October 23, 2077
Dr. Isaac Astor tore through his study in the early morning darkness, his precious notes and prototypes littered the floor like so much detritus after a storm. He frantically grabbed the most valuable items from their shelves and shoved them unceremoniously into his suitcase.
The bombs were coming. Of course, he had known that for some time. The higher ups had been given a day’s notice to report to the secret vault hidden under the plains of Texas, but the last flight out had left over an hour ago, and he had bigger things to worry about than being vaporized in an atomic blast.
For years he’d worked for Vault-Tec, even before it had become an extension of the government. He was one of their top scientists, with a family name that could open even the most guarded of doors. Back in his early 20’s, he had interned with the famous Stanislaus Braun, which in turn had led to a long partnership and a high ranking position in R&D, at least until recently. Of course, a lot had happened recently. Dr. Astor cast a sidewise glance towards the telephone. The receiver still dangled from its cord where he had left it, the dial tone humming in tune to the static of his panicking mind.
They were coming for him.
He wasn’t even sure who “they” would be. He’d betrayed so many of his friends in recent months, it could be anyone really. Vault-Tec, the government, RobCo had a personal grudge, and then there was Big Mountain. He’d visited with restricted access some years ago, but what had seemed like an astonishing opportunity to meet the most renowned and brilliant minds of our age, ended with him waking up naked in the desert with three weeks of his memory lost in the Mojave dust. It was a long shot, but anything was possible right now. The world was ending.
Just then, the door slammed open. The doctor fumbled with his pistol as he dove for the floor, but too late. A shot rang out and a searing pain ripped through his side, and he crumpled to the ground in a heap.
A long trench coat ghosted along the floor as polished wingtips came into view. A man towered over him with a briefcase in one hand and a revolver in the other, his face half hidden beneath a fedora. Dr. Astor looked on helplessly as the man kicked his pistol, his last line of defense, far across the room. The man turned and took a seat behind the mahogany desk before removing his hat and folding his hands neatly over the gun in his lap.
“I must apologize for the intrusion my good doctor, but there are matters of utmost urgency that must be discussed.” He was paler than death, with eyes that pierced through him like cold steel. This was a man without mercy.
“W-who sent you?” The doctor struggled to stand, but one look from those eyes and he slumped back against the bookcase.
“An irrelevant question, doctor. You are perfectly aware of the contracts you have broken, and with whom. I am simply here to take recourse on their behalf, after I secure any remaining assets of course. Simply put, I am here to collect. Which leads me to a far more appropriate question, where is the Conduit?”
“I’m certain I have no idea what you are talking about-” The man grabbed ahold of the doctor’s injured side and dug his thumb deep into the fresh wound. The doctor’s screams echoed throughout the empty house.
“Project Omega,” the man said as he wiped the blood from his hand and reached into his briefcase to pull out a dossier. He began to read.
“A top secret installation established and constructed under the oversight of doctors Braun and Astor. Three months ago that operation suddenly ceased, and all contact with Dr. Astor with it. Said party failed to produce a key element to that installation as per his agreement. I am here to collect that missing element, this Conduit, and reinstate that facility by any means necessary.”
“If you know all that, then you know the bombs are on their way. In a few short hours we’ll all be reduced to nuclear waste! Why waste your time with me?” The man ignored him as he got up and walked around the desk.
“You have a daughter, do you not?” He said almost casually as he lifted a photograph from the mantlepiece. A young woman smiled out from behind a cascade of curly blonde hair.
“She isn't here,” the doctor said quickly.
“No, of course not. She’s in a vault that you constructed with stolen money and stolen technology. Two cryopods, state of the art environmental monitoring system, Mach-IV turrets, and enough power to fuel life support for over 200 years. No expense spared for you and your own, even as you resign the greater population to certain death.”
It was true. Dr. Astor had designed many of the vaults that would subject countless innocents to vicious experiments and excruciating death, all for the so called "greater good”, but in reality only served the upper echelons of the Vault-Tec corporation and the government that funded them.
“A man will do anything for the sake of self preservation…and for the ones he loves,” the doctor spoke, his voice was barely a whisper.
“How very noble… for a murderer.” The slightest of smiles stretched the man’s skin like stiff leather.
“I may be a killer, but I hold no such delusions.” He let the picture fall through his fingers, and the glass shattered to pieces against the floor. Dr. Astor narrowed his eyes.
“I destroyed it,” Dr. Astor spat,“I threw the Conduit into the fire, Project Omega will never be complete!”
“Really? I find that hard to believe. After all that blood, sweat, and tears, especially all the blood. No, you’ve shown the lengths you are willing to go to protect that which you hold most dear-” The man stopped, and another smile stretched wide across that inhuman face.
“It’s in the vault, isn’t it?” Dr. Astor said nothing.
“We will find it, my good doctor, rest assured of that. The Order will not be denied what is rightfully theirs,” he said as he opened his briefcase. Dr. Astor let out a gasp as he saw the long, sharp instruments inside.
“We may not have as much time as I’d like, but you’ll find I can be very persuasive.” He said as he pulled out a knife and a rusty pair of pliers. “Now, as you and I both know, data is the only thing that really matters anymore. So do try to give good feedback on how we’re doing, won’t you? ”
A few hours later, the man emerged from the manor overlooking Boston, his fedora low over his face and his trench coat concealing the fresh bloodstains on his slacks. He looked up at the crimson sky and basked in its glow.
This world’s time was up.
The stage was set, the players arranged. Soon, the Master’s plan would be complete. All that remained was to light the flame; a single spark to start the cleansing fire.
The man took out his portable computer, better known as a Pip-Boy, and logged in the coordinates he’d extracted from the good doctor. He set the message to transmit straight to the personal computer of every government official and major CEO in the country, and then the real war could begin.
Such a shame he would have to miss all the fun, but he had learned after decades in the service of the Order, to trust in his Master. The Algorithm would be complete, the prophecy at long last fulfilled. He smiled at the thought.
After all, a new world was just beginning.