Critical failure in cryogenic array.
Nora gasped, the feeling of water in her lungs forcing out a rough cough that originated deep in her chest, as if she hadn’t breathed in forever and just couldn’t get enough air. She slumped forward, arms extending so her hands landed flat on the glass of the cryopod door, fingers curling against it and leaving streaks in the thin layer of fog that coated its surface. The door made a sudden hissing sound before opening, causing her to lose her hold on it and fall to the ground with a heavy thud. But with her arms already extended, she caught herself on her hands and knees, though it sent a shock of pain that began in her wrists and went straight up her forearms and made her hiss.
All vault residents must vacate immediately.
The only thing that actually vacated, however, was another deep cough from her chest, though she was no closer to feeling like she could breathe normally. Gasping for air, Nora’s fingernails dug into the ground beneath her, the scratching noise that would have been made by the friction between keratin and concrete muffled by the puddle of water her fingertips were submerged in. The ground and water were likely cold but coming out of an icebox meant she didn’t feel a thing.
With wide eyes, her head lifted just enough so she could look around from her limited position on the floor, but the stiffness in her neck forced out yet another hiss of pain from her lips. However long she’d been in there caused her muscles tighten, and the cold temperature definitely didn’t help; still, she pushed through it and took in her surroundings.
Where was she? Where the fuck was she?
Cryopods lined each side of the hall, though none of them were open except the one that had held her hostage only moments ago. Puddles of water covered large portions of the floor, seemingly originating from the pods, and it was only then she realized she, herself, had landed in a puddle, presumably from her own pod.
With furrowed brows, the vault dweller slowly pushed herself to her feet, being careful not to slip in the water that would likely send her tumbling right back down. Her legs were wobbly enough to make her second guess the thought of standing, but she put her hands on her knees to steady herself for a moment; and only once she felt confident she was able to move without falling did she fully erect herself. Her eyes drifted from the floor beneath her to the cryopod directly in front of her, slowly trailing from the bottom of the pod that sat across the aisle from her own until they reached the glass and met an all-too-familiar face on the other side. Her breath hitched in her throat.
Oh, god… Nate.
Nora’s eyes widened and she stumbled forward, catching herself on the control panel to the right of her husband’s pod. Her fingers curled into a fist and she banged on the panel, though nothing responded, at least not until she reached for the red switch at the bottom and forced it upward.
Malfunction in cryopod array. Manual release override initiated.
Panic had set in her bones like arthritis the moment she woke up trapped in her icy prison, and she felt it spread through her muscles and seep from her pores — just more unwanted bodily functions this fucking vault caused. But if she was the beach of a deserted island then the feeling of dread was the waves of sea water rising up her shores; and instead of retreating as waves normally would, they only engulfed her more and more until there was nothing left but the calm expanse of blue ocean.
“Come on, come on, come on! Oh, god…”
As the pod door was opening, another cough forced itself from her lungs, sending a sharp pain through her chest this time. She put her hand in the spot where the pain originated, but otherwise managed to ignore it as her eyes finally met her husband’s face without the barrier of the pod’s glass between them.
A thin layer of ice sat over every inch of his lifeless body and a bullet hole was directly in the center of his forehead. Nora’s lips slightly parted though nothing came out, but instead tears welled in her eyes and spilled over the bottom lids, trailing streaks of wetness down her cheeks.
Nate was dead. The love of her life, the father of her child, the – oh god, her child! Where was Shaun? Where was her baby!?
She thought back to the last thing she remembered.
The sirens sounded. They ran to the vault. The bombs dropped. The platform lowered. She, her husband, her baby, and some of their neighbors entered their new home. It was supposed to be a safe haven during a nuclear disaster, but instead it turned into a frozen tomb for who the hell knew how long.
They’d spoken to a doctor and were given vault suits to wear, then were taken back to a room with a bunch of pods and told the pods would do… something. She couldn’t remember what, but she was certain they hadn’t said they were being fucking frozen.
Someone woke them later on: a bald man with a scar down his face and someone else dressed in white wearing a sort of gas mask. They stood in front of Nate’s pod – what did they want?
Nora closed her eyes tightly, forcing more tears down her cheeks. She had to remember. She had to.
Her husband’s pod was opened just as she came to, and the person in the white suit tried to take Shaun from him, but Nate wouldn’t allow it.
“I’m not giving you Shaun!” he’d screamed while keeping his grip on their baby. He was so protective; so caring. That was just like Nate.
And then… the bald man had shot her husband in the head, sending his body to lay back in the pod, lifeless, as blood splattered onto the yellow confines of his tomb. And before her husband’s murderer had left, he’d looked right into Nora’s pod – looked her straight in the fucking eye – and said something. What was it? Something about a backup?
Her eyes opened and her hand reached out to Nate, but she stopped halfway there, leaving it hanging in the air. If she touched him, would he break? He was dead, but she didn’t want to damage him even more. It felt… wrong. Still, she shook her head and reached out to cup his cheek, her hand just barely touching the icy, frozen skin. Those hazel eyes she’d fallen in love with were glazed over and lifeless; they were no longer Nate’s.
“I’ll find who did this and I’ll get Shaun back. I promise,” she whispered to the deceased love of her life.
Her hand then lowered to his left one and she gently grabbed the ring on it, being careful not to tug it off roughly so his finger wouldn’t be damaged. Once it slid free, she settled it onto her own finger, the same one that held her own wedding ring – the one that said she’d promised the rest of her life to the man in front of her.
He’d promised the rest of his life to her, as well… but his life was gone much sooner than she’d ever thought it’d be; like a lit match dropped into water. Whoever the bald man was, she’d find him, and she’d make him fucking pay.
But first, she needed to get out of this vault. Right fucking now.
Traversing the vault only made her frustrated and angry, which she took out on the enormous cockroaches that occupied a few of the rooms. Nora didn’t have enough time to dwell on why they were so goddamn huge because she just needed to get away from this place. She couldn’t fucking breathe in this tomb.
But soon enough, she was standing in front of the platform she’d stood on however long ago that brought her husband to his doom and her baby to his uncertain fate. The gate rose in front of her and she took a deep inhale before stepping under it and onto the circular platform, unsure if she was truly ready for it to take her to the surface. She had no idea what to expect, after all.
It closed again with a loud clank and the platform below her jolted, turning her stomach; but whether it was from the actual movement, the memory of her first time riding it down into the vault, or from the panic of seeing what might have become of the world after the bombs, she wasn’t sure.
Enjoy your return to the surface and thank you for choosing Vault-Tec.
The daylight was blinding, causing Nora to raise her arm to block out the sun that beamed its rays down into her eyes. Everything was fuzzy at first, but once her surroundings began to come into focus, she gasped, and it felt like her heart stopped for a few seconds.
Everything was… dead. The grass was brown and clumpy, the trees were leafless and lifeless, and there were no animals scurrying around or making noises like they should have been. Where were the birds? The squirrels? The rabbits?
Dead. All dead.
Then again, what did she even expect? A nuclear fucking bomb was dropped on Boston; she literally saw the mushroom cloud just before she and the others had been safely lowered into the vault. But the bomb had done its job by eradicating everything, it seemed. Was she the only one left?
“At least we still have a backup.”
Nora inhaled a few heavy breaths as she took in the sight of everything she once knew now utterly and irreparably destroyed before her. The air stung her throat and lungs, though the thought of radiation still lingering didn’t really cross her mind. Not yet.
This couldn’t be it; there had to be more. She couldn’t give up – her baby was still out there, scared and afraid without his mother or father. Maybe she didn’t know where to look or where to even start looking, but she would find him one way or another. She’d find Shaun – for Nate.
And one other thing she knew for certain: she was going to find the man who stole her family from her, and she would make him regret ever stepping foot into Vault one-fucking-eleven.