I don’t know how long exactly I’d been walking, but the sun was starting to set by time I was getting near to those steel walls. I remember feeling awed and a little confused by the slow darkening of the sky. We’d been told of sunset back in the Vault, but those descriptions didn’t do justice to the lurid reds, pinks and purples foretelling the oncoming darkness. We’d been told of the way that the rotation of the Earth created the optical illusion of a sinking sun, but that didn’t come near to matching the majesty of actually seeing it with my own eyes. I know now that the only reason I was enraptured was because I’d never been conditioned to anything akin to it before. Back in the Vault, the lights were turned off when it was time to sleep, but the hallways always remained lit, so I’d never seen anything approaching the coming of twilight. Sometimes I still find myself a high vantage point to watch the sun go down, but it’s never anything like that first time.
After the violence of the day, watching the shadows stretch long across the ground and feeling the temperature drop put me in a pensive mood. I was wondering what it would be like to spend a night outside the safety and security of the Vault when I heard a croaky voice calling to me, “Mister… Please…”
An old man was sitting propped up against a rock beside the rough path I was following. I’d noticed him earlier, but taken him for a corpse; if I’d been right in that assumption, it wouldn’t have been the first I’d come across that day. He had a sad sort of look in his eyes, so I stopped, dropping my hand to rest on the butt of my pistol as a kind of warning. Not that it seemed necessary. His clothes were threadbare, his body little more than bones, and his skin seemed to be flaking off.
“What do you want?” I askwed, trying to make myself seem less sympathetic than I felt.
“Water,” his voice was barely a whisper, “Purified water.”
“Why ain’t you asked at Megaton?”
“I tried. Got no way to pay.”
“Well, I passed a pool a while back that maybe you could drink from.”
He cast me a mournful look and picked at a piece of skin that sloughed away in his hand, “That’s no good to me. Any water just layin’ around be irradiated and I can’t drink that no more. Ever time I do, I just wind up vomiting it right back up again.”
My mind was caught by that word: irradiated, “What do you mean?”
He gave me a real queer look at that, “I never had the caps to buy RadAway, and now it’s too late. The last time I saw a doctor, he said that I’d seen so much radiation that it couldn’t be treated no more. Since then, the sickness has just got worse and worse.”
I shook my head, “That’s tough, and no mistake. But there ain’t nothing I can do for you, stranger, and I need to be getting on. I’m sorry.”
A cough racked his body and I felt pity welling anew, “Then mayhap you can do me a favour. That doctor I was saying about told me he could end my pain quickly and I turned him down. I wasn’t ready then, but I am now.”
It’s one thing to kill in retaliation, and another thing to kill when a person’s betrayed you, and yet another to kill because you think someone is going to try to kill you, but a mercy killing is entirely different from those things; there’s no stress involved in it. Taking the life of someone who’s done you no wrong, and who you don’t think ever will do you wrong, that ain’t like defending yourself. I could hear my words to Silver echoing in my head, ‘I ain’t an assassin’, and besides, I’d seen enough of death and destruction for one day.
“I can’t.” I said, and walked away.
For a while I could hear him shouting after me, calling me heartless and sadistic and any number of other insults, but he fell silent after a while. I thought then that maybe he was saving his strength in the hope of begging help from another wanderer, but now I think that his anger was the last flash of his life, and he’d found the release he needed by yelling after me. If that’s the case, of all the deaths I’ve caused in my time out here in the Wasteland, that’s the one that makes me saddest.
I forced the image of his dehydrated face from my mind and kept on my way, and it wasn’t long before I was stood before a massive iron gate proclaiming the hidden place beyond those sturdy walls to be Megaton. A robot stomped towards me, and I eyed it carefully. It was nothing like the ones we’d had back in the Vault. Where those had been utilitarian in design, this thing was more human. A small light flickered in the shattered dome of what was supposed to be its head. “Wel-come to Me… ton.” A metallic voice, charged with static, emanated from its chest plate. “Sta- your bizz… ness.”
“Well, ain’t you the friendliest guard dog I ever did see?” It kept moving slowly towards me, but said nothing more, “I’m after information and supplies. And I think I need a human for both of those things.”
At that, it pressed a button on the side of its ‘head’, and the gate began to grate open.
I slipped through as quickly as I could and was met by a stocky, middle-aged man with a shotgun pointed at my head, “Now, now. There’s no need to be so surly to old Rusty. I know he’s a broken down pile of bolts, but he’s ours.
“Supplies we got plenty of. Information is a rarer and more expensive commodity, and I give you fair warning, kiddo, you start any funny business and you’ll have John Simms to answer to. Now that I’ve introduced myself, perhaps you’ll be willing to tell me who you are, where you’re from, and what kind of information you’re after.”
“I’m hoping to only be passing through, Mr Simms, so I don’t think my name matters much to you. I will tell you that I’m from Vault 101, and I’m chasing a man who, I believe, would have passed through here in the last day. And, if it’s not too much to ask, I could do with a bed for the night.”
Simms lowered his gun slightly and peered at me, “S’long as you don’t go making trouble, you’ll be more’n welcome here in Megaton.” Sliding the weapon into a holster upon his back, he slung one arm around me and began to point with the other, “You’ll find a diner down there at the base of the crater if you want something quick t’eat. Doctor is right nearby if you want to get yourself checked out. Supply shop is on that ridge over there, and Moriarty’s saloon, where you’re most like to find the bed and information you’re after, is right over on the other side of town. And never mind the yahoos from the Church of Atom.. If you need more directions, ask anyone. They’re a friendly enough lot here.”
With the pointing out of the major points of interest complete, Simms strode away, leaving me on my own to explore the town, and it was wildly different from what I might have expected. The town was built in concentric rings around the edge of a massive crater, while pathways wound crazylike between the buildings. The pipes of the water supply were laid out mostly above ground, with water gushing freely in some places. And, at the very bottom of the crater, lay an unexploded bomb. I could scarcely believe my eyes at first, but the longer I looked the more convinced I became that what lay at the bottom of that pit was one of the things that we’d been told had made an oblivion of the surface world. I shook my head. I was tired, hungry, and desperate about the need to find out where my father had gone, so the mystery of the bomb could wait.
I crossed the town of Megaton, attracting the uncertain stares of the locals as I passed, and finally pushed open the door to the smoky barroom of Moriarty’s saloon.
Straight ahead of me was a young woman leaning against the bar, a cigarette trailing from between her fingers. Beside the entrance sat a middle-aged man caressing the leg of a woman who was sat on his lap. In one corner, keeping entirely to himself, was a man dressed in a wide-brimmed hat, a trenchcoat, and sunglasses, with a table covered in empty glasses in front of him. Standing behind the bar was one of the most repulsive creatures I’d ever seen. It looked like a man, but its face appeared simultaneously burned and gangrenous. Great sheafs of skin hung loosely from its face, and missing lips revealed yellowed and rotting teeth. Worst of all, I thought, were its eyes. They were completely a foul, dark green, staring blankly in opposite directions. Although I’d never seen the likes of the creature before, I judged it to be a Ghoul, based on Silver’s description.
I wrenched my gaze from it as I approached and addressed the woman, “I’m looking for a bed for the night.”
She cast me a disgusted look, “Cain’t you see I’m busy? Talk to Gob, outsider.”
“Who’s Gob?” I asked.
“I am,” Croaked the creature from behind the bar, its rasping voice matching its rotted appearance. Although what Silver had told me had prepared me, I still couldn’t help but stare once my attention had been recaptured by it, “What’s the matter? Never seen a Ghoul before?”
“Sure I have. I just ain’t seen none quite as ugly as you.” It wasn’t until the barroom exploded into laughter that I realised just how quiet it had been since my arrival. I hadn’t noticed that those within had been judging me.
An unexpected shout cut through the clamour, “What’s all this noise about?!” The voice preceded the appearance of a grizzled old man with a face disfigured by countless scars.
“Nothin’ much,” answered the woman at the bar, “Just got ourselves an outsider joining in the fun of teasing Gob.”
As the old man’s eyes fell on me, I noticed that one of them was milky white, “Oh,” he whispered, “I knew I’d be seeing you again soon, Valken.”
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.