They say an armed society is a polite society. If that’s true, then Vault 34 had to be the most polite place on Earth. Back in 2077 when the bombs fell, the folks at Vault-tec wanted to see what happens when far too many people got squeezed into tight quarters with way too many guns. Vault 34 was the petri dish for that little experiment and, after keeping people cooped up in there for a century, the place turned into powder keg of paranoia, over-population, and high-explosive etiquette.
I’m outside the entrance to the vault. It’s a ways East of New Vegas, in an inhospitable spot in the hills. Has a truckload of atomic waste parked right in front, and the only thing that dares to come near are the geckos.
They won’t be a problem though.
The radiation levels are lethal inside and out, so virtually no one has ventured inside and the last people to leave did so over fifty years ago.
Inside the vault is nothing but feral ghouls and radioactive water. Most of the computer records are damaged, but before the Overseer ghoulified, he left behind written journals of what happened. Vault 34 seemed like it would be a great place to wait out the apocalypse; Vault-tec had equipped it with extravagant recreational and fitness centers. Much more elaborate than other vaults. But making room for that full-sized swimming pool meant removing some of the living quarters.
Every Vault came with a small stockpile of weapons for a security team. They had to keep the peace among a thousand people who were cooped up together for anywhere from ten to two-hundred years. Most of them only had a handful of small arms, but Vault 34 got the sort of arsenal that could have turned the tide at the Battle of Anchorage. Grenade launchers, missiles, prototype energy weapons – not the sort of thing you’d want to use in the confined space of a vault – and nary a lock in sight.
The Overseers knew that a thousand people armed with 40 millimeter peacemakers wasn’t a good idea, so they figured out how to lock it up and keep it under guard, but that only kept the peace for a few generations. Eventually the overcrowding became so great that a group of vault dwellers stormed the armory, stole most of the bigger guns and headed out into the Mojave.
Folks around the Mojave called them the Boomers, and it ain’t hard to see why. They emerged from Vault 34 with stars in their eyes and missile launchers on their shoulders around 2231. After blowing up every tribe they came across, they eventually discovered Nellis Airforce Base to the East. None of the pre-war aircraft were still functional, but the Boomers found records on other nearby military bases and soon enough they had added giant guns called “Howitzers” to their collection, hauled all the way from the Hawthorne Army Depot in Arizona. They had stockpiled enough ordnance to level a town several times over – and anyone dumb enough to set foot in it for the next fifty years.
The rare person who can observe the patterns in their Blitzkrieg and move fast enough to make it inside the base will find Nellis to be one of the garden spots of the Mojave. They pipe in fresh water from Lake Mead, they grow their own crops, and have a set of solar panels that give them electricity without having to worry about who’s controlling the Hoover Dam.
They have a museum dedicated to their history, and a tyke who’s happy to tell it to anyone who’ll listen to the whole story. And if the child’s cave painting isn’t detailed enough, their leader is a woman who was born inside the vault, and remembers the whole thing firsthand.
She’s done right by her people for the last fifty years, and was probably quite the looker in her day. Despite Mother Pearl’s guidance, the Boomers are still some of the most xenophobic people in the Wasteland, convinced that it’s their destiny to blow up all of us savages once they get a bomber flying. They have a plan that they don’t like to discuss with outsiders, but if you earn the trust of the old timers they’ll talk about a “Lady of the Lake”. It might be that they have some superstition about that rusty pre-war bomber that’s sitting at the bottom of Lake Meade…
So far the Boomers have done well with their isolationism, but their resources are still limited, and much like the Brotherhood of Steel, they may face only a slow death should their population and ammo dwindle.
The people who stayed behind back in Vault 34, learned their own lesson about isolationism. Their Overseers refused to let anyone leave, and the many attempts to revolt eventually resulted in the Vault’s reactor malfunctioning, and that swimming pool flooding most of the place, trapping them all inside a radioactive swamp.
The remnants of their vast arsenal await anyone brave enough to wade through the radioactive waters, and fight past the feral ghouls. It’s an enticing treasure trove for prospectors who have plenty of Rad-X stockpiled, and who need to compensate for something.
Too many people these days are concerned with blowing things up. Few folks wonder how it all got built in the first place. Those airplanes, the hangars, the Vaults. All were made with steel. In the old days they dug their iron from deep within the Earth. Refined it into steel in huge mills unlike anything still standing in New California, and used it to make the steel girders that held up the old world.
Today there’s only one place that can still do that. It’s hard labor, and the people who do it aren’t exactly there for the satisfaction of an honest day’s. But that- is a story for another day.