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“1. Fresh Air” – Fallout 3 | Crafting an Narrative Experience

2

Even as I stood blinking dumbly, waiting for my eyes to adjust to a light brighter than any I had ever seen, I heard the Vault door slam shut behind me. That place had been my home for nineteen long years, and now my best friend had cast me into exile. I could have broken down and cried for the future I’d lost when I shot a hole through the back of The Overseer’s head, but I wasn’t thinking of that at the time. Nor was I thinking of how I’d left my sweetheart behind that cold steel door, most like to never see her again. I wasn’t thinking of what I’d lost and left behind. All I was thinking of was that I had to find my father. He’d left the Vault, and left me to suffer the consequences, and I wanted answers, no matter how far I had to search to find them.

(PS: Play the music in the featured image box for added narrative effect.)

It took a little while for my eyes to adjust to the light, but I was overwhelmed by the sight when they did. Since we were kids we’d been told about the wide open expanses of the world beyond the Vault, the sparkling oceans, the assaults of green forests and the massive cities that had once housed millions of people. And we’d been told that the wars of the people of our past had reduced the world to ash and rubble; that the Vault was a sanctuary. And like a good little boy, I’d believed that. Standing on that bluff with the world stretching out before me, I could believe that we had wrought a destruction the likes of which was biblical in scope, but I could no longer believe that the Vault was sanctuary. I could see further than I had ever imagined being able to see, and what I saw was nothing less than breathtakingly beautiful. I hadn’t ever seen anything like it while locked behind iron. I took a deep breath, and for the first time in my life, I didn’t smell the waft of humans confined in a tight space. And over all of the world hung an incredible silence. It was purity, is what it was.

Even as I stood there, though, overwhelmed by the majesty of this world, I could feel time ticking away. With every passing second my father was getting further and further away from me, and I had to catch up. I had no idea where he’d gone, but. Below me I could see the remnants of what had once been a town. About a dozen and a half wooden houses that were little more than skeletons and a bigger building that looked to be made of brick, but had been ripped apart all the same. It looked as promising a place as any to start my search, so I picked my way along the path down the cliff and set straight for the ruined buildings ahead of me.

It was rough going. I could tell that a pathway had once been maintained, but it was a ruin now, with sharp jutting pieces that threatened to slice my feet open even through the boots I was wearing. It didn’t take long to make it to the little sign decreeing the town’s name to be Springvale, with a population of 232. Somehow, I doubted that there were 232 people living there. I walked slowly, keeping my eye out for any sign of movement. We’d been told back in the Vault that the entire world was a blasted heath where no creature was capable of living, but if my father had walked out the front door, I guessed that just couldn’t be true. And somehow, I doubted that anything I came across would be too friendly.

Like most of the houses in the town, there was little left of the first one I came to but a pair of walls and half a roof. I rifled through the rubble, but there wasn’t anything worth looking at, let alone taking. And I figured that if that was the case for one, it was likely to be the case for all, so I didn’t bother looking through any more of the houses and instead set my eyes on the great big building that dominated the skyline. As I drew closer I came across a sign saying that it had once been a school. I tried to imagine kids sitting inside, running about, being taught while sunlight streamed in the windows, and I just couldn’t. It didn’t look like a place of learning to me. Hell, I don’t know what I thought. It didn’t look like any building that I’d ever seen except on the old videos they showed us sometimes of the world before the War.

I was shaken out of my thoughts by a sound completely unexpected; a gruff voice yelling, “Hey. Hey, boy.”

I looked about and saw a ragged-looking guy ahead of me dressed in some get-up that had been scavenged from I didn’t know where. I didn’t answer straight away, but it didn’t stop him from advancing towards me.

“Where you from, boy? What you doing out in here in the Wastes all alone, huh? Ain’t you heard it’s dangerous to be out here on your lonesome? There’s bandits, and raiders, and all sorts of unfriendly sorts. So you just come along here, and you’ll find friends.”

Despite the friendliness of his tone, I wasn’t fool enough to trust the first stranger that I came upon out here in the wastes. “Stranger,” I said, “I’m just passing through and I don’t want no trouble.”

“I ain’t offering trouble, friend. Some food, fine company, and a nice warm bed when the sun goes down. And you don’t need to pay a thing for such comforts.”

These last words were said in a soft tone as, by that point, I’d drawn abreast of him.I stopped and looked him in the eye, “That is a fine offer, stranger, but I’m afraid I can’t take you up on it. I’m in a bit of a hurry, you see, so I’ll just be on my way, if you don’t mind.” It crossed my mind that maybe I’d be able to ask this raggedy stranger for information about my dad, but that thought disappeared with the smile on his face.

“I always been told that you Vault dwellers ain’t nothing but a bunch of dumb pieces of radroach s**t, and you’re just proving it right now, boy. I’m only gonna give you one more chance to come along quiet.”

“I ain’t doing that, stranger. Sorry.”

He reached for the gun on his belt, but I was faster. I leapt forward, the baton that I’d taken from the corpse of Officer McGillitty sliding out of the forearm of my jumpsuit and into my hand in one smooth motion. With one blow I cracked the stranger’s skull open. He collapsed, and I leaned down to pry the weapon from his hand. As I did, the crack of a pistol shot shattered the silence. I took hold of the gun and punched the Pip-Boy around my wrist to activate its in-built targeting assist, V.A.T.S. I instantly felt the world around me slow, and instinctively pinpointed the source of the shot as a window on the second storey. I looked up, saw the shooter, levelled the pistol and let off two shots. A spray of gore exploded from the shooter’s skull as he tumbled from view.

I deactivated V.A.T.S and began to unclip the stranger’s armour. The comments that he’d made about Vault dwellers made me want to disassociate myself from my past as quickly as possible. Wearing the jumpsuit was as good as asking myself to be targeted, and there seemed no better way to blend in than to don the outfits of the Wasteland. As I got it loose though, I heard shouting and looked up in time to see the doors to the school burst open. Three people and a mange-ridden dog ran out. I raised the gun again and fired off three shots at the dog. It yelped and collapsed.

I left the corpse and ran for the cover of the husk of what had once been an automobile. Cowering behind that shield, I realised that I only had six rounds left. I peered out from behind the vehicle and saw one them trying to sneak up on me. I was thinking it was a damned shame. She might have been a good woman in the right circumstances, but I wasn’t about to let her kill me. I trained my gun on her, pulled the trigger and moved, knowing that it would draw the attention of the other two. I heard both of them fire at me, and I activated V.A.T.S. again. Again, the world slowed and I dropped to my knees. My first bullet took a second assailant through the skull, with the two that followed ripping through the right arm of the last.

I heard his scream of agony as I disabled the system once more. He was sat on the ground as I walked up to him, holding his arm and begging for mercy.

I knelt down in front of him, “Listen here, stranger. I know that you tried to kill me for no reason, but I ain’t like you. So, I’m offering you a deal. You tell me where I can find some civilised people, and I’ll let you live.”

With his good arm, he pointed across the street, “The ranch house.”

I looked across. It seemed unbelievable that I hadn’t noticed it before. Amidst the ruin of the town of Springvale sat a small cottage with a white picket fence and a carefully tended garden. It seemed so out of place, like the last remnant of the world from before the war. Turning back to the man, I told him, “I’m taking your gun so as you can’t shoot me in the back as I head over there, and if you’re lying, I’ll come back and end you. And to make sure I can do that…” I placed the barrel against his kneecap, smiled at the fear in his eyes, and pulled the trigger.

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.

Damien Lawardorn
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

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2 Comments

  1. I have just started playing Fallout 3 for the first time and came across no one between the vault entrance and Megaton. You sure you ain’t smoking that Wacky Backy?

    1. He’s not going to Megaton in this, he’s headed the opposite direction, the school in Springvale, where there are raiders camped.

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