The Abernathys were gonna be crucial to my plan. Blake had generations of hard-won knowledge of how to get crops to thrive in this climate. And he was working with some pretty crappy soil. I understood why his family had made their stake there. Visibility was excellent from the tower, you could see trouble coming from a long way off. As long as you had somebody available to watch. But what could he do with good bottomland, proper irrigation, and plenty of labor? And Connie was sharp. She knew how to make the best use of any resource she got her hands on, and just how much the things she didn’t need would be worth to somebody else. And she knew how to hate. Losing their daughter was just one more confirmation of her husband’s fatalistic worldview, but Connie wanted revenge. She was overjoyed to get Mary’s locket back, but you should have seen the look on her face when I started pulling heads out of a bag. Lucy got sick, and wouldn’t look me in the eye for weeks. Blake just walked down the hill and sat at the grave for a few hours. But Connie smiled, kissed me full on the mouth, and went inside and started cooking. Let me tell you, that woman can bake. Blake didn’t want the heads displayed like I suggested, but Connie knew what to do with them. If you make it out to Abernathy Farm, and smell a little something extra when you use the new latrine, that’s Ack-Ack and her boys. I figured poor Marcy would pitch a fit when I insisted on relocating everybody to the Abernathy’s place for a while, but it was Garvey who wouldn’t shut up. He was adamant that I rescue another homestead up to the northeast. I explained that I had talked to them after clearing out the listening station and tried to talk them into joining us, but they were insistent on holding on to their own pitiful stake, despite their problems. When I suggested he go tackle the Corvega Plant by himself, he shut up pretty quickly. So I put them at Blake’s disposal after going over my plans for establishing some proper defenses. Besides cementing the Abernathy’s loyalty, my trip north had provided another Rockwell and a crapload of 5mm ammo. First thing I set Sturges to, once he had thoroughly cleaned and serviced both guns, and carefully inspected the ammo, was to mount them nice and high on opposite corners of the tower. The next batch of lowlifes that tried to bully Ma & Pa Kettle out of their melons was gonna get a really nasty surprise. Next thing was to deal with the Flynn’s warehouse. I wanted the smaller building torn down, and the materials used to make a weatherproof shelter closer to the tower. After that, the contents of the warehouse could be hauled up and sorted, and then the larger structure could be dismantled and used to construct a palisade around the house, the fields, and the new building. That should keep them busy for a while. If they get all that done before I get back, I challenged them to get the trailers up the hill. Meanwhile, I took the Mr. Handy down into Vault 111 and instructed it to take a thorough inventory. I suspected some of the contents could more than make up for the loss of revenue from the Abernathy’s crops. Carla’s expression when I mentioned having access to a nearly unspoiled vault had given away more than she intended. I wasn’t ready to start doling out those goods yet, but she was more than willing to take the salvaged Protectron from Wicked Shipping in trade for what Connie had requested, as well as a couple items I’d asked her to scare up. She brought me the better part of two gallons of gun oil, and three dozen pullets. Lucy still wasn’t meeting my gaze when I explained the concept of a chicken tractor, but I could tell she was charmed by the little yellow peeps, and very pleased when I stressed that neither they nor their eventual eggs were for eating. A reliable source of guano was going to be critical in the days ahead. When Carla headed out, I went with her. I had to tie the damn dog up to keep him from following, but from what I’d heard of the state of Boston, I figured he’d be more likely to get me into trouble than out of it. Carla said there was a man in someplace called Goodneighbor who might have the skills I needed, and she could see me as far as Bunker Hill. A couple days out, we hit a place called Covenant. Impressive little place. First decently-fortified place I’d seen. Nice concrete walls, stout gate, machine gun turrets. Dandy. Folks there were certainly friendly, although their entrance examination was very strange. But they had good supplies, for what Carla told me was the best prices in the area. I left much happier with my firepower, and better fed than I had been since I brought Connie her presents. If I hadn’t been traveling with Carla, all my big ideas would have probably ended on Tucker Memorial Bridge, but she noticed that some of the wreckage had been moved, and I was able to find the booby traps. Somebody really wanted to blow somebody else the hell up, but there was no follow-up ambush party in place, so I’m not sure what was behind that. Not long after that, I got my first look at a super mutant. Three of them in fact. Jesus they’re big. And loud. They looked strong, too. Not super-bright mutants, fortunately, though. I made a lot of noise while Carla hid, and got them to chase me back across the bridge. One of their big feet caught a tripwire, and boom. Boom. Boom. If I ever meet the person who mined that bridge, I’ll kiss THEM full on the mouth. Bunker Hill was interesting. Fortifications were impressive at first glance, but there’s no depth to them--no watchtowers other than the monument itself, no provision for enfilading fire, no concealed firing positions, no loopholes in the walls, no overhead protection, far too much reliance on wood. The place is more of a deathtrap than a fortress. I guess that’s why they pay every scumbag in the area to leave them unmolested. Sounds like the Boston parasites might be a little smarter than the ones out in the burbs. Protection rackets are sustainable. Raiding, not so much. I’m sure glad I had been told about … what do you call ghouls that aren’t feral? … Just ghouls? OK. I’m sure glad I had been told about ghouls, because one came up to me and offered me a job. Something about his accent seemed familiar. Then he introduced himself as Edward Deegan. Christ. Eddie Deegan. His little brother Frank beat me in the 100-yard dash at city finals my senior year of high school, and Eddie had been even better, won the state hurdles title three years running. Heh. Running. Crazylegs Eddie Deegan, all grown up and gross-looking, but holy crap. Small town, Boston, always was. He was even more surprised to see me, especially considering I still had skin on my face. Eddie remembered reading about my time in Alaska--the sanitized version, anyway--and really started to try to sell me on working for him. When he saw the look on my face when he mentioned Cabot House, I guess he remembered that I got sent to Parsons, and changed the subject real quick. But we drank a whole bunch of nasty ancient Gwinnett Ale, and talked for hours about long dead mutual acquaintances. When I said I was trying to get to Goodneighbor, he told me it was Scollay Square, and offered to show me the safest way there.