The closer I got to the pillar, the nearer the sun got to the horizon. I was thankful that, in all the way I’d walked from the Museum of Technology, I’d not once had to take up arms. Not against any bandits, or Super Mutants, or any wild animals. It was a good sort of a break.
A wire fence had been erected around the base of the pillar to funnel any would be intruders towards the gate where stood a pair of Brotherhood of Steel soldiers dressed in full armour.
“You there. Stop!” One shouted, a female to judge by her voice, “State your name and business.”
Dutifully, I raised my hands as I drew to a swaying stop, “My name’s Valken. My business is The Good Fight.”
They looked at each other for a moment, then back at me, “You’re the kid,” said the other.
“What are you talking about?”
“The kid from Vault 101, right? Three-Dog’s been talking about you as if you’re the third coming of Christ. You’re doing a great thing by helping us out, and I’m sure that you’ll get your just rewards. I’m sure you’ll find your Daddy.”
“Thanks, but I ain’t all that. Trust me when I tell you that I’m not some creature of pure virtue to be looked up to or worshipped. I ain’t a saviour, or a Messiah. I ain’t nothing but another guy in this wasted world looking out for his own hide.”
Both of them took a step back, as if I’d suddenly turned into some awful, odious beast. As if my words and deeds might somehow taint them. As if it mattered. Those two were soldiers; no doubt they’d committed sins that equalled mine ten times over. The only difference is that their consciences wouldn’t let them believe that they were monsters.
The man clapped me on the shoulder, “You’re still a good guy. What you’re doing for us today is proof of that.”
“Then why don’t I feel good about it? Yes, okay, I’m helping Three-Dog and the Brotherhood to spread the message of goodness, and all the goings-on of the Wasteland across the Wasteland, and that may very well be a good thing. But what of the things that I’ve had to do to get here? How many Ghouls and how many Mutants have I killed because they were standing in my way? I brought death to a whole community for fear that they would not let me pass through. No matter what code of morality you live by, those are not the actions of a good person. Beneath the twisted bodies and the twisted ethics that exist in these Wastes, they were all humans.” I wiped away a stray tear that ran down my face, then dropped my head.
“You can’t let yourself think like that, kid,” The woman’s voice was filled with compassion, “Radiation has eaten away the brains of the Feral Ghouls, leaving nothing behind but animal instinct. As for the Mutants, F.E.V. has warped them body and mind. They can still talk, but that’s the last remnant of their humanity. It’s not wrong for you to kill them, because they’re not interested in anything but killing you.”
I gave her a good hard look, wishing that I could subscribe to the same beliefs that allowed her to sleep easily at night. What I’d overheard made that impossible, though. I wasn’t in any mood to argue, and in less of a mood to listen to the warped philosophy of a brainwashed soldier. Instead, I shrugged, murmured some non-committal agreement, and passed through the gate, twiddling the dial on my Pip-Boy to tune into the GNR broadcast.
“… No longer applies. Our heroes are the everyday men and women out there, like yourselves, who are dedicated, in your own small way, to fighting the Good Fight. People who stand up against the injustices that are found in these Wastes. And that is why the kid from Vault 101 is a hero. Armed with little more than a rifle and a bottle of water he walked into these headquarters, a man intent on doing the right thing. He leapt at the opportunity to help us here at GNR by volunteering to venture deep into the D.C. Ruins, where lurk endless hordes of brutal Super Mutants, to put our broadcast back on the air. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, he is a hero for our day and age. And that is why, now, for just a little while, I am going to address myself to one man, rather than all of my faithful and appreciated listeners. James…”
Three-Dog’s voice had been with me as I entered the base of the pillar through a heavy iron door and stopped in front of an elevator. I was uncertain about stepping inside. Not only was I worried about the heights that it was supposed to take me to, but rust had eaten holes in the floor. I was just thinking about turning around and telling one of the soldiers to take it up when I heard my dad’s name. I stopped dead to listen.
“I know you said to turn your son around if he came knocking at my door, but I can’t do that. He doesn’t belong trapped underground in that Vault, a life wasted in thrall to some maniac Overseer. That’s why, as soon as he gets back from helping GNR, I’m sending him to follow in your footsteps. It’s his greatest wish to find you—I don’t know why—and it is in my power to grant him that wish. I’m not going to stand in his way. So, as an old friend, I entreat you to slow down and wait for him. Turn around and meet him if you must. Just please, give him a chance to prove himself to you because if you don’t you’ll be letting him, me, and everyone involved in the Good Fight, down.”
He paused a brief moment, then started talking about how we should all be willing to look beyond the appearance of Ghouls to the human underneath. I switched off the broadcast, took a deep breath and stepped into the elevator.
As I was lifted into the sky by that rattling box, I thought of all the things that I had to say to Three-Dog when I got back to GNR. To thank him, of course, but to argue with him also about some of the things he was preaching. He may have had the eyes and ears of the Brotherhood of Steel to inform what he was saying, but the way he spoke about things made it clear that he’d never had to suffer the hardships of wandering the Wastes on his own two legs. It was pathetic. One such as he should never have been allowed to broadcast his voice to the broken remnants of humanity. How could he hope to inspire people to follow his lead when he couldn’t connect with them? He was a damned fool to think that he could sit in his tower and change the world. Not that those were the kinds of things I wanted to talk to him about… I didn’t care what he thought was the best way to influence people; I just wanted someone to talk to, and the Brotherhood soldiers weren’t much in the way of brains.
The first thing I noticed when the elevator doors pinged open was that the sun had fully set, but the world was still bathed in the reds and purples of dusk. The next was the wind. It blew so hard that I felt unbalanced, and I still swear that I could feel all 500 feet of the Washington Monument swaying under my feet. Open space lay straight ahead of me, though remnants of a wall still stood waist-high. The incredible height, and the sight that stretched away before me took my breath away. I could see the trenches that had caused me such tension encircled by half-ruined buildings. Further on, I could see the outermost reaches of the D.C. Ruins give on to open fields. The view made me long to see what lay all around, but the other walls were still in place, and the glass windows that they housed were thick with the uncleaned grime of decades.
Aside from the view, the platform offered nothing but a single mattress laid out on the floor and an enormous piece of broadcasting equipment. The busted dish was on a retractable arm that stuck out over the side of the building. Seeing where it was, I couldn’t resist sending a silent commendation to the skill of the Super Mutant that had managed to shoot it from the ground. In all the time I’ve been in the Wastes, I’ve not yet met the person that could truly claim to make a shot like that, so my awe of that Mutant has only grown.
Even with the contents of a toolbox that sat beside the radio equipment, it took more than half an hour to replace the dish, and I was drenched in sweat and worn out by the end of it.
In those early days, I was always surprised by how tired I got when the sun went down. The endless walking, the stress of each day, the constant alertness, it all added up to rip through my energy reserves and leave me utterly exhausted. After four days of activity, I wanted to take some time to recuperate, but I couldn’t let myself. Every passing moment was a moment that could be taking my father further away from me and, as such, I couldn’t take a day off now. That didn’t mean that I couldn’t sleep, though, and get some rest.
For a time I just sat there, at the top of that monument, looking out at the world below outlined by the silvery light of the moon. Removed from the danger of marauding beasts below and the thoughts created by the people I’d met, it was even more serene than had been my first meal in that meadow outside of Megaton. I ate a little of the food that I’d packed at GNR and after a short while of meditation, stretched out on the mattress to sleep.
The last thought that passed through my mind before the dreams came upon me was that I had succeeded. By the end of the next day, I was to finally know where my dad had gone. I was finally going to get answers. I was more than ready.
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.