I haven’t written fan fiction in many, many years, but over the past few months I’ve been playing quite a bit of Fallout 4. To finish the game requires making some pretty big choices and unlike most roleplaying games, there isn’t an obviously good or evil ending. I spent a lot of time thinking about what I wanted to do and why I wanted to do it. Although the game ending doesn’t reflect any of the thought I put into my choice, I couldn’t get all that contemplation out of my head. It just continued to swirl around and around in my thoughts. I decided I’d write it all out, if only so I’d stop obsessing over it and from that effort, my first piece of fan fiction in over a decade was born.
Needless to say, there are huge spoilers for the story of Fallout 4, so be warned. I also can’t promise that I created something easy to follow for those that aren’t familiar with the game. I didn’t write this with the intention for anyone to read it, so your mileage may vary. Despite all of that, I rather enjoyed what I made after I read through it and it’s interesting enough that I decided to share it here.
Once again, spoiler warnings for pretty much the entire main storyline for Fallout 4 and further warnings that it may not make sense if you aren’t familiar with the game. If you’re still interested, the story begins after the jump.
“War never changes.”
It’s 2077 and I’m standing in my bathroom. My skin is still wet from the shower I’ve just taken. Ah, hot showers. Every man has his vices in life, the little things that him going each day. A cascade of steaming hot water is mine. During the Great War, I could go for weeks without a good meal or a decent drink, but the lack of showers nearly killed me. Well, that and enemy arms fire.
The steam begins to lift from the mirror and I stare back at my own reflection. I barely recognize myself; hair that was once regulation length has grown out to my shoulders.
Arms slip around my waist in a quick hug. “You’re going to knock ’em dead at the directorate meeting today, hon.” It’s Nora, my wife. The mother of my child. My best friend. My soul mate.
“You think?” I ask.
“I’m sorry, sir, was your question directed at me?” I frown. This isn’t my wife’s voice. This voice is cool, disinterested, and decidedly male. I blink, wipe my hand across the mirror, and look towards the door.
A man is standing just outside. He is dark skinned and wearing a black leather uniform. Even though we’re inside, his sunglasses are still on. As far as I know, he never takes them off.
His name, if you could call it that – it’s really more of a designation – is X6-88. He’s human, though both he and his creators would argue that last point. Technically, he is a synthetic human, created by science and technology. It’s complicated. My own feelings are especially complicated. Regardless of his origins, he’s a highly trained killing machine, pun not intended. He serves as my bodyguard and most loyal aide. He is a Courser, a synthetic human specifically created and trained to serve as the Institute’s most dangerous agent.
He does not belong in the world of 2077. He should not exist yet.
There’s no sign of Nora. My wife is gone. In this strange time and place – 2287, to be precise – she is dead.
That realization is like losing her all over again, just as I’ve done hundreds of times since I first started hearing her voice again.
I’m standing in a bathroom, but it isn’t the one from my memories; that one, last time I saw it, is now a burnt-out husk in the ruins of Sanctuary Hills, my former home. The bombs came and took that world away.
This bathroom is clean and sterile and located deep underground. We’re in a place called the Institute. Think of it like a cross between a science lab and an underground city and you’ll be on the right track. My son, Shaun, was the leader of this place until his death a few weeks ago. Losing him was, I think, what started the hallucinations.
Ever since I woke up in this radioactive future wasteland, ever since my wife was murdered and my son was stolen, finding Shaun was the only thing that mattered. I was obsessed. I think focusing on that task kept the ghosts at bay.
My son died of cancer, an old man compared to his father due to the funny way cryogenic sleep can mess with one’s personal timeline. He died shortly after I tracked him down. He’d been stolen from us by agents of the Institute, but in the interim period between when he was taken and when I’d awoken from cryo – 60 years, roughly – he’d become the Institute’s leader. He held the reins to the very organization that was responsible for his abduction when he was a child. The organization responsible for his mother’s murder.
When he told me, I could have told him to fuck off. I could have killed every one of the bastards for what they’d taken from me. I thought about doing it. My fingers twitched towards the revolver I’d taken off the corpse of Conrad Kellogg, the man who’d killed my wife and had been the Institute’s main operative.
Shaun watched me struggle. He never even blinked. He was a baby when I lost him and I’d missed his entire life. He was practically a stranger to me. And yet he was still my son.
Shaun asked me to give the Institute a chance and I said yes. What else can a father do when a son asks him to try to understand?
I walk out of the bathroom, a towel around my waist. X6-88 politely steps aside and assumes a waiting position near the doorway. He does not speak.
My room is as clean and sterile as the rest of the Institute. Everything is polished and sleek and metal here, but I’ve made a few adjustments. Some of the things I’d collected during my journey through the Commonwealth Wasteland are enshrined here, even though I know it causes my colleagues to roll their eyes behind my back. They believe it reeks of sentimentality. They may be correct. I don’t care.
The gun that killed my wife is resting on the shelf beside my bed. I still carry it sometimes. It’s a heavy .44 caliber revolver, as brutal and vicious as the man I took it from. I wonder how many people it has killed in its many years. It’s positively ancient, a relic from before the bombs fell. It may well be as old as I am. I named it Lost Love. I only take it with me when I venture up to the surface. The rest of the time, I can barely stand to look at it without thinking of the man who killed my wife when she refused to surrender our baby.
There’s another pistol on the shelf beside the revolver. It’s smaller and less powerful, but it’s the one I carry most often these days. Its name was Deliverer when I received it. I renamed it Legacy after I used it to gun down the people who helped me find Shaun in the first place. They were the people who showed me that synths really were human, not just machines. They were fighting for synth freedom, a goal I respected, even if my own goal of finding my son was much more simple.
They were called the Railroad. They were my friends. And I killed them.
The Railroad was at war with Shaun’s Institute. The Institute knew about my involvement with their group, but Shaun hadn’t been willing to take action against me. He knew, or at least hoped, that family ties would win out, even over friendship. Despite my connection with the Railroad, he’d invited me in anyway and made me feel welcome.
It worked fine for a while; the Railroad wanted me to be their agent on the inside and given what I’d learned about synths, I sympathized with their goals. I thought I could make a difference.
Then Shaun told me he was dying and named me his successor and I realized I had a opportunity to make everything better, for synths and for the Institute. If I became the Director, I could liberate those synths who wanted freedom with a simple order and command that those who remained would be treated better. No one had to die. The war would be bloodless. It would be decided with words, not bullets.
I was being foolish.
Wars are never bloodless. The Railroad planned to destroy the Institute via sabotaging their nuclear reactor. Because what’s one more nuclear explosion between friends?
Having learned of this, the Institute demanded that I kill the Railroad leadership before they could strike. A line was drawn. I had to make a choice.
I chose my son. I chose the Institute.
It wasn’t just for Shaun’s sake. As I walked through the polished metal halls, I saw trees that were healthy and alive, cleansed of the radiation that infected the surface. I saw knowledge all around me; possibly the greatest repository of learning left in the world. The Institute had chosen to hide away rather than use that knowledge to help the world, but that didn’t diminish the potential I saw.
I chose the possibility that I could do more for the world with the power of the Institute’s knowledge than I could with a smoldering crater.
Hell, maybe I did it because this is the only damn place in the world that has access to hot showers and food that isn’t radioactive.
I killed my friend Deacon with the gun he gave me. Then I killed the others, silently, swiftly, just as the Railroad had showed me how to be. When it was over, I gave the gun its new identity. To remind myself. To remember. And so; Legacy.
“The directorate is waiting, sir,” X6-88 said. “You need to prepare.”
On the bed, a long black trenchcoat has been laid out for me, freshly laundered. It’s been with me for a while during my journey on the surface, a memento of a particularly illustrious adventure in the settlement of Goodneighbor. A man I rescued modified it with a ballistic weave and armor plating, so I’m well protected against small arms fire, energy weapons, punches, and almost anything else the surface world can throw at me. Despite the fact that I’ve had X6 launder it dozens of times since I arrived, it still smells faintly of blood.
I begin to dress. It doesn’t bother me that X6-88 is still in the room. I’ve gotten used to his silent presence.
My other friends have left me since I became the Director. Piper didn’t understand. Nick, my synth detective friend, couldn’t or wouldn’t. I didn’t try to force him. They took Deacon’s death especially hard. I don’t blame them for their decision, but it’s hard without them. These days, I mostly just have X6 for company and he isn’t particularly friendly. I feel alone most days.
“Shall we go, sir?” X6 asks.
“What’s the agenda today?” I ask. I holster Legacy on my belt and smooth the coat over it. I haven’t needed a weapon at a directorate meeting yet. But there’s a first time for everything. Persuasion comes in many forms.
“The directorate wishes to discuss the Clinic Project, as well as the Surface Ecology Restoration Initiative.”
I sigh. I’ve had this battle every week since Shaun died. The men and women of the Institute are possessed of brilliant minds. But for all their knowledge, all their intelligence, they lack wisdom. They amass knowledge and power and understanding, but then squander it. Before I assumed control of the Institute, they were content to spend their time down here creating syth gorillas while the world was dying. They experimented endlessly creating Super Mutants when they could have been opening clinics on the surface to cure people and growing radiation-resistant trees to repair the ecosystem.
I know why Shaun gave me control of his Institute even though I am not a scientist. He knew I would lead them to a better purpose. It may not be the one he imagined; mankind redefined is the popular phrase around here. I don’t care for it personally. We’re going to do something greater. I am going to do something greater. My son’s legacy was one of fear and indolence. I will do better, to atone for the fact that I was not there to show him a better way.
My wife and son are gone. My world is gone. But I can heal this world.
War may never change, but people can. They can be persuaded or they can be forced, but they can change. I will change the Institute into a force that will help the surface world. I will reshape it into something that’s better for everyone. I’ve paid a heavy price in blood to get here, but now I can do so much for so many.
That will be my legacy.