As the cold, grey light of pre-dawn gave way to the lurid pinks that heralded the start of a new day, I hid myself amongst the rubble of the collapsed bridge to watch the approach of the raiders. They seemed not even to glance around as they made their noisy way into the base of the bridge where I’d spent the night. I knew that, as ever, time was ticking away, but something kept me rooted to the spot. From where I crouched, their words were distorted, but it was clear that they were regaling the young girl with tales of their exploits. At least at first. They talked, then ate and drank, growing more rowdy as time stretched on. And then, a quiet kind of violence erupted. It started when one of the raiders took a wild swing at another, and ended in the rape of the girl. The way that she endured this abuse in silence made me think that this was no random, one-off occurrence, and I felt a welling of pity quite unlike anything I’d felt since finding myself in the Wastes. Even little Billy Wilks’s plight didn’t compare to this poor girl’s. A part of me wanted to storm in and slaughter the raiders in a frenzy of bloodlust, but I knew such action was futile. I was outnumbered, and even though I had sobriety and surprise on my side, those weren’t nearly enough to even the odds. Instead, I forced myself to turn away, fight down the sense of unworthiness that threatened to swamp me, and get back on the track of my father.
I was as determined as I could be, but I still couldn’t stop looking back over my shoulders as I left that haven behind. That sense of the wrongness of the situation, and my inability to do anything about it, haunts me even now. The situation was soon forced to the back of my mind, however. Access to the river, which I again had to cross, was blocked by sharp rocks and enormous boulders, and my attention was caught by the possibility of a wrong move either crushing me, or ripping me to shreds. My movements were slow, meaning that the sun was well-risen by the time the river lay before me. Then, it was a simple matter to swim to the opposite shore and resume the long, wearisome trek to Rivet City.
I ventured further from the river as I struck out south again, sticking closer to the ruined buildings that marked the outskirts of the city, and occasionally raiding what was left of the houses. It was in vain. If anything of use had ever been held within their crumbling walls, it had long since been plundered. Rarely in my time in the Wastes has it felt more like the world has come to its end, leaving me as its last wanderer, than it did that day. Not only was there a lack of anything useful, but the Wastes were void of life. No cows. No Grandma Sparkles. Not even the chirruping of crickets or the sounds of birdsong.
Until, that is, I stumbled across the compound. The day was well advanced by that time, and I could see the hulking mass that was Rivet City looming tall on the horizon. The compound, as I call it, was a haphazard structure. Its outer walls were assembled from whatever raw materials could be found; I noticed cinder blocks, rusted cars, street lamps, girders, and old signs scraped together in masses topped with great sheets of barbed wire. This ‘wall’ was by no means well-constructed, and gaps both large and small allowed me to see within, though nothing yet hinted at the purpose of the structure. My curiosity aroused, I followed the wall.
I rounded a corner, and the new angle offered me a vision of a pen, like that once used to hold farm animals, in which a group of naked people, both men and women, cowered. As I watched, a Super Mutant threw open the door, grabbed a man by the arm and dragged him out of my sight. Perhaps it was just the events of that morning, and my inability to protect the girl from her gang of rapists, but I moved even more by the plight of these strangers. Even though I couldn’t be certain of what went on within the compound, I thought about what Three-Dog had told me about the Super Mutants, and F.E.V., and feared the worst. There were really only two possibilities that sprang to mind in the consideration of why Mutants would want to take humans as prisoners. The first was for slave labour. In other situations, I might have entertained that possibility, but there was no apparent need for such labour here. The only thing that made sense was for the humans to act as breeders for the Mutants. The thought chilled me.
Call me a coward. For the second time that day, I felt an overpowering urge to help, only to start thinking of the dangers that I would have to face to do so. I had no way of knowing how many Mutants were in there. And I confess that I also thought, maybe, those people were in there willingly. I kept finding reasons to walk away until, finally, I’d convinced myself. I turned away.
Even as I did so, I knew that I was going against my conviction, now seemingly made so long ago, to be a good person and help where I could. Something deep inside me kept saying that it was within my power to help them. That I could bring an end to their suffering, if only I would have the courage to step up and do so. I took the first steps away.
It’s one thing when another person criticises your actions. You might feel bad for a little while, having let them down, but far worse is the feeling of letting yourself down. You criticise yourself, and torment yourself, and come to hate yourself. As I put more space between that compound and myself, I could already feel that beginning, even while my mind continued to turn up ways to save them while reducing the risk to myself. Then I realised I was a damn fool. I stopped my slow march, laid down on my belly and looked through the scope of the sniper rifle I’d gotten from the Brotherhood.
I don’t know how far away it was by then, but the compound, and every feature of it, leapt out as though I stood pressed against its outer wall once more. From there, I had a clear view through the main entrance, where one Mutant stood sentry. Inside, I could see another three; two of them were playing some card game while the third sat above them in a kind of gunnery tower. I knew that the place would come alive as soon as I attacked, so I picked my targets, activated V.A.T.S., and fired. The one in the tower and the sentry were the first to fall, with one of the card players also taking a bullet before the hyperawareness of V.A.T.S. dropped away. I was training my eye on the last when it did something unexpected. Rather than looking for the source of my attack, it picked up a weapon from beside its foot and in one swift spray of gunfire, slaughtered the captives.
I’ve thought long and hard about the reasons for why that happened, but have never figured it out. If those humans were breeders, as I expected, what sense was there in killing them offhand like that? What harm would come of their survival?
At that moment, however, even though I was shocked to my core, I didn’t have time to think. I fired off one more shot. I watched the compound a little longer to make sure that nothing else came out to follow me unawares, before standing up again and continuing on my way. But there was no satisfaction in me. For the second time that day, I’d failed. I couldn’t have anticipated the actions of that Mutant, and I’d acted in a way designed to help, but I couldn’t fight down a sense of guilt. I’d tried to do the right thing, and more lives weighed on my conscience as a result.
From the compound, the way to Rivet City was short, but I spent it deeply conflicted in mind. In a world where trying to follow a moral compass that has guided humanity since biblical times results in the slaughter of innocents, how do you work out what is the right thing to do? How can you save people, when the attempts kills them? I didn’t work it out until much later, but the answer to those questions is that you have to abandon those morals. The Wasteland is a world where the good man chooses his battles carefully, and only acts when he is absolutely certain of the outcomes. You can’t take chances like I did that day.
As I drew nearer to Rivet City, its outline became clearer, and it struck me that, like Megaton, it was an opportunistic settlement. Its enormity came from the fact that it had once been a battleship, and so it rested some way out in the shallows of the bay into which the river I’d been following emptied. The only way in was by ascending a scaffold, and requesting a drawbridge be extended, and this I did in short order. My request was approved and, before long, I stood in front of a uniformed guard who looked me up and down severely.
“What’s your business here?”
“I’m looking for a Doctor Li.”
His eyes narrowed, “Under whose authority?”
“Authority? I was told by Three-Dog, at Galaxy News Radio, to find her.”
He held me up while speaking to someone through a hand-held radio before, on receiving a crackling answer, waving me on. As I reached the door that would take me within the walls of Rivet City I heard him mutter to himself, “Damn outsiders.”
It made me pause, “Do you have many ‘outsiders’ come here?”
This time when he addressed me, it was accompanied by a look of intense dislike, “We get more than enough. And they always want something.”
To my faithful readers, I want to apologise for the late publication of this entry in this ongoing serial, as well as the lack of an entry last week, and also the haphazard quality in this entry. Neglect of my university studies caught up with me over the last fortnight, leading to an inability to prepare this article on time, and I’m sorry for that. Although my intention is to continue posting these on a weekly basis until the story draws to its conclusion, I can at this point make no guarantee of the absolute certainty of that, however, I will try my utmost to ensure that a new entry is published at least once a fortnight. Thank you for understanding, for your encouragement, and for your readership. It is much appreciated.
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.