Wastelander by Cally 777

*Disclaimer/foreword: I continue to disclaim ownership of any Fallout 3 characters which are Bethesda's property, with the possible exception of my own (Arta). Arta's story is very loosely based on my Fallout experiences. I emphasize loosely. This is certainly not a fic which follows the main quest line (or other quests) in any conventional fashion. Good story telling comes first before anything, as it should.

Note that the prologue is written in a somewhat different style to the rest of the fic. The second chapter (published simultaneously) is more typical of what is to follow. The prologue also contains some info well known to game players. While I'm mostly writing for fans (clue: name of the site), I also usually try to make the fic understandable for non-fans too. Whether this is of any help I will only know if a non-fan tells me how much they liked the story.

Finally I ought to reveal this is not only my first Fallout Fic, its also my first M rated story. Some comments on whether the rating is appropriate, and if the content is too strong/not strong enough might be helpful.*

Ch 1 Prologue: Womb

What does a baby think about in the womb? Does it think at all, you ask? Let's leave that one for now. It's got a brain after all. Not at first, of course. But it'll grow one, by and by. Unless one of the terrible events that happen in the world overtake it. And if it's got a brain, then it can think, can't it?

What does it think about then? About what's going on around it? That's a good starting place.

So maybe the first thing that comes into its head is something like: it's warm, dark and comfortable here. Everything's taken care of for me. I don't have to do anything much. Just float about all the time, flexing my little limbs. This is all right. This is NICE.

Time goes by, as it always does. The baby's been enjoying its comfort and security. But nothing much seems to have changed. It's grown a little bigger, yet its surroundings are the same. The thought may come to mind: is it always going to be like this?

And then what are these things that happen from time to time? Movement. Sounds. Where do they come from? Do they come from some place different from here? Somewhere outside?

The baby is bigger again. Much bigger. The womb that confines it seems to close around it. It hasn't as much space to thrash about in. And when it kicks out, it meets resistance straight away.

Perhaps the warmth, and the darkness and the safety don't seem so attractive anymore. I've changed, they haven't. What's interesting are those sounds out there. From the other place. Everything here is so … so much the same … so BORING.

The things that surround the baby, this darkness, this womb, this mother. They protect it. But they do so by keeping it inside. Away from whatever is outside. Even if inside is ease and safety. Even if outside is not. Even if outside is some hellish existence, some margin of misery, some Wasteland. Its place of safety has become a prison.

And in the baby's mind one thought above every other – I want to get out. I want to get out. I WANT TO GET OUT.

What does a human being think about when confined in a metallic womb? That's an easier question. Especially when there's an example to study.

In the year 2077, atomic war had left most of earth devastated, a hell of radioactivity, mutated life forms, poisoned water sources, ruined cities. A Wasteland.

But some remnant of true humanity survived, in underground shelters known as Vaults, prepared against the holocaust of fire. The Vaults contained everything humans needed for sustainable survival, and even provided a degree of comfort. As long as they stayed within a Vault's metal walls, the survivors remained safe and protected, in the subterranean womb of the human race.

Eventually most of these Vault Dwellers emerged, hoping to reclaim the world as their own. Yet confronted with the horror of the Wastes, they could form only scattered enclaves; to rebuild civilization seemed more a dream than something achievable. Still many preferred to face the challenge when the alternative was to live like Mole Rats in tunnels. Or if they could not completely escape barbarism, then at least to live in some kind of freedom.

Amongst those who remained underground were the inhabitants of Vault 101. In this particular shelter, a virtual dictatorship had become established. Even though partially benign, and with the intention of protecting those it sought to rule over, this totalitarianism was thoroughly rigid in one important aspect. Orders were given that the giant metal door providing the only exit must be sealed shut forever. No one was to enter, no one was to leave. Vault 101 appeared to be cut off from the world and the rest of humanity.

Imagine then the life of one of these 'O1ers' or 'Tunnel Rats' as some self-mockingly named themselves (out of the Overseer's hearing, at least). Her first memories are of all-confining grey metal walls, the constant hum of air-conditioning, the stale smell of pent-up humanity, the unchanging blandness of vat-grown concentrates. But Vault life has its compensations. The food and water are clean and free from radiation. Physical violence is uncommon. Life is undemanding.

Consolation is to be had in other ways too. The kindness of her father alleviates, if it does not make up for, the absence of her mother, who died in giving birth to her. Amidst the petty squabbling and jealousies, she has made one close friend. A combination of genetic inheritance and good parenting has given her a sharp intelligence, a strong will and an appearance which is striking and comely, if not entirely beautiful. To some she seems aloof, yet her father has tried to show her the value of compassion. It may be through his influence that she has gained an independence of mind which leads her to begin to question why things are the way they are.

Why can't we leave the Vault? What is outside? Why obey the Overseer?

She cannot openly voice these questions, but she thinks them. She learns quickly to guard her thoughts. In an enclosed society, secrets spread like viruses.

She absorbs other things too. How the world used to be before the war. In particular the area which Vault 101 lies beneath. Washington DC, formerly the capital of the rich and powerful country known as the United States of America. What can be there now?

As she grows bigger, so the Vault seems smaller. Its rabbit warren of passages lead nowhere in particular. Except for one. Behind that lies a whole world.

And in the child's mind, one thought above every other: I want to get out. I want to get out. I WANT TO GET OUT.