Monday, November 3, 2008

I Don't Want to Set the World on Fire

Part one of a series of vignettes based on the Fallout universe.

It started like any other Sunday morning. The sun was rising just over the Potomac as I ambled into the kitchen to brew myself a pot of coffee. My head was still buzzing from Senator Wheyman's cocktail social last night. As I poured the ground beans into the percolator, I absentmindedly flicked on the radio set to hear the morning's news.

The delicious smell of the coffee roasting had just reached my nose when I first heard the sirens. Low and droning, the sound we had all come to fear. Air raid sirens were coming to life all over D.C., warning us all that the unthinkable was going to happen.

After years of war against China, we had finally reached the end game. Tired of the attrition, the Red Dragon was unleashing it's nuclear arsenal on us.

I ran upstairs and threw open my closet door, reaching for a small safe in the back corner. I opening it quickly, and grabbed the stack of paper inside. Throwing the papers onto my bed, I grabbed one of my business suits and hurriedly got dressed.

After I had finished tying my shoes, I walked over to the bed, and inspected the papers. Everything I needed was there. Birth certificate, proof of citizenship, and the most important document of all, clenched in my white-knuckled fist, the entrance permit for Vault 101.

I had little time to get out of my house and into my car. The air raid sirens were getting louder now, and I swore that I could see the approaching black cloud of Chinese bombers. Not even bothering to lock the door to my house, I quickly got in the car, and gunned the engine. My neighbors were just starting to leave; all of them were going to one of the myriad Vaults built into the DC hillside.

Backing out of my drive way, I hit the accelerator, and the car shot off down my road. Fortunately, the highway out of D.C. was mostly empty, and I made it to Vault 101 without many delays.

Exiting my car, I looked up at the hill where the Vault door was embedded, gleaming iron in the sun's light. A line of people were slowly entering the opening; I hurried up the rocky hill to take my place at the back of the line.

Risking a look over my shoulder, I could see Washington D.C. in the distance, and the clearly defined shapes of the Chinese bombers moving inexorably over the town.

Small black puffs dotted the morning sky as the flak batteries surrounding our Nation's capitol came to life, attempting to swat the enemy out of the sky before they could release their deadly payload.

It was too late. Shapes to small to discern from this distance were falling from the bellies of the Chinese planes, conventional bombs intended to soften up the anti-air defenses before the planes carrying the nukes came in.

Explosions dotted the horizon as the first bombs hit, reducing our once proud capitol to rubble. Halfway around the world, our bombers were doing the same to the Chinese, exacting revenge for the Holocaust they were about to inflict upon us.

As I neared the entrance to Vault 101, I noticed a large robot checking the entrance permits of the people attempting to gain access to the Vault. I presented my papers to the robot, I swore it stood up straighter as it addressed me.

"Mr. Clayton, sir! We're glad you made it, we were worried our appointed Overseer wasn't going to make it."

I straightened my tie, trying to look as in-charge as possible.

"Yes, well, what matters is that I'm here now. These people need a guiding light, something to see them through the darkest time in human history. I'm humbled and honored to bear that torch."

The robot waved me though, gesticulating wildly with it's long tube-like arm.

"I can see why Vault-Tech choose you to be the Overseer! But you must hurry, the door must be closed before the nuclear bombs hit."

I stepped inside the Vault, and the robot moved to the control panel to close the door. As I looked back through the door at what was once my home, I could feel tears welling up behind my eyes. I held them back, trying to be the stoic example for all the frightened people standing behind me, unsure of their future.

As the Vault doors begin to grind close, I saw the worst sight of my life. A family of five, two small children and a baby in the father's arms, struggling up the hillside toward the Vault.

Behind them, the sky lit up a brilliant white, and everyone inside the Vault covered their eyes and screamed in surprise and fear. The first nuke had hit D.C. Asthe light faded, I could make out the family, sprawled across the hill, trying to get back up. They were knocked over from the blast.

The mushroom cloud blossomed in the distance, and I made the hardest decision of my life.

"Robot, close the doors. We can't wait for anyone else."

The robot, oblivious to the pain in my voice, shut the doors.

Everyone in the entrance lobby sat in stunned silence, trying to absorb the events of the last forty-five minutes. Someone on the back sobed quietly, breaking the silence.

I collapsed on the stairs inside the lobby, and held my head in my hands. I felt a cold metal hand rest upon my shoulder, and the robot spoke to me in it's emotionless monotone.

"Don't worry, sir. You're safe in here. Today is the first day of the rest of your life"

I lifted my head from my hands, tears freely falling down my cheeks now.

"No..."I managed in between gasping breaths "It's the beginning of the end."

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