Vault 57 was abandoned and sealed in October 2754 when reactor end-of-life approached. The reactor was disabled and important components transported to the Ag-Station for safekeeping (UWS Research Facility 6). After the attack on General Morgan’s transport group during the relocation to Facility 6 (Ag Station), a group of 10-20 androids and approximately double that number of bots took up residence in the abandoned Vault 57 terminus canyon. With the destruction of HRF-13 in the climactic battle of the Android War, these androids should lack any support from the outside.
The ‘ Ghost Bear Brigade’ takes a vote and elects to participate in the upcoming operation. Not everyone is keen on the idea of risking life and limb for people they met only months ago, and for potentially small gain at that. This fight is more about earning the respect of the toughest warriors in the region and protecting those who are making the sacrifice to stay behind at the Ag-Station and keep things running after the Exodus, such as Major Sands, Sgt. Major Grek, Arik (MMPF agent) and MP Security Chief Joshua Talbot. This will give all the inhabitants of Gunson, Sipio and Efram time to evacuate north before power finally runs out at the Ag-Station, without fear of attack by the androids still ensconced at Vault 57. The cyborg ‘Mr. T’, a fellow refugee from Indian Valley, joins the main assault force. All those who volunteer for this mission are guaranteed a place on the skyship ‘Ark’, should they survive.
The plan in a nutshell consists of secretly concentrating the main assault force of 100 warriors in the hills northwest of Vault 57 during the night prior to the attack. This force is commanded personally by General Tolstoy of Eagle Clan. The key is to avoid alerting the androids to the impending attack. While the main force lays up in the hills all day, a team of infiltrators will traverse a hopefully still-secret tunnel leading directly into the Vault 57 box canyon. The tunnel opens onto the canyon above a jungle of boulders known as the ‘Jambles’.
From here the infiltration teams will observe and report via communicator. When the main assault commences this team will take whatever action seems most useful at that point, hopefully tripping up the android response. Expected opposition consists of 8-12 androids, at least half of whom are warriors, and perhaps double that number of killbots. The ‘killbots’ are small to man-sized anti-grav capable adhoc robots armed with a grab bag of random weapons, manufactured out of scrap by the ‘Created’ android rebels at their original base 300km to the northwest. These bots are fairly primitive and not that strong in a stand-up fight, as they were originally designed to silently stalk and assassinate relatively defenseless inhabitants of human and mutant settlements. The large killbots (1.2 meters) are very slow, but protected by heavy armor plating and equipped with a powerful robotic tentacle and turreted weapon (various types, but most often a laser rifle or micro-missile launcher).
The android warriors and their kill-bots are known to have superior night vision capability, while the hundred or so warriors of the combined EC/MP/Mormon assault force are relatively poorly equipped in this regard, so a daylight attack is planned. The assault force will leave cover in the late afternoon, cross the I-15, and head east up the access canyon and along the mountains on either side, to advance with the setting sun at their backs. To maintain surprise as long as possible, none of the few available ground vehicles or bots will be employed in the main attack.
General Tolstoy delivers a terse address to the men, women, mutants, cyborgs and robots of the task force before departure to their respective staging areas. He closes with an ancient poem that was a favorite of the late General Morgan:
O strong of heart, go where the road
Of ancient honor climbs.
Bow not your craven shoulders.
Earth conquered gives the stars.
Few in attendance recognize the hidden significance of these words. Least of all General Tolstoy who, while a great warrior, is somewhat unimaginative. Without doubt these words were suggested to the General by Colonel McDermott, who wants to send a message that this battle should be viewed as one small blow in a larger struggle against the unseen foe we are only just now beginning to comprehend.
In dim predawn light beneath crystal skies the infiltration team crosses Sipio Valley and the old state highway roadbed to reach the mountains east of Vault 57. The assigned scout utilizes a network of secret footpaths to reach one of several hidden caves giving access to the Vault 57 box canyon. This one appears undisturbed and undiscovered by the androids. After traversing 5km of natural caves the team reaches a wall of boulders. The scout identifies a few large rocks that are pushed aside to reveal the promised narrow crevice in the northwest wall about 20 meters above the ‘Jambles’, a large rockfall and boulder field covering this corner of the canyon. Brilliant light from a noon sun illuminates almost the entire expanse of the canyon floor below. This vantage point affords an excellent view all the way to the bunker entrance overhang almost 600 meters distant, excepting the northeast corner. The androids will soon regret their failure to locate this hidden entrance…
The androids have clearly not been idle these past 6 months. The large 40-meter greenhouses, caravansary, warehouse, adobe huts and barracks have all been torn down, providing a clear field of fire for the bunker of concrete slabs transported up here decades ago from the I-15 highway roadbed. The androids have somehow managed to move these slabs from their original location near the canyon entrance and reassemble them into an even more daunting blockhouse nearer the center of the canyon. No activity is visible inside the dark narrow slit around the top of the fortification, which in the old days served as a redoubt accessible only by tunnel from the vehicle garages next to the main vault entrance. The 10-meter rolling durasteel gates that once blocked entrance to the canyon have been removed (13). A huge 20-meter pile of detritus is dumped nearby, probably scavenged from ruins far and wide. This is apparently where the androids deposit unwanted junk after culling through it for usable artifacts.
The androids have set up forty or so solar panels in all different shapes and sizes around the rim of the canyon. Dozens of cables lead down the cliff faces on all sides and from there all the way around the base of the canyon to the main vault entrance. The bundle of cables disappears into the gap where the main vault entrance tunnel doors once stood (a 20 meter concrete ramp leads from there to the 2-meter thick solid durasteel Vault 57 main bunker door). Atop the main vault entrance the androids have erected what appears to be a medium-sized broadcast power antenna (the large broadcast antenna mounted here when Eagle Clan was still in residence was of course taken down during the evacuation in October 2754).
Just south of the main vault entrance bunker is a 5-meter high pile of pulverized rock covering most of the adjacent secondary bunker. Judging by the volume of material, the androids must have managed the feat of tunneling through 30-meters of solid stone to reach Sector One of the main vault. Here they would have needed to blast or cut through the 8cm-thick outer wall of durasteel (not a problem if you have enough explosives, energy weapons or plasma torches). A heavy cable runs from the top of the vault entrance ramp around the side and into this tunnel.
Two pairs of large killbots are slowly circling the base of the canyon in a clockwise direction to make a complete circuit every 30 minutes or so. Somewhat later Strelok and Bannstone use their 20x power scopes to identify a number of tiny killbot ‘assassins’ floating around the main bunker entrance and power transmitter. There are no other obvious defenses in place, though it must be assumed something watches from the new blockhouse.
Sleestak radios all this intel to the main assault force, still concealed in the hills west of the I-15. Bannstone has been training with the snipers of Eagle Clan since returning from the lost-skyship expedition and volunteers for overwatch duty…the thought of climbing down into that canyon makes his furry hide crawl. Humongous hands over the CZ-91 heavy sniper rifle (with bipod and night-scope), then hoists his machine gun and loads the first hundred-round belt. Strelok, Gooptaz, Humongous and Sleestak sneak down into the boulder field, which provides excellent concealment. As the first pair of killbots drift into the jambles, everyone takes cover…the capabilities of these rather primitive robots are well-known, and sensors are not their strong point, having only low-light vision and approximately-human hearing. The turreted wedges of durasteel drift through the rocks without detecting the intruders. Ten minutes later the team creeps to the southeast fringe of the rockfall and observes 3 worker androids disassembling the remaining few greenhouses to the northeast. They are armed only with hand tools and plasma torches.
The next few hours are passed hiding among the boulders in a sweltering heat, observing and reporting. A light cargo lifter robot emerges from the tunnel next to the vault entrance and makes a number of trips between the remains of the greenhouses to haul disassembled materials into the bunker. Around 2pm it apparently breaks down. Two worker android and a small maintenance bot emerge from the tunnel and repair it. The bulky 3-meter cargo-lifter subsequently makes a trip to retrieve materials from the dump next to the box-canyon entrance.
During this time Strelok gets the idea of using his silenced and scoped semi-auto rifle to damage the antenna. It’s a long-shot with a light rifle from this range. After a dozen rounds or so the ancient weapon finally breaks down and can’t be repaired. Most of the rounds miss or bounce off the narrow duralloy spire. The last few are armor-piercing and do significant damage, but fail to take out the antenna. Strelok attaches the scope and silencer to the extra assault-rifle, but now several small-sized killbots emerge from the ramp opening and begin to circle about the area. Their primitive sensors must have finally detected the metallic pinging and clanging from bullets impacting the antenna. These little horrors are 60cm long flattened ovoids of gray metal, with a single stubby gun-barrel and a double jointed mechanical arm sporting an array of spinning blades. More shots don’t seem worth the risk. Trying to sneak around the north side of the canyon where the android workers are busy disassembling the greenhouses doesn’t seem worth the risk either, since detection would spell disaster.
At around 1500 hours a large group of androids and killbots emerges from the tunnel entrance to cross the canyon: seven additional large killbots, four small killbots, two warrior androids and five worker androids (including those at the greenhouses), all heavily armed and armored. The 4 small killbots appear to have explosive devices strapped to them. Two are identified as large demolition charges, one a beta-class anti-matter bomb(!), and the last is unknown to anyone in the team or at the main assault force: a 25cm black cube. These work their way up various switchbacks until they reach the top of the canyon, where they disappear into the rocks. The androids disappear through the main entry canyon or climb up the cliff into the rocks. The seven large killbots begin patrolling back and forth along the west wall of the canyon.
Sleestak immediately warns the main assault force. Rather than cancel the attack, the aggressive General Tolstoy splits his assault force into two groups with orders to encircle the canyon rim from north, south and east. The ancient Eagle Clan hovercraft will be used to mount a probably-suicidal attack straight into the canyon to take out the broadcast power transmitter. The hovercraft will carry six well-equipped elite troops, two in power armor, led by Captain “Rocky” Rodriguez. Meanwhile, the infiltration team will assault the blockhouse and take other action as needed.
Strelok activates his stealth field and everyone low-crawls to the south edge of the ‘Jambles’ where they are just within effective rifle range of the blockhouse. Still no sign of any activity from within. After about an hour, sounds of fighting can be heard around the canyon…distant shots and explosions. The seven heavy killbots patrolling the western cliffs file into the box canyon and disappear. Humongous sets up his LMG and takes aim at the blockhouse firing slit 120 meters distant. Sleestak knows his mutated hide can resist energy weapons, so he takes a couple of pipe-bombs from Humongous and prepares to charge the blockhouse. Gooptaz takes aim with his pump-action rifle.
Meanwhile two of the patrolling killbots approach to where they will pass within 5 or 10 meters. Bannstone tracks them through the cross-hairs of his rifle scope. Strelok sneaks back through the rocks and waits to ambush the nearest. As the closest floats past, he steps out from cover directly behind it and In a matter of seconds removes the rear access panel and deactivates the killbot. One-hundred kilos of inert durasteel bang down onto the rocks! The pair are apparently networked together. The second killbot spins around scanning for targets. Bannstone is faster and puts several high-caliber rifle bullets through heavy plate armor, taking out the backup power cell. The bot seems to be drawing power from a broadcast power receiver. Strelok activates its energy shield and fires the shoulder mounted blaster, missing once. The blaster then expires with a keening wail and impressive fountain of purple sparks. Strelok is luckier with the military semi-auto, striking with great effect thanks to a detailed knowledge of robotics. The killbot is armed with a turreted combat shotgun and fills the air with steel shot, all of which misses or is deflected by Strelok’s energy shield. The killbot manages to strike Strelok’s shield only once with a tentacle before being shot full of holes by Bannstone. It cartwheels down to lie smoking among the boulders. Bannstone is down to his last few heavy rifle cartridges.
A few minutes later a terrible roaring, tearing sound blasts out from over the west side of the canyon, as if the sky itself is being ripped asunder. Swirling clouds of condensation shot with static lightning form around a point just out of sight. Dark spiderweb cracks appears in the very fabric of space at the center of the maelstrom. Seconds later, the weird and terrible gap in reality collapses on itself with a thunderous implosion that shakes the canyon and throws boulders for a thousand meters in every direction. A crooked mushroom cloud billows high into the clear blue sky. The blast disintegrates a perfect 120-meter crater where in an instant 13 warriors disappeared from this earth without a trace. This bizarre event is later determined to be the product of a terrible Shadow Years super-technology the Androids somehow got their hands on. (1)
Captain Rodriguez comes in over the command freq screaming like a banshee. She’s barreling the hovercraft full speed down the narrow box canyon connecting Vault 57 to the I-15 valley. Seconds later the ancient steampunk hovercraft shoots out over the canyon on it’s retrofitted anti-gravity pods, far too high and streaming smoke. Apparently it took multiple hits flying past the advancing androids. Rodriguez manages to slide the shot-up antique to a stop 200 meters southeast of the blockhouse, but far short of the main bunker entrance and it’s broadcast power antenna. Steam billows from the punctured turbine. The onboard atomic cell begins to burn with a terrible flare of greenish-yellow radioactive flame. Four of the six crew make it out alive. Seconds later a heavy rocket arcs out of the blockhouse. The hovercraft is reduced to scrap by a huge fiery explosion. Only Rodriguez and one other warrior survive. They begin to exchange fire with the two remaining heavy killbots approaching from the south side of the canyon.
Sleestak has already covered 30 meters before accurate laser fire lances out from the north side of the blockhouse to burn holes in his combat armor. His mutated hide deflects half the energy, saving him from serious wounds, but he probably won’t make it… Humongous opens up and manages to get a good number of bullets through the firing slit. Sleestak is over halfway to the blockhouse when he is staggered by several more hits. Now close to death and slowed by a burn to his leg, Sleestak begins to consider plan B. Anyone else would be reduced to smoking carrion by this point. Bannstone begins firing at the origin of the beams, putting fist-sized pockmarks in the blockhouse concrete with his heavy rifle.
Humongous goes full rock-and-roll with 2×40 round bursts from the LMG, burning through his first belt of ammo (he carries three). A large number of rounds pass through and impact the two androids now visible at the firing slits. One android is hit with 8-10 rounds and drops out of sight. The other’s arm is torn by bullets. Strelok and Gooptaz break from cover in an attempt to draw fire away from Sleestak (Gooptaz tucks in behind Strelok’s energy shield).
Sleestak reaches the bunker and is about to shove a lit pipe-bomb into the gap when a helmeted android appears. Both it’s arms are punctured by LMG bullets but still it succeeds in firing off one inaccurate beam. Then the laser rifle erupts in flames and the android disappears from view. Sleestak’s pipe-bomb explodes inside the bunker seconds later. Sleestak readies his assault-rifle and peers through the slit into the smoke-filled bunker just in time to see the surviving android retrieving a pre-war grenade from the belt of its dead comrade (who was mortally wounded by LMG bullets just as he was aiming a heavy rocket launcher). Sleestak empties his magazine and manages to hit the androids leg, crippling it. The android fails to get the grenade through the slot…it explodes inside the bunker. Amazingly the torn and shattered android has survived the blast and is attempting to arm a 2nd grenade. Sleestak drops the rifle, quick-draws his 5-shot hold-out revolver and blasts away. The android fumbles the next grenade and is finally killed by the 2nd blast. Strelok and Gooptaz arrive at the bunker 10 seconds later, followed by Humongous toting his smoking LMG. There is no way into the bunker from ground level, but both androids inside are thoroughly dead. The four begin to race southeast toward the main vault entrance.
A huge explosion erupts along the top of the canyon rim to the southwest. Perhaps one of the suicide-killbots just detonated a demotion charge. To the southeast, Rodriguez and her companion have destroyed one of the approaching heavy killbots, which are firing lasers and micro-missiles respectively. Rodriguez is hit multiple times and finally lies still. Her companion struggles upright and begins to run east toward the main vault entrance 200 meters distant, a mere 20 meters ahead of the second killbot. This warrior now lacks any functioning weapons but is clearly wearing Combine powered plate armor which explains how he survived this long. Strelok shouts for the LMG, quickly sets up, and fires off a single 20 round burst. In a complete freak event, Strelok nails his distant-relation with a half-dozen rounds from 130 meters. One bullet pierces the killbot’s anti-grav generator. It crashes to the ground where it is no longer able to accurately aim its turreted laser. Strelok hands the LMG back to a bemused Humongous and the four continue advancing.
Humongous and Sleestak head to the hovercraft wreck to look for survivors. All are dead except Captain Rodriguez, who lies unconscious and critically injured. Humongous is able to save her using the robotic medikit. Then he uses this amazing artifact to patch up Sleestak’s burned leg. Luckily the medikit functions properly on the beast-man’s non-human physiology – this time. (2)
Strelok and Gooptaz approach the main vault ramp entrance. Though obviously wounded multiple times, the surviving hovercraft trooper has managed to stagger all the way to the main vault. The warrior swats aside a number of ineffectual 20cm assassin-bots and begins climbing up the curved concrete wall of the ramp bunker. Two small killbots emerge from the top of the ramp and advance with duralloy saws buzzing…these will surely be the death of the unarmed warrior. Strelok takes aim from 40 meters and hammers one with two accurate bursts from the assault-rifle, knocking out its AI and sawblade-arm. At the same time, Bannstone squeezes off a single shot from the far side of the canyon (550 meters) and critically damages the second killbot’s broadcast power receiver…it clangs to the ground just a few meters from the warrior. Just as the warrior grasps and crushes the durasteel antenna in powered fists, a long range laser shot from the west canyon wall slices through the back of the shattered power armor. The unknown hero slides to the ground with a crushed broadcast antenna still clutched in smoking fists. (3)
Broadcast power is now terminated and most of the remaining killbots do not have backup power cells installed. Strelok also cuts the power line leading from the vault entrance ramp into the new tunnel. The surviving assault-force warriors quickly hunt down and finish off the few remaining androids. The last two suicide bots are never able to detonate their deadly payloads, consisting of a conventional demo charge and a beta-class anti-matter demo charge. Within 15 minutes dozens of warriors are emerging from the box canyon entrance or rappelling down the sides of the cliffs. Casualties are grievous, but less than they could have been: 28 killed and 20 seriously or critically wounded. The surviving warriors still with functioning weapons and in any condition to fight number around 40. Among them are General Tolstoy, Gorilla Jim, Gyorj Wasinkton, Major Beth Sands, Sgt. Major Grek and the cyborg Mr T.
All that remains is the task of clearing out the Vault 57 main bunker. This is an extensive subterranean complex consisting of thousands of meters of halls, corridors, malls, workshops and living spaces split into three distinct sectors. The General himself will lead the way in complete blackout conditions (he has ultravision mutation). Major Sands and 1st Sergeant Gyorj will lead the technical and medical squad tasked with cleaning up the mess outside. They find large racks of chemical, hydrogen and killbot power cells at the bottom of the main vault entrance ramp…apparently the androids stripped every cell they could find to create a reliable 24-hour power source for their killbots and other devices in the canyon. The real question is, what have they been up to inside the main vault all this time? (4)
(1) Later investigation by Eagle Clan Scribes and Engineers identifies the responsible device as a small ‘trek’ bomb, likely the unidentified black cube strapped onto one of the small killbots. Trek bombs are part of a family of much larger doomsday-devices unleashed by the New York Protectorate on the Combine at the end of WWIV (2615-2618…no one is exactly sure). These ‘omega’ bombs initiated tears in the very fabric of space-time which spread across the earth after an unanticipated chain reaction. The resulting worldwide disaster plunged significant areas of land and sea into a null-void, raising new mountain ranges and leveling others, submerging islands and rearranging coastlines around the globe.
(2) 33 capacity left on the medikit…remember that medic skill can be used to insure medical artifacts work correctly on non-humans, otherwise they will fail quite often when used on mutants.
(3) The hero was Joshua Talbot, formerly Security Chief of Mount Pleasant.
General Tolstoy leads a 30-strong assault force into Vault 57 by way of the new android-excavated tunnel. The advance through Sectors one and two is uneventful. The vault is completely without power. A series of darkened electric lamps are placed every 20 to 30 meters in a trail along the heavy electrical cable leading from the new excavation directly to Sector 3 and the main reactor room. Four more casualties occur during the fight for the reactor room. The huge cargo lifter bot, a repair bot, two worker androids and a thinker android are destroyed in the firefight.
The assault team is stunned to find the reactor room filled with new machinery and parts. The androids have somehow disassembled the sealed Neumann-Kranstedt fusion reactor and apparently were attempting to refuel it. How the androids opened the reactor and how they planned to refuel it is completely beyond the understanding of technicians from any of the factions. To absolutely prevent any possibility of Androids using the reactor in future, it is totally destroyed using a beta-class anti-matter charge captured from one of the disabled suicide-killbots.