Find him. Find Shaun.
The words repeated in Jane’s head as she stumbled through the Vault. They were a mantra, thought with each echoing step through the empty corridors, though the words themselves seemed almost alien to her. As if half of her had no idea who Shaun was, while the other half felt as though he was the only thing that mattered to her in the whole world.
The two thoughts battled in her mind until she couldn’t take it anymore, stumbling sideways into the wall. The leather of her Vault suit squeaked against the steel and with a series of slow blinks, Jane rested her head against the wall. She hadn’t experienced such vertigo in years, possibly even before she had enlisted in the army. Her eyes struggled to focus on the floor beneath her feet as her vision faded in and out, her thoughts becoming less and less tangible.
‘Is this what it feels like to wake up from cryosleep?’ she thought miserably, grinding her teeth together and working the heels of her palms against her eyes. ‘Am I the only one who would know?’ That thought alone broke through the haze that had settled in her mind, propelling her off the wall. She planted her feet firmly on the ground and took a heavy breath.
Eyes forward, soldier. Walk.
Windows lined the winding hallways she tred through, most of them looking in on the other cryostasis pods. She didn’t have to look any closer at them to wager that everyone inside was dead. Yet still, Jane felt a nagging pull towards the pods, part of her still so unsure—‘Surely I’m not the only one?’
A loud, but muted buzzing alighted a sudden panic in her body and she stumbled back, nearly losing her footing as a huge roach, nearly the size of a cat, landed on the window, its antennae flicking at the glass.
“What in the world,” Jane breathed, her mind once again whirring thickly in her skull, “Those didn’t exist—no, no, this is...”
She swallowed and tore her eyes away from the window, taking another breath to steady herself. She moved with a tentative sense of stability, the clouds in her mind slowly thinning as she took each step.
There were more of those huge roaches in the following hallways, and while she wasn’t exactly afraid of insects, these made her shudder. They were sometimes the size of a small dog, and when she struck the baton she had found against their bodies, the spray of guts and juices that followed nearly made her gag each time.
Trying to remember anything from before the cryostasis felt like peering into someone else’s dreams, but Jane could just barely pick out where the lift to the surface was. It occurred to her then that she had no idea what she planned to do after she found the exit. The bombs had dropped, right? She saw them drop on that lift. What else would be left? Certainly she wouldn’t be the only thing left alive. No—she shook her head, brows knitting in a scowl.
She was not the only one left.
She couldn’t be, could she?
These thoughts stuck to the corners of her mind as Jane made her way into an office, her eyes moving to the skeletons that had draped themselves over a large desk in the center of the room. They looked so old, their bones threatening to give way at the slightest breeze while their clothes looked just as new as the day they bought them.
It unnerved her, set her teeth grating again, to see such perverted age of people she had seen so lively what seemed like hours ago.
She moved around the desk, careful to step over the other corpse to get to a stuttering, flickering terminal. The screen was incredibly dim and pixelated lines danced across every few seconds, but it was still functional.
Jane’s brows knitted again and she entered its programs, ignoring the logs from this Vault’s Overseer and scrolling down to the outer door control. She punched the execute button and quickly swiped up a loaded pistol that laid under the hand of the corpse in a Vault-Tec coat. The hand deteriorated slightly at the movement and sent similar tremors throughout the rest of the corpse.
Jane would wonder later at the guiltless satisfaction she felt in that moment.
Leaving the Vault on the platform she entered from felt...wrong, in a way. It left an alien feeling inside her that hung heavy in her chest in the way the Pip-Boy weighed down her wrist, buzzing slightly against her forearm. She had half a mind to return to the Vault, to go all the way back to the pod and go back to sleep.
But as the lift rose higher and higher through the Earth, the air becoming colder and colder, Jane thought of Shaun. She thought of a baby, no more than a year old, stolen and thrown out into a world she didn’t even know could exist, alone. She thought of Matthew, with his sweater vests and tired eyes, holding his son and smiling, gone.
When the platform screeched to a halt and the bitterly cold air hit her face, Jane set her jaw and stared out at the dead wasteland that she once called home.
“I’ll find you, Shaun,” She murmured, her eyes following the gray leaves that blew across the lift, “Whatever it takes.”