As you might have noticed, I’m a bit obsessed with Fallout’s style of storytelling. I’ve written several articles about it: Storytelling in the Fallout Universe, Storytelling in the Fallout Universe 2, and My Favourite Side Stories From the Fallout Universe. The richness and humour that can be found in these games are most of the reason why I love them so much.
So, I wanted to talk about a feature in Fallout 4 that I don’t see get a ton of love. That is the radio towers. Spotted around the Commonwealth, these are derelict towers that have had their broadcasting dishes retracted. Each is guarded by some type of wildlife and each can be activated by a nearby terminal. When you do activate it, the dishes go up, and you receive a handful of new radio channels on your Pip-boy.
If you follow each of those signals, then you will find the story behind it. Each one was sent out for a specific reason by a specific person or group. To me, this is the quintessential Fallout experience: stories that aren’t essential to the game but make the world feel more alive.
I’m going to do each tower in its own post since each tower has several signals each. This one is going to about 3SM-U81, which is found just off the shore of Lake Quannapowitt.
Automated Radio Alarm
The first one has a pretty familiar sounding warning for the Fallout universe:
Reactor 3 in sublevel is malfunctioning. Radiation levels critical. Immediate service is required.
Following this broadcast will lead you to the nearby Mass Fusion containment shed, which is a facility absolutely bursting with radioactivity. Ghouls and radroaches defend this territory, protecting the dozens of barrels of radioactive waste. A brief exploration of the main area brings you to a locked security door and a supervisor’s terminal. There isn’t too much detail in the terminal entries, except for the fact that the workplace seemed to be lacking in safety protocols and the supervisor actually made a hazardous material inspector…dissappear.
Opening the locked door via the terminal leads you back to…even more radiation! It spikes up to +60 in some areas. This is clearly where they were storing most of the material they housed. If you enter the storage area through the chainlink gate, you’ll come across a ghoul crawling out of radioactive muck through a hole in the floor. Perhaps this is what happened to the inspector that was disposed of. On your way out, make sure to look at the barrels next to the conveyor belt. Hidden between them is the hatch to the sublevels.
Here is the source of the alarms and the broken reactors. Activating a circuit breaker nearby will turn off the klaxons and radio signal. Besides, I think this particular warehouse is a lost cause…
Greenbriar Radio Signal
This second signal is a lot more heartbreaking and less easy to find. Heading due east from the tower itself, you will come across a campsite with a cooking station and broken picnic table. A very keen eye will notice the hatch hidden behind some barrels and crates, under a bush. Be careful in this area, since mirelurk queens are known to spawn nearby.
Speaking of mirelurks, it seems the inhabitants of the bunker had some troubles with them too. After seeing the general vicinity of the hatch, the message makes a lot of sense:
“Please, anyone – help us! We’re stuck in an old bunker next to the river. Those things are crawling around up there… we’re trapped! If you can hear this just… kill those things and get us out of here. Please, we’re running out of food. I’ll give you whatever you want. This has been a pre-recorded message. Message repeats in three seconds.”
It’s reasonable to guess that the creatures the message is talking about are the mirelurks found in that river. Inside the bunker, itself is a very small room, with a single mattress on the floor, a toilet and sink to the side, and two skeletons. Not to mention the empty shelves and tin cans, backing up the beacon’s plea. The female skeleton is lying on the mattress, assumedly having died of starvation. The male skeleton is perched on the ladder back outside, but chances are your character knocked him around a bit upon entering the load zone. Did he try to take on the mirelurks after his wife died and he was alone? Did he also die of starvation, but managed to crawl to the ladder before collapsing? We’ll never know, but one thing is for sure: this is another unhappy ending.
Nautical Radio Signal
This is easily the most dangerous radio to access. Nearby there is the ex-settlement, Breakheart Banks. Unfortunately for them, it seems Super Mutants attacked and took it for their own. Farms were abandoned, turrets destroyed, and gore bags hung up. But on the bank of the nearby river is a boat that ran aground. It’s from this boat that the nautical signal originates.
Mayday, mayday, mayday! This is merchant vessel Western Bell. We are in immediate need of assistance, over. Boston, this is Western Bell. We have no power, and we’re in very rough seas. Do you copy? Hey, we need help out here! Where the hell is everyone? This has been a prerecorded message. Message repeats in three seconds.
You can only guess that this broadcast was sent out as the bombs dropped. There’s no way to tell one way or another, but the power outage and rough seas so close to shore align with the results of a bomb going off nearby. You can enter the main cabin of the ship, which is unusual compared to the other abandoned ships in the Commonwealth. Inside is evidence that there was someone living there, albeit only for a short time. The captain’s hat, fishing rod, and cooler imply the crew (of unknown numbers) were trying to gather food to survive. It’s not clear at all what happened to them in the end.
That’s it for Radio Tower 3SM-U81, but there are many more towers, each with their own collection of mini-stories from the wasteland. I enjoy finding little nuggets like this. It makes it feel more like the world was actually populated before the war. It reminds you that there were more people than just who the sole survivor knew or cared about, but dozens of other people who were dealing with their own crisis during and after the nukes hit.