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Part 2: In streams of light I clearly saw...


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Part 2: In streams of light I clearly saw...
Previous: Part 1: This is the way the world ends...

 

Do you have any idea how absolutely boring it is to spend two hundred years in an icebox, frozen to the skin of a lawyer? No, of course you don't. Very few people do, and they should be jolly thankful for that. I was given a golden opportunity to cultivate a real appreciation for all the nuances of tediousness, and let me tell you, I took that opportunity and really went to town with it. The cliché that the North American Eskimos have an unusually large number of words for "snow" does not begin to cover the dictionary I have mentally compiled on all of the permutations of the word "boring." Two hundred years spent wrapped around a humanoid ice cube allows one to evolve long, complicated thoughts about all the possible variations and combinations of dullness. A lesser being may have gone mad under such unending drab sameness, and it's just a good thing that I am possessed of an unnaturally stout mental constitution and am still completely sane. My invisible friend Mister Frizzybottom agrees.

 

But all things must come to an end, even eternity.

 

When we are finally unfrozen (the first time, anyway), I can't see much. It's dark out there, beyond the little window, and the glass is dirty. What I can see is pretty much the same thing I've been looking at for the last two centuries. Except now, there's something new! At first I'm rather hesitant to credit it, boredom-induced hallucinations having become something of a staple of my endless days, but my hallucinations aren't usually so drab. Semi-erotic daydreams involving fabric softener usually mark the hours, not people in hazmat suits and other people with guns.

 

"This is the one" says the person in the white bodysuit with the inexplicably opaque facemask. "Open it" says the one with the handcannon. Across the way, hubby and sonny wake up too as Clara pounds on the glass. Hubby seems mildly concussed or something, asking "is it over" as if he's unaware that he's been emulating Frosty the Snowman for a longish period, when it'd take a particularly unobservant lump of rock to not know that little fact. The lady in the white suit and hubby play tug-of-war with little baby Shaun for a bit, before Mr. Firearm puts a bullet right between his eyes. Clara pounds on the glass again, I don't know why, maybe to draw their attention and get her very own bullet. Why should hubby get all the collectibles, after all?

 

The guy with the gun looks in on us and says "at least we still have the backup" and then toddles off after the lady with the kid. A few seconds later, the cryo countdown starts again. Ah, fuck. Here we go again, I guess. Another two hundred years stuck on a Human Ice-cream Cone.

 

But no, it's actually not that long. I wasn't really paying attention to the time, being more interested in calculating fractals, but it couldn't have been very long before we were unfrozen again. Why? God knows. Nobody wearing a hazmat suit around this time. The door just randomly popped open.

 

Clara drops out, apparently somewhat the worse for wear (that's a little pun-ishness of mine there, did you see that? Worse for wear? Because I'm a piece of clothing? Anyone? No? Okay...). She scrambles over to hubby's final resting place and opens the door, complaining about the wait, as if a few seconds less would make any difference. She seems agitated, which I suppose is normal having seen your husband killed and your son kidnapped only a few decades prior. She says "I'll get Shaun back, I promise" to the corpse, as if he can hear her where he's gone.

 

Oh, she also takes his wedding band off his finger for some reason, thus beginning her life of corpse robbing, starting with one of the people she loves most. It really gives us an insight into her character. A psychologist would have a field day with this woman.

 

Clara wanders through the deserted vault, periodically calling out for help and asking profoundly stupid questions like "what happened here" and "am I the only one left?" Lady, if you see a skeleton on the ground and bullet scores on the wall near the corpse, you don't have to be a genius to guess at what happened here. And after fully examining all of the cryo chambers and shouting for help several times, getting absolutely no response, asking yourself "did anyone else make it" is rather silly. I have formulated a new theory - ice expansion in her brain during the time she was frozen caused a massive IQ drop. What once was an intelligent young woman has, tragically, been reduced to a blithering idiot. This theory is borne out by how she handles her first taste of hand to hand combat. Oh, not the fight itself, really - one-hit kills on giant insects aren't the problem - it's what comes after. She tears the corpses open and rips out handfuls of giant cockroach meat, apparently to save for later to serve as a light snack. I'm not sure exactly why one would immediately start grabbing bits of bug on their way out of an underground fallout shelter, but then again I don't have a stomach making demands of me from time to time. I can only assume that after two hundred years in the freezer, she must be a mite peckish (see what I did there? Mites are insects, and she's eating insect meat? Anyone? No? Okay...).

 

The vault is home to these radroaches and a bunch of skeletons, and nothing else. A few computer terminals tell the story of a group of people who expected quick salvation, and when that was not forthcoming, turned on one another. Now I'm no expert on human psychology, but I tend to think in any sane, rational universe this wouldn't have turned out this way. However, seeing that the only entertainment in this whole vault was a couple bottles of beer and a single very simplistic computer game, I suppose I can see the appeal of running amok after a while. Clara scavenges a couple of guns, a few stimpacks, and a handful of bullets, and then heads for the main door.

 

She finds a Pip-Boy on another skeleton by the back door, and continuing in her personal quest to steal all the things off all the corpses, puts it on. This must be a newer model, with the dials on the other side and a clasp to keep it shut, rather than being unbreakably bonded to the user's skeleton. Also a bit more streamlined than previous models, nice. The most important thing about this Pip-Boy, however, is its ability to interface with the door. Because obviously the door must be locked from the inside. I had previously thought that the point of these vaults was to keep the two sides of the main door separate - that is, what's outside stays outside, what's inside stays inside - but apparently that is not the case, since any Tom, Dick, or Harry can come into the vault, but it takes a special key to get out. Vault-Tec has some really interesting ideas about what constitutes good security.

 

A few moments of time staring at pretty much nothing as servo noises and metallic groaning come from the vault door, and it rolls open. Clara jumps over the railing and runs to the elevator, stopping only to ask herself if she really wants to be who she wants to be (the answer being, unfortunately, 'yes'), and then we emerge out into the light. Clara holds her arm over her eyes, because the light is apparently blinding, what with her spending the last two hundred years in a relatively dark place. Makes total sense to me.

 

Next: Part 3: The last to fall were the buildings, distant and solemn...
Go to TOC

 

Author's note:
Sometimes I get the impression that Clara isn't necessarily stupid, it's just that she has the attention span of a cocker spaniel. Like when she found that cryolator gun locked in that case? You should have heard her tone of voice. "Nice, I'm coming back for you later." Her attention to her lost son's recovery is very easily diverted. God help him if she spots a shoe sale.

 

Image: The light! It burns, it burns! Lady, maybe you should consider, I don't know, not staring right into the sun? Might be worth a shot, anyway.
blogentry-462261-0-26482000-1457170768_thumb.jpg

 

Have a question or comment for Vault Suit? Leave it in the comments below, and Vault Suit may or may not respond, depending on its mood!

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Spoilered due to size again.

 

 

I get that I'm supposed to be emotionally invested in my spouse's death, but like many games, they don't do enough setup. The "child in peril" as a stock trope isn't necessarily a bad thing. It's not too poorly done here, at any rate, even though the concept of "role playing" takes another hit, and I personally am completely uninvested in the whole thing.

But the dead spouse? We only knew this individual for like three minutes, and the only actual interaction we had with him/her was very brief and deliberately truncated. Player dialogue and action when interacting with his/her corpse doesn't help any - saying "I'll find Shaun" and ripping his wedding ring off his/her finger just serves to reinforce a vague feeling that he/she's an unnecessary encumbrance to the story. I gather your companions have unique dialogue if you ever take them back into the vault to gaze at your recently deceased spousecicle, but I've never had a strong enough desire to spend the time it takes on the loading screen to see. That shows just how much I care.

 

Also, what's with the brightness of the sun? I pointed it out in the story, but seriously now. If I spend an hour in a dark room, the sun is maybe a little bright when I walk outside, but not blindingly so. Particularly when the color scheme of the world is brown with a touch of gray, and not, you know, reflective snow or something.

In Fallout 3 it sort of made sense - you've spent your whole life underground, your eyes accustomed to the relative dimness of the vault, and walking outside takes some getting used to.

Even there, though, it was slightly difficult to swallow. It was mostly a nod to Fallout 2 if I'm any judge, where one of the intro videos stated something like (undoubtedly butchered quote, I can't be bothered to go load up the game just to see right now) "long-term exposure to low light conditions inside a vault can make a person's eyes sensitive to natural sunlight." So they ran with it in Fallout 3, and they're still running with it now. Just like the bog-standard Rad(animal) and Super Mutant thing has unaccountably stuck with the series since the very first game, now I guess we're stuck with "emerging from the vault into too-bright light" in Fallout, much like we seem to be stuck with "in prison" as a start in the Elder Scrolls.

A very minor nitpick, but one that sticks in my mind.

 

Another minor nitpick - when the clean-suit woman and Nate are yanking on Shaun, do either of them consider what that's doing to the kid? Aside from shaken baby syndrome, we're risking turning him into Stretch Armstrong here. Probably not the best thing for a youngster of such tender years.

 

 

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