Crafting A Narrative

“35. The Skirmish” – Fallout 3 | Crafting A Narrative

35

Read Part 34: “The Enemy” here.

The world was bathed in purple and pink on our emergence from the Taft Tunnels, but the beauty of sunset was a secondary concern. Ranged around us with weapons drawn were Brotherhood of Steel soldiers.

Garza was already stumbling over his words, trying to explain our situation, but he was cut off by a female voice almost as soon as I’d stepped into the light. “Wanderer?”

Even through the muffled speaker of the armour, I recognised the ring of authority, “Lieutenant Lyons?”

“Stand down,” she ordered before addressing me again, “What are you doing here?”

All of the events that had transpired since last I saw her flitted through my mind. “There’s no time. Garza’s right; the Enclave are right behind us. We need protection.”

“How do we know you’re not with them?” The words came from one of the soldiers nearest Lyons.

Lyons ignored him. “Okay. Make for the Citadel. Tell them-“

Whatever she was going to say was cut off by a sudden explosion. The hatch we had climbed out of went soaring through the air, preceding the appearance of a number of Enclave soldiers who launched out of the Taft Tunnels. Laser fire rained down, sending the Brotherhood members scattering in all directions while Garza scooped up Janice again and began to run.

Somehow, it was only then that I noticed the fortress looming on the hill above us. Like Megaton, its outer walls were fortified by steel and masonry. The only difference, it seemed, was that this building was many times larger.

Even though the Brotherhood had engaged with the Enclave almost straight away, the four of us ‘civilians’ remained in grave danger. Whether intentionally aimed or not, beams of energy continued to lance around us. In the hope of being able to dodge one such beam if it came towards me, I was looking over my shoulder as I ran, and it was because of that that Garza’s sudden cry took me by surprise.

He’d been struck, his right leg from the knee down simply disintegrated.

I slowed to a stop, my mind struggling to process what had just happened. Agincourt, who had been ahead of Garza and me, had no such problem. He’d glanced over his shoulder when first the shout had rung out, before immediately turning around and sprinting back to his friend. They exchanged a few words, then Agincourt bent to pick up Janice. At the same time, a beam passed dangerously close to my head, filling my nostrils with the rank smell of burning hair and shaking me from the daze. I followed Agincourt’s example, running over to Garza.

“Looks like I won,” he smiled at me as I bent down to him.

“What are you talking about?”

“Daniel bet me ten caps you wouldn’t come over to help.”

I smiled back at him. “You should know I’m only doing it so that he doesn’t get all the credit of being a hero.”

Feeble as my joke was, Garza still laughed, though that stopped as I lifted him back to his feet, one arm draped over my shoulder to help him continue up the hill.

“I sure wish your Dad was here, kid. Most people looked up to him as the genius behind Project Purity, but he was the best doctor Rivet City ever had as well. I reckon he’d have my leg good as new.”

Though I could tell Garza was trying to make light of his situation, his words brought on a rush of memories of all the times I’d injured myself as a kid and Dad had bandaged me up. Tears started to my eyes, but I had to force them aside. It still wasn’t time to grieve. “I don’t think even he could fix that.”

He slumped, almost sending both of us crashing to the ground. “Damn. Ain’t you ever heard of breaking it to a man easy?”

At that moment, a gate leading into the building ahead of us began to slide open with a horrendous screech, disgorging dozens more Brotherhood of Steel soldiers. As they rushed past, I couldn’t help but turn to watch. It didn’t take much longer for the Enclave to notice the reinforcements, and for the skirmish to turn into a rout. A small detachment of the Brotherhood took off in pursuit, but most started back towards us.

“Do you think we can get a move on now? I think I could really do with a doctor.” Although Garza’s voice still carried something of the light-hearted, it was clear to hear that the pain was getting to him.

With a silent nod from me, we resumed our struggle to reach the top of the hill. Soon after, Agincourt came back, taking Garza’s other arm around his shoulders.

A brief, tense silence passed before, “Valken… I want to apologise for earlier. I acted like an a******e and, in return, you got us through, kept us alive. I’m sorry for the way I behaved.”

A part of me wanted to test just how conciliatory he was, but instead I nodded. “It’s fine. You were upset and confused and you thought you had good reason to not trust me. But it’s over now.”

“No it’s not.”

Garza turned his head towards Agincourt. “What you talking about?”

“Everything. Our lives. This battle we’ve been caught up in. Project Purity. None of it has reached its end.”

“Dan… It’s impossible. Everyone’s dead.”

“Hey!” A shout from behind brought the conversation to a premature end. “You three better stop where you are.”

We did as ordered, and the soldier soon stood before us. It was hard to tell with the armour, but I had the sense that it was the same man that had tried to accuse us of being with the Enclave.

“You will explain who you are and what you’re doing here.”

Suddenly, I’d had enough. Though I’d only been awake for a few hours, I was strung out. I’d seen and felt more than enough for any one day and to be accosted again—made to relive all of that—was too much. “Get the f**k out of the way. We need help, not this b******t. Lyons gave us the all-clear. That should be enough for you, you arrogant son of a whore!”

After a brief, stunned silence, Garza began to chuckle. “Feeling better?”

The soldier didn’t seem to find my outburst quite so funny, however. He levelled his weapon at me. “Are you sure that’s the attitude you want to take with me, boy? No-one would look twice if I killed an Enclave agent.”

Staring down the barrel of that gun, a stray thought crossed my mind. The ‘good guys’—Agincourt, the Brotherhood, Harkness—all took the time to talk rather than immediately opening fire like the raiders and bandits. At first, I thought it a credit to their humanity, but then I remembered that the folks of Talon Company had afforded Reed and I similar treatment. Maybe it was just the result of being part of something approaching civilisation and organisation. It’s something I’ve thought about often in the subsequent years when trying to judge good or ill intent, but it’s rarely served me well.

It was the second time I’d been in the same situation that day, and I gave the same reply as I did the first. “If you want to shoot me, then do it.”

“You think I won’t?”

“I don’t-” I began, only to be cut off by Agincourt.

“We’re what’s left of the Project Purity team. We were atta-” Agincourt fell silent as the soldier’s rifle swung to point at him.

“The water purifier? Now I know you’re lying. That facility’s been abandoned for nigh on twenty years. Why don’t you make this easy and just admi-”

“That’s enough, Bael.” Once again, Lyons had come to our assistance. “These people are in my custody. You have no part to play in their interrogation. Now get back to the Citadel, or you’ll be reported for insubordination.”

“By what right do you claim them as your prisoners, princess?” Bael’s last word was filled with scorn, and it seemed a strange choice of insult.

Whatever the reason, Lyons ignored the slight. “The right of association. This man provided assistance to the Brotherhood some time back, which you might know if you read the reports. Now, unless you have anything substantial to say, you’re dismissed.”

With that, Bael started back up the hill and Lyons waited until he was out of earshot before turning to us and removing her helmet. “I’m sorry about that, Wanderer. I should have stayed with you, if only to stop Bael from being himself. What are you doing here?”

I shrugged, shaking my head. My aggression towards Bael had drained me of my last reserves of energy. I wanted nothing more than to lay down on the sparse grass, close my eyes, and sink into oblivion. The only thing that kept me standing was Garza’s arm around my shoulder.

Lyons must have sensed my fatigue because, after a short period in which I failed to answer, she let out a short, high-pitched whistle and held up three fingers. Three soldiers appeared promptly.

“Take these people to the infirmary. Ensure they receive whatever medical attention is required and that they are not disturbed for twenty-four hours. They’ve clearly been through a lot and need time to rest and process all that’s occurred.”

One of the soldiers hurried up the hill to the gate, where Agincourt had left Janice. Another picked up Garza and set off in pursuit. The last placed a hand on the shoulder of both Agincourt and I and led us forward, into the Citadel.

I don’t remember much of my first impression of the Brotherhood’s East Coast headquarters except a sense of being overwhelmed at its size, and the comforting embrace of the softest bed that I have ever had the fortune to sleep on.

Disclaimer: The preceding is a narrative account of the author’s playthrough of Fallout 3. It is not paid content. Fallout 3 and all related trademarks remain the property of Bethesda Softworks. OnlySP.com team members have no personal or professional affiliation with Bethesda Softworks or any related companies.

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