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Radio Nowhere

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Today, he was getting married. He was so nervous. He was always nervous. A thousand lives, over and over again, with the same person, growing up together, falling in love, his proposal, and three months later, he always got cold feet standing in front of this same full length mirror. He could tell you exactly how many spots were on the aged oak frame, the precise mathematical formula of the oval pane of silvered glass. But he knew what came next. The wedding, then a lifetime of happiness. “Grow old with me, the best is yet to be.”

He straightened his tie, and ran a comb through his hair. It was longer than was strictly professional, but... his finance liked it that way. Liked the way it brushed his collar and the wisps of gray in his sideburns.

Carlos felt a warmth spread in his chest and smiled. Now or never. He walked towards the door and grasped the handle.

The world fell apart.

He was falling, tumbling down down down, sucked in a vortex of the unknown. There was static in his ears, and all he could see was a jumbled mess of warped pixels swirling like the cyclone in The Wizard of Oz. He hit with a feeling like jerking awake after a dream, the distinct feeling of impacting into your own body.

He sat up, rubbing his eyes and licking his suddenly bone dry parched lips. There were tubes in his right arm and an opaque plastic lid fitted close to his face. He could hear sirens blaring and panicked voices on the other side. “Defiantly not in Kansas anymore.” he muttered. First order of business was to get rid of that lid. He braced his feet up against it and heaved.

The lid popped off and heat hit him like a physical blow. He was in a long hallway of sorts. Up and down the corridor people were pulling their way out of pods like the one he was in.

A loud, calm, robotic voice droned out of speakers placed at even intervals along the walls. “Please proceed to the nearest exit in a calm and orderly fashion. Do not stop to look for loved ones, pets, or family from where you were before, they were only virtual reality, and not actually real. The year is 2282, you are at Santa Fe New Mexico Vault number 202. Core meltdown has necessitated evacuation of this facility. The weather outside is sunny and a balmy 100 degrees. Have a nice day, and thank you for choosing Vault-Tec for all of your apocalypse survival needs!”

Carlos pulled the IV tubes from his arm and clambered out of his pod, one hand over the puncture wounds to stop bleeding. Bright blinking arrows pointed the way to the “nearest exit” so he followed them in a slight daze. What on earth was going on here? Virtual reality made the lifetime on repeat he'd been living make a lot more sense, but this was all so sudden. Had the world really had an apocalypse, and if so, what kind? His mind raced, tracing over information gleaned from the several hundred times he had gone to university, gotten his doctorate in Natural Sciences and a Masters in Geology. So much could have gone wrong. He also realized with a start, that he couldn't remember who he had been before the virtual life.

The blinking arrows lead him to a large open room with a row of doors on one side, automatically opening and closing. Each admitted one at a time, and people were lining up in front of them. He took a spot In front of one to the far right and waited. The room slowly emptied of people. Soon it was his turn and he walked into the little room beyond the door and it slid shut behind him. He felt the floor lurch as the pod shot upward. An elevator!

A screen flicked on in front of him and a friendly face appeared, a cartoon with fifties hair and a big smile. A cheerful spiel came from the speakers on either side. “Welcome to the world of tomorrow! A lot has changed since you were tucked in for a long nap in our survivor pods!” Images flashed of a barren wasteland, and images of nuclear bombs and war showed briefly. “It's a changed world out there, but that doesn't mean you can't make the best of it!”

A hatch opened in the console in front of him and a large cuff armband was raised up, hinged open. “Please place your right arm here” a green light flashed on the inside of the contraption, and Carlos put his wrist to it. It snapped shut and he squeaked a very unmanly squeak as he felt something shoot through from one side to the other, through his arm! It had to have some kind of built in pain management tech, because the discomfort faded very quickly. He examined it. It had dials and buttons and a screen that was lighting up even as the voice over explained. “This is your very own PipBoy 3000. It will keep you current on your physical status, as well as location relative to places it has been able to map previously. It will keep inventory of your belongings, assist you in aiming a firearm or melee weapon. Why, it even has a handy AM/FM radio dial and built in geiger counter!”

The elevator shuddered to a halt, and a cubby opened up to the side of the screen. “Please take these complimentary weapons with our thanks for being a loyal VaultTec Customer, and have a wonderful day!”

He reached in and pulled out a pistol and a crowbar... “Well, isn't that cheery...” The door slid open, letting in more heat and blinding light. Carlos stumbled out into the wasteland.