back with a vengeance
On forum: 07/31/2003
Kill or Be killed.|
"There's something wrong with me!" The man's drooping features momentarily twisted. "I can feel it, digging inside me." His hands clenched almost convulsively around his stomach like claws. He looked up at the impassive face of the man across from him, perhaps looking for an answer, perhaps salvation. Who cared which?
The distorted remains of a human's speech barely conjured any sympathy or compassion in the stalker. Those were commodities hard to come by nowadays. Neither did he feel anger or hatred. Only disgust. But what did it matter, either way? The end would be the same.
He had felt obligated at first to listen to the man's story, hoping for a clue to the location of an artifact. But it was all just the same old speech about the reactor, the strange things that started appearing, the changes it made a person go through. Absolutely worthless. No useful information whatsoever.
It all boiled down to one thing: the pitiful thing in front of him was a goner. Either way, something would get him. A stalker or a mutant. And what was the point of letting him go? He'd just end up being a nuisance later on, or worse. Better just to get it over with now, before the change was completed. You could call it mercy, or murder. More likely it was survival. That was the ways things were.
His eyes constantly scanned the horizon, the ruined buildings all around, never stopping in one place for more than a moment before moving on to the next. He had to be vigilant to stay alive. And he was deep enough in the zone that even vigilance might not save him from what could be hunting him.
The man was still rambling on about something, strings of drool dripping from his limp lips. There was nothing more that could be learned from him. It was time to end it. He made a show of looking at the position of the sun.
"It'll be dark soon. You should probably head on back to your home. With all these things coming out in the day, you never know what might come out at night." He almost couldn't contain the sarcasm threatening to infect his tone. Worse things coming out at night? As far as he knew, these things knew neither night nor day, morning nor evening. Only the zone. That was a lesson many learned hard. They'd let their guard drop during the day, just a little, and they'd think the sound of a pack of blind dogs behind them was just the skittering of rats. Even the military stalker did it to a degree. Around all their fancy technology and guns they'd feel safe. A decade ago they would've been. Now, a single controller could decimate an entire outpost, turn the men into zombie or something, sap out their will, steal their souls. He couldn't suppress a slight shudder. No amount of vigilance could prepare you for that. Hardened stalkers like him dreaded the day they might find a controller. Who knew what would happen to you if one of them kill you like that. What would happen to your soul? It was alien.
He sighed inwardly. Stalker? Hah. They didn't stalk anything. They hunted for artifacts. No they weren't stalkers. But there were things out there that would fit that description. They would fit it all too well.
A chill wind brought dust up around their feet, whistling strangely as it wound through the abandoned streets. And then it was gone. Somewhere in the city behind him, metal clanged as some new part of the city fell to decay. But then again, at that distance, would tell if it was misuse or perhaps…clumsiness. He casually glanced over his shoulder. Nothing moved. He probably could have seen the entire street behind him reflecting off the sweaty sheen covering the man's bulbous face, but he didn't want to risk it. Arrogance let to carelessness.
When he turned back the man was already shuffling back the way he had come with that odd stilted gait of his. Rolls of fat showed through the rips in his clothes, those coated wetly with sweat as well. He breathed raggedly. He was slowly becoming one of them. One with everything else that stayed in the zone too long.
The man nodded back at him forgetfully, wiping sweat from his bare brow with the back of his hand. It wasn't a warm day. "I'll be on my way then. Thanks for listening, if nothing else."
The man sounded more human and normal than any normal human he knew. The poor wretch deserved something for that. "Wait a minute," he called. The man deserved to face his fate, and not have it catch him in the back.
The man turned back with a questioning look. The stalker smiled. He hadn't done that in a long time. Anyway, it was face. "I'd like to do you a favor."
The gun sounded like an explosion echoing endlessly through the street, magnified by the shape of the buildings. The stalker sighed once again at how things had become as the dead man slumped forward. It was kill or be killed.
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From the halls of Montezuma To the shores of Tripoli'
We fight our countrys battles In the air', on land, and sea.
First to fight for right and freedom , And to keep our honor clean,
We are proud to claim the title Of United States Marines.
Our flags unfurl'd to every breeze From dawn to setting sun';
We have fought in every clime and place Where we could take a gun.
In the snow of far-off northern lands And in sunny tropic scenes,
You will find us always on the job - The United States Marines.
Here's health to you and to our Corps Which we are proud to serve;
In many a strife we've fought for life And never lost our nerve.
If the Army and the Navy Ever gaze on Heaven's scenes,
They will find the streets are guarded By United States Marines. - US Marines Hymn