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Vault 4 is a Vault-Tec Vault located beneath the Hawthorne Medical Laboratories campus in Los Angeles, California in the Fallout TV series.


Before the Great War, Vault 4 was featured in advertisements and Vault orientation videos, with Cooper Howard serving as the spokesman. The Vault's experiment was publicly revealed in these advertisements: it would be governed by scientists living and working there full-time (technocracy). Lloyd and Cassandra Hawthorne, two prominent researchers on the effects of radiation on DNA, as well as their two children and 80 other volunteers, signed up to live in the Vault for a five-year trial before the Great War to show that society would survive even in a Vault. Lloyd Hawthorne eventually became the Vault's overseer after the Great War.[1]

Sealed on the day of the Great War, the Vault became a part of the Vault experiment, examining the performance of a society governed entirely by scientists with no limits on their control and decisions. However, the Vault's governance by scientists led to unrestricted research, including human testing, which led to the scientists' downfall. Luring wastelanders into the Vault, the scientists subjected them to mutation experiments, including hybridizing humans with radiation-resistant species, leading to the creation of creatures such as gulpers.

Subject 476

Subject 476 giving birth to gulpers

Each experiment was carefully recorded for analysis, including one of the victims of these experiments giving birth to a school of gulpers, who proceeded to eat her alive in the birth tank. The horrific nature of the experimentation led to a rebellion by the test subjects,[2] who unleashed the mutated victims on the scientists. Overseer Hawthorne and his wife tried to barricade themselves outside the specimen laboratory, but the gulpers managed to break through the barricade, eating them both alive. In his final log, the overseer was unapologetic, insisting that hybridizing humans with radioactive-resistant species still had potential, as did a society governed entirely by scientists.[3]


In full control of the Vault, the former test subjects decided to use it for the betterment of humanity, establishing a democratic system and instituting a policy of accepting refugees from the outside world, turning them into Vault dwellers. Those victims who could not be cured of whatever experiment was inflicted on them were placed in stasis pods on level 12 until such a time that the Vault could come up with a cure for their condition (aborting the gulpers appears to have been impossible).[2] The survivors of the science experiments kept the Vault actively maintained with the help of surface foraging parties, returning with gear, spare parts, and other supplies.[4] One complication was that the genetic damage inflicted by the Hawthornes and their lot was hereditary, leading to random mutations: Additional noses, ears, and/or other organs, glowing eyes, and in the case of future overseer Benjamin, a single eye in place of the usual two. Changes did not affect their general faculties, and many of the children born into the Vault thought of themselves as genuine Vault dwellers. The aforementioned Benjamin, a claimed relative of the gulper who killed the Hawthornes (his Great-Uncle Peter), considers himself a fifth-generation Vault dweller, for example.[5]

This policy remained consistent over the generations and was crucial following the bombing of Shady Sands. Fleeing the blast, the survivors were accepted and integrated into the Vault family. However, there was some friction with the eccentric Overseer Benjamin and his tendency to make inappropriate jokes (such as one about Shady Sands' destruction which, both literally and figuratively, was a "huge bomb").[5][6]

To cope with the trauma of losing everything, the refugees had regular history lessons on the past, revisiting crucial milestones in the New California Republic's development, such as its 2198 foundation, and kept the memory of Shady Sands alive. The most important part of these efforts to remember were religious rituals performed in the atrium regularly. Considered too rambunctious by the Vault's mutated dwellers,[7] these services were led by Birdie at an altar covered in produce, candles, and pictures of NCR president Aaron Kimball, and included ritualistic nudity and covering oneself in ashes and blood, to symbolically bring back the people and the city lost. They also invoked the "Flame Mother" Lee Moldaver, an NCR commander, as their future salvation and apparently created a cult worshiping her.[8][9]

Arrival of Lucy and Maximus[]

The Past Vault 4

Lucy and Maximus arriving in Vault 4

In 2296, after Maximus was shot in the arm by a cannibal, Lucy MacLean takes him into Hawthorne Medical Laboratories to find medical supplies. However, they are trapped and dropped down the hatch originally used by the Hawthornes to lure in wastelanders.[10] After coming to, they find themselves in Vault 4, where the doctor treats Maximus' wounds and are quarantined for a short time before being introduced to the Vault at large, seemingly expected to stay long-term. While Lucy is relieved to be in a Vault again, Maximus is unnerved by how eerily happy everyone seems, warning Lucy that the Vault inhabitants might be a cult. Lucy did not find anything wrong until Overseer Benjamin greeted them, and she noticed Dr. "Nose" Edmundson and Nurse Powell, bearing visible mutations.[9]

Lucy's subsequent meeting with Overseer Benjamin and discussing the Vault's open policy ended on a sour note: After Benjamin's tactless joke about the nuking of Shady Sands, she inquired about level 12 and the instructions to stay out of it, leading to Benjamin politely throwing her out of his office. After witnessing the ritual for Shady Sands and Lee Moldaver's likeness, she resolved to investigate level 12. Maximus had a different path, particularly after Birdie offered him the spare unit 428, complete with a hot shower and a basket full of consumables. To a wastelander who never had either, it was the moment he resolved to stay and refused to go with Lucy to break the one rule they were given.[9]

Taking advantage of the Vault's lax security, Lucy easily gained access to level 12, discovering remnants of Vault 4's original science experiments. After watching an undated experiment tape showing the horrific gulper birth and the cryo pods holding test subjects the new Vault dwellers were unable to save, she concluded that the mutated denizens were responsible for the atrocities. This led to a confrontation when Dr Edmundson arrived to investigate the open doors, believing it to be a containment breach. Injuring the doctor with a beaker of acid, Lucy was caught by dwellers arriving to deal with the containment breach.[9]

In the subsequent trial in the atrium, the whole story was explained to Lucy. Despite her ignorance of either Vault 4's story or the experiment at Vault 33, she was condemned and put on trial.[2] The decision was made to put her to death - by banishing her to the surface with two weeks' worth of supplies. The elaborate banishment ritual involved a dull execution sword, one factor that led Maximus to erroneously believe the dwellers were trying to kill Lucy. Stealing the power plant's fusion core to power up his T-60 power armor (recovered by the foraging parties), he interrupted the "execution", injuring several dwellers before Lucy intervened.[11]

Despite the incident, no further consequences were imposed, aside from banishing them both to the surface. The dwellers did not risk recovering the fusion core, even though backup power would only last a few days.[12] Rather than doom the Vault, Lucy persuaded Maximus to return the core and abandon the T-60, which they did by simply dumping it down the trapdoor at Hawthorne Medical, with the elated Vault 4 dweller assigned to scrub the capture room thanking them up the chute.[9]


FOTV Hawthorne Medical Laboratories

The Hawthorne Medical Laboratories building

Vault 4 is located beneath Hawthorne Medical Laboratories building, with the main bunker housing the entrance on a nearby plain, completely desertified by 2296. The Hawthorne building is connected to the Vault via a chute located inside the building, repurposed as a trap, luring people in with the promise of medical supplies.[10]


The atrium full of greenery

The actual Vault is identified as model 96JQ1164,[1] twelve levels deep (all numbered except for level 1, the surface, identified as G or Ground), with the dominant feature being the atrium: A large communal space three floors high, used for social gatherings, meals, and other activities requiring the participation of the entire Vault.[10]

It is designed for 200 inhabitants, with each family provided a living unit in one of the "neighborhoods" (discrete living quarter areas named, e.g. Sycamore Street) that can accommodate two adults and two children in comfort, protected by three feet (~92 cm) of lead casing and earth covering. The units are standard designs shared with Vault 33 and others, fitted with all the modern amenities.[1]


Lucy and Benjamin in the overseer's office

The Overseer's office overlooks the atrium, like in many other Vaults, and other facilities used on a daily basis connect to it, such as the classroom. Vault dwellers are free to move around the Vault and access even sensitive areas, including the fusion power plant. The only area that's off-limits is level 12, where the laboratories used by the original scientist contingent are located, including the genetic research laboratory filled with leftovers of their unethical research, and the cryo suspension tubes, some still occupied.[9]

Vault 4 is mentioned as having only one foosball table, and the Vault's washrooms are said to be confusing for newcomers to use.


Vault 4 appears in the Fallout TV series episodes "The Past", "The Trap", and "The Radio".

Behind the scenes[]

  • The chalkboard in the episode includes a timeline of events for the New California Republic, which placed the Fall of Shady Sands in 2277. Confusion in the community led some to decide that it meant Fallout: New Vegas never happened in the show timeline. Todd Howard clarified in an interview with IGN the following week that this is not the case:
“And we talked through it, and it was, ‘This would be a pretty impactful story moment that a lot of things anchor on,"' Howard says.

But for anyone confused about how the city could be blown up by the time the show takes place, Howard explains that all the timeline details should line up. “We’re careful about the timeline,” he says. “There might be a little bit of confusion in some places. But everything that happened in the previous games, including New Vegas, happened. We’re very careful about that.”

“All I can say is we’re threading it tighter there, but the bombs fall just after the events of New Vegas.
  • Vault 4 was first shown in a video used at the Fallout display at CCXP 2023 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The full video is presently unavailable anywhere online, but segments of it can be seen here.
  • Vault 4 is shown to be connected to the Hawthorne Medical Laboratories building. This could suggest that Vault is located in Hawthorne, California, a city in L.A. County; however, the company is more likely named after the Hawthornes, the Vault-Tec scientists who ran Vault 4. The Vault's (and Hawthorne Medical Laboratories') location is otherwise unknown, but other than that, it is near the remains of Shady Sands (at least where it is located in the show).



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Cooper Howard: "Oh. Hello there. Yep, it's me, Cooper Howard, star of stage and screen. But I'm not here today to talk to you about my latest picture. No, today I'm here to show you a vast and wonderful place, not made by God Almighty but by the working man. A veritable Camelot of the nuclear age. Now, how 'bout we turn on some lights. There, that's better. Now, I'm speaking to you from deep inside the fully-livable Model 96JQ1164. And what a beaut she is. And what a song she sings. Now, that right there is Vault 4's three-foot-thick lead casing. Strong enough to keep out the rads and the Reds. Each one of these underground burghs comes with all the modern amenities you've come to expect from our rip-roarin' republic. Now, this corridor here is Sycamore Street, where you'll wave howdy to any one of your 200 neighbors on your way home for an enchanted evening with your loved ones. Mm. Meet the Hawthornes. Now, this isn't just your average all-American family. No, Lloyd and Cassandra here are both scientists, specializing in the effects of radiation on human DNA."
    Lloyd Hawthorne: "That's right. And we'll be living and working right here in Vault 4, leading a community governed entirely by scientists."
    Cooper Howard: "Wait a second, did you say "living down here"? Well, there hasn't been a nuclear incident, has there?"
    Lloyd Hawthorne: "Uh, no, not yet. But, uh, our family and a group of 80 volunteers will be conducting a five-year trial of Vault 4. To demonstrate to the world that, no matter what comes our way, America will be ready."
    Cooper Howard: "Five years. Well, I may play a hero in the movies, but... you all are heroes in real life. And now you can be a hero, too. By purchasing a residence in a Vault-Tec vault today. Because if the worst should happen tomorrow, the world is gonna need Americans just like you to build a better day after."
    ("The Trap")
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Overseer Benjamin: "Sorry, I haven't, uh, seen that footage in a long time. But it's a stirring reminder of what this place is all about."
    Lucy MacLean: "I-I don't understand, I... In the lab, I-I saw your doctors..."
    Birdie: "Trying to ease the pain of the poor souls your people lured into this place. His ancestors were used as lab rats by the original residents of Vault 4. Until the lab rats rebelled."
    Benjamin: "The, uh, creature in the video was actually my Great-Uncle Peter on my mom's side."
    Lucy MacLean: "I'm so sorry. I... I had no idea the original vault dwellers here were so... so weird. I mean, my vault's not like this."
    Benjamin: "What was the experiment in 33?"
    Lucy MacLean: "W-Well, there is no experiment."
    Birdie: "Your ignorance cannot excuse your cruelty. You have infected our home with violence and now you must pay the price."
    Lucy MacLean: "No! Please. Please, I'm a good person."
    Note: Birdie calls the test subjects "poor souls your people lured into this place," with "your people" referring to the original Vault dwellers.
    ("The Radio")
  3. Lloyd Hawthorne: "Overseer Hawthorne, final log entry. At this point, it would be irrational of me not to acknowledge that these may be my last words. But despite our results here, I want to reiterate that a society governed by scientists--"
    Cassandra Hawthorne: "Honey! Hey!"
    Lloyd Hawthorne: "--really is the ideal social structure. What happened here should not be used as a case study for what happens when scientists are given unregulated control."
    Cassandra Hawthorne: "Lloyd, gimme a little help! --"
    Lloyd Hawthorne: "And-and... and-and hybridizing humans with radioactive-resistant species still has potential. Our test subjects were less compliant than we expected. Cassandra! Oh, no! No, no, no! No!"
    ("The Radio")
  4. Lucy MacLean: "We can't thank you enough for letting us in and taking care of us."
    Birdie: "It's what we do here. Oh, and we found his armor. Our surface foragers are bringing it back now."
    ("The Trap")
  5. 5.0 5.1 Benjamin: "But hey, that's something. You don't meet a natural-born vault dweller every day. We're a dying breed."
    Lucy MacLean: "Oh, you're... you're from here?"
    Benjamin: "Five generations, and proud of it."
    Lucy MacLean: "Ah. I just thought because... Because so many, uh, people here seem to be refugees from the surface."
    Benjamin: "Tell me about it. Ooh. These people. Am I right? I grabbed a moldy one."
    Lucy MacLean: "What do you mean by that?"
    Benjamin: "Well, you won't find anyone more open-minded than me, but they come in here with their smelly food and their weird ideas. You're from a vault. You get it."
    Lucy MacLean: "I-I don't understand. If you don't like people from the surface then why do you keep taking them in?"
    Benjamin: "It's a policy from before my time. But these newcomers, ooh, let me tell you, if you want to get elected, you have to respect their traditions and tolerate them and not call them "surfies." It's awful. What, you don't take in surface dwellers in your vault?"
    Lucy MacLean: "Well, to be honest, no, we don't."
    Benjamin: "What is that like?"
    Lucy MacLean: "No, I think what you're doing here is a really good thing. I saw what was left of Shady Sands. An entire city just destroyed in an instant. It... I mean, some of these people lost everything."
    Benjamin: "And that was a tragedy. So we took our share of them in and gave them a home because it's what we do. But it's like you can't make a funny joke about it without offending these guys. I mean, one funny joke I told on maybe ten occasions."
    Lucy MacLean:
    "What was the joke?"
    "I forget. All I know is it was a huge bomb. Pretty good, right?"
    ("The Trap")
  6. Birdie: "I was born on the surface."
    Lucy MacLean: "Oh. Uh, sorry. I-I didn't know. You seem so..."
    Birdie: "Normal? My mother was a courier. I was 11 and traveled with her to Filly. Three days' walk from home and we could still feel the heat from the blast."
    Lucy MacLean: "You're from Shady Sands."
    Birdie: "Many of us are. We were lucky to find such a hospitable community here in Vault 4."
    ("The Trap")
  7. Lucy MacLean: "Oh, uh, excuse me? What's going on?"
    Nurse Powell: "It's a Surface Dweller tradition. It can get a little rambunctious for my taste. You're welcome to come."
    Lucy MacLean: "Sure."
    "(The Trap")
  8. Chant: "Flame Mother, we remember. We bring back the past as we remember. We bring back Shady Sands... ...as we remember. We bring back those taken from us by covering ourselves in their ashes. To bring back Shady Sands, blood must spill. Oh, Flame Mother, you will be our salvation."
    ("The Trap")
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 9.5 Fallout, "The Trap"
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Fallout, "The Past"
  11. Fallout, "The Radio"
  12. Lucy MacLean: "Well, without their fusion core, their auxiliary power will only last a few days, and... and then what?"
    ("The Radio")