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The Inhuman condition (Full) - BYPASS

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  07:30:25  7 July 2004
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On forum: 07/31/2003

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The Inhuman condition (Full) - BYPASS

-Part 1-
How long had he been here now? An hour? A day? The Stalker could not remember. He sat up and looked around at his surroundings. He was in a dirt basement of some sort, though he didn't remember how he'd got there. He glanced at his watch, but the face had been smashed. When the blowout happened, his younger recruit and he had been on the fringe of the derelict city, in the heart of the zone. He knew the time was getting close for another cycle to start, maybe a day or two at most. Plenty of time to get in and out. But this time the blowout happened much sooner than predicted by the science geeks.

That was the thing about the Zone. You couldn't apply any rules to it. You couldn't rely on previous successes. Chaos was the only rule. The science guys thought they could change that, but they rarely penetrated the Zone this far. They never saw how wierd it could get. His partner was new to this world too, having only joined the clan a month ago. He was green and untested when they entered the Zone and, if it wasn't for the older veteran stalker, he would surely have met his maker several times over. Not that anyone around here much believed in a maker anymore or cared.Twice the younger stalker, eager to see what lay ahead, very nearly rushed blindly into variable gravity fields. The ones than didn't show up on any sensors. The ones that turned you inside out and ripped you limb from limb, all the while screaming your last scream through a mouthful of your own frothing blood. And twice the veteran stalker pulled him from harm's way.

"What kind of god would allow this perversion of nature to persist, much less grow?" wondered the veteran to himself. In the Zone, invariably, all thoughts of god ceased as did any thought other than survival. Only the will to survive, combined with the knowledge of the dangers ahead could save a would be explorer deluded enough to actually enter this wasteland of rot and decay. That and more than a little luck. There was a saying in the zone: "On a long enough timeline, everyone's survival rate drops to zero." There was no doubt in the stalkers mind that this was true. Greed killed more men here than anything else. Certainly it was true for the younger stalker. When the blowout came, they had been tracking an unusually large anomaly on the edge of the ruined city. The younger stalker, excited about the prospect of a fat paycheck, began laughing and talking about what he was going to do with his share of the reward when they got back to camp. As the younger man talked louder and louder he could feel himself becoming mildly annoyed.

"If this is as big as I think it's gonna be, then see ya later Jack! You know, it's gonna be like 'fuck you Zonerino' ", said the younger stalker gesturing wildly with his middle fingers at the abandoned city buildings. "Cuz I'll be long gone to Jamaica where the nights are dark, and the women are darker." the younger man exclaimed as he danced around. "Gonna get me a sweet jamaican queen and live the good life. No more scratchin' for dirt for this guy!"

The veteran took no notice of him. He was fixed on the detector in his hand. Twice, from the corner of his eye, he had been sure that something had flashed across the screen. But the thing was silent. Too silent perhaps. Maybe it was his nerves. Too many trips into the zone. Maybe it was because the kid was carrying on and yelling like he was trying to raise the dead. In this place anything seemed possible.

"I think you should be a little more quiet there, recruit", said the veteran to the younger stalker. "You're liable to call on a pack of dogs if you keep on like that. don't make the mistake of treating this place like the real world."

"Aw c'mon man! We're gonna be rich! All we gotta do is get that big assed anomoly back to the geeks and then it's au weidershein baby!"

The veteran had had enough of this. He turned around and jerked the younger man closer to him by his jacket."Listen boy, and listen good. Nothing in the Zone comes that easy. I been coming in here for nearly two years now and I've seen alot of good men die in here. Better men than you. This isn't a cakewalk. You think like that in here and you'll end up like all those other guys. Food for the things. And you'll get me killed too. So do me a favour and just shutup!"

The younger stalker's face screwed up in a look of hate. This was typical of the veterans he'd gone into the zone with for the last month. Always giving orders. Always telling you to 'shut up' or 'sit down' or 'stay put'. This one was no different. He didn't talk as much as the others, bu he was just as moody.

"Man, what the fuck is your problem?" said the younger stalker as he jerked out of the veteran's grasp. "The last guy that touched me is dead now, so you better just back the fuck off."

"Anytime you want to go on your own, go ahead." said the veteran calmly. "But if you're going to travel with me, you better learn to talk alot less."

"You guys are all the same. Think you're something special 'cuz you've been here longer? Well, I've seen some shit too. I could make it here on my own."

"Then go ahead." said the veteran bluntly.

The younger stalker was about to open his mouth to speak again when the blowout abruptly began. Then the earth started quaking, the boiling sky went black and the intense lightning storm began. The veteran, though taken aback by the timing of the blowout, knew exactly what they had to do...they had to find shelter immediately. Not from the storm though. That was the least of his worries. It was because after the blowout, when the world had gone two colored and the eerie silence ensued, that the most dangerous time of all to be at the heart of the Zone was at hand. Only once before had this happened to the veteran stalker, and that time he had been much closer to the edge of the Zone. He'd lost all his gear and food while fleeing from a pack of wild mutant dogs across the scorched plains during the blowout, and it was only by sheer providence that a cadre of stalkers from another clan had found him injured, starving and close to death. But this time they were too far in, and finding a place to hole up in would greatly increase their chances of survival. The younger stalker would not listen though.

"We have to find a place to ride this out. Some empty building on the edge of the city!" yelled the veteran stalker as the wind rose to a howl.

"Find shelter?" said the younger man. "And what? Let some other stalker take the prize while we hide like scared rabbits? No way man, I'm going on with or without you."

"Son," replied the veteran gravely, "that money won't help you much if your dead. No one's going to go after that anomaly during this blowout. We have to get out of the open right now."

But the younger man was undeterred. "I guess you won't mind if I take it for myself then, huh? See you around pops." he yelled above the wind and thunder as he jogged away and disappeared into a bluff of trees in the direction of the anomaly. The veteran watched for a moment longer and thought of going after him, then shook his head and looked towards the city. He looked back at the bluff of trees again, which were now whipping back and forth in the wind. He sensed that the blowout was getting worse, and it was. Much worse than he had ever seen before. Suddenly, fluctuating gravity fields began wreaking havok on the landscape all around him. It looked like a huge invisible hand was bashing craters into the earth and throwing up plumes of dirt into the air high above him. That made up his mind for him. As he began to run for the city perimeter, he remembered seeing an enormous gravity wave rolling across the landscape, crushing everything in it's path. It came across the plain towards him, smashing the bluff of trees the other stalker had entered moments before to splinters as it picked up speed and beared down on him. That was the last thing he remembered until he awoke in this dirt cellar.

The veteran crawled up the stairs of the cellar and gingerly pushed the door open. The door squeaked on it's rusted hinges, making the stalker wince and draw in a sharp breath. He waited for something to happen. Nothing did. He ventured a look around the door and saw that he was standing in a old house. Garbage littered the floor along with old newspapers and several faded photographs of what he assumed was the houses previous owners. Their faces smiled blandy in the strange two color glow of the blowout's aftermath. Memories of a happier time. The stalker moved to a window and peered out. The house was on the edge of the city, and he could see the plain they had come across and the smashed bluff of trees off to the right. The countryside was now littered with craters varying in size from a few inches to more than one hundred feet across. He thought for a minute about the younger stalker and wondered if he could still be alive, but then immediately perished the thought. The stalker took a deep breath and let out a sigh. What was he to do now? There was a chair in the corner of the room. He sat down in it and closed his eyes. In the distance he could hear the sound of dogs growling and barking. He thought again about the younger stalker. Nice enough kid, just a little too greedy. The number one rule of this place, mused the stalker, is you have to save yourself from yourself. If you can't do that, you're dead before you even step foot into the Zone.

The Stalker opened his eyes and thought about his situation. Another day and the worst of the blowout's effects would be past. The creatures in the zone would be more active, but normal light would return shortly, and that would make the trip back easier. The two tone negative light of the aftermath was a double edged sword. Many of the gravitational and psychoactive anomalies would be visible in the light, but on the other hand, it also seemed to sharpen the psionic abilities of the zones more dangerous inhabitants. No, the stalker thought to himself. He would wait for another day at least before making the trip back to the outer rim. He had enough rations and if he kept his eyes and ears open he could probably avoid any unwanted attention. His combination psionic energy/motion/proximity density detector was not registering any activity within it's 200 meter range and so the stalker settled in and waited and slept.

It was night when the Stalker was startled awake by the sound of his detector pinging softly. He thumbed the safety off of his automatic rifle and raised it towards the door. Looking down at the detector, he could see that the signal was coming from the plain they had crossed at the edge of the city. One hundred and fifty meters and closing. One hundred and twenty five meters and still closing. At one hundred meters the pinging of the detector changed to a higher pitch and the stalker bolted upright out of the chair. The signal was small, less mass than an average man by at least thirty kilograms, but it was moving fast and directly towards him. He stared at the detector and as he did he noticed that at almost imperceptable moments it was picking up faint traces of psionic energy. Traces of psionic energy? His mind raced. Instinctually, he snapped the psionic shield generator toggle on his wrist computer to the on position and heard the sound of the unit cycling up to full power. Sixty five meters and closing. The stalker moved to the window and peered out, but all he could see was murky darkness. Thirty five meters. Twenty. The stalker moved away from the window to the center of the house. Sweat rolled down his brow and stung his eyes. Ten meters. He reached down and turned the detectors alert sound off, noting that the psionic flactuations in the readings had stopped. Nine meters. Right outside the door. The stalker stood there in the dark, ready for anything and sure of nothing. Ten seconds went by. He looked down at the display. The target was still nine meters away. No psionic activity, no motion, only the proximity air density readings. Something with a readable physical mass was waiting out there. At least that was something. It was always better when you could see your opponent. There were worse things in the zone, things he dared not imagine or say their name out loud. ' Why did it stop', the stalker wondered to himself? Why would it wait if it knew he was in here? Half a minute passed. Still no change. The stalker moved towards the door slowly, rifle raised. He stopped at the threshhold and cautiously looked out.

There, crumpled on the ground before him, was the younger stalker. His body was motionless. The veteran stalker was just about to go to the the younger man when he noticed something quite obvious. The younger stalkers legs were gone. They had been torn off at the groin. All that remained were two ragged and bloody stumps. With a dawning sense of horror the stalker realized that something had carried the younger man and left him here at the doorstep, like a grisly calling card. Something invisible to the detector. Suddenly, the room grew icy cold and darker somehow. The chair in the corner fell over and skittered several feet towards the stalker. His finger tightened up on the trigger of the rifle even as he realized that there was nothing to shoot at.

"Poltergeist" whispered the stalker as he turned and fled the house.
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