The room was littered with bodies; humans and Ghouls all mixed up together in some great soup of corpses. Both sides in the battle had been subject to slaughter and the air was thick with a sickly combination of spent gunpowder and blood. I wondered what had driven the humans to take a stand in this room, rather than continuing to retreat into the Metro tunnels. No doubt a part of it was that they were afraid of running into more Ghouls and having to fight on two fronts, but there had to be more, I thought. Then it came to me: they were defending some kind of colony.
At that realisation, I came to a decision. Scavenging from fallen bodies is always distasteful, but stripping them for their clothes is even more so. I made sure to pick the one who was most like me in appearance to give me a better chance to slip through the settlement unnoticed, and soon enough I was on my way again.
“Royce? Is that you?” The voice rumbled at me from the far end of a corridor, where a door hung open. A man stood there, appearing in silhouette due to the bright light that shone from behind him, “Where are the others?”
“Dead,” I replied, “The Ghouls got them all.”
“Oh,” he murmured, raising his hand to his mouth, “This be bad news indeed. Come up here now and take a bit to rest. You’ve done a fine job, and I’ll be sure to tell the others of the tragedy.” His voice carried a lilting accent unlike any I’d heard before.
I slowed my pace as I approached, wary of the possibility of having him recognise me as a stranger, but he turned away as I drew nearer and left the room through a rough-hewn wooden door on the other side. With the old man out of the way, I dropped the act and raced across the windows to look at what he had meant by “others”. What I saw shocked me to stillness.
The chamber in front of me was enormous, and had been dug out of the natural earth. A scaffold staircase led from my vantage point down more than fifteen metres to the ground, and dozens of people milled about in there, seemingly going about their daily business. I suddenly realised that there was slim chance of slipping through as I’d hoped to. I wasn’t overly willing to try diplomacy, either, as who knew whether these people—savages I was wont to name them in my mind—could be trusted.
As the old man started on down the staircase, I locked the door and examined the room I was in. It was fairly small and simply furnished: a row of seats on either side of the room with a long, low wooden table in the centre; a door at either end, one of a heavy, non-reflective metal, and the other of wood; and a computer terminal hanging on the wall. The sounds of a commanding voice rose up from below, and was quickly followed by sobs breaking out. The old man had passed on the news. I felt a rising urgency. Footsteps thundered up the stairs. A body passed before the window, and collided with the locked door.
“Royce? Are you in there? What’s going on? Why is this door locked?”
“There’s still more Ghouls coming. I’m trying to protect you all.”
“Don’t be ridiculous, son. You don’t have to sacrifice yourself alone, we can help you.”
I crossed to the computer terminal and began the process of hacking its systems, even while wondering at the effectiveness of my disguise. “It has to be this way. I don’t want to see any more of our people dead.”
“I understand that, but there are enough weapons still here to arm everyone, and we can make a proper stand together.”
“No, it’s too risky.” The terminal beeped as my first hack attempt failed.
“What was that?”
“Then you and I. We protect our people together. You know you can’t do it alone, and I couldn’t bear to have me only son die before me.”
I had to pause. “S**t.” I breathed. Of all the heartless scum laying dead in that room, I had to pick the one with a father who cared. I left the terminal, unlocked the door, pulled him within and barred it again. “I’m sorry.” I murmured, keeping my head bent low.
“I let you in because of what you just said… I’m not your son. I’m not Royce.” I looked at him fully and watched the dawning realisation in his eyes.
“Who the f**k are you, and where’s my Royce?” The filial warmth had left his voice, though he stayed quiet.
“Royce is dead. I didn’t do it. Ghouls did, and I cleaned up what was left of them on my way through. Listen, I don’t want to hurt you. I don’t want to hurt your people. I just want safe passage through here, and there will be violence if I don’t get that.”
The old man propped himself up straighter, “Thank you for the truth. I wish I could help you, but I have no say in such decisions, and Ryder will tolerate no strangers walking in to this community.”
I sighed. Above ground, it would barely have been midday. I couldn’t say how many bodies had already been left in my wake this day, and more were soon to be added to that tally. And not Ghouls, but humans. Ordinary people like myself who just wanted to live their own lives and go about their business. “Then I’m sorry.”
I crossed back to the computer, and this time hacked through the system without error. When looking out the window, I’d noticed a pair of automated turrets hanging from the ceiling.
“What are you going to do?” The proud note of defiance was gone from his voice. He sounded old, tired, and utterly defeated.
“What I have to to get through.”
I turned back to him, “Call it what you will.” I pressed the screen of the terminal.
A soft whirring sound began within the larger chamber, quickly followed by rising screams. The turrets, weapons set to eliminate organic life, thundered. I bowed my head as the volleys rang out again and again until the screams subsided and the whirring sounded down. It was only then that I realised how badly I was shaking.
“You’re sick,” A pool of vomit lay at the feet of the old man when I turned back to him once more; I hadn’t even heard him retching, “You massacred them, men, women, and children alike so that you could pass through. I’ve met bandits and slavers and all sorts of depraved human beings in my time on this world, but never have I met anyone as cold and callous as you. What gives you the right to pass judgement on other people simply because they stand in your way? You are not God. You are no more important a speck of dust than any one of the people you just murdered, and you are less a human than any of them because of your actions.”
I stared at him, thinking of how to appease his anger. Then it struck me to use Three-Dog’s rhetoric, “Maybe I am a lesser being, but I answer to a higher calling than your people squabbling about down there. Do you understand what it means to fight the Good Fight. Sometimes you have to make choices that hurt in the short term to be able to do good in the long term. That’s all I’ve done here. If that makes me a monster, then so be it.”
“Tell me the truth: did you kill my son?”
“No. He was dead when I found him.” I paused a long moment, “What will you do now?”
He looked at me, a sad smile on his face, “I have nothing left to live for.” His meaning couldn’t have been more clear. I walked over to him, and gently clasped his shoulder.
Tears rolled down his seamed cheeks before he stood up and, without another word or backward glance, walked out the same way I’d come in. Before deactivating the turrets again, I bolted the door behind him in case he got some idea to turn them on in case I came back this way.
The old man had accused me of massacre, and few words better fit the scene in that chamber. Blood stained the dirt floor a deep maroon. Bodies were strewn about everywhere, peppered with enough bullet wounds to put most of them beyond recognition. As I walked through the carnage, I felt tears seep from my eyes. I shouldn’t have had to resort to this.
Why was it always so difficult to do the right thing? Why was it that I left a trail of bodies behind me wherever I went? I thought back to that promise I’d made to myself in Megaton, to be a good man. I’d made that promise only a few days earlier, and it was already slipping out of my grasp. Was being good impossible in this world? Were all people destined to maim, kill, or do horrible things in the Wastes? Was that the only possible world that had been left behind in the wake of the War? Would goodness and greatness ever again be the barometers by which the individual lived? Or were we to forever be at each other’s throats, fighting for our own survival unmindful of our fellow humans that walked beside us? The Brotherhood of Steel were a symbol of hope, but could they ever truly be more? Could they bring humanity back under one banner and set us working together for the betterment of all? The more I saw, the more I doubted.
The chamber opened onto the Metro tunnels once again, and I didn’t have far to go until I happened upon another terminal. I spotted a couple more people lurking about within the gloom, and could tell by the way they moved that they were human. It wasn’t easy to avoid drawing their attention as I made my way up to the upper floor, and then out into the main entrance, but I managed it. From there, it was only a short way along the brightly-lit thoroughfare until I was once again in fresh air. As I made my way up the steps and into the surface world, I noted the gloominess of the sky, and then I was met with an all new scene of destruction. I remember wondering if it would ever end.
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.