The One Woman's Path Through the Desert is a Fallout walkthrough included in Fallout Official Survival Guide. Written by Tanya MacMillen, one of the guide's bonus prefab characters, it is intended to give the player a feel for how a "typical" game of Fallout might unfold. It is not fully consistent with other source texts (e.g. Vault Dweller canonical gender is male), however it is an official Fallout support material and can be considered as close-to-canon "what if?" scenario. According to Todd Howard, this story was among his inspirations during Fallout 3 development.
|The following is the original document or a transcript thereof.|
- 5 December, 150 days to go
Well, I've got to start this journal somewhere, and it might as well be in the beginning. I'd thought I was ready, after all the training and lectures and mental preparation and stuff, but when the time came at last and the Overseer told me just what it was I had to do Outside, I damned near gave up right then and there. I mean... Outside! No one who's ever left the Vault has ever come back to tell us what it's like out there, but everyone knows that Outside is a place of radiation and sickness, of death and horrible mutant monsters. Living Outside, with the sun beating down on you, and weather and storms and untreated water and no Vault Law... it's... it's unnatural!
- 12 December, 143 days to go
The desert stretches on forever, it seems, with the sun blazing down at you out of the sky until you wonder how your ancestors ever could have lived Outside. I mean, the old records all say that they did, bit how they ever ventured out of their safe sheltered Vaults to do whatever they had to do out here is beyond me. Certainly, no sane person could want to live like this.
I had a real scare last night. Travel in the cool of the evening seemed a better bet than braving that blistering sun, and I was making good progress, too, until the... the thing appeared out of nowhere.
I've studied books about life on the Outside, of course, as part of my preparation. This thing looked like a scorpion... except for the size. God, except for the size! If someone had described that black, armor-plated monster to me last week, I would have said she was nuts, or brain-jittered from IQ boosterdrug withdrawal. The thing has to be five meters long, with another couple of meters in that tail with its deadly, poison sting curled high over the back.
I didn't think creatures with an exoskeleton could grow that big, and I suspect that there must have been some really radical mutations to allow that kind of growth. It skittered toward me on clicking, jointed legs, with great, black claws waving in front of its face, each almost half as long as I am. I suppose Max Stone or Arnie or one of other warrior-types back in the Vault could have stood toe-to-toe with that monster and dispatched it with a few well-aimed shots, but I elected to choose the better part of valor. I mean, the Vault is counting on me to find that water purifier chip, and I'm not going to be able to help them if I'm reduced to a pile of scorpion-gnawed bones in the sand. I ran... and I used every stealth trick I've been taught to blend in with my background and slip away. The monsters let me go. Maybe they figured there wasn't enough meat on my carcass to be worth the effort of a chase. I'll never know.
What I do know is that this is a terrifying world out here, one that's gone through a lot of changes in the past eighty years. My survival[md]and with it, the survival of my Vault —— hangs on the slenderest of threads.
- 14 December, 141 days to go
Today I reached Vault 15, the vault nearest to my own, and the place the Overseer suggested would be a good place to start my search. The place was completely buried; I found a kind of sewer hole with a ladder inside a corrugated tin shack in the desert that led to a cavern, and not far from the ladder was the vault.
I didn't find much... unless you count the infestation of mutated rats and... other, more disturbing creatures. There's one thing about half as big as I am that looks like a hideous combination of rat and mole, but far bigger than either of those creatures. It was waiting for me inside the smashed-open airlock when I stepped through, and its bite was savage and painful. I pumped four rounds into the thing before it stopped trying to reach me, and two more bullets did a number on the wall somewhere in the darkness. I killed it, though, before it killed me. Despite the wound, the knowledge that I could deal with a monster like that mole-rat helped me pull my head together and keep going. I used one of my stimpaks to help the healing along.
The vault was a total wash-out, though. The outer door was broken off and lying on the cavern floor. It looked like this place was abandoned a long, long time ago. All the supplies were gone, and the dust and spider webs and rubble suggested that no one has been in here for many, many years. No water purifier chip, either. All the computers are long dead, and the water pumps are buried under debris from and old cave-in. I searched as long as I could, tiptoeing cautiously past mutant rats and a few close kin to the mole-rat thing that jumped me in the airlock.
Well, Tanya, you didn't think it was going to be that easy, did you? One thing. On my way here through the desert the other day, I thought I noticed something off in the distance, just south of my line of march and about halfway back to Vault 13. I couldn't see much detail, but it looked like buildings, and there might have been some smoke rising from the place. Smoke could mean cook fires, and people.
I think I'll try to reach the place on my way back to the Vault. It's all I have to go on now.
- 18 December, 137 days to go
The name of the place is Shady Sands. It's a quiet little place, where dirty children run and shriek in the broad, dusty streets, and the people go about their business with a stolid acceptance of fate. I don't know for sure, and the residents of Shady Sands can't help me much, but I can't help but wonder if these people are the descendants of folks who left Vault 15 many years ago.
The leader of the community is Aradesh, a nice enough old guy with a sing-song voice and a healthy mistrust of outsiders. His daughter, Tandi —— the future ruler of Shady Sands, from what I hear —— is lively and outgoing and bored stiff with life in this quiet oasis settlement.
Life here really doesn't seem to be too bad. They face two main problems. Rad scorpions —— apparently the same as that God-awful walking nightmare I encountered in the desert —— occasionally kill and eat some of their brahmins, the odd-looking, two-headed cows they use for food and transport. And there are some human predators nearby, raiders calling themselves the Khans, who sometimes come to carry off brahmins or women, and there's not a lot the local guard can do to protect the place.
I talked for a while with Seth, who was standing guard at the front gate. He told me something about the rad scorps, and I got the feeling he might be willing to take me to the cave where they breed to help him clean them out, if I offered. He also indicated a willingness to bargain. I traded him a knife and one of my flares for a couple of lengths of rope. I thought that if I was going to be scrambling around inside of caves, some good strong rope might come in handy. I'm just about recovered from the wounds I suffered from the mole-rat; Razlo, the local doctor, took a look at me and said all I needed was some rest. So maybe tomorrow...
- 19 December, 136 days to go
I can't help wondering why I volunteered for this. Maybe it's just that I need to face my own fears, and my own measure. Dunno, and questions like that are for the mind-tweakers anyway. But I decided to ask Seth to take me to the rad scorpion caves.
It makes sense in a way. I need these people's cooperation and their help if I'm to get another line on a water purifier chip. If I help them with their problems, maybe they'll help me with mine.
The cavern reminded me a lot of the caves outside my home Vault, but I could hear the clicking and scuttling of large, clattering things, living things moving inside as I drew my pistol and plunged into the gloom. At least I didn't have to worry about rats. All of the rats living in this cave must have been eaten by the scorps ages ago. Or maybe it's just that rats are smart enough not to go into places like that.
The scorps, actually, weren't as bad as I thought. I walked up close to one, fired twice, then ducked as that barb-tipped tail slashed through the air and narrowly missed my head. I fired twice again, and in a moment, the great, black, armored hulk was scuttling for safety, a hideous, stinking ichor leaking from a dozen wounds. I followed.
I will never forget that desperate, tangled combat in the bowels of the earth. At one point, four of the monsters were closing on me. I took a couple of hits, a nasty slash on my arm and another on my leg, but I wasn't poisoned, thank God, and I kept blasting away at those monstrosities as they closed in.
I was badly wounded by the time I dragged myself from that cave, but my second stimpak kept me going. The scorps were dead, all of them, and I also had a bundle of rad scorp tails sliced from their loathsome carcasses with my knife. Razlo, I'd heard, was trying to get a rad scorp antivenin, and maybe these would help.
- 20 December, 135 days to go
I was kind of a minor celebrity around Shady Sands after I returned from the rad scorp cave. The people were friendlier and more open, and they told me about some other cities down south of here... Junktown, and a place called the Hub. It definitely looks like I'll have to check those places out if I'm going to find that purifier chip. Shady Sands, I finally learned, gets its water from a well out in the garden, so they don't have the faintest idea what I'm talking about when I ask about a chip.
So I guess Junktown is the next stop on my itinerary, just as soon as my wounds are healed.
- 21 December, 134 days to go
Possibly the happiest person in Shady Sands after my return from the scorp caverns was Dr. Razlo. The poison I'd taken had been eating at me, making me weaker and weaker, and I knew it wouldn't be long before I wouldn't even be able to stay on my feet. I handed the Doc those hacked-off scorpion tails, though, and he said something about needing the sacs for the antidote he was working on. Before too long, he handed me a bottle of golden liquid and told me to drink up. Tasted like... well, I won't say what it tasted like, but it's stuff like that that's the reason God invented water purifier chips for the Vaults. In an hour or two, I was feeling better, though, and today I feel just about back to my old self. Razlo's a curt and curmudgeony sort, a funny old duck, but he sure as Vault locks knows his rad-scorp antidotes!
- 29 December, 126 days to go
Junktown's bigger than Shady Sands, and faster paced. There were a couple of armed guards at the front gate who warned me not to wave my weapon around in town. They were there, they said, to maintain the law, and I could tell they meant it.
First place I went was a joint named Killian's, a kind of general store. Turned out to be run by Killian Darkwater, the local "mayor" —— a silly word that seems to mean about the same as "Overseer". He seemed like a nice enough sort, in a dark and kind of reserved way. While I was talking to him about the local sights and attractions, though, another character walked into the place, gave me a sneer that chilled my blood, then pulled out his pistol and started blazing away at him.
Killian and I both had our weapons out in an instant, and the sudden crossfire confused the guy, I think. He fired again at Killian, missed, then went down in a spray of blood as the two of us concentrated our fire on him.
God, were people in the Outside just plain schizzed off? Reaction set in and I started shaking. Killian just shook his had. "Thanks for saving my life," he said. "Mighty brave thing to do."
Brave? I didn't feel brave, not then, not when I'd drawn my weapon. I'd just... reacted.
"Looks like we got ourselves a situation here," Killian went on. "I know Gizmo's behind this, but I need proof. Interested in helpin'?"
I asked who, or what, a Gizmo was, and learned he was a two-bit crime boss with delusions of grandeur, a petty criminal who wanted to eliminate Killian and take over the town. He ran a casino, Gismo's, and was behind most of the crime and shady operations in the place.
I thought about it. I'd been impressed by Killian Darkwater and more impressed still by the guards he'd trained to maintain law and order. "I'm in," I told him.
He gave me a couple of gadgets, a bug and a portable tape recorder. The idea was that since Gizmo didn't know me like he knew all of Killian's people, he might be willing to open up in front of me with a bit of bragging... or maybe the offer of a job. The crime boss, it turned out, was always in his office in the big casino on the west side of town.
He was a great, fat, pig of a man, three hundred pounds at least, with beady little eyes that showed both greed and suspicion from deep within the fleshy folds of his face. Casually, I leaned forward on his desk, carefully slipping the bug beneath the corner as I did so. "I'm here to tell you your assassin failed," I told him without preamble.
Gizmo pretended that he didn't know what I was talking about, at first, but bit by bit I drew him out, until he flat-out offered me a thousand caps to whack Killian. "As proof I want the dog tags Killian wears around his neck," Gizmo said with a greasy chuckle.
Back at Killian's, though, I told him I'd planted the bug. Killian left for a moment to listen in, and came back all smiles. "That's the first time I've been glad to hear his voice!" he said.
As reward, he let me pick what I wanted from his shelves, and I selected a shotgun, a real beaut, with a box of shells.
He grinned. "Thanks again!" he said. He was kind of handsome when he smiled. He offered me a chance to go along with him and some of his boys when they ran Gizmo out of town. I accepted, of course. I figured it would be worth it, just to see that bloated toad try to walk ten feet without assistance.
I found the head of Killian's town militia, a guy named Lars, and together we took out Gizmo. Lars gave me 500 caps as a kind of reward... and I was able to sell a bunch of stuff back to Killian —— including the antique pistol Gizmo had been carrying.
Bottle caps. That's the currency they use out here —— that and straight barter. I'm going to have to collect a bunch of these things to get along, I can tell.
- 2 January, 122 days to go
It took another four days to reach the bustling little metropolis they call "the Hub." I was starting to get worried, because I've only got three months left to find that water purifier chip, and time was trickling away like water on the hot sand of the desert floor. I was beginning to hope, though, because I'd been hearing about people at the Hub called "Water Merchants." Maybe they would be able to help me with my quest.
As soon as I hit town, I began looking around, making acquaintances, finding out who to talk to. Beth was the manager of a place called the Weapons Store, and she was full of gossip and rumors. She was also able to tell me a lot about the Water Merchants... who turned out to be the biggest of the big three trading caravans based at the Hub. All three caravans —— the Water Merchants, the Crimson Caravan, and the Far Go Traders —— were in a real whirl of worry at the moment, because someone or something had been making whole trading caravans simply disappear. Beth was convinced that it was a local monster known as the Deathclaw... or possibly the predations of some kind of religious cult called the Brotherhood of Steel.
When I asked about the Deathclaw, she put me on to another interesting town character, an old mutant named Harold who lived in a shack in Old Town.
Harold, apparently, had faced the Deathclaw once, so I went there to talk to him about it. I thought that if I could help the caravans out with their little Deathclaw problem, maybe they could help me track down the chip.
I was in for a real shock, though.
Harold looked human enough, except for what could have been a really nasty skin condition. I wondered what had happened to him. You see, I'd learned about mutations back in the Vault. Radiation causes mutations when it damages a person's eggs or sperm, or the organs that produce them... and then only in person's offspring. Those old trillervids and holoflics showing people zapped by radiation and getting turned into horrible monsters were all pure nonsense.
But Harold seemed to be the proof that the books were wrong, that direct mutations could occur, and did. He claimed that he'd been a merchant —— a fully human merchant —— after he'd emerged from his vault decades and decades ago. He'd been exploring a place up in the mountains to the northwest, someplace, when something had happened to him... his expedition wiped out and him nearly killed. After that, it was almost as though he'd been subjected to some kind of cancer that slowly took hold as the cells of his body reproduced, changing him from a human into... this.
Contamination. Something, radiation, possibly, or a bacteriological agent, existed out there in a form that could contaminate a person and change him into a mutant, despite everything the textbooks claimed was possible.
I was not at all a pleasant thought.
- 3 January, 121 days to go
I am all too aware of how many other lives are riding on my life. Each day's survival on the Outside is a victory, and I don't dare take unnecessary chances that will cost us everything.
One thing I decided was necessary was a source of income. This was never something I had to worry about in the Vault, where everyone worked at their assigned task in exchange for food, clothing, and shelter. There, if you don't work, you don't eat, a simple and practical survival philosophy that I and all my fellow Vault dwellers were raised on from the cr che. Here on the Outside, survival is often a hardscrabble, hand-to-mouth affair. I've seen lots of people who manage a marginal existence by begging, living off the scraps and charity of passersby. That's not for me. I intend to earn my keep out here.
At the center of the Hub's downtown area is a pole on which are posted job offerings. One posting in particular caught my attention. Butch Harris, head of the Far Go Traders, is determined to find out who or what is responsible for the disappearances of all those caravans.
I remembered what several people had told me and considered trying to find the Deathclaw cave, but I didn't feel ready for that challenge yet, not by myself, at any rate. I decided to hire on with a Far Go caravan that is leaving next Tuesday for a place called the Brotherhood of Steel.
In the meantime, I consider taking out a loan at the Friendly Loan Company, but the boss there, Lorenzo, struck me as a thoroughly oily slecker, bad news all around. The interest he charged on his loans would have put me in debt deeper than my Vault's sub-cellar. He did give me one useful tip, though, by telling me that a guy named Decker pays good for certain services. Decker, I gather, is a real power around here. He could be found at a local watering hole called the Maltese Falcon.
- 4 January, 120 days to go
I decided to pass up Mr. Decker's offer. It took some doing to get past Cain, Decker's assistant in the Maltese Falcon [elsewhere it's Kane], but Lorenzo's name seemed to open the door. The job Decker had in mind, though, involved killing a merchant and his wife over in the Heights District of the Hub. It would have paid 3,000 Hub Bucks if I'd accepted, but I decided that cold-blooded murder-for-hire just wasn't the best possible career path for me. Decker said he was disappointed and gave me a rather strong warning that his offer was confidential, but it doesn't look like I'm on his hit list or anything.
The episode has given me a new understanding, though, of life on the Outside, without law. Sometimes I yearn for my safe, secure old life back in the Vault.
But then, other times...
I have to admit that I enjoy the freedom, the sense of responsibility that comes with life on the Outside. I just hope I can live up to the trust the Vault and the Overseer have placed in me.
- 10 January, 114 days to go
Now I see why they hire on extra guards for these caravans. They jumped us today, just before we were due to reach the Brotherhood of Steel, a pack of raiders and human rejects who spread out across the desert pass we were moving through and opened fire without even a challenge. They outnumbered us, but we, fortunately, had the better weapons. I had that shotgun I'd gotten from Killian, and when I ran out of shells, I switched to my faithful Colt 10-mike-mike. Running to the left, I managed to circle around to the bad guys' flank, and that seemed to confuse them. At one point, one of their people fired at me and hit one of his buddies, and the next thing we knew, several of the raiders were blazing away at each other. Half of them had spears anyway, instead of firearms, and before too long, they were all dead, with only two casualties on our side.
Life on the Outside must be pretty damned tough to drive people to act this way, though. Still, I checked each of the bodies, distasteful as that was, and came away with extra 10mm ammo, two more pistols, an ancient rifle held together with wire, and several bags of bottle caps. I have over a thousand in caps, now, enough to keep me going for quite a while, on top of the caps I'm getting for this caravan gig.
I also picked up a black leather jacket —— hot outerwear for the desert, I admit, but better protection than my blue Vault coveralls. Besides, black leather makes me look killer cool...
- 11 January, 113 days to go
I'd been curious about Brotherhood of Steel. Some of the folks back in The Hub obviously didn't trust them, but they sounded like interesting people with a penchant for high technology —— like they worshiped the stuff, almost. Well, as a Vault brat, I could sure relate to that. If technology is all that keeps you alive with the howling wastes at your Vault door, then you tend to think of it in respectful terms... or even with just a touch of reverence and awe.
The guys who met us inside the wire enclosure where obviously tech-heavy and maxed on the hardware. Armored suits that made them look like walking tanks... if you know your pre-War military tech. Big rifles that had a businesslike look to them. I talked to one of the guards, a cute and almost shy young guy named Cabbot, who told me quite a bit even though he said he wasn't supposed to talk to "outsiders" like me. I was so surprised at being though an "outsider" that I nearly laughed at him, but I managed to control the instinct. Cabbot is nice, in a puppy-dog kind of way.
The way I figured it, the purifier chip is high-tech, and that means the people I have to talk to should be the highest-tech folks I can find. From what I've learned so far, that's the Brotherhood.
Unfortunately, they won't take in just anybody. I asked Cabbot if I could join, and he got so excited at the prospect of a new face in the Brotherhood that he ran off to talk to his elders. He came back a bit later though to tell me that I would have to pass a little test first. Several days travel to the south, he said, were the ruins of the Ancient Order. Go there and find... something. He didn't tell me what. Just something that would prove to his elders that I'd been there.
Okay, but what? Cabbot wouldn't say... or he didn't know. Maybe I'll know when I see it.
If I see it.
If I can even figure out what it is I'm supposed to be searching for.
- 16 January, 108 days to go
It seems like I've been walking forever. After failing to get in with the Brotherhood of Steel, I elected to hire on with the caravan for the trek back to The Hub. We were attacked again midway, and again killed our attackers at a relatively small cost to us. I took a couple of rounds in my leg which slowed me down, but I killed two of the cave rats... and one of them was carrying an ugly little submachine gun that ate 10-mike-mike and fired in flesh-splattering bursts.
I scavenged more ammo, of course, another three hundred bottle caps, some more pistols —— I figured those would be useful as trade-ins and barter back at The Hub —— and something else. The guy with the subgun was wearing body armor, heavy gray stuff that provided decent protection from small arms fire on his upper torso; I know that because I had to shoot him five times while someone else shot him four before he went down and stayed down. The armor wasn't too dinged up, so I packed away my jacket —— with just a small sigh; the leather looked so good on me —— and, ignoring the wet, rusty stains, put on the armor
It was heavy, but not as clumsy as I thought it would be, and, believe me, I felt lots safer.
Besides, this stuff looks max-killer highfash, too. And, better yet, now I have a machine gun...
- 24 January, 100 days to go
Well, business is good, even if I don't know exactly where to go next. After I returned to the Hub, I sold off a lot of the stuff I picked up in the desert —— all of the extra knives and firearms, the leather jacket, and even the shotgun I'd gotten from Killian. Ammo was getting to be a problem for that thing, and both my Colt and the SMG take 10mm, either full metal jacket or hollow points, so that simplifies my reload logistics considerably.
As for where to go next, well, I've been hearing lots of stories. There's the Deathclaw that Harold claims to have seen and everyone else thinks is just a wild story. I have to decide whether that option is worth the risk, though. There's talk of places down south, which made me think about what Cabbot had said. It's called "the Angel's Boneyard," and it's supposed to be enormous, a whole, vast city big enough to swallow a hundred Hubs. There's something else down there called "The Glow," and most people give a little shudder or a scared roll of the eyes when they talk about it... if they talk about it. Sounds like another superstition to me. I think, though, that The Glow is where the Brotherhood wants me to go. The place is supposed to be radioactive.
Well, I'll find out soon enough. I'm beginning to think I could set up in business for myself here in the Hub, just hiring on as an extra gun for the outbound caravans and selling off the loot I collect from unpleasant strangers along the way... but the reminder on my PIP tells me I've only got 100 days before my Vault-kin start dying of thirst.
I can't abandon them. I can't abandon my quest.
So, first thing tomorrow, I've decided, I'm striking out on my own.
I'm going south.
- 28 January, 96 days to go
Well, Adytum was pretty much a bust. It's a safe enclave, so-called, in the midst of the vast wilderness of stark ruins called the Boneyard. The people there weren't hostile, exactly, but they weren't friendly either. From what I was able to gather, they've been having problems with a local gang, the Blades. The coincidence of that name, the Blades, with my nom de voyage, made me wonder if that was why the Adytumites were so guarded in their reactions toward me.
Nah... They were watching me suspiciously before I said my name was "Blade." In any case, they made it clear that I would be welcome if, and only if, I did something to help them with their gang problem.
Sounds good. But how do I do I pull it off?
- 29 January, 95 days to go
I have a sense that all is not as advertised. I get a bad feeling at Adytum, and something tells me the Blades aren't the evil characters Jon Zimmerman, at Adytum, claim they are. I did some exploring, wandering around Blades' hangout, then heading east... where I nearly got scragged by some big, orange nightmares that I'm pretty sure are vault-kin to the Deathclaw Harold told me about. East of that was a warehouse occupied by heavily armed folks with some killer-cool hardware and weapons. Most of the stuff was too expensive for my tastes, but it's good to know they're there. I was able to pick up six fragmentation grenades and several plasma grenades, as well as some ammo.
I double-timed it back past the Deathclaws. A pack was out hunting and I almost didn't make it, even with the grenades to help. Took some damage... and decided to stay with the Blades for a day or two until I recovered.
I don't think I'm going to pursue the thing with Zimmerman's vendetta.
- 31 January, 93 days to go
Today I found another group of survivors, a kind of vault on the Outside. They call themselves the Followers of the Apocalypse, and they're a group of people, mostly pretty young, who came here from somewhere further south and settled down in the Boneyard ruins.
The Followers do seem to have a hopeful outlook on life, which is more than I have sometimes. They're also not entirely sweetness and light, from what I've been able to gather, they hate the Children of the Cathedral with a black passion, and they're not afraid to fight them if they have to. They keep talking about the time when they will have to fight the Children and their "dark god."
The leader of the Followers is a capable-looking woman named Nicole. She told me a lot about her group, and about the Children as well. They see the Children as evil, as a threat to everyone. Their leader, Morpheus, seems to have been a member of the Rippers before he was "enlightened" be the "dark god." There's talk about how people who don't share the Children's vision tend to disappear.
Chilling stuff. I've seen the Children before in my travels; there was a hospital in the Hub. The Children I met always gave me the cold shivers when I met them, them and their robotic, glassy-eyed interjections about peace and unity. I'm not sure how much I believe of Nicole's version of things, but it's clear that I'm going to have to check the Children out sometime soon. If half of what I've heard is true, they could be as great a threat to the vault as a lack of fresh water.
But that lack of fresh water is my major problem right now, not religious fanatics in robes handing out flowers on street corners. I told Nicole I'd help her, and find out what I could about the COC, but I'm going to have to find that water chip first.
One good piece of news, though. Nicole told me I could make free use of the Follower base. In a locker there, I found some pills which I gather are called Rad-X. Those should protect me from the radiation I'm likely to encounter at The Glow.
- 12 February, 81 days to go
I'd been hearing for a long time —— back in The Hub, and elsewhere —— about the place known as Necropolis. The City of the Dead? I would have thought that it was just another pack of superstitions and myths, except that I'd already seen enough to convince me that, here on the Outside, just about anything was possible.
And the stories I'd hear didn't prepare me for the reality of the place by half. The Necropolis was inhabited all right, and by... by things that might have once been human, and might now just as well be dead.
Ghouls. Zombies. Gaunt, cadaverous beings they were, the skin rotting from their bones; my first thought was that they'd contracted some terrible wasting, disfiguring disease, and with a wild, heart-trumping terror I wondered if it was contagious.
I encountered the first of these creatures when I started exploring a building —— the sign called it a "motel," whatever that was —— and before long I was being chased by a pack of the things. They made such hopeless, easy targets, I held my fire at first. As they shambled out of the shadows, I wasn't even sure they had more intelligence than some kind of animal, but then I heard them calling to one another in low, garbled, unpleasantly liquid voices. Something about the way they kept emphasizing "fresh meat" wiped away any compassion I might have had for them. I killed a dozen at least before their numbers finally forced me into a sewer hole in the street.
The sewer system was a maze, dimly lit passageways zigzagging through the subterranean night in seemingly endless branchings of intersections, blind alleys, dead ends, and dank rooms filled with decaying, fetid tumbles of things I really didn't want to take a closer look at.
Mole rats. There were mole rats down there, shaggy, mat-furred crawlers like the monsters that had attacked me in Vault 15, though by this time I would gladly have faced an army of those crawling things instead of the shambling horrors I'd just escaped on the surface.
And there were corpses, too; the sewer's air was clogged with the foul stench of their decay, a smell so sickly and sickening I had to force myself to take each new breath. I tied a rag around my face to try to cut the smell; the effect was probably more psychological than anything else, but, at least, I was able to press on. The walls seemed to give of a soft, green-blue organic glow that made me wonder if I was exposing myself to deadly radiation down here, but I finally convinced myself that what I was seeing was the natural phosphorescence of decay, or possibly of some kind of fungus growing on the walls and floors and corpses. I was too glad of the light to question its source much. Had those tunnels been completely black, I know I never would have found my way clear of them.
Some time later, I encountered more ghouls.
I drew my SMG but held my fire at first, unwilling to blindly waste precious ammo. Instead of advancing on me, though, these pitiable creatures cowered; I tried talking to them and eventually convinced myself that all they wanted was to be left alone.
Interesting. I'd jumped to the conclusion that since the ghouls on the surface had attacked me on sight, all ghouls must be cannibalistic sociopaths looking for their next easy meal. It hadn't occurred to me that the ones I'd seen on the surface might have had some sort of agenda. I decided not to question too closely how they lived down here, how they survived, what they ate; so long as I didn't seem to be on their menu, live and let live was my motto... or, in this case, perhaps, it as live and let un-dead.
- 16 February, 77 days to go
The underground passageway led me at long last to a slime-covered ladder heading up to the surface once more. I emerged —— shoving aside a heavy, steel cover —— inside a curiously long and narrow room. A few moments' investigation convinced me that this was some kind of secret passage; the only ways out were the sewer and two doors, well-concealed and protected by small explosive trap devices of some kind. Though a narrow slit in the wall, I was able to look out into a vast chamber beyond, the main room, apparently, of an enormous building —— a church or cathedral, possibly, that had since been taken over for more secular purposes.
It looked like a throne room, a palace for the King of the Ghouls. The king himself was seated with his back to the first of the two trapped doors, and I decided that the room I'd emerged in must be a secret passageway giving the monarch a quick escape in times of need.
The king was flanked by several ghouls that I took to be his advisors; a ghastly, pale, shifting radiance nibbled at the shadows filling that huge room, and it took me a while to realize that the light was coming from a number of brightly glowing, once-human creatures imprisoned in cages to either side of the aisle leading to the foot of the monarch's raised dais. Their moans provided a macabre but somehow suitable background music in that palace devoted to death and cancerous decay.
I certainly couldn't leave my hiding place through that door; carefully deactivating the trap, I slipped through the second hidden doorway, entering a small room that appeared to be private quarters of some sort —— possibly those of the Ghoul King himself. I searched the room carefully —— I was becoming quite an accomplished thief by this time —— rifling it of some ammunition and a rifle before looking for another way out.
The only trouble was that the only way out was a doorway leading into the throne room itself; I wouldn't be able to leave without confronting the king himself.
There was no other way out of that room. Of course, I could have crept back to the secret passage and gone down the sewer pipe again, but I had a feeling that this king was an important link in a far larger puzzle. There were only three ghouls out there that I could see —— though others, no doubt, were within a short distance and would appear if an alarm were given —— and I had my SMG fully loaded, the chamber charged. I decided to confront this ghoulish monarch and see what else I could learn.
The king's name was Set.
"There'd better be a killer reason for standin' in my shadow," he said. His voice was clear the words distinct... but so strangely phrased and turned that I had trouble at first following them. "Does 'next on the menu' ring a bell for you... normie?"
I told him that I must've found the head man. "Simple time," he told me. "I'm Set. I'm in charge. Get it?"
I was more than happy to grant that he was in charge... especially when he indicated that he had a job that needed doing. "The mutants at the water shed need dirt-naps," he told me. "Makes my shadow grow. You slice 'em and rewards run to you. Info, too."
Water shed? I felt a sudden, sharp thrill. A water works in this city of the dead! Perhaps there I might find the end of my quest!
I readily agreed to King Set's terms. I would help him with his problem —— the mutants guarding the city's water plant. There was something a bit demoniac, however, in the way he assured me that he would not tell his ghoul legions about my mission, so that word would not leak back to the mutants. I would be on my own, against ghouls looking for "normals" like myself, and against the mutants as well.
No matter. I left the king on his throne, walking down that eerily lighted central aisle as those glowing, imprisoned things gibbered and moaned at my passing.
I found the water shed eventually, by finding another manhole. This one took me a short distance underground and came up inside a small building in a different part of the city. Moving stealthily, unwilling to give myself away in a premature firefight, I worked my way toward the largest building I could see, an L-shaped structure to the north. There was, it appeared, only one way in.
The creature facing me inside was monstrous, a towering, green-skinned horror of a living mountain at least ten feet tall, with muscles bulging through taut, leathery skin. It was carrying the biggest damned gun I'd ever seen, a laser rifle that gave this monster the firepower of a small army.
"Hey! You not look like Ghoul!" the creature demanded. "How come?" This guy might be as big as a house and as strong as a brahmin, but he wasn't very bright. I thought I would try to talk my way past him.
"That's because I dressed up really snazzy today," I told him. When he had problems with the word "snazzy," I asked him what he was doing there.
"Lou tell me watch place. Not let no one in. Not normals most. Take normals to the Lou." He looked at me as though an idea were trying to hammer its way through a foot or two of solid bone. "Hey..."
"But I'm not a normal!" I told him.
"Harry confused. You not ghoul. You not normal. What you?"
"I'm a new race of super mutant."
Well, it was worth a try. "No!" he boomed, and I knew that I wasn't going to be able to string this mutant-mountain on any further. "Harry know you not. Not like you."
Whipping up my subgun, I squeezed the trigger and sprayed the monster with half a clip. He shook himself as though I'd sprayed him with water. I dove for the doorway leading off to my right, hoping to put some wall between myself and that high-powered weapon.
A portion of the wall to my left exploded in whirling chips and fragments; splinters sprayed from the doorjamb; bullets snicked and cracked past my head, and I felt a double hammerblow in my back and side, lifting me up and flinging me forward into the narrow hallway beyond the door like a broken doll. My combat armor absorbed most of the impact, but I felt hot blood on my side, and the pain clawed at me like a living thing. I hit the floor hard, but it seemed to have no more effect than before.
Still, I might have been able to scramble clear, but then I heard a noise behind me. Turning, I saw three more of those mutant-mountain monsters emerging from a hallway off of the room.
I tossed a grenade at Harry, then dashed outside, pausing once to reload. I had feeling that I'd just bit off more than I could comfortably chew. Harry and his friends ambled after me —— and one of those other mutants was toting a gun damn near as big and nasty-looking as Harry's laser.
I ducked into a nearby alley, the pack of monsters close behind. I managed to clobber Harry again with a plasma grenade and get in another burst from my SMG, but they kept on coming!
Worse by far, I realized now that I was trapped. While four super-mutants had chased me into the alley, two more were coming in the other entrance, catching me between two lumbering masses of mutant flesh.
I thumbed the mag release on my subgun and snapped home another clip. The alley was too damned narrow to dodge this fresh attack, and I couldn't go back the way I'd come without running full-tilt into a deadly hail of laser fire. But there might be a way...
The lead super-mutant made a grab for me. I ducked and rolled, slipping beneath his clumsy blow. I was now surrounded by the two new mutants, who closed in on me as my back hit the cold unyielding wall.
Then Harry, the one with the laser rifle, exploded into the hallway, his weapon shrieking as bolts of energy buzzsawed through his close-packed relatives.
I fired a burst into one of the nearer mutants, and the monster screamed. Then I shifted my aim to Harry, who seemed so caught up in the bloodlust of the moment that he didn't care who or what he was shooting. One of the mutants went down like a toppling tree; I emptied another magazine into Harry, who was visibly hurt now... badly wounded, with blood streaming down his chest and arms even as he hosed down that closely packed hallway with wildly shrieking death. Another of the unarmed mutants died in a hideous dance of shredding flesh, blood, and muscle; I kept firing at Harry, by far the most deadly of the monsters, and at last he gave a shudder like an earthquake, swayed, then toppled over backward with a tremendous clatter of military hardware. I caught the other armed mutant with my last plasma grenade blowing his grotesque body to bloody pieces.
The last super mutant was almost dead, one arm chewed to a bloody pulp. A final burst from my SMG put him down for good, and the silence that followed was almost as shocking as the scream of the laser had been. For a long time, all I could do was slump back against a wall, trying somehow to recover some shreds of strength and rational thought. Set would be pleased, with the super-mutant guards "taking a dirt-nap." At the moment, all I could be happy about was the fact that I was still alive.
At last, though, I was able to move. The very first thing I did was divest Harry of his deadly toy. The weapon was heavy, of course, but not as heavy as I'd feared. I had to drop some of the accumulated trade goods I'd been lugging about in my pack... all but one of the knives and all of the extra pistols. With the lightened load, I was able to manage the laser; the extra weight, I thought, was going to drag at me, but the firepower that incredible weapon offered was just too damned wonderful to pass up. I managed to stow the other weapon as well... a short-ranged flamer, with the supply of fuel.
After that, I began to explore the building.
The water tanks and equipment I found deeper into the building didn't seem to be working. I eventually found another manhole cover in a small room at the far end of the building, and a ladder leading down.
Two levels down was something like a Vault, airlock standing open to the echoing silence of a cavern. I explored carefully. There were ghouls here, and several of those tragic, shambling, radiant creatures I thought of as "glowing ones." I found an elevator that took me down two more levels.
There was a computer there. And it was still operational!
I a very few moments, I'd found a schematic of the water distillation and purification system, traced a key circuit... and found at long last the purifier chip that I'd been seeking for so long. With trembling fingers, I reached into an open access panel and plucked the chip from its motherboard.
My quest, at last, was done.
As I prepared to leave the City of the Dead, my precious treasure safely stowed deep in my pack, I wondered if I hadn't simply replaced one quest for another. For decades, my Vault-kin had lived out their lives in the safety and seclusion of their underground fortress, with no news at all of developments on the Outside. Now, I was returning from that unknown world beyond the steel walls of their tiny, isolated haven; I was bringing with me not only life, but news of a world Outside they'd never even imagined.
And some of what I'd learned out here was deeply disturbing. The Children of the Cathedral and their disturbing allegiance to an unknown Master. The "Lou" who commanded super-mutants like Harry, directing them to hunt down "normals" and bring them to him. I could not escape the conclusion that all of these were united somehow, part of the same shadowy problem, and a threat to all "normals" on the Outside.
How long could my home Vault maintain its precarious isolation and safety hidden in the mountains? Not long, I thought. If the super-mutants conquered the Outside —— and that, I was increasingly convinced was their goal —— then it wouldn't be long before they rooted out at last every last hidden stronghold of normals and did... whatever it was that they did with them, in furtherance of their own agenda. I knew that I'd left a more than adequate trail already, with hints to the location of the lost Vault in the mountains to the north. Sooner or later, hostile forces would find the Vault and end forever its peaceful solitude.
My first duty was to see the water chip safely back to Vault 13, but I knew already that I would be returning to the outside world, to find the rest of the pieces of this increasingly complex puzzle, and end the threat to my people once and for all.
- 3 March, 62 days to go
I'm having decidedly mixed emotions now. Here I am, after almost three months of traveling on the Outside, home.
Why doesn't it feel that way?...
To say that the Overseer was glad to see me was something of an understatement, and the celebration last night in the Vault was unlike anything I'd ever known.
Still, the old place just didn't seem the same as I'd remembered it. I was so small... psychologically cramped, as well as cramped space. And dark...
Hardest of all were the questions, some good ones, some appallingly simple-minded. "Is it true that food isn't rationed out there?" "Is it true the water is glowing?" "Is it true that people eat each other?" "Is it true that there are still cities out there, with maybe a hundred or even two hundred people living in them?" "Is it true that the air is poisoned, that the ground is red-hot?"
"Is it true that people on the Outside all have two heads?" Well, the brahmins do, I told them, but those are food and draft animals, not people. I hadn't seen any human with two heads.
I answered the questions as completely and as honestly as I could, but I could tell that my answers often weren't satisfying, that in some cases they simply were not going to believe me. If you've believed something for all of your life, and someone, even someone you've known since they were a baby, comes up and tells you that they've seen it with their own eyes and that what you believed just isn't so... well, it's easier to disbelieve the messenger than to change your mind.
Maybe, though, some of the young ones would start thinking about leaving the Vault someday and exploring the Outside for themselves. I was more convinced than ever that we were going to have to leave our little steel-swaddled haven in the mountains. Life, the world, was Outside, and we would be left behind if we stayed in our hidden fastness.
All of that was for the future, though. For the present, the Vault had more serious problems. The water crisis had been averted, but the Vault's leaders had been deliberating over the information I'd brought back with the chip, and they were convinced now, as I'd been for some time, that a greater threat than death by thirst loomed over us all.
"The mutant population is far greater than could be expected by natural growth or mutations," the Overseer told me. "It looks like someone's generating new mutants. And at a startling rate."
So I'm going Outside once again, to find the lab or whatever it is that is creating new mutants. Again, the survival of the Vault is at stake.
Somehow, strangely, I'm not at all unhappy to be leaving the place that used to be my home...
- 4 April
They call the place "The Glow." From the sound of it, it's ground-zero of a major warhead strike dating back to the War, a whooping big, black hole in the empty desert still giving off rads and poisoning the area for miles around. I was glad I had the Rad-X I'd picked up from the Blades' hangout in the Boneyard.
I'd first heard of it, I think, in the Hub, though it was the Brotherhood that had given me actual location. I got to thinking about it after I left the Vault. Radiation is supposed to cause mutations, right? And I was looking for the source of mutations. And a place called "the Glow" must have its share of radioactivity. Not that it was actually glowing; the way I figured it, people who returned from the crater were so hot everyone figured they'd been getting 1000-rad suntans, and any place that hot had to glow.
The sides of the crater were so sharp-cut and steep, the ground so crumbly, that there didn't at first appear to be any way down. At one point, though, something like a twisted steel beam extended a short way out into the crater, and in the shadows below I could just make out what might be a ledge of hard stone, offering firm footing.
That length of rope I'd picked up so long ago in Shady Sands offered me my way down. Attaching it firmly to the steel beam, I took hold, swung my legs over the pit, and slowly lowered myself down into the darkness.
It was a base, a military facility of some kind. When I touched down on a solid floor of cracked concrete, I saw that I'd entered the upper level of a subterranean command center or office. It was dark down there, but not as dark as I'd expected. Some light came from the gaping hole in the ceiling, while the deeper levels still had some emergency lighting going.
There were bodies down there. I began searching them... a matter-of-fact reflex for me by now, despite its being a distasteful one. Almost at once I hit paydirt... a flat, shiny disk with a hole in the middle, like the holodisks we'd had in training back in the vault. This one had something scrawled on one side, and with some effort I managed to decipher it —— something about "the Brotherhood." I didn't know what was on the disk, or why it was here in this underground complex of the dead, but I knew with absolute certainty that this was what the guard at the Brotherhood sent me to find.
I didn't leave immediately, though. The base was large and infinitely promising. I searched it top to bottom, finding a number of useful pieces of equipment.
So... next stop, the Brotherhood. I think they'll let me in now. I hope so, because I think they may have the answers to some important questions.
- 2 May
The Brotherhood is... How shall I begin? They're an interesting group, close-knit and a bit standoffish, at first, though I found myself soon welcomed into the daily life here. In their own way, they're as isolationist as the leaders of my Vault. They all but worship high technology, and claim to be from an Ancient Order that sprang from the ruins known today as the Glow.
The Brotherhood disk I found on the corpse in the Glow was, indeed, my passport to the order. Before long I was attending training session in hand-to-hand, running simple errands, and even being allowed to check out some interesting weapons, like rocket launchers and laser pistols. On one mission, I got to return to the Hub, where an initiate of the Order was being held prisoner by Decker; the skuz was torturing the guy for information about the Brotherhood. I rescued him, then went to the Hub police to tell them about Decker's attempt to assassinate someone. The scene ended in a shoot-out in Decker's office beneath the Maltese Falcon.
I killed both Decker and his chief henchman Kane myself.
The most important thing I could do, though, was tell them all I'd learned or suspected about the mutant problem. Vree was most interested in my information. She is the Brotherhood's master scribe and the keeper of all the Brotherhood's knowledge.
One day, our conversation turned to the super-mutants I'd encountered, and which the Overseer claimed were being produced somewhere at an alarming rate. "All the mutants have been sterile," she told me. "They can't breed with another creature, mutated or otherwise, and produce living offspring. If we could clean up the mutation sources, we should be able so simply outlive the mutants."
"Interesting theory," I said. "Any proof?"
She gave me a holodisk. "It's got copies of my autopsies on mutant corpses," she said. "It clearly shows that no mutant could possible reproduce successfully."
I accepted the disk. I would want to study it carefully, later on. The information seemed to support the Overseer's worries. If the mutants weren't being born, someone had to be creating them.
And that someone had to be stopped.
- 9 June
The Cathedral. It's got to hold the answer.
I'd been thinking about the Cathedral a lot, ever since my interview with Nicole and the Followers. I'd promised to investigate the activities inside that vast, grim, and forbidding edifice. As I entered the forbidding, deep-shadowed portals, I was more certain than ever that I would find here the key to the riddles I faced. Nicole had mentioned the "Nightkin," Morpheus and his "dark god," and hinted at goings-on behind the altar that might very well have a bearing on my new quest.
I elected to take the direct approach. I considered trying to find Laura, the Follower spy, but decided to investigate on my own, first. If I ran into trouble, I could always look for her then. When I was challenged by someone in purple robes, in an out-of-the-way library near the back of the Cathedral, I killed him, using my laser rifle to keep the sound down. My victim, a thug named Lasher, carried a red pass key that I knew would be useful. Useful, too, were the purple robes he wore. I found I could carry my minigun concealed beneath them... and the purple might well let me pass unobserved through places where an outsider would not normally gain admittance.
The red key, it turned out, opened a door behind the altar. At the top of a long flight of stairs, I encountered my first Nightkin, a hulking, powerful super-mutant armed with a minigun... and apparently enmeshed in some type of field that made it difficult to see him. I tried sneaking past but then encountered Morpheus himself, who turned out to be more than a little suspicious about my presence in his private chambers. I killed the former gang member... and then found myself in a furious firefight with two of the hideous Nightkin.
I killed them. It wasn't easy, and I was badly wounded... but I killed them, maneuvering between them at one point so that they fired into each other. A couple of plasma grenades I'd picked up from the Brotherhood helped, too. When the monsters were dead, I checked their bodies, relieving them of ammo and other goodies. Most intriguing were their StealthBoy units, handy little gizmos that seemed to bend the light around the wearer somewhat, making him difficult to see. The design suggested that they were powered by something like Small Energy Cells and that they would run dry after a time, but I thought they would be extremely useful in the mean time. I took them both.
I also found another pass key, a black one, on Morpheus's body. That must open something interesting, I thought.
It did. I found the door downstairs, and steps leading down to a small room with a bookcase. When I investigated the shelves, something clicked and the bookcase swung out of the way, revealing a secret door.
Checking to see that my minigun was fully loaded and ready beneath my purple robes, I started down.
- 10 June
I wrote that last entry in the secret room at the bottom of the stairs. I spent some time there preparing, and it was well into the next day, by my PIPBoy, when I moved on.
A cavern led to a vault entrance. Inside, beyond the airlock, I found the elevator and took it down to the first level.
Strangeness upon strangeness. There were rooms with mad, gibbering people who seemed to read minds, a laboratory filled with tables and hideously dissected corpses, cells with prisoners and radioactive rats. I cannot begin to detail the horrors of that time, or of my explorations within those nightmare passageways and rooms. The elevator took me down another level, and here were more rooms, one filled, I could see, with waiting super-mutants. Pulling my robe close about me, I slipped past, finding myself at last in an operations room of some sort, a high-tech place of computers and instrument consoles.
I spent a long time there, unnoticed by the other technicians present. I accessed computer after computer, learning everything I could.
I knew, now, where the mutants were coming from. There was a base, a hidden military base from before the war, and in the deepest recesses of that base were the Vats.
I'd heard the term before. Now I knew, without a doubt, that the Vats were the source of the mutants.
I also knew something about the Master. I would have to kill him, this "dark god" of the Children. First, though, I would have to reach him.
A long, narrow passageway stretched from the Operations Center to my destination. My very first step made me feel dizzy... and sick to my stomach. A headache throbbed with my quickening pulse. There was nothing physical about that passageway that I could detect... but I could sense a kind of psychic hammering at my brain, a mental assault that savagely tore at my perception and awareness of who and what I was, a cold and vicious rape of my mind and memories. It was as though I was sensing, feeling, experiencing the sins and nightmares and mental anguish of myriad others, and the feeling increased a hundred-fold with every step that I took. The walls of the corridor were covered with raw and bleeding flesh; it was as though I was walking into the very bowels of some hideous and bloated beast. With each step, I thought my knees were going to buckle. Somehow, I kept going.
And then I stood before the Master.
How can I describe this being? Twisted and malformed, huge, infinitely evil... the... the thing appeared to be a blasphemous blending of flesh and metal, of organic and computer, of life and death. I knew from my researches thus far that the Master once had been human, but that exposure to the FEV virus in the Glow had changed him somehow, and in the years since, he'd somehow absorbed other bodies besides his own and meshed, somehow, with the machines that now supported him atop a high pedestal in the center of the room.
Robots watched impassively from either side, but I knew the principal danger in this room was the Master himself. There were weapons —— Gatling lasers, I thought —— build into his undercarriage.
But deadlier still was the vicious, demoniac mind withing that nightmare assemblage of flesh and steel.
"So, what shall it be?" the Master demanded. "Do you join the Unity, or do you die here?" The creature's speech was as terrifying as his appearance. As he spoke, other voices seemed to chime in, a fearful chorus that echoed his main theme. "Join! Die! Join! Die!" Most of the voices sounded more or less human, but I heard, too, the inhuman and granting tones of a machine.
I demanded proof that his Unity was best for humanity. At first, he insisted that he didn't need to prove anything, but when I told him that I couldn't know that he represented the future unless he proved it, he began talking.
The Unity, he claimed, would bring about the master race and end the fighting that had torn humanity throughout history and ended at last in the holocaust of nuclear and biological war. Mutants, he claimed, were best equipped to deal with the modern world. Normals would be turned into mutants... or allowed to live out their days under Unity control and protection.
Those surviving normals would not be allowed to breed, of course. They would be the last of the human race, replaced at last by the super mutants,
I told him that his mutants were sterile. I thought he was going to blow a circuit at first, and he insisted the the FEV-2 virus didn't harm the reproductive organs of those it mutated.
"Maybe the virus didn't sterilize people once," I told him, as reasonably as I could. "But it does now."
He demanded proof... and I gave him the FEV disk that Vree had given me.
At first he thought I was trying to trick him with a forgery, but when I told him he was denying the facts in front of him, he started to crack.
"But it cannot be! This would mean that all my work has been for nothing!" The multiple voices chimed in, chilling and terrifying, a cacophony of death and despair. "It can't be! Be! Be! Be! ..."
"Your race will die out after this generation," I told him.
"I don't think that I can..."
"Continue," the computer part of him completed the thought. Once-human voices echoed it. "Continue?"
"It was madness..."
"There is no hope. Leave now, leave while you still have... hope."
It was a human voice speaking now... or a voice that once had been human and was finding now perhaps some small shred of that humanity, still alive, trapped inside the monstrous bulk before me.
A machine voice —— not the Master's, but another computer voice from somewhere above me —— announced six minutes remaining. Clearly, the Master had decided to end his gruesome, terrible experiments in biology and the social sciences in some definite and spectacular way...
I ran for the elevator as fast as I could manage.
I barely made it out of the Cathedral in time...
- 15 July
I'd learned everything I could about the military base from the computers in the Operations Center of the Master's vault. Now, I was about to put it to a test. I had a number of allies now, and I considered calling upon them, but the plan I'd formulated would only work if I could slip into the Military Base without setting off an alert. If my plan didn't work, well, I'd have to back off and try another tack... and maybe a frontal assault would be the only option we would have.
As it was, I had surprisingly little trouble getting past the first set of guards. The robe and the StealthBoy let me slip inside the gate, and I was able to kill one super-mutant with a swift, sudden burst of flamer fire from the back when he wondered off away from the rest. I found a radio on him and took it.
One guard, though, just stood in front of the door leading into the face of the cliff. I knew I had to kill him fast to avoid alerting the base; two hard, full bursts from my flamer took him down before he could sound the alarm. The gate security code was on him, along with another radio and a laser, and I was able to slip in through the front door.
I knew from my studies of the Master's computers that there were force fields in this base blocking off key corridors and positions. If the base went on alert, those fields would be up and I would find my movements sharply restricted. With the fields down, and my face and body comfortably anonymous within my purple robe, I made my way through the base's upper level, searching for the Computer Control Room. Eventually, I found it... and there I found the force field control console. With two radios, I was able to pull a quick Mr. Fix-it, by wiring one of the radios into the force field control console's input circuit, and setting the other to the same frequency. Now, even if the alert sounded, I should be able to toggle the base force fields on or off.
Deeper into the facility, then, a high-tech wraith in purple robes. On the upper Vats level, I had to negotiate a security corridor, a fiendish piece of work that included lasers, explosive mines, plasma weapons, and strands of monofilament wire all set to wreck havoc on the person of any incautious intruder.
I was more than cautious, however, and I'd been warned about what to expect. I took the security passage slowly and step by step, analyzing each patch of floor in front of me carefully before moving further.
I passed through the security corridor at last, making my way to Security Elevator B. That took me down one level more, to Vats Level 2.
The Lieutenant wasn't as tough or as weird as his now-defunct Master, but he was quite a piece of work. He confronted me just outside his room, and I had to open up with my flamer. No time for finesse now. I blazed away, sending a stream of crackling flames searing across his misshapen body. He fired back, a burst from his energy weapon leaving a smoking scar on the wall behind me as I ducked and twisted to escape his return fire. I fired again, and tossed a plasma grenade that staggered him with its blast, knocking him back a step. I fired a final time, emptying my shrieking weapon into his chest.
And then the Lieutenant was dead.
There was only one remaining task now. With the firefight, of course, the entire base was now on alert. A final force field barred my way into the Vats control room, and, down here, my jury-rigged radio control didn't work.
There was another option, though. A great, hulking Mr. Handy maintenance robot stood inoperable in a passageway. Examining its control board, I soon got it back in operation. Its function was cleaning... and it had not finished its assigned task. Giving it the order complete its task, I then stood back, grinning, as it slammed into the force field, shattering... but opening the way!
Inside the Vats control room, a dozen technicians or so were scrambling about in obvious confusion and disarray. I found one control that shut down every force field in the base —— a good idea if I wanted to sprint for safety when this was through —— and then I identified the control panel that controlled the Vats themselves, the tanks where so many pure-strain humans had already been "dipped" in the Master's FEV solutions and transformed into monstrosities like Harry or the Lieutenant.
My last pack of dynamite went onto the control panel, with the timer set for six minutes. It was time to leave.
I got into one firefight on the way out, when a particularly obnoxious super-mutant decided to challenge my right to run the 100-meter dash in under twenty seconds. I hit him with a laser burst and kept on going, slipping into the elevator just ahead of the answering burst from his minigun.
I've never known an elevator to crawl so slowly....
I emerged on the surface just ahead of the rumbling thunder that announced that my handiwork had been executed.
The Master was dead, and now his legacy, the lab where the super-mutants had been created, was destroyed.
It was time to go home.
- 3 August
Is this what it's like to be a hero? That's what they called me, you know.
"There's no way the people of the Vault can ever thank you for what you've done," the Overseer told me the evening I returned again to the Vault. "You've saved all our lives. Who knows, maybe even saved the human race. That makes the rest of this even harder...."
I wasn't sure what he was getting at. A moment before, he'd seemed so happy, so excited at the news that the Vault, his precious Vault, was safe from the mutant army.
"Everyone will want to talk to you," he went on. "Every youngster will look up to you. And want to emulate you. And then what? They'll want to leave. What happens to the Vault if we lose the best of a generation?..."
My head was whirling. He wasn't! He couldn't!
"I've made a lot of tough decisions since I took this position," he said, sadness pulling at his voice. "But none harder than this one. You saved us, but you'll kill us.
"I'm sorry. You're a hero... and you have to leave."
I was being exiled from the only place that had ever been home to me.
Still, though I was shocked and angry at first, I'm beginning to think that maybe, just maybe, the Overseer is right. This Vault can't hold me any longer. It's too small, the horizons too narrow, the possibilities too... limited. Once, I know —— I've been paging through this journal, trying to remember the feelings behind the words I wrote months ago —— I know I've changed. Grown. Once, I was terrified of the Outside. Now, well... Outside is more of a home to me now than these gray and claustrophobic walls. It's time that I moved on.
Change is the only constant. The world Outside has changed —— drastically —— from the world of eighty years ago. Now, the survivors of humanity are beginning to work to change things again, for the better, this time. I can help them.
And maybe change will even come to the tight little box of life that is Vault 13. It will have to. They can't live in that box forever.
I know I can't.
I'm going Outside, where I can breath free, non-recycled air, and help build a new world.
It will be there waiting for them when they overcome their fear, smash the shackles and bars in their minds, and come out of the prison that they've manufactured for themselves beneath the sands of the desert...