Friday, July 2, 2010

Nos' Adventures, 8-17-77

August 17, 2277:

It may not be the smartest of things to do, but after what happened today I’ve decided that I want a record to survive… when the inevitable occurs.

You can call me Nos. True, it wasn’t the name I was given at birth… but I never much cared for my ‘real’ name, and it seems I’ve now got little reason to leave myself saddled with it out of any sense of familial loyalty, or just plain not wanting to endure the cajoling of people who don’t understand.

If you’re reading this, I’d like to think I simply lost or was forced to leave my journal wherever you found it. I know that since I’m entering this into my Pip-Boy’s log, it’s far more likely that I’m actually dead at this point… but humor me, okay?

What can I say about myself to open this account? I’m nineteen, at the time of this writing. Male. I stand just shy of six feet, have short hair, and wear glasses due to a cruel twist of genetics.

I know perfectly well that ‘normal’ is very much a matter of perspective; but that’s what I always thought my life was – insofar as normalcy still exists when your world consists of an elaborate underground NBCR shelter, situated in the bedrock beneath the blasted earth that used to be the capital of the world’s foremost power.

If you who are reading this are one of the denizens of the wasteland I’ve recently found myself in, then you no doubt find the idea of living in a vault to be outlandish – perhaps even idyllic. To me, it was normal. It was all I had ever known… but, I’m getting ahead of myself.

As I said, I lived in a vault. Number 101, to be exact. I was assigned to maintenance, after the aptitude test. I have considerable knack for firearms, and would have been perfect for security… but I have something of a problem with authority, you see. "Doesn’t follow orders", they said. Wasn’t qualified for medical or science work; so into the world of parts-changing I went.

It was slow, laborious, and totally boring work. I dislike it; but it kept me fed, and taught me more than a bit about keeping machines of various type up and running. Improvisation in repair is a handy skill, I’m learning.

I shared quarters with my father – it not having been deemed that I warranted private accommodations. My mother died in childbirth, they tell me. I don’t think about it much – I never knew her, so I can’t really say as I feel like I’m missing anything.

I never had many friends. Didn’t get along with the resident ne’er-do-wells, wasn’t considered good enough for most of the other kids. Had a bit of a friendship with Amata – the Overseer’s biological daughter; but we never got really close. Then, there was Arianrhod.

That’s not her birth name, either, by the way. She had even less to require she hang on to a family name than I do, and so stopped using her ‘proper’ name years ago.

Our relationship is… somewhat complicated, you see. Not complicated in the love/hate thing going on way. Nor complicated in the sleeping around way, either. It’s more the… ‘they’ve developed emotional attachments to each other that are probably inappropriate’ way.

Arianrhod lost her own parents at a young age, and was technically a ward of the Overseer – though moved to separate quarters for an unspecified reason. She doesn’t talk about it much, but I don’t think they got along very well. As I’m missing my mother, and she both parents, we sort of filled those voids in each others emotions. Some perverse combination of lovers and surrogate siblings. I don’t claim to fully understand it… but it makes us both happy, and sometimes that’s all you need to know.

When I was seventeen, Arianrhod decided that I would be hers, for whatever reason. After all this time, I’ll confess I’m still not sure why she likes me so much… but I’m not going to be a fool and say no to her. Decision made, she began actively scaring off anyone else who even looked like they might show an interest in me, and started in “proving herself” to me.

Gorgeous, isn’t she? While it’s not commonplace, I do occasionally manage to talk her into letting me take a picture or two. The Pip-Boy’s camera function is very handy.

Very handy.

Her eyes, I think, are the most striking feature. I’d call them a mutation of some sort… but that’s silly. No one gets into a vault from outside once it’s been sealed, right?

Needless to say, it didn’t take long for me to succumb to her advances. We’ve been secret lovers ever since.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not ashamed of her, nor she of me. Far from it. You have to understand how a vault works, though. Inside a vault the Overseer is unquestionable leader and protector in self-given title – ruthless dictator, in actuality. Our Overseer decided that no “pairing” as he calls it would be permitted, until and unless he personally signed off, after deciding that the couple in question were genetically and emotionally compatible. “To ensure the best results for the community” he says. I tell you, after nineteen years, I am so sick of being shafted in the name of “the community” that I can’t properly convey it in words; and I damn well was not going to take one for the team in this case.

So we met in secret. Ideally in dark, secluded parts of the vault that even the Overseer didn’t know about. Sometimes in her room; more often in mine – as my father, being the head doctor, was called out on emergency cases fairly often; and my room was under considerably fewer watchful gazes than hers.

Arianrhod had even fewer friends than I did. Amata would tolerate her – but only just, and they never saw themselves as sisters of any sort. The other kids steered far clear of her after the “incident” with the local gang. Being of the pretty sort, they naturally expressed an interest in her; in their coarse manner, at least. Arianrhod was content to simply brush them off until one day when their leader made the mistake of attempting to touch her.

According to security, the event never actually happened; and Butch refuses to admit to anything more than falling down due to an errant puddle of coolant. Though because my father is the head doctor, I was able to sneak a look at the medical report from that day. She broke his jaw in two places, tore a tendon in his right wrist, and hyper-extended his left knee.

Arianrhod doesn’t talk about the incident. She doesn’t actively hide it from me; but instead simply doesn’t consider it a big deal. If asked, she’ll respond only that she discouraged his interest in her.

As you might expect, she has much the same problem with authority I do; and more than a bit of combative skill. Being the Overseer’s ward, however, means that it would be unseemly for her to be relegated to maintenance, and so she is on the security team. This worked heavily to our advantage, as I would volunteer for repairs and inspections in the deeper and less pleasant parts of the vault, while she did similar for patrols.

All this worked fine until one morning. This morning, in fact.

I was in bed, and had only been asleep about twenty minutes when Amata burst in, babbling something about my having to escape. She communicated a hasty and rather vague plan, and passed me a pistol and a couple of magazines, then left.

Fortunately, on hearing someone enter, Arianrhod had pulled the blanket up over herself and held amazingly still. Amata never noticed. She mentioned after that she had assumed it was my father returning from the late night call-out that allowed her to slip into my room unnoticed.

We found out later that that was much less likely. My father, it turned out, had fled the vault. His assistant was dead, and most of the security force was now looking for me for “questioning”.

We both agreed that after what happened to Jonas, this did not bode well for my prospects of living much longer. Whether as a reprisal against me for whatever slight my father had dealt the Overseer – be it real or imagined – or because the old megalomaniac believed I was in on it, I had no idea.

In the end, it really mattered little. If someone is planning to torture and possibly kill you… does the why really matter? It didn’t to us.

Arianrhod, being a security officer herself, had her own sidearm – which she sleeps with in an almost religious manner – and rapidly declared that if I was leaving, so was she. I almost protested… almost. I’ve never been able to say no to her, and to be perfectly honest I was terrified of the prospect of losing her.

Somehow, the problems with my father and security had coincided with a radroach infestation. We made use of the cover to slip along most of the way to the Overseer’s office – where that failed, Arianrhod used her personal status to claim that I was apprehended and being taken to the Overseer. That got us past the remaining guards without incident. After all, while the rumored black sheep of the family, Arianrhod was still a child over the Overseer, and thus very nearly above suspicion in the eyes of the brainwashed drones that made up most of the vault’s security force.

But, as they used to say, eventually the shit hit the fan. We passed by a room where Amata was being interrogated, with her own father looking on impassively, no less. We both agreed that we couldn’t simply let that be; and Arianrhod quickly killed the interrogator. Not awaiting reinforcements, we fled on; eventually reaching the Overseer’s office – and more importantly, the escape tunnel that Amata had promised would be awaiting me. A quick hack of the computer – repairing the systems for years had certainly taught me a trick or two in bypassing a “lost” password – had the tunnel opened, and we nearly dove in, closing the door behind us to buy precious seconds if nothing more.

By the time we made it to the entryway, the guards were wise to us – probably the Overseer himself, tipping them off. I knew we should have killed him, too…

Nonetheless, I got the door open. Unfortunately, security got the door to the entryway open a second later, and some guards streamed in to stop us.

Things very quickly got bad. I… don’t remember much of it, but when the haze faded, Arianrhod and I had killed four guards. We quickly stripped them of their body armor and helmets, and ran out into the cave tunnel outside the vault. The reinforcing guards, for whatever reason, refused to follow; instead being content to close the main door behind us.

That was it, we were outcasts. We had each other, true. Bruised, tired, and dangerously low on supplies; but together. Still, the Vault was all either of us had ever known. We had grown up hearing stories about the horrors of the nuclear wasteland. Deadly radiation, mutant beasts. If humanity had survived, surely they had been reduced to little more than barbarians.

The cave tunnel led out to what was once a scenic overlook, according to a nearby sign.

Once outside, our Pip-Boys picked up some radio signals. According to their carrier signal IDs, they’re “Enclave Radio”, “GNR”, and “WAR Radio”.

The Enclave station is nothing but some sort of pseudo-patriotic spiel. It sounds like an old recording. Could it really be live? I doubt it…

GNR is nothing but static. Which is a shame; I got hold of a disc full of Guns ‘N Roses once, years ago, and it wasn’t bad. I wouldn’t mind hearing some more of it. To think someone would find enough of their albums to set up a dedicated radio station is really something.

WAR Radio is a bit of an odd one. It’s hosted by a man calling himself “Angry Bob”. Bob seems to be a little… into the whole post-apocalypse thing. I’m thinking our initial assessment of the state of humanity may be accurate. His taste in music’s not bad, though…

Gazing out across our new home, we saw a wasted city; and what looked to be a second, fortified and inhabited city a bit less than a kilometer distant.

Not knowing what to expect from the inhabited city, we opted to instead find a place to hunker down in the deserted ruins.

Almost immediately, we ran across an odd robot. Some sort of floating… speaker system? It was blaring that Enclave station. The drone doesn’t dissuade me from thinking that it’s just a recording, either. The little thing seemed to be armed with some sort of laser (I didn’t get close enough to get a good look), but at least it wasn’t hostile.

We managed to find a burned out house that still had some of its roof intact. Since there’s not a cloud in the sky, this seemed as good as place as any to lay low until we can take a better look around.

It’s dusk now, and Arianrhod has just returned from foraging in the next house over. She came across an old refrigerator that still had some food in it. Cram, a package of instant noodles, a box of sugar bombs, and some vodka. They say this stuff is supposed to last damn near forever if the sealed package isn’t breached. We’re about to find out.

I guess I’m a Wastelander, now…


  1. This is very good stuff. The characters feel very real, I suspect largely due to the fact that there's quite a lot of the real Matt in the character Nos. Arianrhod sounds like a bit of a mouthful though, and I wonder if in battle there's a shorter version of the name you'd call out. A well-written account thus far. I look forward to seeing more!

  2. Well... the main character is my digital self, so there's going to be a fair bit of how I would handle problems if left completely outside society's rules, yes.

    I just believe that characters should grow organically. After they have time to grow a personality of their own, it stops being "Okay, this is what they'll do..." and becomes "How would the character respond to this situation?"

    You've got to start somewhere though, and they say write what you know; so he gets to be a pseudo-me, at least to start. Can't promise whether he'll stay that way. Depending on what I end up subjecting them to, I've had characters grow in some very interesting and unexpected ways over the years.

    Arianrhod is actually long form - the short being simply Ria. I just didn't have a chance to work it into the first entry. It does show up in the second, but I had to rewrite part of that this morning, since the damned game didn't do what I planned for it to when we went explorin'. Rewrites always delay things so badly...

    I think it's going to be more fun, though, in the near-term; since it gives them another problem to deal with.

    Shouldn't be much longer on entry two. I think I've got the crap sorted now, and the shots taken. Unfortunately, not a picture heavy entry.