Last time, y’all decided that our dear, sweet, lovely Athena, so new to the cruelties of the wasteland, so innocent to the horrors of life, only ever wanted to make it a better place to live, was going to be a down and dirty thief. Such a heel turn. And frankly, I’m ashamed of you all. How could you do that to her? Turn someone who so far had never done anything foul against anyone that didn’t deserve it into someone who would willingly violate the sanctity of someone’s home, take something precious and irreplaceable to them, and hand it over to someone else for nothing other than a handful of bottlecaps? I hope you all feel really bad with yourselves.
Which is to say, I actually already did this in the same session I was doing everything else last update, so I’m really glad you voted the way you did.
But before we get to our Dirty Deeds Done Dirt ExpensivebecauseAthenadon’tcomecheap, let’s get some errands out of the way. First off, we check with Jasmine, a member of the Circle of Thieves on our way out the door. She hands us some flares and a lockpicking kit to get ready for the job ahead of us. We already have a lockpicking kit, and I don’t know what we’re supposed to do with flares given that we’re operating in the shadows now. Vendor trash, the both of them.
She also warns us not to do anything against Hightower, our little thieving target here, other than take his stuff. He’s apparently really good to the Circle of Thieves. He doesn’t know it, but he is. If he gets iced and someone with better security takes his place, they’ll be out money. So peace and discretion is the name of the day. Sort of.
We leave the circle, and start heading back towards central The Hub. On the way there, you remember the building I mentioned last time that has several toughs we’re not yet strong enough to handle? One of them sees us through a window as we pass by, and the entire group of way higher-leveled and better equipped enemies pile onto us. Uh…. that wasn’t supposed to happen.
And look, I know I’ve had some fun getting Athena into and out of situations she’s barely specced to handle, but not this one. This one doesn’t go well.
Luckily, just as Athena’s about to die, some weird time warp happens unexplainably and it turns out that Athena never encountered those thugs at all! And the weird glitch that randomly expanded their range of aggression to outside their building doesn’t happen either. Athena, Tycho, and Dogmeat all walk by peacefully. Athena breathes a sigh of relief and doesn’t know why.
There are two sections of the Hub we haven’t explored yet. We head to the boring plot-related one first. The southern section of the Hub has two facilities there. We head into the first one. And find ourselves in church all of a sudden.
A church of the Children of the Cathedral. As you can obviously tell from all the people lying prone on the ground here moaning about the Sacred Flame, they offer healing services for free as part of their ministry. Not just faith healing, either. An honest-to-sacred-flame doctor. For free. A good deal. Even after her fight with the Deathclaw and Dogmeat stepping on several landmines in her vicinity, Athena’s barely winded, so doesn’t need any medical attention, and the doctor’s not interested in spending time with her otherwise, but still, it’s nice to know it’s there.
There’s a guard in the church. He’s really not a fan of their ministry. But he does his job all the same.
In a side room, there’s Jain. Jain gets her own talking head. I don’t know why. She is completely unimportant to most everything this game. Her only actual impact is if we went through with Decker’s plan to kill Hightower, he’d hire us to kill Jain next. Yet they made a stop motion model for her, gave her voice acting, the works. She doesn’t even have much to say about her own faith. We learned more about the Children chatting with the doctor who didn’t want to talk to us than we did with her.
Anyways, in case you’re curious, the deal with the Children of the Cathedral is that they worship the Holy Flame, their master, referred to as a ‘he’, and pray for peace and capital-U Unity. The war that ruined the world was a cleansing of the sinful, and the Holy Flame will guide them to a Nexus of Rebirth, where they will have a lifetime of contentment while the unfaithful are further cleansed. The in people will be all good and flowers and happiness and stuff, while the out people will suffer. In the meantime, they do their best to make the world a better place. There is an actual cathedral that they’re the children of, and it’s somewhere to the south.
I’m typing all these words explaining this, but I bet you’re just going to forget it all by the time it becomes important again.
There’s a locked door in the church. Given that we’ve all decided that Athena is a dastardly sneakthief now, I have her attempt to pick the lock. There’s something behind there that could take up space in our inventory the entire game before finally becoming useful right at the end. Unfortunately, the guard catches us, and tells us to knock it off. Athena does so.
Next we head to the other building this side of town, headquarters of the Water Merchants. We’re looking for a water chip. If anyone in the Hub has heard of it, it would probably be the Water Merchants. That’s their whole business, after all. Now, we’ve heard of the Water Merchants before. A group of cutthroat merchants who have a stranglehold on people’s very lifelines and charge a premium to grant people the privilege of living. Can’t pay? They would just as soon see you die of thirst as look at you. Knowing the type of people she’s dealing with, Athena puts on her business face and storms into the CEO’s office. She’s ready for some harsh negotiations.
The Boss is in the middle of a meeting, but is happy to break away to talk with Athena. They’re very pleasant about it too. Athena is confused. This is not what she heard. Athena asks the Boss if they have a water chip, explaining that her vault needs one or it’s going to starve. The Boss says nobody in the Hub has any, but suggests Athena check out neighboring the Necropolis. See, the Water Merchants tried to secure a trade arrangement with them before, but the Necropolis wasn’t interested, which the Boss takes to mean that they’ve already got a stable source of water, likely similar to the Vault’s filtration system. Then the Boss offers to begin supplying Athena’s vault with water for an extra 100 days for a very reasonable price.
This… this is everything we were told they’re not. The Water Merchants have so far been the most helpful in pointing us in a solid direction towards our water chip than anyone, rather than the usual ‘oh there’s lots of people here maybe somebody will know something’ run around we’ve been getting, and they offered that information for free. And then they offer to temporarily abate our Vault’s water crisis for an affordable rate. Methinks somebody’s been on a smear campaign towards them.
We turn down their offer for help, though. We’ve still got a couple of months of water left. Plenty of time to find the chip. After all, it’s not like anything could possibly happen that would keep Athena from making it back to the Vault alive and well and in one piece.
Ok, but yeah. On to the task at hand. The burglary of Darren Hightower. Hightower lives in the heights, the wealthiest suburb of the Hub. He’s a very successful businessman, but a bit of an isolationist, and so has his home crawling with guards, and really doesn’t like visitors. Athena heads there, to see if she can charm her way into his jewelry room.
She gets stopped at the door to his home by a guard, questioning what she’s doing in the area. She tells him that she has an appointment with Mr. Hightower, and that she’s running late. The guard looks her over, with her collection of guns large and small and her spiked metal armor, and decides that she is exactly the type of person Hightower likes to associate with, and hurries her inside.
Inside she gets stopped by another guard. This one’s a little more cognizant of Hightower’s schedule, and won’t fall for the ‘oh I have an appointment’ excuse. Instead, Athena tells him that she has something very important to tell Hightower. That crime lord, Decker? He hired somebody to kill Darren Hightower! He’s in danger right now! Athena has to let him know!
What, what does the person he hired look like? Well, she looks totally cool and beautiful and strong and has… nevermind, we’re not too certain. Just let us in to talk to Hightower and we can tell him what we know.
No? You say we don’t have to worry about it? You say all those marks on your big gun are counting down the number of people who’ve made an attempt on Hightower’s life and have paid with their own for it? You say even though you’re super awesome, Hightower still instructed you that he’s not to meet with anyone and we can’t get in to meet with him no matter how much we schmooze you?
Well, that got us nowhere slowly. We back out of the heights, and wait until dark. We’re going to use Athena’s newfound mastery of stealth and subterfuge to get us through this one. First things first, now that it’s night, I finally let her take advantage of the two level ups she’s been holding onto for quite some time now. I put some points into her guns skill, her ability to use computers because this will be important, and then he sneaking and lockpicking skills so that she’s not going to completely embarrass herself this operation. Given how low those skills are and that it’s not a direction that I’ve been developing her in at all, she’s still going to partially embarrass herself, but maybe she can still make it out with jewels in hand.
Then, we’re in. Under the cover of darkness. A guard at the front warns us not to hang around here, that he doesn’t mind as long as we don’t go closer to the house but they’re all under orders to open fire questions unasked on anyone hanging around here and the other guards won’t use his discretion. We agree to leave immediately, then don’t do that. He wanders off.
We head the long way around the back of Hightower’s house, hanging in the shadows the whole time. We reach a corner where we can spy on the guard by the front door. Dude pounds coffee like nobody’s business, and so has to take off to relieve himself every couple of minutes. We wait for our opening, and slip into the house.
The house is empty except for Hightower and his wife, who are hanging around in their bedroom. We make our way to a small room adjoined to Hightower’s office, which has a strong lockbox in it. This is our target. And up until now, our success here has been based in skill. My skill. You can thank me for that in the comments. But now it’s going to be based in skill. Athena’s skill. Which is to say, random chance, the good old D20 with modifiers. And after a few minutes of repeatedly trying and failing to open the lockbox, it’s clear to me just what that picture is going to look like.
Fallout is, like many classic computer RPGs were, based on tabletop RPGs in structure. That means use of skills is subject to the whims of a random number god, influenced by your level in that skill. Athena’s not exactly great at lockpicking. But I haven’t gotten a message telling me she’s unable to pick this lock yet, which means she has at least a chance of opening it up. But she hasn’t had any success after a few dozen attempts, which likely means she’s just barely over the minimum skill level required to have the slimmest chance of succeeding. There are a couple ways we could go from here. She could get a critical success and hit that chance, opening this tough lockbox in spite of her limited abilities to do so. She could get a critical failure, which is always a risk no matter how good she is, and jam the lock, rendering it unable to be opened for all eternity. Or we could leave and come back later with a higher skill level and not have a lot less of a chance of locking ourselves out of this quest reward.
That last option is boring. I disregard it. I start plugging away at the lock some more.
For a long, long, long time, nothing happens. It’s just pulling up the list of skills, selecting lockpick, and using it on the lockbox. Over and over again. Time starts to blur. I don’t know how long I’ve been repeating that. 10 minutes? 15? Four days? I don’t know. But I keep running the painful, painful line between success and failure, where nothing happens for far longer than I’m comfortable with. For whatever reason, although they gave her a set of lockpicks to use here, it doesn’t actually work on the lockbox, she has to do all this by hand. Which has to start to hurt after a while. Eventually though, a long eventuality, I hear a click. Something’s changed with that lock. We’ve done something. We either jammed it, meaning nobody will every be able to get into it, or we’ve opened it up, meaning we’ve bumbled our way to success in this dark op nobody thought we had the skills for. I’m afraid to look down. But slowly, finally, I do.
And I find the released latch staring back at me. Success. We take the necklace and book it, heading out the same way we came in.
We make our way back to Loxley, who’s ecstatic at our success and welcomes us into the Circle of Thieves. We shall have nothing to do with them for the rest of the game. But for now, they buy the necklace from us for 3000 caps, four times it’s actual worth, and give us a set of one-of-a-kind electronic lockpicks, which work on advanced technological locks.
And with that, we’re done with the Hub. We’ve got ourselves a new destination, the Necropolis. It sounds like a lovely place. I’ll see you there!