It’s surprising how quickly you can adapt to changing circumstances. That bedroom at Tenpenny Tower was the most comfortable I’d been in since leaving the Vault, but it was also my most disturbed sleep since the first night at Megaton. With its emulation of old-world opulence, it felt safe, and I guess that’s why it was so difficult to sleep; I was already too used to needing to keep one ear out for the dangers that lurk around every corner.
Mid-afternoon sunlight streamed in through the windows as I rose, planning to take a walk to tire myself out. After half an hour spent checking out the wares on offer in the Tower (all far beyond what I was willing or able to pay, no matter how cannily I tried to haggle), I was in the courtyard again when the intercom crackled.
“Hello?” though distorted by electric interference, the gravelly voice that issued from the speaker could only belong to a Ghoul, “Is Goose-Puff there?”
The sentry on duty pulled his finger out of his nose and pressed the button to respond. “Chief Gustavo is inside. I’ll have him for you in a minute.”
As he dashed off, the Ghoul’s voice again issued forth, “Puffed-up prick. Does he get some kind of gratification when you call him ‘chief’? ‘Yes, sir, I will lick your shoes for you’. ‘Chief, it would be a great honour for me to suck yo-‘”
My attention was diverted from the Ghoul’s diatribe by the slamming open of the door to the lobby. Chief Gustavo strode across the courtyard. That he wanted to run and was restrained by a refusal to look the fool was obvious. He cast an angry glance at me as he passed.
“Why didn’t you mute him?” The question was aimed at the guard that had been on duty, who stumbled over a reply, which the security chief ignored. His next comments were directed at the intercom, “Back so soon, Philips? I wasn’t expecting you until tomorrow.”
“Ah, it’s nice to hear your voice again, Goose-Puff.”
“Isn’t that what I said?”
“What do you want, Philips?”
“I’ve spoken to my people. We find your conditions to be unfair and discriminatory, and so we can’t accept them. But we are open to compromise.”
“I’ve told you already, there is no compromise. The comfort and contentment of the greatest number of Tenpenny Tower residents is what matters most, and having your people move in without the conditions we’ve already discussed would upset too many. You do this our way or not at all, zombie.”
“You keep calling me a zombie; why don’t you ask yourself who’s the more human of us, you damn bigot?”
Chief Gustavo laughed. “You still consider yourself human, Roy? If you had any humanity left you wouldn’t be trying to force your presence on people who don’t want to know or see you. You’d remember how you felt about Ghouls when you were human.”
“I do remember, Goose! But it’s different when you see the other side. Ghouls aren’t the monsters we always assumed they were. We’re just people.”
“Do you think I’m stupid, Roy? You’re a Ghoul now; of course you’re going to defend them in whatever way you can. You’re not human, and you’re not getting in. Mr Tenpenny won’t allow it and nor will I, so go back to your tunnels and rot there.”
“All the years we’ve known each other, Goose, and that’s the last advice you’re going to give me? Fine, I’ll go. But you’ll regret this.”
The speaker fell silent abruptly, and Chief Gustavo turned around, surveying the courtyard with thinned lips.
“Your friend didn’t sound too happy,” I remarked as he strode past me on the way back into the Tower.
He rounded on me. “Did anyone ask your opinion, zombie-lover?!” Spit flew from his mouth along with the words.
“I’d heed his warning, if I were you.”
“But I know better. There are three of them in those tunnels, and there will be none by tomorrow evening. The mercenaries I’ve hired will make sure of that. We have nothing to worry about.”
“You’re going to slaughter them?” The image of the community whose turrets I’d turned against them flashed into my mind. The oppressive silence. The blood-slicked dirt floor. Gustavo might have been telling the truth by saying that there were only three people in those tunnels, but numbers made no difference. I couldn’t just stand by and let another massacre take place. “I don’t know if I have this right, but it seems as though there’s some history between you and Roy. There has to be some part of you that doesn’t want to just murder him out of hand.”
“It doesn’t matter. He’s a f*****g Ghoul now. I’ve tried being civil and they refuse fair terms. My decision is made, zombie-lover.”
“What if there’s some way to spare his life? To make sure he lives without ever disturbing you again, or to get him to agree to your terms? A peaceful solution?”
“You’d have to be some kind of magician. The radiation has rotted his brain. He’s not reasonable any more. But if you want to try, go right ahead. Don’t come crying to me if he eats your face off.”
Twenty minutes later, the Ghoul and I stood in the middle of a blasted plain, the only things for quite some distance that stood taller than waist-high. I felt as vulnerable in those moments as ever I have.
“Why should my friends and I bend our knees to Gustavo? He’s nothing but a bigot, and we all know that he’ll just keep imposing restrictions on us until we leave ‘by our own choice’. He’s done it before, to humans no less. Why would he treat us any differently?”
“Maybe you’re right, but you don’t have a choice. He told me that he’s hired mercenaries to exterminate your people. They’ll be here tomorrow.”
“Oh, that a******e.” Philips turned away from me, rubbing at his chin. “What would you suggest we do?”
Me? I was only caught up in the dispute by happenstance. Why ask me? “In your situation? I’d run.”
“And be labelled a coward. There might be another way that will give me a chance to keep my self-respect, but I’d need your help.”
“What is it?”
He faced me again, a smile twisting his already deformed features into something truly horrific. “A visit to Mr Tenpenny. I can skip over Gustavo and make my case to the man who really matters. He knows me, he’ll vouch for me, I know it.”
“And you need me to get you in.”
“Exactly. Gustavo and his goons will never let me past the front gate but there’s direct access to the Metro tunnels through a door in the lobby.” He went on to explain how to get it open and finished with, “You do this for me, and I’ll reward you. That’s a promise.”
“I’ll do whatever it takes to prevent a slaughter. What time do you want it opened?”
“If you’re going to smuggle me in, it has to wait until most people are asleep. Can you do it at four o’clock tomorrow morning?”
I agreed and we parted. On my way back to the Tower, I couldn’t stop asking myself whether I was doing the right thing. Somehow I kept being dragged into the petty problems and disputes of the people that I came across, and it just took up more time than I could spare. Why did I feel beholden to involve myself in every issue when I knew that it gave my father an ever greater lead?
“Well?” demanded Chief Gustavo as soon as I’d passed through the gate and entered the courtyard of Tenpenny Tower.
“I think everything is going to be okay.”
“What does that mean?”
“It means that we’ll both find out how it went tomorrow when your mercenaries arrive. But I don’t believe there will be any killing.”
“If you’re right, I’ll have to thank you. I hope it doesn’t come to that, zombie-lover.”
It took an incredible display of self-control to not lash out at him. I’d done him a service, stopped him from killing a friend, and made an effort to make peace and still he treated me with contempt. I couldn’t understand how anyone could be quite so prejudiced against someone they didn’t know.
“You know, Philips is right. You are a bigot.” I whirled away, unable to look him in the eye any more, and headed inside.
To my left, as I crossed the lobby, stood the door that I would have to open to let Philips in, but it wasn’t as simple as picking the lock. The Ghoul had explained that it was an automatic door which could only be opened by a switch located in an underground storage room behind the Tower: the room from which I had seen the old man emerge while Reed and I had been tethering the animals. Philips had warned me that it was kept locked at all times, insisting that Gustavo had the only key, but that couldn’t be possible. Where would I find the old man?
I’d checked the dining room and was just entering the Federalist Lounge when a woman brushed up against me. “Oh,” she murmured, placing a hand on my chest, “I’m so clumsy sometimes.” She fluttered her eyelashes at me.
“You’re excused,” I replied, casting an eye around the bar. Aside from the robotic bartender and a silver-haired man who glared at me from his slanted eyes, the place was empty.
“I’m Susan, and I must say that it is a delight to have someone new around here, especially a handsome young man…”
I gently lifted her hand from my chest. “Yeah, living here must be a real riot… There’s a guy lives here, old but tough-looking, seems to have a squint in his left eye.”
“Ugh, you Wasteland types are all the same… I think you’re looking for Mr Dashwood.”
The ‘celebrity’ that the stuck-up couple from the morning had mentioned. Considering what they’d had to say about him, maybe it wouldn’t be so bad.
“He doesn’t usually leave his room before sunset, so you’ll probably find him there.”
In response to my next question, she told me that he was on the third floor, second door on the right. A few minutes later, I was knocking at his door.
“Come in. The door’sh open.” It was the same ragged, lisping voice.
He was seated, shirtless, on the bed, cleaning an old revolver. “Oh, you’re one of the new guysh, right? I shuppose you’re after an autograph?”
“Uh, no,” I began, but he ignored my protest.
“It’sh nishe to know that there’sh shtill people out there lishening to the adventuresh of Herbert ‘Daring’ Dashwood and Argyle. Alash, I haven’t sheen poor Argyle in the longesht time, and I sure do mish him, but I don’t doubt that we’ll meet again eventually.” He’d dropped the revolver and was looking about for a pen.
“With all due respect, Mr Dashwood, I’ve never heard of you before.”
He stopped. “Oh, but you musht have. GNR shtill plays my show every day, don’t they?”
“I don’t know. I’ll ask Three-Dog is I ever see him again.”
He seemed deflated as he turned back to me. “Well, if you aren’t here for an autograph, why are you?”
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.