A cyborg in the Wasteland

This is technically a crossover between the universe of Fallout and the niche tabletop game Eclipse Phase, which is described as a world of 'transhuman horror.' The main character is a combination of the memories of a random isekai and the memories of a transhuman scientist from Eclipse Phase. I originally published/am publishing this on the site Sufficient Velocities, but decided to cross post here. However, you don't need to know anything about Eclipse Phase to enjoy this novel. I suppose you don't even need to know anything about Fallout, but that would help a lot more.

SpiraSpira · Video Games
Not enough ratings
99 Chs

The House Always Wins (Social Rolls)

New peers on Lily's network were strictly limited in what assets they could even see. Rather than the traditional doctrine in networking where traffic was accepted by default, her systems, at least at present, operated on a whitelist basis, so everything was denied by default. Dr House wouldn't even have visibility into it, not really.

Still, there was one node that he could access, but it was only a virtual endpoint designed only to speak to or interact with network intruders, a proxy in a specialised high-security bastion node, in other words. Nevertheless, it didn't take him too long to find the one visible node in the network, and he started a similar chat session as she had begun the last time.

[REH: Dr St. Sinclair?]

[Lilium: Yes, Dr House?]

[REH: Do you have a sensible protocol for a real-time voice communication system through this network?]

[Lilium: Stand by.]

After that, Lily sent him the source code for a simple voice-over-internet-protocol system; it was the same code she used for the Mesh-connected walkie-talkies that her men used, although the version she sent was packaged to be compiled and run on a RobCo operating system. There were similar things already in this world, and in fact, what she based most of my code on, but it was all on a trunk level for telco companies and not really for end-users, at least as far as she could tell. She just had to port it to use the slightly different network stack her systems utilised.

There wasn't additional traffic on the connection for some time; Lily suspected the man was inspecting the source code she sent him carefully and possibly even compiling and testing it in a virtual environment. She certainly would have, especially since programming was more or less a secondary skill she had. She was definitely good at it, but she was only really gifted if the programming used the "language" of DNA. In her past life, she had used a number of built-in hardware-level coding assistants that were basically wired directly into her neural network as co-processors, so she just thought what she wanted, and it was translated into a programming language of her choice, but she didn't have that capability anymore.

She didn't consider the silence rude; in fact, she appreciated that he didn't make any useless small talk and just continued on with her business in the interim. The timeline was getting closer and closer to the time period where the game started. It was August 2276, and the events of Fallout 3 started in August 2277. So, she had a year to discover a way to lose the Lone Wanderer's father somewhere, safely, for a period of time to give the protagonist a quest to find him.

She was tempted to just solve the Project Purity issue herself because it would be simpler, and it would also be amusing to see James walk out of the vault with everything already completed. Still, after looking at what materials and equipment were left in the Jefferson Memorial and talking to Dr Li, she had come to the conclusion she had no idea how what they were trying to accomplish worked. Even Dr Li didn't, not really. Her speciality was fusion power systems, for the most part, so her part involved powering the project, with a lot of that equipment still present at the Memorial site in mothballs.

Lily's understanding of how to purify water was limited to distillation and filtering, which she used a combination of in all of her small-scale water purifying systems. But even once her gigawatt power station came online in a couple of months, that wasn't a realistic way to provide clean water for the entire area. Well, perhaps it could be made to work, but there would need to be at least ten more power stations and something along the lines of twenty thousand purifying stations. She would call that plan zed in case Project Purity didn't work for whatever reason. It was theoretically possible, but one of the things that wouldn't really work without a sizeable bureaucratic system behind it handling the maintenance and manpower needed to run such a system, much less build it.

Lily hated bureaucracies more than raiders. One success on that side was her Lily-impersonator AI was a roaring success! She had it fielding most of the calls from the people in charge of running the various city departments, and it would send her a small summary of the discussion in text after every interaction. She only needed to correct it a few times. However, Tombs and Gary both detected that they were interacting with some sort of AI or robot rather quickly.

Surprisingly, neither of them was particularly offended, but each demanded a secondary contact address where they could actually call her if they had a true emergency. The AI was programmed to put a caller on hold and forward their call to her if it detected something like that, and it also had a limit about the things it could decide to do itself, but she supposed it didn't matter too much if she gave a few people a bypass number, so long as they didn't abuse it to waste her time.

Gary, very intelligently, used several conversations with the impersonator AI to discover the limit of its authority that she had placed on it, and after that, he never called it back if what he was going to discuss with Lily was within that limit. Instead, he sent her a brief e-mail or text message to her directly telling her what he had decided and then done, which she found perfect. She was the type of leader who, when forced to lead, vastly preferred initiative from her subordinates. She wouldn't get upset at failures unless the particular subordinate had multiple failures in the same general situation. Honestly, she hadn't had to deal with that herself because anyone that was her direct report was already smart enough not to make the same mistakes over and over again.

Alice, for example, hardly made mistakes, period! She was exceptionally intelligent, well past the genius range on the simple general cognitive evaluation tests Lily had given her over the past year. She had started to ask the girl, hypothetically, how she would tame a hive of mutated ants. After the girl thought about it for a day, the Apprentice told her that ants were probably very easy to control through the directed use of pheromones. There were pheromones for an attack command, pheromones for defence, and even work-related ones. That had gotten Alice to go off on a tangent for over an hour about the "intriguing intricacies of an ant colony."

The girl still liked ants, that was sure. Lily had decided to make that a joint project with the girl and had brought some mutated ants for her to experiment on for the introduction to applied genetics. The girl didn't have enough background in genetics to help her add features to the ants, but Lily had been breaking down the genome of the modern mutated ant, showing her gene expression segments for pheromone detection, secretion and et cetera.

Typically, one started with something simple like splicing a bio-luminescence gene expression onto yeast to create glow-in-the-dark yeast as a first project, but it was really important to pair teaching with interest, and Alice was ridiculously interested in ants. As such, her first successful project of adding a feature to an organism was creating a glow-in-the-dark ant in vitro.

The girl loved it, although Lily suspected that the change would not provide any noticeable survival adaptation benefit and, in fact, would probably prove deleterious. Ants had very poor eyesight in the first place but an amazing chemosense, so Lily felt that making them glow would only allow prey or predators to discover them while not appreciably affecting the best senses the ant used.

Lily had challenged the girl to come up with a change that would impart a survival advantage to an ant colony. However, she didn't have to come up with the gene expressions herself, as that would be way too difficult of a challenge. She merely had to be able to articulate the advantage in English, as a biologist and not a geneticist might.

She was still working on that, and once the girl had decided on one change that she liked, Lily would handle the part of translating between two languages, namely English and DNA, while working closely with the girl and explaining why adding or deleting each gene expression from the genome would give the desired effect. It wasn't always straightforward. Evolution was a messy bitch, and in some cases, to add a feature, you needed to mainly delete -- but that was dangerous too, as it often produced unintended consequences. It was a balancing act, and only real practice and experience would teach her.

It was clear Alice's interest mainly lay in traditional medicine, but Lily would ensure she was at least as good as the best Pre-War geneticists before she was done. Lily had been noticing that the girl had often used one of the VR pods, in a high-time dilation, to study and read. Lily did that, too, but mainly to work on designs. The items she was building, especially their electrical and electronic components, were exponentially becoming more complicated than the items she designed and built at first, so additional time was necessary.

It was fine for the girl to use the VR pod in such a manner a few hours a day, and as such, Alice was likely getting almost sixty or eighty additional hours a day that she was putting to good use. To such an extent, the girl installed a VR pod in her apartment. She didn't ask for Lily's approval, an act of initiative which Lily approved of, and had managed to wire and network it properly without needing to ask her for help, either. That surprised her, actually, but the girl was a genius.

She had also asked Lily what the earliest age a person could handle significant time dilation was and how long would be safe. Lily thought about that and shrugged, telling her that any flat older than ten would be indistinguishable from herself as far as the purely physical effects. But, honestly, a child's mind was more accepting of such things in many ways than an adult's, so she suspected that Alice was using her pod to help her siblings study too.

She didn't know if they had to rush like Alice seemed to think they did, but she would let the girl raise her siblings the way she thought was best, so long as she wasn't obviously damaging them. Honestly, Lily didn't really care. Well, she cared about them because the Apprentice cared about them, and the Apprentice would be upset if they were injured either physically or mentally, but Lily herself didn't consider them in the same category as Alice.

They were high threes or low fours on her ranking list of people, though, so she would definitely do what she could to keep them safe, but she wouldn't take extraordinary risks for either of them.

However, it was clear the two rug-rats played a lot, so it wasn't like they were losing out on their childhood, as much as it was possible to have one in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, anyway, so she felt that whatever the Apprentice was doing it was, thus far, working and unlikely to cause Alice undue mental stress. That was the critical part.

A phone call interrupted her musings, and she stopped adjusting the circuitry for a defence satellite to answer it. After her constellation was mostly constructed, she intended to launch several thousand defence satellites. They wouldn't work like the rail gun anti-satellite systems the Americans Pre-War launched. She found those to be insufficient. Instead, she was designing small nuclear payloads of the type that she could already construct in numbers.

In space, simple nukes weren't that dangerous. The damaging effects of nuclear explosives came from the atmosphere when the initial explosion ionised the air into a plasma and triggered a damaging pressure wave. So, she was experimenting with three designs for satellites. One would be a regular, small-yield nuclear explosive. The satellite would be mostly reaction mass and thrusters, like a small missile, to get it within range of the target, which would have to be quite close. At least within a couple hundred metres or so.

The second was what was referred to in her previous world as a Casaba Howitzer. They were simple. It was, in effect, a nuclear-shaped charge. As a chemical explosive-shaped charge created a jet of molten metal, a Casaba Howitzer created a jet of particles and radiation. It was easy to make; you just built a small hole, like a rocket nozzle, into your explosive's radiation case. In Lily's case, she could do so programmatically by carefully destabilising the quantum force field's electronics, very similar to the way a micro fusion cell ejected plasma when used in a plasma caster.

Unfortunately, plasma was much different from a contained nuclear explosion and trying that would destroy the device almost immediately and cause a general unidirectional explosion. However, for several nanoseconds before this explosion occurred, a focused beam of particles and energy would travel down the vector that the small hole opened up, like an incredibly powerful laser or particle beam.

In theory, at least. Such a beam should be powerful enough to do a lot of damage even ten thousand kilometres away -- the challenge would be precisely aligning the hole onto the target or where the target would be if it had a lot of velocity.

The last type she probably wouldn't be building soon, just because she didn't think it would work right away, but it was a bomb-pumped x-ray laser. Such ordinance had been the standard ship-to-ship warheads for missiles on warships where she came from, but they were actually extraordinarily complicated to design and build. She had always either bought them or stolen them herself. Mostly the latter, actually. That would have ranges of even fifty thousand kilometres, although targeting and tracking at such range might prove beyond her unless the target would not accelerate in any axis. At that point, you had to lead the target significantly even though the laser travelled at light speed, so random jinks in different axes became an effective method to dodge such a weapon. If you knew it was about to explode, anyway.

Instead of using her internal systems to answer the phone, Lily routed the call to a walkie-talkie handset she had nearby just for this purpose. She spoke into it, "Hello. Dr House?"

"Yes, this is Robert House. Agreeing to take a voice call is appreciated, Dr St. Claire," came the fairly iconic voice of Robert House. He really did have a way of intonation. As someone who had been faking an accent so long that she occasionally forgot she wasn't, actually, French, she had nothing but admiration for the way he spoke. People sat up to listen!

Lily told him, slightly curious, "Of course, although I am a little curious why you wanted to speak and not continue as we were with zhe chat application," She generally preferred communicating through text, herself. The human brain, sadly, wasn't very optimised, and it required its full attention to listen to and parse spoken language, while only partial attention was needed to decipher the written word. It was a more efficient use of her time to use the chat app.

"For two reasons. Firstly, I have a lot of tools that assist me in detecting deception in speech…." Lily was curious. Some type of voice stress analyser tech? That technology never did hit it off in her other world, mainly because when everyone had what amounted to a biological supercomputer in their brain, as a matter of course, it allowed a person a lot of processing power to, in real-time, fake such stress signals while speaking, "…and I also wanted to run your voice through a waveform analyser, to make sure it wasn't generated digitally."

Lily raised her eyebrows. Well, it was good she didn't decide to use her text-to-speech system to talk with him today. Or maybe it would have been interesting if she had. She asked him, very amused, "Did you suspect zhat I was zhe machine intelligence?"

"Yes," came his simple reply.

Lily frowned, doing a similar analysis of his speech in parallel. It did not appear to be computer generated, but he was a genius, so that couldn't really be relied upon. The only two digitally generated voices she had detected thus far were the DJ of Radio New Vegas and President Eden, but if House was a synth, he could have reserved a better model of voice synthesiser for himself.

In her old world, you couldn't detect such distinctions, even with voice synthesisers that were cheap as chips. She asked him, "Would that 'ave made any difference? I personally wouldn't care if you had uploaded your neural network into a quantum-based emulator. Zhat would be a pretty good option for living forever if you 'aven't got any better ones."

His voice sounded disappointed in her, "It's a terrible option. It just means that a copy of you lives on while the original you died. I suppose it is better than dying full stop, but barely. And yes, it would have. Not because I have any prejudice against artificial life, per se, it is just that I would have expected you to be a VAX unit, and if so they aren't the most psychologically stable after even a year of lack of stimulus, much less two hundred. It would change how I interacted with you, as I would have to tiptoe around whatever mental instabilities you had developed over the years. It isn't their fault; it's a function of the Byzantine and often illogical limitations and rules most VAX units have applied to their cognitive loops. I feel bad for them, actually."

He sighed and then continued, "As it is, you are instead merely… French. I suppose that is an improvement."

Lily was suddenly reminded of 2001: A Space Odyssey. In that story, the HAL 9000 was a very well-respected series of artificial intelligences, that had been used for a long time without flipping out as it had in the story. In the story, it was the conflict of orders to assist the crew and orders to keep the true nature of their mission a secret which eventually caused the poor AI to flip out.

Rather than take the bait on her accent, she spent almost a half hour discussing, or rather debating, with Mr House about situations that would permit a person to transition from an organic to synthetic brain while not "dying." It was her opinion that as long as one had a continuous stream of consciousness, one never died. Even if you slowly replaced, and then destroyed, your brain.

The argument was fundamentally the Ship of Theseus question. No one would consider a person who survived a stroke and had part of their brain that was damaged in a stroke replaced by an artificial construct to have died. So what, then, would happen if a separate part of their brain was damaged and replaced? Repeatedly? At what point would a person consider them to have "died"? Lily thought that it would be when consciousness stopped. So, if you could maintain one single stream of consciousness during the brain upload process, it would still be "you" that was on the other side of the procedure.

That was one of the ways to convert to a synth in her memories. She hadn't chosen that way, though. It was a lot more complicated and much more expensive. She had just had herself digitised and wiped the mind of her old biological sleeve and sold it. That kind of made her feel kind of conflicted now.

Dr House was a bit sceptical but intrigued, "Is that what you did to yourself? If so, you'll have to share with me your voice synthesiser technology as I can't detect any sign of it." He asked, finally.

"No, although I may do so in the future, but zhen again, I may not. My speciality is primarily genetics and cybernetics. Longevity is an obvious corollary to zhese fields of study. I just intend not to die," Lily told him. Ultimately it was very likely she would digitally convert her mind. There were cool psychic powers in this world with organic brains, but she would eventually figure out how to use those, even if she had to have a partial brain that handled the psychic bits connected to a quantum processor like a squishy peripheral.

Although she was a bit more laid back in this life, her goal was ultimately still the same as Meimei's had been.

There was a pause before he came back, "That makes me much more sure about my hypothesis about you, Dr St. Claire."

Lily asked him, amused, "Oh? And what's zhat?"

"Well, first answer me a question. What planet were you born on?" he asked intently.

Wait. Does Dr House think she is an alien? Do the aliens up above have infiltrators? She didn't think so. "Earth, of course," she said perfectly honestly.

"Maybe so, but not this Earth, I am almost certain. With that set of specialities, I would have known of you, no matter how low-key you were attempting to be. I spent billions of dollars on longevity research before the war," he said simply.

Perhaps she should have prevaricated about her specialities, but that would have been silly. It wouldn't have lasted very long, in any event. How did he go from her being from an alternate Earth just from that though? And he sounded so confident. "Zhat's a pretty long stretch, Doctor. Perhaps I was zhe minion of one of your enemies, who kept me secluded away from your reach."

That caused him to laugh, "No, I think not. I would have at least known of you. Plus, it isn't my only datum. The designs you sent me for this satellite terminal included source code and a binary file; the latter was a very mature real-time operating system. Before you attempt to insult my intelligence and claim it was merely a secret project, let me tell you that a careful examination of all of the strings on this OS includes a number of dated comments from developers, with dates ranging from 2255 to 2338. Amazing to see the state of a software project under continual development for over eighty years."

Well, shit. That was kind of a smoking gun. She had included only the binaries and even used her Muse to refactor the source code and recompiled it in an attempt to prevent this very thing. The compiler discards all comments in the pre-optimisation phase. How could he have…

She had the sudden desire to smash her head into the nearest bulkhead. She had indeed stripped all of the binaries of such details, even altering the version dates and numbers displayed by each application. However, the binary was a complete file system— and that included a number of scripts. Scripts weren't compiled programs, they were parsed or compiled at run-time, depending on the programming language.

Her instructions to her Muse were to remove or obfuscate any date from strings in binary files, but scripts were not binary files. If she was speaking with another person, she would be tempted to bullshit them now, but not only were her social stats low, but she actually respected Dr House's intelligence, "Stand by, Dr House. I have to make a quick adjustment to my codebase and then send a patch over the air to thirty thousand devices or so."

"Mmhmm… take your time," he said, his voice very smug and very amused.

I didn't think the Brotherhood would be able to do the same analysis that Dr House had done. I had never sent them the actual operating system she used, binary or not. The only devices they used that incorporated it were the e-book readers, and they were specifically designed to destroy their memory in the event they were disassembled.

But it was very good that she discovered this before she put the new LilyPad personal computers, as Alice was calling them, into mass production. She didn't necessarily approve of that appellation, but it was a lot better than LilyBoy, so she would take what victories she could.

Not only were these less protected from reverse engineering because she had been chilling out a little since she built the first e-reader, but you could even access the operating system file system and examine and edit scripts, just like a full-featured computer. You could even plug in a terminal's keyboard in the back of the device if you took it off your wrist and laid it sideways on a desk. She intended to make a real, full-featured piece of computing hardware and encourage hacking of it and the development of third-party applications, after all.

She had three branches of the operating system: a real-time operating system for small embedded applications, like the one Dr House had received, one for robots and one for general computing, including servers.

They were linked in her version control system, so she just had to make adjustments to the main branch, commit and then import the updated base on the three forks, run tests, commit, compile, package the update and send it out.

Considering this was a critical update and doing it wrong would brick devices, she made very certain to test all types of devices that she made. It wouldn't do to brick thousands of e-readers and especially wouldn't do to brick two thousand satellites. That would be embarrassing. She tested the update virtually and also physically on hardware she had available nearby in her workroom.

About twenty minutes later, the cryptographically signed updates went out on the Mesh in waves, and she could see each device flicker as it accepted, installed the update and rebooted. Her satellite constellation was fault tolerant enough that each satellite negotiated with its nearby peers as to when it should reboot, so she didn't even have an interruption in the phone call with Dr House.

Lily sighed and grabbed the handset again, "Okay. I'm done." She wasn't going to insult his intelligence, but that didn't mean she wouldn't threaten him, "What do you want to know? Also, I'm going to need some commitment to discretion, or we will end zhis conversation as enemies."

"Hah! I knew it. And you have no need to worry, although I don't even know why you care. At some point, might makes right. At the rate you are launching satellites, some of which I assume are weapons, you could be from Venus, and nobody would really gainsay you," he said, smugly satisfied that he was correct.

Well, that was true, but still, Lily preferred to keep her origins a secret. It turned out Dr House's motive for his assumptions and investigations was that it was "inconceivable" that anyone on Earth could write a better operating system than him. Therefore, by Occam's Razor, she had to be some manner of extra-terrestrial. A more in-depth examination of the source code showed it to be clearly of Earth origin, but that only meant it had to be from a parallel dimension.

Lily would have called this line of thinking narcissistic in the extreme, but it had managed to derive the correct answer, so she couldn't really fault it.

He was curious about her dimension, and she had decided to just leave out entirely her life as Mandy and that they were living out a game she had played. She told him about it, and he was pretty disappointed that she wasn't the vanguard of some dimensional scouting group. That was surprising; she would have thought more people with more advanced technology would upset him.

"Not at all. If you were from an organised expedition, then chances would be high that your group or country or what have you intended to colonise this dimension. Or maybe just take resources from it? In either case, if so, then you would likely deal with people like me, local collaborators, and the like. I am not inferior to anyone, but I can't beat hundreds of years of scientific development by billions of people. However, it would be very likely such an organisation would give their partners in this dimension access to, at least, their equivalent of scientific journals. It wouldn't take me long to reach their level, just with that," he said simply and with utter confidence.

Ah, and since she came alone and couldn't return, not only would she have less of a breadth of technological resources with her, she would be less likely to share such things than a group of people. That made sense.

An alert caused a window to pop up. Her Muse was directing her to a detected, large-scale battle, with lots of Power Armour detected. It was far away, though. But... it was very close to New Vegas.

Lily hummed and pulled up the poor-quality real-time images she had. It looked like a large force, perhaps a division or maybe even two, that was assaulting a solar power station. One of those concentrated solar power stations where mirrors reflected the thermal energy onto a large collection tower, which then utilised the heat in some way, usually by turning a turbine.

The defenders were wearing Power Armour, as far as she could tell. She could barely tell them apart from the attackers at this resolution, but there was enough to indicate it was likely Power Armour.

The solar power station was in a large open plain, and it looked like a terrible spot to try to defend, honestly.

"Dr House, do you know a group of Power Armour-wielding people zhat are located at a concentrated solar power station near New Vegas?" she asked him.

The disgust was obvious in his tone, "The Brotherhood of Steel. Have you had dealings with them? A bunch of techno-barbarian scavengers."

"Yes, I actually have a somewhat good relationship with the chapter near me. They're actually somewhat interested in improving the quality of life for people... but only because all of the hardline elements revolted and left their chapter," Lily told him, slightly amused.

This caused a snort, "And these hardline elements haven't attempted to burn or steal everything you built? I somehow doubt that."

"Well... it turned out that shortly after they set up shop at this former military base, these Outcasts... they must have set off the base's self-destruct system or something because they were all incinerated in a nuclear explosion. I've gotten along pretty well with the reasonable fellows since then," Lily said quietly, realising how improbable that sounded now that she said it out loud.

Dr House said with a tone that he didn't believe me for a second, "Oh really? How convenient... Why do you ask about them, anyway?"

"Well, it seems like a very large military force, an organised military force, division strength or plus, is assaulting that location as we speak," Lily told him.

Dr House growled, "That's the NCR. The New California Republic. I don't suppose it is too much to ask that they will annihilate each other? Perhaps there is a finicky self-destruct at this POSEIDON site too? I assure you I'm the only one with radar assets this far east of the NCR's main territory. They tried to make me pay taxes."

No, I didn't think I would nuke a small Brotherhood chapter and almost ten thousand NCR soldiers, although she couldn't really fault his desire not to pay them taxes. Not that she even could in any reasonable amount of time, anyway. It would take hours to launch an aircraft with such a payload and get it to Nevada, "No. I'm afraid not. Power Armour, lasers and zeal are nice, but zhey won't stop someone who outnumbers you twenty to one. Plus, that site is almost indefensible. Zhe outcome of the battle is not going to be in question. I don't zhink much of the intelligence of whoever ordered it to be defended in the first place. Zhey should have retreated."

Should she tell Sarah Lyons about this later? Perhaps they would want to save some of the survivors after they retreated, somehow. On the one side, she wanted to make her particular Brotherhood chapter as strong as possible so that its more liberal philosophies could take over the whole, but she didn't want to import a new cohort of Outcasts. Although, it looked like a good portion of this chapter's Paladins were not going to make it off the field at this rate, and Scribes were generally more liberal.

She'd think about that. The Brotherhood were getting routed, and finally, after losing about half of their men, she could see from overhead they were retreating. The NCR commander was letting them go, which Lily considered a big mistake.

With as much force the NCR had brought to bear, their commander could easily annihilate the Brotherhood forces there. That should have been the goal, not securing a stupid power station. But maybe the NCR had other priorities and couldn't afford to take the sustained losses that a cornered, desperate Brotherhood chapter could inflict.

Either way, it was a decisive victory by the NCR.

"Well, I appreciate you telling me of this battle. I knew that the NCR was planning on conducting such an operation for some time, but they managed to get their strike force in without me noticing it. I'd appreciate a notification if their army swings towards New Vegas. You don't have to, of course, but we each want things from the other, and it would be more advantageous for you if I was still alive to trade them to you," Dr House said wryly, then continued, "I don't expect them to, though. I'd inflict over fifty per cent casualties on a force of that size, and then the Legion would seize the Mojave. As it stands, all three sides, we're in détente, and my projections, which I have just updated for this battle, suggest that there is over a ninety-four per cent chance this status will remain for at least the next three years."

Lily snorted. She had mentioned some of the things she wanted to trade him for, and now he was using those wants to blackmail her into providing assistance or at least intelligence.

It was interesting to hear of the challenges of someone thousands of kilometres away. She didn't want to jinx herself, but they sounded more challenging than hers.

"I'll think about it. Goodbye, Dr House," she said and then disconnected the phone call. His satellite terminal remained connected to her network, but it was quiescent. He wasn't even trying to hack her bastion node, which probably meant that he respected her. Maybe.