You voted that I swim out into the poison sea, to find out what lies beyond the water. I’m afraid I can’t honour that.
It seems that this world has… boundaries. I do not understand their nature – are they to protect me from some greater horror than a radiation-ravaged land filled monsters, maniacs and malfunctioning robots? How could there be something worse than this? But I cannot pass. I can swim out a short distance, then I am blocked from going further.
For a time I swim around the coast like this, and even entertain the idea that I could complete my entire journey this way, unseen and unmolested, but it feels like a cheat. I’m never going to see anything but blue-grey murk, let alone overcome awesome challenges. So I return to land, emerging from the water right by a gleaming white lighthouse. I have a good feeling about it. Bad people don’t live in lighthouses, right?
Naturally, I’m attacked immediately.
The lighthouse is occupied a group calling themselves the Children of the Atom, a faction who appear to worship radiation. Not for the first time, I have no idea why I’m being attacked on sight, but I do know that these guys are pummeling me with some kind of nuclear weapon. Within seconds, I’m 80% dead from radiation sickness, and whatever weird gun the Children has also breaks my aim every time I’m hit with it. I run back to the sea and guzzle too many anti-rad drugs to count. I can’t win this fight: they’ll poison me to death before I can even get a shot off.
Just as I’m preparing to grimly swim away from that tantalising lighthouse, a brainwave hits me. They’re shooting me with radiation, not bullets. And I recently came into possession of a Hazmat suit. You can’t wear a Hazmat suit with any other armour, however. So I’ll basically be going back in there naked except for a thin layer of waterproof plastic.
This is just crazy enough to work, right?
It is. My God, I feel like Superman. Although Superman isn’t known for repeatedly and brutally slashing people across the face with a mutant dinosaur claw. The Children’s gamma guns do almost no damage to me now, but they still pack wallop enough to stop me from firing my gun.
Hence, my Deathclaw Gauntlet finally gets an outing – my gamma-blasting enemies can barely get a shot off when I’m right up in their faces with this thing. All these guys are super tough, making this a long and bloody fight, as I slowly gouge seven people to death. It’s horrific, it really is. But it’s also thrilling, because I’ve spent so long watching most of my health disappear from a single wound, and now I’m this dome-helmeted immortal. I’m amazed the Children don’t run: I must be terrifying.
My reign of terror very nearly comes to a messy end when a Glowing One – an irradiated ghoul – bursts out of the lighthouse and starts savaging me with its own claws, but fortunately one of the remaining Children decides to take a pop at it too, buying me enough time to hide under the stairs and change back into my armour.
I shotgun the thing to pieces while it gets stuck on the spiral staircase, and then, finally, all is quiet. This was my strangest, dirtiest, most memorable fight yet. I am shaking. I need a rest. But I also need to loot all these corpses.
I end up with a sackful of Gamma Guns, assorted radiation-resistant clothes and a lighthouse to call home. Apart from all the maimed bodies, this is the prettiest place I’ve been in so far, and the strongest temptation yet to settle down. I can’t, of course. The road calls me on. But, for the first time, I’m carrying the right components to build a radio mast and beckon less nomadic settlers over here.
I’m wasting time and wasting resources I might need for myself later, I realise, but I don’t like that my only mark on the world so far is to have repeatedly removed life from it. Now I get to do the opposite. I build a few beds, water pumps, vegetable farms and defence turrets, and before long my first citizen arrives.
I order her to tend the Tatos, then stand around and watch for a while as life goes on. I’m very sad to move on. I could have a built a life here, but instead I’ll never even know what becomes of this place.
Enjoy the lighthouse, unseen friends. An amazing battle was waged here once, by an unknown hero. He’ll be dead soon.
To be continued…