| 08:26:08 19 August 2009
On forum: 07/30/2007
(Sorry for the delay, everyone.)
Wolf hated surprises.
To be fair, he hated a lot of things – bureaucrats, inquisitive neighbors, domestic cats, warm cola and nerds speaking Klingon all drew his ire reliably – but most of them simply ceased to matter once he was in the Zone. Not so for surprises, however. It had been shaping up to be a really nice day, a quiet day when he could sit by the fire with the rookies and enjoy a drink in peace... until they came over the hill and wandered into the derelict village that was his home away from home.
He was used to watching prospective stalkers take their first steps – his fellow loners hadn't established this camp in the southern Cordon just because they liked the scenery, after all. This was where the perimeter obstacles were thinnest, where men with nothing to loose crawled under barbed wire fences and through minefields. The lucky ones usually appeared at night or in the early morning, stumbling over the crest to the south with clothes and hopeful faces covered in grime, to be welcomed into the brotherhood.
Today it was different. The sun was well up, and the two newcomers' only resemblance to the average rookie was the dirt on their garments. The first was an old woman, sixty-five or more, with silvery hair tied up in a bun and a face which reflected the trials and troubles of a long life. Her smudged trousers and windbreaker didn't fit very well. The second was a younger woman – Wolf placed her in the upper-twenties demographic – with denim coveralls and a polymer hard hat thickly painted over in olive drab. She carried a large backpack, an entrenching tool and a surplus military metal detector.
The sight of the long probe brought to mind a passage from a story Wolf had read not long before his first entry into the Zone. They went around the mound of gray rags, it ran. There was nothing left of Whip. Some distance away in the dry grass lay a long, completely rusted stick – a minesweeper. The stalker had to give the young woman credit: she looked better prepared than most of her predecessors. The old one, though... The only senior citizens who'd want to come out here were the self-settlers, and most of them had already been claimed by the 2006 disaster. The Zone of today wasn't a place where that sort could survive.
Realizing that the two were making steady progress in his own direction, Wolf was suddenly stricken by an absurd desire to tidy up the camp, or at least hide away all the empty soda cans which had accumulated next to his favorite spot.
The one in the coveralls hailed him. “Hey, fella, which way to Sidorovich?”
She doesn't waste time. “Over there,” the loner said aloud, pointing down the row of crumbling houses. “In the bunker by the grave markers.”
“Thanks.” The pair changed course, leaving Wolf to contemplate the cluster of rookies around the fire with a little wariness. They'd witnessed everything, of course, and the new arrivals stirred their interest like an unclaimed Night Star. Could he trust the boys to behave themselves? While the novice stalkers murmured amongst themselves, the one veteran in the camp quickly dumped his empty cans into a discarded milk crate, laid a couple of planks across it and sat down to observe them.
“Wolf.” It was Sidorovich, his rough voice coming from the radio on the stalker's belt. “Got something for you.”
Wolf sighed. “I'm not looking for work right now.”
“This one's easy – just escort a couple of pretty women up to Otter's camp across the rail line. You like pretty women, don't you?”
Trust the fat old weasel to pull that one. “I'm married,” Wolf growled. “What's it worth?”
“That's more like it. Have fun.”
Wolf just shook his head. He was a pushover, wasn't he? He'd been trying to quit, trying to pack up and go home for months now, and he just couldn't. How many times had he resolved to sever his ties with the Zone only to put it off just a little longer because of one more good job, rare artifact or newbie in need? The habit was as bad as a damned substance addiction, the more so ever since Hound gave up stalking after the faction wars... Where was his little brother now, anyway? Holding an honest job?
He put these morose thoughts aside as the women reappeared. The young one was carrying an Imperial Russian Winchester which Wolf recognized immediately, not that there were any other lever-action rifles in the Zone to confuse it with. The hose clamp holding the forward end of the stock in place was unforgettable, ditto the crack in the butt patched with duct tape and the four neat little rows of brass tacks along the bottom of the same. Rising, the loner collected his shorty AK and waved. “Ready to go?”
“Yes, please.” The old woman smiled at Wolf, suddenly looking very much like his late mother in her last years. “Please forgive us for burdening you.”
“It's okay,” the loner answered gruffly. “Before we leave, I have to fill you in on the hazards around – ”
“No need,” the second woman cut in. “I talked to some of your retired comrades on the outside. We know about the anomalies and mutants.” She emphasized the point by digging a fistful of nuts and bolts out of her pocket.
Wolf shrugged. “If you say so.” He turned away, motioning for the pair to follow, and led them out of the village. “I see that Sidorovich gave you Mantis' shooter,” he observed once they were in the clear, relieved that the weapon's new owner looked like she knew how to handle it. “How much did he charge?”
“Most of what I brought,” the coveralls woman replied ambiguously. “Who's Mantis?”
“A neutral like me, except that he got held up by the bandits one time too many – it wasn't that he actually snapped, but he became totally single-minded about them... He'd learned ventriloquism somewhere in the Big Land, see, and what he'd do was, he'd set up fake campfires in narrow ravines or gutted buildings.” A blind mutant dog paused to sniff in the trio's direction, then loped away. “Then he'd hide close by, imitating stalkers' conversations until some sucker crook came over looking for an easy shakedown... He did it all through the winter and pretty much drove the lawless out of the Garbage for a while, until they got together and went after him in serious numbers.” Spotting the telltale shimmer of a graviconcentrate anomaly, the guide reached for his bolt bag. “I hear it cost the scum eight of their own, and he still made it back to the Duty checkpoint before bleeding out.”
“Sounds like quite a guy,” the Winchester-wielder remarked. “A Mantis, a Wolf and an Otter, interesting names... Oh, I'm – ”
“Don't say it.” Wolf interrupted his bolt-throwing to raise a hand. “Out here two kinds of people use their full monikers: fools and those who are so badass or so well-connected that knowing their real identity can't hurt them... No offense, but you don't look like you're quite there yet.”
“Well,” said the old woman with dignity, “I don't think I have much cause to worry... But if you insist, Oksana Stepanova will have to do.”
“Then I guess I'm just Olga,” the younger one added.
The loner nodded. “Works for me.” Three bolts' sacrifice showed him the way forward, and he moved on. “I take it you lived out here?”
“I did,” Oksana confirmed. “Many, many years... I wish I could see Pripyat one more time, but they tell me it's impossible.”
“Yeah... Unfortunately we still don't have a safe route that far north – everybody wants one, but nobody knows how to find one.” The railroad embankment rose steeply ahead, and in its face was the mouth of a dark tunnel. “This is the tricky part,” Wolf cautioned. “Stay close behind me.” The main challenge now was getting through without the soldiers at the wrecked bridge noticing: Kuznetsov wasn't on duty, which meant no bribes could clear the way. The tunnel, meanwhile, was often littered with anomalies, but anomalies didn't open fire from a distance...
They found Otter ensconced in the second floor of the house on the right side of the road, across from the gutted shells of a small farm which once hosted the neutral stalkers' main base. The man was much as Wolf remembered him, with his trademark whiskers growing strong as ever and his collection of notebooks undiminished. Otter was the sort who could go a long way without ever offending anyone: he'd been in the Zone almost since it began and knew it better than many scientists.
Leaning against the outside wall, Wolf briefly listened to the muffled voices of Oksana and the other loner conversing. The former had asked to stop for a short rest before going on, and was using the time to inquire about various places she once frequented. How did it feel, Wolf wondered, to have memories of life in this poisoned land before everything changed?
“Hey.” Olga appeared from the hole in the wall, cradling the Winchester with confident ease. “Thanks again for getting us this far.”
“My pleasure,” Wolf grunted. After a few moments of quiet, he posed a question. “Where are you trying to go, anyway?”
“Rostok,” the other replied. “After that, I'm not sure.”
“Your mother's got guts.”
“My mother? ...Oh.” Olga laughed a little, wisps of blond hair falling down over eyes the color of open sky. “Oksana and I aren't related.”
“Sorry.” Wolf fixed his eyes on the abandoned farm. “I gotta ask, how does she expect to survive?”
“She doesn't,” the woman said quietly. “She came back here to die, not to live... She looks good for her age, I know, but that's just on the outside.”
“I see.” The loner's voice was uncharacteristically solemn. “Then you're... helping fulfill a last wish?”
“That's right.” Olga took out a cigarette, turned it over in her fingers and then, thinking better of it, put the white rod away. “We met by accident, looking for the same path.”
“What about yourself?”
“It's almost unheard of for a woman to take up stalking,” Wolf pointed out. “What drove you to it?”
There was a bitter chuckle. “Tymoshenko can say what she likes, but the Ukrainian economy won't be booming any time soon.”
“That's what brought me here,” Wolf agreed. “My Nadezhda, now... We've had our share of fights, but I still send home what I can. It's the right thing, isn't it?”
“I guess.” Olga sounded noncommittal. “Actually, I've wanted to see the Zone for a long time... I used to date a guy who worked out here, would you believe?”
The loner raised an eyebrow. “Really?”
“He didn't talk about it much, and six years ago...” Olga looked at the ground before her. “It hit him hard – must have been all the coworkers he lost. Got to the point where I had to just end it while we could still face each other... After that, he disappeared.” She raised her head. “I'm rambling, sorry.”
“It's fine.” Wolf had heard worse. “Hey, if you're looking for someone to learn the trade from, there's a fellow named Bes in the Garbage who's sort of a mentor to the rookies up there. Tell him I sent you and he'll set you up.”
“Thanks for the tip.” Hearing the creak of the wooden ladder inside, Olga stuck her head through the gap in the bricks. “All set?”
“Yes, yes,” Oksana answered. “We'll take our leave of you, Mister Wolf. Thank you so much.”
By this stage the loner had gotten more thanks in a day than he had in the last week. “Take care,” he called, setting off before any more surprises could ambush him. “See you 'round, Otter.”
There were new faces at the campfire when Wolf walked back into the village: his old friend Fanatic, a man in a long, hooded coat and Clumsy. That last set Wolf's teeth on edge: at twenty, Clumsy was one of the youngest and least useful stalkers – a rookie who tagged along with the more experienced men, indebted to many of them and living on handouts and sympathy. Wolf himself had felt sorry for the homeless orphan once, but his patience was long ago dashed to pieces against Clumsy's thick skull. “Welcome back,” he said to Fanatic, noticing that the nuisance novice was sitting funny. “How did it go?”
“The kid fucked up big time.” Fanatic jerked his head in Clumsy's direction and took a pull from his Cossacks bottle. “Twisted his ankle running away from some bandits. Tiger here carried him halfway back with them chasing us.” He grimaced. “Now the swine are moving into the Darkscape in larger numbers... Borov's up to something again.”
“I'm not surprised,” Wolf said wearily. “Did you make it to the crash site?”
“Yes.” Tiger spoke for the first time, keeping his eyes on the half-eaten sausage and loaf of bread in his hands. “There was little of worth in the helicopter. The bandits stripped it.”
Wolf tried to keep his mind off how much the quiet stalker creeped him out. “No goodies for Sidorovich, huh?”
“Not today,” Fanatic confirmed. “But we hear you had an interesting assignment.”
“Women,” Clumsy chimed in, interest overcoming his humiliated silence. “Two women... Were they pretty?”
“Tch.” Wolf rolled his eyes. “One was old enough to be your grandmother. The other was a tomboy sapper.”
“Did she have nice boobs?”
“You think she was walking around in a friggin' bikini?” Wolf's lip curled. “Give up. You've never scored with a woman in your life and you wouldn't score with this one.”
“Yeah, well...” Clumsy momentarily held back the obvious retort, it being inapplicable to Wolf, and then flung it at Tiger instead. “I bet he hasn't either!”
“Ooh.” Tolik, who had thus far been content to nurse his soda and watch the conversation unfold, squinted at his fellow rookie. “That was low, dude.”
“It's probably true, though,” the offender proclaimed before Wolf or Fanatic could punch him. “Isn't it?”
Tiger took a bite of sausage and chewed it thoroughly before speaking: “No... There was – ”
“Attention, everyone!” The infuriated voice of the commander at the military checkpoint down the road washed over the loner camp, broadcast far and wide by the outpost's loudspeaker. “One of you sons of whores thought it would be funny to put out a cigarette in my drink. When I find you, I'm gonna rip your head off!”
“There was one,” Tiger finished softly. “A long time ago.”
| 09:51:48 1 September 2009
On forum: 07/30/2007
Riddle of the Middle|
The better part of two weeks passed as Tiger went on with his roving existence. He worked closer to the perimeter, away from the Monolith and the mercenaries and all the other disruptions to his routine. He wanted time to think, time to reflect on his bizarre experiences. Unfortunately, all his thinking thus far had given nothing in return. Now the loner was walking through the Garbage on his way to the Hundred Rads after a marginally productive morning of anomaly fishing, a couple of Stone Flowers and a Sasha's Nose bouncing around in the thick pouch under his coat. He'd almost gotten a Crunch as well – worth a full two figures more than the rest of his haul combined – but the notoriously fragile artifact violently imploded as he tried to reel it in.
Only a few prismatic shards remained, pretty to look at but neither useful nor salable, and Tiger had decided to sail for a safe harbor after losing the big catch. A few minutes' walk brought him close to the old flea market, an abandoned construction site where a band of loners had set up a minimal base in the heyday of the previous year's faction struggles. One of the autumn's most violent blowouts put an end to the market, smashing the half-finished building and sowing a cluster of anomalies in its shell: there wasn't much left standing now save for one and a half of the outer walls.
Sensing a single blob of vital energy amidst the wreckage, Tiger altered course. It wasn't unknown for rookie stalkers to look for Jellyfish in the anomalies there, and the uneven heaps of rubble made for treacherous climbing. Striding closer, he heard neither the beeping of a detector nor the tink-tink of bolts on concrete. Circling to the right, the stalker approached from the south. It wasn't until he was quite close that he was able to spot the other: a man in a balaclava and a long coat like Tiger's own, clutching his right calf with blood-covered hands. A sawed-off shotgun was propped against a cracked slab nearby.
The wounded one looked up before Tiger could retreat, the visible parts of his face showing alarm and then relief. “Hey,” he called hoarsely, “help a brother out, will ya?”
“Brother?” Tiger drew his Browning and flicked the safety off. “It's always been 'cocksucker' or 'retard' before – now you get yourself hurt and suddenly it's 'brother'?”
The bandit flinched. “Shit,” he breathed. “Hey dude, I don't want no trouble, okay? I ain't been roughin' up no loners here, honest...”
The stalker looked unconvinced. “Then what were you doing?”
“I... Last night I thought I'd go see what those Duty fags do at their little... fort on the road, ya know? Fuckers saw me in the dark somehow, an' I almost got wasted...”
Evidently it hadn't occurred to him that most Duty stalkers carried night vision goggles. “So you limped away and hid here.”
“Yeah.” The bandit took a look at his leg and swore under his breath. “Got no bandages, no medkit, nothin'.”
Tiger pulled out the rolled-up field dressing he kept tucked into his vest. “How's this?”
The other's expression of desperate hope reminded the loner of a heroin addict he'd once seen in a clinic in Chernihiv. “Whaddaya want for it?”
Tiger would never call himself a sadist of any degree, but years of resentment demanded that he make the criminal casualty squirm a little. “What's it worth to you?”
The bandit looked crestfallen. “I ain't got much money...”
“Neither do I,” Tiger replied evenly. “Nearly everything I earn is spent keeping the likes of you off my back.”
“Man, please..!” The wounded one appeared close to tears. “I don't wanna die here...”
“Fine.” The bullying facade sickening even himself, Tiger discarded it and, putting away the Hi-Power, moved forward. “Let me see your leg.”
“Yer gonna... help me?”
“Make it worth the time.” Crouching, the neutral stalker tucked the dressing into the crook of his elbow and took out a jackknife and the flask of high-proof vodka he carried for the dual purposes of disinfecting tools and starting fires. “Can you tell me something interesting?”
“Interestin'?” The bandit shuddered as Tiger flicked out the knife's blade, clamped the handle between his teeth and unscrewed the cap of the flask. “What's interestin' to ya?”
“Nnn...” Removing the knife from his mouth, the loner splashed a little vodka over the blade. “Has anything unusual happened in the Dark Valley recently?”
“Unusual...” The patient turned his face away as Tiger began cutting through his blood-encrusted pants. “Sure, somethin' funny happened aroun' five days ago – the boys caught a stalker tryin' to get into that empty factory, the one with the smokestack.”
“I know the place,” Tiger remarked. “Go on.”
“Ya know there's a big door under there? Locked, an' too thick to cut through?”
“I remember it.” Now that he saw it clearly, the loner realized the wound wasn't nearly as bad as its victim seemed to think. Was this career crook a hypochondriac on top of the rest? “Freedom never got it open either – they were afraid resorting to explosives would make the whole place collapse.”
“Yeah,” the bandit agreed, encouraged by his grudging savior's response. “But this stalker had a key to the door, a little electronic thing... Actually he had two keys, an' he left one with that Barkeep fatso to cover for some debt. Didn't figure out the door needed both of 'em, I guess.”
“Borov took the second key from him, I assume.” Tiger balanced the knife on his knee and began to unroll the dressing. “Where did the stalker get it?”
The other man shrugged a little. “Wouldn't say... Just kept goin' on an' on about the Scorcher an' the Monolith an' the dead guys with the funny tattoos on 'em, sayin' it was all tied together somehow... Borov didn't like that, so he hit the sucker a few times an' said to put 'im in the pit 'til he made sense.”
“And did he make sense?”
“Nah... He ran for it an' got clean away. Borov's still pissed about that.”
“I see.” Tiger cut off a short length of the dressing and poured more vodka on it. “This will sting.”
The bandit braced himself. “Okay... Ooooooooh! Nnnnnnnngggh!”
“That's done.” Unrolling the rest of the long strip, Tiger began to wind it around the bandit's leg. “So how is Borov these days?”
“Fat,” said the bandit shakily. “Even more than Yoga was.”
“Ironic.” Tiger kept winding. “I suppose one of you is going to do to him what he did to Yoga.”
“No way.” The casualty laughed humorlessly. “He's got Vasya Boar and Poker workin' for 'im now – Vasya's a mean bastard an' Poker's fuckin' crazy... Nothin' I can do anyway, since nobody takes me seriously.”
“Too bad.” The loner straightened. “It's finished.”
“Really?” Gingerly pushing himself up, the bandit unsteadily rose to his feet. “Yeah... Yeah, much better... I'm good now, I think – I just need a couple of minutes... Ya know, I've been here two years and nobody's ever helped me like this before.”
“Just don't forget it,” Tiger said pointedly.
“No worries... Hey,” the convalescent called as the neutral stalker began to walk away, “what's yer name?”
“I'm Friar,” said the bandit, “an' I'll remember this.”
The Hundred Rads was more or less empty when Tiger walked in: Barkeep and Garik were at their posts but no customers were in sight, owing to an especially exciting match over at Arnie's Arena. “Welcome back, son,” the former grunted, looking up from his mop and bucket. “What'll it be?”
“The usual,” Tiger replied, setting his artifact bag on the bartop. “There's something I'd like to know about.”
“Just a sec.” The burly proprietor slid his bucket into a corner, stuck the mop in it and opened the bag. “Hm... Not such good pickings today, eh?”
“Maybe,” said the loner. “I met Friar in the Garbage.”
“The veteran bandit, huh? Did you whack him?”
“No.” Tiger was well aware that Duty would pay handsomely for the head of someone like Friar, but he had no special love for the hardliner faction. “He got himself shot while spying on the road checkpoint, so I traded a bandage for a story.”
“That only encourages 'em,” Barkeep opined. “Well, how did he look up close?”
“Not like a veteran,” the neutral stalker remarked. “He complained that he isn't taken seriously – it wasn't hard to see why.”
“I hear he's got a thing for old comic books,” the barman mused. “Probably came out here looking for superpowers... Anyway, what about him?”
“Friar said the bandits caught a stalker trying to get into the sealed complex under the Dark Valley, using a key he got somewhere... He also said the door actually needs two keys, and that you've got the other.”
“Ah.” Barkeep nodded. “That would have been Worm.”
“Worm... A digger?”
“Used to be.” Barkeep went to the cupboard. “Keep talking.”
Tiger rested his elbows on the bar. “Apparently this 'Worm' was investigating the matter of the tattooed corpses and thought it had something to do with the Brain Scorcher... That's all I got, but I thought I should pass it on.”
“It's pretty much what I heard from Worm in person, but thanks.” The older man set a stack of neatly wrapped packages before his customer and put the artifacts into a large box on the floor. “I wonder what Worm is up to?”
Tiger raised an eyebrow as he took the packages. “He didn't say?”
“Not to me, he didn't.” Barkeep scratched his ear. “He used to come in here all the time, then he disappeared for a spell... Last week he was back, wanting to know about stalkers trying to reach the center of the Zone. He lost a big bet on a checkers match, gave me the key as collateral and took off for the Valley... Two days ago he was back with scrapes and bruises all over him, asking about the one called Ghost. I told him I'd heard Ghost is working in Yantar, and he left the next morning.”
“And he never revealed where he got the keys or anything else he's discovered,” Tiger summarized.
“That's about it.” Barkeep cocked his head. “You seem awfully interested in this.”
“Some... odd things have happened recently,” the loner replied guardedly. “Worm might know about it.”
“If he does, he's being damn tightfisted with his info.” Barkeep shrugged. “I've no idea when he'll come back, either.”
“Then I'll go after him,” Tiger said quietly. “Besides, I've gathered a few trinkets for Sakharov.”
“Up to you,” Barkeep grunted, reaching for the mop. “Just don't cause trouble, hey?”
A squealing, snarling pack of Rodents – the name was applied loosely to these lanky jerboa-like animals – swarmed around the foundation struts of the elevated pipeline. Tiger walked along the top of the rusted tube undeterred, holding his Mosin like a tightrope walker's pole. When it came to getting around the Wild Territory, the best way was the high way. It left one exposed to opportunistic shooters, of course, but few mutants had either the brains or the traction to hunt stalkers on the rooftops. Following the pipe's curve to the left, the loner left it behind and climbed onto the low roof of a onetime pumping shed. The sprawling maze of dead steel and concrete would be a good place to look for another Crunch if Tiger were feeling adventurous, but he wasn't. He wanted to be somewhere else right now, and this deserted factory complex simply happened to be in the way.
Tiger knew quite well that his search for Worm could easily turn out to be a total dead end, but what else did he have? Questions without answers, and maybe a tenuous lead or two. If this didn't pay off, he was back where he started. He wasn't sure what he was actually looking for, yet even now he was absolutely certain that it, whatever it turned out to be, was important. He hadn't been so fired up in a long, long time – the feelings of excitement and anticipation were strangely welcome.
His path took him across the roofs, around the mouth of a debris-choked underground garage and under the empty skeleton of an incomplete building with a no less skeletal crane tower still standing beside it. Turning left and then right put him on the road to Yantar, a winding route which emerged from the far side of a wide underpass choked with Burner anomalies. These hazards were relatively trivial, being stationary and easily visible to the patient eye, but Tiger elected to deploy his Veles detector: he could sense the presence of an artifact, and the sophisticated device outdid him in precision. Following the little green dot as it bobbed around on the hemispheric display, he quickly tracked down his prize, waited for it to pass by and in a flash kicked it out of the spatial warp within which it was hidden. It was a Crystal – a radiation-absorbing object the size of a spread hand, with hard-faced florescent rods extending from a twisted chunk of metal substrate. Just the sort of thing Sakharov would like, Tiger knew, and so into the bag it went.
The happiness of making this find lasted barely a minute, however: emerging from the underpass, the loner saw a figure staggering in circles just down the road. It was a zombified stalker, an unfortunate soul who'd no doubt wandered here from Yantar after suffering terrible brain damage in the powerful fields of psionic energy which hung over the deserted complex overlooking the dried-up lake. In Tiger's perhaps jaded opinion, the matters of the psi-fields' nature and origin were lesser mysteries than the way a seemingly infinite stream of stalkers came to that gloomy place to try their luck at penetrating the depths of the forbidden ruins. They all ended up the same: mindless shells in the dirty uniforms of almost any rank and faction, shambling aimlessly until they died of exposure somewhere.
If Tiger were to approach this one, he would be able to make out the bloodshot eyes and hear the incoherent mumbling of meaningless snatches from the man's former existence. He would also find out whether the old-model M16 in the zombie's hand still functioned, a risk he neither needed nor wanted to take. There was only one thing to do, an act both practical and decent. Dropping to one knee, the loner slipped the Mosin's sling off his shoulder, pulled the round knob of the rifle's cocking piece back and twisted it into the firing position. A single shot rang out, rolling up and down the ravine through which the road passed, and the zombie crumpled. Tiger waited a minute to see if a second was called for, then moved on.
There would be plenty more where he was going.
| 08:44:20 2 September 2009
On forum: 02/20/2008
I enjoyed. You've got skill.|
Keep it up.
I am NOT an eskimo, but I will destroy you with my army of Canadians.
I never imagined that I'd take the six-thousandth post of anything ever! That is pretty cool.
"The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity; and it was not meant that we should voyage far."
"In his house at R'lyeh dead Cthulhu waits dreaming."