The air within Rivet City was foetid with the smell of unwashed human bodies, stagnant pools of water, and a strange metallic tang. I had to work hard to keep myself from gagging as I stepped over the threshold, and the stench only became worse as the heavy door clanged closed behind me. To make it more bearable, I lifted and breathed through my sleeve, but even that didn’t help much.
It was so bad I think I might have fainted had it not been forced out of my mind by a soft voice calling out, “Who’s there?”
As my eyes adjusted to the sudden gloom, I saw a small man creeping towards me, his hands outstretched imploringly. I held out a warning finger. “Don’t you come no closer.”
He stopped, his hands flying to his mouth. His movements were furtive and jittery as he looked about him, like a child about to do something naughty. “Do you… No. You do- I… Do you have any Psycho?”
Meeting with this sad, addled addict was an unexpected way to make an introduction to the settlement. Footsteps clanged on the stairs that jutted through the middle of the room as I shook my head. The addict barely had time to turn away before a man’s authoritarian voice shouted out, “Cantelli! How many times do you have to be told to stick to Hangar Deck before the message lodges in that soft brain of yours?” The addict cast one last look of appeal at me before mounting the stairs and descending, leaving me alone with the newcomer. He was a tall man, wearing a similar outfit to the guard outside. His face was lean, and his squinting eyes gave a sense that he was searching me. “And I take it you’re the outsider?”
“I don’t care who you are. You get one warning, boy,” his manner gave me the impression that he was some kind of security officer, and his next words confirmed that. “This is my jurisdiction. What I say goes, and if you make trouble, you’ll be thrown from the topmost deck of the city to test if you can survive a hundred foot fall.”
Something about the his attitude grated on me, and I couldn’t resist the temptation to be niggle him. “And what if trouble finds me?”
His upper lip twitched as his eyes narrowed further. “Don’t test me… For your own safety, you should stay on Hangar Deck. You’ll find more of your own kind down there.”
“Be fine advice were I looking for friends, but I ain’t. I’m looking for a Doctor Li. Can you tell me where I’ll find her?”
“Can you read?”
“Then I don’t have to tell you. Work it out for yourself.” With that, he turned away from me, and ascended the rickety metal staircase, leaving me alone to figure where to find Doctor Li. As I stood there, looking about for some kind of sign, I felt resentment at the security personnel here at Rivet City. I hadn’t expected the friendly reception I’d received at GNR; how could I have? I wasn’t a hero here. The friendliness of John Simms back at Megaton would have been welcome. Instead, I’d been met with outright hostility, which just wasn’t deserved. In that moment, I’d have liked nothing more than to punch that smug prick in his oversized nose, but the rage quickly cooled.
The room I was in was small and perfectly square, with a staircase leading both up and down in the centre, and two doors other than the one through which I’d entered. According to the signs, one of the doors lead to a marketplace, while the other housed behind its thick metal a hotel and a clinic. What Three-Dog had said about Doctor Li made me think I wouldn’t find her in a clinic, so I was momentarily at a loss, until I noticed the other signs indicating what was above and below. At the top of the ship was the command tower, although what need there was for such a thing, considering the ship was had been grounded and torn near in half at some point in the past, I couldn’t fathom. Below were more amenities, including a bar called the Muddy Rudder, the Capitol Preservation Society, and a science lab. Although curious about the bar and the society, I knew instantly that my path lead me to the laboratory, so I descended quickly, passed through a heavy metal door and found myself in a dim, cluttered corridor with an even more overpowering stench of humanity that had been found in the stairwell. Thankfully, I was used to it by that point.
As I passed along the corridor, looking for another sign, a small boy cannoned into me. “Watch where you’re going, asshole.” It was almost instinctive for me to take rough hold of his shoulder, but I was forced to let go in shock when he turned his hate-filled face towards me. The set of his face brought back the last image I had of Billy Wilks, staring at me in disappointment and disgust after I’d told him that I couldn’t possibly take care of him. He was such a fresh part of my life, but he’d already started to fade into the background of things of no importance that had happened to me. I remember thinking how wrong that was, and reasserting my need to make amends at some point.
In that moment though, I couldn’t let the memory bother me too much. I had my own affairs to get into order. The kid ran off, and I continued down the corridor. I turned right on reaching the end (the left lead to another door, against which slumped the addict that had accosted me above). A sign hung from the ceiling a little way ahead, with an arrow pointing to the left and the words ‘science lab’ in capital letters. As I followed it, and drew nearer to the door, my heart began to pound faster. I prayed that my father stood behind that door. I prayed that he would smile at me, and congratulate me for finding him, even though he’d warned me not to. He had to be proud that I’d chosen to follow in his footsteps across all the miles of Waste I’d traversed.
I pushed it open and found myself in a vast, brightly lit room. In here, the smell of human sweat was drowned beneath that of cleaning chemicals, which was a nice change. I’d barely had time to look around me when a severe, older woman with an impossibly small mouth appeared in front of me. “You can’t be here, sir.”
“Are you Doctor Li?”
“No, and you can’t see her now. She’s busy, and you’ll have to come back in the morning.”
“I have to see her now. It’s about Project Purity, and it can’t wait.”
She hesitated. “Give me a moment. And don’t move.” With that, she disappeared as silently as unobtrusively as she’d come before me.
I was left with only the humming of machines to accompany me, and I examined what I could see of the equipment. Though there was little, it was a remarkable spread, and I knew instantly that my father would have been ecstatic at the chance to spend the rest of his life here. If Project Purity was housed within these walls, there was every chance that he was toiling away just beyond my sight. As I craned my neck to try to get a better view, the laboratory assistant returned.
“There will be no discussion on this matter. You are to leave now and return in the morning when Doctor Li will be happy to receive you.”
I sighed and ran my hands through my hair in frustration. Everyone I met on the ship so far had been rude, stubborn, or both. In that moment, I came to blaming the universal pig-headedness on the conditions in which they lived, but then I remembered that my own upbringing wasn’t all that different: cramped corridors, foetid air, no outsiders, but I wasn’t as rude as all that, was I?
Already, though, I knew it was futile for me to argue. If Doctor Li refused to see me, I wasn’t going to force my presence on her. In that moment, morning seemed a long way away.
With nothing better to do pass time, I found my way through the cramped, confusing corridors of Hangar Deck to the Capitol Preservation Society that I’d seen advertised in the stairwell. It turned out to be a dusty room filled with all sorts of useless remnants of the old world. The curator, an old man who called himself Abraham Washington in honour of a pair of long-dead presidents, showed me around the room, pointing out the curiosities in his collection, but I failed to see the importance of any of it, least of all the documents that he referred to as “the crown jewels”: the Emancipation Proclamation, The Constitution, The Gettysburg Address. They may have mattered once upon a time, but they’re just ink on crumbling paper nowadays. He lamented that he was missing something called the Declaration of Independence, and hinted that I might find it amidst the D.C. Ruins were I so inclined to search it out, but I told him that I wasn’t likely heading back there any time soon.
I spent near an hour in the museum, and walked away with nothing but a greater sense of the futility of trying to hold on to the past than I’d had going in. If we’re ever going to rebuild the world, we can’t keep too tight a hold on the past because this world is not the same as that was.
After that diversion, I headed on upstairs in the hope of getting a bed in the hotel I’d seen advertised. It wasn’t a very pleasing thought; the attitude of the security guard let me know that I wouldn’t be too welcome among their ‘high-class society’, but it wouldn’t hurt them too much to suffer me for one night.
The Upper Deck was like a world apart. The corridors were clear of clutter, and scrubbed to the point that the walls shone, and that’s without mentioning the complete absence of the awful smell that permeated every corner of Hangar Deck. It was airier and brightly lit, with far more signs to point the way to the places of business.
Not that I needed signs to lead the way to the common room of the Weatherly Hotel. A large group—likely the whole population of Upper Deck—was gathered around the entrance, from beyond which came a heated exchange between the voices of two old ladies.
“Every time you get a little liquor in ya, you just got to go trying to cut open those old wounds again, don’t you, Liz? I’ve told you a thousand times that wasn’t my fault. If Nancy Weatherly wasn’t the most stubborn, ungrateful critter that ever was born in this rusty heap, I don’t know who was. I raised her more like a daughter than a sister, and I was ready to give her anything she might ha’ wanted. But that wasn’t good enough for her.”
“Don’t be so harsh on your sister, V. Some womens just needs a man’s company, and that’s somethings a sister can’t gives.”
“You think I don’t know that? But she had to run away with that damn Wallis Wilks. Why couldn’t she just partner up with one of the respectable folks from here on Upper Deck? Instead she’s got to fall in love with some hero out of the Wastes. I tell ya, Liz, he was even worse than those Hangar Deck dogs.”
My ears pricked at the name of Wilks, and I drew closer to the press of people.
“Bah. Wallis warn’t too bads a man. You and your family just didn’t gives the guys a chance.”
“Chance? He didn’t deserve a chance. If you knew even half of what he did to Nancy, you’d think the same way, but she was too in love to even think of leaving him. And when he said that he was up and leaving after he got her pregnant, nothing that I said would change her mind.”
“She lefts because you warn’t nevers anything but a miserable b***h to her!”
There came the sound of glass smashing, before the first lady screamed, “Get the hell out of my establishment until you’re sober enough to come back on your hands and knees and apologise to me, and if you can’t do that, then you’d best be heading down to Bella at the Muddy Rudder if you ever want another drink!”
A few seconds later, the crowd parted and an old woman stumbled past, one hand clasping the stem of an empty wine glass.
In the lull that followed this exchange, I sidled up alongside the remaining lady that had been involved in the ruckus. “I take it, ma’am, that you’re the owner of this fine establishment.”
She looked at me darkly. “I don’t have much cause to like your kind, outsider.”
“So I heard. I mean no offence, but I also heard you mention the name of Wilks.”
Her lips compressed. “Say what you want to say or get out of my hotel. I got no patience for folks like you who want to come prying into the affairs of good, honourable people.”
“I ain’t prying… You mentioned your sister was pregnant when she left. I’m wondering if there’s any chance the child was named Billy.”
Her eyes suddenly widened. “He was. Nancy came back about six years when the boy was four to let us all know she was alright. You’re the first I’ve heard of her since then. Did she send a message for me? Is she coming back?”
Seeing her get so excited pained me. “I’m sorry, Miss Weatherly. There was… an incident at Grayditch, where your sister lived. I passed through there only a few days ago, and Billy is one of only two survivors.”
It seemed to take a moment for what I said to register, but then her face clouded over, “Oh. So Nancy is…”
“I’m afraid so. I don’t mean to distress you with this news, but I just feel that Billy needs some kind of help. He shouldn’t be left alone out there.”
“I’m not distressed, young man. Indeed I thank you for telling me this. I’m glad to know the fate of Nancy, even if it is an unpleasant one. I’ll have to ask a few members of the security force to venture into the Waste to bring the child here.” She seemed to reflect on what I’d told her for a long moment, before looking up at me. The change in her face, from aggrieved sister to stern businessworman, was startling in its suddenness. “Now, might I be able to offer you a bed for the evening?”
We haggled over a price, and I managed to beat her down to ninety caps, which were paid in due course, and I made my way to what seemed to only spare room in the Weatherly Hotel. My dreams that night were disturbed. I dreamt of rivers of blood, my father standing headless before me, Billy accusing me of ruining his life, Three-Dog standing in front of the ruins of GNR and telling me that the Good Fight was over and that we’d lost.
Memory of those dreams left me with a sense of foreboding as I made my way back to the science lab the following morning. I pushed open the door and came face-to-face with an old man wearing an old-world business suit and thick glasses.
Upon spotting me he whirled about to the laboratory assistant who had denied me entry the previous evening. “I suppose this boy is another part of your pathetic crew. He doesn’t look as though he has brains enough to make a fire. And you’re supposed to be the most respected civilian laboratory in the Wasteland? Pah!” he sighed heavily. “Come, Hammersly.”
With that, he swept from the room.
“That was dramatic,” I murmured.
The assistant snorted. “Yes, he’s like that. But then, I think I’d be rather peevish, too, if I’d lost the most advanced android ever created… But I’m not supposed to talk about that, especially not to strangers. You’re here to see Doctor Li?”
“Very good. I’ll see if she’s prepared to receive you.” Her absence this time, compared to the previous night, was brief, and she returned with a smile. “She will see you now.”
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.