Eventually, the tumult of emotion subsided and I got back to my feet. I leaned forward against the control panel, head hanging in despair, and it was only then that I noticed another holotape sitting out in the open. Though without any marks, I hoped that it would tell me where Dad was. I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, and inserted it into my Pip-Boy.
“After two days of trying to get Project Purity back into a functional state, it has become clear that I will never be able to do so without assistance, and even then the technology and science required to make this dream a reality is beyond me. But I won’t give up hope. After so many years trapped in Vault 101 dreaming of the day that I can finally get back here, I can’t. Especially not now that I know that the project is not in vain.
“But it’s worthless for me to stay here without the tools I need to make sure that the project will live and function as I know it can. All I need is a G.E.C.K… When first I learnt about the miraculous creation of Doctor Braun, I searched Vault 101 high and low for it, to no avail. My obsession with the device drove me to seek out further information. I broke into the Overseer’s office, and discovered that Vault 101 had not been supplied with the Garden of Eden Creation Kit. Between that and the restrictions of life in the Vault, I was almost driven mad. There is always a kernel of hope, however. Vault 112 has one, and the Overseer’s terminal indicated that the Vault is located to the north-east of Girdershade. I know where I have to go.”
The recording fell silent.
A dozen questions ran through my mind. When did my father find out this information? Why did he never tell me about his past life? What was the purpose of the G.E.C.K., and why did Vault 101 not have one? How many other Vaults existed out there in the Wastes? These were just some of the questions that I’d never thought to or been able to ask before, but they swarmed me now. More pertinent than all of them, however, was the question of the location of Vault 112. As disappointed as I was at not finding my father, this was just another setback and it wasn’t going to stop me.
A part of me wanted to tear back out of that building and race across the miles of Wastes, but another part advised caution. I was exhausted from my long trek, and in a place of relative safety. My father had preceded me in every step of my venture so far, and managed to make it thus far unscathed. He was more attuned to survival in the Wastes than me, and I could trust him to make it to his destination. I decided to head back down to the small bedroom that he had used, reactivate the security system and rest for a few hours. I needed it, and after my scare of that day, I’d made a decision to travel mostly by night in the hope that it would be easier to remain unnoticed.
I woke shortly after 1 a.m., breakfasted quickly, and set out under the cover of darkness. As I passed beneath the shadow of the Jefferson Memorial, I caught myself wondering vaguely what had been the outcome of the battle without. Had the Super Mutants all been killed by the mysterious figure that had followed me, or had they been the victors? Either option raised further questions that, for the sake of mental stability, I set aside for the time being.
With only the fitful light of the moon to guide me, my going was slow as I picked my way over the uneven ground. The gentle murmur, and the faint singing of far-off insects were the only sounds that accompanied me that night, while the air was as fresh and clear as could be expected. Although I had no clear idea of where to go, and would not be welcome back at Rivet City, even were I merely seeking direction, I figured my best option was to cross the river again and seek information where I could. It didn’t take much walking for me to find a point where the current was weak enough to make me confident in my ability to swim across, and I emerged on the other side soaking wet and shivering with the cold. The night had seemed pleasant before the dip, but now it was bitter. Having no cloths to dry myself with or spare clothes to change into only increased my discomfort, and I huddled into myself in a vain attempt to keep warm as I struck out westward.
Slightly to the right of my direct path loomed a large walled-off enclosure, mounted with what appeared to be sentry posts, gilded by the silvery moonlight. Around this seemed scattered the corpses of all manner of creatures, which warned me to keep well away. So it was that I cleaved to the shadows of the ruined buildings on my left-hand side until they fell away and I was forced to walk exposed for a time.
I’d ducked into a small courtyard to get out of the sight of the compound temporarily when a low groaning sound began, causing me to raise my weapon. The growl was soon accompanied by heavy breathing. Without warning, a large shape materialised from out of the darkness, noticeable only by being blacker than the shadows of the hour. It was a beast the likes of which I had not yet encountered, and yet its shape reminded me of one of the creatures we’d been shown videos of from before the War: a bear. It stood taller than my shoulder, and viewed the world through milky white eyes, which seemed the only point from which colour shone from its body. It commenced a low, rumbling snarl and I took a step back.
“Whoever’s there be better t’ step in the ligh’, or I can’ answer for wha’ Bork’ll do t’ ya.” The sleepy voice came from somewhere ahead of me, behind the beast.
“Call this thing back; I mean you no harm, sir.”
“None ev’ means scavengers harm, but harm still comes. What be you bi’ness, waking me at this hour?”
“If I’d known you were here I wouldn’t have interrupted your sleep. I just wanted to get out of sight of the gun tower over yonder.”
“And to what god-f’saken hellhole you headed that finds you creeping thr’ ‘m Waste in the dead of night?”
“A place called Girdershade, though I don’t know where it lies.”
At this, the yet-unseen man laughed. “Some fool’s errand you on, boy. Ain’t no chance to make it so far on ‘m lonesome.”
Though I wasn’t prepared to put much stock in his pessimism, his words still struck me momentarily dumb with self-doubt. My mind worked furiously as I stepped gingerly around Bork, and by the time I first laid eyes on the man, I was prepared to make an appeal. “Perhaps you might be willing to accompany me, at least for a time?”
“P’raps, if you ‘m think it be worth my time.”
“I believe so.” I proceeded to outline my willingness to pay him for his companionship and guidance, as well as giving him first choice of any plunder to be found; he was a scavenger, after all. At the suggestion, he acceded quickly and willingly, and within ten minutes we had set off, with the fearsome beast and two-headed cow that he used as a pack animal in tow.
“Name’s Reed, by th’ by.” my new companion said after a short period of silence.
“Valken,” I replied politely, “What is it brings you to this deserted corner of the Wastes?”
He glanced over at me, a peculiar look in his eye. “You ain’t travel much. No corner of th’ Waste be deserted, no matter how’t looks. There be buyers for mine mert’ndise wheresume’er I go. Was heading south, but west be just as well for me. So why you heading my way?”
“I’m looking for a man.
“Ho! Well, I ain’t one to judge no feller. You just make sure and keep yo’ hands to yo’self, boy.”
“Not li-” I began to try to rectify his misunderstanding, but figured it wasn’t worthwhile. He was free to believe whatever he wanted. To me, he was just a tool. “Never mind.”
The silence was broken again a few minutes later by Reed saying, “There’s summat been on my brain. Why is it you ain’t mo’ a-scared of Bork?”
“What do you mean?”
“How green are ya, boy? Most folk ‘ud try running ‘f they ‘m stummered into him of ‘m night, as did you. Not as they’d git far ‘f he took a disliking to ’em.”
“Why is that?”
His look became, if possible, more perplexed. “’Cause they be good as dead. Ain’t you never come across a Yao Guai before?”
“No, I haven’t.”
The inevitable question on his tongue was prevented from being uttered by the unmistakeable ringing of a rifle shot, and a loud ping as the projectile bounced off a rusted hulk nearby. Reed immediately backtracked, leading his cow behind the collapsed wall that had hidden us from whoever was now attacking us, while Bork snuffled the air and charged up the road that led westward from where I stood. I slid into cover behind a car, set up my sniper rifle and viewed through the scope in the direction that Bork had taken.
What I saw took my breath away. Half-obscured by the darkness and the presence of sheet metal forming a kind of enclosure, the beast, oblivious to the now-frequent reports of gunfire, was in the midst of a group of people, lashing out with abandoned. I watched as one man had his stomach ripped open, and a woman had her head half-severed. Even from a distance the wild torrents of blood could be seen spraying into the air. My contribution to the chaos was a single shot, which I think went wide.
After the gunshots, screams, and roars had faded away, the night seemed quieter than it had before. It was as though the uproar had scared to silence everything in the Waste. Reed and I made our way up the hill, to where Bork stood, now quite calm, though breathing heavily. My companion immediately occupied himself in seeing to his pet, cleaning up the wounds as well as he could. Meanwhile, I stood and surveyed the damage. Ruined bodies lay scattered all around, the destruction wrought upon them making them seem like things that had never had life. Much of the structure that they had been using as a stronghold had been knocked down, and a fire was beginning to spread from a barrel that had been tipped.
“See this?” asked Reed. “This be why most ‘m folks ‘ud run from Bork.”
A high-pitched whimper attracted our attention, and Reed walked over to see from where it came after soothing Bork. He returned with the first true smile I’d seen on his face, a baby cradled in his arms.
“Well, Valken, look like our deal ‘m be a good one af’r all.”
“I hardly think taking on a noisome baby will help us to avoid attention.”
“True speak. But I ain’t keepin’ ‘m kid. Find a buyer and babies pay for ‘m trouble an hundred times.”
It took a moment to catch his meaning, but once I did I took a step back, horror mounting at the realisation of the kind of person I had taken on as a companion.
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.