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I, the Author: How I stole the Declaration of Independence

7:00 PM on 07.17.2009 // Tubatic

[It's time for another Monthly Musing -- the monthly community blog theme that provides readers with a chance to get their articles and discussions printed on the frontpage. -- CTZ

I never thought I'd meet Button Gwinett, the second signer of the Declaration of Independence. But, there he was, standing in the basement of the National Archives.

Or, at least the robot programmed to impersonate him for tours and historic posterity. He was no more than a witty sideshow for tourists and educators passing through DC to get a glimpse of our nation's history. However, in the Post-Apocalypse, Mr. Gwinett guards this founding document with a pair of terminal operated machine gun turrets. We had our work cutout for us, Sydney and I.

I had just met Sydney a few minutes prior, but our goal was the same: retrieve the Declaration of Independence and deliver it to Mr. Abraham Washington in Rivet City. I trusted her enough not to shoot me in the back before we found the document. She knew the secret path into the National Archives, and she handled a mean SMG. With all the Super Mutants and renegade robots though, we needed each other alive if we were going to turn a profit from this suicide mission.

And then we met Button. He was a pretty standard Protectron model from my guess, so the two of us could probably take him. The turrets, less so. Well, I'd survive at least. But, there had to be a diplomatic solution to this. Its just a 'bot, and I can turn a phrase pretty well. I approached the distinguished gentleman from Georgia to have this out like civilized men.

Didn't count on him being mental, though. After much back and forth about invasion and accusations of me being a redcoat, our man Button wasn't necessarily going to just let me walk out of there with that precious document. However, if we could make a forgery of the document, with ink from the Arlington Library archives, we could hand that doc over to Washington, who would honestly be none the wiser. Through a stroke of massive inherent luck, I had already excavated the Arlington branch, and was in possession of just enough ink to pull off the deception.

But, there, behind the robot, in a tiny safe, was the REAL DEAL! Caps were caps, but what treasure hunter wants to walk off with the decoy? For a moment, I contemplated a lie. What if I was Thomas Jefferson? Who's going to argue with a founding father? If I could just convince this hunk that I was him, we could leave with the real Declaration!

But alas, Thomas Jefferson was not a purplish man of African decent suffering from mild radiation sickness with a nifty supercomputer strapped to his forearm. Erring on the side of caution, I resigned myself to second place, and presented the ink to Mr. Gwinett, whom promptly etched out an exact replica of the doc. Truly stunning. The redcoats would be fooled and would follow me out to Virginia, leaving the actual doc safely in DC with the only soul that believed that redcoats still existed. Casually, Button asked me what he should do now. Frankly, I didn't care, and I told him as much. Standing down, the bot stood dead pan, awaiting further visitors in a state of docile patience. Just standing there. In front of his desk and computer terminal.

His unlocked, safe controlling computer terminal ...

Walking ever so unassumingly toward the side exit to the room, I slip behind the front facing metal thespian and have my way with the terminal. "Unlock security doors?" Sure, why not. "Disable guns?" Might as well. "Open Safe?"

Yes, please.

And there it was. Just like that. Sitting alone in a hardware store document safe was THE Declaration of Independence! Dare I take it? What if Button catches on? What if its rigged? Would all our cunning and serendipity be for naught? In the dusty lamp light of the archives, the call of touching real history pulsed like a radroach bite. This could most certainly end badly. At least for the dependent Ms. Sydney. My hand extended to grasp a dinner napkin from the table of destiny. My hand closed and pulled away, anticipating sirens and battle ...

And there was nothing. Button, for all his patriotism and protectiveness moments earlier was oblivious to the fact that I had just carefully yoinked the very parchment he had demanded not to be removed from his site. What was this? Is this really working?

Dual wielding the Declarations, Sydney and I booked it out of downtown DC the way we came in, breathing fresh irradiated o-zone and making the fastest trek back to Rivet City in the south. Without double cross or bloodshed, we handed over the sacred scrolls to archivist Washington, perhaps too senile to grasp the significance of having his bounty in duplicate. We were paid, thanked and promptly set about on our separate ways. Syndey vowed to get out of artifact hunting, while I set off to revel in my achievement.

Standing on the aircraft deck of the derelict Naval vessel known as Rivet City, I gazed outward to the battered skyline of Washington, D.C. There were certainly more treasures to be found in the museums and government facilities of that once proud city. Not to mention that favor I promised to Three-Dog. It wouldn't be easy, but the longer I survived in the Capital Wasteland, the more resourceful I would become. As my continued luck would have it, I was paid in the form of a schematic for something called a "Railway Gun".

Where did I see a steam whistle out there?

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