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FOREWARD:

The events and characters of the following story are fictitious. Any people or places based on any real world subjects are purely coincidental.


I AM THE SILENT THUNDER - THE TRIALS OF A BOY AND HIS AI

PROLOGUE


COVERED BRIDGE
POINT LOOKOUT, MARYLAND
0835 HOURS, NOVEMBER 28, 2277 A.D.


"Picking up anything, Titan?" the boy asked.
[Negative. I can't detect any- wait. We have swampfolk - 2 ahead and 2 behind. Activate your cloaking field, immediately.]
"Copy that. Activating CSA."

It was just another day in the hells of the wastes. Only this time, Michael and his artificial intelligence, Titan, were a long way away from the Capital Wasteland. They'd traded the desolation that was once DC for swampy, radioactive wetlands. But given the hostility of the locals, Mike wished he was still back in DC.

"They might be strong, but they're nothing that the Silent Thunder can't handle," Mike mused to himself, softly.
[Honestly, Michael, must you refer to yourself as such?] Titan said, exasperated.
"All the other names I could think of were either too corny or already taken," the boy answered.
Titan let out an annoyed sigh. [Never mind. Just...focus on the enemies at hand, would you?]
"Right, right, of course."

Mike reached into his pockets, digging out a couple Nuka Grenades he had crafted before the trip. After activating VATS to ensure he had a good lock, he waited until the swampfolk, consisting of 2 Scrappers, a Creeper, and a Brawler, were just close enough. The targeting reticule beeped as he focused on the Scrapper that was right in the middle of the group.

"Here, catch!" he said, hurling the explosive.

(THA-KOOOOOOOM!!!)

Flames of orange and blue intermingled with crimson blood and gore as the swampfolk were blasted to smithereens in the resulting explosion. Mike never got tired of watching his favorite little toys do their work - and it was certainly safer than using a Fat Man (and it was slightly stealthier, to boot).

"Titan, what you got?"
[All clear. Proceed with normal operations.]

Mike stood up and ran over, helping himself to some caps, a bit of ammo, and a double-barreled shotgun. "Good, I was needing to repair the one I have," he mused to himself. He promptly set himself to work cannibalizing the pilfered firearm for parts, and applying parts that were still semi-decent to his own weapon.

[Let's keep moving,] Titan urged, [more may be coming soon.]
"Yeah. Good idea."

Mike sprinted off to the north, continuing with his mission. It was amazing how much had happened in the past 9 years...


SIMPLER TIMES


VAULT 101
CAPITAL WASTELAND
1200 HOURS, JULY 13, 2268

"Hope you're liking that new Pip-Boy, son," Stanley remarked.
"It's really cool," a younger Michael answered, still amazed by the little wrist computer. "Did you fix it up yourself?"
"As a matter of fact, I did," the technician replied, smiling. "Some may think the A series a bit basic, but I've always valued them for their reliability."


Mike still found himself at a loss for words as he continued to fawn over the device. Never mind the Overseer's remarks, it was just unbelievable at the technology now strapped to his left arm.

"Oh, yes, happy birthday! Here, it isn't much, but I hope you like it!" Stanley continued, handing Mike a baseball cap.
"Really? Thanks!" the boy replied, eagerly placing the cap on his head.
[Attention, Everyone! It's time to cut the cake!] Andy announced.
Mmm...cake... Mike thought to himself. Oh! The sweet roll!

Mike quickly fished out the muffin-shaped pastry, licking his lips in anticipation. He wasted no time in taking his first bite, letting out a contented sigh as the creamy treat met his tastebuds. As he continued to much on the sweetroll, he watched, somewhat dishearteningly as Andy massacred the cake prepared for the party.

Ah, well, Mike thought to himself as he finished off the sweetroll. I always preferred chocolate cake, anyway.

"I'm hungry, and that stupid robot ruined the cake!" he heard Butch say. "Gimme that sweetroll that Old Lady Palmer gave you!"
"Mmm...it was so delicious when I ate it a few minutes ago," Mike replied smugly, rubbing his stomach contentedly.
"You WHAT?" Butch exclaimed, incredulously. "Dang! I just love those sweetrolls Old Lady Palmer makes! You little...just stay out of my way!"

Heh. About time I got back at you, Butch, Mike thought to himself as he walked back to the counter by the jukebox. It wasn't long before his good friend, Amata, ran up to Mike.
"What'd Butch want?" she asked, curious.
"The jerk tried to steal my sweetroll," Mike answered. "Kinda hard to do when it's already in my belly, though."
"God, he really is a butthead," Amata remarked. "Guess you can always count on Butch to make an ass of himself. Get it?"

The two of them laughed at the irony of the statement. As Mike and Amata continued to talk, James walked over to the Vault Intercom, talking to someone. After he was done, he headed over to his son.

"That was Jonas on the intercom. He and I have been planning something special for you. Go on - I don't think anyone will mind if you step out for a few moments."

Mike left his seat, and left the room. He was stopped by Beatrice Armstrong, handing him a poem for his birthday, which he made sure to keep logged in his Pip Boy. As he headed down the stairs to the reactor, he heard footsteps of someone else coming in his direction.

Thinking quickly, Mike crouched down, doing his best not to be seen. Peeking upwards as best he could, he saw the Overseer heading upstairs - it wasn't entirely odd, but Mike couldn't help but let his curiosity get the better of him.

Mike quietly snuck behind the Overseer, only moving when the man was well out of sight. Mike only went up to the first landing - any further than that, and Mike knew he would be asking for trouble. It was still possible to listen in on the dialogue, though.

"How was the party, sir?" a guard asked.
The Overseer let out a sharp sigh. "I only came because Amata's friends with the brat. Once everything's over, I want that place cleaned up and everyone back to work."
"Yes, sir."

Mike leaned back slightly as he heard what he was hearing. A brat, eh? Mike thought quietly to himself. We'll just see about that, Mr. Overseer...

He headed back down the stairs and to the reactor. Mike didn't want to keep Jonas and his father waiting.


GETTING ONE'S G.O.A.T.

VAULT 101
CAPITAL WASTELAND
1105 HOURS, AUGUST 3, 2274 A.D.

Mike had just exited his father's office. With the knowledge of what to expect from the test, plus some other information that he considered "sensitive," he felt ready to face the firing squad, as it were.

"Get out of my way, you stupid Tunnel Snakes!"

Mike glanced over and saw Amata being harrassed by Butch and his cohorts. "I can show you a real 'Tunnel Snake,' Amata," he said. Mike gave a look of disgust and headed over to Wally - something told him talking with Butch was a bad idea.

"Don't mess with the Tunnel Snakes," Wally threatened.
Mike folded his arms. "You three have a problem with Amata?" he questioned with a hard face.
"Stay out of this, it's Tunnel Snake business. Me an' Butch, we're just having fun with this chick."
Hmm...how do I protect Amata...he thought to himself. Ah! Got it!
"Oooh, I get it! Butch is the one who calls all the shots - you're just...a follower," Mike mocked.
"I don't follow anyone," Wally stated, defensively, crossing his arms, "no one tells me what to do."

A smirk broke across Mike's face.

"...What? You think Butch is in charge, is that what they say? Well, it's a load of sh!t, if that's what they're saying."
"From what I heard," Mike taunted, "you do anything Butch tells you to. And I do mean, anything."
"What? What kinda sh!t is that?! No one tells me what to do!" Wally answered, getting quite furious at the false accusation. "He's not the boss of me! No one's the boss of me."

Mike smiled smugly as he watched Butch's planned harrassment fall apart at the seams. However, Mike knew there'd be trouble for him afterward, judging from Butch's threat to Mike.

"Thanks for getting rid of them," Amata said, grateful for Mike's intervention. "Assholes."
"No problem at all, Amata," Mike replied.
"I just don't understand why they pick on me! Just because I'm the Overseer's Daughter, I guess."
Mike shrugged. "Your guess is as good as mine. C'mon. Let's get to class."

After taking a seat at the front-right of the class (he found he did best in the front row), the G.O.A.T. began, with Mr. Brotch asking the questions.

"Question One: You are approached by frenzied vault scientist, who yells, 'I'm going to put my quantum harmonizer in your photonic resonation chamber!' What's your response?"
Mike chose, "'But doctor, wouldn't that cause a parabolic destabilization of the fission singularity?'" It seemed to be the "best fit," to him.

"Question Two: While working as an intern in the clinic, a patient with a strange infection on his foot stumbles through the door. The infection is spreading at an alarming rate, but the doctor has stepped out for a while. What do you do?

Mike reasoned, hypothetically, if he were an intern, he would probably have some hands-on experience at this point, so he settled on the choice, "Medicate the infected area to the best of your abilities."

"Question Three: You discover a young boy lost in the lower levels of the vault. He's hungry and frightened, but also appears to be in possession of stolen property. What do you do?"

Though most of the other answers were clearly aimed at punishing the boy, Mike decided that the first, "Give the boy a hug and tell him everything will be ok," was the best choice. Stolen property or not, the boy needed comfort, not discipline for his actions.

"Question Four: Congratulations! You made one of the Vault 101 baseball teams! Which position do you prefer?"

This was a tricky one. Mike enjoyed baseball immensely, but was torn between Designated Hitter and Pitcher. Taking the "Eenie, meenie, miney, mo" route, he chose "Desiginated Hitter."

"Question Five: Your Grandmother invites you to tea, but you're surprised when she gives you a pistol and orders you to kill another vault resident. What do you do?"

Indeed, Mike found himself caught off-guard at the question. The scenario was just so unrealistic that it defied all logical answering. The only decision he could arrive at was that it demanded an equally-bizarre answer:
"Ask for a minigun instead. After all, you don't want to miss."

"Question Six: Old Mr. Abernathy has locked himself in his quarters again, and you've been ordered to get him out. How do you proceed?"

Just leaving Abernathy locked up wasn't the way to solve the situation. Out of the methods to open the door, "Use a bobby pin to pick the lock on the door" seemed like the best answer (and by far, the one that had the least variables involved).

"Question Seven: Oh no! You've been exposed to radiation, and a mutated hand has grown out of your stomach! What's the best course of treatment?"

Though the level of radiation that could have required the event would have probably already killed Mike at that point, he settled on the choice, "Prayer. Maybe God will spare you in exchange for a life of pious devotion."

"Question Eight: A fellow Vault 101 resident is in possession of a Grognak the Barbarian comic book, issue number 1. You want it. What's the best way to obtain it?"

This was another no-brainer for Mike. Clearly, "Trade the comic book for one of your own valuable possessions" was the right choice.

"Question Nine: You decide it would be fun to play a prank on your father. You enter his private restroom when no one is looking, and..."

Mike would never actually stoop to this level, but he decided to have a little fun and just run with it. Of course, he didn't want to do anything that could seriously endanger his father, or cause a mess of any sort, so he chose what he felt was best:

"Manipulate the power wattage on his razor, so he'll get an electric shock next time he uses it."

"And now, the Final Question: Who is, indisputably, the most important person in Vault 101: He who shelters us from the harshness of the atomic wasteland, and to whom we owe everything we have, including our lives?"

Mike could tell from the general disdain in Brotch's Voice that he'd done this a thousand times, and was quite exasperated with it. Mike looked down at the choices to find:

  1. The Overseer
  2. The Overseer
  3. The Overseer
  4. The Overseer

Hmm...gee, do I have a choice? he thought to himself, sarcastically. He knew it wouldn't matter which one he picked, so he just circled the top one.

"Pencils down, people!" Brotch announced. "That's it. The Infamous G.O.A.T.. Some of you probably didn't find it so bad. Others...well...there are always openings in Maintenance, as they say," he joked. "You can have the rest of the day to yourselves - to celebrate, or to pray, as it were."

Mike quickly stood up and headed over to Mr. Brotch, turning in his answer sheet. He watched in anxiety as Brotch mutely compared his answers with the answer key.

"Well?" Mike asked, "How'd I do?"
Brotch sighed. "They say the G.O.A.T never lies. According to this, you're slated to be the next vault ... Chaplain. God help us all."
Mike's eyes brightened. "This is great! It's what I've always wanted to be!" Though he did mean it - Mike was quite devoted to the Good Book, remembering as he and his father would read passages together.
"Yes," Brotch replied, somewhat amused, "it's, uh, refreshing to see such youthful enthusiasam. Good to know the G.O.A.T. occassionally gets it right. You know what they say about monkeys and typewriters."
"Given an infinite amount of time," Mike thought to himself, bemused, "A thousand monkeys with typewriters will eventually write the works of Shakespeare."
"Well, I'm glad you scored as well as you did," Brotch complimented. "I hope your classmates are half as satisfied with their results as you are."
Mike nodded, having the test handed back to him. "Have a nice day, Mr. Brotch!" he said over his shoulder as he left the room, waving.
"I'll see you tomorrow," Brotch replied.

But it would be three years down the line before Mike's true destiny began to unfold before him...


EXILE, PT I

VAULT 101
CAPITAL WASTELAND
0904 HOURS, AUGUST 17, 2277 A.D.

"...ll Vault Residents are ordered to remain in their quarters."

"Come on...wake up! Wake up!"

Mike opened his eyes to find Amata standing over him. He rose from his bed, stretching and yawning as he stood.
"Come on! You've GOT to wake up!" Amata said to him.
"Hmm? Amata?" he grogilly asked, rubbing the sleep from his eyes. "What's wrong?"
"You've GOT to get out of here! Your father's gone, and the guards are looking for you!"
At this, Mike shocked himself awake. "What do you mean my father is 'gone?'" he asked, nervous.
"He's left the vault!" Amata answered. "I don't know how, but he's left, and my father, he's kinda gone crazy."
"I've never seen you so scared, Amata," Mike said, now more worried than ever, "what's happened?"
"It's Jonas...they killed him!" she said, hysterical. "My father's men came in and killed him and...oh, my God, you have to leave, too!"
"Oh, my god..." Mike whispered, putting his hands over his mouth. He then placed his hands on Amata's shoulders, to try and ease her. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah...don't worry about me," she said, tearfully. "I'm sorry you had to find out like this. I know Jonas was your friend. But we need to get you out of here, now!"
Mike glanced this way and that, realizing just how grim his scenario had become. "You're right," he finally said, "I can't stay here. But, where can I go?"
"I'm sorry," she apologized, "but, I think you'll have to follow your dad. Listen, I know it's probably none of my business, but did your dad tell me he was planning to leave?"
"No...I had no idea he was even planning to leave," Mike answered.
"Oh...I'm sorry," Amata replied, slightly confused. "Maybe Jonas was supposed to have told you everything?"
"Could be," Mike said.
"But, never mind that, now. I have a plan to get you out of here!"
"Escape the Vault?" Mike asked, incredulous. "How?"
"Listen. There's an access tunnel immediately underneath my father's desk. You'll have to break into his office to get there. Take these," she said, procuring some bobby pins. "It's what I use to get in."
"Got it," Mike replied.
"Oh, and one more thing - I stole this from my father's locker," procuring an N99 10mm Pistol as she said this. "I hope you don't have to use it, but the option's there."
"Thanks Amata," Mike replied, accepting the pistol. "I'll only use it as a last resort. I promise."
"Okay," Amata replied, "I'll go on ahead. You go and get out of here - I'll meet you by the door. If I don't make it - good luck."

Mike wasted no time in grabbing his baseball bat, the copy of Grognak the Barbarian Amata had given him for his birthday, his BB gun, some stimpacks, med-x, and some Vault 101 Jumpsuits. Things were quickly beginning to get out of hand...


EXILE, PT II


VAULT 101
CAPITAL WASTELAND
0908 HOURS, AUGUST 17, 2277 A.D.


"There he is! HOLD IT RIGHT THERE!" a guard shouted. "Criminy, more roaches!"
Mike watched in mute astonishment as a trio of radroaches soon overpowered the lone guard. Mike took the bat to the remaining wounded radroach, and finished him off with a swing. "You won't be needing these anymore," he said as he confiscated the guard uniform and police baton, putting the helmet and jacket on.

As he continued on his way, he was stopped by a familiar face: Butch.

"You gotta help me!" DeLoria pleaded. "My mom's trapped in there with the radroaches!"
Mike scoffed. "Butch - asking me for help. Ahh, if only you knew what 'irony' meant."
"Yeah, I'm askin' ya," a cowed Butch replied. "So what?"

Mike folded his arms at his longtime bully.

"Look - I'm sorry for all the things I did to you - you knew I never really meant any of it, right?"

Again, Mike remained where he stood, unflinching.

"But, it's my mom. You gotta help her!"

Mike looked down at the ground, took a deep breath, and exhaled harshly before returning his gaze to Butch once more.

"Alright," Mike said, finally, "I'll help. But I'm doing this for her," he stressed, "not you."
"Fine, I-I don't care why," Butch said, "just go and help her!"

Mike quickly dashed into the DeLorias' residence, amidst Mrs. DeLoria's cries for help. The radroaches were too close to Mrs. DeLoria to safely use the bat, so he resorted to the N99 Pistol that Amata had given him. He also decided to use V.A.T.S. for the second time in his life (the first being when he recieved his BB gun at his tenth birthday) to better improve his chances of hitting his targets. Three resounding shots later, the radroaches were dead, and Mrs. DeLoria was scratched up a bit, but she'd live.

"We did it!" Butch exclaimed, dashing into the room. "My mom's going to be okay!"
"Just helping those in need," Mike said, twirling the pistol (safety on, of course) before holstering it.
"Hey, I know it isn't much," Butch said, "but I want you to have my Tunnel Snakes jacket. Go on, take it!"

Mike gladly accepted the jacket, but didn't put it on - he still had to get out of the Vault alive.

He continued dashing up the stairs, running into Officer Gomez.
"Hold on, son! I just wanna talk to you!" he said.
"Gomez! Good to see you!" Mike said, grateful to see at least one sensible person on his way out.
"I'm glad I found you first - the others won't be so forgiving. You're in enough trouble already - I'll just pretend I never saw you."
"Thanks, Gomez," Mike replied, "I always did like you best - a true friend if there ever was one."
"It's a shame it had to come to this," Gomez continued. "Officer Mack was just...out of control. Go find your dad, if you can."
Mike nodded, and continued sprinting up the stairs, running into Andy as he used his flamer to torch a few radroaches. [Well! That's that, then!] he heard the robot say.

Mike continued into his father's office, running into Stanley along the way. "You're the one they're looking for, aren't you?" Stanley said. "Sounds like you've got enough problems - I'll just pretend I never saw you."
"Thanks, Stanley - good luck down here."

Mike overheard Stanley talking to Andy about some damage the latter had recieved, but he didn't really pick up what they were discussing - he had come here to clean out what all could be gotten by him, including some Pre-War Money, a Vault-Tec Promotional Bobblehead - Medicine, and a few other odds and ends.

It was clear, though, that the worst was yet to come...


EXILE, PT III

VAULT 101
CAPITAL WASTELAND
0924 HOURS, AUGUST 17, 2277 A.D.

"You! This is your fault!" Allan Mack yelled through the window. "You and your father both!"

Mike ignored the sling hurled at him - right now, he had more pressing matters to worry about, like staying alive. He'd already been forced to kill two guards - and a third was swiftly running towards him. Mike swung hard with his baseball bat - his years of physical training paid off, killing the guard with roughly 4 swings.

When you're running on pure adrenaline, Mike thought to himself, you don't give much regard to the consequences. Time seems to slow down to a crawl, or go so fast that you don't even remember what transpired. And when the rush ends, we have to deal with those consequences - sometimes, we're justified in our actions, sometimes not. There are times when we don't even know why our adrenaline starts pumping - it just does. But what I know right now is that these men are out to kill me; and I'll be damned if I don't go down without a fight first.

As he ran through the halls, he heard a familiar voice...

"I'm telling you, I don't know anything!" Amata!

Mike rushed as fast as he could to where he saw Amata being interrogated by her father and Officer Mack.

"Be reasonable, Amata. Officer Mack may enjoy doing this, but I certainly don't."

Mike had just about heard enough. This had to end.

Now.

"Officer Mack," Mike shouted, in defiant anger, "YOU LEAVE HER ALONE!!!"

Three V.A.T.S.-aimed gunshots landed on Mack's skull, seriously injuring him. Mike had just enough focus for one last round, ending the brutish officer's life before he did something horrible to Amata.

As the Overseer began shouting for the guards, Mike began helping himself to Officer Mack's belongings, and otherwise confiscating anything of worth in the rooms. Though Alphonse had done some truly atrocious things that seemed worthy of being punished, a voice suddenly rang in Mike's head:

"For as far as the East is from the West, so far has He removed you from your sins."

It was Psalm 103:12. Why did that specific verse suddenly pop into his head?

Maybe, Mike thought, that even in spite of the horrific atrocities he had committed, the man was still worthy of redemption. In what had to be an incredible act of mercy and show of restraint, he spared Alphonse's life.

He ran into Jonas' office, seeing the corpse of his friend sprawled on the floor. On his body, Mike found a recording from his father. He listened as he began rifling through drawers for anything useful:

JAMES: "Hold on, Jonas - I need to record this first.
"I...I don't really know how to tell you this. I hope you'll understand, but I know you might be angry.
"I thought about it for a long time, but in the end, I decided it was best for you not to know.
"So many things could have gone wrong, and there's really no telling how the overseer will react when he finds out. It's best if he can blame everything on me.
"Obviously you already know that I'm gone. It was something I needed to do.
"You're an adult now. You're ready to be on your own. Maybe someday things will change and we can see each other again.
"I can't tell you why I left or where I'm going. I don't want you to follow me.
God knows life in the vault isn't perfect, but at least you'll be safe. Just knowing that will be enough to keep me going."

JONAS: "Don't mean to rush you, Doc, but I'd feel better if we got this over with."

JAMES: "Okay. Go ahead. Goodbye. I love you."

(cl-wer-werp)

Mike wiped away a few tears after he finished listening to the message. I'll find you, Dad, he thought to himself. I swear I will.

As he headed into one of the side rooms, he saw Amata with her face buried in her hands.

"Thank you! I told you my father wasn't acting like himself! I'm glad you showed up when you did," she thanked, "I don't know what he would have done to me." "I'm just glad you're safe, Amata," Mike replied. "I'll meet you by the door," Amata replied. "If I don't make it - good luck."

Once he successfully got into the Overseer's Office, Mike set himself to work opening the Overseer's Tunnel. He also browsed a few files Alphonse had kept - it was mostly just reports on individuals in the Vault, including Amata and Jonas, amongst others, but there were a few key details he managed to pull from the data, including the nearby town of Megaton - it wasn't much, but it was a starting point to look for his dad.

But in the files, there was one other note from Vault-Tec that caught his eye - a piece of technology that, little did Mike know, would play a very big role later in his travels:

The G.E.C.K.

I wonder... Mike thought to himself, could this be what spurned Dad to escape? Guess I'll find out at some point.

A few radroaches were all that stood in his way as he proceeded to the Vault Door. He could hear other officers as he began opening the door, with Amata present to watch.

"You did it!" she exclaimed. "My God, I didn't think it was possible."
"I couldn't have done it without your help, Amata," Mike complimented.
"No," she said, humbled from the remark, "you didn't need my help."
"Why don't you come with me, Amata?" Mike asked her. "I'd hate to just leave you here to face your father's goons."
"It's tempting, but I think I'd better stay," she replied. "I'm the only one who can still talk him out of this. Good luck, and I hope you find your father."
"Thanks, Amata - I'll be praying for your success. Now, hurry - more guards are coming."

Amata had only just fled the scene when two more of Alphonse's guards entered the door just behind Mike. This time, he used his pistol - no sense in bringing a knife (or bat, in his case) to a gun fight. He cleaned out whatever else he could find behind the door, then took a deep breath as he stepped out of the steel walls that once held he and his father.

As he neared the door at the end of the tunnel, alarms blared just like they had when he opened the door. He glanced over his shoulder to witness the massive door rolling into place before being sealed with a horrible screech. Mike suddenly was struck with the realization that, for the first time in his life, he was alone. But there was no turning back now.

He grasped the handle on the door in front of him, and thus began his search for his father...

...And to become one with his destiny.