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“16. A Promise Kept” – Fallout 3 | Crafting A Narrative Experience

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Read Part 15: “The Way Back” here.

Accompanied by the members of the Lyon’s Pride, the remainder of the trek back to GNR was notable only in that I made it in company. Not that it made much difference, really. For the most part, the soldiers maintained a stony silence. One of the few breaks to this was the barking of gunfire that killed one of the hostages when he tried to escape. Following that little episode, the second raider was as meek as a naughty puppy with its tail between its legs. They’re always so bold in company, but single them out and they reveal their true selves: cowards.

Returning to GNR brought with it a faint relaxation of the military discipline. People still milled about on patrol duty, but the rebuffing of the Super Mutant assault was clearly a weight off their shoulders. Some of them greeted me with a smile, or a pat on the back; I guessed that they must have recognised me from some description provided by Three-Dog. Although I was friendly enough to them in return, I wasn’t going to stop and chat. Instead, I made my way straight up to the broadcast studio, where I found Three-Dog slumped over a table, a cup of coffee going cold in front of him.

“It’s done,” I said as I crossed to the table, pulled out a chair opposite him and sat down.

With bloodshot eyes encircled by dark rings, papery skin, and black lips, Three-Dog looked anything but the picture of health that he sounded on the radio, and I said as much to him.

He replied with a hollow chuckle, “Ain’t nothing to worry about, Kid. Just a disease I picked up a while ago that comes back every now and again. I’ll be fighting fit again in a day or two… But you’re not here to talk about me.

“I heard that you did what I asked of you, and I’m real proud of you, Kid. And so, what’s left but to reward you.. Your pa-“

“Is out there somewhere, and if he gives a damn about me, waiting. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still in a hurry, but I have some other questions.”

“Such as?”

“What are the Super Mutants? Where do they come from?”

He sat back in his chair, a smile spreading across his face, “Well… It ain’t hard to guess that they’re humans. Or they were, once upon a time. The reason that they don’t look human is that they suffer from a sexually-transmitted infection that first appeared in the aftermath of the apocalypse, called the Forced Evolutionary Virus. Some say that it’s a mutated offshoot of an earlier disease. Others argue that it was a biological weapon. Truth is, we have no idea of its origins. We do know that it quickly creates mutations within the body’s cells, turning the victim from human into Mutant in a matter of months.”

“If they’re human, why the campaign of extermination?”

At this, Three-Dog burst into laughter. When the fit had subsided, he wiped a tear from the corner of his eye, “If I didn’t know you’d spent your whole life underground, I’d call you an idiot,” He leaned forward, casting a shadow across his face, “You can’t reason with Super Mutants. I don’t know whether it’s the virus, or some kind of religion among their kind, but they hold themselves to be a higher order of human. The Brotherhood’s efforts are nothing more than retaliation; if they were given half a chance, you, me, your dad, and anyone else you can think of, wouldn’t still be here.”

“I wouldn’t be so sure of that.” I murmured, then recounted the brief snippet of conversation that I’d overheard back in the museum.

By the time I’d finished, Three-Dog was running his fingers through his beard thoughtfully, “You’re sure that’s what you heard?” I nodded slowly. “That is interesting… We might have to investigate this claim of yours. If we can get some on our side…” He trailed off, leaving me grasping at the thoughts that were racing through his mind.

But his phrasing of his last sentences set my thoughts spiralling back to those I’d pondered while atop the Washington Monument, “When you say ‘we’, what do you mean?”

He was slow to respond, “The Brotherhood of Steel, of course.”

Even though I’d anticipated the answer, I still jerked to my feet, “Of course? Do you get kicks out of sending people that you don’t know and don’t care about to run errands in places where they’re likely to get their heads blown off? Do you have any idea how dangerous it outside your reinforced walls? You preach the Good F-”

“I’d curb that mouth of yours if I were you, Kid.” Voice and face alike were void of any hint of amusement for once. Three-Dog’s face was compressed in bitter lines, and behind his eyes smoldered a fire of rage. “I know what it’s like out there. My parents were killed by Raiders when I was eight, and for six years I wandered the Wastes alone and friendless until I was found one day by the Brotherhood. The things I saw and the things I did… You’ve been out of the Vault a week. Don’t presume to know things that you can have no idea about.

“And don’t accuse me of cowardice, either, for that badge does not fit. You say that I exist within safe walls, but that just ain’t true.You’ve seen for yourself what it’s like when the Super Mutants descend on GNR, and we don’t always get as lucky as we did this time. I remember standing at the top of the stairs, firing down into a crowd of those bastards while they swarmed in. We only managed to survive by making a choke point of the door to this studio, and only three of us were left standing at the end.

“You think that it’s safe being the voice of the people, trying to stir up rebellion and goodness in every corner of the Wasteland?” The dead look in his eye had grown more pronounced as he described the life that he’d lead, and a cold shiver ran down my spine. I’d misjudged him, and lost his respect as a consequence. “You’re wrong. It’s even more dangerous than being out on the frontlines because they know where we are, and there’s no retreat from here. Once the Mutants or the Enclave break in here, it’s win or die for me and for anyone else that’s still protecting this little haven.

“Those soldiers that go out on the excursions to map the Wastes, and help the helpless do so voluntarily and, most of the time, gladly. They know the truth that you don’t. The GNR building is one of the most dangerous in the entirety of the Capitol Wasteland.” He’d leaned forward as he spoke, growing ever more intense in the way that he spat the words at me, but now, at the end of his lecture, he leaned back in the chair and the cloud seemed to pass from his face, taking with it some of the sickliness.

“I’m sorry,” I murmured. “I sp-”

“No need to apologise, Kid. You were just commenting on what you’ve seen, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m not offended. I am tired though, and we had a deal, so listen well because I’m only going to tell you what I know this once.”

I dropped into the seat which I’d so recently gotten up from, and stared at Three-Dog. “I’m listening.”

“Back in the old days, your ma and pa worked together as the head of a research team in Rivet City. They were working on something called ‘Project Purity’—don’t ask me what it was because I don’t know. From what I gather, they were getting close to a breakthrough when Elise got ill. Something went wrong with her pregnancy in the later stages. You were delivered early, and your mother passed away.

“I think that James went a little insane after that, because he got a notion in his head that the child—you—would have to be brought up in a sterile place if you were to survive. You weren’t a month old when he and Moriarty left the city, and for eighteen years, the Brotherhood, and me, thought him dead. At the same time, the project stalled. Those left behind couldn’t fit the threads of your father’s work together, and so the scientists involved turned their minds to other pursuits.

“You can’t imagine my surprise when I woke up to find James standing over me, demanding an escort to Rivet City so that he could pick up where he left off. He gave me an explanation of where he’d been all this time, and why he’d come back. And after that, what could I do but give him what he wanted?”

“So where is he?”

“He was headed to Rivet City to see if he could get back in touch with one of his old crew, Doctor Li, and restart ‘Project Purity’.”

I quizzed Three-Dog for more information, but he was able to tell me little more than where I would find Rivet City. The reasons for my father’s sudden decision to go back to his work and turn my life upside down were beyond me for the present, and I was close to despair over this. Of all the questions that had plagued me since stepping out onto that ledge overlooking Springvale, that was the one that disturbed me the most. Why had he abandoned me?

Before too long, Three-Dog excused himself, saying that he was too tired to continue our discussion, and I was left alone to ponder all that I’d heard. The Super Mutants, ‘Project Purity’, and my father most of all. These old comrades of his were painting a portrait that I couldn’t recognise, and I was starting to realise that the entire life he’d constructed in the Vault was nothing but a lie. There had to be a reason, though. No matter how I tried—whether seeing him as the man he’d always been to me or the man that he appeared to the outside—I couldn’t accept that he’d chosen to languish all those years just so that I was a Vault citizen in my own right when he left. He was a smart man; he had to have figured that I wouldn’t be able to stand idly by after he was gone, and go on living when there were so many questions that needed answering.

Eventually, the frustration of asking unanswerable questions got the better of me and I retreated from the studio. After a quick meal in the mess hall, I made my way to the sleeping quarters. I had trouble getting to sleep; my mind was too awhirl with unresolved questions, but exhaustion took me eventually.

Before I set out the next morning, Three-Dog came to find me and apologise for the attitude he’d shown me the day before. It was an almost painfully formal gesture, but I appreciated it nonetheless, and responded in like kind. A couple of the Brotherhood soldiers, grateful for the service I’d done them, volunteered to accompany me and keep me safe, but I had to decline. I couldn’t stomach the thought of having them trodding along beside me, filling the silence with their murmurings and complaints.

With nothing more to be said or done, I took my leave, heading back the way I’d come in the first place, through the blasted station, the deserted Metro Tunnels, and eventually emerging into the light outside West Farragut Station, where I turned my face to the south.

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.

Damien Lawardorn
Damien Lawardorn is an aspiring novelist, journalist, and essayist. His goal in writing is to inspire readers to engage and think, rather than simply consume and enjoy. With broad interests ranging from literature and video games to fringe science and social movements, his work tends to touch on the unexpected. Damien is the former Editor-in-Chief of OnlySP. More of his work can be found at https://open.abc.net.au/people/21767

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