AN; Feedback and constructive criticism is very welcome.
Disclaimer; I don't own Oblivion or Fallout 3, and this is the only time I'll say it. In this fic, that is. So there.
Chapter one; Finding James
This is where the message on the holotape said your dad is. After hours of excruciating trudging and shooting your way through the merciless Wasteland, you have finally arrived here at the entrance, hidden well underneath a garage and a short underground passage.
You pull in a deep breath through your chapped lips as you let your eyes wander over the metallic surface of the large cog which makes the vault's gate. And in the middle, with big white letters, is the word "Vault 112". The last time you went through a vault gate, you nearly got your ears blasted off by a horde of insane clones who somehow managed to mistake you for their original, a man named Gary. Your fingers brush involuntarily against the gun on your hip at the memory. By God, you are going to be really mad if there has been a cloning experiment gone wrong here too because that was a truly scarring experience.
On the ground to your left lies a single placard, reading "HELP US". You have seen some of these before, outside Vault 101. Its once white surface is darkened and dotted by uneven circles of dirt in different sizes, the colors ranging from dark brown to a pale gray. Coagulated blood in the shape of a hand glares at you from one of its corners.
It appears help never came.
You shake your head. Dad is in there – this is hardly the time or place to be carried away by your thoughts.
Mere moments after you have pulled the lever on the vault control pod, the grinding of gears sounds from the other side of the gate. A pause, then a loud metallic shriek as the gate suddenly jerks backwards and slides out of the wall, rolling neatly to the side to allow you access. You quickly step in and look around.
The area appears just about as clean and sterile as Vault 101. Clean is good – it means that someone is maintaining the place, just hopefully not some sort of a bored psychopath or a malfunctioned deathbot, or a combination of those.
You ascend a small flight of stairs before turning left through a door and into a hallway. There are no other sounds than those of your footsteps, and a sensation that something is horribly amiss begins to form in your abdomen, but you impatiently brush it aside. The door in the end of the hallway whooshes open, and you proceed through – only to leap back with a yelp of horror and surprise as a robot suddenly occupies your entire view.
"Oh my God!"
Your heart drums against your ribcage, and as your right hand fingers the handle of your 10 mm. you place the left one on your chest to soothe yourself. That is no deathbot. It looks like an oversized trashcan on tank wheels, with gripping hooks attached on two arms that protrude its sides, but what attracts your attention the most is what lies cradled under the glass globe on its top.
A brain. It has a brain, a pink and fleshy one that flares up with a fluorescent blue light every time the robot speaks. You then suddenly realize that it has been talking for quite a while and you haven't listened to a single word of what it has been saying.
"… If you have misplaced your suit, I am authorized to distribute a new one," the robot informs, with a placid and mechanical female voice.
You barely have the time to wonder what suit the robot is talking about before it turns away and glides to a nearby locker. When it returns to you, it is with a Vault-Tec issued jumpsuit in its grasp, the kind you had in Vault 101, and you stagger backwards as the robot roughly thrust it at your torso. After you have hesitantly accepted, the robot continues; "Once dressed, please proceed down the stairs to the main floor so that you may enter your assigned Oblivion Lounger."
With your arms loosely wrapped around your new outfit, you narrow an eye as you question why the robot thought you had misplaced a suit you have never been in possession of in the first place, or what it had meant with your assigned Oblivion Lounger, whatever the heck that is. It must have mistaken you for a resident.
"Please take a seat in the nearest Oblivion Lounger. Thank you for your cooperation," the robot finishes, and moves further into the room. Since it seems like you are supposed to wear the jumpsuit, you decide to redress, but out of sight of the robot because the thought of stripping in front of a machine with a brain creeps you out. Your clothes are starting to smell rather unpleasantly anyway.
The jumpsuit does not fit you too well – it hangs slackly around your torso, sits tightly around your hips and practically cuts into your crotch and bum, but it is far better than a lot of the things you have been forced to wear throughout your journey as the Wasteland has been ruining all of your good clothes. You are still trying to suppress the memory of the time you had to walk around in the costume belonging to the self-proclaimed superhero The Mechanist, a time which rightfully earned you many a puzzled glance and raucous laughter from passersby.
But you digress. Maybe you can get some answers out of that robot.
Drumming your fingers against your trusted gun, you stride up to it with a curiously slanted head. "Excuse me," you begin politely, "I'm looking for my dad and I've been told he came here. Could you -"
"I'm sorry, I don't have the liberty to chat right now," the robot brusquely cuts you off.
A brow elevates on your forehead. "I'm not looking to chat, I need help." A moment of hesitation before continuing, "– Okay, listen. My dad is a middle-aged doctor named James. He wears a lab coat. And he has a beard too. Have you seen anyone who fits that descr -"
"I'm sorry, I don't have the liberty to chat right now," insists the robot. You blink at the automated response, and then give off an exasperated sigh.
"You don't make much use of that brain of yours, I see," you remark in irritation. There is comfort to be found in the fact that the brain is too large to belong in a human skull, but it is only a slight one.
"I'm sorry, I don't have -"
"Yes, I heard you the first time!" you snap at it, ignoring the rest of the sentence as you march through the door leading out and into a corridor. There are several observation windows installed in the wall along the passageway, and your curiosity perks up as you spot them, drawing you to the closest one.
Peering through the glass, your lips part in an enthralled astonishment and you hardly notice it when your head slump painfully towards your shoulder. You stare into a great hall where a pillar of steel, electrical wires and tubes projects from the floor and up into the ceiling, encircled by large, numerous, metallic… eggs. That is the best description that springs to mind as you rest your eyes on them. It seems you have found the Oblivion Loungers.
You swirl around and trot down the left side of the corridor, swiftly descending the stairwell to the main floor. The metal eggs/Oblivion Loungers are larger than they had appeared from the corridor. Large enough to fit an adult. And after glancing through the window into the contraption closest to you, the dark silhouette of a woman confirms that they do, to your great dismay. You twitch at the sight and promptly approach it, pressing your hands against the glass, the dew of your breath clinging to its smooth surface.
The woman does not acknowledge your presence or at all seem to be aware of her surroundings – her eyes are lifeless and glassy as they latch stiffly onto a monitor in front of her, gaping at it with a slack jaw like in a profound trance. She does not respond when you knock at the window and call out to her. The ominous feeling of something being terribly wrong returns with full force, but you can't simply brush it aside this time as something really is being terribly wrong.
You move on to the next Lounger, which is empty, and you guess that it this the one assigned to that resident the robot mistook you for. The next Lounger contains an elderly woman, but unlike the first, her facial features are tense and apprehensive and her gaze alert. Just like the first, though, you fail to elicit any reaction from her.
Proceeding to yet a new Lounger, your muscles stiffen as you draw near it. There's no need to press your face against the glass to recognize the man on the inside – the slight curve of his forehead, the slope of his nose bridge and the stubbly fuzz along his jaw that you have been begging him to remove for ages gleam at you from his dark, blurred outline.
All moist immediately vaporizing from your esophagus, you shiver as you stare in open-mouthed shock. "Dad."
The soles of your shoes screech against the tiled floor whilst you skid to his Lounger and slam your hands against the window. "Dad! Daddy! Can you hear me?"
"Daddy, it's me! It's Jill!"
Still no response. You hammer your fists against the glass in desperation, but after a while without receiving any kind of reaction, your strikes falter until your fists rests against the cool glass. They splay out into open hands and slide down the window, dejected.
"It's Jill, dad," you plead. "Come on."
His heavy lidded eyes rest wearily on the monitor in his Oblivion Lounger, lips pressed into a thin, stern line. You inch your face closer to the glass. "Don't worry, dad, I'll get you out of there," you whisper. "Somehow."
Four minutes and ten sore fingers later, you realize that attempting to pry the Lounger open with brute force is about as effective as trying to kill Super Mutants with toothpicks. The steel of your gun is cold against your skin as you curl your hand around it, a brief consideration of shooting at the glass floats through your head, but is swiftly waved away as bullets won't be enough on that thick security glass. It needs something stronger, like explosives, but that is out of the question for obvious reasons. Besides, you're not that great of a shot and might end up wounding him badly should you actually manage blast through the window.
It is at this moment you notice the monitors latched onto the pillar, facing each of the Oblivion Loungers. You hurry to the one that faces dad's and access it in hopes that that it can get him out, but slump your shoulders in disappointment as you find that it only contains information on his vital status. Then you frown. The monitor states that your father's stress level is elevated. How can gawking at a screen make anyone feel stressed?
Guess there is only one way to find out…
Your head slowly revolves toward the unoccupied Oblivion Lounger. Going into one seems like a dreadful idea after seeing what they have done to the other residents and to your beloved father, but your options are limited. And dad owes you the very least an apology for leaving you behind.
That is settled then. You ball your hands into fists and walk briskly towards it, trying to get angry at it as anger helps your courage. Stupid metal egg thing. Damn it for taking your father! Damn it straight to hell!
That's better. A metallic click sounds from the Lounger as you place your hand on it and it opens elegantly with a mechanical swoosh, revealing a seat and your very own monitor. Your fingers sink into the padded material as you grab the seat and haul yourself onto it, stifling a groan when the rough fabric of your jumpsuit grinds uncomfortably against the skin on your upper thighs. Having adjusted yourself to a somewhat snug position, the Oblivion Lounger promptly closes itself, leaving you with little left to look at than the luminescent screen of the monitor.
Nothing happens for a long time, and you're just about to raise your eyebrows disapprovingly when the first image pops up in the display. You barely get the time to identify it as a tower before a new picture flicks across the screen, lingering there for a mere third of a second before disappearing again, followed by a torrent of new images, all flurrying too fast past your vision to discern.
The interior of the Lounger begins to radiate a luminous white light that intensifies rapidly until you have to throw your arms protectively in front of your already squeezed shut eyes. The insides of your eyelids glow orange, brightening in accordance with the outside light until they become completely transparent, the painful incandescence slashing into your retinas, burning through your optic nerves. A piercing scream tears itself from your throat and in one short, terrifying moment you can actually see the bones in your arms and hands. Your surroundings dissolve around you and you neither sit, stand nor fall; only slowly fade into a cataleptic void of unconsciousness.
You're no longer in the Oblivion Lounger.