For the first time since waking up, I had someone at my side I could have a conversation with. The road back to Diamond City wasn’t the safest, particularly with a nasty batch of Super Mutants having taken up residence nearby, but the slow travel gave Nick and I plenty of time to talk, to feel each other out and see how we fit in this big, crazy world.

After a particularly unfortunate encounter with a well-armed mutant I lost my power armour, its chestpiece taking the brunt of a missile that was directed at the two of us. What is it with Super Mutants and missiles anyway? Nick thanked me for stepping in front of the blast, and seemed genuinely appreciative. I don’t know why that surprised me, but it was a very humanizing moment. He may not have actual human blood pumping through his tubes but he really seemed to have real human thoughts and feelings.

Late one evening we got to talking about our respective origins, and while neither of us felt particularly like opening up, we were able to bond over painful awakenings. Mine 200 years into an irradiated world that didn’t look anything like the one I left, his in an Institute refuse pile, jammed full of the memories of an old police detective from before the war. We toasted the fact that we both seemed to be out of our element.

I’d heard of the Institute before, apparently the largest boogymen in the Commonwealth, but was hoping that Nick could provide a bit more information about them. It was apparent right from the get-go that he had no love for them, which is probably one reason the people of Diamond City warmed up to him eventually, and that they were a collection of powerful synths dedicated to surviving where humanity had failed. I may not agree with their methods, snatching and replacing people with convincing replicas to understand human culture better, but I understand their motivation. Everywhere people just wanted to survive, clinging onto whatever small advantage they could. The Institute just happened to have a larger advantage than most.

It felt really good to talk with someone who could articulate their thoughts. I hadn’t been the most social of creatures after being thawed out, largely because this whole world was alien to me. I couldn’t relate to the people and their experiences, I didn’t understand the new power structures, and plenty of opportunists would gladly stick a knife in you as soon as you turned your back. Maybe that sounds cynical of me, but I assure you the Commonwealth used to be a much, much more welcoming place. Nick, as much as he was from this new age, could “remember” what life was like beforehand, and now we both had someone we could talk about it with.

Diamond City is easy enough to move around in, so long as you ignore the ever-present guards and water of questionable quality. I got Nick back home to his detective agency safe and sound, much to the squealing delight of his assistant, Ellie. She paid me the agreed-upon caps and Nick said to keep in touch.

I think I just might.