I, the Author: Regret and redemption in the Wasteland


[It's time for another Monthly Musing -- the monthly community blog theme that provides readers with a chance to get their articles and discussions printed on the frontpage. -- CTZ]

The path of a hero is not always a straight one. I of all people should know this.

Looking back you could call my actions the result of bad timing, a person living such a sheltered life being thrust out so young into the lawless wasteland, and at such a critical point in his life can determine what sort of man he is going to be for the rest of his life. It was so easy for the wrong decisions to be made.

After leaving the vault I headed to a small town called Megaton. I was after information about my missing father and I figured that this would be a good place to settle in and get started. As I wandered the town my mission to find information about my father was hindered by a different mission, a perogative dwelling in the back of my head that had been gnawing at me since I first entered this wasteland.

In this lawless place ... who the hell am I?

I was being eaten by an inner conflict, trying to figure out what kind of person I really was, in a land without rules. What rules do I follow?

Trying to clear my head I decided to focus on the task at hand and press the locals for information on my father. Asking the local bar owner seemed to provide potential results, he knew something about my father, but it came at a price, 100 bottlecaps. I didn't have that money right there but at least he had information. I figured I'd get him the 100 caps later and be on my way to find my dad. Chuffed at this potential breakthrough I decided to get a drink at the bar, and that's when he caught my eye.

He introduced himself as Mr. Burke. The well dressed gentleman wasted no time in getting to the point, in a calm and deep voice he offered me the task of detonating the unexploded nuclear warhead at the center of Megaton. Destroy Megaton? The entire town?! For a moment I thought he was insane but the cold glint from behind those tortoiseshell glasses of his told me otherwise. He told me the rewards would be great if I managed to do the deed.

Although I barely knew this dingy little town I felt it deserved to live, putting on my heroic voice I told Mr. Burke that this town had a new sheriff, and that I would take no part in his plans. Mr. Burke tilted his head, looked at me, and smiled. He told me that was fine and that he was a patient man, that he'd be at the bar if I changed my mind. At the moment I thought I'd never do such a terrible thing, perhaps Mr Burke saw something in me that I didn't.

In an attempt to forget Mr Burke's offer I decided to help out the people of Megaton, to try and make a mark on this town and maybe figure out who I really am. When I offered help to these people I expected to solve major problems, make a real difference.. All I found was strangers asking for errands to be run; delivering message, investigating mole rats, collecting mines, all minor tasks with little to no thanks or reward in return. Over time, these mundane tasks began to take their toll on my patience, and Mr. Burke's offer started to echo in my head. As I cared less about the people of Megaton, the reward offered by Mr. Burke looked all the more tempting. The conflict in my head grew like a cancer, I needed to relax to clear my head, I needed to get away.

I headed to the bar, depressed and withdrawn, looking for an answer to a question I didn't know. To try and lift my spirits I even requested the company of Nova, the bar's hooker, for the night. I shamefully gave her my hard earned caps and she took me upstairs, at least some company will ease my turmoil. At least that is what I thought, until she took my money and left. No words, no physical contact, nothing.

She robbed me. Fuck!

I could have killed her and taken my money back, but I resisted the urge and decided it was time to leave this Godforsaken shit hole. I stepped out of the bar and straight up to Moriarty, the bar's owner, and told him I had the money to pay for the information on my father's whereabouts. I was ready to leave this place and never look back.

'Sure!' Moriarty says, 'Just hand over 300 caps and you can have the information'.

300 caps? But he said the information would cost 100 caps, right? I reminded him of his previous quote, to which he laughed a cruel laugh and told me that things had changed, he knew I wanted the information badly, so he could charge me whatever he wanted.

That was when I snapped, in a rage I told Moriarty in no uncertain terms to go fuck himself and stormed off to the bar. Slamming the rusted door I charged into that bar and made a line directly to the seated gentleman wearing the tortoiseshell glasses.

'Burke, you have a deal.' My voice lacking the feigned heroics from our last encounter, I was now determined and resolute, driven by rage.

Mr. Burke seemed pleased that his patience had paid off, he left me with the remote charge that would detonate the bomb and told me to head to Tenpenny Tower once the charge was set. Wasting no time I approached the titular Megaton bomb in the center of town and, while the town's mad preacher view was averted, I planted the charge.

Now there was only one task left that this Hellhole had to offer me, my father's whereabouts. To avoid giving that bastard Moriarty the satisfaction of taking my money, I snuck into his office and hacked the information from his computer, raiding his safe while I was at it. I laughed to myself at the fact it was now Moriarty who was 300 caps short.

Under the cover of darkness I left the town without a single goodbye, and went straight to Tenpenny Tower.
Welcomed by Mr Burke, I was given a rooftop view of the wasteland, Megaton clearly visible in the distance. For my efforts I was given the privilege of triggering the atomic charge myself, a privilege I did not intend to waste. I stepped forward, put my hand on the remote trigger, and activated it.

In a blinding second, Megaton was no more.

In that same second I felt something deep inside of me sink, the rage had subsided and I could almost feel the value of my soul decrease as the mushroom cloud in front of me rose to the sky. I swallowed those feelings down and turned my attention to examine my new home at Tenpenny Tower, this is who I am now, in a lawless land, I need not follow any.

After settling in I left the tower to continue my journey through the wastes, taking what I liked, doing what I liked, killing whoever I wanted to. Along the way a black spot grew large on my soul, that feeling I first felt on that fateful day was still there, and it was growing, feeding on me with each life I took. I would remind myself that I was a rebel now, a pirate of the wastes. However, that feeling was always there in the back of my mind.

I would turn on the radio on my Pipboy to try and block those thoughts out, the 1950's tunes seemed to soothe my aching conscience. Occasionally ThreeDog's news broadcasts would cut through the music to talk about the latest news events, not least of all the loss of Megaton. While nobody knew that I was responsible for the blast ThreeDog had his suspicions, and he wasn't shy about telling people about it. Each broadcast had my stomach turning into knots, the only thing that kept me calm was the fact that he had no proof, so my role in Megaton's demise could only be seen as rumor.

I tried to continue my new pirate lifestyle, stealing where I could, yet I became less and less willing to take innocent lives. What happened next was inevitable. Traversing the wasteland my radio broadcast was interrupted once more by ThreeDog, yet this announcement was different, a public warning, so I took notice.

'Hey children! Do you know what a Reaver is?'

I had never heard of a Reaver before, a new threat on the Wasteland is not something to take lightly.

ThreeDog continued,

'A Reaver is someone you do not want to be around, a Reaver is a monster, a killer ... '

I briefly thought about checking my ammo supplies, this Reaver sound like he could be a lot of trouble.

'A Reaver is a cold blooded son of a bitch, just like that bastard from Vault 101 ...  '

What?! The Reaver... the Reaver ThreeDog was referring to was me!

The horror of this revelation sent me reeling, how could I have let this happen? Sure I bent the rules but I never wanted it to be like this. A thousand repressed thoughts flooded through my head, images of all those I had stolen from, all those I had killed ... oh God ... Megaton! What had I become?!

In a daze I ran out into the Wastes and away from everybody. Lost in thought, I was in turmoil at what I had become. Had I become a monster? What other options were there in this wasteland?

Wrapped in my guilt I came across a large camp I had not seen before, Paradise Falls. I had heard of this place, Paradise Falls was a slave camp, people were captured, bought and sold here ... lives were ruined here. I then knew what I had to do.

I approached the surly guard at the front gate, made some short banter with him to goad him into a fight, and then my task began. One by one I killed those slave drivers, anybody who didn't wear an explosive collar on their neck had signed their own death warrant. By the time the bloodbath was over I was standing over the owner of Paradise Falls himself. I removed the codes to the slave's locks from his bullet riddled body and headed to the slave encampment. Men, women, children, all slaves here, slaves no more.

I freed them of their shackles and they thanked me deeply for my help, they left out into the Wasteland to try and find their homes once again and I felt that black mark on my soul grow a little smaller.

Filled with a new sense of purpose I walked out into the Waste, looking for anyone in need of help, and punishing anybody who would dare stop me. I know there is no forgiving what I have done, Megaton refugees may still hunt me until the day I die, but I hope that little by little, piece by piece, I may be able to reclaim my karma.

.. and hopefully then, I can find redemption.

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