Somewhere between being attacked by giant rats and making awkward small talk with a trio of passive-aggressive radiation zombies, I began to regret my decision to leave the vault the other day. After all, that cooped-up atomic-bomb shelter was the only home I'd ever known. But when my father mysteriously went missing, I knew I had to put my life of watching I Love Lucy reruns and eating canned beans on hold for a while.
That said, it wasn't an easy decision. I stood in front of the vault door's control pod for what seemed like forever, debating whether or not to flip the switch. When I finally did, I never could have expected the view awaiting me from the outside. Once my eyes adjusted to the burning light, I saw a desolate, burned-out wasteland: to the right, the collapsed remains of a freeway overpass, and to the left, the battered shell of the Washington Monument. Everything in-between appeared to be little more than scattered rubble and charred trees.
I cautiously stepped down from the cliff that I emerged from and began to look for some remnants of a road. I needed to find a path I could follow to a town, city, or any semblance of civilization. Soon enough, I found a small village called Springvale, but the only "life" nearby was a floating robot that I later learned was an Enclave Eyebot. It seemed to be some sort of radio broadcasting a heartwarming story about what life was like when we had professional baseball teams to root for. Being more of a foosball man myself, I walked right on by.
Off in the distance I noticed a school, so I decided to investigate what might be inside. Turns out it was just a whole lot of dead raiders. All right, all right, so they were alive when I first came in, but they were shooting at me! I had to defend myself! Even with my disdain for baseball, I swing a pretty good bat (at least when cornered by an angry raider). But once I took care of the threat, there wasn't much worth exploring inside.
I left the school and wandered around until I came to a great big river. I noticed a fairly large city past the opposite bank, so I decided to swim across. Not a good idea. I should have suspected something odd was afoot when I first noticed the river's greenish hue, but life in the vault seems to have sheltered me from the dangers of radiation. I tried to make it across, but when the sound of a Geiger counter in my ears and the slight trembling in my limbs became too much to handle, I swam back ashore and took the long way around.
The city on the other side turned out to be the ruins of Bethesda, Maryland. Although I'd never been there before, something about the name sounded oddly familiar, but I just couldn't put my finger on it. I spent a good long time trying to figure out where I remembered that name from. My mind was so occupied that I didn't even notice when I strolled right into a camp of vicious raiders. Mind you, these raiders were much tougher than the ones back in the school. (Something about hanging out in the streets rather than the art room will do that to you.) They gave me a pretty good beatdown. I managed to take care of them, but not before I exhausted my entire supply of stimpaks, those friendly little needles that restore my health when I'm feeling a bit down. By the time I took them all out, I had developed a pretty savage headache. I couldn't walk more than 10 meters without suffering a severe fit of wooziness. Nervous, I had a look at my condition on my little wrist-mounted Pip-Boy 3000 computer. Yep, just as I thought: I had a crippled head. No amount of mildly irradiated-but-health-restoring rat meat would help me now. I had to find myself a stimpak and inject it directly into my head.
I stumbled my way across the barren nighttime landscape, and just as the sun began to rise, I found a walled-off city called Megaton. The friendly robot patrolling the door could tell I was in a bad way (I think my busted and throbbing face tipped him off), so he let me in right away. Immediately inside, I was greeted by a rough-and-tumble-looking fellow in a cowboy hat. He introduced himself as Lucas Simms, Megaton sheriff and sometimes mayor (but only when the need for civility arises). I chatted him up for a bit, asking about the giant atomic bomb sitting smack-dab in the middle of the city as some sort of twisted town-square statue. Even among the makeshift scrap metal and airplane-fuselage houses, that thing stood out like a sore thumb.
Simms told me it's sort of a monument that Megaton was built around, but he'd just as soon see it disarmed if anyone in the town had enough skill to do it. Even though my explosive skills weren't the best, I offered to take care of the problem for him...but at five times the reward he offered. No dice. My speech skill was about as poor as my explosive skill, so we settled on the original figure. I went down to investigate the bomb and met an odd local named Confessor Cromwell. Apparently, he's the leader of the Church of Atom, the local religion that worships the atom bomb. Seemed like a nice guy, if a little insane.
Then I turned my eyes toward the atomic bomb and discovered that I needed 40 points of explosives skill to disarm it. Sadly, I had only 15. I figured trying to smash it with a hammer (as had become my normal trick for fixing old electronics back in the vault) was a bad idea, so I decided to take on some local work to build up my experience levels. I'd heard the shopkeeper running the Craterside Supply was interested in writing a wasteland-survival guide and needed a guinea pig to test a few of her theories, so I went and saw her. After buying a few stimpaks to fix my broken face, I asked her about the book. She was looking for someone to test the effects of radiation, survey the effects of outdated food, and see how much of a threat old landmines pose to those who choose to wander through local villages. I took her up on the last option first and set off for a ghost town appropriately called Minefield.
On my way there, I stumbled upon an old train yard and ran into a group of mutated radiation victims called ghouls, people with horrifying scars and mutations that make them look more like zombies than people. Apparently they've got quite the complex, because they were trying to make me feel bad about my looks (calling me "Smooth Skin") and guilt-tripping me for being in a rush to get to Minefield. No matter how polite I was, these guys just wouldn't let me off without some snide comment. "Oh, thanks for not killing us hideous monsters. You're sooo kind." Jerks.
But no matter: I escaped their passive-aggressive tyranny and found Minefield. Of course, I was greeted by a sniper who was patrolling a local rooftop, but I'm at the point where I've come to expect violent raiders trying to kill me at every turn. Or vicious dogs. Or giant rats. Or mutated bees. Anyway, I took him out with a well-placed headshot courtesy of my trusty hunting rifle, collected a land mine to be studied by the shopkeeper, and then bolted back to Megaton.
Next on the list was to test the effects of radiation. She actually wanted me to get my radiation levels above 200, going all the way up to 600 if possible. (My computer's built-in radiation gauge only goes up to 1000; I assume that's the human body's limit.) Needless to say, I was a bit worried. But I'll be damned if the money wasn't good, so I was in. I popped on down to the stagnant, irradiated pond in the middle of town and had myself a little bath. But even after I submerged myself in the toxic water, my radiation meter was only slowly filling up, so I decided to start gulping down water by the handful. This earned me some funny looks from the local townsfolk--even the Church of Atom people looked at me like I was crazy. I tried to explain that I was doing this in the name of science, but no luck. I'm not making friends in this town anytime soon.
Thankfully, the shopkeeper managed to flush out most of my radiation with some Rad-X, and in the process I picked up a new mutant ability to regenerate crippled limbs. Score! Finally, I was sent off to the remains of a Super-Duper Mart store to find some old junk food and see if it was still any good. I ran into a big group of raiders camped out inside the store, but they were no match for the sniper rifle I picked up off of the guy back in Minefield. The best part is that taking care of these squatters gave me enough experience points to put my explosives level above 40. I found the food and rushed back to Megaton to put my newfound skills to good use.
Back inside the corrugated metal walls of Megaton, I walked down to the atomic bomb sitting in the middle of town. For the second time, I rolled right up next to it and gave it a good inspection. This time, I was able to disarm the thing and rescue the local citizens from the precarious position of living in a city with a live atom bomb acting as a town plaza. Lucas Simms was so grateful that he gave me the keys and deed to a local house. I was pretty excited about that, considering that I'd spent the previous night sleeping on a mattress I'd found in the Super-Duper Mart bathroom.
I'm beginning to enjoy life here in Megaton. My new house even came with a friendly helper robot that has AI so advanced that he can make me drinks and give me a haircut. Granted, my new pompadour and handlebar mustache combo doesn't bestow any magical ability to collect more headshots in battle, but at least I look good doing it. Now I've got the confidence to set off for the big city: Washington DC. I'm not sure what dangers await me out there, but I have a feeling some clue about my father's disappearance lies within.