February Fiction entries
Feb 3 prompt- “you promised you wouldn’t tell.”
Deke turned off the livestream from the vault’s fortified door. “Welp, our guys only took light fire before they kicked raider ass back outside. You noobs may think it’s because of how badass Sarah and Scott are, but without the right equipment they’re sitting ducks.”
“And the right equipment comes from us, right chief?’ chirped up our newest recruit Zoraya, from the right side of the standing huddle meeting. It was the norm to stop work – research, catalog, repair, and disburse – and watch when incidents happened in our little post-apocalyptic community.
The Oversight Council had established this practice when we were young, formally stating, “We may be at a distance from the surface, but we are still a part of society. We cannot turn inwards if we are to help keep civilization going.”
That’s why we knew so much about what happens up on the surface, and actually knew other communities. When the Scribe got deep into his cups at A Pub Below, he would start talking about genetics and bloodlines to anyone who would listen.
“That’s correct, we are Storage, we are the structure that allows the Vault to thrive. We are the keepers of the stuff, the organizers of the weird, the knowers of the old and arcane. And if we dont make sure the right gear gets to the right people, folks will die. I can’t impress that upon you enough.”
He gestured around the big room filled with shelves and shelves of boxes nestled deep into the 12th floor of the community’s vault. “This is our domain, our responsibility, and our burden. Some of you are serving your community service here, some of you are on Work Discovery, and some of you were born into the Storage life.” I swear he winked at me as I slouched against the old pulley system I was working on.
I guess he’s right, I didnt choose the Storage life, the Storage life chose me when I spotted the Mysterious Stranger diving out of staff elevator and into a small storage room. He was wearing what I know now to be a trench coat and fedora.
All I knew at the time was that it wasnt a uniform I recognized. I was just 17 at the time, and I thought we had an invader that I could make my bones on and get put on a raiding crew, or even just an excursion crew.
But somehow, even in the small room, he had managed to disappear. I couldnt understand it. I went through every shadow and shelf, watching the only door the entire time. Deke found me the next day, because my wristlet alerted the system. I thought I was losing my mind, he thought I was trying to find a spot to make moonshine. Our first meeting wasn’t exactly the smoothest.
But he listened, after his shouting. And he accelerated my Work Discovery but into Storage. Which I thought was a punishment.
Until I heard the chimes. Not everyone hears it. But when you do, the Mysterious Stranger is nearby. I dont know if he’s a ghost, if he’s an older vault dweller driven mad by radiation, or if he’s really able to visit every vault when he feels like it.
Once you’re committed to Storage, you can talk about it when you’re in the rooms, but we dont speak a word of it to anyone else. It’s part of the oath – not to tell. Storage sees a lot of weird shit, we claim the Mysterious Stranger as one of our more sacred myths.
Feb 6 prompt – “it’s happening again.”
It was the flicker of yellow, off and on again that caught my attention. It was the radiation suit that the newbies got to wear. Work Discovery or punishment detail, safety came first and we were invested in keeping each other healthy.
I was doing scheduling, just trying to make sure that we had enough coverage, not stick a bunch a newbies together on their own.
I mean, I made that mistake once, molerat carnage ensued when they got a little gun happy and shot up a lot of the crafting gear along with the invading rodents with their bb guns.
Nobody got hurt, so I didnt get in too much trouble. Just stuck doing the scheduling with “Close Supervision” for 6 months.
That was a year ago, now I’m kinda stuck at it. “Just your luck for being good at it” according to Deke. I had made a note not to be too good at boring things from then on.
“Ok Zoraya, I can see you hovering like a radmoth to a beacon, what gives?” I stretched as I pushed away from my desk in my chair. I popped a little wheelie in my office chair.
“It’s happening again Chi, another raiding party just got sent out.” she came into focus, big glass bubble helmet held in her hands, and not on her head like regulations.
I cocked an ear, we were down in a 5th floor vault, mostly filled with tools and junk, and the occasional crate still needed to be sorted through. I could hear echoes ringing down the main elevator shaft of the fortified vault door being cycled through opening and closing a few times.
“Yeah, sounds like it. Who’s scheduled to go out? Do you know where they’re headed?” I wheeled over to the small fridge and pulled out a Nuka-cola, gestured, offering her one, and grabbed one for her.
Taking it from me, she popped the cap and paused, “I think it’s the Hale brothers and Dr. Li. So I think they’re checking on another vault. Maybe trading?”
I whistled, poorly, but whatever, “The Overseer doesnt like to risk Dr. Li on anything dangerous, so it’s probably something easy-peasy. But the Hale brothers, those guys are fun but ‘Risk’ is their middle name, like seriously. Different moms, but I dont know what was in the water that year, but they have that same stupid middle name.” I rubbed my temple with the cool bottle, it always got a little hot during the day.
“Let me take a look at the community comms” I said, wheeling back to my desk and grabbing my deck to open up the intranet.
She came closer, leaning in so we could both scan the announcements.
“no , not that one, not that one, why are we visiting the Garys again?, not that one, visiting an old grocery store sounds cool. I, hmm, I don’t see anything with their name on it, do you?” I tried to read through them slower.
Feb 9 prompt- “I told you so.”
“Now goddammit, you need a flamer, not a plasma laser if you’re fighting irradiated scorpions. I told you so last week when we were discussing this stupid idea of a raid.You’re just going to have to wait until the Hale brothers get back with the flamers if you want to come back alive.”
“Or, you know, you could come back in pieces and we’ll see what special brew the Medbay has been playing with to help revive folks. Up to you.” I thought I was being helpful by defusing the situation since Deke yelling at folks sometimes ended up going viral with everyone in the vault tuning into the live stream. Sometimes I wondered about the decision to make everything, you know, public.
“NOT HELPFUL CHEADLES”
Ok, got it, maybe not. I swiveled back to my desk. I looked at the viewer numbers on the livestream. They remained calm, so maybe Jack and his pals didnt have to worry about saving face in front of the entire vault. Sometimes being related to the Overseer worked in Jack’s favor, and sometimes it really, really did not. But he was a decent guy. And Deke called me “Cheadles”, not my full name, so I’m not in too much trouble. Which is my main goal usually, so I was counting today as a win.
“But what if I took a Junk Jet instead, fire is fire is fire right?” Jack asked Deke, scanning up and down a page on his handheld.
Deke sighed and raised his eyes to heaven, which I guess is what Outside used to be. Back in the Beforetimes when it was all green and stuff. “Lord love a duck, yes, fire is fire. But I made that from some old engine that was laying around and it’s heavy as fuck. You’d need either an exo-suit to help hold it or someone stronger than your friends. All my exo-suits are either out or being repaired. What’s the damn hurry?” Deke squinted at Jack and me. We were down in the 12th floor vault again going over equipment requests for the week.
I had 4 folks doing cleaning chores and things had been humming along nicely with Deke able to ignore us while he worked on some schematics at his desk,
Jack showed his screen to Deke, “It’s a really good bounty, 2000 caps!” and it’s only 6 hours there and back. We went further for that New Years rave at Vault 803 last month.”
“Yeah, and you got hammered and Chi had to go with Scott and Sarah to get you back. We didnt know if you were dead in a ditch somewhere or kidnapped and sold into slavery!” Deke rocked back on his heels.
I snorted, I hadnt minded. It was a treat to go on a run with them, like being babysat by 2 grizzly bears, if grizzly bears made dad jokes and liked kicking ass, oh wait.
Alarms rang out.
I started, I had been thinking about drawing a comic of Sarah & Scott as bears and zoned out
Feb 11 prompt- “I’ve never done this before.”
The live feed showed that a spate of molerat attacks were happening on the floor below. It housed 2 cafs and a huge garden. It was my favorite floor, no doubt.
“RALLY UP!” Deke and I both yelled at the same time, he and Jack bolted for the elevators.
“andele, Andele, ANDELE!”, I motivated the chore geeks, also a favorite – of mine, not theirs. “Points for the most kills, not the most bullets. It’s tight quarters, so hold off on the friendly fire, got it?!”
I stood by the door and watched the 4 check their weapons and gear and each other’s, thumping each other on the shoulder when they were cleared by their buddy. I had my plasma pistol out, safety on.
I got back a meeping chorus of “Copy!”, “COPY!” & “Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit”.
“Thompson! What’s your damage?” I didn’t have to bellow, we weren’t in a huge space and unlike some folks I didnt think loudness equaled authority. He was suited up in a Survivors Armour, it had a host of helpful features to go with his sawed-off shotgun. But he was looking a little white-eyed.
“I’ve never done this before Chi. Not with all this noise and stuff. I cant hear myself think.”
I opened one of the lockers by the door and tossed him the headgear from a wasteland set, it had goggles and a comms channel. “Yeah, I get that. Give these a try, switch to channel 3 for Security. Dont take that safety off unless you feel comfortable. This aint a drill bud, but it’s not life and death either. Usually.” I thumped him on the shoulder with a friendly grin.
“Keep to my 6 and you’ll be fine”
Coming out of the elevator was like being sprung from a jack-in-the-box, we went in all directions. I’m a shorty, so my preference is to be as high as possible so I can see everything. I ran into the closet caf and scrambled up onto the drinks counter. From there I could see the action, I also had a better chance of not getting hit by friendly fire.
Some folks dont care because Medbay provides stimpacks – I don’t know what’s in it, but I sure don’t like the jacked up way they make me feel afterwards, heart pounding, senses on fire, everything slow & fast at once. I thought it explained some of the heavy teams’ attitudes after they came home. If they don’t go right back out, they might roam the vault for days. You never know when one of the Hale brothers could be in the room with you, watching you working on the water purifiers or power grid.
I could see Thompson had followed suit, gotten on the desert counter. I pondered if I would ever feel safe eating another donut knowing he’d been working on cleaning out moldy crates from a bat infested vault.
Molerats are chaos, they smell bad, look bad, are bad. Nobody’s been able to make a pet out of one yet. It would be a crappy pet anyway, not like the radscorpion, Glowy, that I’ve heard about in another vault.