She found a small office off to the right of the corridor. She went in and quickly rifled through the desk and filing cabinets. It looked like the staff had left in a hurry, taking whatever they could or perhaps it had been looted by scavengers. Behind one of the drawers she found a box of 10mm ammo. It looked okay but would it even fire after all this time?
A bit more searching turned up some empty folders, a pack of cigarettes and a Stimpak. Laciee sighed. She was hoping for Med-X but the Stimpak might be useful if it still worked.
WHAT ABOUT THE TERMINAL?
In her search she had completely ignored the terminal on the desk. She cleaned some dust from the screen with her forearm, half expecting it not to work but sure enough, there was the blinking cursor in the top left corner of the screen. She knelt down and pressed the spacebar. The screen instantly came to life showing internal memos to the security team and some personal notes.
She selected the one marked ‘Confidential – Security eyes only – Violation VTP-01011
‘Vault 111 is designed to test the long-term effects of suspended animation on unaware human subjects…’ it began. “What the hell?” she said out loud.
PULL UP A CHAIR. THIS IS GETTING INTERESTING. the disconnected voice said.
She sat, unconsciously shaking her head in disbelief until there was nothing left to read. “This is unreal.” she said softly.
SO WHAT DO WE KNOW SO FAR?
“I know I could do with a cigarette.” replied Laciee. “Do you have a light?”
“Shit, you don’t understand just how badly I could do with one right now.” she snapped as she stood up, kicking the chair away. She put her face in her hands for a moment and took a deep breath.
“Okay… we know Vault Tec set up this vault as some sort of secret experiment. Eventually the staff ran out of supplies and there was a mutiny in which the Overseer was killed because he refused to open the vault. We don’t know when that was because for the terminal doesn’t have any date entries. We don’t even know what date it is now.” she replied, finally taking a breath. “Don’t you think this is beyond fucked up?”
CURIOUSER AND CURIOUSER I THINK. LET’S FIND A WAY OUT OF THIS RABBIT HOLE.
Laciee stuffed the pack of cigarettes, the ammo box and the Stimpak into a leather pouch she found behind the desk. It was falling to pieces but it would have to do for now. She grabbed the baton and made her way out of the security office, stopping in the doorway of what appeared to be a large generator room. As she stopped a huge bolt of blue-white plasma suddenly arced from one of the electrodes on top of the generators. Its fingers shot outwards and downwards hitting the floor with a loud CRACK!!! She jumped. Two more bolts hit the floor in quick succession, leaving burn marks where they hit.
On the other side of the room, she could see them. More roaches. A lot more roaches. “Ugh… there’s a gang of them. How am I going to kill them all?”
THIS MACHINE HAS NO BRAIN. USE YOUR OWN.
“That doesn’t help.” she replied. “Why do you keep saying that?”
THE ANSWER IS OBVIOUS. WHAT DO YOU OBSERVE?
She watched for a few moments until suddenly it clicked. The plasma fingers were shooting out from the generators in a pattern! She timed the strikes by counting seconds in her head and then observed the time between strikes when it was safe to pass. She crept into the room until she was directly across from the roach gang.
Crouching low she counted. Five, Six, Seven….pause. “One, Two, Three… come get me.” she called out loud, tapping the baton on the floor to make sure they got the message. There were at least six that she could see. They were coming fast. “Please, please, please…”
Perfectly on cue, the electricity leapt from the electrodes, crackling and smashing through the bodies of the scurrying roaches. One of them made it through the mayhem, launching itself at her. She put up her arm too late and it hit her hard, knocking her back. She staggered but quickly recovered, swinging hard at her attacker; smashing it to the ground. She looked down at the dying roach; its mandibles opening and closing like a prop from a horror movie. The vault suit had stopped it from doing too much damage thank goodness. Timing the electricity again, she ran across to the other side of the room and stopped dead. She’d almost trodden on it. At her feet lay a human skeleton, still dressed in the remnants of a vault suit. She steadied herself for a moment. The harsh reality of the situation had thrust itself upon her once again. “There but for the grace of God go I.” she whispered.
HEY, HEY LACIEE DAY. GOD HAS LONG SINCE GONE AWAY.
“Oh, fuck off.” Laciee said.
She took a moment to compose herself before moving onward down the corridor. Soon she came upon what could only be the Overseer’s office with its own adjoining bedroom and bathroom.
Another skeleton. This one was in what was left of a white lab coat, bearing the Vault Tec insignia on the front. He was tangled up in an overturned desk chair.
AWW… LOOK. HE’S SMILING. The voice was back.
“Must you be so…so… irreverent!?” Laciee hissed.
YOU’RE ONE TO TALK, MISSY.
There was another working terminal here. Its soft green glow seemed like the only thing real in the room. She was about to step towards it when she spotted a pistol and a box of ammunition laying on the desk. It looked like one of the ten millimeters that she and Nate used to fire at the range. She grabbed it, giving it a quick once-over. She removed the magazine and loosened up the slide by pulling it back and letting it go a few times. The gun oil seemed to have kept it well protected from corrosion that seemed to be affecting most of the metal in the vault. The mag was full but she took a moment to chamber an extra round via the ejection port, releasing the latch and easing the slide and hammer back down before replacing the mag. Until she could lay her hands on another mag or two, she’d rather have as many rounds ready to go as possible.
“Kinda convenient is right.” Laciee said out loud. She looked round quickly, trying to shake the creepy feeling of being watched.
LET’S JUST PLAY ALONG, SHALL WE?
The terminal confirmed what she had read in the security office. It also mentioned the development of an experimental weapon. A portable weapon that could freeze someone solid in an instant. Further exploration of the Overseer’s quarters revealed the weapon in question but it was securely locked up in a transparent enclosure which looked pretty much unbreakable.
“Hold tight. I might be back for you.” Laciee said to the ugly looking gun in the plexiglass case. She shouldered her little leather pack and made her way toward the exit. Holding the baton in her left hand and the pistol in her right she crept toward the sounds of more skittering insect feet.
More giant roaches at the end of the corridor; one of them glowing like an overcharged radium watch dial. She guessed it was not a good idea to let that one get too close as it was probably radioactive. They’d spotted her. Time to act. She raised the pistol and said a prayer to the God of Ammunition that it would actually fire.
BLAM! The sound was huge in the narrow steel corridor. Her heart leapt as she felt the satisfying kick of the weapon in her hands. Her shot was true; spattering the insect into gooey glowing pieces all over the floor and walls. The other roaches scattered out of sight.
She switched to the baton. No need to waste ammo on the other smaller ones.
She was back in the main hall with the big gear-wheel door. Closed.
“How the hell does that open?” She said out loud. A picture formed in her mind – trapped forever in the vault, slowly starving to death. Slowly descending into insanity.
THE MOTOR ON THE DOOR
FOLLOW THE CABLES
The voice snapped her back into action. She studied the huge motor controlled door mechanism for a moment, following the wires to a console near the metal walkway. There it was; a big red button, labeled ‘PRESS’.
She held her breath as she pressed down on the button. A whir and a click and… nothing. She exhaled, nervously tapping the baton against her thigh.
THERE’S SOMETHING MISSING – A KEY – THINK!
WHAT WERE ALL THE VAULT TEC STAFF WEARING?
“The thing! On their arm.” There was one near the skeleton laying next to the console. She fished a bit of arm bone out of the device and fastened it onto her arm. The screen was thick with dust but a quick rub and it was clear that it was coming to life. She was amazed that it still worked.
CURIOUS CONVENIENT COINCIDENCES
She fiddled with the unit and quickly found the plug that mated with the socket on the console.
“Okay, let’s try this again.” she said, plugging it in and hitting the button hard with the bottom of her fist. The huge metal mechanism groaned and complained but suddenly there was movement. Once it gained momentum, the huge wheel rolled completely out of the way, revealing the elevator that had brought them down. For a moment the memories came flooding back, catching her off guard. She shook them off and headed down to the elevator, praying that it too would work; just as the vault door had.
The mesh door of the elevator came down with a rattle and a clang as she stood hugging the baton to her chest, staring into the glare of the spotlights.
This was it. The big reveal. Was she ready to see what the world looked like now? Was it even safe to go to the surface without protection from the radiation? What was up there? Whatever the answers were, she couldn’t stay down here. She felt trapped; the cold vault walls closing in on her.
For what seemed like an eternity she waited, praying that the elevator still worked. Please, please, please…
With a grinding noise and a jolt, the old machinery begrudgingly started to cooperate and the platform began to rise.
As she neared topside the blast doors parted and daylight streamed into the elevator shaft, hurting her eyes. Still holding onto the baton, she instinctively put her other hand up to shield them. The platform came level with the concrete and stopped with a thud as she fought to adjust her eyes to the light.
She walked slowly to the edge and looked down at what remained of Sanctuary Hills. What remained of her home. She had anticipated what it might look like but it still left her unprepared for the shock. She reached out her hand as if to touch the memory of what it once was. The cherished family homes and lovingly looked-after cars now stood beaten, broken and rusted.
She waited for a moment for any signs of movement but there was none. She felt completely alone.
“Hey…” Laciee whispered. “You still there?”
ACTUALLY, NOT THERE. HERE.
She felt utterly weak. She let her knees give out and she sank to the hard concrete. She sat cross-legged on the cold concrete and looked out at the horizon. Shaun was somewhere out there. But he could be anywhere.
She spotted the Concord water tower and the Red Rocket station. Their familiarity made her feel a little calmer; a little more grounded.
“What’s your name?” Laciee said. Asking this somehow seemed like the most normal thing to do.
“Wha… but that’s my…” Her voice trailed off. “You’re me?”
LACIEE ALICE DAY, WHO DID YOU THINK YOU WERE SPEAKING TO?
Laciee opened her mouth and snapped it shut again. Suddenly it didn’t seem all that normal anymore.
MAYBE YOU’RE NOT CRAZY.
“Says the crazy lady, talking to herself.”
IT MIGHT JUST BE A COPING MECHANISM. OR PERHAPS THIS IS ALL JUST A DREAM
Laciee shook her head. “This is no dream. It’s an honest to goodness nightmare.”
Silence settled in, bringing with it the faint hum of insects. The wind carried faraway noises that sounded like huge metal structures in the wind, groaning and creaking in protest. She needed to get out of the open, under cover. Look for supplies. Look for a fix.
She edged down toward Sanctuary Hills, her senses on high alert. The air carried strange smells unlike anything she’d encountered before.
The sounds… the smells… the lighting. Everything felt weird; like it had an ‘edge’ to it. She couldn’t find a better way to describe it. It felt like something was waiting. Waiting for her to make a mistake.
Laciee stayed low and moved silently along the wooden footbridge. Closer now and she could see the awful state of the houses. To her left, the rusted shell of John’s prized Cryslus was all that remained under the Smith’s carport; long since stripped of anything that was removable.
Take a left and go ‘home’ or turn right and see if she could find something at Hawthorne’s house?
HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS AND WE BOTH KNOW YOUR HEART IS SOAKING IN A VIAL OF MED-X…RIGHT?
“Are you just gonna be a smartass or are you planning to actually help?” Laciee replied, under her breath.
WHY NOT BOTH? HEH.
“I fucking hate you, Alice.” she whispered.
SELF-LOATHING IS BEST LOATHING… AM I RIGHT?
She strafed to the right until she was in semi-cover beside the nearest rusted house. Keeping close to the walls, she made her way to Hawthorne’s. It looked bad but it was still standing. The windows and doors had long since gone. She edged toward the bedroom at the rear until she found what she’d hoped to. Filing cabinets pushed over onto the floor. She’d been here before. A flashback of that time, waiting in the corridor, looking through the bedroom doorway. She’d seen Hawthorne reach behind one of the drawers in this very same filing cabinet.
The drawers were the type that couldn’t be easily removed and for that she was grateful, otherwise the package she found behind the top drawer would have long since gone.
Med-X, Psycho and Stimpaks; two of each, sealed in a tight plastic wrap. She breathed a sigh of relief, her hands shaking as she coaxed one of the the syringes out of its wrapping.
THAT’S PROBABLY LONG EXPIRED YOU KNOW.
Laciee ignored her and pulled down the vault suit so she could shoot up.
YOU DON’T CARE, DO YOU? WELL IT WAS NICE KNOWING YOU.
It burned into her veins but with it came the open arms of that familiar dark. Laciee surrendered to its warm embrace, slowly sinking to the floor.
“Look after me, Alice.” she whispered.
She shook her groggy head, trying to clear the chem fuzz as she dragged herself up off the cold stone floor. She was going to have to be more careful. Leaving herself vulnerable like that could be disastrous. Her left arm was dead from sleeping on it, the blood returning to her hand like slivers of sharp glass. Picking up her little pack with her good hand, Laciee set off towards her house.
Her house. Her beautiful Lustron home was but a rusted-out old shell standing before her like a rotten tooth. All of Sanctuary; a jaw-full of rotting metal pre-fab teeth. A wave of emotion hit her hard, and a sob caught in her throat . Yesterday everything was perfect… well maybe perfect was a stretch but now… now it was as if someone had hit Fast Forward on Laciee’s Show and smashed their fist into the projector.
The old TV show played its own twisted version in her head. “My name’s Ralph Edwards! Laciee Day – mother, junkie and accomplished time traveler… THIS IS YOUR LIFE!”
She was standing on the stoop, frozen in the moment when the familiar ‘whoosh’ of of a gas jet and the sounds of rattling metal shook her to her senses.
“As I live and breathe!” he called out excitedly, appearing from the side of the house. “Is it really you Mum?”
She’d never been so glad to hear his silly English butler voice.
“Codsworth!” she cried, “You’re still here!”