Mae had been so excited to find her dad again. Even after everything she’d seen and been through to get there, she still held onto the hope that things would be okay once she found her father.
She hadn’t been expecting the virtual reality ruled by an insane scientist. She really hadn’t expected that the only option of escape from said virtual world was to essentially euthanize the people inside, to save them from their tormentor and get a way out for herself. She knew it was the right thing to do, but it didn’t make it any easier as she left through the door, hearing the dying screams of the residents as the virtual soldiers attacked.
Charon was waiting for her as she got out of the pod. He was still watching the robots rolling by with a wary eye, but apparently they weren’t programmed to attack if anything happened to the simulation. If they even knew what had happened to the simulation.
However her attention was diverted when she heard another pod open and someone get out. Moving quickly she rushed over and saw her father.
He was a bit worse for the wear and getting his footing back, but it was him. Mae opened her mouth to say something, then closed it for a moment. She had worked so hard, gone so far and finally....
Her voice was small, not at all like the confident and sure voice she’d developed out in the wasteland and she could tell Charon was watching her, probably confused. However she didn’t care. Her father’s head shot up at her voice.
“Mae....it is you.... You’ve saved me. I thought I was trapped in there forever.”
She was about to rush forward and hug him when he continued.
“But what are you doing here?”
“What?” Mae stood still. “Dad. I’m...I was looking for you.”
Her father offered a small smile. “Well I’m glad you did. I wasn’t ready and Braun was able to trap me there. I was able to get the information I needed though, so I suppose it was worth it.”
“That’s....good.” Mae looked at her father who nodded eagerly, more animated at that.
“I have to get this information back to Rivet city and Madison. She knows about the G.E.C.K and once I convince her we can get this running, I’m sure she’ll be on board again.”
Mae just stared for a moment.
“Mae?” Her father paused. “You’ll come with me, I hope. There’s a great deal of work to do and I’d like to show you what I’ve been working o-”
“Are you kidding me?” Mae suddenly snapped and she could feel Charon move closer. Normally she wouldn’t blame him. When her tone turned that way, it usually meant a fire fight was going to break out. But this was her dad. .....was supposed to be her dad.
“I know this is a lot to understand, but this is important.” Trying to talk to her like she was twelve.
“So important that you just left me alone in the vault?” She could hear the emotion in her voice and she hated it but this, she had to say this. However her father just frowned.
“Yes, I left you there so you could be safe. Which does bring up, what on earth are you doing out of the vault? I can’t even imagine how you managed to get out. As much as I appreciate your rescue, you were supposed to stay there and make a life for yourself. Not...follow me into the wasteland and...”
He trailed off because Mae had started to laugh. It was a hollow dry laugh and she knew Charon was standing to the side of her now, possibly worried, with him it was hard to tell.... because she could see him there and she could see her father looking over for a moment as well. However, he looked back. Apparently he was more concerned with her....for once since they’d started talking, her mind bitterly supplied before she could avoid the negative thought.
“Safe?” Her voice was higher then she’d liked, but she wasn’t crying and she’d managed to stop laughing, so there was that. “I only left the vault because they were trying to kill me!”
She could see the shock on her fathers face and that was something, that was at least something. But how couldn’t he know....
“They thought I’d helped you escape and radroaches had gotten in and they didn’t have a doctor and people were dying....and ...god I would have been dead if Amata hadn’t helped me escape the vault."
“I-” Her father started, his face paler then she’d ever seen it before.
“They killed Jonas too, you know. For helping you. They killed him, and they were going to kill me. I...I had to attack the guards, dad....to get out. They were shooting at me and I ended up with a bullet in my leg and I had to run for the exit. I had to get out because they were trying.to.kill.me.”
She took a deep breath as she’d been talking faster and faster as she went. But now, now she just wanted to ....to throw up, or cry. Or both.
Her father was still looking at her as though she’d grown another head.
“I....dear god. I’m so sorry.” He finally managed to say. “I....I never suspected...I never would have left you there if I’d even thought that the Overseer would do such a thing.”
“Well he did.” Mae managed to say. “It’s.....it’s not alright. I can’t say it’s alright, dad. I didn’t want to be out here, I didn’t just decide to stroll out into the radioactive wasteland because I could, I .....I had to. You left and Jonas died, and I almost died and the Overseer might have done it but....” She trailed off. “And even after all that, I just wanted to find you again. Because you’re my dad and I thought we could be a family again.”
“We can be.” Her father moved forward and hugged her and Mae buried her face in his shoulder. “I’m, so, so, sorry my dear.”
Mae sniffed and wiped her eyes as he let go.
“How....how have you been holding out up here.” Her father asked, looking her over and Mae wondered different she must look. Recon armour, a few scars and a gun or two strapped to her side and back. She looked nothing like the girl in the vault suit he’d last seen.
“I’m surviving. I’ve got a place in Megaton. I’ve been doing odd jobs, helping people when I can. Helped Three Dog to get some information on where you’d gone....”
“And your....friend there?” Her father nodded behind her and Mae glanced over to see Charon still standing there, menacingly. Which to be fair was his default stance. She’d gotten used to it over the many weeks they’d travelled and lived together. To the point where she sometimes forgot the effect he had on most people.
“Right, I’m sorry. Dad, this is Charon. I hired him to help me scout the ruins of a museum and he’s been with me since then. Charon this is my dad, James.”
“A pleasure to meet you.” Her father said, which was a relief. She didn't think she could handle it if her dad didn't treat ghouls like people. She didn't think he wouldn't but, well this entire reunion had made her doubt things.
Charon meanwhile just looked at him then nodded.
“He’s quiet.” Mae filled in. “But he’s saved my life more then a few times.”
James looked the ghoul over for a moment and then nodded himself. “Well then, I’m glad you met each other. Now then, we really should be going if we’re going to reach Rivet City soon.”
Mae fell silent. She didn’t want to get involved. It was stupid but she thought that if she found her dad that she could what....have a normal life again? Have a normal family? Was that just the stupid dream of a child. She glanced over at Charon for a moment, who just watched her.
She looked back and smiled. A smile that didn’t reach her eyes. A smile her father should have been able to tell was false.
“Sorry. No, we should get going. It’s a long trip back to Rivet City from here.”
But he couldn't tell.
“Excellent. I’ll just go and pack up some supplies from the spare rooms here and we can be on our way.”
Her father’s smile returned and that made it okay. It was fine that her father had plans that hadn’t involved her and was just bringing her along because she was there. It was....well it wasn’t fine that he’d left her in the vault but he was sorry and well she supposed that it was insane for the Overseer so that-
“Don’t.” Charon spoke up as her father walked off and she jolted slightly.
“You’re making excuses for him.”
She frowned slightly. “I-....what?”
Charon didn’t talk much. So she’d always made sure to really listen when he did, and he looked at her now. “Go with him or not, but don’t make up lies to make what he did right.”
“It ....” She trailed off after a moment. Was it that obvious on her face. .....she'd have to get better at hiding it. “It doesn’t matter....”
Charon looked at her and then shrugged. “For me, no. I’ll follow you as long as you have my contract. But you don’t have one, so it does.” He fell silent at that, as they started to walk after her father. And as she watched him, she wondered if Charon was was wrong about the contract.
A single apology and yes, her dad had seemed upset, but Jonas was dead. She’d almost died and he hadn’t even asked about her being shot, or how she’d managed to get a room in Megaton before going back to his plans to return to Rivet City. And yet she was going to follow him. Because he was her father and she loved him....no matter what he did or didn’t do. Contracts apparently didn’t have to be literal pieces of paper it seemed.
It hurt, it wasn’t supposed to hurt. She should be happy and she was, to finally see her father again after all this time, but it hurt too. And as they left the vault she realized that she’d been wrong, laughably wrong. This was the wasteland and things didn’t just suddenly get better because you found your father. In some case, they just got more complicated.
She fell in pace with her father who was walking quickly through the irradiated wasteland. Charon walked to the side of them, but kept up the pace as well. Staying even more silent as they walked than normal. Which was saying a lot. Mae didn’t question it though, she didn’t even bring up anything with her father. She was too tired and part of her was afraid of what she might hear if she pressed him for more answers.
At the moment, she’d had enough shock and ....hurt then she could take. So she kept walking in silence as they made their way back to Rivet City.