Okay, this is a lot of headcanons on this, but I have feelings about Coursers in Fallout 4. Please heed the trigger warnings because this is dark.
Coursers are slaves.
They are every bit as slaves as any gen 3s in the Institute, and are, in some very important ways, worse off.
A gen 3 synth in the Institute has a duty, they carry out that duty, they are just one of however many hundreds of synths in the Institute doing the same thing. They are, as far as the humans are concerned, invisible, about as important as the piping in the walls of the electrical wiring. It’s a pretty dreadful way to live, but in a place like the Institute it’s desirable, because you are basically invisible.
The Coursers don’t get that. There are few of them, and they work directly with the SRB. They don’t get to be invisible, they are always, constantly, hideously visible. To a bunch of people who consider them nothing but unthinking tools.
Imagine: A Courser goes out on a mission, the mission goes wrong. The Courser is badly wounded, there is blood everywhere, parts of them are open to the air that shouldn’t and it doesn’t matter how brainwashed they are- they cannot breathe, the pain is too much, they are seeing things they really don’t want to. They are snatched back to the Institute. The Courser gets fixed up, but cannot speak to anyone about what they have seen- because that would be defective. They have just to deal with it and, if it gets too much or trauma is piled on top of trauma until they can’t cope any more, they have their memories erased.
And just ask Nate how well that works on fixing trauma.
The Courser has terrors now, irrational and incomprehensible as the thing under Dunwich Borers. Senseless and impossible to understand without context.
Imagine: There are two Coursers. They are both very, very good at their jobs. Two SRB workers get into an argument over which one would win in a fight. They order the Coursers to fight and place bets. There is a pool. Coursers are tough, they are fast, they are strong, they fight for hours until the floor is covered in blood. Eventually a superior turns up and stops the fight.
The workers sulk off, next time, they’ll be more careful. Z2 was totally going to kill X6, dude! The Coursers go back to barracks, try and mop themselves up, try and avoid those workers again but of course, that’s impossible.
Imagine: There are some scientists the Coursers know to avoid. Of course, they can’t do that forever, they get called by designation and besides, those scientists have favorites. Sometimes, another Courser might step in, hope the scientists in question would go with it and give their fellow a break (because they can’t take much more of this, they can see it in their eyes, and no amount of resets are going to help if it just happened over and over and over and over). The scientists say there’s a mission. Of course there isn’t. Coursers are smart, they know. They are smart. They are strong. They are physically perfect.
They are beautiful.
The scientists tell them to take their clothes off.
The Coursers work in the SRB. There are only a few of them. They stand out in clothes, in demeanor. They cannot hide. They are reset more than all other group of synths put together, and with every reset, their loyalty to the Institute is reinforced. They are unquestionably loyal. They will die for the Institute, follow every order, lay down their lives without question, without hesitation.
And go back every time to the same barracks, which is soundproofed because no amount of resets can stop them screaming in their sleep, break from programming to carry out small, repeated rituals. Z2 touches every wall a certain number of times. X4 breaks down their guns and cleans them, over and over even though the white plastic is blinding and the laser mirrors threaten to burn their hands every time they catch the light. X6 just sits on the edge of his bunk and stares into space, endlessly. He doesn’t speak. He’s not even really here, just- going away, inside himself for a while. They all have a little quirk, or more than one, or maybe they’re not so small any more. But they never talk about it, never suggest a reset.
They try and keep an eye out for each other, angle into taking over duties if one of them looks- bad. Not reset bad, but so badbad they don’t have a word for it. When the trauma and mess is just too big, too much. When they can’t even pretend to be a machine (because you can’t turn people into machines, but you can force them into pretending a pretty convincing facsimile if you abuse them enough), and the scientists are going to notice. They’ll order them reset. And when that doesn’t work it’ll happen again, and again, and again until it’s obvious this unit is defective and they are taken away.
The other Coursers are not sad. And maybe some of them even look forward to it a little bit. It must be quiet, at least, peaceful, all dark and nothing to hurt you. Of course that’s a wrong thought, wasting Institute material. Nothing is wasted in the Institute, they shouldn’t even be considering it. But it- sounds nice.
There’s a little more meat in the Coursers’ food the next day. They eat it anyway.