To hear my name spoken by a man I’d never met in a place I’d never imagined being… I was rattled. And him standing there acting like it as the most normal thing in the world.
“How do you know my name?” I asked quietly, though my voice carried across the silence of the barroom.
“You’re the spittin’ image of your old man. And he knew that you’d come after him.” He scanned the room, “Come in the back room with me and we’ll talk in private. First thing you need to learn is that you don’t want the wrong ears knowing too much about you out here in the Wastes.”
The back room proved to be a cramped, dimly-lit office. The only furniture was a desk piled high with detritus and two moth-eaten armchairs. I took a seat in the spare and looked at him expectantly.
“No doubt you want to know where Daddy is… Why should I tell you?” He picked a sheet of paper up from the desk and pretended to read it.
Seeing him acting so casually and nonchalantly about the business that had brought me here, I wanted to rage at him, tell him the reprehensible things I’d done in a single day out here in the Wastes. I won’t lie, I kind of wanted to break down and cry, but I reminded myself that I was dealing with a kind of person that I’d never met before. The horrors that I’d seen and experienced were the day-to-day fare of these people. So I took a deep breath, “You have information I want, and I’m willing to pay for it. Let’s make this a simple business transaction.”
Moriarty started to chuckle, “Ain’t nothing simple about this, kiddo. I have very specific instructions from your daddy to tell you to get your a** back to that fault. There’s nothing for you out here.”
“Maybe not, but there’s nothing for me back there, either. Besides which, why should you feel any need to follow my father’s orders?”
“Because I owe it to him.”
There was anger and sorrow and longing in Moriarty’s voice as he uttered those words. I suddenly got the sense that whatever was going on was bigger than anything I’d imagined, and knew that I didn’t understand a damn thing about what was going on. I told the old man as much, too.
“I know the brainwashing they put you through up in the bunker. ‘All people are born in the Vault. All people die in the Vault. A perfect cycle.’ That’s crap. Your daddy warn’t born there and nor were you. I spent a long time with James back in the old days. I don’t suppose he ever talked to you about that. If he did, you wouldn’t be looking like a stunned Mirelurk right now. Anyway, once you was born, he needed a safe place, and we knew of Vault 101. Once he got there though, that Overseer held your safety over his head so as they could have someone to act as a medic. But James always had more important work to get back to. He’s been away from it for more’n nineteen years, but that’s where he’s gone.”
“It doesn’t matter what he wanted any more. Even if I wanted to go back, they won’t let me. I killed the Overseer, and more besides, leaving the place confused. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was rioting up there. But if I tried to go back, I would be killed on sight. I’m here now, Mr Moriarty, and I’ll go on with or without your help. He has to have left some kind of a trail. There has to be other people that have seen or spoken to him.”
“You try that and you’ll find nothing but dead ends. Travel these Wastes for decades and there’s still slim chance of you ever finding him, unless his project comes good… But if you’re really set on being stupid, I’ll make you a deal.”
“You’ll give me the information I need?”
“In exchange for a favour.”
“A few months back, a former worker of mine stole from me…” He recounted a similar story to that which Silver had told, though made himself out to be the wronged party in the affair. Certain minor details had been changed, but even as he spoke on, the nature of his request became clear to me, “You kill her and bring me a souvenir to prove it, and I’ll tell you anything you need to hear.”
I felt him to be measuring me up, expecting me to refuse. He sensed that, somewhere deep inside me, the words I’d said to Silver, ‘I ain’t an assassin’, were true.
I stretched the moments out by rising and beginning to pace back and forth within the cramped room. I wanted to give Moriarty the impression that I was vacillating over the decision to put him off-guard, and the slow creep of a twisted smile across his scarred visage showed that it was working.
“Well, it looks as though you ain’t so anxious to find Daddy after all. Seeing as you can’t go back to the Vault, according to you, I suppose it’s al-“
While I had been pacing, I had also been rummaging through the bag at my waist for a necklace that I had taken from Silver’s corpse, which I threw on to the table. “You think I don’t have what it takes to survive out here? You don’t know me, Mr Moriarty. Silver’s already dead; it was her that told me how to get here, but she was crazy and had resources that were better off in my hands. So she had to die. And the same will happen to anyone else who tries to stand in my way. Now tell me: where is my father?”
“If that’s a threat, it’s near the dumbest I ever heard. If I die, you die too, there’s no gettin’ around that.” He picked the necklace up off the table and examined it closely, “Besides, there’s no need for it. I am a man of my word, and by the bloodstains on this, I reckon that you ain’t in cahoots with Silver. I don’t know everything. James didn’t want me to know too much in case you came asking, but I’ll tell what I can.
“I already said that he’s gone back to the work he was doin’ before you came along. For that, he needed to get into contact with the Brotherhood of Steel. They’re a long way away, however, at the end of a trek that James would no longer be capable of making on his own, not with the way the Enclave has spread in the last few years. So, he needed an escort.”
“And where would he get an escort from??”
“Three Dog; a member of the Brotherhood of Steel and another old running buddy of ours. Now, he spreads the word of good deeds done in the Wasteland through Galaxy News Radio. You would have heard the station when you walked in here, and no doubt your Pip-Boy can pick it up too. All I know is it’s based somewhere in the DC Ruins.”
“That’s all you know? Or that’s all you can tell me?”
“The Ruins are west of here. According to James, your wristband has a basic map of the area that you can add details to. I’d acquaint yourself with that. But if you lose your way, just keep heading towards the setting sun.
“You can stay here the night, free of charge, if you like. You’ll need your energy if you want to be able to catch up to James. He’s a lot hardier than most people would think by looking at him, and he has the advantage of knowing exactly where he’s going, while you don’t. Good luck, Valken. You’ll need it.”
There was a finality in his tone that made it clear that he wasn’t going to talk any more, so I thanked him for what he’d told me and backed out of his office. The occupants of the bar area hadn’t changed all the while I’d been in there, and most of them eyed me warily as I left to get something to eat. I ignored them and stepped out into the open air. Night had well and truly fallen, the sky was awash with stars, and a gentle breeze wafted the smells of cooking food through Megaton. It was one of the most peaceful and serene moments I’d ever experienced. Though I was in unfamiliar territory, with no idea of whether I could trust anyone, I felt safe, and that was a great feeling.
As I made my way down to the diner that Simms had pointed out, I got caught up in my thoughts. I hadn’t expected my world to be turned upside down when I woke up to the blaring alarm that morning. I hadn’t thought that I’d be hunted through the halls of Vault 101, or that in the course of only a few hours I would become an opportunistic monster, killing indiscriminately at the slightest chance of getting even a little way ahead. At first I thought that these changes had been wrought upon me by leaving the Vault, but that ain’t the truth. That creature that revels in violence and destruction, that was within me all along. Sure, I felt uncomfortable killing the Overseer, and McGillity, and Tenenbaum, but I got some kind of perverse pleasure from doing so, and that was while I was still in the Vault.
I realised that I was nineteen years old, but growing up in that Vault had never allowed me to realise who I really was. Amata was a leader by virtue of being groomed to take over from the Overseer. Butch had lashed out against the oppressive authoritarianism, becoming a bully and as much of a rebel as could be in that situation. Greg had followed Arthur around like a lost puppy, hoping to learn what he could of engineering to take over that position. I’d never been like that. I had never really found my niche within the Vault. Maybe that was Dad’s influence shining through, or maybe I was just meant to leave. I guess I’ll never be able to answer that question.
All I knew is that I was free to be myself in a way that I’d never been before, and I was horrified to discover what I’d been in that first gasp of freedom. So I made the conscious decision to not be like that. I was going to be as good a person as I could be.
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.