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New Horizons: End of Exploration

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  20:37:02  17 December 2012
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Senior Resident

On forum: 10/21/2010
Messages: 306
New Horizons: End of Exploration

Hi there, as many will know I wrote a story called Bladewraith & Wingnut which I started almost 2 years ago. This was very much a write as I go kinda deal, and by the end I couldn't finish it; too many spelling and grammar errors mixed with continuity errors and a lot of other bits missing.

So for the last month or so I’ve been rewriting it chapter by chapter, albeit slowly. I’ve managed to do the first few chapters so I’m posting them now, but I’ll leave a few days in between just in case I slow down. I hope anyone who didn't read the original draft enjoys it, and I hope those who did, will like the additions I’ve made.

PS: As always, I appreciate comments and advice, both negative and positive.
  20:38:44  17 December 2012
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Senior Resident

On forum: 10/21/2010

Message edited by:
12/18/2012 18:02:37
Messages: 306
Chapter 01: Life as a Stalker

Three Weeks had passed since the route through the Brain Scorcher had been opened, Stalkers from all factions journeyed towards the centre, the supposed treasure trove, many found only anomalies larger and more powerful than any they’d seen before; others found Monolith bases filled with fanatical vengeance. Many found only death. In those weeks a few stalkers began fortifying locations. Many sprang up all over the centre, overtime they grew in strength or fell. The centre threw up new challenges for all those willing to venture there. Pripyat remained a dead city, under Monolith Control and the only access to the true centre of the Zone, the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant.

Upriver from the CNPP, past the ruins of Pripyat, lay the old shipping port of Zaton, built to supply the now dead city with goods before the fall, its basin long since shallowed to marshes, swamps and ponds for reasons unknown to man or beast. The Zone’s climate, independent to the rest of the world, had changed considerably since the second explosion at the CNPP, almost tropical storm strength rain and wind coursed through the zone before dissipating somewhere beyond the cordon. The river that fed into the Zaton basin continued to flow softly, seemingly unaffected by the over abundance of rainwater that drained into it.

As the Sun slowed its ascent in the sky towards its peak, a gentle mist sat across the floor of the basin, not yet burnt off by the morning heat, the wind was still, and silence was broken only by the distant rumble of gunfire, the natural backing track to the song of the Zone. The rusted hulk of an old container ship, its spine broken, lay strewn across the marsh bed, the petruding characters of the barely visible name: Skadovsk. Anyone that didn’t pay the proper attention to signs of life and use would think the entire area was abandoned, however no Stalker visited this far into the centre without paying the proper attention, seeing the muddy footprints leading to the ship, smelling the faint aroma of cooked food, and listening to almost inaudible sounds that escaped from small unnoticed cracks in the seemingly derelict ship.

“Should be ok now” explained Cardan as the final bolt was tightened into place, Bladewraith relaxed his grip on the heavy metal worktop he’d been holding. The new supports that Cardan had installed to keep it flat held it securely in place.
“Looks good...” He remarked to Cardan as he lit a cigarette he’d rolled earlier that day, covering the flame of his battered old Zippo lighter with his hand, shielding it from the wind that didn’t blow.
“Yeah, if only all your work looked as good” responded Barge, who was leaning on the doorframe of the entrance to the workshop just behind joker, both of Cardan’s friends making no effort to help.
“Shut up you prick… I break one gun… ONE! And you won’t let me live it down” replied an exasperated Cardan, as he banged his fists down on the newly erected bench. A brief silenced echoed loudly through the room, before sniggers broke through everyone’s lips except Cardan’s.
“So, how long until this place is finished?” Bladewraith slowly puffed away on his cigarette.
“Hopefully, apart from a few things to tidy up, that’s everything done…” he replied, he was about to continue before he was cut off by Barge
“What you on about, this place is already better than that farmhouse in the valley!”
“True, but the problem is the lack of tools, I managed to grab my spanners and a few other things before the roof caved in and buried everything else.”
“Yeah… great the brain scorchers down, oh wait there’s a huge emission, oh crap, why’s the roof shaking? Good times!” interjected Joker
“Besides we’ve got a trader coming, he’s a cagey bastard too, asked if I’d help him build his store room.”
“So long as he pays” added Barge, which got an agreeing nod from both Cardan and Joker
“Fair enough… If I see anything lying around, I’ll give you a shout.”
“Cheers Bud”
“Yeah, if you find a brain as well…” Joker left it at that… the disgruntled look obvious across Cardan’s Face
“So you’ll be needing three then yeah?” Bladewraith jabbed as he walked out and left the bickering trio and went to find Tremor, who wasn’t in his room, ‘annoying’ Bladewraith thought, ‘Could do with some spare Antirads, ah well, never mind’ with that thought he turned and made his way downstairs leaving the sounds of “Do you think it’ll be strong enough” echoing behind him, he made his way to find Wingnut, who’d last been wiring electrics for Beard in the bar. As he walked into the forward hold, he raised an eyebrow; Wingnut was stood at the bar, digging into a plate of steaming food while chatting to beard, he should’ve known Wingnut would be slacking. As Bladewraith walked over to the bar, he glanced around the room, a few Stalkers sat on crates, or stood against the oxidising hull of the ship.

“You know Beard… this is fantastic…” Wingnut decreed with his mouth full of Boar Stew
“You boys got the PA system working, and help build up the bar, a hot meal is the least I can do”
“Bloody Typical” exclaimed Bladewraith walking up behind Wingnut and joining the conversation, in one movement Wingnut rapidly put his plate down, pushed it to one side and turned to face Bladewraith, attempting in vain for a few brief moments to act innocent, the look plastered across Bladewraith’s face told him that he’d failed; with a sheepish grin he turned back and resumed shovelling down the stew.
Beard passed Bladewraith a bowl then poured two ladles full of the stew in, and placed some fresh bread on the counter, which Bladewraith appreciatively picked up “For all the help the two of you have given me and Cardan in setting this place up. Spasiba.”
Bladewraith broke a chunk of bread off and scooped a chunk of meat fromthe bowl “Spasiba” he said before putting it in his mouth. A few minutes of silence engulfed the three men. Bladewraith and Wingnut ate with vigour, Wingnut hadn’t exaggerated earlier the stew really was delicious. The dulcet flavours akin to pork, yet much more gamey without losing the underlying delicate nature of such basic meat, a simple stew, common almost anywhere in the Zone with a fire, yet Beard’s culinary skills transformed it into far more than the staple hot meal of the Zone.

Having started long before Bladewraith and not taking quite so long to savour the taste, Wingnut finished the satisfying meal, and passed the plate back to Beard. He reached to his pack at his feet, a simple rugged canvas pack common among rookies, and retrieved his canteen, gently sipping the filtered water from its spout.
“Heard anything about the Stalkers that got cut off?” inquired Wingnut
“Nothing new… occasional radio signal gets through, but it always too mixed with static to know what is being said”
“It’s impressive they’ve managed to last this long!” added Bladewraith between mouthfuls
“Anyone still trying to get to them?” asked Wingnut
“Don’t think so, the last messages that made sense, spoke of Central Pripyat being lost to the monolith, the east was not much better, I heard a few talking about Yubileiny Service Centre as a refuge”
“But didn’t some of the reports say there were strong psi emissions in the east?” Bladewraith finished his sentence while wiping the final drips of flavour filled sauce, with the last piece of bread.
“Hell of choice… Fanatic’s bullets or psi waves that fry your brain and turn you into Zombie!”
Bladewraith pushed his plate forward to Beard “Spasiba” before retying his Shemagh around his neck
“You know, you English are not bad as I thought”
Wingnut was about to say thank you when Bladewraith cut him off “Don’t you ever, call me English, I’m British!” he explained angrily yet with a smile, pointing at beard as he spoke
“Ah, not English? That ok then, least your not American!” replied Beard with an equally broad smile, Wingnut kept quiet for once, not wanting to reveal himself as an Englishman proper. It never surprised him even with the end of the Cold War, that many people, on both sides still found it hard to trust each other; it rarely came out as racism, more a suspicion. As they gently laughed, the door between the Zone outside and the relative safety aboard the Skadovsk creaked open, and three Stalkers walked in, all dressed in Sunrise Suits
“Ah Gonta, how goes the hunt?” exclaimed Beard calling them over, Bladewraith and Wingnut had heard of career hunters, like Gonta, Danila and Trapper, but had never met this group.
“Not well, found some of the herd of Boar we were after,”
“That’s good” injected Wingnut
“Yeah, except it was scattered halfway across Zaton…” Gonta continued cautiously “we saw Chimera tracks in the area”
“And the leftovers of a boar it was finished with, it didn’t leave much” added Crab, the younger of the three Hunters
“Danila is tracking it now. He should be back soon with the location of its nest.” Explained Gonta
“Better hope he doesn’t run into trouble, Tremor’s out somewhere, don’t know when he’ll be back” advised Bladewraith
“He’ll be ok, he’s cautious, but when it comes time to go after it, we’ll need all four of us, just to be sure.”
“But I’ve never hunted Chimeras before!” objected Crab
“You’ll be fine, just follow us, learn by doing” instructed the third member Garmata, as one of the Stalkers that had been sat in the Bar walked over, a smug look on his face.
“I have hunted Chimeras before; if you need assistance, just ask” the stalkers voice was slightly high, but very arrogant and self obsessed.
“And you are?” asked Gonta
“Names Magpie, you may have heard of me?”
“Nope” replied Bladewraith
“If we need help, we’ll let you know.” Offered Gonta, knowing that the more guns the better when hunting Chimeras, with that Magpie turned and walked over to where he had been sitting before; “Anyway, we best get some rest before tonight” the two groups parted company. Bladewraith checked the time, almost noon. Looking at his leg, he checked the Colt M1911 secured in his leg holster and the two magazines placed in the pocket on the front of it. His Kukri was sharp and strapped safely in its sheath under his shoulder.

Picking up his bag he checked its contents, ‘one Antirad, I’d prefer two or three’ he thought to himself, absent mindedly rubbing the small scar running along his right chin line, “Beard, you don’t sell Antirads by any chance?” he asked, Wingnut dropped his head; he knew Bladewraith checking his pack meant it was time to leave. ‘Couldn’t wait another day could we?’ he thought to himself, but he resigned himself to going, and picked up his pack, a simple Canvas pack, very old and dated, but tough, with an Animal pelt draped over it, almost identical to the one draped over Bladewraith’s pack. Looking through it making sure everything he needed was where it should be, while beard explained he didn’t carry anything more than vodka or Red Packs, and that Owl, the trader upstairs doesn’t buy or sell medicals. Bladewraith bought a Red Pack and placed them in his bag.
“So you boys on the way out then?” asked Beard
“Yup, going east”
“East? There’s only the ranger station east”
“Yeah, well this idiot of a fish” Wingnut pointed at Bladewraith “wants to cross the river!”
“It’s worth a look, you Betty!” Bladewraith demanded
"The River?"Beard stifled a laugh “well, good luck my friends there's not much over there” he explained, while he bent over and retrieved Bladewraith and Wingnut’s weapons from behind the bar, where they’d been kept safe, and out of sight for the last two days while they worked. He handed a wood stocked Remington 870 to Wingnut, the magazine tube had been extended, and shell clips placed on the stock and opposite side to the breach. Wingnut ran his hand down the length of the shotgun, feeling every chip and scratch in the metal and wood, his hand stopping on the distinctly shaped tooth marks in the stock, a reminder of how close he’d been on more than one occasion. Bladewraith clicked the magazine filled with 7.62 NATO rounds into his H&K 417, chambering a round then applying the safety, the small scratches that dotted its hard metal frame, the breach stained with carbon, built up over time that mere cleaning was insufficient to remove it, it’s under barrel grenade launcher, the M203 bore the same scars, but was left unloaded for now. Last to come over the counter was a simple but effective Bare Bow, and a small discreet leather quiver, filled with four carbon fibre arrows and five natural wooden ones. Beard gave Wingnut the look, the same one Beard had given him when he handed it over three days ago, which many Stalkers had given him the past, why does he use a Bow and Arrow? Wingnut left the unasked question unanswered.

After checking their weapons, they hoisted their packs onto their shoulders; Wingnut’s movements mirrored Bladewraith’s, his clothes always seemed that little more ragged than Bladewraith’s, but they both took good care of themselves and their equipment, Bladewraith was slightly better at it was all it was. donning his jacket and, and clipping his DIY leather webbing together, the wrap of a bandana around his head meant Bladewraith was ready to go, he looked to Wingnut who took a gulp of water from his canteen, and put the old container back in his pack. “Right, later Beard” waved Wingnut, “Well send any anomaly data we get back in a few days.”

As the pair made their way to the door, a sudden loud crashing sound resonated throughout the ship, emanating from upstairs, followed by cheers and clapping.
“Ah Shit” cried out Cardan
“Time to leave me thinks” Bladewraith opened the door and left, followed quickly by Wingnut, as they stepped out into Zaton

The Sun had finally reached its apex, but shone down weakly, barely able to cut through the mist which, albeit slowly, was beginning to burn off. After a few careful steps they jumped down off the broken metal struts that once held the Skadovsk firmly together, now just an open gash in her hull. The ground was soft underfoot; few words were spoken between Bladewraith and Wingnut, as they made for higher ground. When they reached the dockyard cranes they were above the bulk of the murky mist. It lay across the Basin like a soft carpet, hiding all manners of death and cruelty, from Mutant and Man alike.
“Do we really have to swim?”
“It’s good for you!” suggested Bladewraith
“No, it’s good for you! Staying warm and dry is good for me!”
“If we can find a working boat, we’ll use that, if not…” Bladewraith left the sentence unfinished.

After almost an hour’s walk, their legs had become adjusted themselves to their pace and weight, and their eyes were having to adjust to the sight of the Preobrazhensky Bridge, its frame wasn’t huge; in fact compared to a lot of bridges in Europe it was small, but the notion that here in the Zone, it was still standing; when other smaller and bigger, metal, wood and stone bridges, had fallen to their ruin long ago. the long curving legs disappeared into the mist below, appearing to both swallow and support it. In another hour or so they’d reach the mouth of the Zaton estuary, and in front of them would lay the river, the one that used to feed the Chernobyl Plant coolant lake.

The final hour of the walk was uneventful, save spotting the large group of heavily armed Mercs that was moving south towards the waste processing station. Fortunately they were climbing the south embankment of the basin while Bladewraith and Wingnut remained on the north. They squelched towards the waterline, gentle ripples indicating the slow current of the River
“Ever wondered why the water level is so low?” asked Bladewraith
“Don’t know… don’t care… so long as I don’t have to swim so far!” They estimated no more than roughly 200 metres to the other bank. Not a massive swim by any means.
Bladewraith changed out of his conventional Zone attire and placed it in his pack, after changing into a set of clothes primarily used to retain heat; he wrapped his pack and weapons in a waterproof poncho, sealing the makeshift protective cover and tying it too himself with several metres of rope. He was ready, so he sealed up Wingnut’s pack in the same way, it kept the packs and contents dry and also took a little weight off the two swimmers; Wingnut had been scanning the opposite shore, for any visible dangers. Although he’d changed as well, he kept his boots on, ever since the first time Bladewraith had convinced him into wading through the water, two unprotected steps in and a broken discarded bottle slashed the underside of his foot open. Something he held over Bladewraith’s head, every time he suggested swimming.
“Ready to go,” explained Bladewraith
“Group of Boars upstream, but the current will take us away from them, this side… no radiation” his Geiger Counter ticked away at only background levels, they knew the river itself was safe enough, the slow but constant flow of water cleansed the river of harmful levels of radiation and chemicals.
“Good to hear” Fortunately for them, water that was contained by anomalies was fairly obvious for all to see, and a brief glance told him they would be fine, let alone the fact that Wingnut had scanned the water as thoroughly as he’d scanned the other side.

And so they began paddling out into the wet, the riverbed sank away quickly underneath them. It wouldn’t take long to reach the other side, and at a gentle pace, a few minutes later they were almost half way across, when Bladewraith caught sight of a flash of silver below them, the water was too murky to see what had made the flash, but he had a pretty good idea of what it was.
“Whoa up bud.” Bladewraith insisted
“Let me guess” Wingnut spoke sarcastically “Your keen magpie eyes saw something sparkly” he chastised Bladewraith, even though Bladewraith's eye for spotting seemingly unimportant things had led to finding artefacts and spotting anomalies on numerous occasions. Bladewraith chucked the rope with his pack attached over to Wingnut
“Gonna check” with that Bladewraith disappeared below.

Bladewraith held his breath and kept his heartbeat steady, so as not to waste precious oxygen. The visibility was poor, less than ten feet, but with the current not being strong, it couldn’t be silt that was floating around, and yet the water was a murky green. He dived down almost twenty feet before hitting the bottom, rocks and stones, rounded by centuries of water erosion littered the riverbed; he quickly scoured the bottom for anything of use. In typical fashion there was nothing of use in the immediate area, and he returned to the surface, he’d drifted downstream a mere few metres.
“Well?” asked Wingnut to which he got no response, as Bladewraith dived down immediately. Once again he reached the rocky bottom and began searching, this time he swam back the way he’d come to cover a different area of the riverbed, a quick flash of silver shot across his hampered field of vision. Pulling his boot knife just in case, he swam forward, as he closed in of the now gone flash, the visibility improved drastically. Then he could see it, it looked like a sturgeon or some sort of Carp, but much bigger than he’d seen before. With his first glimpse of the fish, he returned to the surface to gasp for air.
“What’s taking so long down there?” Asked Wingnut
“I’ve found… a fish… a big one!” he was still gasping for air.
“Well what you waiting for?” He was treading water holding onto both packs for added buoyancy.
With that, Bladewraith drowned himself with air and dived down yet again, this time he found the clear patch of water much faster, ‘What is making this bit cleaner?’ he thought to himself, then he saw the fish again, in the same area, swimming in circles, lazily fighting the slow current upstream, then riding it down; keeping itself within the clear path circling an outcrop of bedrock, seemingly out of place amongst the loose stone of the riverbed, what was more, the outcrop had a growth on it, similar to some he’d seen before ‘that’s Coral?’ he inspected it carefully, coral can exist in freshwater, Bladewraith new that ‘but why is the clear water centred around it?’ he touched it and a strange feeling came over him, not danger more ease, a gentle pull and a chunk broke off in his hand and the feeling remained. Without another thought he pocketed it and looked up for the fish, it was swimming straight towards him, it had obviously been so long since the river was fished, it wasn’t scared of humans anymore. A slight moral decision had to be made, this coral could be worth something, maybe even quite a bit, and the fish had delivered him to it, should he kill the fish, or let it live? Bladewraith had fished in the Zone before, sometimes for food, other times to sell and make money, although he’d never fished the main river, only the smaller streams, and definitely never this far north; but this was the biggest fish he’d seen in the Zone.

It was then he realised the fish had turned around again and was pushing upstream, continuing its circling. Bladewraith almost jumped when he realised how long he’d been down, yet he wasn’t running out of breath, a short breath out and he still didn't need air immediately, but he figured if he didn’t return to the surface soon, Wingnut would come down to find him, ‘then Wingnut would have something too bitch about’ he thought, ‘but what to do about the fish?’ He returned to the surface, but kept his head under, exhaling completely, without removing his head he waited and tried to keep his head under, he soon realised that the artefact was having no effect and jerked his head up, ‘obviously I need some air in my lungs for it to work.’ He thought as he gasped for air, coughing and spluttering…
“Jesus, bud… I was getting worried; you’d been down there so long”
“That was a stupid idea!”
“What was?”
“I found this…” he held the piece of coral up showing it to Wingnut; there was no glowing, shining or sparkling independent of the sun’s rays reflecting of the wet surface, none of the usual signs of an Artefact. Wingnut didn’t look impressed “It may not look like much, but when it was in my pocket, I could hold my breath as long as I wanted”
“Really…” Wingnut wasn’t impressed; he paddled backwards a few metres, being carried slowly downstream, before Bladewraith noticed the clouds approaching fast, their darkness portraying the inevitable downpour that was to come, let alone the increased wind, which would drastically alter the calm and peaceful state of the river. “Yeah I’ve been watching them come in… and wait a minute, where’s the fucking fish?” without a word Bladewraith swam past Wingnut and grabbed his pack, placing a rather large, freshly gutted fish on top of it before continuing on towards the eastern bank, Wingnut simply shook his head and continued on as well, swimming as fast as they could, Wingnut watched as Bladewraith barrelled ahead, seemingly unhindered by the floating pack dragging behind him. It was fine before, a slow swim, allowing the current to do help them across, the pack had bobbed behind them, but now, as they fought forward, the river pushed back, and the packs became like floating anchors. Wingnut secretly envied Bladewraith’s swimming ability; he’d obviously spent much more time in the water than Wingnut. They aimed for what used to be a small wooden jetty, only the uprights remained, the rest would have been carried down river years ago.

A few minutes later, Wingnut dragged his bedraggled body from the water into the dry; dropping to the bank that separated the shoreline from the dense grassland, dotted with large trees, some bursting with life, others nothing more than dead wood standing tall, before it unfolded into larger and larger shrubs. Bladewraith had already been ashore for a few minutes and had unpacked his rifle, checked his Geiger counter and surveyed the immediate area. There was no immediate danger, except as Wingnut absorbed the dry, the first few drops of rain began to fall. “Really?" he asked the sky "I just get into the dry and it starts to fucking rain!” Wingnut despaired “this is your fault!” he pointed at Bladewraith, who ignored him.
“There’s a small fishing hamlet just passed those fields” Bladewraith pointed south, he slung his pack over a shoulder, the fish, which was now hanging from a length of Paracord over the other and a small but heavy looking pack in his hand

Without another word, they set forth, Wingnut’s feet squelching underneath each step, Bladewraith’s were annoyingly quiet; who looked at Wingnut’s feet and chuckled “Smart arse!” he replied. ‘Dry feet or Veta’ he quietly thought to himself. He always thought that maybe it would’ve been better to learn more about the Zone when they arrived, ‘but Veta, she was worth it, even if it was only for a couple of weeks’ Wingnut snapped his mind back to getting to somewhere dry. The noise of his boots was swiftly drowned out but the rain that was increasing every minute. They both picked up the pace and the hamlet came into view, Wingnut sped up further as soon as he saw somewhere with a roof. Bladewraith threw out an arm and stopped him, as their anomaly sensors burst into life, it was then, through the torrent of water falling from the sky, through their grainy blurred vision, they could make out a field of springboard anomalies. Carefully they navigated their way around it and made it into the small house. It would be an adequate shelter from the rain, and if all else fails, they can spend the night in its safety.

It’s old and battered walls could tell many stories of mutants and men, its windows boarded up long ago, other houses had open, glassless windows, but their chosen home for the night would be this slightly safer one. As the checked each room, they was no sign of a human presence it appeared the house hadn’t been used in over a year. In the main room was a stone fireplace, filled with ash and dust, but it was a welcome sight. Bladewraith dropped the bag he’d been carrying and it fell open, reveal lots of still dry logs, and small tinder that he’d collected while waiting for Wingnut to reach the river’s shore.

While Wingnut built the fire using those dry logs, Bladewraith stripped off his wet clothes, and hung them near the fireplace using another length of Paracord he retrieved from his pack, and then filleted the fish; the rest he hung outside in the rain, to sort out in the morning. Wingnut used his lighter to ignite the fire, which sparked into a bright life. Heat emanated from the fireplace, reflected of the stone backing and flowing into the room. Bladewraith cooked two large chunks on the fire, and they both ate happily; the fish, which Bladewraith still assumed to be a carp, tasted somewhat like carp from Britain, but with a distinctly different base flavour, what it was he didn’t know, but it was perfectly edible.

After they’d both eaten he pulled his pack open once more and took out the Red Pack, from which he drew two red papered cigarettes, handing one to Wingnut who’d now changed into some dry clothes. Bladewraith pulled a burning stick from the fire and lit the cigarette, before handing the impromptu lighter to Wingnut. As Wingnut savoured the smoothness of the tobacco, while the Anti-Radiation chemicals he was smoking slowly cleared his lungs and body of any radiation they passed through without realising, he watched out through the cracks in the boarded up window, the rain persistently beating down. The roof roared its resistance to the unending weight attempting to wash it away.

A few minutes later, Wingnut stubbed his cigarette out, watching out from the doorway carefully for any movement while it was bright enough to see any. The rare crackle of the fire and hammering of the roof was all the noise to be heard, until a quiet snore erupted from Bladewraith. “It’s the middle of the fucking afternoon… and yet you’re already asleep” Wingnut said aloud, but if Bladewraith had heard, he made no sign; Wingnut knew better though. ‘We’ve never been this side of the river before’ he thought to himself, looking out through the door at the rain clouds he spoke once more, this time not to Bladewraith, but to the Zone itself “Well then... whatcha got for us?”

End of Chapter
  22:07:07  17 December 2012
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The Dane


On forum: 09/22/2007
Messages: 1852
Nice reading it again from the beginning

But ehmmmm, maybe you should proof read it slowly twice before posting. There are missing words here and there and at least one place it's cut off in mid-air. Argh, I hate telling people things like that, especially when they are working on something great even though I know it's necessary.
  10:59:21  18 December 2012
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Senior Resident

On forum: 10/21/2010
Messages: 306

Nice reading it again from the beginning

But ehmmmm, maybe you should proof read it slowly twice before posting. There are missing words here and there and at least one place it's cut off in mid-air. Argh, I hate telling people things like that, especially when they are working on something great even though I know it's necessary.

Just gone through it again, i had proof read it after i finished chapter 1, but now that i'd left it a few weeks i realise what you meant, there were a lot of errors. sorry about that. what do you think of the differences between the original and this one? better/worse, bout the same?

PS: don't feel bad for helping!
  17:18:48  18 December 2012
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The Dane


On forum: 09/22/2007

Message edited by:
12/18/2012 17:19:56
Messages: 1852
I can't remember exactly how I felt the first time I read it, only that I enjoyed it, it's a long time ago but I can assure you I enjoyed reading the edited version
  18:07:50  18 December 2012
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Senior Resident

On forum: 10/21/2010
Messages: 306

I can't remember exactly how I felt the first time I read it, only that I enjoyed it, it's a long time ago but I can assure you I enjoyed reading the edited version

Well I hope it reads better then the original. I know that when i read back through the original Chapter 1 about 2 months ago, i was almost ashamed of it. so many errors and problems, that's part of why i rewrote it!

Anyway, I’m trying to decide whether to post a rewritten chapter once a week and that gives me some lead time to continue the rewrite, or get the first 5 rewritten chapters up then post as I go…

Hmm… not sure
  18:46:39  5 January 2013
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Senior Resident

On forum: 12/07/2008
Messages: 197
Where are you going from here, I wonder... how much different will it be this time? Me wants moar!
  19:39:24  28 January 2013
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Senior Resident

On forum: 10/21/2010

Message edited by:
01/28/2013 19:42:42
Messages: 306
Hey guys, sorry for the massive delay, real life got in the way again. i'll try to be quikcer next time

Chapter 02: The Simple Life

Darkness had set in hours ago and the rain finally abated around midnight, Bladewraith shook Wingnut awake at 01:00 hours, Wingnut tried to refuse but knew all too well it wasn’t a something he could. It was his turn to stand watch, sleep for two hours, and guard for two hours in a rotating cycle; this simple routine had served them well when they did not have the luxury of sleeping in a secured Stalker Camp, and it had saved them several times from nocturnal mutant attacks. The fire had burned down to low embers; Wingnut rubbed the sleep from his eyes and picked up his Remington. Bladewraith lay down to sleep and Wingnut sat bored, trying to think of things to do to occupy his mind for the next two hours.

Wingnut stood ‘now the rain’s stopped, I can go grab some…’ he thought before his eyes drifted to the fire and stopped, its embers barely lit the pile of wet firewood that was slowly beginning to dry in front of it. Bladewraith had collected it while Wingnut was asleep. ‘It was probably easier for him.’ Wingnut decided; as he didn’t have any Night Vision, he never thought it was a worthwhile investment to spend the money on them, he preferred to spend it on other more lucrative ventures, whereas Bladewraith had always been a kit freak, he never bought anything that there was no need for, but he had NVGs, telescopic and red dot scopes for his 417, Semtex charges, and a host of other things that only Bladewraith knew what he needed them for. As they rarely went out after dark, he didn’t see the need to spend that kind of money.

Wingnut froze as he heard a rustling outside, as quietly as possible he backtracked over to Bladewraith, and tapped him awake. Bladewraith woke silently, many a Stalker had died thanks to their murmurings as they woke. Bladewraith listened for several seconds to nothing, as he opened his mouth the rustling presented itself again. Without a word between them, Bladewraith picked up his rifle and shouldered it, while he approached what used to be the window. They listened intently trying to figure out what it was, keeping their movements slow and low to avoid whatever was outside spotting any movement through the cracks in the window boards; they could distinctly make out a four footed walking pattern, and it was heavy Bladewraith looked at Wingnut briefly, they both feared the same thing, a Chimera. It was then a different noise came through, a grunting, non distinct and a scrapping, almost pulling noise.
“It’s here for your fucking fish!” Wingnut shouted in a whisper, to which Bladewraith shushed him, but it was too late, the beast raised its head, it had heard something from inside and it approached the door. They didn’t even look at each other, Bladewraith moved quietly back towards the opposite wall and aimed at the door, Wingnut moved to flank the Doorway, anything that popped its head in would get 7.62 from the front and 12 Gauge close range to the head. Only as its silhouette appeared in the doorway, and it grunted, sniffing the room. As it did, Bladewraith relaxed his shoulders, and Wingnut realised he’d cocked up.

Bang! A single Shotgun Slug into the top of the head at less than a metre dropped the Boar instantly, its heavy weight thumping the floor as it fell.
“And you were worried?” Demanded Bladewraith
“Hey you thought the exact same thing!”
“Maybe…” Bladewraith cocked head sarcastically before he returned to the makeshift bed to sleep, while Wingnut dragged the carcass outside and left it there, he had quickly decided he’d butcher it in the light of the morning, the meat wouldn’t spoil that quickly. The rest of his two hour shift went by reasonably quickly and but luckily, completely uneventfully. He woke Bladewraith once again, Bladewraith watched Wingnut go to sleep with only a small amount of envy, the idea of waking him for a rustling noise outside without checking it first was extremely tempting, but figured it was fair game after the swim, so he went outside and set about cutting as much pork as he could from the slowly cooling carcass. It was always easier to skin and cut fresh meat while it was warm, he mainly wanted something for breakfast as a small payment for waking him up. After ten minutes of cutting and carving several chunks of meat were free, he took out a couple of sachets of Salt and sprinkled them over the meat, then hung them up to allow the blood to drain, he checked the fish, the whole fillet remained, but the already cut fillet was buried somewhere deep inside the Boars stomach. The rest of the night passed by uneventfully; Bladewraith took the last two hours sleep and by the time he woke at just before 08:00 hours. The sun was glistening down through the small cracks in the window boards; the prospect of a sunny day was a pleasant sight to wake to. Clear blue sky wasn’t such a rare occasion for the Zone but an uncommon one at least, even for the last day of July. Wingnut was cooking a couple of boar steaks on their gas stove, the gentle aroma of cooking pork encouraged Bladewraith out of his sleep. He woke groggily and his nose led him to the source of the enticing smell.

“You’ll have to wait…” Wingnut explained and paused, a guilty look emerged on his face, after a short sigh he continued “I might have forgotten to buy a new gas cylinder”
Bladewraith looked plainly at him, this wasn’t the first time Wingnut had made such a mistake, he looked at the very gentle flame coming from the stove, Wingnut’s vain attempt to conserve as much gas as possible Bladewraith rolled his eyes before replying “I can’t trust you to do anything, can I?” Wingnut decided arguing about it wouldn’t be worth his while, so he kept quiet. “How long” Bladewraith continued
“About another 5 minutes, I managed to find some wild flowers for a bit of extra flavour”
“Joy” Bladewraith’s Sarcasm was once again obvious; Wingnut was by no means a good cook. So Bladewraith unpacked his cleaning kit, wrapped in cloth from his pack and began pulling the cleaning cloth down the barrel of his 417, Wingnut passed the steak over to Bladewraith sheepishly; which he took, it wasn’t anything near Beard’s cooking, but for Wingnut, it wasn’t bad.
“So how much gas we got left…” he looked at Wingnut before pointing at him with his knife “Honestly!”
“Enough for a couple of days… if we push it…”
“Just great…” Bladewraith shook his head in disbelief, he knew they’d been low on gas when they arrived at the Skadovsk, but he didn’t realise that low.

“Fine, we’ll keep going for a day or so, then make our way back.” Ordered Bladewraith, which forced a faint grin to appear on Wingnut’s lips “Then, we’ll swim back, pick up some gas, and then cross the river AGAIN, and continue our search” Wingnut’s grin immediately disappeared. ‘If you thought I was gonna stop searching because of gas, you were wrong’ Bladewraith thought, but decided not to chide Wingnut any further. He simply returned the barely visible vanished grin.
“Right…” Wingnut looked at his feet “We’ll cook on open fires for as long as we can.” Wingnut looked at the irritating grin on Bladewraith’s face ‘I thought we’d stop searching here without an easy way to cook.’ Wingnut thought wrongly.

The Pair finished their meal in silence. Wingnut cleared up the cooking equipment and packed it back into his sack, and explained what he’d found while out scavenging the wildflowers for the food, namely a plant similar to wild onion. He’d scanned the Springboard field just outside the hamlet as soon as there was enough light, and held aloft a gently glowing Stone Flower. After a brief pause he carried on with his explanation. There were six other buildings in this little hamlet. Including the one they sat inside there were four other little houses, and small barn and a boathouse. Two of the houses were likely to collapse at any minute, having been left to the mercy of the Zone, the roofs had fallen in long ago, and it appeared the other buildings had been boarded up with materials that had been gathered up from the ruins of the first two. The Barn and boathouse had been secured, and both appeared to have been chained shut with padlocks. The two discussed what might be inside in order for someone to have locked them, so decided to check them out.

They started at the barn, at first glance it’s old wooden doors looked as if they remained strong and solid, however tell tale signs of Wood Worm displayed themselves to the keen eyed observer. The holes only appeared in the window frames so Bladewraith gave the panel below a hefty kick and it caved in easily. A quick search yielded little; an old and rusted tractor, several bales of hay, how they had remained mostly dry for this long was a miracle, and a few farming tools, and some fishing nets and other superfluous fishing items, long past any usable condition. One thing that did seem odd was a small number of almost ancient looking boot prints, the long since dried mud caked onto the floor. The prints appeared to have Ukrainian Military tread patterns. ‘Perhaps the grunts had checked the barn as they evacuated after the second explosion’ Wingnut thought silently.

Bladewraith appeared puzzled but they decided to move on as the prints only appeared near to the door and didn’t appear to be moving in any specific direction. The left and checked the small house and found much the same, its door being unlocked, their entry was permitted without any force. The boat house however was a different story; there appeared to be no rot or wood worm, nothing to give them easy access. Its riverside doors were closed and securely held in place from the inside. That left the main door.
“Come on, there’s gonna be nothing of any use in there just like the other two!” exclaimed Wingnut having become bored of finding nothing.
Bladewraith looked at Wingnut, a smug grin spread wide across his face. “Really?” patronised Bladewraith “Wanna Bet?”
Wingnut looked at Bladewraith, he knew that Bladewraith had seen something that he’d missed, his eyes darted around trying to find that absent clue, Bladewraith looked half way down the door and Wingnut followed his sight line, until the sun glinted softly on the barely shiny steel lock that drew Bladewraith’s gaze. ‘A padlock, so what’ he thought; he had his lock picking set, ‘looking at the state of the chain I doubt I’d be able to…’ it hit him lick a brick, old weathered chain, brown with rust, and a padlock that looked to have only bore a single summer exposed to the torment of the Zone’s harsh weathering. Bladewraith watched the realisation radiate from his eyes. Wingnut retrieved his Lock Picks from his pack without needing asking and got to work. Bladewraith meandered to the water’s edge, looking for signs of any seaborne life. As he watched the slow unstoppable movement of the water he rolled a cigarette. Giving Wingnut some time to work on the lock and he breathed the sweet flavoured smoke.

A few minutes later, Bladewraith returned to Wingnut who had had no luck picking the very secure padlock, every time he managed to get two or more of the tumblers into position, the first seemed to pop back out and this trend carried on for far longer the Wingnut had patience. And became visible stressed, and began the long spiral, the more he rushed the quicker the tumblers reset, the more they reset, the more Wingnut rushed.
“Any Luck?” asked Bladewraith, extracting his Colt M1911 A1 pistol, from his leg holster.
“Nope!” Wingnut stopped and sighed “go on then” Wingnut removed his lock picks and took several steps back from the door and Bladewraith took aim at the padlock, he carefully aimed for the area to the centre of the locking point; both Bladewraith and Wingnut knew it wasn’t like the movies, just fire aimlessly at the lock and it’ll open, it was a dangerous activity, hit it wrong, it could crush the lock and they’d never take it apart, or the slug could ricochet back towards them. His aim was steady and he squeezed the trigger; The hammer rocked forwards; the crack of the 45 rang out and diffused away from them, the eerie, almost lack of echo was a unique feature of the Zone, as the bullet cleared the barrel and quickly impacted the lock, the sharp ping of metal vibrating out joined the report of the Colt in the void of the Zone, the slide rocked back and rammed forwards on the return springs, chambering another round, the bullet deflected down and into the earth, the padlock shook and span in any direction the heavy metal chain allowed it too; before it finally fell helplessly to the floor, and the chain swung away from the centre clanging onto the wooden door posts.

The pair opened the old doors of the boarded up boathouse to be greeted to the wondrous site of a dust covered Rigid Inflatable Boat parked on the launching ramp, they both blinked rapidly as they took in the site, expecting it to be a mirage of some variety. Wingnut turned to Bladewraith, “A fucking RIB!” he shouted. Bladewraith just chuckled in response. Wingnut was finally happy with them swimming across the river, his feelings of dread turned anguish, then irritation, guilt and boredom finally broke through into joy. He walked over to the boat and inspected it; the engine didn’t show an obvious signs of rust or damage. He felt a little dismayed when he realised that two of the forward sections were slightly deflated. Bladewraith however, looked at the RIB through different eyes, it was in remarkably good condition, in fact far too good condition for something residing in the Zone, he began looking around the rest of the room. Hanging on hooks above one another were two open top Kayaks, alongside on shelves sat several lifejackets, fishing rods and reels, paddles, fishing nets, all appeared well maintained until recently. Behind the RIB and beside the door was a shelf stacked with eight Jerry Cans, on inspection six were full. Wingnut opened the cupboards he discovered opposite the door and found several instruction manuals for the boat and engine; he was so excited by the haul he almost didn’t notice an obvious clue staring right at him.
“Bud, come look at this” he called over to Bladewraith.
Bladewraith moved round the RIB as Wingnut handed him the papers “What the fuck?”
“Yeah… they’re in English” Wingnut explained with hesitation in his voice
“It doesn’t make any sense, the rest of this village looks like it had been abandoned for decades” Bladewraith spoke to himself as much as Wingnut “But this looks no older than a rookie!”
“Something weird was going on here…” concluded Wingnut “not even Barkeep has enough disposable income to pay for this, and it definitely wasn’t left behind after the second explosion, left alone 86.” Bladewraith raised an eyebrow at Wingnut at this comment; he agreed but wondered how Wingnut had deduced this information
“The manual says it was printed in 2009” informed Wingnut
“Ah” was all Bladewraith replied before he flicked through the manual and piece of paper fell out from between the pages. Wingnut bent down to pick it up, it was blank but for a single line of numbers written in red ink “260486” Wingnut read out. Confusion strewn across his face, with nothing else to look through he pocketed the note and they decided to leave the hamlet to try and find anything they could in the general area, with the decision to leave Bladewraith swept the house they’d slept in and removed any signs they had been there as Wingnut resecured the boathouse. With all the fish and boar packed away Bladewraith looked into the forest and waited.

Wingnut carefully reconstructed the pieces of the lock together in a vain attempt to make it appear solid to anyone that might be stupid enough to swim across the river and find it. Eventually he was happy with its appearance and he joined Bladewraith who was smoking yet another cigarette. There was only one path leading away from the village so, after Wingnut had smoked a cigarette of his own, they decided to follow it in a half hearted attempt to locate the previous owner of the boat.

Hours passed by, as the two explorers navigated anomalies and radiation fields trying, seemingly in vain on occasions, to remain on the path, the only tracks they could find, were that of a Single Boar, they presumed the same one that was now both deliciously filling their stomachs and was smoked and saved for later, all other tracks had long since washed away. They continued on an unnoticeably small incline, leading them to ever higher ground. They only came across one group of anomalies big enough to be called a field, they scanned it for artefacts but had little joy, they logged the location into their GPS, single anomalies moved to much to be worthwhile logging but fields seemed to stay relatively fixed, the reason for this, like many things in the Zone, remained a mystery but it was something that made the inherently unpredictable Zone, the most miniscule amount more predictable, therefore Stalkers took the small victory where they found it.

Another hour passed by before a large distinctly non natural object reared into view, the mangled, twisted wreck of a Hind Helicopter; it bore the Ukrainian Air Force symbols. They checked the area around the wreck but it was densely overgrown with long grass and small shrubberies; no one had visited the wreck in some time and organic growth of varying kinds crept up the fuselage trying to find a way inside. It was abundantly obvious the helicopter had crashed a long time ago. After prying the door open, they found the interior was in a similar condition to the exterior. There was no sign of any bodies and most of the components appeared to have been torn out. Someone had been here and taken anything of use, but the plant growth and moss both inside and outside the former aircraft along with the lack of any visible tracks proved that it was long enough ago that neither Bladewraith nor Wingnut were worried about meeting them.
“Another waste of time” Wingnut remarked, absent mindedly aiming his bow, with a knocked Arrow waiting to be released into the centre of the small Blue circle inside the larger concentric yellow circle of the Ukrainian Air Force Insignia.
“Yeah I suppose so… come on then” Bladewraith stepped down from the Hind’s side door and began continuing on the same path that had brought them there. As Bladewraith walked he listened for Wingnut to scurry on behind him and catch up. The path ahead of him looked to open up. As he entered the opening he found himself in a crop field, heavily overgrown with weeds, but definitely some form of wheat, the kernels where larger than normal but the stems remained small yet strong. The Radiation of the Zone had like many other details, altered the molecular makeup of this Corn, to what effect neither man knew.

A mere thirty metres down the path through the field, Bladewraith slowed and stopped and looked around him in a no small amount of shock, when Wingnut eventually caught up, he saw exactly what had stunned Bladewraith. Underneath them was an old broken and collapsed chain link fence. The uprights had broken long ago and the chain link itself was brown and tatty with rust. It was what was in front of them that their minds struggled to comprehend what their eyes told them. A small quarry, filled with dilapidated wooden houses similar to those back at the fishing hamlet, a small pool of water rested in the corner, the lowest area of the quarry, all the buildings looked old, and unused. They had no idea when they were last inhabited. Directly beneath them was an old Vehicle Bomb Shelter built into the Cliff face heading back in the direction they’d just come from, the strong concrete shell extruding perpendicularly to the cliff face was heavily worn by the weather, several steel reinforcing rods could been seen rusting in the open air
“We have got to check this out” decreed an excited Wingnut
“Indeed,” coolly replied Bladewraith “I suppose you still think we shouldn’t have bothered to cross the river” without another word, they set off to their right, down a winding path that led to the bottom of the old quarry.

End of Chapter
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