A short while after Cross had left me in the courtyard, I was approached by a short man with a scowl on his face. “It’s not goin’ a-do no good, you standing around like a lump of Deathclaw s**t! What division you with, cadet?”
Although taken aback by his aggression, I remained calm. “You’re wrong,” I replied, “I’m not a cadet. Could you point me to the laboratory?”
His eyes narrowed. “Under whose authority?”
Not having caught the name of the Elder, I was forced to pick another, “Star Paladin Cross. She was escorting me there, but was called away. I’ve been told to speak to Scribe Rothchild.”
He bit his lip for a moment, then pointed off to my right. “B-Wing. Follow the signs, and don’t get lost again. Others mightn’t be so friendly as me.”
I nodded in acknowledgement. As I crossed the courtyard, I couldn’t help but glance around at the kinds of training that formed the daily routine of the cadets: hand-to-hand combat, target practice, running, and other forms of physical exercise. Given what lurked outside the Citadel’s walls, and that their job was to make the Wasteland safe, it didn’t seem enough to prepare them. I wondered about the number of soldiers who died every day, and how they faced it. They all seemed to claim that to die in the line of duty was honourable, but I doubted that most faced it head-on. It’s almost impossible to be brave when you know you’re about to die. Then again, maybe that was a part of their training. It was impossible for me to know, or even guess, so I thrust it from my mind as I entered the shade of the buildings once more and found myself in another long, echoing corridor.
As instructed, I followed the signs, turning left twice and descending a short flight of stairs. There, I found a robed and cowled figure standing before a heavy iron door.
A light flickered on as I drew near, casting me into illumination while the features of the figure were sunk into an even deeper darkness.
“We’ve been expecting you,” said a light, androgynous voice, before the figure pushed open the door.
It seemed very mysterious, and I didn’t like it. “What do you mean ‘expecting me’?”
I couldn’t see the face of the person I was talking to, but I felt as though they wore a strange smile. “We had heard that refugees from Project Purity had arrived here. It was only a matter of time before you saw fit to visit our laboratory… Don’t be afraid.”
It was easier advice to hear than act on. Glancing through the open doorway, I received a confused impression of space, void of all but a few more robed figures and chest-high railings. It didn’t look much like a place of science, much less one where I was promised to find the answers I sought. Nevertheless, I breathed deeply and stepped over the threshold.
The space I stepped into stunned me, and I halted immediately. Doctor Li’s lab had been a closet by comparison.
I was standing in one corner of a kind of mezzanine floor, which ran around the outer wall as well as featuring catwalks, suspended from the ceiling, that criss-crossed the room at a height of, perhaps, forty feet. The centrepiece of this space was a robot entirely unlike any I had yet seen. Stretching from a slight depression in the ground below, its head was on the same level as my own; its body was heavily armoured; and a large, vaguely familiar flag, consisting of a series of red and white stripes with a blue rectangle in one corner, was emblazoned across its back. Having helped Dad keep the machines and robots of Vault 101 in working order, I had some idea of the technical achievement that now stood before me and all else, at least temporarily, faded into insignificance.
Following a brief period given to awe, I shook my head to clear it and glanced about once more. Many of the robed figures were casting furtive looks in my direction, but I singled out one of them: a tall, balding man who was striding towards me.
“Greetings, friend,” he said on reaching arm’s distance, “you seem to be enamoured by our weapon.”
“Weapon?” I asked. Although I could see no guns or explosives, it was easy to imagine the robot’s sheer size being used to offensive advantage.
“Yes,” he replied, nodding, “Liberty Prime. One of the more ambitious projects developed by the American government for the war against China, and the pride of the Brotherhood’s arsenal. Or, he would be were he operational. But he is not what you came for, is he, son of James?”
At these last words, my attention was torn from the robot. “How do you…?”
A smile slowly spread across the stranger’s face. “Your physical appearance. Your bearing. Even your manner. In conjunction with the intelligence we have already received, these things out you as your father’s son. But come, we waste time in idle conversation. What brings you to the Scribes?”
As I prepared to ask, I felt a wave of relief. It was strange. Barely three days had passed since Dad and I had undertaken to find the G.E.C.K., yet so much had happened in that span of time that the goal seemed to have become a matter of grave importance. I prayed that I would receive an answer. “Vault 87. Where is it?”
“Follow me,” he said, turning away.
The catwalk seemed to sway slightly as the Scribe led me across it, and I found myself clinging to the railing from fear. It was a long way to fall.
“You are familiar with the Vaults?” he asked.
“A little,” I replied, “Mostly, I hope to find something useful there.”
“Hmm… I won’t hide that I have doubt of your success. Of the six Vaults in the D.C. region, one would be almost worthless to scavengers, three have long since been abandoned and plundered, and the other two were, to us at least, inaccessible. Don’t ask me which fate is assigned to which Vault; I may have been able to tell you ten years ago, but one of the faults of aging is that one forgets.”
Already I could feel my heart sinking. No doubt 112 was that deemed useless, and 101 had been inaccessible. The odds were against me, but I’d given hope to the other survivors of Project Purity and I wasn’t prepared to give up so easily. “Can you at least tell me if anything was found in those you could access?”
He looked back and offered a sad smile. “Very little, I’m afraid. A few audio logs. Some weapons. A couple of novel pieces of technology. And corpses. The Vaults, I warn you, are fearful places.”
“Corpses? I thought the Vaults were supposed to ensure the safety of those within them.” As I said this, I remembered what Dad had said about the Vaults being social experiments. Had they, perhaps, led to casualties?
The Scribe laughed bitterly. “Yes. So Vault-Tec and the government wanted people to believe. However, those Vaults were home to atrocities committed in the name of science: airborne diseases released into the purification filters, subliminal messages implanted into white noise generators, a guaranteed lack of supplies, enforced isolation; these are just some of the depravities of which I am aware. In some cases, the inhabitants were driven to madness, murder, or cannibalism. Although the pre-War world was, in many ways, better than that in which we now live, I pity the kind of society wherein these actions were approved.”
“You seem to know a lot about the Vaults.”
“I stumbled across my first at fourteen years old, and was shocked by what I found. A few years later I joined the Brotherhood and, being assigned to the Order of the Quill, dedicated my life to discovering the secrets of those bunkers.”
While thus speaking, we had descended to the ground floor, crossing the vast expanse where dozens of Scribes were at work to a corner in which hung an enormous map. I needed only to glance at it to recognise that it depicted the D.C. Ruins and their surroundings—I had consulted the same map, in miniature, on my Pip-Boy countless times since exiting Vault 101.
Dozens of pins of various colours dotted the map, and it was to these that my guide directed my attention, “Each pin represents a different location of interest for the Brotherhood; the orange ones are the Vaults.” He then stood for a moment, examining the map in silence, before pointing towards a pin at the far left of the map, almost touching the wall. “If I remember correctly, that is 87.”
I activated my Pip-Boy and marked the same location, first checking that the positions of 101 and 112 were correct. Finally, I knew where I was going and what I was doing. I thought I would finally be able to complete Dad’s work, ending my debt to him, and embark on a life of my own choosing.
I thanked the Scribe for his assistance and information, then made my way back to the infirmary. Though I still felt unwell, shaken, and a little weak, it was time to take leave of my fellow survivors of Project Purity.
On my return, I found that Agincourt had taken my bed, surrendering his chair to Lieutenant Lyons. By the looks of it, the four of them were discussing some serious matter, but broke off at my approach.
“We’ve made a decision,” said Garza without preamble.
I raised my eyebrows, but made no further inquiry.
“We’re going back,” Agincourt’s voice was overflowing with pride and relief.
I looked across to Janice, who nodded faintly, “Whether you’re successful in retrieving the G.E.C.K. or not, and regardless of whether it does what your father believed it could, it would be disrespectful to everyone who gave their lives if we didn’t keep trying.” Her voice had grown weaker as she spoke, and, when finished, she rested her head back on the pillow. With her injuries, I was surprised to see that her strength had lasted all the while I was away.
Her words were awfully similar to the sentiments professed by Agincourt earlier. I looked to him, and saw a smile playing about his lips. I couldn’t help but admire him in that moment. What my information had begun, his passion had completed.
Garza took up where Janice had finished. “We don’t expect it’ll be easy, and we ain’t even sure if we’ll make any more progress than has already been done. But everyone needs a goal, and we’re all too used to this one, and too old and damaged to take up another. Besides, we got the Brotherhood’s help this time. I believe, you know.”
His words about the goal struck me. Without knowing that I was struggling with the same subject, he had brought it up, almost pointedly. Still, I wasn’t ready to accept my father’s work as my purpose. I wanted to help finish it but that was to discharge a debt, not because I was consumed by some burning passion. Nevertheless, I smiled at the three of them. “Good. I’m glad.”
A part of me wanted to reassure them that I would help, if at all I could, but I couldn’t bring myself to utter the words.
Thankfully, Lyons broke the awkward silence by rising. “As soon as the weapon is ready, it will be at your disposal. You have our word.” She then turned to me, “Wanderer, walk with me.”
I nodded to her, but hesitated as she brushed past me. “Daniel. Janice. Garza,” I spoke each name as I looked at them in turn, “In the name of my father, thank you for taking this step. I came back, hoping that you had settled on this resolution so that my leaving wouldn’t be in vain. Succeed or fail, I’ll be back as soon as I can.”
My leave taken, I caught up to Lyons at the door to the ward. She gave me a curious look. “Leaving already? You seem to make a habit of not staying in one place for too long.”
“Maybe one day I will. For now, I have things to do.”
“I understand. Please know that the Brotherhood is at your service. No matter you need—training, supplies, weapons—you only need to ask.”
She accepted my quiet thanks, then escorted me in unbroken silence back through the courtyard and beyond the walls of the Citadel. There remained yet some hours until sunset, and so, once more, I set my feet to the west, somewhere beyond the horizon of which Vault 87 waited for me.
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.