Female/Caucasian Lone Wanderer. I've tried to keep free of too many descriptors so that you can imagine your own character, but I did use a first name. Also, Bethesda Softworks owns Fallout 3. Minor spoilers for the main quest in this particular snippet.

Nina breathed heavily through her mouth, the edges of the hockey mask whistling as her breath passed through it. She hated the mask—it stank like sweat, cigarette smoke, and other bodily unmentionables from the raider whose corpse she'd taken it from. But it was the only thing protecting her head at the moment since a raider's swing at her head put a crack in her combat helmet that not even Moira at Craterside Supply could repair. But the hockey mask had one thing in its favor: it had just saved her face from another scar and possibly tetanus poisoning.

Kicking the nailboard aside, Nina pointed her assault rifle at the super mutant's body, but glancing up at the bloody stump that used to be a head reassured her. This one wasn't going to cause her any more problems. She allowed herself to relax a fraction and took the opportunity to jam a stimpack into her leg. She'd been stupid enough to step on a nest of radroaches as she scuttled among the rubble surrounding the Jefferson Memorial, and the hard-shelled terrors had bit her leg in a dozen places before she could whack them all.

Nina walked off the initial buzz of the stimpack racing through her veins by finally entering the sub-basement of the Memorial—the door she'd been aiming for when the super mutant came at her from behind. Dr. Li had mentioned that this was the hub of the original Project Purity team. If Dad was going to be anywhere, he would be here—perhaps hiding away from the super mutants. Or..., the thought teased out of the increasingly morbid side of her mind, or he could be in a super mutant stomach already.

No! She would not allow herself to think that. Dad was alive. He had to be. Her palms sweaty, Nina gripped the warn stock of her rifle more securely and double-checked the display of her Pip Boy: no one within range. That buoyed her steps; perhaps the mutants hadn't made it down this direction. After all, the lure of nearby Rivet City and its numerous denizens probably kept the abandoned Memorial of secondary importance.

Nina passed a door and palmed the release, stepping back automatically against the surrounding wall in case any stealthed enemies came roaring out. Feral ghouls, for one, loved to do that. She wasn't sure if it was some by-product of their mutation or perhaps some other animal deviousness, but ferals snuck up on her more easily than she was comfortable with. Her back was still smarting from a lash she'd received while traveling down the metro subway on the way here.

No enemies screeched out, so she ducked her head around the corner and walked in. The room appeared to be set up as a small clinic. A medical table still had a scalpel, bone saw, and some surgical tubing on it. Not much else in the room worth looking at. She was tucking the tubing away into her pack when something Dr. Li had said came to mind: Nina had not been born in Vault 101. She'd been born in the midst of her father's work with Project Purity... which meant that she had probably been born in this very room.

Looking around with renewed interest, Nina no longer wondered that her mother had died—as Dr. Li said—of "complications." Having grown up around her father's clinic in the Vault where he never skipped routine maintenance and sanitation procedures, Nina could see the wear and tear on the various machines. Even discounting the exposed wires that looked like a mole rat had chewed through, everything looked like it had taken a beating. She felt a flash of irrational anger: What had her parents been thinking bringing a child into the world with such sub-standard equipment?

But Dr. Li again came to mind: her mother had looked forward to meeting her. They wanted her; Nina. She touched the moth-eaten fabric on the gurney sadly and turned away.

She crept down the corridor, finding a few scattered remnants of a life interrupted; a baseball and well-worn glove, coffee mugs sitting on a scarred table—one with dried out dregs still sitting in the bottom—papers full of calculations scattered across a desk. Nothing here looked recently lived in. Her hope steadily dwindling, Nina went to the last door and opened it. Air rushed out and with it, a familiar scent of aftershave and plain soap.

"Dad!" Nina jumped through the door, but like all the other rooms, it was empty. He had certainly been there—the bed linens were rumpled, and the dust on the desk had been disturbed—but her father was nowhere in sight. Staggering to the desk, she sank down onto the chair, head in her hands. Now what? What should she do—? She could feel an unfamiliar panic bubbling up inside her, knifing up the back of her throat—

Her elbow brushed something. Removing the heels of her hands from her eyes, Nina brushed aside some papers full of her father's indecipherable handwriting to see a couple of holotapes, dated some years back. Her Pip Boy accepted the inserted tapes and after a few warbles, her father's voice floated out into the empty room.

"I am at a loss. My beloved wife is gone. In her place is my daughter, small and helpless…"

"Dad…" she whispered, throat tight.

An unconscious impulse sent her under the desk, curling her legs up against her chest, her spare .32 pistol digging into her spine, and her Pip Boy volume as high as it would go. She used to do this all the time in the Vault when she was little—Dad would be sitting at the desk, working on something, or talking to Jonas, and Nina would be content to sit at his feet, playing with a battered toy car.

As she listened on, playing and replaying the tape, tears prickled in the corners of her eyes. It had been so long… she hadn't cried since Dad had removed cleaned a nasty radroach bite on her hand what seemed like years ago, but was in reality only a few months. Everything had happened so quickly—Dad leaving, herself stumbling around the Wasteland armed with nothing but a baseball bat and her frazzled wits. Between avoiding raiders and trying to earn enough caps to upgrade her weapons so that she could move more safely through the Wasteland in search of her father, she hadn't had time to cry. But now, she felt the hot tears race down her face as if she'd been building up a reservoir of them for the past six months.

"…It breaks my heart to go, but I must put the needs of my child before my own."

"Not this time, Dad," she whispered to the empty room, "I will find you. I promise."

Author's note: this is just a random one-shot that popped into my mind after playing this particular part in the game. I don't think I have a continuous story in mind, but I think maybe a few other short stories might emerge. Who knows? If they do, I'll post them here.