Star Tab II: The Wrath of My Cat

Editor’s Note: The thaw arrived earlier than expected up here, leaving us in spring’s usual tumult.  Normally, the yeti-haunted hamlet of Alturas would still be buried under 10 feet of snow come January, but instead we find ourselves inescapably mired in mud, like Napoleon in France, only with rednecks instead of Russians.

However, as there is still no fix for Fallout 4, Mr. Raymond has instead wandered into the sagebrush prairie with a keg of beer, where he is communing with the elk.  We expect him back some time next week, if only because the audit reports will be due.  In the meantime, we give you the latest update in the feline politics of the House on Poplar Street:

So I got a new bed.  This is important because the new bad has a bed frame.  That is important because on Thanksgiving, when it was twenty below twenty below outside and the snow was so deep even the mammoths had snowplows, Sneaky Pete ran inside and hid under the bed, saying he wasn’t coming out ’til Easter.

“Also, you can’t see me, ’cause I’m too schneaky,” he said in his best James Cagney voice.

“You’re right there, dude.”

He’s such a crackhead.  I may have to have an intervention for him.  He wanders in meowing at the top of his lungs, devours all the food in the house, and then flops down on the couch.

“Sneaky, what the hell are you doing?” I say.

“I’m Sneaky Pete,” he says.  “You can’t even see me, ’cause I’m too schneaky.”  Then he sprawled across the couch and yowled at the top of his lungs.

“I’m calling the sheriff on you, cat.”

“I is 10 ninjas.”

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S. Pete

Anyway, the problem isn’t that he fights with the other cats – the problem is that Tabby and Silver like him, and I Do. Not. Want. Another. Cat.

Silver lets him sleep on her special pink blankie, the use of which by anyone else, including me, usually results in massive feline retaliation.  And yesterday I caught Tabby licking Pete’s head.  He’s only ever done that with Silver.

“What the hell, Tabby!  Are we opening up a cat house here?”

“He’s my brudda from anudda mudda, sir.”

I gotta stop letting him read Cheezburger after dark.

But while they might like having S. Pete around, any change in the zeitgeist is an excuse to run amuk over my time, sleep and sanity.  It’s even worse now that the thaw has come, because they wanna be outside, but of course they also feel the urgent cat need to always have an open door available in case of kaiju attack.  It’s their favorite game; they call it “Door,” where Tabby demands I open the door so he can go in and out and in and out and in and out 74.3 times an hour even though it’s the middle of the night and I’m buck-ass nekkie and then I notice my neighbor (who is a prominent member of the Elks Lodge)  who had gone out to empty the garbage is staring at me standing naked in the street yelling at a cat who is nowhere to be seen …

But at least in that case, Tabby knows what he wants, which is more than I call say for Silver, who is making a hobby of just sitting in the bathroom staring intently at nothing.  I’m thinking maybe she’s receiving radio signals from another planet and the linoleum helps with reception.  If so, it’s messing up her spatial awareness, because then she’ll demand to be let through a door that doesn’t exist, or that I pick her up and set her down in midair.

Or maybe it’s my spatial awareness that’s messed up, ’cause it’s 4 in the morning, in that magical time where even if I do manage to get back to sleep, it won’t be long enough to do me any good, which … you know, it’s gotta be aliens, because only they would have the timekeeping technology advanced enough to calculate the exact second when it hits “too late to hit the snooze button” and alert Silver to start meowing right at that exact moment, when she will peacefully sleep though any number of hours until then.

Then she does it again when I’m getting ready to get in the shower – from total catatonia to berserk neediness in under 2 seconds, which is apparently triggered by the sound of the water running.  And I could try ignoring her, but only at the cost of my security deposit, because when she gets bored, she likes to attack the blinds.  It’s got to where I sleep with the blinds up in full view of the neighbors, which only worked until Tabby woke me up by batting at the window.  Aliens, I tell you.

Especially yesterday, when I’m 10 minutes late and still half asleep and I’m trying to get some clothes out of the dryer so I can go to work and earn the money to buy the cat food, and maybe hopefully get some sleep.

All of which is complicated by the fact that Silver is sleeping in the dryer.

“Silver, I kinda need to get in there,” I say.

“The needs of the kitty outweigh the needs of the few.”

I nodded.  “Mm.  Or the one.”

“S’right, Mister.”  Then she bit me and went back to sleep.

Skyrim: A Mammoth Tale

Slow night; think I’ll go kill some time in Skyrim …

It was a radiant mission to go kill some bandits – then the dragon showed up.  Then the mammoth –  and apparently mammoths hate them some bandits, ’cause once Lydia slew the dragon …

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Hey, where’s it going?
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Experience hog.
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“Huh?”
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“Did it just – “
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“I’ve never seen anything quite like that.”

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Mammoths don’t attack me anymore.

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“Just go with it, Liddie-Bug.”

 

 

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“I’ll kill you if I have to!”

Fallout 4: I Left My Heart in Vault 81

Sigh.  I just don’t get Piper … I come back after a hard day of being murdered by everything the Commonwealth can throw at me, and all I want is a little down time, maybe catch a nap, and what do I find?

She’s letting Mama Murphy shack up in our shack.

“Hi honey,” I say as I’m walking through the door – well actually, there isn’t a door, because doors are fcking impossible to build in this game, but through the entrance, anyway – “I’m beat.  I sure could use a pick me up,” thinking she’ll hand me sum bubblegum or a Nuka Cola.  Instead, Mama Murphy hands me a crack pipe.

“I get this from a cook in Red Rock Canyon,” she said.  “It’ll mess you up good.  I’ve seen it in your futura.”

“I got a lady you should meet,” I say.  “Name’s Cait.  Why don’t you head over to the Red Rocket Truck Stop and get the hell out of my house.

I crash out on the bed, and when I wake up – no “Lover’s Embrace,” Piper’s nowhere to be seen, and when I check the bed –

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Well, this is awkward.

“What’d I say to piss you off this time, baaaaaaabie?” I ask when I finally see her.

“These things literally saved my life once,” she said, handing me sum Fancy Lad Snack Cakes.

OK, I just … you know what?  I think I need to chill out for a while.  Go back on the road.

Sigh.  I remember when things were simple.  Just me and Nick, wandering the Wasteland, looting buildings and dispensing justice.  I remember that freak who was making potted meat out of feral ghouls … well, mostly I remember Trader Rylee …

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Hey, didn’t she come from a Vault?  That might be a good vacation from the drama here in Sanctuary.

Turns out I’d passed Vault 81 half-a-dozen times; it’s almost at the beginning of the map, but I’d been dying so often at that point I didn’t dare go someplace I couldn’t run away from really quickly.

The first thing I saw – well, besides the vault door, obviously – actually, that was the first thing I saw, since it was sealed and the Overseer was saying I would have to do them a “favor” to get in.

Like, whack somebody?  Is this the mafia vault?  I thought that was Nick Valentine.

Turns out I just had to find 3 fusion cores, which was easy since I had like twenty ’cause I never use power armor because I’m afraid of running out of fusion cores.  Accounting will do that do you.

So I get in, and I’m glad I did, because otherwise I never would have met the Overseer, or, as I call her “Atom Bomb Baby”

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A million times hotter than TNT.

She takes my fusion cores and gives me 100 bottlecaps –

wait, 100 caps for 3 fusion cores?  Why, if she wasn’t a redhead …

She told me they usually didn’t let strangers in, but something something something … I couldn’t hear her over the sound of my heart breaking.  I said I loved her, but she didn’t have a dialogue option for that; she just sasheyed (is that how you spell it?) back to her office and left me to sweep up the pieces of my broken heart.

 

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“Hey, no littering.”

I wandered despondently into the Vault and tried to strike up a conversation, but everyone was busy trying to keep the place from falling apart, or so they told me.

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“Excuse me, but I’m playing Candy Crush here.”

I had my suspicions, since it turned out it wasn’t just Overseer Gwen – all the Girls of Vault 81 looked like they just stepped out of Vogue, like Schoolteacher Katy:

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“Would you care to tell the class a story, like how you become a drooling moron around me?”

Maybe it’s the Vault 81 jumpsuits; they are very flattering.  Even Deacon was rockin’ one –

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Just a hunk o’ burning luv.

 

Or the fact that they have a barber.  I couldn’t get a mohawk, but I did decide to go blonde:

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Maybe my new ‘do will impress her!

I went to Overseer Gwen’s office to offer my help in fixing the vault, or becoming her love slave, or whatever else she needed, but <sigh> she was asleep.  No one else seemed interested in talking to me until I saved some girl’s cat, which – given game logic – I’d seen run past me hours earlier but had been unable to touch until I got the quest.

I’d figured it for a goner, what with the deathclaws and mirelurks and lack of canned tuna, but – well, actually, given my cats, it doesn’t surprise me that what would kill anything else, including a rabid deathclaw, would run in terror from a cat.  I’m always amused when new neighbors tell me not to worry about their dog, because he “likes cats”.  Yeah, mister, not the cat I’m worried about; it’s your dog’s self-esteem when he meets Tabby.

I’m rambling.  I’ve been drinking heavily trying to keep my mind off Overseer Gwen, but even after crawling through tunnel infested with contagious plague rats –

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I still can’t stop thinking about her.  After I defeated the rats and got the antidote to cure Little Timmy – I mean, Austin – she offered to let me use a room … but it wasn’t hers.  Sigh.

I wandered down to the engine room – I mean, the reactor, where I found out the engineer was on drugs.  After some conversation checks, I convinced him to kick the habit, then I took them all myself –

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How is that stealing?  I’m pretty sure taking them away from an addict is a good thing.

Finally I broke down and went to see a doctor.

“Doctor, doctor,” I said, “can’t you see I’m burning, burning?”

She turned around –

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Hellooooo Nurse!

Fallout 4: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Wasteland

You ever get that feeling that you’ve played a game too long?   It happens to me in all the games I’ve played; the sky will be getting dark and I’ll be off in the corner of the map, in one of the odd little one-off places they added for the completionists, and no one has any new dialogue, and I swear once an NPC was like, “don’t you have a home to go to IRL?”  And I get to thinking, “maybe I’m really just picking at crumbs by this point.  Hey, when did winter arrive?  What month is it?”

Of course it’s just my perception – I’ve played Skyrim for like 10 million hours1 and I’m still finding new quests. What happens is I put off doing the main quest in the hopes of not missing the sidequests, only to find that you come across the most sidequests while involved in doing something else.  Sigh.  It’s like jobs and girlfriends; you never have one, you have none or too many.

Same applies to power armor.

Now that I’d won Piper’s heart, I figured it was time to grab my oldpal Nick Valentine and go find Virgil in the Glowing Sea.

Nick was cool, ’cause he’s a robot, but if I was gonna come out with all my limbs intact, I was gonna need more than Bactine – I was gonna need sum power armor.  No problem; I left a set back at the Red Rocket Truck Stop, it looked just like in the main loading screen, except for the methed out alcoholic redhead that was living there.

I said goodbye to Piper and learned the lesson of Lot’s wife:

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NEVER look back.

Yeah, she doesn’t take abandonment well.  Which is probably why when I came back, she’d let crackheads room in our house2.

And actually, it turns out nothing in the Wasteland takes abandonment well, because when I hit the Red Rocket …

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We’d like to show you a picture of this power armor, but Raiders won’t let us.

A Raider stole my power armor!  What’s worse – he did it when I was in Sanctuary!  I heard the gunfire, and when I get there, the power armor’s gone, and there’s a dead Raider wearing every. bit. but. the. torso.

Because, you know, the point wasn’t to get power armor, it was to fck with the PC.

Sigh.  So you know how it is … like car keys, now I’m looking around for that spare set I left somewhere…

I was pretty sure I’d left one over by outpost Zima or whatever it was … Preston sent me there to clear it out and set up a recruitment beacon, and one of the raiders had some power armor.  OK, let’s fast travel … hey, how come my happiness is so low… whoa, how the HELL did I get 8 settlers?  That recruitment beacon ain’t whistlin’ Dixie … and of course, they scavenged the HELL out of my power armor, but they. can’t. plant. a. tato.

Or build a water pump.  I know you have steel, ’cause you scavved my power armor.

Alright, the Glowing Sea can wait – let’s see what these freaks want.

“To be honest, we’re kind of short on food.”

Yes, I can see, that, considering I haven’t planted any.  Say, what were you eating before I arrived?  There weren’t, like, 10 of you to start with, were there?  Ick.  Here – how about sum Dandy Boy apples?  Fancy Lad Snack Cakes?  I know these product names are supposed to sound super-consumerist whitebread Americana pre-Resource War and ironic and all that, but some of them sound like things I could buy at Safeway right now.  Blamco Mac and Cheese?  Isn’t that next to Kraft’s?  Aren’t Sugar Bombs out of Calvin and Hobbes?

Whatever, my settlers ain’t eating ’em.  Apparently they only want farm-fresh food.  Listen, you mutant freaks, we’re living in the Wasteland!  You can’t buy free range super mutant at the local Whole Foods.  There’s a crater where the Whole Foods was!  Now it’s a Hole Foods, but it’s filled with Deathclaws and you’re the food!  It is all very terrible and ironic and oh what the hell, I’ll plant sum razorgrain and you can make noodles …

… wait, you’re still not happy.  Maybe if I assign a settler to farm?  Still not enough food … here’s a gourd, some tatos – okay, how much food do these people need, anyway?   Can’t they just .. eat less or something?

OK, that’s enough food .. got enough water pumps to open a car wash, assuming we still had cars.   Why are you people still not happy?  Beds?  Can’t you just share some?  Free love, man!  Okay, maybe not … of course, it’s not like I have a lot of room to build here.  We’re not talking Spanish oak four posters, I’ll be lucky to even fit enough sleeping bags for you lot … of course Preston has me build the recruitment beacons at the smallest possible settlements.  Sanctuary would have been too easy.

There’s 1 … 2 … dammit!  I’m out of cloth … ok, should be easy enough, what’s around here …

… there is not cloth in the entire settlement.  That’s because the previous inhabitants were all wearing power armor.

Okay, let’s put this on hold and go find some cotton.

Fortunately, I almost immediately ran into a raider settlement:

Let’s just loot these corpses here – hey, whaddya mean “Leather Armor” doesn’t count as “cloth.”  Haven’t you ever met Piper?  Okay, never mind – there’s a trailer full of mannequins here, and they’re all –

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Nothing lootable here.
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If only I could find some cloth …
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Not a stitch of fabric anywhere …

I was reduced to rendering toys into stuffing to make beds, kind of like some perverse children’s hospital commercial, but I finally got enough beds to make them happy, and all that was left to do –

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No, sorry, can’t help you with levitating cows.

Was go find some power armor.  I know I left some around here someplace –

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Maybe it’s under this bookshelf.

There were like, half a dozen around here someplace – I never paid attention, ’cause I always had a set.

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Maybe I left it at the hotel?

I finally found a new set at a government checkpoint.  And just like when you give up and buy something new, you find a half-dozen of them lying around – one just sitting around a raider settlement, two that had been formerly occupied by BoS and were currently occupied by corpses … eventually, I couldn’t go 10 feet without tripping over one –

 

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“In yo’ FACE.”  Luv, Fallout 4.

Okay, so now, FINALLY, I’m ready to … wait, what was I trying to do again?

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  1. Of course that’s an exaggeration; it’s probably really more like 5 million.
  2. But that’s another blog post.

Fallout 4: Love Shack

Sigh.  The course of true love ne’er did run smooth, and neither do Fallout quest lines.

I’ve been flirting with Piper because, you know, leather trenchcoat, and she finally admitted she has feeling for me.  Granted, she did it in the middle of Railroad HQ.

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“OMG.  Get. A. Room.”

But the fact that her reality only tangentially intersects the real one is half the reason I love her.

But now I’ve got a problem – since I’m at her highest “level of affinity”1 and have her Gift of Gab perk, I should really get a new companion.  Which is kind of … awkward, considering we just got whatever the gaming equivalent of engaged is.  Luckily we’re in a video game; it would probably be even worse if this were a love story.  Titanic, for example:

“Hold me, Floyd – ”
<splash>

What to do?  What to do?

The best solution would be for her to go back to Diamond City and keep publishing Publick Occurrences, but Fallout 4 actually makes it incredibly difficult to send companions back to where you met them.  I did manage to do it once, but I don’t remember how, because it was on dollar beer night at the casino.  I suppose I’ll ask her to go back to Sanctuary, even though it’s already getting crowded and I need to plant more – I know!  I’ll practice using the workshop by building her a house!  A monument to our undying love, a Taj Mahal in the Wasteland.  That way I won’t feel so guilty about dumping her on the sidelines while I go run around with a robot french maid.

Also, given my complete lack of mechanical aptitude both in-and-out of game, I’ll probably end up building her a one-room rattleshack with a dripping sink and a broken fan, and just calling it the Taj Mahal.2 We’re lucky I wasn’t tasked with builing the pyramids, or archaeologists today would be excavating a giant, single, uncarved stone block.

At least this solves one problem: I never remember what settlement needs what, so I never know where to store all my junk.  I end up walking around with 30 pounds of assorted gears, oil, concrete, and wire, because I know one place needs a water pump and another needs a turret, but keeping it all straight requires less alcohol consumption than I’m willing to commit to.  But now – it all goes to Sanctuary!  Nothing is too good for Piper!

First things first – it’s time to clean up this joint.  Let’s start scrapping:

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Today on Hoarders …

I know some of the houses in Sanctuary are still usable, because I’ll find my followers sitting at a kitchen table, presumably drinking coffee and talking about current events.  Fortunately, Fallout helpfully outlines junk in yellow and useful items in green:

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200 years or 20,000 ghoul attacks, whichever comes first.
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Pretty sure the game got this one wrong.

It’s kind of fun, running around cleaning up the town … and certainly much easier than cleaning my actual house, especially after poker night.

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Before
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After

I decided I’d build Piper’s house on the vacant slab behind the main house in Sanctuary – the one with the power armor docking station.

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You know … actually … why is there a power armor station in what amounts to Levittown?  Doesn’t a neighborhood watch normally suffice?  I’m assuming it’s pre-War, since the entire Wasteland has pretty much gone downhill since then, but that leaves some serious implications about what the heck was going on in Sanctuary, back in the day.

I debated on wood vs. metal, and settled on wood; I thought it would feel cozier than cold metal walls, plus a lot of the metal pieces were curved; it would have felt like living in a pipe.  Fortunately, I had a good supply of wood, since in my scavenging frenzy I’d deforested the entire town.

One thing I knew for certain was I didn’t wanna go with prefab.  This would be custom-built for my love.

I chose a large-size corner piece, and kind of sort of managed to rotate it to fit the edge of the foundation, provided you understand that by “sort of” I mean “not at all.”

No matter how quick I clicked off the mouse button, it was either a little too far left or a little too far to the right.  You know, they’ve had “snap to grid” features since I was in high school3, so I am assuming pure hatred of the end user is why they never include them in graphics programs.  Allowing objects to free rotate is an invitation to permanent crippling OCD.  I’m lucky they didn’t find me days later, still spinning that damn corner, murmuring the litany of madness to myself.

Maybe it would help if I laid down a foundation first.  I’m not quite sure of the difference between a foundation and a floor, and if I need both, but I’m sure the tutorial will explain all of that.

I just thought I’d throw in a little zany humor there, because Bethesda really took it to heart about not hand-holding the player.  I’m pretty sure the only reason you don’t have to build a time machine and go back to pre-War Boston and get building permits is because they ran out of time to program it.

Well – nothing’s too good for my Piper, so I’ll go with floor and foundation –

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The units come with numbers, but it takes a smarter person than me to figure it out.

So, um, the floor doesn’t fit on the foundation.  That seems suboptimal.

Now, while I appreciate Piper a great deal, all relationships are built on compromise, and in this case, the compromise is building a house in time for us to actually live in it before the game is over.  I scrapped the floor and put some walls together:

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How Sweet Shack

The walls.  Don’t fit the doors.  I haven’t even pondered the non-Euclidean intricacies of “roofs” yet, and I can’t even get the walls to line up.  I thought maybe I could extend it out by building an entrance foyer, but they didn’t line up either, and I saw myself building an endless labyrinth across Sanctuary, praying one of those endless iterations would magically result in something I could put a door on.  Such is the stuff of nightmares.

I stood there, with my non-connecting house where all the boards looked like something not even a methed-up hillbilly would use, getting rained on ’cause I couldn’t build a roof, and thought back to those halcyon days when I thought I could build a pleasure palace for my love:

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“I’m thinking a split-level ranch…”

I didn’t want something from the back lot of Deliverance.  I wanted a real, pre-War house, with that funky blue siding and maybe a mailbox.  Alas, it wasn’t meant to be.  I finally gave up and decided on a prefab shack … I was looking at the wooden ones, but to be honest, she already had better than that in Diamond City.

I settled – ha ha – on a “large metal shack,” which basically is two pipes stuck together.  I wasn’t sure about the wisdom of the whole idea, especially (as you will no doubt be surprised to learn) because it was kind of crooked compared to the foundation … but then, so’s Piper, so maybe she’d like it.  I was reassured when she immediately came running in.  I initiated dialogue.  She gave me some bubblegum and said, “hey, dollface.”

OK … metal shack it is.

Next step – pimpin’ the crib.

I built a generator so we’d always have the homey stench of diesel fuel nearby, then slapped a power pylon down.  Once I ran a wire to that I was able to put some lights up in Pipe # 1.

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Along with some decor.

I decided on a fan both for the style and because we were basically living in a giant oven.

To my surprise, the lights didn’t come on in Pipe # 2, which was a problem as I had both a TV and a strobe light goin’ on in there:

I’m not sure if there’s a distance or device limit on the power pylon; I solved it by adding a second pylon by that section of pipe:

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Wire from generator to pylon to pylon 2.

 

And all the little comforts of home:

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A hot tub and a disco ball, oh yeah.

I wanted to add some outside lighting, because I think a neighborhood feels more homey when there are porch lights on.  I was hoping to give it a kind of outdoor-market feel, something upbeat and festive, to go with the disco ball, but that’s impossible to do on what amounts to a metal hot dog.  Also, it takes a second generator:

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No line of sight to the first generator.

When all was said an done, I sat with Piper and watched the sunset as crickets chirped in the background; I have to admit, it felt … peaceful.  It was suburbia, of sorts.  A suburbia filled with super mutants and psychotic robots, sure, but then again, isn’t that what we always imagined was lurking beneath the surface of that picket-fence paradise.

Finally, it was time for us to spend the first night in our new home:

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I can buy a disco ball, but not sheets.

Unlike the Skyrim version, where your partner spends the night either sitting in a chair or looming awkwardly over you, Fallout is prepared to admit that your romantic partner will most likely sleep in the same bed as you.  She also yawns and says “wakey wakey” and a few other unique dialogue options.

“Hey, Piper,” I said, then selected the “talk” option.

She smiled and said “there’s no place I’d rather be.”

We were home.

 

A pack of mentats underneath the bough
A case of Whiskey, sum sugar bombs –and Thou
Beside me snarking in the wasteland —
Oh, the commonwealth were Paradise enow!

Come, fill the nuka cola bottle, and in the fire of Spring
Your leather trenchcoat of Repentance fling:
The bloatfly has but a little way
To fly–and lo! the vertibird is on the wing!

 

  1. Is that what they’re calling it these days?
  2. Which is also how Atlantic City did it.
  3. 2004 BC