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Doc     Popping out of his shelter, Doc was making the rounds. The ghouls were clustered around the water tower, as usual, but it was the fence itself that Doc was checking. He whistled, since he had good lips again. It was a happy tune.
Tibbie Tibbie had been making all the rounds around El Dee to check in on her friends and now she was far away from home at Jackson's farm to visit them lastly. She had been wandering around the sad fields and found this intimidating fenced in lot. Tibbie's carrying her drawstring bag and in her hands is a platter wrapped in paper.
"Howdy! Well aint this somethin? Anybody here?" She hollers out.
Doc     Doc turned to look through the afternoon light. He smiled as he moved around the fence, waving at her. "Tibbie!" he called out. The feral ghouls paid her a token amount of attention, but very few moved toward her. Doc, meanwhile, was dressed in a lab coat and had his alien pip-boy strapped to his arm. He gave her a hug as he reached her. "It's always such a pleasure to see you," he said, his voice just as gravelly and deep as it ever was since before she was born. "How's my favorite deathclaw mommy?"
Tibbie The short brunette smiles and her deathclaw baby finally waddles up beside her, he's also holding a plate, and that seems to be why he's taken a while to catch up to her. "Aww, we're doin alright! Figured we oughta visit'chall and bring some homecookin around. Must be rough out here with no food growin'round, and the new vegas food, well, aint gonna be nowhere near as good as this." Tibbie wiggles the mystery plate and takes Tibba's plate now. Tibba peers at the ferals inside the fence.
Doc     "Oh, that's so generous of you!" Doc says with a genuine smile. His glowing eyes aim at the food. "I'm sure it's delicious." He knelt down and spoke to Tibba, now. "You've done a very good job," he says to him. "How you doin', fella? Huh?"
Tibbie Tibba responds to Doc with a soft caw and pushes his horns under Doc's hand for pets. She smiles at the moment "He's been real good Doc, I hope to get some real words outta him someday. It looks like y'got yerself that lab you been needing too! Sure found the right spot for it too." Tibbie remarks happily and peers around to the ferals. "What'cher plan for all them ferals Doc?" she asks.
Doc     "I'm trying my best to take care of them," Doc says. He pets the little deathclaw baby for a while as he lets himself get a little wistful. "Even if I never find a cure, those are people in there, or were once upon a time. When we were put on this planet, we were supposed to take care of the things that live here. I also have a bit of a soft spot for them, personally."
Tibbie Tibbie grins, "Well you're a kind kinda soul Doc." she motions to Tibba to Doc, "Give'm a hug for me buddy." and he does so. "Y'gonna invite me in so I can feed ya?" she chuckles. "Maybe you can take a gander at Tibbazoid for me, I think he's growin a lil but being with him all the time makes it hard to tell." she mentions.
Doc     Doc took the hug from the deathclaw and returned it warmly. He then stood up and walked toward the building. "Alright, you two. I better not have any monkey business inside, or you'll both be banned." He enters into the wood building and waits for the others to enter before unlocking the decontamination chamber. As the three filter into it, Doc says, "Guard that food, 'cause it's going to get a little wet in here." He begins typing on the terminal inside the decon chamber. Soon, the door closes all three inside.
Tibbie Tibbie nods and salutes before following him inside his laboratory, Tibba waddling along behind. Tibbie juggles the two plates into the drawstring bag, and holds the bags carefully in both hands. Tibba jumps in surprise when the doors shut around them and the decontamination starts.
Doc     "Don't freak out," Doc says to Tibba. Then he begins the sequence. Water sprays down from above and from the sides, soaking all three occupants. Doc takes this in stride as he watches the green text on the screen mingle with a bar crawling across.
Tibbie "Bah! Good golly Doc!" Tibbie says and spits water out, and Tibbazoid tries to wiggle the water off but it keeps coming back. Tibbie balances the bag and keeps it closer now, trying to ward off the prospect of soggy food. Her hair's near black now from the water and her flimsy shirt is sticking to her skin.
Doc     The water stops and Doc looks at Tibbie. He's about to apologize, but gets distracted at the white fabric clinging to her form, leaving little to the imagination. "I didn't realize," he said, turning his head away with some effort. How long had it been since he'd looked at a woman like that? He cleared his throat as the implications of the alien mothership's synth flesh kept coming to him anew.
Tibbie "We'll live Doc, water after that long trip out here s'pretty nice actually. I just hope you got something to dry off with aside some wiggle dancin!" Tibbie chuckles as Tibba's at his wiggling again. She slips her hand in the bag and paper crinkles, "Looks like the food made it out alright too, phew." she looks to Doc and his new mood and smirks, "Also looks like them alien chums got everything up an workin on ya! Can't be that bad if they did you a solid like that. I hope you and the bunker brains ca figure out what they was tryna do to all uh'us."
Doc     Doc turns back, seemingly forgiven by the kind-hearted woman. He makes eye contact and smiles back at her for a moment before letting himself get distracted by her again for a moment. "It's about to get very loud," he told her breasts before warm air begins rushing in from above. Hot moist air is sucked out from vents below the floor, making the whole process quickly remove moisture from their bodies.
Tibbie Thankfully the direction of air flow kept Tibbie's shirt on and they dried off well enough to not drip onto the floor, though her boots have a damp squeak to them when the doors open and she's decontaminated enough to leave. "Heck, it warmed up the grub too!" she smiles to doc and looks around the lab in awe.
Doc     The room inside was a miracle of cleanliness. Doc had apparently been gathering pre-war items for quite some time, because half the room was like an efficiency apartment with a large bed, clean linens, a dining area, kitchenette, and all the pre-war weird things that didn't make sense to keep outside these walls. Then there was a line of machinery marked with warning labels that would have been lost on most people, including a bunch of pipes. THe machinery from there and to the left was not only advanced, it was clearly alien. Doc, however, went into the living area side, but not before taking off his shoes and putting them on a rug by the door. "Take off your boots," he informed Tibbie.
Tibbie "Sure thang! Does Tibba need socks? I aint even got socks!" she laughs as she realizes this. Tibbia awes at the kitchen, "You tellin me you got a kitchen? You know any old timey recipes?" Tibbie's metaphorical tail wags, but she stays in place, waiting for the green light from Doc.
Doc     "I haven't got old-timey ingredients," Doc says with a smile, "but I do have a kitchen." Once her shoes are off, Doc gestures at the table and chairs. If not for the lack of windows, one might mistake the place for a pre-war home, at least if they knew what one looked like. The bed was neatly made, the countertops and table were spotless, the washer and dryer worked, as indicated by the fact that there was currently a load quietly being washed. There were plenty of cabinets and storage space, and the fridge was even humming. "I've been doing some experimenting with modifying old recipes since the war, but honestly, I'm still not as good a cook as most housewives."
Tibbie "Best way to learn is to eat Doc!" she smiles and sets her bag down and motions Tibba to join her at the table. Her toes wiggle as she pulls out the plate and unwraps it. "I hope you like spicy and sweet Doc!" she says and shows two dishes on the table, one being an enticing pie, and the other being a platter of chicken wings. The wings are different colors and assorted by their spices, bbq, spicy, and tangy. Tibbie pulls out a makeshift paper bag that looks to be soaked, she hands it to Tibba who tears through the paper easily and ingests the questionable meats inside it. "Good boy! Now y'got here some wings, and my dad's classic mutfruit pie! Might need a little blast of some heat to appreciate it though." she grins.
Doc     "Well, if you want to warm it in the oven, feel free. It's an electric oven, so it doesn't work like an open fire range." He moves to the refrigerator and pulls a large pitcher of the cleanest, clearest water Tibbie's ever seen. He pulls two of the cleanest glasses she's seen and pours water into both. Then he puts the pitcher away and moves to the table, setting the glasses down. "How much water does Tibbazoid need?"
Tibbie Tibbie's grin widens and shes peers at the ovens knobs and turns it to halfway and looks in the glass viewing window. "wooow! oh! Tibba, I dunno he sorta drinks, give it a shot!" she says and lets the oven be to preheat "things work slow back then huh. That's clearer than bitter lake's water!" she mentioned and takes a sip, then sighs happily. "you sure know how to cook water at least!" she chuckles.
Doc     He smiled as she complimented his water. Her shirt may not have been wet any more, but the image was seered into his mind. He took off his labcoat and draped it over the chair as he continued to pull out various things. Undamaged plates, cloth napkins, and silverware that looked as though it had been sealed in an airtight safe for the last two centuries. He pulled out a bowl, filled it, and put it in a spot on the table for Tibbazoid, not willing to make the obviously intelligent beast sit on the floor. Then he pulled the chair out for his most beautiful and so far only houseguest.
Tibbie "Thanks Doc!" Tibbie said as she sat in his provided seat. Tibba sniffed the bowl and laped up some water from it. "I hope this grub knocks yer socks off Doc! You mind pulling them wings out the oven?" she asks him as the smells of the wings fill the lab.
Doc     Doc put on an oven mit for its intended purpose, then pulled the wings out of the oven. He took the time to put them out neatly onto a serving plate, then brought it to the table. The whole scene felt like he was back before the war again and had brought a girl over...and her wingless dragon...Tibba definitely broke the illusion, but so did Doc's glowing eyes and the lab full of alien equipment not twenty feet away, including a certain stasis pod. Doc smiled at Tibbie for a moment. "It's been a long time since I've had a lady over for dinner," he said to her.
Tibbie "Thanks for havin' me over Doc!" Tibbie smiles back to him and pats Tibba's horn. "Even got some shiny 'tensils and fancy wiping rags. I feel like queen of the wastes." Tibbie shows Tibba the fork and demos how to use it with the empty plate, the deathclaw watches but his blank stare hints manners that advanced would be lost to him. "It's okay Tibba. You kin still get the bones." She reassures him and turns to Doc. "There should be plenty left over for Jack too, he loved the ribs I brought last, should like these too." Tibbie beams and waits for Doc to try it out.
Doc     Doc does his best to dig up the centuries-old manners he never really used that much when he was alive. He stuck out his pinkies as he picked up a chicken wing and almost daintily bit into the seared flesh. He closed his eyes and smiled as he chewed. After a moment of savoring and a brief yummy noise, he said to Tibbie, "You are a woman of many talents, undisputed champion of the universe." He shot her a wink before taking another bite of the delicious 'chicken'.
Tibbie "Aww shucks, I aint all that Doc." Tibbie smirks and takes a wing for herself. "I can't do any science thangs like you can." she comments and finishes a wing, then offers the bone and cartilage to Tibba who cracks and swallows it easily. "I think yer really gonna like the pie too, I forgot the cream though or I woulda whipped some up for ya." she makes smalltalk and looks to him, "Say, how's that Megan prison comin along? Did the bunker brains figure out where that other chunk of the ship go off to?" She asks him bewteen bites of her second wing.
Doc     Doc looks over at the cryo pod with the surprised-looking girl in it. It was on its back, so one couldn't see her face from the table, but Doc had that expression memorized. He sighs and says, "Megan is gone for about as long as it takes me to figure out where I want us to be." He looks at Tibbie and smiles. "Right now, if it's alright with you, I'd like to concentrate on what's right in front of me than peer off at a maybe future."
Tibbie Tibbie frowns a bit but nods agreeably. "I catch yer drift Doc. Well what's yer plans for this week? Or got any projects goin on already?" Tibbie asks. "Do y'mind warmin up that pie next when you get a chance too? That oven sure is neat though, no smoke or nothing." Tibbie adds her requests for him with a kind smile. "I aint got much plans really, just keepin my family floatin and when I get time I like to try on out new recipes in my dad's cookbook." She explains to him
Doc     Doc smiles as the excited woman aimed lots of words at him. "One warm pie coming up," he says, standing and moving to the oven, putting the pie into it. He opened the refrigerator while he was up and grabbed two things. One was the water jug, the other was milk. Brahmin milk tasted almost the same as cow milk, of course, but nobody knew that but those who were around before the war. Doc was going to experiment with home-made dairy stuff, now that he had working cold storage, but the ice-cream social had been such an amazing experience, he didn't feel the need. "Well," he says, "even if we can't have whipped cream, we can at least have a nice glass of cold milk with it." He poured the milk and refreshed their waters. When he put the jugs away, he pulled out the pie and carried it to the table. "It smells wonderful," he says. Most pies were unsweetened, now, but Doc had LONG since gotten used to that.
Tibbie Tibbie smiles "I only had it cold a few times in my life, this is gonna be good." she rubs her hands together after wiping them off on the cloth. "I should teach y'to make ice cream at home Doc!" She offers with a smirk. Tibba looks between to two idly and swings his feet, just wanting more bones as his main focus is the platter. Tibbie looks over and smiles to Tibba, then gives him his own in tact wing to enjoy. "If it aint gonna ruin the mean, kin'I ask what do you feed the buddies outside Doc?" she asks curiously.
Doc     "Ghouls are funny things," Doc says in response to her question as he cuts into the pie. "I've found ghouls in places where I know for a fact they've been stuck there since before the war, and they're still alive and kicking. Usually, these are places with lots of radiation. Despite it being nonsensical from what I know of carbon-biology, I think radiation is sustainence for feral ghouls. Maybe for other ghouls, too. I mean...I've never tried living on just the glow, but hey, I can't think of too many better explanations." Doc serves her a slice of the pie, then himself. He holds his fork like a gentleman as he sits back in his seat. "They also pretty much slaughter any molerat or radroach that wanders into their pen. I've been thinking of doing some experiments with different foodstuffs. I mean...maybe relying too much on radiation to survive is what made them feral to begin with." He takes a bite and closes his eyes again, making yummy sounds as he suddenly loses his train of thought.
Tibbie Tibbie grins as she sees his satisfaction with her cooking. "That's pretty neat thinking." She adds with a bite of her own and her eyes roll back. "mmm, th'taste never gets old to me, and I been having this for years." Tibbie brags and takes a long gulp of milk and she happily sighs, "That's just too good now." she adds about the milk, it lingers on her upper lip.
Doc     Doc tears himself away from the flavor to smile at the milk mustache on her upper lip. "You know, you can be very cute sometimes," he says. "It's a trait women lost for a long time after the war. For decades, the only thing you ever heard from anyone was woe is me. Then their kids whined. Then THEIR kids whined. Eventually, a generation rose up and wondered, 'Why are we whining?'" He took another bite of pie, putting his story on pause for a moment. "I didn't get out of the vault until about thirty years after I was ghouled, so I missed the worst of the whining, thank goodness."
Tibbie Tibbie laughs "Heh, thanks Doc!" she licks her upper lip and and nods "Whine around my house and it's a spankin till the dough rises. I'm glad you skippethat part, but why'd you take so long to get on out of there? There was maps in vault town, wouldn't doubt there bein one in there." She tilts her head while savoring another bite. Tibba on the other hand was looking at the pie on her plate and sneakily catches a claw into it during their conversation and licks it. His eyes widen as he seemed to enjoy it too!
Doc     Doc looks at his pie for a moment, then takes another bite. He takes his time chewing it, then swallows and asks, "Do you have time to hear the whole story?" he asks, looking like he's about to tell it.
Tibbie "Corse I do! I like collectin stories." Tibbie smiles and takes another sip. Tibba softly claws at her leg and looks to her slice. "Really? You wanna try some?" Tibbie asks and gives him a forkful, and Tibba wags his tail. She looks back to Doc, ready for his story.
Doc     Doc takes a moment to gather his resolve. The story is fresh after the memory refreshing experience of the mothership pod, but it's not the happiest of stories. "I'm going to tell this as I watched it from when I got my memories jumbled in the alien ship. After all, that's how I most recently experienced it.."
Doc     The native american man in the cryopod was wearing the same alien-issued speedsuit as everyone else, but there was nothing particularly distinguishing about him. He twitched as the memory engrams fought his mind.
    Being alive for hundreds of years, you learn new ways to help maintain your grasp of things your age deems unfit to remember, or at least you do if you're a scientist and don't want to have to re-discover all your old inventions. Doc's mind was having all his memories turned off one at a time, starting with the newest and going to the oldest. The ice cream social, then arriving in El Dorado, and so on. This was the same as everyone else, but for starters, there were a lot more memories than in the smooth-skins, and of course, he was actively fighting back. It had gone on for quite some time, and he wished he could remember what he had forgotten, because he knew he had lost almost everything already.
Doc     Doc pet the head of one of the girl ghouls who tore greedily at the barely-food in her hands. The overseer's position was not exactly the heady position he'd wanted. This was also not how he had wanted to get it. "You shouldn't eat like that Susie," he told her. She didn't listen, or if she did, she didn't understand. "You'll get a tummyache." He thumbed the red alloy of the energy weapon in his grip. Some of the women had stripped out of their vault suits, but that hadn't been at all sexy to watch, nor were they sexy now, all horrible scar tissue without a full mind to share between them. He stood and they ignored him, even as he picked up the bag he'd prepared over the last few months. They didn't even give him as much attentiveness as a dog would anymore.
    He walked through the droves of vault-suited ghouls without issue. He knew all of their names. He would remember all of their names as long as he could, but he couldn't stay here, nor could he kill them.
    At the main entrance to the vault, he began shooting the dirt around them, shouting and scaring them back into it. He closed it behind him and locked it. Then he began walking out, pulling an explosive from the bag and placing it just so on the rock wall. He continued planting explosives for a while until they were all set. He removed his pipboy and plugged it into a distribution circuit he'd designed. Then he began walking. He walked for a little under ten minutes, then turned and looked at the entrance to the cave. Boom.
    The plume of smoke marked the permanent sealing of the vault, and, at least for him, a burial ceremony for his life, his friends...hell, his only family. He waited for the dust to settle before turning and walking. He was going to need to find some new clothes, now.
Doc     The memory was torn from him like one needed to tear a prized toy from a child who only had that toy. With practice, he'd been able to cut down the time between grabbing memories, but only when he was willing to let go of one just before it was ripped from him and grab the next one. It was becoming a game, but he wished he didn't have to play. He grabbed onto the next memory and tried desperately to hold onto it against whatever was messing with his mind and stealing who he was.
Doc     Vault radiation alarms had neglected their duty in the memory. Without the weight of the memories on top of it, it felt fresh and new, like it had just happened, so Doc was able to concentrate on it with crystal clarity. Something had gone wrong, but not in a normal way. Sabotage had done it. The reactor's coolant had been cleaned of radiation in the usual way, by separating out the high radiation portion from the low radiation portion. Unfortunately, it had become somewhat...diverted from its normal flow, venting the hyper-concentrated radiation soup into the water reservoir of the fire suppression system. That had gone on for years, making this an extremely premeditated attack. Then, further pushing the 'this was premeditated' button in Doc's mind, every terminal had been put on a long, uninterruptable diagnostics loop. Just to get through one locked door, he would have to physically disassemble the terminal, already a risky procedure without powering down, disconnect power, which was virtually impossible to do safely while everything was wet, reconnect, and wait through the boot up sequence, then hope it could find the door it controlled again. The last stage of this planned attack was the fire suppression system in the whole vault had been triggered all at once, cycling through the irradiated water over and over again. Doc had rushed through without problems, since he was pretty fully immune since his wrestling with that glowing thing, but the dose was so high that the women of the vault were puking up blood and several meals at once. The noise of their collective Pip-Boys was like static on a TV screen. Doc wasn't a medical doctor. That doctor was currently several locked doors away. He was powerless, and he didn't like that.
Doc     As painful as it was to lose memories, Doc let go of that one willingly. He was tentative from the last memory, and that made him hesitate just enough that decades were erased before he grabbed another memory. In this bit of his mindscape recording, Doc looked at his window. There was nobody watching. He liked the ability to work in peace, but he lamented secretly in his heart. He found the wisdom in that old addage that one never knew what one had until one lost it. He turned away from the window and scratched at the picture of a chicken on his desk to avoid scratching at what was left of his skin. It had been a story he'd remembered from back when people still had gotten chicken pox. Scratch the picture, not your skin. He turned back toward the window to see the only woman with a vault suit numbered differently than his own. He stood and moved quickly to the door, opening it and giving her access, though both stood awkwardly on either side of the open doorway.
    "Hey," he said, giving her a smile, then getting self conscious of his face, not really liking his smile any more. His voice was very gravelly, now, as well, and that was going to take some getting used to. "Sorry about the face," he said. "I've been meaning to come check on you, but I'm trying to let the radiation burns heal first. They're kind of taking their time."
    "It's okay," she said with a weak but genuine smile. They stood awkwardly looking at their feet for a while before she said, "I'm sorry about your friend Megan."
    Doc nodded solumnly and crossed his arms. He tried to change the subject. "I'm sorry, um...about any friends you may have had," he said.
    She was quiet for a moment again. "Yeah," she finally said. She moved forward and hugged him timidly. It was the first real hug he'd gotten since hugging that green, glowing monstrosity. It had taken him a moment before he hugged her back. Her hug went from a nominal hug slowly into a fervent, desperate hug. She began to cry, and he let her. They held each other for a long time, but eventually, she stopped crying. "Thank you," she said into his chest, unable to look him in the eye. She looked up at his lips, however, and closed her eyes, leaning in to--he couldn't remember that memory any more as it was torn from him by the persistent script. He grabbed at another quickly.
Doc     Doc breathed heavily as he approached the vault door. His Pip-Boy was giving him all kinds of warnings and urging him to seek medical attention. He shifted the pistol-shaped piece of strange, red-painted alloy with glowing blue bits to his left hand and leaned against the console on the pistol grip. He pulled the data cable from it with his right hand and plugged in to open the vault door, though it was locked hard from the inside. "Who's there?" came a woman's voice from inside. "Doc, is that you?"
    Doc quickly recognized the voice and smiled. "Susan," he managed to get out, his voice sounding like he'd swallowed a wire brush as he struggled to breathe. "I took a pretty big dose out there. Get decon ready." The vault door opened and the gangway extended. Doc hobbled inside, doubled over and tried not to throw up again. The girls waiting around the door had a nice, empty path cleared to the decon room, but has he doubled over, they all leaned forward, aching to rush to him.
    He walked into the clean room and sat down hard on the bench as he was sealed inside. The pip-boy on his wrist wasn't clicking like it had been, but it was giving off the occasional pop, and the little cartoon figure on the screen wasn't looking at all happy.
    "Doc," one of the women said, furrowing her brow in deep concern. "These should be dead."
    "Yeah," he agreed. "Pip-Boy's rad meter won't even go up as high as the dose I got." The woman on the other side put something into the compartment on her side, then closed the shielded door. "What about the others?" Doc asked as he opened his side and took one of the Rad-Away bags. Even though he wasn't a medical doctor, he thankfully knew how to give himself an IV. "Did everyone else get back okay?"
    The women across the shielded glass looked at each other, unsure how to break the news. Eventually, Susan told him, "The girl you rescued and most of the team arrived safely," she said. After fussing with her vault suit uncomfortably for a moment, twirling her hair and shifting her Pip-Boy as she tried to struggle with the words, she just plainly told him, "Megan hasn't checked in."
Doc     Doc's hold on the memory was torn from him and he was ready as he grabbed another immediately. "Oh my god!" Megan screamed, firing a couple shots with her 10mm at the green, glowing thing and missing entirely.
    "Keep moving!" Doc had shouted at the girls, his own pistol out of ammo. He charged the thing. "Get her back to the vault, quickly!" He punched the thing in the face as his geiger counter rattled like someone shaking a pill bottle. "Come on, Quasimodo!" he goaded it. He ducked and weaved, dodging a slow, sweeping, clumsy blow and getting behind the glowing monster. With a bit of quick reflexes, he managed to get it into a sleeper hold and jumped up on its back, taking it down onto the charred grass and radioactive mud. "Stay down, damn you!" he insisted. There was an ominous glow as something passed overhead and he heard the women screaming from out of sight. His grip released just enough for the thing to get another lungful of air. His focus on survival restored, he tightened his grip and roared defiantly in the green, glowing ear. He held it until it was long past getting up, even much later. He stood and looked at his Pip-Boy, frowning. That was not a happy face it was making at him.
Doc     If Doc could have spoken in the mindscape, he would have shouted in protest as the memory was rended from him. He quickly grabbed another.
    "Oh god," Megan One had said as they entered Vault 68. There were bodies everywhere. As Doc had expected, all male. The small group had their pistols raised as they moved through the vault like an improvised marine squad. Causes of death ranged from strangling to improvised weapons bashing each other over the head to gunshot wounds. There were gunshots deeper into the vault. "Come on," Doc said, rushing forward. The girls followed quickly. As they rounded a corner, there was one man and a row of bodies lined up. The only other person was one other man, sitting execution style on the floor as the first put a bullet in his head. As he turned his head and saw Doc, his eyes briefly turned to the other women. "She's not the only...oh god," he said, his eyes suddenly full of regret. The pistols of Doc's little team were turned on him in case he tried anything. The man looked at his pistol, suddenly ashamed of what he had done, then put it to his own head. He quickly pulled the trigger before anyone could react. "No," Megan One shouted, but a moment too late.
    Doc rushed forward to check vitals, but everyone was very, very dead. Megan One averted her gaze as Sarah moved forward to the window of the overseer's room.
    "Doc," she said. "She's in there. Tied up and probably dehydrated." Doc got up and moved to the console. He brought up the debug interface.
Doc     Doc lost the memory as quickly as it had come, and he grabbed at the next he could. "All men?" Megan Two asked in the assembly. "Obviously, there was some kind of mixup, right?"
    "I don't know," Doc said. He stood near the overseer. The women of the vault had put a lot of trust in him. He wasn't technically overseer, but he had been given a lot of authority, and given the situation, he was allowed to pretty much do whatever he wanted, provided he followed the lottery rules and kept his windows uncovered. "I've talked it over with Victoria," he said, gesturing at the overseer, "and she's agreed to let me go. She doesn't want to see anybody raped," he added, making him the only choice, at least in his own mind, "and these men are probably pretty desperate."
    "That's right," Victoria said. "I can't appoint anyone to go. If any of you choose to go, you do so at your own risk."
    "Don't go," a pregnant woman called out to Doc. "Please," another woman with an infant in her arms echoed. There were pleadings coming out all around. They didn't mind if a group went, but not if it included Doc.
    "I have to," Doc said. "I know human behavior well enough to know that woman is not being treated fairly." He didn't add that she probably wasn't being even given 'humanely'.
    "But the radiation!" a woman protested urgently.
    The response from the overseer was calm and courteous. "We've got enough Rad-X for--" Victoria started before the memory was torn from Doc's grasp.
Doc     "Today's daily lottery winner is--" came the overseer's voice over the loudspeaker. "Clarissa Johanneson! Congratulations! Please see Doctor Dighin sometime today. As usual, your winnings become void at midnight." Doc pursed his lips. Someone new. He knew of Clarissa, but only by name. He didn't really know anything about her. In a vault full of a thousand people, he had trouble keeping track of too much detail. That was the downside of the lottery, really.
    Doc had been doing a lot of experiments to figure out why all the children of the vault had been born female so far. He knew his genetic code should have produced at least one male child of those born since the vault had been sealed. He looked at the lab window where a dozen women watched him work. He was constantly on display like some kind of entertainment show. He'd been given freedom to do his science without being disturbed, but they had been given freedom to watch. It was a double-edged sword, as they were sometimes very distracting on purpose, like the woman breastfeeding, her jumpsuit wide open as she was practically pressed against the window. The looks on her face were very distracting on their own.
    "Ash," came Megan One's voice over his intercom.
    He reached over and pushed the button. "What is it?" he asked.
    "I've done it. I've gotten out. I piggybacked out through some kind of weird interface on the surveillance system. I've gotten access to a bunch more connected vaults."
    "That's great," Doc said, shooting the women at the window a wink and a flex of his right arm. At least one swooned, and he put on a smug expression at the kind of power he had over them. He turned away from the window so they couldn't read his lips. He continued his conversation with Megan One as privately as he was going to be able to, "Tell me about them. Are they having similar problems to ours?"
    "Actually, no," she said. "I've noticed that they all are set up very poorly, at least in my opinion, but all of them completely differently. Some of them almost at random; others are...well, malicious is the only word for it. This vault is the only one to have only one man. Vault 68 has only one woman." Doc's face had gone inscrutible as his mind went to more than just a bit concerned.
    "Is she alive?" he asked, calmly.
    The memory was torn from him before the answer came, but he couldn't remember why he was upset long enough to be upset about not finding out the answer, and he was just that he kept losing memories. He grabbed at another.
Doc     Sirens were going off. Doc was not a sprinter. He had walked onto the chopper and from the air, he had a great view of the people scrambling to get into the vault. The homecoming game had been interrupted by the air raid sirens, and a bus full of cheerleaders were being escorted in. They hadn't even been approached by Vault-Tec, unlike the local college base, who had. Men were scrambling to go with their wives and daughters into the vault while soldiers were not shy about using force to keep the men back. Doc's chopper landed, and after noticing the scene on the ground, he noticed that his pilot and guards were female, at least the ones not in power armor were. He didn't know about the others, but he had a guess.
    Hopping down, he walked into the throng of entering females, most of whom were young and pretty. He remembered briefly thinking that he had won some kind of karmic lottery, then feeling very bad for thinking that, as people were about to die. He looked back before being pushed forcefully forward. "Keep moving," said the soldier. There was the sound of laser miniguns being deployed against the riotous men as he was pushed along by the women entering the vault. Once inside, he was greeted by female Vault-Tec employees in blue and yellow leather jumpsuits.
    "He's here," one of them said. She approached him, all inviting smiles. Doc couldn't stand his wife, but she was all he could think about as he looked back at the door. Women and girls were still pouring into the vault, but after a few moments, the door began to close. The assigned vault residents had gotten in, and the girls that were pouring in now were just stragglers, so the woman manning the controls didn't even flinch as she watched the huge gear move into place, women inside and outside screaming at what was happening. The big door slammed shut and sealed tightly. There was what felt like an earthquake, but Doc knew better. "Crystal," he lamented, quietly, his voice under the screams that broke down into sobbing from all around him. Only the women in vault suits still had anything resembling a smile, though theirs were primarily fake. "Women and children first," Doc said, looking around. He was about to ask why he was given special treatment when the memory was torn from him. He clawed at his memories to try to grab it back, but couldn't even remember what he was grabbing at as he grabbed another memory.
Doc     "I'm sorry to bother you at work, Doctor," the Vault-Tec representitive had said, so very long ago, though it seemed like a fresh experience. "I tried getting you at home, but your wife--"
    "Yes, get on with it," Doc had said back, not wanting to talk about her. He had, of course, been very busy working out what went wrong with the cybornetic chimpanzee that the government had dubbed Furious George.
    "Of course," the Vault-Tec representitive said, putting on his best salesman. "Straight to the point. I like it. I was just coming to inform you that you've been pre-qualified for the prestigious opportunity to join the occupants of vault six nine, should the need ever arise."
    "With my wife, I presume," Doc had said, sourly.
    "Well," the Vault-Tec representitive had said, hesitantly. He finally admitted sheepishly, "No."
    "I'm in," Doc had said without hesitation.
    The memory was pulled away from Doc. It was strange how much clearer the older memories were when the newer ones weren't stacked on top of them, compressing them down like stacks of newspapers. Memories flew by, metaphorically, being switched off by the thousands as he took his split second to dwell on that Vault-Tec encounter. He grasped at another one.
Doc     "Correct!" said the life-sized, animatronic replica of Alexander Graham Bell. "You've gotten all my questions right!" This was it. The last of the scientific greats in the science museum. A certificate printed with 'Ashkii' written on it, and his age of 10. "I now proclaim you," he said, and the two quoted the small slip of paper together. "Lord of science."
    Doc just heard his mother's voice calling to him in the memory just as it was ripped away from him. He wanted to call out the most fervent protest, but could not speak, nor move, in his moments of frustration, he had waited too long and the script had finished its work. That was it. There was nothing left. His identity was turned off; his memories were turned off; and all he had left was some vague notion of 'America'. Wherever it was, he loved America, and he yearned for it.
    The stasis pod dings like a toaster oven, and the Native American man stumbles out and hits the deck plating with a dull clang, groaning as he struggles to his feet. "Ow," he protests, calmly. Getting up, he sits against the pod for a moment. His first memory. "Did I just get born?" he wonders aloud. Standing and stretching a bit, something made him think that his movement was easier than usual. Wandering about, he feels like there's a lot he's missed of import.
Doc     Back in the present, Doc looks out into space as his pie is vaguely squished under his idle fork. He pulls himself back to reality and looks down at it before setting his fork down. "As you can imagine, my relationship with Megan One is...not exactly straightforward. I don't even know if I want it to be straightforward, now that it can be. She's brilliant and she'd be the best lab assistant I could hope for, but--" he smirked a kind of weird smirk that said he basically had no clue and was okay with that. "Well," he said, looking at Tibbie again, "like I said, for now, I'm concentrating on what's right in front of me." He picks up his fork and shovels another bite of pie into his mouth, closing his glowing eyes and savoring the taste.