“What did it matter where you lay once you were dead? In a dirty sump or in a marble tower on top of a high hill. You were dead, you were sleeping the big sleep, you were not bothered by things like that.”1
“Nice sentiment, pal, but I’ve got a head full of someone else’s memories,” Nick said. “You got the tapes?”
I handed him the last of the Eddie Winter holotapes.
“That’s some real solid detective work. I can’t imagine what you had to go through to get them.”
“Dead Raiders tell no tales,” I said.
“But I do,” Piper added.
“Okay, okay – ” I said with a shrug. “If you’re going to team up on me …
“She had legs that went all the way up the Commonwealth, all wrapped up in a leather trenchcoat. I’m talking about Piper, of course. I was travelling with her because I’d run out of options for Nick – I wasn’t ready to face a power armor army of Raiders, at least not without some serious firepower of my own, and all that was left was that fortress called Quincy. So I sent him back to Sanctuary while I went off with Piper to see if we could find the Story of the Century …
… not realizing, of course, that I had already completed that quest. I have a hard time keeping my cool around the dames, especially when they’re feeding me sugar bombs and whiskey, which is why we ended up fast travelling back to Quincy when I’d just wanted to remove a quest marker.”
“We’re not alone here, Blue,” Piper said as the bullets timpanied off the shack we were hiding in.
I threw a grenade and counted to ten once I heard the boom.
“We’re still alive,” I said. “That’s something.”
Fast-travel must have taken us in the back way, because instead of mini-nukes and lasery death from steeples, we just had to face what I counted as an even baker’s dozen of Raider Scum2 and one power armored power-fisted boxer raider named Tessa, who I’m fairly certain is supposed to represent Tessie, of Dropkick Murphys fame. She certainly knocked me outta the ballpark a couple of times.
I got the last holotape from the basement and we fast-traveled back to Sanctuary before the rest of Big Ugly’s friends showed up. I hated to break up a party, but they were looking to break my face, and I had plans for that evening –
“Bring the dame,” Nick said, nodding to Piper. “She knows her way around a pistol. Plus, I’m going full NPC for this one.”
“You’re the man, Nick. Well, technically an android, but – oh hell, let’s go kill something.”
He took the holotapes and the action cut to his eyes, which was good, because I really didn’t want to know how he “processed” them. A minute later, he said, “I’ve got the code. He’s holed up in Andrews Station.”
“Great place for a picnic, if you don’t mind eating lead,” I said. “But I cleared that joint out two days ago.”
“No matter how many times you spray ’em, the roaches keep crawling back.”
“That’s the problem with open-world radiant quests,” Piper said.
At the time, my attention had been taken up by the turrets that kept my doctor in highballs, so I don’t know if the door was always there, or if it only spawned once we were ready to face Winter. But we made it through the tunnel and int0 –
But of course, the blow you’re waiting for never comes. There was nothing down there but some more turrets and raiders, which was any Friday night in my kind of town.
I was here for the main attraction, the man himself –
After all this time … Nick raised his gun.
“Nick Valentine,” my partner said.
I’ll give the creep this: even looking down the barrel of a gun, he never admitted his number was up.
“The cop? Is that who you’re supposed to be? Sorry pal -“Eddie said.
Revenge might be best served cold, but justice is another kind of dish, and this one had the taste of old heartbreak, at least for Nick.
Eddie died fast – I’d come loaded for a boss fight, but he was a teddy bear.
We stood over the body. I don’t know what they were thinking. I was thinking I could use a stiff drink and about 10 years of sleep. I didn’t think I was likely to get either.
“There’s one last thing I have to do,” Nick said. “I’d appreciate it if you’d come with me.”
We trailed him up through the remains of a Slocum Joe’s Coffee Shop; Eddie’s old hideout.
I was about to hit the door when Piper turned to me.
“Sure,” I said, keeping an eye on Nick. He waited, just far enough awayo to pretend politely that he couldn’t hear us.
“You handled yourself pretty well back there, Blue,” Piper said, lighting a cigarette. “I just want you to know, I like being along for the ride.”
“I wouldn’t have it any other way. I like having you around,” I said.
The cold air of night brought us back to Boston – a living Boston, full of Raider scum and mirelurks, but not Nick’s Boston, the one 200 years dead. He knelt on a piece of crumbled asphalt that looked like any other to me. They always do, don’t they?
“Here’s where it happened,” he said. “Here’s where they put a bullet in the back of Jennifer Lands.” He looked up at me.
“Your fiancee,” I said. “His,” I corrected.
“I’d hope with Winters gone, I could move on,” he said. “But nothing’s changed.”
“You’re free now,” I said. Free to do what, I didn’t say. Sometimes you’re only free to make the same mistakes over.
“I’ve got some things to think about. I’d be more than happy to have you with me, but I understand if, after this, you need some time away.”
I knew what he was asking, but I didn’t know how to answer – he wanted to be my companion, but I’d just reached my first level affinity tree for Piper. I brooded over the night, the city, and the people who stood staring at me. Sometimes, being free just means you’ve got no one else to blame.
“I think we should part ways,” I said. “Head on back to Sanctuary.”
He nodded and walked slowly off into the night. I tried to think of something to say, but nothing seemed to fit that wasn’t a curse.
Piper came up behind me and put her hand on my shoulder. “To say goodbye is to die a little,3” she said.
- Raymond Chandler, The Big Sleep
- That’s what they’re called. It really simplifies the moral element./li>
- Chandler again