The spread of the world below was even more stunning in the light of day than it had been in twilight. The browns and greys that made up the majority of the land in my line of sight was shot through with patches of green where healthy things struggled, in spite of overwhelming odds, to cling to life, and everywhere the haze of heat gentled the harshness of the view and gave it a shimmering aspect. It all seemed to reflect my heightened mood from the night before, and act as a herald for brighter times. I breathed deeply of the air, noting the absence of the faint smell of rot that seemed to cling to the ground below; it was more like the carefully filtered air of the Vault, and I caught myself longing for the comparative safety and simplicity of the days that were gone and could never come again.
Riding the elevator back to ground level felt like accepting a heavy weight upon my shoulders. Even though all the concerns of my new life had been with me up there, I’d felt disconnected from them; not so once I took my first steps back on to solid earth. On the way out of the compound, I was stopped by the two guards, who advised me that I’d likely have an easier path back to GNR by taking a different route to the one I’d come by. I thanked them and made to set off again, but was stopped.
“You’ve done more for us than you probably realise, and even though Three-Dog will reward you in his own way, the Brotherhood members stationed at GNR wanted to thank you as well. We know that you have a long, dangerous path ahead of you, so we wanted to present you with something that might make your goings a little easier.” She gestured towards her compatriot, who was holding out a compact gun with a long barrel. I’d seen weapons similar to it in lessons learned during school, and I lifted it from the soldier’s hands carefully.
“A sniper rifle, right?” I marvelled at the way distant views leapt into sharp focus as I lifted the scope to my eye.
“Yeah, and I can promise that it’ll place you in good stead for your exploits in the Wasteland. There are few weapons that hit harder, but it does have its drawbacks, of course.”
I was more than half-tempted to reject the gift; between the hunting rifle, assault rifle, and shotgun, I already felt weighed down by my arsenal, but I could see how it might complement the rest of my weaponry. “I’d be honoured.” I murmured before affixing it to my pack.
Switching my Pip-Boy on to listen in on the GNR broadcast, I set off again. I hadn’t even encircled the Washington Monument when I saw another Brotherhood soldier in trouble, being set upon by a pack of wild dogs. His laser rifle flashed wildly time and again, but I did far more to thin the numbers of the pack with my new gun than he did. As I aided the poor soldier, I found myself thinking back to my tenth birthday, when Dad had presented me with a BB gun and taken me deep into the bowels of the Vault to practice shooting Radroaches. Remembering that made me appreciate how much Dad’s teachings, though he could hardly have foreseen it, had prepared me for a life outside the Vault. He taught me how to shoot a gun, how to apply first aid, how to hack computers, how to fix broken weapons, and more besides. It isn’t so wrong to say that I genuinely owed him my life.
It wasn’t far from the monument to the Metro station that the guards had told me about, and I found myself in a rare period of blessed uneventfulness. The Brotherhood had only recently been through these tunnels in an attempt to scour them of the detritus of the Wasteland that they might one day be used by humans again. I walked without fear through the dim tunnels, remarking more than before at the feats of engineering that must have been performed to create the Metro system. Most of the corpses I stumbled across were Ghouls, but some of them were ordinary humans. Barbarians, I tried to convince myself, but there was no real way to be sure.
I fell into reverie, which was broken when Three-Dog’s voice radiated from my Pip-Boy for the first time that morning, “Hello World. And I do mean world. From Megaton to Rivet City, Raven Rock to Tenpenny Tower, Evergreen Mills to the Republic of Dave, and everywhere in between, Galaxy News Radio is proud to be beaming direct to you thanks to the actions of a Wasteland Samaritan. But I’ll get back to our saviour a little later on. For now, I have plenty of news to catch all of you fine people up on… Just a couple of days ago, the Brotherhood of Steel managed to best a group of Super Mutants, which included a Behemoth, right outside the front door of Galaxy News…”
He continued on in that way for quite some time. I heard him mention the silence around Grayditch, tell of strife in Rivet City, and provide adulation for the Brotherhood of Steel at every turn.
No matter what he said, I found Three-Dog’s voice a comfort as I made my way through those cold, dark tunnels. I had been used to locking myself up in my Dad’s study for hours on end back in the Vault, either doing homework or putting together something to help with Dad’s experiments, but I had only to walk out the door to be amongst people again. I was finding that the loneliness of this life was wearing on me quite as much as anything else.
Compared to the path I’d taken to the museum, I spent less time underground on the way back, which I found to be something of a salve. Though I’d grown up underground, I was quickly growing to consider the sunlight, dimmed though it was in contrast to that seen in those videos from the Vault, a comfort.
And perhaps I was right to begin to dread the underground regions. I remember the last stretch, what once had been a junction of many different Metro lines, but now completely blocked from the others. A fetid odour emerged from within as I pushed open the chainlink fence, but more concerning was the tell-tale hiss of marauding Ghouls. I didn’t even get the chance to sneak past them. One of them must have heard the rattling of the gate and came to investigate. A shotgun blast near took its head off, and a second Ghoul met the same fate a short time later. Then, when I finally had a chance to take in my surroundings, my breath caught in my chest.
Bodies were scattered everywhere, but there was nothing new about that; not only had I already seen the aftermath of a Ghoul incursion, I’d left behind a greater mess still. No, what shocked me was the work that couldn’t have been done by the mindless Ghouls. The humans that once had lived in this station had to have been from the lowest order of humanity. Hung from all over the ceiling were enormous cages, and human bodies were sat within them. Wasted, emaciated corpses all, in various states of decomposition. Or so I thought. I near jumped out of my skin when I heard a low groan, and I whirled about with the shotgun to the level of my shoulder. It was then that I noticed a hand reaching down from a cage hung directly over my head. The guy within could have passed for a skeleton, the skin on his face was pulled so tight. Haunted black eyes stared blankly as he croaked, “Help!”
But there was nothing I could do. The cage was far too high for me to reach, and besides, the way that his thin fingers stretched out, clenching and unclenching slowly gave me the creeps. I backed away, falteringly at first, then turned and ran, leaping over prone bodies, sprinting along the corridor and exploding through another fence into the glaring light of day. I had a rough idea of where I was—DuPont Circle, if the guards’ directions had been right—and had only a little way to go until I was once again within view of the GNR building. I recognised that fact, but terror blanketed rationality, and I sprinted as if being chased by a wild Deathclaw.
And I would have kept running, likely straight past GNR, had it not been for the sudden thundering of a gun. Awareness of my surroundings came back like clashing cymbals, and I suddenly turned on my heel, darting towards a nearby piece of cover.
“Aww, s**t boy, that’s no fun! Run! It makes things so much more exciting!” Another barrage of bullets sounded, and I saw dust rising from the cobblestones beside the concrete barrier behind which I cowered.
“You can’t hide forever.” A second drawling voice joined in the taunting.
“Why don’t you make it easy for all of us, rather than playing this pointless game of hide and seek?” A woman’s voice.
Try as I might, I could think of no way out. I was outnumbered by at least three to one, and what’s more, they knew exactly where I was hid. They wouldn’t be willing to parley, their actions had already proven that. If I tried running, I’d be gunned down. Nor could I fight back. No doubt if I popped my head up over the edge of the barrier, I’d end up with a whole in it. I cursed myself for my stupidity. How could I have been so stupid as to let irrational fears lead me into such a situation? I chastised myself then, but not any more. I was younger then, and inexperienced. Sure, I could have been smarter and more collected. Faced with the same situation now, undoubtedly I would be, but then, I don’t think it’s such a good thing to feel acclimatised to the horrors that you’re bound to come across in any kind of exploration of the Wastes. It eats away at you, mind and soul. Sometimes, I feel horrified at the thought of what I’ve come to consider normal.
Even with the assistance of V.A.T.S., I wouldn’t have been able to make it out of there alive if not for the interference of the Brotherhood. The outbursts of gunfire must have been heard from their usual patrol routes near GNR because they came in force. I heard one of them begin to shout out an ultimatum to my assailants, “Put down your arms and surrender-” She was cut off by another burst of gunfire, and the battle was joined.
I seemed to have been forgotten for the time being, so I poked my head up over the barrier to see. No less than half a dozen Brotherhood soldiers had taken up position around the circle, while the raiders had barricaded themselves within a white-washed two-storey building. I sat fascinated as the Brotherhood soldiers feinted and attacked at the same time, some attempting to draw fire while others stole forward to storm the house. The skirmish lasted little more than ten minutes, and ended with the capture of two of those that had first attacked me.
As the Brotherhood soldiers began back along the path from which they had emerged, sheparding the raiders before them, I emerged from my hiding spot and hurried to catch up. I braved to call out when I realised the brisk pace that they set, and the soldiers turned as one towards me. Although they raised their weapons as a deterrent, I kept moving towards them.
There may have been something in my address, or perhaps I was recognised, because their leader removed her helmet to reveal a grim, yet smiling face. Once again, I was met with the Lyon’s Pride.
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.