Chapter 1

Journal of Jack Shepard, Entry #38

I can’t believe it’s been a year. One year since I woke up in 111 and finally saw the sun again. Jesus… some nights I still dream that I’m at home with a cup of coffee watching the news on the television while Nora gives Shaun his first bottle of the day. Shaun. It’s still painful to think about. He was only 5 months old when we made our way to the vault. Fast-forward 200 years and he’s 60 years old and I’m 30. How’s that for a math problem?

When I first left the vault I had no sense of time, to me he should still be a baby. He was my only goal, the driving force for my entire existence… He wouldn’t listen. I spent days trying to get him to see beyond his own focus, beyond the indoctrination he’d gone through… Damn the institute! Damn the man that took him there, and damn him!! No. I won’t write on that anymore. I started this journal to help me clear my mind of the countless thoughts running through my mind; so far it only gets me angry. I won’t regret my actions though, I can’t. What’s done is done and I did what I did for the betterment of the Commonwealth.

Ha, Commonwealth. Geez I’d love to see the look on Nora’s face if she could see this place. Suffice to say that she wouldn’t get much use out of her law degree now. Is it sad that I feel more comfortable in this world then the world before the bombs? They said it might be hard to transition from active duty to civilian life; that was an understatement. To go from a world of utter chaos back to a world where the biggest challenge people face is traffic jams. It was a culture shock to say the least. I couldn’t get comfortable, I was on edge; it was like I was an alien. When my neighbor… Mr. Sammons? Timmons? Ah whatever, asked for me to sign his petition to make Vault-Tec quiet their construction efforts, I wanted to slap him, yell at him. Could he not see how the vault could save lives from a war most people don’t even understand? What did I know? Vault-Tec turned out to be worse than the Chinese. At least the Chinese let you know they were your enemy.

You reap what you sow… That old saying is still true for me. Sad thing is, sometimes it’s your children, or your children’s children that are still reaping what you sowed 200 years ago. That’s the case of the commonwealth. These people were born into a world harsher than anything before the war. Make no mistake; these people live in a war zone. It’s what changed my single-minded goal of finding my son to also helping others when I could. Hell, when I ran into Preston at the museum in Concord, I didn’t even hesitate to help. I hadn’t even made contact with anyone besides Codsworth at that point. Maybe it was the way I was raised, or maybe it was training. Either way, I was able to change the tides of that battle… with the help of a conveniently located suit of power armor that is. Now that was definitely training. I remember how my entire special operations and reconnaissance team laughed when they made us complete the power armor training. We relied on stealth, not overt power. But, good ole Uncle Sam wanted everyone to know how to use his new toy. Gunny had said, “Shut it boys! You never know when this may come in handy!” I bet he didn’t think it’d take 200 years. Never the less, he was right.

Well, I guess I’ve rambled enough. Better get to it.

Jack sat the pen down and rubbed his eyes as he leaned back in his chair to stretch the tightening in his back, only stopping when he felt the rewarding pop. It had been a long day and he’d been on his feet for most of it. Training new recruits wasn’t something he enjoyed, but it was necessary nonetheless.

The room was one of the bigger ones in the castle, Preston Garvey, his second in command, had insisted upon it being his. “You are the general, you people need to recognize that authority” he’d said. Jack had accepted even though he didn’t really care about the pomp that came with the job. The room was somewhat diamond shaped and a combination of Jack’s quarters and his office. Sticking out perpendicularly from one wall was his bed, with a wardrobe on one side and night stand on the other. Straight across the room was probably Jack’s favorite spot in the Castle, his comfortable cushioned chair with reading table, complete with pre-war bourbon and a box of cigars of course. Kellogg had been cruel man, but the two pristine boxes of San Francisco Sunlights that he had left behind was a small consolation. On each side of the door were his weapon racks with his personal favorites, and in the middle of the room facing the door was a sturdy wooden desk, bookended by two Minutmen flagpoles.

Jack pushed himself away from the desk and made his way to the door where his blue wool jacket, complete with four gold stars on each lapel, hung on the coat rack. Gotta look the part, he thought as he slid his arms through the ballistic weave lined sleeves. Everyone should just be finishing up their duties and heading for the bar, better head that way, then make my final rounds of the night. Stifling a yawn, he strode through the doorway and down the hall.

Walking down the tan block corridor, he couldn’t help but think what a transformation the old fort had gone through. What was once a lair of mirelurks, the pre-war US army fort once again had a military presence. With Jack’s leadership and help from Preston Garvey and others, the Minutemen had stormed the mirelurk’s nest and killed the queen residing there. It was a hard fought victory, one that came with more than a few losses, but that victory had given the Minutemen a strategic home base of operations and had announced to the Commonwealth that the Minutemen were back and there to stay.   It took weeks, but the mud and trash that had built up from the previous occupants was finally cleared out and construction on new concrete walls had begun. Most of the forts walls were still standing strong from before the war, with only a couple of large sections having been destroyed by long forgotten explosions. When the Minutemen had made the Castle their base under General Becker, they had plugged those holes with sections of wall made of wood and steel. While sturdy enough to stand up to most onslaughts, they gave way under the enormous strength of the mirelurk queen. But, before Jack was enlisted in the army, he spent 2 years in college trying to become an engineer, and with that knowledge, the new minutemen had rebuilt those downed sections with reinforced concrete. Eventually, a barracks were constructed inside the courtyard followed by a small town of sorts. Weapons vendor, Armor stand, trading post, and even a bar/restaurant were all soon built. While the main purpose of the Castle was as a military installation, settlers soon started flocking to the castle drawn by its safe walls and minutemen protection.

“So we’re standing there waiting, when a little mirelurk hatchling comes scurrying by, little thing wasn’t any bigger than my hand. Ole Petey here says, “Watch this,” and shoos him in trough the bathroom door.” The mix of soldiers and settlers sitting nearby the storyteller were all too engrossed in the story to see their general walk onto the patio.  “It’s all quiet for about 10 seconds, when all of a sudden, we hear Jonsey yelling, “HELP! HELP!” and here he comes waddling as fast as he can out of the bathroom with his pants still around his ankles!” The entire dining area of the aptly named, Queen’s Demise, erupted with laughter. Emboldened by the response, the old sergeant stood up and did his best waddle around the table.

“I never saw it! I never saw it! I only heard the sounds, I swear!” shouted the red faced private over the din. The resounding laughter only grew louder at the defense. “The walls of the bathroom made it echo!” He continued in vain.

Jack suppressed a grin and stepped up beside the clearly embarrassed youth. “Relax Jones. Sarge here only tells this story because he doesn’t want people remembering the time he pissed all over himself when a radroach crawled over his foot.”

The beer that the sergeant was drinking came spewing from his lips. “I was already peeing! It just startled me is all!” He choked out. With that came the loudest round of laughter yet.

The laughter was still roaring in the background as Jack looked to the bartender. “Hey Adam, You got a Gwinnett Pale?” Jack asked, with a lopsided grin still on his face.

“Absolutely General” the bartender replied, as he turned to the cooler beside him.

Jack took a drink from the frosted bottle, “Any news today?”

“No sir.   Betty, over at the trading post, got in a new shipment from one of the merchants today. Somebody said she got more gittyup buttercup parts in. Gonna make my way over there tomorrow to see if she has the part I’m needin. Other than that it’s been pretty uneventful.”

“Well “uneventful” beats a day of fighting for a meal I suppose”, came the response after Jack took another drink. Adam Worthy had only been at the Castle for the last few months, but he had proved to be a good worker, neighbor, and he was a willing ear to anyone wanting to unload. He was a perfect fit for the bar.

Adam grinned, “You can say that again. By the way, Commander Garvey hasn’t been around in awhile, where has he been?”

With a long last gulp, Jack drained his bottle and put it on the counter, “He likes to stay at Sanctuary and keep things in line up there. It works out well, I can keep an eye on things here at the castle and the southern part of Boston, and he can watch out for things up north.”

The bartender glanced out of the corner of his eye and worded his next words carefully, “So… why isn’t it that things are reversed and you up north in Sanctuary and the commander down here?”

“It just works out better this way.” The small grimace was answer enough, but the short, clipped response showed that there would be no need for a follow up question.

“Well General, I’d ask if you wanted another, but I think duty is just about to call.” With that, the bartender pointed across the courtyard, at the tall, slender, balding man, hurriedly walking towards the general.

Jack visibly sagged as he saw what Adam was pointing too, “Ah hell…” he sighed under his breath. His next words were louder and infinitely friendlier, “What have you got for me, Prescott?”

The balding man in his smartly pressed military fatigues all but sprung onto the elevated platform of the bar area. “Ah General, I’ve been looking all over for you. You weren’t in your office.” The words came out rushed between heavy breaths, and reminiscent of a mother politely scolding an adult son.

“I needed a break and some fresh air.” Jack let the tone of his orderly’s statement slide. He had grown used to the mother hen’s, as many people called him behind his back, personality. It was never meant with any malice and truth be told, Jack would be lost when it came to many day to day operations if it weren’t for Prescott.

Prescott took a deep appreciative breath of his own as turned to look out over the bustling activity of the courtyard. “Ah yes sir. It is good to take a moment to relax the mind once in a while.” Contrary to his previous statement, he looked expectantly back to the general.

Jack allowed a slight smile to cross his face as he nodded a goodbye to the knowing bartender. “Let’s get down to business then Prescott. We’ll walk the battlements while we go over the daily reports. How are the other settlements today?”

Prescott pulled the clipboard from under his arm and grabbed the pen behind his ear. “Right Sir, Well we have quite the list today.”

As if oblivious to anything but the clipboard in his hands, Prescott started toward the nearest set of stairs at the same hurried pace that had brought him to the platform. Adam started to laugh as Jack shook his head and made to follow.

……………..

Stalker peeked over the rubble pile that she was hiding behind to see that the two hulking green super mutants were still looking the other direction without a hint of their predicament. A dangerous grin appeared on her narrow tanned face. This is going to be too easy. With the grace and silence of a cat, the 19 year old, whom her parents had named Sarah, vaulted the debris pile without a sound. The 25-foot distance between her and her prey disappeared quickly. With a fast, well practiced, motion, the combat knife was out of her belt and ready for action. The super mutant on her left was the first target, and its head was pulled back with the knife at its throat before it even knew its danger. With one vicious, yet almost surgical move, Stalker sliced the first mutant’s throat. Then, changing directions, the knife shot up under the chin of the second surprised mutant that had turned her direction in surprise. The first mutant fell to its knees while trying desperately to staunch the river of blood flowing from its ruined throat, while the second fell lifelessly to the ground as Stalker yanked her blade free. The entire ordeal took less than 20 seconds.

A satisfied smirk crossed Sarah’s face as she wiped her dagger off on her fatigues. She always prided herself on being stealthy and efficient at her job, and this was perfection. It’s the reason that she was the lead scout for the reconnaissance division; it was also the reason she worked alone. But today was different, the Gunners had sent out multiple scouts to clear and recon the south Boston area that started at the Gwinnett Brewery and went as far south at the South Boston High School. It was a strange mission to say the least. Most scouting operations consisted only of recon, with enemy contact kept at a minimum. The mission was made even stranger by the fact that they were given no details as why this mission had to be completed by sundown. The next step was to rendezvous with the other scouts just east of the high school and wait additional orders. It was strange, and Sarah was going to find out why.

She had joined the Gunners at 18, up until that point, her only life had been living on a small farm with her parents and older brother Whit. Just like a lot of younger sisters, she was infatuated with her older brother. He was her friend, confidant, and hero. It was him that had taught her how to track and hunt. He had preached and preached the importance of stealth, speed, and precision. “Never waste a movement, and always go for the quick kill. Nothing needs to suffer, no matter what type of animal it might be.” She’d heard the words every single time they’d successfully ended their hunt. It was also Whit that had given her the moniker of Stalker, after she had successfully tracked and killed the Yao Guai that had killed one of the family’s Brahmins. Her father had been furious that his little girl was out hunting and killing instead of helping her mom with the chores around the house. But away from their parents, Whit had heaped the praise on his little sister. She was beaming to get such praise from the one person she desired it from the most. That’s why, when tales of another Yao Guai being spotted in the hill behind her parents farm surfaced three days later, she was determined to find and kill it. She’d left just before dawn the next morning with food and hunting rifle strapped securely to her back. Making good time, she’d made it just over a mile away when she heard the gunshot, a singular booming blast that came in the direction from home and echoed through the hills. With all thoughts of the hunt gone, she sprinted the mile back home. She knew something was wrong when she heard her mom screaming and crying, and when she rounded the barn she saw why. Her brother lay dead in the yard due to single shotgun blast to his chest. She threw herself over his body and tears flooded down her face. But when she finally looked up, there was no sign of any enemies, nothing had been stolen, and her father only looked mad instead of the expected hurt and sadness. It was then that she saw he held a shotgun in one hand. Her devastated expression turned to surprise, then fury, as she made to pounce on her father when through gritted teeth he exclaimed, “Look at his chest”. Looking back, she never knew why she actually did, but she glanced back at her brother’s ruined chest to see something glimmer in sunlight. Mixed in with the blood and tissue were metal and plastic. Her brother was a synth. The world seemed to spin and she had passed out there beside her brother. When she came to hours later, her father had already buried the remains in an unmarked grave just outside the farm boundary. She had wanted to feel mad, but she was only empty. There was no way to know when the institute had taken her real brother and replaced him with a synth copy. It could have been years, or that morning. But either way Sarah could no longer bear to look at the farm she had called home or even her own parents. A week later, she left.

At first glance, the Gunners were a source of protection for the newly homeless teen. That had soon turned to excitement and adventure as the skills she had honed on her farm began to garner the attention of her superiors.   However, that all became soured as she realized that the Gunners were little more than glorified raiders. The longer she stayed, the more disenfranchised she became. The seeds of dissent had been sown, and the thoughts of leaving were already running through her mind. This new enigmatic mission only added to her wariness.

Looking up from the bloodied bodies on the ground, she saw a faint glow from a building up ahead. It came from the rendezvous point no doubt, a partially destroyed apartment building. The sun had started to set and cast a red glow through the streets as she jogged silently along. Nearing the building, she could see the humanoid shadows on the second story walls provided by the evening sun and the campfire. The gray block building was a shell of its former self. The first floor had been gutted and was little more than a few walls, while the second floor was completely devoid of a roof.

She had just reached the building’s exterior when voices drifted down from above, “…looked like hell. He must have fallen from the rickety walkway up above.” Intrigued, Sarah quickly jogged up the stairs to where the other scouts had assembled.

Reaching the top step, Sarah quickly surveyed the environment. There was only one room in the second story and it only had three walls. The windows had been shattered long ago and the only other thing in the room was a ruined couch that jutted angrily out of what used to be a section of roof. Three of the four other scouts were gathered in the middle of the room sharing rations around a small fire.

“Where’s Rory?” Sarah asked, announcing her presence.

“SHIT, Stalker!” Exclaimed Percy, the nearest scout, in a hushed shout. “What are you doing sneaking up on everyone?”

“I wouldn’t be any good at my job otherwise,” she grinned, joining her comrades on the floor.

The oldest veteran of the group answered the question. “Thompson here found him a few blocks back. Must’ve fallen from one of the buildings.”

Thompson, the last of the trio to speak nodded his head grimly. “Stupid kid always did like hopping from roof to roof instead of going along the ground… Guess it finally caught up to him.”

Sarah frowned; Rory was the youngest of the group, only 17 years old. He was tall, lanky, and overly enthusiastic, but likable nonetheless. Damnit Rory, he was trying to reach it here first no doubt. He always saw everything as a competition. “So when are we getting additional orders?”

“That’d be now.” The deep voice boomed across the room from the top of the stairwell. The dark skinned commander of the recon division stared menacingly through his dark sunglasses. He was a smart and efficient commander, as well as vicious and cruel. Though the mercenary group was not strict when it came to recognizing their officers; all four scouts stood hurriedly to address their commander.

“Rory didn’t make it huh.” It was a statement more than a question. “At least now we don’t have to pay him.” At the last remark, he stared at his subordinates with a glare that dared them to respond.

Sarah gritted her teeth at the remark. While every ounce of her wanted to punch the man, she knew she would get no backup from her fellow scouts. Kilgore’s wrath and cruelty were well known.

“Very well.” The Commander smirked. Pulling a cigarette from behind his ear, he walked toward the missing wall of the building, pausing only long enough to light his smoke. “I guess it’s time to let you in on the next phase of our mission.” He turned to the scouts as smoke billowed from his nostrils. Raising his right arm and pointing out into the dying light, “That.”

“The ocean?” Thompson asked with a perplexed look.

Sarah lowered her forehead to her palm as another scout slapped Thompson on the back of his head.

There was a slight twitch in the commander’s mouth as he clenched his teeth. “The Castle, you idiot.”

All four heads shot up in unison to look straight at their commander.

“The Castle!?” Daniels, the oldest veteran, blurted out incredulously.

“Yes, the Castle”, responded Commander Kilgore. “We have just concluded phase 1 of the attack on the Minuteman stronghold.”

Sarah couldn’t believe what she was hearing. “Sir, the Minutemen are not an enemy or even a threat. Not to mention the castle is very well defended!”

“I will tell you who our enemies are!” Kilgore yelled. Careful not to get too close and risk being dwarfed by her almost 6 foot frame, he stepped closer. “OUR enemies, YOUR enemies are whoever I say they are! So hold your tongue Stalker, before someone cuts it out! When I want to hear that pretty little voice of yours, I’ll say so. Got it?”

Sarah’s eyes narrowed and her mouth clenched shut. “Yes sir.” The hollow response was what he wanted to hear.

Clasping his hands behind his back and walking slowly back toward the silhouetted features of the Castle, Commander Kilgore continued, “There should be no need to tell you of the wealth of guns and ammunition alone that must be kept in that old fort. Add that to the fact that there are numerous merchants inside and we’re looking at an invariable gold mine. What’s more, someone is willing to pay generously for the destruction of the Minutemen inside the Caste’s walls. So as we speak, a bulk of our forces is moving into the surrounding ruins that you have just cleared. We will attack at dawn.”

“Who would have enough caps to fund something like this?” Daniels asked?

The distance between Commander Kilgore and the older veteran disappeared in an instant, followed by a loud CRACK resulting from Kilgore’s backhand connecting to Daniels cheek. “You should know better than to ask questions above your pay grade Daniels! Ask something else stupid like that and you’ll be leading the assault with nothing more than a slingshot!”

Sarah made to step forward but was stopped with a soft touch from Daniels. With a sideways glance, he slowly nodded his head from side to side, as if to say, “it’s not worth it”. She stared back at her commander. That was it; the straw had finally broken the camel’s back. Sarah was leaving the Gunners. She wouldn’t dare do it now; Kilgore would shoot her down in an instant. But tonight, she would make her escape.

“If there are no further questions, I suggest you get some shut eye. I am heading back to the command tent stationed at the high school. I will be back before first light to give the last instructions.” With that, Commander Kilgore strode past the four scouts without even a glance. The sound of his footsteps descending the stairs announced his exit.

The group dispersed with Sarah retreated to a corner alone, while Percy and Thompson whispered excitedly between each other. Daniels stood silently, rubbing his angrily red cheek and looked out over the distance between the Castle and themselves.

Her mind was already racing with how she was going to get away in the night with an army of Gunners quickly filling the surrounding areas. With a glance at the Minuteman fort in the distance, something gnawed at her insides that she couldn’t understand. It wasn’t fear or nervousness, but a burning anxiety in her gut that was like a caged animal straining against its confines. The feeling only grew stronger the more she looked at the fort in the distance.

……………..

“Next sir, we have the settlement at the Murkwater construction site. They seem to think that the daily infestation of one or two Mirelurks warrants a reconnaissance team. I told them tha… Sir? Sir are you listening?”

Jack turned his gaze from the ocean and back to Prescott, who had his reading glasses shoved down over the top of his nose and was looking across the top of them to his general. “Yes I heard. I’ll have one of the lieutenants take a small squad of recruits to investigate. It’ll ease the setters minds and be a good training exercise for the newer kids.”

“I’ll make all preparations sir.” Prescott smiled as he jotted notes down on what seemed liked the hundredth page on his clipboard.

Jack pinched the bridge of his nose and willed down the headache that had started to form when Prescott started his briefing. “I think that will do for today Prescott. I’m going to call it an evening.” “We’ll pick up where we left off first thing in the morning though.” He quickly spit out, trying to appease the Mother Hen.

“Alright sir, I will see you in the morning,” and with a quick bow, Prescott was scurrying away.

Letting out a long exhale, Jack finally felt the tension in his shoulders begin to fade. They’d walked around the old forts ramparts and had checked each artillery installation located at every point of the pentagon shaped building. It was an important task, but he didn’t have to like it. Add that to the long list of settlement reports and it was anything but a leisurely walk. Looking over the fort, he couldn’t help but feel a sense of pride. The gardens were growing well outside the front, and only, entrance. The purifiers that were placed in the sea beside the fort were humming along without a hitch, and in the courtyard the merchants were closing up their shops for the night as more and more people filtered over to the bar. It was how the world should be. Not sleeping in a ruined building while raiders and god only knew what else prowled around at night. The people here had food, water, protection, and a roof over their heads, and THAT, was definitely something to be proud of.

Looking out over the land bridge that led to the entrance of the Castle, Jack saw a small caravan coming to stay the night. It wasn’t a strange occurrence, but one of the caravan guards did catch his eye. The lean man was built not unlike Jack himself, but he was completely covered in leather armor and an old prewar flight helmet covered his face. As they the neared, the man looked up and even though Jack couldn’t see his eyes, he knew they were locked right on his. It sent an odd shiver down his spine. With a slight frown he made his way down to the entrance where Prescott was meeting the group at the door.

“I’m sorry gentleman, and lady, but protocol states that caravans appearing after 9:00pm must pitch their tents outside of the wall for the night.”

“Ah come on, we’re just tired and hungry.” The female guard remarked with a pouty look.

Jack appeared as Prescott was about to respond, “I’m sorry but Prescott is right. The rules are in place to ensure the safety of everyone. You are welcome to set up camp right here outside the walls though, and you’ll be plenty safe enough. We’ll open the doors at 8:00 in the morning and you’ll be allowed to come and trade as you please then.”

The caravan leader, an older man in a brown trench coat, stepped forward, “The general is right guys; in the Commonwealth it’s always smart to be prudent.” The comment was obviously made to appease both sides and let his followers know that he’d broker no argument. Gesturing to the grassy area between the entrance path and the open sea, “We’ll set up camp right over there”. The caravan guards moved to obey without out a single grumble. Even the man in the yellow flight helmet started in that direction, though his gaze lingered on Jack.

The entire altercation had a strange feeling to it, almost like the static in the air before a storm. Caravans coming and going were an everyday occurrence at the Castle, and more than a couple have had to stay outside the walls for a night. But for some reason, this one seemed different, and Jack was left feeling on edge. Both he and Prescott turned and walked through the double heavy oak doors.

“Make sure they are kept an eye on.” Jack cautioned as soon as the doors were closed behind them.

“Of course sir”, Prescott responded, even though the look on his face showed that he thought nothing out of place.

The last light of the day was starting to disappear, and jack could feel the tiredness in his feet and lower back. Looking out over the courtyard that had been a madhouse of activity during the day, Jack could see that most people were already heading in for the night. Leaving Prescott by the door, he headed towards his quarters with the thought of sleep on his mind. Opening his door, he immediately took off the general coat and hung it on its peg. Next the heavy combat chest plate was removed and placed on the shelf. Standing there in the middle of the room, he waged an internal debate on whether or not to take off his remaining clothes before climbing into bed. Laziness won out and Jack plopped down on top of his sheets still wearing this boots.