I opened my eyes and jerked upright instantly. Screams had woken me, and unfamiliarity had shocked me. Dimness. A dirt ceiling. The unpleasant smell of unwashed bodies mixing with the scents of strange foods. What was going on? Hadn’t I just been kissing Amata in the deserted kitchen? Walking hand-in-hand with her through the corridors? Lashing out at Butch? A dream. All a dream. Vault 101 was a long way behind me now, and never again would it be my home. Where was I then?
Looking around through my unfocussed eyes, it all came back. The raider compound. The drunkenness; no wonder my throat was so dry and my head pounded so ferociously. The shy girl that Jonas and Reed had pressed on me as the day drew on; she was nowhere in sight.
“You sure do sleep heavy, don’t you?”
I looked up. Jonas stood beside me, a bottle of water in his outstretched hand. I took it from him with a murmur of thanks. He seemed to ignore me, looking off to my left. The screams had slowly died away, being replaced by guttural growls and roars, accompanied by the gasps of a group of people watching a spectacle.
The community of raiders had gathered in a large, loose semicircle around a pair of those deformed bears, the Yao Guai, which were fighting. Many of the people had weapons readied, but none were firing.
“I should thank you for bringing Reed, today of all days. It’s not often my people get entertainment, and if one of those damned bears had gotten loose any other day, it would have been hell to pay.” He explained how, long after the community had set up in the cavern, a family of Yao Guai had moved in to a smaller chamber connected to the main one through a back entrance that the raiders had never known of. As a result, the bears sometimes found their way into the unprepared compound. This time, Bork had reacted in time to prevent any deaths.
Within minutes, the contest was over. The wild Yao Guai lay paralysed on the dirt floor, blood seeping from its mouth and the numerous gashes left by Bork’s claws. With the threat diminished, the raider community moved in, knives rising and plunging as they first killed the beast, then tore it apart.
There was no order to the proceedings, just a wild grab for whatever pieces of meat were choicest. I couldn’t help but compare the scramble to the way things had been handled in the Vault with its careful rationing of food and water. It had been a hierarchical process, everyone getting enough to sate their hunger, while those that did more for the society getting more food. The system was designed to inspire everyone to be useful, but it left some, like poor Lady Dartmoor, who were far beyond their prime, with barely enough to survive each day.
Very different societies. Very different systems. Neither, it seemed to me, sustainable on a large scale. I might have thought more about it if I aspired to set up a society of my own, but that’s never been my concern. It seemed to work well enough for them, and that was enough for me to care about.
Reed did a roaring trade after the commotion had died down. It seemed everyone wanted to buy something from the hero that had protected them, and I benefited from the association with a new, more durable outfit and enough supplies to last me another week or so at a much cheaper cost than I would otherwise have gotten.
Afterwards, Jonas pulled us aside to ask whether we’d be willing to head deeper into the complex and root out the rest of the Yao Guai, but both Reed and I were adamant that we wouldn’t do it. On Reed’s part, it was fear for the safety of Bork, and on mine, it was the knowledge of time ticking away. Come sunset, we found ourselves back in the ravine, the sky a thin sliver of deepening blue above us, and the world ahead slowly growing wider as we approached the end of the passage.
We emerged on a plateau where ranged a small herd of wild Brahmin. Rocks stuck up awkwardly from the ground beneath our feet, leaving only a fine fuzz of grass for the animals to feed on.
Though it seemed a desolate place, Reed and I stopped to marvel at the sight laid out before us. The plateau ended only metres from our toes, leaving the landscape to stretch away before us, bathed in the hues of sunset. And we could see for what seemed like miles.
Casting the longest shadow towards us, and standing out from the barrenness, was a massive building, mostly whitewashed but with the base and one side reinforced with rusted metal. Sitting in its shadow, directly ahead of us, was a small building with its roof caved in. To the right sat a smaller, low-set compound that reminded me of the old-world prisons that we were shown in the Vault. Beyond this were the collapsed remnants of an overpass, built off the side of a hill upon which massive electricity towers marched into the distance.
Between these peculiar landmarks, and off to the left of us were swathes of cleared land, some concreted over and others with trees and grasses growing sparsely upon them, but nowhere was there so much as a sign of life. No movement. No sounds, other than those made by the cattle behind us. No campfires. Just a vast emptiness.
“We stop ‘m dere t’marra.” Reed pointed to the skyscraper. “It ‘m safe place.”
“What makes you so sure?”
“It ‘m T’mpinny Tower. Dem be richy-rich. Ain’t no harm dere.”
I decided to trust his judgement. Getting down off the hill was the hardest part of that leg of our journey. The path was rough-hewn and disused, overgrown with grasses that cut our bare arms and hid the treachery of the broken ground beneath. Bork loped ahead us as we drew near the bottom and came back a short time later with a giant scorpion in his mouth.
Other than that, the only movement we saw all night was an Eyebot, spreading the Enclave’s message wherever it went. Reed damaged it beyond repair with a single shot of the Magnum he’d taken from Andale.
“I’ve seen a few of those things; what are they?”
“Rem’ants o’ th’ Old Worl’. Some kin’ o’ pole’ekal narnsense. Dey jus’ dumb ‘bots, li’ most uvvers, tha’ ain’t knowin’ dere be no use fo’ ’em no more.”
Just another leftover from a bygone age that could no longer matter. “Why’d you shoot it?”
He shrugged and we moved on, leaving the subject behind like a discarded piece of clothing.
By mid-morning Tenpenny Tower stabbed into the sky above us, its bleach-white exterior shining like a beacon against the brown earth. It was surrounded by a haphazard concrete barrier, but Reed assured me that we’d be allowed in. As we rounded the corner we spotted a pair of guys dressed in khaki looking off into the distance beyond. A figure there was slowly dwindling from sight.
They turned to glare at us as our footsteps betrayed our presence. “Yes?” the manner was brusque, impatient.
“We were hoping we might be able to stop here and rest for a while.”
The first guard to speak seemed to size us up, a sneer twisting his features. “This isn’t a halfway house for any old journeyman to stop at. I advise you to keep moving.”
Reed sniffed. “De ho’pital’ty here ain’t wha’ it used t’ be. Why dun you run ‘long ‘n’ tell Alliser a’ ol’ frien’ wan’s a word?”
The other guard, seemingly a subordinate, shrugged. “At least they aren’t zombies.”
“Zombies?” I asked.
“We’ve had one of those freaks come knocking on our door every day for the last two weeks, begging us to let him and his deformed friends in, threatening consequences if we don’t.”
“So why don’t you let them in?”
The senior of the two guards scoffed. “Tenpenny Tower is a respectable home for respectable citizens. We will not have those filthy creatures in here, and no zombie lover is going to make anyone think differently.”
“We wan’ come in, no’ fer you t’ le’ dem in. I’m tired o’ stan’ing here.”
Again the two looked us over. “Fine. Entry is a hundred caps for each of you and another hundred for the animals. Just make sure those things stay leashed.
I realised, as we paid the fee, that I was getting low on caps; I’d been burning through Silver’s stash faster than I’d thought.
As we passed into the courtyard surrounding the tower I heard a man say, in a tone of distaste, “Ugh. Shade your eyes from the peasantry, darling.”
A woman replied, “Why ever would Gustavo have let them in? Just look at them. They’re little better than the Ghouls.”
The voices belonged to a couple around my father’s age, dressed in a fanciful manner that reminded me of Lady Dartmoor.
“It’s hardly a surprise, is it? Standards here have been declining since Mr Tenpenny let Mr Dashwood in.”
“Oh, don’t speak to me of that vulgar old man. His celebrity does not excuse his uncivilised behaviour. But still, I’d rather more of him than these ragamuffins.”
Though Reed somehow ignored their comments, I’d heard enough. We’d had their kind in the Vault, too. Always looking down on everyone else, as though the wealth of their ancestors made them better than everyone else. Butch and the Tunnel Snakes had all had that attitude, and I’d taken great pride in cutting them down to size. “If you have a problem with me, why don’t you say so rather than making these stupid little asides to each other?”
“Oh!” the woman covered her nose with her sleeve. “I will not be spoken to like that. Especially not by someone who smells as though he’s been consorting with those beastly Ghouls.” she moved behind her husband. “Edgar, get him away.”
“Please, sir, we have no gripe with you. Would you be so kind as to carry on with your business and leave us to ours?” As I turned away, I overheard Edgar, “Don’t worry, darling. I’ll organise a meeting with Mr Tenpenny and make sure that he is disciplined appropriately for his disrespect.”
I found Reed tethering Bork and Tate around the back of the building. “What is wrong with these people?”
“I tol’ ye, dey rich-folk an’ dey tink tha’ makes ’em be’er than e’er’one else. Sometimes ain’t nu’in I’d li’ mo’ than t’ show ’em dey wort’ de same as you an’ me, but dis be a fine haven.”
“Yeah, I guess so, if you can stand the people… I’ve been meaning to ask, how do you make money out here?” Reed cast a troubled look at me as I asked the question, and I had to speak quickly to set aside the only concern it could raise with him. “I’m asking out of curiosity; rest assured that I have enough caps to respect our deal.”
He told me there was only two ways: stealing or selling. The emergence of a raggedy old man from what I took to be a basement tunnel near where we stood interrupted our discussion.
“Freshiesh, are you? Nishe to meet you,” he had one hand in his pocket, and he seemed to be fidgeting with something. “I, uh, don’t shuppose you could keep it quiet that you’ve sheen me here. Chief Gushtavo might think that I’m helping out the Ghouls, which I assure you ishn’t the cashe.”
Reed and I both agreed and resumed our conversation while he slunk away.
We followed him inside a short while later and were escorted by Gustavo to the rooms that had been set aside for us. The way he patronised us while performing this task only served to increase my dislike for him, and I was left to foment over the proclivity towards superiority displayed by the residents of Tenpenny Tower.
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.