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Crafting A Narrative

“29. So Far, So Familiar” – Fallout 3 | Crafting a Narrative

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29

Read Part 28: “Pressing On“.

I looked back. Sparks burst sporadically from the two deactivated robots, while Reed, Bork, and Tate slowly shrunk as they drew further away from me. Reed had been more than a companion to me, he’d been a teacher, giving me information and vital skills for survival. I didn’t begrudge his leaving though. He was a merchant, our deal had reached its end, and any continued partnership offered little chance of profit. As I pushed open the door to Casey Smith’s garage, I felt a crushing sense of loneliness.

Dust motes sparkled in the strip of light cast by the open door, but light otherwise filtered poorly through the windows. Cobwebs hung thickly in every corner of the garage. The building had clearly been ransacked long ago and visited rarely since. Whatever goods it had once held were scattered haphazardly, a heavy layer of dust blanketing everything. And hiding beneath it all was the unmistakeable stench of rotting meat.

Despite the oppressive atmosphere, my excitement quickly grew. Cutting through the dust on the floor was a fresh set of footprints leading deeper inside.

I followed them around the corner and down a flight of stairs into a long tunnel with a nondescript wooden door at the end. “This can’t be right,” I murmured as I approached, but as soon as I passed through it, my doubts vanished. The room I emerged into was made of shining steel, reflecting the brilliant light of enormous bulbs that were powered by gently humming generators. At the bottom of the wall opposite me was the Vault door, a massive, dark-grey cog with ‘112’ printed in red in the centre.

I descended the staircase, each step announcing my presence with a resounding clang. The sound was unnerving, and I was glad for the thick metal door. I didn’t know what dangers lurked in Vault 112. Foolishly, I most feared being met with hostility by the residents.

On toggling a switch hanging upon the wall, the massive door slid inwards and rolled aside, revealing a dimly lit service room, exactly the same as that found in both Vault 101 and the mock-Vault in the museum. So far, so familiar. Up the stairs, then a single door led away from the room into a long, silver-white corridor, far cleaner and brighter than any found in Vault 101. Running along the wall was a window that provided a view of a massive room in which a number of pods were arranged around a central pillar. Bustling hither and thither down there were Robobrains. The sight confused me. We had had no such room in my Vault, and the function of it was beyond me.

Passing through another door, this one sliding away smoothly as I drew near, I was immediately confronted by a Robobrain. Until then, I’d never seen one up close, and found it decidedly creepy. A machine, controlled by a human (I assumed it was human) brain that floated in a glass tank where its head should have been. Something about the peculiar melding of the organic and synthetic was deeply disturbing.

“Good… evening,” it said in a cheery female voice, “welcome to Vault 112, resident. Our records indicate that you are… 202.3 years late for check-in. I am authorised to supply you with a Vault 112 jumpsuit. Please clothe yourself, then find and enter your assigned Tranquillity Lounger.” As it finished speaking, one of its arm pressed the clothes against my chest.

“What’s a Tranquillity Lounger?”

“The Tranquillity Lounger is a device designed to make your stay in Vault 112 as pleasant as possible.”

“Okay… But what does it do?”

“The Tranquillity Lounger is a device designed to make your stay in Vault 112 as pleasant as possible.”

Clearly, if I was to get answers, I would have to find them myself.

I switched my clothes for the fresh jumpsuit and set about exploring the facility. I quickly realised that similarities between Vaults 112 and 101 were few. Where my Vault had been a massive, sprawling facility, with the technology and resources to support hundreds of people, this one was far more contained. Aside from the rooms that I’d already explored, there was the Overseer’s office and an armoury (both of which had locks beyond my skill to pick), two medical facilities, two small rooms filled with humming computer towers, and another filled with generators, as well as the chamber that I’d viewed from above. No water reclamation and purification plant. No greenhouse. No air filtration systems. No kitchens. No bedrooms.

The examination had revealed nothing. The purpose of the facility was still as obtuse and inexplicable as before. The only option left to me was a closer examination of the pod room, and the so-called Tranquillity Loungers that it housed.

The pillar that I had seen from above proved, on ground level, to be a colossal computer node, from which cords streamed to the processing rooms on either side. Upon this central cortex, aligned with each of the twelve pods, was a terminal. I accessed the nearest of these, learning that the subject (number 4) was named S. Henderson, was suffering from an erratic heartbeat and elevated stress levels. Crossing to the pod, the occupant proved to be a woman, who lay twitching occasionally but otherwise unmoving.

“Hey!” I called out, my voice echoing weirdly in the silence of the chamber.

The nearest Robobrain trundled towards me. “How may I help you… sir?”

“Are these readings normal?” I asked, pointing to the terminal.

A cable emerged from the machine’s torso, which it plugged into a slot beneath the computer screen. A moment passed. “The diagnostic reveals… nothing unusual.”

“But her stress levels…”

“Are… within the normal operational range.”

I wasn’t sure whether the robot was stupid or intentionally unhelpful. I decided to try for answers one more time. “Why are the subject’s stress levels elevated?”

“The… Vault 112… simulation is designed to mimic real-world situations. Stress is a natural human response to particular stimuli. For this reason… elevated stress levels are… within the normal operational range.”

“A simulation? What’s the purpose of that? The Vaults were designed to keep people safe from nuclear fallout, weren’t they?”

“Please provide a registered access code?” The cool feminine voice changed suddenly, becoming hasher, more authoritarian.

“What?”

“Please provide a registered access code?”

“I don’t have one.”

“The information you have requested is… unavailable.”

I struck the robot. “What the hell is going on here?!”

It buzzed in response. “Violence will not be tolerated. Please locate your assigned Tranquillity Lounger.”

Frustrated, I turned away. The one answer I’d received only raised more questions, but I was quickly learning that that was the way of things out here in the Waste. If I wanted answers, I would have to find them myself.

One by one I examined the remaining terminals. Each that was occupied divulged the same concerning readings for the subjects’ vital signs. No matter what the robot said, I knew that it couldn’t be normal, and that made me reluctant to strap in.

I crossed back to the Robobrain. “Were any of the subjects late in arriving.”

“Yes.”

“Where is that subject?”

It raised an arm, pointing to a pod. “Tranquillity Lounger… Nine.”

Looking in through the tinted glass, the face, even viewed in profile and sporting a new, wildly bushy beard, was instantly familiar. My relief at the sudden flash of recognition was like downing a bottle of Nuka-Cola Quantum. I was refreshed, galvanised.

No longer did I hesitate. In a second I had dropped my backpack, run across the room and clambered into the only unoccupied Tranquillity Lounger. Soft music began to play as the glass shield dropped into place, then a screen lowered over my eyes. Ten seconds later, the world went black.

I didn’t care. I was unafraid. I could face whatever was coming.

Finally, I had found my father.

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.

Author’s Note: Once again, I would like to apologise to my readers for the late publication of these week’s entry, and to forgive any future delay, be they hours, days, or weeks. Once again, I find myself being faced with more than enough work to keep me busy. I would also like, once more, to thank you all for following along every week. Your continued interest is much appreciated, and if you have any suggestions as to how this series can be improved (other than by moving on to a different game/series [that’s already in the long-term planning stages]), please let me know.

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

Crafting A Narrative

Afterword – Fallout 3 | Crafting A Narrative

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Afterword

 

For any readers who may have wanted to read the Crafting a Narrative series from the beginning, but not had the patience to follow the links in reverse chronological order, I will list them here before saying anything by way of an afterword:

1: “Fresh Air”
2: “Silver and Blood”
3: “The First Sunset”
4: “Revelation and Reflection”
5: “The Kid”
6: “Into The Nest”
7: “Beyond Grayditch”
8: “A Ghoulish Descent”
9: “Lyons’ Pride”
10: “Galaxy News Radio”
11: “A Walking Slaughterhouse”
12: “Disguised For Diplomacy”
13: “Museum Tour”
14: “Delivery”
15: “The Way Back”
16: “A Promise Kept”
17: “Signs of Danger”
18: “The Compound”
19: “City Snobbery”
20: “At Gun Point”
21: “Project Purity”
22:”Westward Bound”
23: “The Best Little Town”
24: “Trapped and Helpless”
25: “Tenpenny Tower”
26: “Compromise”
27: “Betrayal”
28: “Pressing On”
29: “So Far, So Familiar”
30: “Tranquility Lane”
31: “Betty’s Lair”
32: “A New Resolution”
33: “Purpose Without Passion”
34: “The Enemy”
35: “The Skirmish”
36: “In The Infirmary”
37: “Back On The Trail”
38: “Scorched Earth”
39: “Gripped By Talon”
40: “The Final Pages”

I began this saga well over a year ago as a project to provide me with a consistent avenue of creative writing, as I felt then as though those skills had been diminished by long disuse. As with any project that takes more than a little time and effort however, telling Valken’s story quickly become more than just practice to me. It became ever more a chance to tell a story that was unfolding before me, while commenting on the game itself through Valken’s internal monologue and description. That commentary, I hope, was subtle, secondary to the story, but nevertheless present. But I digress.

As time went on, this story became a project of passion, and I was sorry to have to leave it languish for as long as I did due to my other commitments and issues, but I was determined to finish it. As noted in my resumption address, if you read that, I decided to cut the total length down from 52 entries to 40, partly to ensure that I didn’t have to take another hiatus. In writing those final parts, and particularly the last, the story became somewhat rushed. I apologise for that, and for some other minor inconsistencies that have cropped up over time. Perhaps the most egregious offence that I committed across the writing of the series was the alteration of Valken’s voice. In the beginning he was a much more rustic character than in the final chapters, and that is solely because, once the general characteristics of my writing style began to bleed into his voice, I found myself unable to stop the flow (which is why I prefer to write my fictional efforts from a third-person perspective).

I don’t mean to write an exegesis here explaining the choices I made to cut certain pieces of story, and nor do I want to bore you, dear reader, so I will begin to wrap up.

Once again, I want to thank you for coming back and reading the latest chapter of this story each week, for sharing it on social media, and for any comments that you may have left throughout the duration. Though the readership, from the statistics that I have access to, has been fairly small, I am happy to have been able to entertain you with my words, though I freely welcome any criticism calling what I have done glorified fan-fiction.

So, where do we go from here? I have in mind already an idea for a second “season” of Crafting a Narrative, but I am not yet sure if I will undertake to write it. I would first need to play the game/s that I am thinking of using as a base, then construct the story, and get approval from Reid and Nick. The biggest obstacle, however, is the scope of the project. I really didn’t fully grasp the scale of what I was doing when I began this series, and certainly didn’t consider that, by the end, it would have grown to be my first completed novel-length work of creative fiction. Right now, and for quite some time yet to come, I simply haven’t the free time to do this again. That being said, it certainly isn’t outside the realm of possibility that one of OnlySP’s other writers will take up where I now leave off. I make no promises on that front, however.

Now that I have covered the past, present, and potential future, I close the book on this series. Thank you very much for your readership.

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