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Vault 54
General Information
Establishment: 2075
Disestablishment: N/A
Status: Active, sealed
Location Information
Location: Michigan
Societal Information
Population: 1,907
Notable Individuals: *Kara Stinson
  • Mitch Mitchelson
  • Rita Farnsburger
Factions: N/A
Notable Events: N/A

All the security, safety, shelter, clean food and water you could ever want. And all you need to give up for it is every last scrap of your freedom.— Kara Stinson

Vault 54 is a Vault-Tec Vault located in eastern Michigan. Designed to test conditions for a hypothetical generation-ship voyage, the Vault’s experiment is still ongoing. Due to the nature of its experiment, one that involves a carefully managed and planned population, Vault 54 remains closed and isolated from the rest of the world.


Construction of Vault 54 was completed on-schedule in Fall 2075. Vault-Tec recruited the inhabitants from nearby communities, being sure to select young, healthy individuals with minimal family histories of chronic disease or other conditions. Where possible, they selected those that were unmarried and did not have children, although this was not allways possible. In the end, a thousand individuals, five hundred male and five hundred female, were selected for the experiment.

Unlike some other Vaults, the entire population of 54 arrived as expected on October 23, 2077. Security Staff deliberately separated spouses, children and other dependents, obstinately for ‘quarantine reasons’. In truth, they were sealed outside the Vault and left to their fate. The intended population were taken into the Vault, and inducted into its experiment.

Once safely inside, the inhabitants were given some time to come with what had happened to the world, including aid from a staff of professional councillors who had been retained to help them transition into their new lives. Those who had been separated from family were taken aside and quietly informed that due to the crisis situation their families in ‘quarantine’ had been unfortunately separated into a ‘separate sub-vault’ that had been in turn destroyed due to damage caused by the attack. While they were distraught at the news, the Vault-Tec staff used the double shock of this event and the Great War to help bring the remaining population under control.

The population were given time to acclimatise to their new lives and situations, and given six months to start rebuilding and preparing for the future. The Overseer had made it clear that the vault would remain sealed for the minimum of 180 days, whereupon they would (hopefully) receive an all-clear signal. Of course, not only would the signal never come, but as per the experiment’s outlines, the Vault was to remain permanently sealed.

At the 180 day deadline, the Overseer reported the grave news that there had been no all-clear. Furthermore, he reported that the Vault’s sensors had reported massive devastation to the outside world, leaving it highly radioactive and hostile to human life. Not only would it be impossible for anyone to leave, but they had to confront the very real possibility that human life on the surface was extinct. As per his instructions, the Overseer then moved on to the active stage of the experiment.

Using the rationale that what they would be doing was for the survival of the human race, he ordered the Vault’s entire population (both Vault Dwellers and staff) paired up with orders to reproduce. The pairings had been determined ahead of time by Vault-Tec’s planners, and were based on the ideas of maximising genetic diversity an the long-term viability of the Vault’s population.

While there was no small degree of protest (especially among the female population), eventually all of the population agreed to the program. Even then, the Vault-Tec staff had to employ some degree of persuasion in some cases to win over their charges. Regardless, the program moved forward, and within two years, all but two of the population had reproduced with their selected partner. The two problems came from Eloise Ochmonik, who suffered a miscarriage that left her infertile, and Greg Buckmaller, who had been forcibly separated from his husband and refused to have any form of sexual relations with a woman (In retrospect, his case showed that there had been flaws in the process). In both cases, the “spares” were paired off and able to reproduce. The children of this first generation were screened to confirm their parentages, that they were healthy and to chose their ideal partners for the next generation.

Being raised inside the Vault, the children were indoctrinated from birth into the experiment and their ‘duty’ to be paired off and have children to ensure the continued survival of the human race. Vault-Tec’s planning ensured that they had no option but to mate with their selected partners, regardless of their own desires or preferences. And while the experiment did largely function, it was not without its failures. Most of those came in the form of people who held off reproducing with their designated partners for whatever reason. In most of those cases, the threat of withholding rations and other services were enough to bring recalcitrant individuals back into line.

However, this was not allways the case. The first big obstacle to the experiment came In 2143 when a selected partnership proved to be untenable, with politics entering into the mix. Stephanie Milton had been paired up with Lee Hotchkins, the son of the then Overseer, Geoff Hotchkins. Both of them were third generation inhabitants of the vault, and both had been raised with the expectation that they would reproduce together. However, Milton had no desire to do such; she pointed out that Lee, by that point still only 21, was an overweight alcoholic slob who had gotten by in life largely due to his father’s position. This not only threatened the experiment, but also angered Overseer Hotchkins, who felt humiliated by her rejection of his son as well as seeing it as undermining his authority.

After Milton refused all offers and threats, he upped the ant with the unprecedented threat of expulsion. This shocked he Vault’s population to the core; after all, they had been fed nearly fifty years of reports saying that the surface was uninhabitable. Sending somebody out would be a death sentence. Confronted with this choice, Milton simply stated that she would rather be ‘roasted alive with radiation then lie with that bloated, reeking pig you call a son’ to the Overseer’s face. His response was to order her exiled on the spot, even over the protests of the Vault’s scientists and doctors. And so, on July 17th 2143, Vault 54’s Door opened for the first time in nearly seventy years, with a lone figure emerging before it closed behind them again. Stephanie Milton would never be seen or heard of again by anyone inside the Vault, and her name was forbidden to be spoken.

This incident created a dangerous precedent for the Vault. While Hotchkins expected that it would reinforce his authority, it instead served to undermine it. There was a sudden rash of individuals refusing to take part in the experiment, and all continuing their defiance up to and including being exiled. Within three months, he had removed six people, both men and women, from the vault’s population, none of which had reproduced before their exile.

The scientists running the experiment were aghast at this abuse of power and not only because it was undermining the experiment by reducing their viable breeding population. It also meant that the Overseer was effectively over-riding their decisions and removing control of the experiment from them. The vault’s scientists met with Hotchkins and begged for him to reconsider his actions. He refused, stating that this was the only way to maintain the experiment, regardless of the evidence they presented to prove that he was actually undermining it. The very next, day, Hotchkins died of an unexpected heart attack. He was replaced as Overseer by Doug Grant, who proved to be far more amenable to the scientists’ requests. Grant repealed the exile laws, and instead put in place measures to step up the pressure on the families of recalcitrants to force conformity.

The issue of exile would remain dormant until 2209, when Vault 54’s scientific community was rocked by scandal. Doctor Jeremiah Wheel, the chief scientist in charge of the experiment, was revealed to be taking bribes in exchange for ‘throwing’ the pairing methodologies. The result was that rather then having their children matched up with an ideal genetic partner, parents had been paying him to allow them to select a mate and then pass it off as legitimate. Confronted with what was seen as a monstrous breach of experiment protocol, Overseer Amanda Flowers decided that Wheel no longer deserved the protection that the Vault offered. As such, he became the first person in over sixty years to leave the Vault, while his name was struck from the official records.

Repairing the damage done by Wheel took years, especially given that it meant re-arranging a number of pairings to the actual genetic matches rather then those he had arranged. This scandal rocked the Vault’s population, with several families refusing to follow the ‘official’ guides. While the issue of exile was raised, Overseer Flowers ruled that such would only be used in extreme cases where an individual was acting in such a manner as to be a threat to the experiment as a whole. Those who refused to submit to the experiment otherwise would have rations and privileges removed, be confined to their quarters and in essence isolated from the rest of the population until such time that they recanted their position.

The first such case came in 2212 when Alf Hotchkins attempted to sterilise himself by exposing himself to the Vault’s reactor. This act was ruled to be not only dangerous to the experiment, but also to the Vault as a whole, and Hotchkis was exiled. The punishment would be used only sparingly for the rest of Flower’s reign as overseer, and again only in such extreme cases where an individual was proving to be a hazard that could not be reintegrated into normal Vault society.

Instead, it was a different issue that dominated the last years of Overseer Flowers’ rule. Having remained more or less stable for several generations, beginning in 2229, the Vault experienced several years of negative net population growth. While reproductive quotas were raised as an interim measure, the scientists worked to find the root source of the problem. The Vault would not experience a year of positive population growth until 2235, two years after Overseer Flowers’ retirement.

This problem would be ongoing for the next half-century, as Vault 54’s population continued to slowly decline. While the population loss was not constant, the birthrate continued to trend downwards. 2255 marked the last year that the Vault had a positive population growth, with every year after that being either even or negative. This problem only became worse when Mitch Mitchelson became the new Overseer in 2264. The best pick of a weak crop of potential candidates, Mtchelson quickly became concerned that the experiment would collapse under his rule, and he would be the remembered as the man who bought Vault 54 to ruin. Desperate to turn things around, Overseer Mitchelson became ever-increasingly heavy handed in his use of punishments to keep the population in line and force them to continue the experiment. Amongst other things was his raising the spectre of exile as a threat far earlier then was usually experiment in order to scare individuals into compliance.

The biggest challenge to his rule came in 2280 when Kara Stinson refused to take part in the experiment, citing that they had no desire to reproduce with their chosen partner. This infuriated Mitchelson not only because of their refusal to conform and recant their stance, but because of the challenge to his authority that they represented. Running the risk of losing face with the community as a whole, Mitchelson chose to accelerate the process and bypass the usual stages of isolating the problem individual. Instead, he had Stinson exiled, hoping to use the consequences of her actions to scare the rest of the vault into line.

This worked, but only to a degree. While the population as a whole became more accepting and compliant, the birthrate continued to drop. By the start of 2288, Vault 54 had recorded over a decade of consecutive population loss, with no indications that trend would change.


Vault 54 is of a relatively conventional construction. Due to the long-term nature of its experiment and the requirement to have a reasonably sized genetic pool, the Vault was designed to hold two thousand people. The Vault was equipped with the late-model, side-opening Vault Door of the same type used in the Commonwealth’s Vaults (eg Vault 111). The Vault was equipped with a standard Vault-Tec reactor to supply power and water needs. Otherwise, save for the deliberately limited medical facilities (see details on the Experiment below) Vault 54’s construction was unremarkable and more akin to the “Control” Vaults such as Vault 8.

Despite being in continuous operation for 210 years, Vault 54 is in good operational condition. It has not suffered any major system failures or the like, and is well-maintained by the existing population. Due to the nature of the experiment, the Vault was equipped with the capacity to manufacture replacement parts for its systems. Save for a catastrophic failure of a key system (eg the Reactor), Vault 54 is expected to remain operational for decades to come.

As is the norm for a Vault, the security staff are equipped with 10mm Pistols and batons for controlling pests and unruly vault dwellers. The Vault’s armour has a stock of R91 Assault Rifles and other heavy weapons for emergencies, but they have never had reason to use them.


Vault 54 was intended to test conditions for a hypothetical generation ship voyage, specifically the perpetuation of a precisely managed population. In order to ensure the viability of the experiment, a number of conditions were placed upon both the population and the Vault’s facilities.

At birth, every Vault Dweller is matched up with a mate, based on genetic profiling. This profiling ensures a healthy population, and is specifically done to avoid inbreeding or genetic defects. When they come of age, every couple is given a strict procreation quota based on their genetic profile, the Vault’s current population, projected needs and so on. The couple has to meet their expected quota of children; no more or less. Couples that meet quotas are rewarded with access to better facilities, jobs, food and so on. Those that fail to meet or exceed the target are similarly penalised. The sole exception is in the case of unexpected multiple births. In such cases, the couple’s quota will be adjusted accordingly.

In addition to testing for genetic matches, all newborns are also tested to verify their parentage. Producing a child with an individual other then a designated mate is considered to be one of the most severe crimes that a Vault 54 dweller can commit, and the punishments for such can include exile. To further underpin the Vault’s experiment, 54 was not equipped with any form of birth control technology. Similarly, it has no capacity for artificial insemination. Effectively, this limits intercourse to be between official couples solely for the sake of procreation.

In the advent that a Vault Dweller is unable to fulfil their duty (due to death, injury, illness or other misadventure) their mate will be paired with a “backup” partner. Those who refuse to take part in the experiment for whatever reason are exiled, and again their partner will be paired with a backup. Such occurred when Kara Stinson refused to mate with Dylan Wheeler, her designated partner. Stinson was exiled and her partner was reassigned to another individual.


Vault 54 Suit

Vault 54 currently has a population of 1807 dwellers, which is below it’s expected capacity. This has actually become something of an issue, as the population has been falling for the last ten years, and all efforts to reverse the trend have failed, primarily do to ever-decreasing birth rates. This factor, more then any equipment failure, may yet be the end for the Vault. As with many other vaults (such as 101), dwellers undergo GOAT tests in order to ensure that they are assigned to the roles where they will be the most useful to the Vault’s continued operation.

The population is supported by a team of a dozen Mister Handy robots. Installed when the Vault was first set up, the robots have been operating continuously since, save for when they are down for maintenance.

Notable Personnel

Mitch Mitchelson

The current overseer of Vault 54, Mitch Mitchelson has held the position for over twenty years now. An angry, resentful man, he never liked his designated partner, Delores Newmann, and tries his best to spend as little time with her as possible. Mitchelson is acutely aware of the Vault’s decline over the last two decades, and is worried that he’ll be remembered as the overseer who was responsible for it’s failure. Mitchelson has two adult sons, both of whom have never managed to rise beyond junior positions in the Vault’s support staff.

Rita Farnsbuger

The chief geneticist of Vault 54, Rita Farnsburger oversees the continued operation of the Vault Experiment. Her chief task is in the selection of mates for each newborn child, ensuring that each couple will produce healthy, viable offspring while avoiding inbreeding and other genetic defects. Her long-term goal is to find a way to halt the decline of the Vault’s population, a problem she has begun to suspect comes down to the number of bloodlines that have completely died out in the last two centuries.

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