Under the brown-stained sky, the cottage stood out due to its cleanliness, and although it looked right and proper—like the kind of family home that always showed up in the videos from before the War that they showed us back in the Vault—that made it seem somehow dangerous. Besides, the guy that pointed it out to me had been trying to kill me only a few minutes prior, so I doubted that he cared too much about my well-being. I approached slowly, keeping my eyes open for the telltale flash of a gun barrel at the windows, or any mines that might have been strewn on the path, but even so cautious, I was still almost caught out.
It was only in the very last moment before I pushed open the gate that I noticed the tripwire wrapped around the catch. I jumped back, thinking already that I was bound by my word to kill my informant. With a blown-apart kneecap, though, he wasn’t going anywhere in a hurry, so he could wait. Instead, I walked back from the fence, picked up a hefty piece of rubble and tossed it at the gate. There was a massive explosion of sound as soon as it struck, with the pretty white picket fence being blown to hell. I covered my head and ran through the dust towards the front door, praying that there weren’t any more traps in the yard.
As I reached the wall, I heard from inside a woman cackling, “I bet you didn’t see that coming, Moriarty, you motherf****r! You decided to mess with Silver, well I got you! I got you!” By the way her voice got louder with the longer she raved on, I got the inkling that she was coming out to check on her handiwork, so I quickly sneaked around the side of the house so she wouldn’t spot me.
I didn’t have to wait long. This b***h was a pitiable sight. Practically a stick figure, threadbare clothes, unkempt hair, and it looked as though parts of her skin had been eaten away, leaving gaping holes in her flesh. With the way she was carrying on, I guessed that the rot had reached her brain. As she walked further into what was left of her front garden, apparently looking about for pieces of human, I rushed out from my hiding space and tackled her to the ground. The screeches that she let out echoed eerily in the silence of the world, so, not wanting to draw any unwanted attention, I slammed my hand over her mouth to shut her up.
“I don’t want to hurt you, you crazy b***h, I just want to talk. So, I’m going to let you up and we’ll go inside for a little chat. What say you to that?” I expected to see fear in her eyes, but there was nothing. Just blankness. I figured that the Wastelands either taught people not to show emotion, or burned any emotion right out of them. Given what I’d already seen, fear, it seemed, was something best done without. She nodded and, true to my word, I let her up.
She was calm as could be as she lead the way back into the house, and even asked if I wanted tea when we got inside. I wouldn’t have put it past her to try poisoning me, so I politely declined the offer and sat myself down while she pottered about fixing herself a cup. Before long she was sat across the table from me asking, “So what is it you wanted to talk about?”
“Have you met with any strangers hereabouts?”
“Why the whole o’ humanity ain’t nothing but a bunch o’ strangers. I seen people passing through sometimes. Scavengers, sometimes. Mostly wanderers like you. Not too many of them manage to make it past the cannibals up at the old school, though.”
“Right, okay. Then have you seen any ‘wanderers’ in the past day?”
“None ‘cept you.”
I cursed under my breath. It was clear that there was no trail to be found here, and setting out in some random direction hoping to find my father wasn’t going to work. So, for the time being, I let the subject rest, “Damn. Well, who was you trying to kill?”
She glanced up from her teacup, a glint of animal cunning in her eye, “You mean you ain’t heard o’ the feud between Moriarty, the Mephistopheles of Megaton, and Silver, his ex-whore? Where you from, boy?”
“I spent all nineteen years of my life in Vault 101, so no, I don’t know. Why don’t you fill me in?”
An invitation was all she needed. Half the day seemed to pass away as she told me of how she’d lived in a settlement called Megaton, making a living as a whore by night, and dulling the pain during the day through a combination of alcohol and a wicked cocktail of drugs. She told me of some of the atrocities men had committed against her. She told me of finding out she had syphilis, and how Moriarty, rather than taking proper care of her, had started offering her services to less desirable company, including Ghouls, and how the prices charged for her ‘services’, as well as her ‘workload’ had dwindled to the point that Moriarty began threatening to turn her out. She told me also how she’d gone into business with her dealer, selling drugs to her clients on the side until she’d saved up enough to quit her employment with Moriarty. He didn’t take kindly to that. He beat her. Chained her up. Tortured her. She showed me the scars of his abuse, and told of how she’d eventually escaped. I let her yammer on. We all need to just talk sometimes.
Of all the thousands of words she said, the ones that most caught my attention was that she’d managed to get away from Megaton with over four hundred caps, and I’m sorry to say that I showed her then I wasn’t lying when I told her I was new to the Wastes by asking what the good of bottlecaps was. I suppose, with that, she figured I was a harmless critter, and told me how they was the basis of the Wasteland’s economic system, and then she got this look of cunning in her eye. Asked me if I might be heading on towards Megaton soon, and when I told her that I may be, she asked if I could take care of some business for her. She told me that she would part with half of her caps if I came back from Megaton with some souvenir of Moriarty’s to prove that he wasn’t ever going to bother her again.
“Silver,” I replied, “I ain’t an assassin. There’s a reason I’m out here and it’s got nothing to do with your quarrel with Moriarty, so I’m sorry but you’re going to have to find some other sap to do your dirty work.”
She looked me up and down, then said with venom in her voice, “You wouldn’t have the balls to kill another man in cold blood anyway, Vault dweller. You won’t last long out here. Your sort never do, brought up behind your wall of steel, lead and concrete, and never having to survive on your own terms. You’re nothing by a festering pile of Mirelurk s**t, and I hope to Atom that you get what’s coming to you. Now get the hell out of my house, and if you do see Moriarty, tell him Silver’s waiting for him.”
“Ma’am,” I murmured, “Of all what you just said, one thing was true. If I leave your house as I am now, I won’t get far,” I drew the 10mm pistol and pressed its cold barrel to her forehead, “You tried to cut me a deal that didn’t seem fair to me, but I’ll offer you a counterdeal. You give me half of your caps right now and I’ll let you keep all of your skull.”
She began to laugh, a high cackling sound, “Boy, I underestimated you, and there ain’t many times when that’s happened to old Silver. You got me. And I accept your deal. I may be nothing more than a worn out, disease-ridden old whore, but I want to keep on living because I will get revenge one of these days. Now you just let me up and I’ll get those caps for you.”
Her movements as she rose from her seat and crossed the room were slow and methodical, almost ritualistic. Keeping her hands away from her body, she moved into the bedroom, reached into a shabby cupboard and pulled out a small box. “Excuse me just a moment,” she said with a sly smile as she withdrew an unfamiliar device from the box. She pressed it to the crook of her arm. There was a gentle hissing sound, and her smile widened into one of genuine bliss.
“What was that?”
“Ain’t nothing but Jet, honey. Been talking a bit long and I needed a fixer upper. Hope you don’t mind.”
I lifted my pistol back into her line of sight, “I ain’t interested in playing games, Silver, so you show me those bottle caps right quick.”
“They’re just caps, sweetie,” She tossed the drugs onto the bed with a casual flick of her arm and reached into the cupboard a second time, emerging with a sack that chinked gently. From it, she pulled a handful of bottle caps and let them slide through her fingers, “You drive a hard bargain, Vault dweller. How about we make it a quarter and I tell you all you need to know about Megaton?”
I knew that if I walked out of that cottage with her alive, she would swear revenge against me, just as she had with Moriarty. On the other hand, her disease was going to continue to eat away at her body and mind until there was nothing left. Danger and mercy were two strong reasons to pull the trigger, but I still found myself hesitating. Then I realised why. Her sad story and sadder appearance had moved me to pity. Half a second after making this realisation, I excised the pity.
I left the house with a new shotgun and two sacks: one small one full of caps, and a bigger one filled with stuff that I hoped to sell or barter when I got to Megaton, but I still had a piece of business in Springvale to attend to.
“Is that what you call willing to have a civilised conversation?” I shouted as I approached the school building once more, “Some drug-addled, revenge-driven crone with her front gate wired to explode as soon as you open it? If you’d given me even a little warning, it wouldn’t have come to this, but you didn’t and now I’m mighty upset with you. I say you lied to me.” The cannibal had been trying to crawl back within the safety of the schoolhouse while I was busy with Silver, but he hadn’t gotten far. I walked up and kicked him on to his back, “What say you to that?”
“Please,” he whimpered, “have mercy, stranger.”
“You wasn’t going to show me mercy when you came out with your dog, your friends, and your gun. No, you was perfectly happy to kill me and have me for dinner tonight, but maybe you’ll find some mercy in the next life.” With that, I lodged a bullet in his forehead, stripped him of his haphazard armour, and dressed myself in it. It wasn’t near as comfortable as my Vault jumpsuit, but I felt a little safer in it.
On the way back to school, I’d noticed a corrugated iron sheet bearing the name of Megaton with an arrow drawn on it, and looking in the direction it pointed, I could see a massive metal structure in the distance. I supposed it to be Megaton, and my new destination. Whether or not it was where I needed to be, I couldn’t know yet, but it was the only landmark I had.
Feeling the oppressive silence of the open Wastes, I turned my back on the dusty, deserted town of Springvale, and began the trek to Megaton.
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.