the matter, handsome? Didn’t like the song?”

“No, I loved it. A little too much, maybe.”

A long silence between us hangs heavy. Many of the patrons have already called it a night.

“Do–Do you want to get out of here? Maybe go for a walk?”

“Sure handsome. Let me get my coat.”

Fallout Fridays – Like a Goodneighbor

Fallout Fridays – Dead Men Tell Tales

It’s been a long time since my last entry.

I don’t want to count the days.

Days killing men and monsters. Days hacking at mutated beasts or digging up mutated plants or trying to stomach 200 year old radioactive processed junk for “food”. Days staying awake on Jet and Psycho and Buffout and Adrenaline. Days sleeping off wounds in bombed out shelters. Days obliterated with alcohol for the need to sleep. Days of never having a hot shower.

That’s the sort of unimportant focus on details that this sort of introspection cannot become, for my own survival. The only reason I am keeping this journal once again is to attempt to maintain my grip on reality in a life that feels absolutely unreal.

So I am going to go back to my last entry, the time I killed Kellogg, and do my best to reconstruct from there.

I remember Nick Valentine and I found a weird piece of circuitry and hardware attached to Kellogg’s amygdala among the “evidence” we gathered from our own murder scene. But how many days did I sleep on that concrete floor with a half-melted face before that?

I remember we went back to Diamond City so I could see a “doctor”, and Nick could speculate with Piper. That reporter who pisses off the mayor writing scare pieces. How many days did they drug me out of pain and hope for the best?

I remember Nick and Piper concluded we had to take the amygdala to the Memory Den. To Dr. Amari. The woman who put the brain of that murderous psychopath into my brain. And Nick’s…processor?

From that point forward?

I remember days that Did Happen.

I remember days that Did Not Happen.

I remember days where I died. There are so many of them. But those Did Not Happen because I am still alive. But I still remember dying anyway.

Ironically the one day I can focus on to keep my real-or-not-real barometer on track is The Day The Bombs Fell. The Day Shawn Was Taken. Because that day undeniably Did Happen. And that helps me focus on what really matters. Find Shawn.

Find Shawn. It has become a prayer I echo in my brain as I trudge through the bodies and the shit and the blood and the mud and the filth. Find Shawn.

Because otherwise I start trying to count the days. How many days in this hell actually belong to me? And how many of these days which I can never forget were just shoved into my brain just to maybe learn a clue to finding Shawn?

Find Shawn.

The reason I destroyed my brain.

I remember Kellogg’s most recent mission (not mine, he is not me and I am not him) was to hunt down and murder a man named Virgil who escaped from The Institute, “The Boogeymen of the Commonwealth”.

I remember that man was rumored to be hiding in The Glowing Sea, the most radioactive corner of the city. Where The Bombs Fell. The Bombs from The Day. Again, the one undeniable day everyone can agree Did Happen.

I remember I took that powersuit from Sanctuary and set off into The Glowing Sea. I remember I ran out of power cores once I got to the cave and found a Super Mutant with glasses and more clothes than a loin cloth. I remember he turned out to be Virigl.

I don’t actually remember how I managed to leave The Glowing Sea without a powersuit. But I do remember the doctor told me the white splotches on my skin and my white hair are scars for surviving ungodly amounts of radiation.

I also “remember” dying in The Glowing Sea. Being eaten by a Deathclaw. But I have this Deathclaw scar on my face I can touch anytime I want to remember I survived. Of course, a earlier journal entry confirms that happened before then. But whichever Deathclaw I got this from, I clearly haven’t actually been killed by one because I’m still alive. Death days are days that Did Not Happen, even if I “remember” them.

Scars are good. Scars keep me grounded. Any time I look at them I can touch parts of my body that confirm certain intrusive memories over others. Like markings on a map. The map I am now following to the Commonwealth Institute of Technology with Nick Valentine.

I am not entirely sure why, but there is a synth we must murder in order to Find Shawn. So that’s what I am about to do. Kill the Courser.

Find Shawn.

Fallout Fridays – Dead Men Tell Tales

Patriot

AP Image
A close-up of the Statue of Liberty’s face.

I spent Sunday with my mother, as I try to do at least once a month if life permits. We went out for lunch, shopped lazily through the crafting store, and popped into a thrift store on the way back home. While doing so we discussed, as we always have, politics.

My mother and I have been talking politics since I was ten-years-old, “campaigning” for Bill Clinton in my elementary school’s “election day”. She was the one who helped me join Amnesty International when I was in middle school so I could paper my small-town Arkansas town with anti-capital punishment literature. She supported my right to sit during the pledge of allegiance and told me I was brave for doing so. She drove me to my first anti-war protest in the wake of 9/11. My mom is a self-declared “mad dog liberal” and she did a damn good job raising me to be my own “radical commie queer” brand of political.

It was this slight difference in our approaches which created an awkward moment where my mother said, in response to my desire to hang an upside-down American flag outside my home with “Well it’s not like you’re not patriotic.”

I sucked in the air slowly into a humorously awkward pause, then laughed and said, “I like where I live in the sense that it’s got My Me and My People there. But, you know, Fuck The State.” To which my mother admitted, growing up exclusively in Post-Reagan Brutal-Capitalist America would make the idea of patriotism off-putting.

But I understand what my mother meant in her mild protest. While I have become increasingly Anti-Capitalist and Anti-White Supremacy  the older I get (and therefore pretty damn anti-american politicoeconomic state in general) I still get teary eyed when I remember seeing the Statue of Liberty on my childhood pilgrimage to my ancestral home. However, the country I live in wants nothing to do with tired, hungry, huddled masses yearning to breathe free. We are the country of #ICantBreathe and that is not a new phenomenon, it is our foundation.

There is a picture of Captain America on my desk with the caption “Punching Nazis is an American Tradition”. But of course, it is impossible for me to be proud of the same country that was interning Japanese descendants for the same sort of excuses the Nazis gave for their camps.

The musical Hamilton gives me complicated feelings of pride as the hardworking offspring of Polish “Immigrants, we get the job done!” Complicated because I can’t pretend to forget how many millions of American and African indigenous people had to be slaughtered and/or enslaved to make the young scrappy and hungry nation.

And I remember, oh yeah, America Has Never Been Great. Unless you’re a white land-owning male.

I realize now it is the mythical America I have loved, while becoming increasingly disgusted with the literal America. And no matter how much those two clash, I still want to believe in the America that’s never actually existed. An America of take-all-immigrants who take care of each other with New Deal Socialism rather than Cut-The-Bootstraps Poverty. Then I hear my mother’s last thoughts on the subject, “Well, you and I can’t leave. So we have to make the best of it.”

And she’s right.

I am no patriot by any stretch of definition. But this is where I live. And that means shit being done in my house is my responsibility to deal with whether I like it or not. It doesn’t matter if this is arguably the most powerful government in recorded history.

We must provoke outrage, outright. And make it impossible to justify the cost of the fight. But not while losing sight of how we fucked it up for people who aren’t white.

Patriot

Masked Men and Mutants: Part 1

Superheroes and comic books have been an important touchstone in my life since I saw Tim Burton’s Batman when I was not even five-years-old. From there I moved on the Bruce Timm’s Batman Animated Series and later to the mid-1990s X-Men cartoon. I grew up from a wee fangirl to an assistant manager of a comic shop when I left high school, where I stayed for nearly five years. This is where I eventually transitioned, surprised but pleased to find fellow nerds could readily accept someone growing tired of juggling dual identities.

The two managers of Lone Star Comics, back in 2008? Maybe?

During my years of slinging comics, it was non uncommon for me to give presentations about the history of comic books and their cultural relevance to American Arts. Comic Books, Cinema, and Jazz (among all other Black-Created “American” music styles), are some of the only American claims to cultural fame. And being American, comic books have an entangled history with many forms of our cultural expectations, as well as struggles against oppression.

From their birth, comics and their predecessors, pulp novels, were looked down upon for the people reading them (children, non-english fluent immigrants, and less-literate working class), which meant the views of people creating them weren’t much better. The comic book industry in its infancy mirrored many other problems in industries of that era. With little oversight or regulation, plagiarism and theft and non-payment for creators was extremely commonplace. Workers had little to no rights whatsoever about their creations or intellectual property. Writing for comics might be seen as a humble stepping stone to more lucrative copy work, but certainly not something any creator should actually aspire to.

A panel from Will Eisner’s “The Dreamer” a semi-autobiographical work about his early days in the Comic Book industry.

While this might have put off more socially privileged writers from joining the medium, it unwittingly created something of a haven (or maybe a trap) for minority writers who might not otherwise be able to get regular work. Black creators, Jewish creators, immigrant creators, women creators, communist creators, and queer creators all became the soul of American superheroes under the guise of “who cares it’s just harmless kids stuff”. They wrote about what they knew and experienced. They wrote about tenements and slum lords and wicked bosses and exploitation of the Little Man. And they created heroes who would listen to them and defend them. Perhaps the most notable example is a certain white-passing immigrant raised by Americans to believe that he too could stand for Truth, Justice, and the American Way, created by two young Jewish immigrants.

The cover page for Action Comics #1, the debut of Superman

In Part 2, I will begin discussing the intertwined history of queer subtext and comic books, starting with Masked Men and when staying in the closet was the noble thing to do.

Masked Men and Mutants: Part 1

2017

I’ve had a rough year.

I realize we all have.

I’ve survived toxic relationships, abusive situations, and physical recoveries. I’ve witnessed political despair, queer-antagonistic massacres, and state brutality with the rest of the world.

However I also got a new nephew and started antidepressants for the first time, and I have even started to become active in queerlesque and found the time and space to develop other new talents and hobbies. (Such as renovating tiny houses for plastic people.) Despite the struggles, there were also small comforts. Time makes fools of us all. Perhaps especially the worst of times.

I primarily focused on survival in 2016, rather than living. Which is one of the reasons my writing has dribbled to a stop in my usual history of being a somewhat reliable, if not prolific, writer. When struggling with self-worth and executive function, it can be hard to believe my voice or my words have any reason to exist. That anyone would want to read what I have to say. This is a lifetime struggle for me as a writer, an activist, and a person fighting for their right to exist in a hostile environment. But this is a time for marginalized voices to speak out and create, not yield.

I realize that new year resolutions, and apparently even the concept of breaking time into manageable-socially-agreed-upon yearly increments, has fallen out of favor recently. But I want to do everything I can to not just survive 2017, but to fight for the space for myself and people like me to create. To communicate. To share thoughts and frivolity and pain and questions and observations. I will not let the antagonists of the world restrict my creativity.

So I’m promising myself and my readers that this year will have a lot more angry rants. A lot more queer dystopian escape fantasy. A lot more retorts to poor representation. A lot more snark. A lot more outrage. I do this with the trust that those who wish to read my writing will do so, and others will see themselves out.

Like many of you I am still tender. I am still recovering. I am still grieving.

But I am here with you now. And I promise to be with you more in the coming year.

2017

Why Another Trans Woman Wants to Discuss Sex After Surgery

This week Vogue released an article discussing trans women’s sex lives after vaginoplasty. There were some things I found impressive, in the my-expectations-can’t-get-much-lower sense. The cis reporter was respectful, in fact she used more respectful language than the trans women she interviewed. And although there was still plenty of hemming and hawing about whether she should be reporting on the subject (she really shouldn’t but here we are), I thought she did as good a job as I could expect from a cis woman reporting on trans women’s lives.

The meat of the article, the interviews with trans women who have had vaginoplasty, I found limited and unimpressive. Both women interviewed, Nomi and Charlie, were straight trans women. And both women would seem to have only discussed their sex life with straight cis women. Despite the article’s initial bemoaning that trans women aren’t having this conversation more openly. And perhaps because of this, the article follows the same tired “vaginas are so confusing how do you make them cum” narrative that is in so many heteronormative discussions of sex. So this is me, a trans woman, initiating a conversation about sex for other trans women. If you are not a trans woman, you are still welcome to read, but this is not written for you.

Straight trans women are not the norm. Seriously.

Less than a quarter of trans women identify as straight, according to the most recent National Transgender Discrimination Survey, which is some of the largest collection of self-reported data about trans people to be found. This means any attempt to have a well-represented conversation about sex and trans women must involve queer trans women. The fact that both of the trans women interviewed at no point discussed sex with anyone other than straight men, frankly says more about straight men as sex partners than it does about sex after vaginoplasty.

Your mileage will vary.

I couldn’t help but roll my eyes at the lament that, by expanding the conversations about trans women beyond what our genitals look like, conversations about sex have somehow become taboo. This has not been my experience, or the experience of any of my trans friends. We talk about sex a lot. Regardless of what shape our genitals are or have been. We’re all trying to figure out how to get where we’re going and none of us were given a decent road map when we were born. If anything, the understanding that surgery is not a given has actually helped us have better conversations about sex.

When I was preparing for surgery, vaginoplasty was intensely important for my happiness and well-being. I would often go into dark pits of self-loathing because of disgust at my own body and how others would perceive it. Now that I’ve had surgery, I can acknowledge it was a good decision but only that it was a good decision for me. Every time a trans woman asks me about vaginoplasty, I tell her the honest truth. It was really fucking difficult, quite possibly the hardest thing I’ve done in an already hard life. And it hasn’t so much improved my life as it has simply removed some obstacles that were significantly troubling. Other than that, not much in my life has changed. I’m still trans and always will be. I will still deal with oppression and obstacles cis people never will, and that’s true of all trans people. The only person who can know if vaginoplasty is right for them or not is the individual contemplating it. For me, that’s more important information than whether I can get wet or not.

My experience will not be your experience. And a cis woman’s experience won’t be your experience either. So rather than wondering if what you experience is “normal”, it’s better to ask if it works for you.

Sex before vaginoplasty can be weird. Sex after vaginoplasty can be weird.

Before surgery, I had a pretty active sex life. I had several regular partners that I enjoyed infrequent sex with in various ways that worked for my and their preferences. Because of intense dysphoria, I never used my genitals during sex before surgery, but I gave lots of head and took lots of anal from people of various genders. Although having the initial conversation of “how do I fuck you?” was awkward, actually having the conversation ensured we had an enjoyable time.

After surgery, I’ve had a pretty active sex life. I have several regular partners of many non-male genders that I enjoy infrequent sex with in various different ways. I still don’t really like having my genitals touched most of the time, which many people find surprising. And I no longer enjoy penetration except in very rare circumstances. But I still give lots of head, and now I love strapping on. My sex life has gotten more creative, but also possibly more confusing, since surgery. But that’s because I’ve expanded what is and isn’t “sex”, not because my anatomy boggles me or my partners.

I still have “how do I fuck you?” conversations with new sex partners. This could be why, at worst, I’ve had unremarkable but never bad sex. I’m not afraid to tell someone “Yeah, your tongue isn’t working for me. Let’s get out the magic wand instead.” And there is still plenty about how sex works for me that I still can’t really articulate or understand, but because I discuss that with the people I have sex with, and not straight cis lady friends, I’ve never had anyone tell me that boring sex is just part of figuring out life with a vagina.

Vaginas aren’t rubik’s cubes. Not even neo-vaginas.

Look, I’m not gonna act like figuring out how to achieve an orgasm isn’t a thing that a lot of women and fems struggle with. We’re socialized to put our (presumably male) partners’ pleasure and needs above our own, with their orgasm being assumed and ours being nice-if-it-happens. Unpacking all that and learning how to speak up for your own needs can be an ongoing process. But none of that means I don’t know how to touch myself and figure out what feels good and what doesn’t. That was how I decoded sex before surgery, and it’s how I decode sex after surgery.

There’s still plenty I’m figuring out, such as whether I’m polyamorous, whether I’m aromantic, whether I’m asexual, why some people turn me on and some don’t, and why that might change suddenly without warning, but I don’t try to figure myself out by sleeping with clueless men and hoping they magically know how to fuck me right. I figure it out by openly discussing those issues with partners, and in therapy if I really need help.

Before surgery, I was able to achieve orgasm after about half an hour of self-stimulation through anal penetration with toys. After surgery, I can achieve an orgasm in less than five minutes if I have my magic wand vibrator and the right mindset. Both of those didn’t come easily right away, but I held myself responsible for my own orgasms and found a way.

Sex is easy, except when it isn’t.

When I think about my major roadblocks in regards to sex, it’s not what gets me off or how my anatomy works or even finding someone who is interested. So frankly, an article that focuses on these aspects is just boring as hell to read. For my sex life, it’s about what relationship, if any, I want to maintain with my sex partners outside of bed. How much personal autonomy and emotional distance I need in order to feel aroused and not suffocated. What forms of communication are effective and what aren’t. How to express my sexuality and still be respectful of my non-binary partners. How to maintain a balance between indulging in fantasy but unequivocally respecting consent as a Domme. Why my sex drive is very high for some periods and then non-existent for other periods of time. Why I have such a difficult time allowing myself to be the focus of attention by a partner. Whether my methods of enjoying sex are healthy but unusual, or a sign of emotional issues I still need to work through.

At no point have I wondered “Is it normal to just feel like you’re rubbing on a carpet when a guy is eating you out?!”

Because regardless of whether it is a “normal” experience or not, it doesn’t mean I or any other trans woman have to put up with it.

Why Another Trans Woman Wants to Discuss Sex After Surgery

Space Rat #1

I hate being terran-side. The floor doesn’t hum. How can you tell if something’s gone wrong if the floor never hums?

The air is unfiltered and unscrubbed, giving it an unforgivable taste. The people are too many, too loud, too pungent, too crammed into walkways and buildings and vehicles. Everything is too much. My heart is racing and my head is pounding. I haven’t slept in about 30 solours, and I am at least 40% certain that the xeno behind me recognizes me, but as usual I don’t recognize them. It makes me uneasy, but that’s my general state of being. Am I anxious because something bad is about to happen? Or because I’m coming down off stims? Or is it just because being on land always makes me fucking jumpy?

“Captain Neiboski, of the SFC Brooklyn Dodger, please step to the side regarding an item on your manifest. You will be redirected to an interview room for further questioning.”

I knew this would happen, even though I actually filled out the paperwork for my “item” by-the-book for once. But sentient remains on a freight class rig are bound to raise even the laziest of eyebrows.

I’m a spacer. An independent spacer, as a matter of fact. One of the most endangered species in the whole damn Confederate Galaxy. I fly my own rig, the Brooklyn Dodger, which was my Grandma and Papa’s rig, and would have been my momma’s had she not died giving birth to me. I haul whatever the fuck I decide to haul along the Sol-Remidian Circuit. Which means when the predictable boring work dries up, I might have to hustle a little harder for contracts. And might have to look to the side once in a while. And might have to talk my way through some checkpoints now and again. But at least I don’t have to do what some Con asshole tells me to do. I was born in space, I live in space, and I plan on dying in space because at least space makes sense.

I’m in one of the interview rooms now. A sterile cold white room with nothing but a Screenbot, table, and chair. It’s so quiet I can almost hear my own blood rushing through my veins. Silence is usually a sign I’m about to die, but Terraners just seem to take it for granted.

The screenbot has a digitally rendered cartoonish face projected across the table from me. It stares blankly ahead for a moment, likely accessing whatever files and regulations it’s about to lecture me on. It suddenly whirs into “life” as it begins to address me in the forms of Sapien communication it was programmed with. Its voice is overly personal and chipper for my taste.

“Captain Neibowski, according to your flight records it has been 2.4 solycles since your previous visit to your home planet. How was your trip?”

It projects what I am sure is intended to be a friendly and caring expression.

“I’ve had better, robot. My papa died on our last haul to Remidian IV and, although I have no personal attachments to this particular planet, he did. So I’m here to burn his body, scatter the ashes, drop my cargo, and collect my money before heading back.”

The screenbot now forces itself to look concerned before continuing the friendly interrogation.

“My condolences. Our inspectors became concerned because, according to your cargo manifest, there are sentient remains in a non-environmentally controlled portion of your shipment containers. As you may not be aware, this is against Confederate regulation for the transportation of deceased sentient individuals.”

“Yeah, well, I didn’t see much sense in storing him for over a solycle in a container that would only speed up the decaying process. I wanted to keep him fresh for his service. And a container with no moisture or atmosphere and sub-zero temperatures seemed like the way to go about that.”

“I understand your reasoning, Captain, but these regulations are in place for a reason. As this is your first violation for this particular matter, and because it concerns the death of an immediate family member, you will only be fined half of the standard 50,000 Credits for improper storage and transportation of restricted cargo.”

“Thanks, I really appreciate it. Next time a family member dies I’ll be sure to toss them out the airlock instead.” Screenbots, and most Xenos for that matter, never seem to pick up on snark. Maybe it’s the shitty translators.

The robot hums to itself as it processes my facial expressions and attempts to detect signs of deception.

“According to our records you have no remaining family members. But if you should discover others who later become deceased, know that remains disposal is only sanctioned in Neutral Space.”

“Thanks for the tip. Is that all, robot? Can you just deduct the credits from my ship account? I’ve got a haul to drop and money to collect before I get back to Remidian IV.”

“Your heart rate appears to be highly elevated, as well as your cortisol and adrenal levels. Is there a reason you are currently in distress?”

“I just fucking hate being on land. And I also hate discussing personal matters with a robot who isn’t programmed to actually give a shit about me.”

The robot hums again for a moment, “Yes, according to my records your bio levels, while unusual for most sapiens, are within the range of every previously monitored interview you have participated in. Would you like to consult with a Confederately-funded physician at the conclusion of this interview?”

“I’m good. The only thing I need is to get back on my rig.”

Since I’m not currently being arrested and tortured, I’m assuming neither my deception nor the other illegal cargo have been discovered. Grandma always said Cons are greedy but lazy. An obvious but minor violation like this means they’ll happily collect their fines and move along. I think being a red herring would actually make Papa proud.

“That will be fine, Captain Neibowski. As soon as your payment has cleared you will be allowed to continue through customs. However I would like to inform you that, thanks to the Sol Salvation Act, the Confederate government is prepared to extend psychological assistance to you as you grieve your loved one. As well as accommodations in an available Sol housing settlement for up to one solycle.”

“Yeah, that 25,000 Credits ought to cover at least that. Eh, bot? Thanks but no thanks. Space is where I belong.”

There is a long silence as the robot does whatever the hell it needs to do. Finally its face becomes expressive again.

“Your payment has been processed, and you and your cargo are now cleared through Sol III customs. Your sentient remains will be released to you within 24 solours upon further inspection. Welcome to Earth.”

Space Rat #1