[Cyrogenic stasis: Suspended.]
Aubrey forced her eyes open looked through the pod's window. "Hello? Someone, get me out of here!" She shouted, sluggishly raising her arms to weakly slap the door.
Two figures appeared in her line of sight, and she called out again. "Hey! Let us out!"
One figure, wearing what looked like a hazmat suit, pointed at Nate's pod. "This is the one, here." A woman's voice sounded.
Another figure walked past her and the pod. "Open it." He ordered, his low voice cutting through the air and grating on Aubrey's ears.
The woman did something and Nate's pod opened with a hiss and groan as the metal protested being moved. Shaun's piercing cry and Nate's coughing filled the room and Aubrey slapped at the door again, calling for them.
"Is-Is it over? Are we okay?" Nate stuttered out through coughs.
"Almost." The man said, raising a hand as if to placate him.
The woman reached for Shaun. "Come here, baby, come here."
"N-no, no. I got him…" Nate pleaded, tucking the boy closer to his chest, even as the woman grabbed him.
The man raised his hand, and Aubrey could tell he was holding a gun. "Let the boy go." He ordered.
"NO!" She shouted, hitting the door once again.
"I'm not giving you Shaun!" Nate shouted.
"NO!" Aubrey shouted again, freezing as she watched Nate clutch at his chest and slump back against the seat in his pod. The woman in the suit held Shaun, rocking him as he cried.
"Goddammit." The man swore, motioning to the woman. "Get the kid out of here, let's go." He turned and walked up to Aubrey's window. He had a scar over his eye, and Aubrey had half a mind to drive a knife through it again. She kicked and screamed and hit the door, words that would have made a sailor blush spilling from her mouth. The man watched for a few minutes before a smile that could only be described as evil spread across his face. "At least we still have the backup." He said before walking off, smile fading to an evil smirk.
"COME BACK HERE YOU BASTARD, GIVE ME MY SON!" Aubrey shouted.
[Cryogenic sequence: Reinitialized.]
"NO! LET ME OUT!"
Aubrey struggled once again as the cold assaulted her and she felt her muscles start to ignore her.
Her world once again turned white, the last thing she was aware of was the feeling of tears freezing on her cheeks.
[Warning: Critical Failure in Cryogenic Array. All Vault Residents must vacate immediately.]
Aubrey once again woke, coughing and wheezing as the door finally, finally opened. She fell to the ground as she struggled to regain her breath and wiping reliquified tears from her face. She hauled herself up and over the Nate's pod. "C'mon, c'mon, there has to be… a release…." She whispered, spotting the control panel with a red lever. She pushed it up and Nate's pod opened with another hiss and groan.
Once the mist had cleared, she got a good look at her husband. "Oh my God…..Nate…no…." She mumbled, taking his freezer burn covered wrist and feeling desperately for a pulse, refusing to think about the giant red splotch where his heart would have been. She felt his wrist, gave up and touched her fingers to his neck before collapsing to the ground. "Nate…, god, please no…"
The silence around her suddenly made her realize that she was the only one moving. None of the other pods had moved. With a groan, she picked herself up from the floor and over to the next pod. Her neighbor from next door was there, covered in the same freezer burn as Nate. "No…"
She ran to the next one, then the next, then the next, each time a her gut sinking a little more.
"Dead.…they're all dead….I'm….I'm the only one left…." She whispered, going back to Nate's pod and falling against it. "Oh God….Oh God…."
An image of Shaun, her baby boy being taken away from her, hit her like a truck. She picked herself up and faced Nate. "I'll find who did this." She said, assuring herself as much as she was her husband's spirit. She took his wedding ring and slipped it onto her left middle finger, lining it up with her own. "And I'll get Shaun back." With a heavy heart, combined with some aching feeling of determination, she closed Nate's pod, placing her hand on the window of the pod. "I promise."
With that, she started for the door they'd come in. As she approached, she noted the puddles of water pooling by the pods. Ice melt. She swallowed down bile and hit the button to open the door.
[Malfunction in manual door override. Please contact your Vault-Tec maintenance representative.]
Aubrey huffed, kicking it angrily before trying the door to her right. It opened and she jogged through, following the winding halls, and nearly vomiting when she saw skeletons lying around, held together by only the remnants of the Vault suits they wore. She forced it to the place in her mind that she kept memories of cases she wished she'd never seen or heard of.
She opened another door and walked in, the hairs on the back of her neck standing up. She slowed her pace, and picked up a baton lying on a nearby table. It wasn't much, but it was a weapon.
She crept forward, eyes wide and searching for anything that might have caused her fear. Through the window, she could see what looked like the reactor for the Vault.
Suddenly there was a small pinch at her ankle. "Ow, what the he--OH MY FUCK!" She jumped back, brandishing the baton in front of her.
At her leg was what looked like a giant cockroach, about the size of a small dog. As if sensing her fear and disgust, the creature advanced, pincers clicking. With a grunt, she brought the baton down on it, killing it with a splash of its yellowish blood all over her feet. "Gross…" She muttered, stepping back. "Giant roaches? What the hell?" She asked the air, continuing on into the reactor room. She was about to throw the baton at another roach when a bolt of static discharge from the reactor hit it and electrocuted it then and there.
She gulped and made her way along the maintenance walkway, finding another two roaches and quickly killing them, one with the baton and the other by stomping on its head. She forced down a wave of nausea and opened the last door, finding herself in the Overseer's office.
She glanced around, picking up three Stimpaks that lay on the corner of the desk. She almost jumped for joy when she saw a 10mm pistol laying by what must have been the Overseer's computer terminal. She picked it up, checking the clip and actually did jump for joy when she found it was full. She grabbed a few ammo boxes worth of rounds from the desk, sliding them into the pockets on the thighs of the blue suit she wore. She went to the open security gate to the meager armory, pulling a few more rounds from the shelves, combing the lot of them into the one box she held.
She bit her lip briefly. She only had two hands, and was running out of pocket space to hold everything. She set what she had down on the desk and moved into the sleeping quarters behind the office. She searched every drawer, finding mostly knick-knacks. She pocketed a pack of cigarettes, hoping to find a lighter later. After all she'd been through, she'd need a smoke.
When she opened the final drawer she grinned. Pulling out a bundle of fabric, she inspected it. It was a large backpack. "I can use this." She said to herself, picking up a bundle of what looked like belts under it. She shook it out and smiled wider. "And a thigh holster. Good. These will help."
She put on the thigh holster and went back out to the desk, tucking the ammo in one side pouch and a Stimpak in the other, before slinging it on her back and placing the pistol in the holster.
She fiddled around on the terminal, selecting the option to open some sort of Evac Tunnel. A door at the far end of the office opened and she gave a sigh of relief. So at least she wasn't trapped. She made a final run through of the area, checking for anything useful before heading out into the hallway…and nearly screaming.
A gauntlet of seven roaches lay in front of her. She swallowed and pulled out the pistol, taking aim and firing, flinching at the sound echoing through the hallway.
One roach crumpled, but the sound had alerted the other six to her location. She squeaked as they started towards her, quickly firing off another 8 rounds before the roaches all lay dead at her feet. She silently thanked God for her training Navy as she stepped over and around the carcasses on her way to the Vault door chamber.
After dispatching another two roaches in the chamber, she went over to the processing area where her clothes had been taken from her. She searched every drawer and box, finding only a few more 10mm rounds, another Stimpak, and another Vault suit. Her clothes were nowhere to be found. She took the vacuum packed Vault suit and stuffed it into the back pack before reloading her gun and tucking the Stimpak in the side pouch with the others.
She headed to the door controls next, trying to lift the glass protector off the button to open it, with no avail. She angrily hit other buttons on the console until she got a response.
[Pip-Boy interface required to access Vault Door Controls]
"A pipboy? Where am I going to find--" She stepped back and kicked another skeleton by accident, but in doing so, she uncovered the arm bones the faded lab coat the unfortunate scientist had been wearing was covering. There, like an answer to an unspoken prayer, lay a nearly pristine Pip-Boy. Aubrey gulped and bent down, shuddering as she picked it up and the bones fell out of the arm sleeve. She inspected it briefly before putting it on, adjusting the tightening mechanism until it sat snugly on her left forearm. She rubbed the dust of the screen with her thumb as she powered it on. She waited as it booted up and asked for her basic personal info before the built in biometric scanner took its readings, once it was finally ready for use, she turned back to the console, taking the interface cable and plugging it in. The pipboy bleeped, notifying her of a successful interface and the glass cover on the exit button flipped open. Without hesitation she slammed her fist down on it, and the computer blared a warning siren as mechanisms and machinery not used in however long she'd been down there came to life.
She moved to the ramp as she waited for the door to open, taking the forgotten hair tie on her wrist and pulling her hair back into a ponytail.
Once the door was open she jogged along the ramp and causeway and stepped on the elevator once the gate was lifted. She took a deep breath and hit the button to return and the eerily cheerful computer spoke.
[Enjoy your return to the surface, and thank you for choosing Vault-Tec.]
Somehow, that didn’t comfort her as the elevator creaked and groaned as it lifted her back up to the faint light of day.
The elevator's ascent seemed much longer than she remembered it going down, but slowly, the daylight grew and grew until she was forced to shield her eyes from the brightness. The elevator finally ground to a halt and she rubbed at her eyes.
Once her eyes had adjusted, she finally took a good look at her surroundings, gasping in horror as she took in the dead trees and the ruins of what had once been her home below the hill of the Vault.
"Oh God.…." She mumbled, stepping onto the edge of the bluff and shading her eyes to try and get a better view. For as far as she could see, everything was brown and dead, with only a few miniscule splashes of greenery spattering the ground. She took a shaky breath and stepped back from the edge, wringing her hands as she wracked her brains for a plan of action.
She walked to a small structure to her left and glanced around, eyes pausing at a big red button in the center of a console. She touched it gently, tracing her fingers over it, then under a line of worn text beneath it.
"Elevator Control." She whispered, jerking her hand away as if the text had somehow lit up with the heat of a stove top. "A button. A goddamn button." She muttered, turning away from it. She swallowed again and opened the first aid kit nearby, taking out a Stimpak, a bag of RadAway, and an antibiotic injector. She put them in her backpack, trying to arrange everything so nothing would tear the RadAway bag.
She left the structure, searching a few wooden crates in the vicinity, pocketing another bag of RadAway, and a bottle of Rad-X.
Bile once again rose in her throat as she passed the skeletons of her neighbors who'd been denied entrance to the Vault. The chain link fence and gate they'd died next to had long since rusted away in places, and she couldn't help but wonder just how long she'd been in the Vault. The path she'd run up what felt like only a few hours ago was still visible, but plant life had started to encroach along the sides. She paused to glance at a bush with a dull blue flower blooming and allowed herself a small smile. Even after all that had happened, life could still find a way to be pretty. She resisted the urge to pick one and continued over the little footbridge and into her old neighborhood proper. She took a moment to mark the place down on the map of the Pip-Boy, selecting a symbol that looked vaguely like the monument to the old Minutemen that stood at the bridge to Concord.
She looked around again once she'd lowered her arm. Most of the houses were still mostly intact, but a few had collapsed completely, now nothing more than piles of vaguely yellow or blue tinted rubble. She sighed, thinking that there could have been supplies in there, and she'd never be able to get them.
With legs like lead, she pushed herself towards her house, too busy trying to process everything that had occurred in what felt like the most stressful morning of her life. "And here I though the bar exam was tough." She muttered, pulling up to a stop as she heard a noise from the side of the house. She stepped back, hand resting on the handle of her pistol.
"As I live and breathe!" Codsworth cried as he appeared from behind the corner and caught sight of her. "Oh, it's--it's really you!"
Aubrey sighed and relaxed, walking up to him. "Codsworth! You're still here!" She smiled, properly for the first time since waking up, the bot's British accent an immense comfort in the upside down world it looked like she was stuck in now.
"Well of course I am! It'll take more than a little radiation to take down the pride of General Atomics International." He paused for the briefest of moments, his middle eye scanning her up and down. "But you certainly look the worse for wear. Best not let the hubby see you in that condition. Where is Master Nate, by the by?"
Aubrey looked away, smile fading as a pang of guilt stabbed her in the heart and nausea swelled in her stomach. "They--They killed him…"
She could hear Codsworth's fans engage even as he spoke up. "W-wh.. Oh Mum, these things you're saying…These terrible things… I do believe you need a distraction. Yes, a distraction to calm this…dire mood. You know, it's been ages since we had a proper family activity. Checkers… or perhaps charades! Oh Shaun does so love that game…Er, is the lad, er, with you?"
Aubrey shook her head. "It doesn't make any sense….why would someone take my baby?"
"It's worse than I though. Mhmm. You're suffering from…hunger-induced paranoia. Not eating for 200 years will do that, I'm afraid."
Aubrey stepped back, hand flying to her mouth. "200 years….what? That's not…"
"A bit over two hundred and ten actually, give or take a little for the Earth's rotation and some minor dings to the old chronometer." Codsworth gestured a bit with his arms. "That means you're, um, two centuries late for dinner! Ha-ha! Perhaps I can whip you up a snack? You must be famished."
Aubrey leaned on the wall of the house, mind spinning as she tried to wrap her brain around this new information. "I….what? No, Codsworth, I need help, not food!" She snapped, then almost immediately regretted it. "I'm sorry. I shouldn’t have--"
"You know, I have a theory. Master Nate and Shaun may simply be hiding from the….Red Menace, mum."
"The Red Menace? Really?" Aubrey arched an eyebrow.
"Yes, mum. You know, those dreadful communists that started this whole---"
"Codsworth, you're acting….kind of strange…are you sure you're okay?"
"I.…I….Oh, Mum it's been just horrible! Two centuries with no one to talk to, no one to SERVE!" The robot cried, fans whirring to try and compensate for the rush of programmed emotions. "I spent the first ten YEARS trying to keep the floors waxed, but nothing get out nuclear fallout from vinyl wood…nothing. And don't get me started on the futility of dusting a collapsed house. And the car! The CAR! Oh, how do you polish rust?!"
"Easy Codsworth." Aubrey soothed, reaching out and laying a hand on the scratched casing of his body. "Stay with me, pal."
"I'm sorry, Mum. It's just, you and your family left so quickly, I thought for certain you all were dead. And then, everything happened."
"It's...I'm here now. I'm sorry I didn't get a chance to say goodbye properly."
"It's alright, Mum. Family first, of course. Oh. And I found this holotape. I do believe Master Nate was going to present it to you, as a surprise. But… well, here." The robot reached into his storage compartment and pulled out the keys and tape. "My etiquette protocols wouldn't permit me to play it for myself, so I don't know what's on it."
Aubrey gingerly took the items, running her thumb over the label, where Nate had written "Hi Honey!" in his deplorable handwriting. She tucked her keys into her pocket and loaded the tape in to the player on her Pip-Boy. She hesitated for a moment before hitting the play button, biting her lip as she listened.
After a moment, and a sound of microphone feedback, Nate's voice started speaking. "Oops, haha. Keep those little fingers away... Ah, there we go. Just say it, right there, right there, go ahead." Shaun's giggling could be heard in the background and Aubrey sniffed, fighting back tears.
"Ah, yay! Hi honey, listen... I don't think Shaun and I need to tell you how great of a mother you are. But, we're going to anyway. You are kind, and loving," More giggling from her son followed by a chuckle from her husband, "…and funny, that's right, and patient. So patient; 'patience of a saint' as your brother used to say. Look, with Shaun and us all being home together it's been an amazing year but even so I know our best days are yet to come. There will be changes sure, things we'll need to adjust to. I'll rejoin the civilian workforce, you'll shake the dust off your law degree.
But everything we do no matter how hard, we do it for our family.
Now say goodbye Shaun. Bye bye, say bye bye?" Shaun giggled and babbled into the microphone and Aubrey couldn't help but let the tears fall from her eyes.
Bye honey, we love you." There was a click as the tape ended, and silence filled the air between Aubrey and Codsworth, broken only by the occasional sniff as Aubrey fought to regain control over her emotions.
"Thank you, Codsworth." She finally whispered. "This…means a lot to me."
"You're welcome, mum. Now, enough feeling sorry for myself. Why don't we search the neighborhood together? Master Nate and young Shaun may turn up yet."
Aubrey bit her lip. "I….alright, Codsworth. Lead the way." She finally said, following behind as the robot started humming an upbeat tune as he headed off into the cul-de-sac.
"Here we are… Sir? Ack, have at you!" Codsworth suddenly called, snapping Aubrey from her thoughts.
She peeked in the doorway of the house. "Codsworth? What-- AH!" She jumped back, raising her pistol again and aiming at what looked like a gigantic fly. But before she could fire a shot, Codsworth had sliced it in half with a swipe of his buzz saw. Aubrey shuddered, hands shaking as she lowered her gun. "I hate bugs…" She muttered, stepping back out of the house.
"Hm. Nothing here but a few flies…" Codsworth started and she tried not to scream, yell, and point at the halves of the bug and tell him in no uncertain terms that that was NOT A FLY! "Oh, wait, my sensors are picking up movement in another house. Follow me!" He floated off across the street, into a house where all the furniture and some junk had been piled into the middle of the great room. She stayed far enough back, pistol at the ready as Codsworth called out again, making short work of some more of those giant roaches like in the Vault. She grimaced and swallowed around the lump in her throat.
"Your family isn't here either….they're…they're really gone aren’t they?" Codsworth asked, floating back over to her.
Aubrey smiled again, tearing her eyes away from the dead bugs around her. "Thanks for trying, Codsworth."
"Oh, Mum, you simply can't give up. What about Concord? There's still plenty of people there? Maybe someone there can help you?"
"There's people alive in Concord?"
"Yes, Mum. And, last I checked, they only tried to pummel me with sticks a few times before I had to return home."
"Great." Aubrey deadpanned. "I like these people already."
"Oh good. I'm certain you'll be able to find some help then."
Aubrey shook her head, remembering that Codsworth had never been good at understanding sarcasm. "Alright. Concord it is."
"Very good, Mum! I shall remain here and secure the home front!" The robot replied, floating away and humming cheerfully again.
She chewed absentmindedly at the inside of her lip. Concord had only been a short drive by car, but on foot? It could take hours to get there. She fiddled with her Pip-Boy, finding a clock and checking the time.
It was almost noon, according to the clock, and the sun was high enough in the sky for her to trust it. She shook her head, going back to her house and walking in, pain washing over her again as she looked around, moving at a snail's pace to the hallway and to her old bedroom. The king-sized bed was only a broken frame now, the mattress probably looted or decayed decades ago. The dressers were still standing, but it was obvious they were in disrepair, and at least 200 years old. She closed her eyes and turned away, fighting back tears, only to fail again when she opened them up, staring straight into Shaun's room.
She wiped at her face before stepping in, righting some of the furniture in the room, picking up the lamp and setting it up again. As she went to move the changing table back against the wall, she stepped on a book. One of the children's books she'd read to Shaun the night before the bombs. She picked it up, dusting it off and inhaling deeply to try and calm her nerves. She set it down on the table by the lamp before spinning the broken mobile on Shaun's crib. The music box attached to it had long since failed, and most of the rockets that adorned it had fallen off or been taken. With a renewed sense of determination, she straightened up. "I'm coming, sweetheart." She whispered to the air, a quiet prayer that she hoped would reach her son, wherever he might be.
The rest of the house was just as empty as her room, with anything of real value having been lost to time. She adjusted the backpack and stepped out of her home, glancing around the neighborhood again as she swallowed around the lump in her throat. Only the house opposite hers seemed to have been lived in for any period of time. "Can't hurt to look…"
She found nothing helpful.
The next house sent another pang of guilt through her system. The house of her close friend, Derek, had completely collapsed in on itself. There was nothing left. "God…I hope you didn't feel anything." She whispered, steeling herself as she did quick walkthroughs of the other houses along the street, finding only a vial of Med-X and a single Stimpak. "It's better than nothing…"
"Mum, b-before you go!" Codsworth approached her, holding out a small bag. "I'd purified some water over the past few years. You should take some with you. It can get unseasonably hot during the days."
Aubrey nodded, taking the bag and stowing the water in her backpack. "Thanks again, Codsworth. I'll be back as soon as I can. Stay safe, honey."
"Of course, Mum. You as well." The robot's voice wavered a bit as his fans whirred again.
Aubrey placed a hand on his casings again. "I will come back. That's a promise." She stated. Codsworth moved his middle eyestalk up and down, the equivalent to a nod. "Hey. While I'm gone, do you think you could clear out the debris out of the master bedroom? When I get back, I'm going to see if I can't repair the bedframe."
"Yes, Mum. Absolutely, oh, thank you!"
Aubrey nodded, smiling as he cheerfully floated back to the house. Facing the entrance to Sanctuary, she took a deep breath and set out, practically marching down the road, and over the half collapsed Old North Bridge. Nausea once again welled up as she stepped around a relatively fresh corpse of a human being with a large wound in his side and what looked like an emaciated hairless dog with a tire iron sticking out of its stomach. It looked like the man had bled out from a bite on his stomach after dispatching the dog. She bit her lip before holstering her pistol and hefting the man up under his arms, dragging him out of the road and into the bushes. She patted him down, trying not to think about what she was doing. She pulled out a Stimpak, a box of .38 caliber bullets, what looked like some sort of jerky, and a small leather pouch that, strangely, contained 12 old Nuka-Cola bottle caps. She arched an eyebrow, but tucked the pouch away. It had been stowed in an internal pocket of the damaged coat he wore, and normally that meant its contents would be valuable. "How bottle caps are valuable, I don't know, but I should probably hold onto them….just in case." She said to herself, standing up and dragging the dog's body next to the man's before starting back on the road.
She'd walked for about an hour when she came up to the Red Rocket Station that marked the halfway point between Concord and Sanctuary, and sighed. "Half-way there, and it's only one-thirty." She huffed and slid her backpack off one shoulder, then pulled it around to her front, digging in it for a can of water. Once found, she was just about to crack the lid open when a cheerful bark sounded nearby. Remembering the image from outside Sanctuary, she lowered the water and rested her hand on her gun, eyes searching around her for the dog. Trotting out from under the overhang of the fueling station was a German Shepard, tongue lolling out happily. He stopped about 3 meters in front of her and cocked his head, barking a few times again.
Aubrey relaxed, taking a step towards the Shepard and kneeling down. "Hey boy… what're you doing out here all by yourself, hm?" She extended her hand for the dog to smell if he pleased.
The dog panted and stood back up, trotting over to her and licking her fingers happily.
Aubrey chuckled and patted his neck and scratched his head between his ears. "You seem like an okay guy. How 'bout we stick together for now?" He barked softly and licked her face before she stood. "I'll take that as a 'yes'." She chuckled, glancing around the station a few times. "Hm. We'll have to come back here, see if there's anything worth taking."
The dog gave another bark before trotting away back toward the station, stopping just shy of a small pillar in the concrete and took something from the ground. Aubrey arched an eyebrow, then shook her head, zipping the backpack back up and resettling everything again. She jumped when the dog suddenly appeared beside her, with a Stimpak held in his mouth. She smiled and kneeled down, taking it from him. "Well, aren't you smart, huh? Good boy!" She said as she rose, tucking it into her belt. The dog's tongue lolled out happily and he rolled over, showing his belly. She chuckled. "Okay, c'mon boy. Let's go." She said, walking back down the road. "Well, at least now I have someone to talk to." She muttered as the dog ran ahead of her by a few feet, sniffing idly at the ground. She glanced at her Pip-Boy, noting the time again before setting out proper again for Concord.