This is just a concise collection of the three small pies that make up this story spread out in Part 10 of Legends of the Wastes.
The dead palm tree swayed gently in the wind.
And a short yet stiff breeze flared up from the east, causing tumbleweed to roll by. It was evident that this was one of the many places that had never been retaken by humans.
Most buildings here were low built. Unlike the city off in the distance, where the ruins of skyscrapers still pierced through the bay's fog sometimes. Residential it was not though. Most of these grey and beige cuboids had at one point been the homes of major companies. Offices and laboratories mainly.
If only people knew what sort of a gold mine this place once used to be. Sadly for most people alive today, Silicon Valley held little of value. Delicately crafted electrochips and computer motherboards might be valuable to the odd tinkerer here and there but to the vast majority of wastelanders Sunnyvale's forgotten technological wonders were about as useful as a bag of wet mice. And with a bag of wet mice many of them would've at least had dinner. No, there was little reason to come to Silicon Valley anymore.
But today, someone did come.
A lone woman; small and frail looking, but not old. She was just very fragile with pale hairless skin and almost noodle-thin limbs. She could've been made out of glass going by how delicate she was. Perhaps Silicon Valley was a suitable place for her.
Her head was wrapped in a tan desert cloak and her eyes hidden by what might've been beige flight goggles. Under all those earth tones there was bright blue and gold though. The colors of what could only have been a signature vault suit. Perhaps another reason to explain the lady's dainty physique: A coddled vault dweller.
If you were to look a bit more closely though you would've noticed that her suit had clearly seen better days and had been worn for a considerable amount of time in less than stellar conditions. Not only that but if one were to be aware of the vault number layout across the wastes, they would know that this one came all the way from the east coast.
The woman's gaze drifted across the names, logos and billboards of companies that still stood standing. One of them she recognized. Apricot computing had once been a big player in the business. She remembered them well actually. Before the war she had considered getting one of their products. At least, she thought had. It was all a bit of a blur, and probably would continue to become more and more of a distant memory. How she hated that prospect, losing all those fond memories. She had to find what she was looking for quickly, and get back soon.
The tumbleweed kicked off again, this time followed by long streaks of sand blowing after.
True to the name of the place I guess. The woman thought. as she saw the sand swish around the tight blue pants of her vault suit.
Further down the road, half buried in sand lay a carcass of a dead dog. By the lack of meat on the bones it was safe to say something or someone had nibbled on it too.
This caused the woman's mouth to curl up into a disgusted frown. Not even close-by, she could imagine the smell from where she stood.
Oh, how she hated this world now. All the death and destruction. Sometimes she wondered why she hadn't just ended herself. She was weak. Perhaps too weak to even do such a thing.
After walking around the corpse in a wide arch, the woman had finally arrived at the pavilion that she had been searching for. RobCo stood in front, written with big bold letters. A tall fence that was still electrified, not to mention 'whole', ringed the seemingly deserted complex.
Mister House had built to last.
The woman was almost thin enough to squeeze through the fence but it would be best not to take any risks. She had been given access anyways. With a little hesitation she walked up to the control point by the gates and held up the card she had been given. A scanner lit up; A bright red light pierced through the grime on its eye and read the card's code. A second later the light turned green and the gates automatically opened. The sound of screeching metal wheels that had rusted over the years made the woman wince. It did not however diminish the pleased smile she now bore.
Well, Doris. You made it this far. Only a little further and you can go back. Go back...
Doris wandered up the driveway of the complex. She was quick to notice the building had been built on an artificial hill. Even when there were no skyscrapers, Robert House always made sure his properties stood out among the rest.
Some cars stood abandoned in the parking lot by the gate. Early commuters that never made it back home that October morning two centuries ago. Doris hoped their bodies would've been reduced to dust by now. A horrible thought perhaps but seeing human remains made her queasy. Even today, after Lord knows how many days in the wastes.
The RobCo development laboratories were no more than two stories high, but she knew the building was practically built like the Pentagon with multiple sides, only she wasn't sure if it were five exactly. It was hard to tell from looking at it down on the ground.
The doors of the main entrance had at one point been dark green glass constructs, adorned with geometrical shapes that would've evoked an image of electrical power being harnessed into a chip of sorts. Sadly most of the artwork had been blasted out its metal frames and lay shattered inside on the lobby floor.
When Doris carefully entered through what was left of the portal, some of the splintered glass crunched between her boots and the marble tile floor that was so in keeping with the art deco design of the place. Inside virtually everything was made out of marble, and almost all of it was cracked or showing signs of decay. From the floor, the round info desk in the middle, the two way split staircase at the back of the hall, and all the way up to the pillars keeping the roof from collapsing. In all sorts of colors and cuts, just marble for days.
Doris had to suppress the urge to call out a meek "Hello?" as per usual. Despite her desire for a kind reply, there was no telling what could be lurking around this place. She had always thought these abandoned buildings were scary. This was mainly because she couldn't stop thinking about the people that had died in them. Most definitely; If she still had hair to speak of, the thought would've made her's stand on end.
When she proceeded down the lobby it became clear to her just how dark this place really was. Despite the skylight letting light down into the hall, it lacked proper illumination with the power switched off. Doris had to pull her goggles down, down into the nook of her pronounced collarbones, to actually see with any sort of clarity.
The pre-war diva listened for any sounds that were not her own and heard only the sounds one would expect in a dilapidated building that hadn't seen renovation for hundreds of years. The wind blowing through broken windows and metal support beams creaking. All the good homey stuff.
"If I were a microchip where would I hide?" She muttered out loud for herself to hear. To take away at least some of the eerie silence's power.
"Well, I wouldn't hide, because I wouldn't be a sentient being. But figuratively speaking..." She continued, onto the stairs and up the first floor to the right. Where the signs read 'Research block A B C', 'Administration' and 'Office'.
"That sounds about right." Doris said in response to reading office. She had been told something along those lines anyways. 'look around in the offices'. It was too important to have it just lying around in R&D. Only it hadn't been clear which office exactly.
"Wish I still had Llewellyn..." It pained her to even say his name. Llewellyn had been her old butler back in Manhattan, before the war.
"... He always knew where to find everything." Even at places Llewellyn had never been. He knew how to deftly manoeuvre his way around the place to give his mistress whatever she required.
"Now, I have to do everything myself!" Her volume increased involuntarily there and she quickly caught herself, allowing the silence to return. She didn't like it, but she liked getting killed even less.
The offices were just around the corner and here another sign hung on the wall, specifying who was situated here. Her first instinct was to go with the fanciest title. Director sounded about right. 'Director Kent Callaghan'.
Callaghan's office was at the end of the hallway and had a window overlooking the lobby if Doris had remembered her mental layout of the building well enough. The door appeared locked however. Electronically locked with another one of those eyes needing to scan a code. Doris held the card up again and waited for the light to turn green.
"Access granted. Welcome..." The automated voice cut off, obviously meant to say the name of some upper-level RobCo employee at the end there. Either way, Doris was in. So far this had been remarkably easy.
The director's office was fairly modern. With a slightly newer design than all the art deco outside. Parallel lines, and a lot of round furniture... were what mostly jumped out at first glance. A similarly modern wooden desk stood almost centered in the room.
"The boss' personal desk. Not a bad place to start." Doris said as she strode towards the dust covered piece of furniture.
At first she lifted the desk pad, revealing nothing underneath but a rectangle impression of cleanliness. Since it proved useless she flung it across the room and continued searching. A framed photo of what was presumably the director with some friend or college in what looked like London. 'The Savoy' if Doris wasn't mistaken, and she probably wasn't. Having stayed and dined in most of Europe's primo establishments, she would recognize that cutlery anywhere. It was important to know such things she thought.
Either way, the photo proved to be of no value. The microchip she sought wasn't hidden in the back of the frame so she threw that aside as well. Next were the drawers. All of them held nothing but stationary and office equipment but then. Under the desk, Doris found what could only have been a button.
The button was pressed and there was a 'click' sound behind her, a small part of the wall had sprung open like a door, beckoning to be pulled open fully. And Doris was all too happy to oblige.
"Bingo, indeed." Doris said, reaffirming her victory in the search for the microchip.
With a couple of proud strides she made it across the room and towards the panel that had opened a crack. It was a square-ish wooden door that had merged seamlessly with the wall when it had been closed. About two meters tall and one and a half wide, it opened as smoothly as a bank vault door, in so far as some slight effort was needed but tightly wound springs in its hinges did most of the work.
The space behind the walk-in vault revealed only a wall mirror and lacquered mahogany shelves absolutely packed to the rafters with expensive spirits, and fancy glasses to match them. Doris had in fact found the director's bar, not some secret safe.
She groaned. She really thought she had found her prize there. Now, all Doris had was two hundred year aged bourbons and scotch, which would've been a consolidation perhaps if she could've still stomached alcohol, let alone labels this... ripe.
Beyond the bottles, in the mirror, she finally noticed what she looked like though and was horrified to see just how much grime had collected around her eye sockets. Where her goggles had protected, her skin was still peachy but her cheeks and lips were practically grey now. If there was one saving grace in this over-sized drinks cabinet it were the pristine unspoiled napkins at least. Doris quickly made use of them to scrub off the dirt that had accumulated on her face and whilst doing so clocked a peculiar sight behind her in the mirror.
Right on the other side of the room there was a safe built into the wall, clear as day. With only the slight off-color piece of wall surrounding it where at some point a painting must've hung. The painting in question lay 'canvas first' on the floor below the safe. Evidently the passing of time had simply made it fall off.
"Well, gee..." Doris rolled her eyes. If she hadn't gone towards the desk immediately she would've seen it instantly.
Embarrassing as it was; there was nobody around to see her suck at ransacking. Which was a good thing! As far as she was concerned.
Having become what she deemed adequately presentable once more, Doris walked across the room towards the safe. It was a small metal hatch with an electronic lock and a pin code was needed to access it.
"No power for the lights but the security system can survive two centuries of ruin and nuclear war. Of course..."
Doris shrugged and tried to use the universal code for these kinds of things. That code being: '12345'. She would've been amazed if it worked, but she had nothing better at the moment. Besides what was the worst that could happen. Usually you got like three tries with these things anyways.
"Warning. The code you have entered is incorrect. Security has been notified, and is on their way. Have a pleasant day."
Before Doris could even do anything but momentarily regret her poor decisions in life, the shutters in front of the window overlooking the lobby automatically closed. The door to the office had a similar mechanism descend over the portal. Meanwhile, while all of this was going on, an alarm blared from the speakers in the corners of the office.
Now that she was trapped like a rat she frantically ran around the room like one, looking for a way out. When suddenly, just like before, a part of the wall opened up. Only this time it revealed a protectron that had been sent up from the underground depot. It was more than likely that this system of hidden elevators serviced all parts of RobCo Development Laboratories.
"Intruder alert. You. Have been found. Guilty. Of. Trespassing. Due to. Protocol 75b. Which is to be enacted in case of. Total nuclear war. Lethal Force. To safeguard. RobCo Industries Assets. Has been authorized."
"Please. Do not be alarmed. You will feel. a slight. Burning sensation. Followed by death."
And the bot meant it. Doris could just barely avoid the laser beam the protectron fired at her. Outgunned and terrified for her life, the pre-war diva ducked under the director's desk as her only option for cover.
Oh shit, what do I do now?! Come on, think Doris, think!
Despite the slow plodding movements of the protectron, she did not have a lot of time.
With her hands shaking she pulled out the access card she had been given and held it up from underneath the desk.
"R-Robot! I'm authorized! I'm allowed to-ack!"
Before having even said her piece she could feel a sudden heat nearly burn her fingers. Once she brought her hand back down she was horrified by the sight of the smoldering piece of plastic remaining in her hand. A few more inches down and she would've lost her hand.
I need to get somewhere safe!
Safe... The drinks cabinet! Of course! Doris could hide in there. She was pretty sure protectrons couldn't open doors with those weird hands of theirs. At least, she damn well hoped they couldn't because she had frankly little choice! The woman barely poked her head out to measure the distance from the desk to the bar and concluded that the risk was far too great. Unless... She could distract the robot. Yes! Distraction!
And she found the most suitable thing. The photo frame she had tossed aside earlier lay by her feet. If it could zero in on a small access card it could definitely aim for this. Carefully she picked it up and winced when she felt the broken glass give her a slight nip across the palm of her hand. Still, it was precious little compared to being atomized to death.
With a throw befitting a woman who had never once participated in a day of sports her whole life, Doris flung the distraction across the room and bolted in the other direction. It worked! While the protectron utterly destroyed the photo of director Kent and his British friend, Doris ran into the bar and remained in unscathed.
But her luck quickly turned. Once inside she discovered that the door would not close with something or someone inside. Try as she may, there was no way the panel would shut.
"No! Not like this! Not like this, please!" She desperately pleaded with anyone or anything that would listen. Meanwhile the protectron had marched over and positioned itself right in front of the bar. There was nowhere to run.
"Laser capacity is at. one hundred. percent. Good. Bye."
Doris could hear the fusion cell batteries hum with energy and primed for death. Soon this would all be over. Finally over... She slumped down against the wall to await her fate when suddenly there was a zap and a flash of light.
Doris... Was not dead. In fact, she was perfectly fine. Not a scratch on her. The protectron however had a big gaping hole in its domed console and its blinking lights shut down one by one until only an inanimate hunk of metal remained standing, with smoke coming from the place where it got shot.
The woman was confused. Had the damn thing short circuited? Was it divine intervention? Her answer lay behind her. The mirror in the bar. The laser beam had reflected right off of it when Doris lowered herself in the nick of time.
Not only that but the safe across the room had a smoldering hole in it as well now.
"I guess those stupid Vault-Tec S.P.E.C.I.A.L. quizzes were right. 'Lucky 9' all the way, baby!" She chuckled to herself before promptly vomiting all over the floor. Sheer terror leaving her body through the nearest orifice it could find no doubt.
After that was over and done with, the shaken but more importantly, alive Doris Shelby, took her shivering legs back to the safe and opened the hatch or what remained of it anyway.
And there it was. The microchip. Kept safe for hundreds of years, just in case. Carefully, Doris picked it up so she could cradle it in her hands.
"Here it is..." She looked on with awe.
"...The one thing he must never find."
The woman produced a small red box which was perfectly suited to protect her latest find. Gingerly she placed the microchip inside before closing the lid just as carefully.
"Good thing the shaft that robot has come from is still open. I don't want to remain here a minute longer."