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New story, "The Throat Steppers" By author of "Hunting Misfortune"

Question Was it good for you? (Check one or two, but not \'good\' and \'bad\' please :\\ )
Answers
Cool beans (Good)
I give it a, 'Meh' (Okay)
Like Listerine on my eyes (Bad)
We payed for blood! (More violence)
Posted by/on
Question/AnswerMake Oldest Up Sort by Ascending
  02:26:08  6 April 2006
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UltimaGecko
Senior Resident
 

 
On forum: 01/28/2004
Messages: 154

---QUOTATION---
Very nice story. It felt fluid, and I could picture everything vividly. I can see this happening in the actual game, if this means anything. I don't agree with Amoki about the rank system, though. Depends on the clan, really. Very nice choice of names, fits in pretty well. As for the RP mentions, well, I enjoyed that. Really clarified some stuff about the novel, like what the web was, whether that is really what it was or not.

The story did feel a little half-squeezed and short, though. It was still pretty exceptional in writing style and fluidity. Very nice job.

And there is a slight problem/mistake in the story. Russians/Ukrainians/Belorussians NEVER wear seatbelts while driving, I kinda laughed at hos Vas died. That must have sucked.

Thanks, Siro. I liked writing this one, and I tried to make it different from the "story-GUNBATTLEKILLKILL-story-finish" kind of stories that I've been reading. After seeing Amoki's criticism, I need to iron out Anton's backstory. It's tricky with my limited knowledge of the country/region.

Russians/Ukrainians/Belorussians never wear seatbelts? Huh, I would never have guessed... Oh well, I'll be running cleanup on the story before I hand it over. Hmm... What's a good reason to be stuck in a car while NOT wearing a seatbelt...
---END QUOTATION---




I don't want to start reviewing grammar or anything like that, but I could offer:

The door handle gets stuck and he takes too long in climbing out the passenger side in panic, or is just unable to climb out. This also gives you time to describe his grisly death of being electrocuted/crushed/thrashed apart, if you want. Someone might say he'd try to break the glass, but that'd really be more time consuming, since you'd get no force from right next to the window and you'd probably need to kick it...


Like I said, no real time to review it, but I'll say the dialogue flows pretty nicely.
  19:09:11  4 April 2006
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ThatGuy25
I'm lost... got a dollar?
(V.I.P.)

 

 
On forum: 12/22/2003
Messages: 90

---QUOTATION---
Very nice story. It felt fluid, and I could picture everything vividly. I can see this happening in the actual game, if this means anything. I don't agree with Amoki about the rank system, though. Depends on the clan, really. Very nice choice of names, fits in pretty well. As for the RP mentions, well, I enjoyed that. Really clarified some stuff about the novel, like what the web was, whether that is really what it was or not.

The story did feel a little half-squeezed and short, though. It was still pretty exceptional in writing style and fluidity. Very nice job.

And there is a slight problem/mistake in the story. Russians/Ukrainians/Belorussians NEVER wear seatbelts while driving, I kinda laughed at hos Vas died. That must have sucked.
---END QUOTATION---



Thanks, Siro. I liked writing this one, and I tried to make it different from the "story-GUNBATTLEKILLKILL-story-finish" kind of stories that I've been reading. After seeing Amoki's criticism, I need to iron out Anton's backstory. It's tricky with my limited knowledge of the country/region.

Russians/Ukrainians/Belorussians never wear seatbelts? Huh, I would never have guessed... Oh well, I'll be running cleanup on the story before I hand it over. Hmm... What's a good reason to be stuck in a car while NOT wearing a seatbelt...
  17:44:32  12 March 2006
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Siro
Local Law-Enforcement
(Moderator)

 

 
On forum: 03/02/2005
Messages: 7378
Very nice story. It felt fluid, and I could picture everything vividly. I can see this happening in the actual game, if this means anything. I don't agree with Amoki about the rank system, though. Depends on the clan, really. Very nice choice of names, fits in pretty well. As for the RP mentions, well, I enjoyed that. Really clarified some stuff about the novel, like what the web was, whether that is really what it was or not.

The story did feel a little half-squeezed and short, though. It was still pretty exceptional in writing style and fluidity. Very nice job.

And there is a slight problem/mistake in the story. Russians/Ukrainians/Belorussians NEVER wear seatbelts while driving, I kinda laughed at hos Vas died. That must have sucked.
  10:02:16  11 March 2006
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Amoki
back with a vengeance
(V.I.P.)

 

 
On forum: 07/31/2003
Messages: 1729
So... Brett, what should I do with this?
  10:52:15  9 November 2005
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Amoki
back with a vengeance
(V.I.P.)

 

 
On forum: 07/31/2003
Messages: 1729
Not too bad of a story, however I don't really admit I love it to bits either, seems a bit pointless - a lot of it have to do with plot I guess. Felt kinda empty, just a story more-or-less promoting a ascension of Anton and the Throat Steppers :- Have this feeling somehow you could have squeezed more out of it, the story's like a half-squeezed lemon on the process of becoming lemonade

A few pointers:
1) I have this feeling your story is a bit too "americanized". Belarussian polices are not well-trained at all (let alone medical stuff!), they're corrupted as hell as well (can't blame them, they're pretty poor).
2) It's strange how you have "generals" and "corporals" in a clan. Just my opinion, but it's like calling someone from a Biker Gang a private, a corporal etc.
  04:28:41  3 November 2005
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ThatGuy25
I'm lost... got a dollar?
(V.I.P.)

 

 
On forum: 12/22/2003
Messages: 90
"The Throat Steppers" Final

Okay, this is the rest of it. I'm content with it, though I'm somewhat biased . As with the first part, I've included a very loose item from "Roadside Picnic". This time, its the strange anomalous "web" briefly mentioned in said story. For those who have read RP and are dissappointed/angry that I took references from a great story that Stalker is loosely based on, well, I'm sorry. Believe me, I'm not making any profit off this thing (Unless it happens to be a final top ten... Hey, I can dream, can't I?). My story came out a little different from what I started with, having not included some of the common/normal elements, but I think it turned out okay. Enjoy, if you will, but regardless of enjoyment, comment constructivly!

The train yard less than a mile from the wreck was exactly what the squad had expected; buildings and warehouses falling apart, brush and weeds slowly overtaking what was once paved over them, empty train cars, and everywhere was rust and grime. The zone had a way of aging the environment quickly. It was odd how normal structures come to look like ancient photographs, faded and grayed with time.

Anton, walking in the front of the slow moving formation, kept a close eye on where they stepped. Taking into account both the incident on the road and the General’s statement that the first squad met ‘high anomaly concentration’, the squad leader had little doubt that it was these anomalies thy had to fear most. He had already spotted the tell-tale signs of anomalous activity in several areas; shimmering air as if hot, pulses of murky light, odd formations in the ground and shrubbery.

“Damn it, Edik,” Mark huffed, still a little on edge. “Why did you have to forget the detector?” He was speaking of the thing Edik couldn’t find in the jeep, just before being cut off by the anomaly. A device made to detect abnormal energy fields and several other changes created by anomalies.

“I didn’t forget it, it must have been in the car somewhere,” Edik replied, clearly becoming annoyed, but trying to keep his cool. He failed. “If you want to go back and get it, I’ll lend you my spare keys.”

“Only if you walk in front of me with those keys in your mouth. I’m sure you’ll know where that anomaly is when it tears your head off.”

“Shut up, both of you,” Anton ordered, becoming frustrated, himself, at his team’s lack of professionalism. “Just keep your eyes open and we’ll see them without a detector. You can knock each other about when we get back.”

Entering through a hole made with wire cutters in the chain link fence, Anton followed signs of the previous squad’s path. A clear, single-file line of boot-prints in the dirt led him from a group of warehouses to the train coordination office. A small building in lateral size, though easily two stories high with an observation tower going up another two. The trail led to a side door in the office, which was now closed, but cracks in the wood near its handle suggested it had been pried open.

Without saying a word, Anton motioned for the squad to stop and look to him for hand signals. He signed for two to cover the door and a third to keep watch behind them. Without hesitation, the three stalkers moved into position, their training taking over. Anton stepped in front of the door, holding his rifle with the butt stock forward. With his free hand, he counted down. Three… two… one.

Taking two lunging steps, Anton slammed the door with the butt of his rifle, knocking it inwards. Roman and Edik charged in, guns up and ready. Anton and Mark continued to sweep the road and alleyways around them for anyone who heard the clamor. Inside, the two stalkers could be heard moving in quick intervals, taking small steps between doors and hallways, becoming quiet as they moved in farther.
Anton stayed kneeling outside with Mark, waiting for an ‘all clear’ from Edik and Roman. After a full two minutes of silence, Anton became anxious. Finally, he heard Edik call out from inside the office.

“Sir,” his voice was a bit too loud for comfort. “You’d better come see this. It’s them.”

Anton and Roman moved in, not as if rushing into a fight, but still on their guard. After passing a small room with a dozen small cubicles, they entered a hallway that led to an empty conference room. There stood Edik and Roman, who stared at the bodies of four field equipped stalkers bearing Sawmill insignia patches. Anton slowly approached the bodies and knelt to examine them.

“They’re just lying there,” Edik exclaimed with confusion.

“No bullet holes, no claw wounds, no burn marks,” Anton described out loud, attempting to discern the cause of their deaths. “Masks on, magazines full… there’s not even any blood.” The bodies laid face-down with no signs of struggle. The only thing worth noting is that all four of the dead stalkers had tightly clenched fists. Anton flipped one of them onto its back and removed its mask. The face was blue and unusually thin, his eyes bulged out as if frightened. “That’s odd; loss of oxygen, but no sign of suffocation.”

“You’re a doctor, or something?” Mark questioned, probably just unnerved by the strange scene.

“Standard medical stuff I learned in police training.”

“So, any idea what happened?”

Anton nearly gave up, but then noticed how loose the dead stalker’s suit was around his arms. He took one of the limbs in his hand and felt for anything unusual. Suddenly, he dropped the arm in surprise, it landing with a dull thud on the wood floor.

“He has no muscles,” Anton gasped, seeing similar looseness in random limbs of all the dead stalkers. “What the hell could do that?”

“Anomaly,” Roman answered, speaking for the first time in a long while. There was no suggestion or question in his tone. “Something no one’s ever seen before.”

“No wonder they look suffocated. The muscles in their lungs, their heart, all gone.” Anton’s surprise dissolved into fear. He let the fear take hold for a few seconds, but then pulled together once he got his wind back.

“Jesus,” Mark paced and began swearing under his breath. “Why didn’t they notice something was wrong? They just walked in here and died?”

“Who knows?” Edik began. “Maybe it’s invisible and we’re standing in it. We’re just asking for it if we try anything by ourselves. I say we book it out of here. Screw occupation, the Zone can have this place.”

“Cool it down,” Anton spoke; taking control of the situation before any bright ideas were thought up. “You’re right; we can’t do anything here by ourselves, but we still have the mission to finish. Strip their equipment and tags. There’s a garage up the road, we’ll get a car and head back to the Sawmill.”


After settling some weak protests, Anton led the team to the garage, and hopefully, a usable transport. Their pace was slowed, as they now carried four extra packs of weapons and supplies. The entire yard remained silent with the exception of a burst of gunfire heard in the distance. The large door was locked down, but an average wooden door stood next to it. Again, the four took positions around the door while Anton counted down. Three… two… one.

The door lock easily busted off its hinges and the door swung open, Edik and Roman rushed in. A frightened scream immediately burst from inside, causing Anton and Mark to stand and look in.

There were webs everywhere. Shimmering curtains of white thread hung from the high ceiling and covered the walls. Edik, being the first to enter after the door was broken, had fallen on the ground with a scream. He now franticly brushed off his suit and mask, now glistening with the web, which seemed to be dissolving at his touch like white cotton candy. Roman stood just inside, and quickly backed out the way he came when he saw the strange web.

“God, get it off me!” Edik cried, even as the glistening had faded.

“Calm down, it’s gone,” Anton called. “Come out here.”

Edik slowed his brushing and walked outside. The three unconsciously backed away from the man, still confused and frightened. Edik stopped to examine himself, not believing that the web had just disappeared.

“You okay?” Mark asked, clearly afraid that his squad-mate would keel over at any moment.

“I, I guess I’m fine,” Edik said with a quiver in his voice.

“Okay, let’s be more careful going in,” Anton said, pulling a flare from his waist pouch. “I’ll clear it out, then you guys head in.”

Popping the cap, the flare ignited with a bright glow of sparks and smoke. Waving it in front of him, Anton moved into the garage. The webbing melted away as heat from the torch touched them. Taking a chance to look around, Anton saw several small vehicles, most with their engines removed or in pieces. Then he noticed a large truck, a KAMAZ flatbed, sitting in front of the aluminum garage door. It, along with everything else inside the garage, was covered in shimmering white moss. Other than that, the truck looked in good condition, most likely used for hauling parts around the yard.

“Alright, I found a ride,” Anton called. Hearing the popping of more flare caps, he continued clearing his way to the truck. After burning away the web from the cabin, Anton opened the door and climbed inside. The cab was left untouched, so he had an easy time removing the plate under the consol and exposing wires.

“Must have been a big spider to make these webs,” Edik pointed out. “Do you think a mutant spider is hiding somewhere around here?” The question was half joke, half serious, as one never knows what kind of creatures were bred from the Zone radiation.

“If there is, the thing probably doesn’t catch much,” Mark answered, also in partial jest. “Stuff isn’t even sticky.” With his free hand, he reached out and grabbed a handful of thread, watching it melt in his palm like snow.

The three men were startled when the huge truck roared to life. Anton chuckled as he opened the cab door.

“Okay, boys,” Anton called. “Hit the door and we’ll get the hell out of here.”

With renewed vigor at the prospect of leaving, the three made their way to the large metal door. Two padlocks held the door to steel rings buried in the pavement.

“Edik, get the far lock,” Roman said, pulling his pistol to shoot off the closest padlock. Edik only raised a thumb in response before walking to the far side.

Suddenly, Edik slowed and his steady stride crumbled into a stagger. He then fell to the ground, landing on top of his torch.

“Oh, God,” Anton said, knowing that Edik would burn if left like that. Leaping from the truck Anton carefully crawled towards his fallen friend. The two others were screaming something, but their voices were drowned out by the slowly rumbling engine. Anton was only a meter from Edik when the dead stalker lit on fire, ignited from the self-fueled torch burning under him. Anton reached the burning figure, but continued moving past him, pulling his sidearm from its holster and shooting the lock that Edik never reached. The first shot was followed by a second from Roman, but it was followed by a third when he missed in the panic.

The three remaining squad members pulled open the heavy door and ran into the truck, which sped out as soon as Anton could reach the gas pedal. Glancing into the side mirror, Anton saw a small pillar of smoke escaping out of the garage, rising from a faint orange glow inside. He didn’t let up until slamming through a security gate blocking the exit back onto the road. All three of the stalkers were silent as Anton slowed down to watch for anomalies, lost in both shock and relief.

After calming, Anton became detached from the situation. His remaining squad sat without speaking; only the steady rumble of the engine filled the cabin. Anton felt at peace, lost in the white noise around him. The ride back was quite pleasant for him.



The General sat in his office, reading inventory reports while listening to a mellow orchestra playing on his radio. The door woke him from his routine and he looked up to see Anton standing just inside.

“Good morning, corporal,” the General said calmly, motioning to a chair in front of his desk. “Please, have a seat.”

“I take it you want to speak of the mission, sir?” Anton asked as he sat, a cold look was painted on his face.

“Indeed. I looked over your report, and I must say I didn’t believe it until I saw what happened to your squad mate.” He spoke of Mark. During the ride back, he started became hysterical and the muscles in his arm began to dissolve, apparently from the web he touched. It didn’t spread far, but his condition was critical when they arrived. The web was apparently an anomalous formation similar to witches’ jelly. Yet, instead of liquefying bone, the thread did so with muscle. The first squad must have accidentally come into contact with the stuff, only taking effect after they managed to move into the office building. “Quite an interesting find, not to mention hazardous.”

“Then you agree with my proposal?” Anton asked, but only because it was expected of him. He already knew the answer.

“I believe that your plan is a tad extreme. I know of a few people in the research field who would very much enjoy studying this ‘web’ you found, and would value such an opportunity in a tangible sense.”
A snap of anger hit Anton, but he controlled his reaction, knowing what was coming next. “This is why I have called you here, corporal. It will be necessary to occupy the train yard as soon as possible to prevent its discovery. I want you to lead a full lance back there and set up a position.”

“A lance, sir?” Anton repeated. “I’ve lost all my men with the exception of Roman, and I doubt anyone would volunteer to transfer down.” At this statement, the General rose from his seat with a chuckle.

“On the contrary, my friend, the general consensus of your squad has been updated as of your return. Word of your actions has reached the ears of many stalker squads here. They are impressed any of you came back, let alone with a degree of success.” Anton held back a laugh. His ‘success’ in recovering the equipment of four stalkers while loosing that of another three in addition to their deaths and returning with another in critical condition hardly struck him as anything but a total failure. He was amazed that anyone would be impressed with those kinds of results. The General looked to Anton and recognized his expression. “As I understand, there are easily a dozen volunteers for this mission. Your knowledge of the situation would be essential to their success, as well as their safety.”

Anton felt the inevitability of this mission, so he might as well, if only to minimize any more losses. He rose from his seat and walked to the door. Turning to the General before leaving, Anton wished he could have found better words for his answer.

“As long as the men are alright with our name, I’ll lead.” The officer laughed at Anton’s statement, then realized he was serious.

“’The Throat Steppers’,” he replied. “Hardly fitting, wouldn’t you say?”

“Not at all,” Anton answered, grinning while he opened the door. “I’d say it fits us all perfectly.” The door closed and steps could be heard fading away while the General thought about the young man’s statement. The older man chuckled and sat back in his chair.

“Grim, yes, but anything else would just be a lie.”

End
  04:56:22  1 November 2005
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ThatGuy25
I'm lost... got a dollar?
(V.I.P.)

 

 
On forum: 12/22/2003
 

Message edited by:
ThatGuy25
11/01/2005 5:21:57
Messages: 90
New story, "The Throat Steppers" By author of "Hunting Misfortune"

Ok, so after I rewrote Hunting Misfortune and read some of the other stories in the forum, I got into a writing craze. I have begun to write a new story, but it began so well I just had to get the first half or so out to the people while I finish. This has more characters with actual personalities than the last one and, another crazy idea I came up with, NO ZOMBIES! Imagine that? It starts out a little slow, but should pass quick into the good stuff. By the way, there is mention of 'Witches Jelly' which was first mentioned in "Roadside Picnic". Just my interpretation of the goo. Please comment constructivly, and for the love of Jebus, enjoy!

* * *

The Throat Steppers
By Brett Rogers (AKA ThatGuy25)

Noise. Everywhere was noise; people yelling, motors running, guns firing in steady bursts on target grounds. Nothing bothered Anton like the racket that constantly slapped him awake when silence began whispering promises of peace and uninterrupted thought. It was noise that brought him here, this place where he thought would be barren of life and the unending babble brought with it. Yet here he was, lying on a cheap cot within the epicenter of a screaming beehive: The Zone mercenary garrison nicknamed “The Sawmill”. It was here he had been led three months ago, excited at his opportunity to detach from society. He had no idea that leaving the culture he knew would only lead him to another, far more savage one.

Anton was once a policeman in Belarus, but his time “serving and protecting” left him depressed and angry. The people he served were selfish, rude, and loud, caring only for themselves and yet seeing no problem with crying when others don’t help. He left it all, never again to give to those who only take and cry for more. Such brought him to the Zone. Here he could be free. Yet, now, trapped in servitude in a military-like organization of scavengers, he was beginning to miss how trivial problems on the outside were.

“On your feet, corporal,” a man just inside the barracks door ordered. Anton rose from the cot without hesitance, snapping a salute to the man, seeing his patch that identified him as a lieutenant. The ranks around the mercenaries were to be taken seriously. Here, you didn’t do push ups for insubordination; just killing you saves them the time and effort of disciplining. “The General wants to talk to you.”

Anton ran for the main facility, a two story factory office two blocks from the barracks. The General was the base’s commander. Though not as high up as the executives on the outside, he was the most important man on-site. Arriving at the conference room, Anton slowed to a tall, brisk walk as he entered. The General stood speaking with two other merc’s, both equipped for Zone travel. He looked to Anton, already standing at attention.

“Good morning, corporal, glad to see you,” the General spoke, far more polite than he usually spoke to low-class members. “I won’t waste time, since this is urgent. You will be heading your squad on an assignment tonight.” The man’s words didn’t hit home until a few seconds after he said it. Anton was shocked, but kept his head so not to look green.

“Sir?”

“I know your only two months into our operations, but right now, we are stretched pretty thin. Yesterday morning, I sent a squad to a train yard to the northwest for recon of the site to see if it’s usable for occupation. After reaching the yard, we received information of high anomaly concentration, then, this morning, we lost contact,” this was odd, but nothing very unusual for recon teams. “Your squad has been pulled to check it out. Sergeant Vasiliy will be in charge of the operation and will guide you to the train yard.” He motioned to one of the armed men. Sergeant Vasiliy was a tall man with an unshaven face. Vas was familiar to him and his squad, almost a friend, but still a merc’ officer. Anton felt a twang of frustration. He hated being assigned higher-ups to lead his squad, but he could think of no one better than Vas if his leadership was to be one-upped.

“Yes, sir, search and rescue isn’t exactly our specialty, but we are up for it.”

“Rescue is not the objective, the squad is presumed lost. You are on strip duty.”


The jeep strummed and shook over the broken pavement leading out of the Sawmill. The sun had fallen, and only the glow of gathering clouds remained in the sky. Five men sat inside, holding their weapons tight against their chests as if they might escape if given the chance. Anton’s squad, nicknamed “the throat steppers”, was basically the lowest rung on the ladder. Their nickname referred to those who wandered a battlefield after the fight was over, stealing the fallen warrior’s possessions and stepping on their necks to prevent any resistance. It was a squad of greenhorns, new to the Zone, if not to danger and survival. How could Anton have thought that such a squad would be sent on a mission of any real importance?

“Hey, Vas, show us the pictures,” one of the men said. It was Edik, a man of 24 years, two of which spent dealing in the Zone. One of the most experienced in the squad, yet never rising in rank because of differences with the officers. Surprisingly, he befriended Sergeant Vasiliy, who kept a small book of snapshots of Zone oddities. Vas looked back at him from the driver’s seat, a puzzled look on his face. “Mark wants to see the ‘Witches’ Jelly Man’.”

“Okay, page twelve,” Vas smiled fiendishly as he pulled out the small book and handed it to Edik. “Just don’t lose your dinner on my photos, yeah?” Witches’ jelly is an anomalous liquid found in the Zone. If someone touches it, it soaks through suit and skin, down to the bone, which it dissolves into liquid. It usually spreads through an entire limb if only a foot or hand is submerged. The ‘Witches’ Jelly Man’ was a stalker Vasiliy found in the basement of an apartment in Pripyat. Apparently, he had fallen waist-deep in the stuff, managing to crawl up the stairs before it began to spread. Judging from the reaction of Mark, Anton surmised that the new recruit had never seen a man whose skeleton had been liquefied. Mark began to retch, much to the amusement of those with him in the back seat. Later, Edik would explain that the clumsy stalker wouldn’t have felt much pain after his scalp began to crush his brain. This didn’t seem to comfort Mark much.

“And I thought that picture of your wife was sickening,” Mark playfully shot at Edik. The two exchanged punches and laughed, temporarily forgetting the mission.

The fifth man in the squad was named Roman. A quiet man, Anton never got to know him very well. All he ever said was that he was a journalist wanting to write on his experience in the Zone. He always carried a personal data assistant which he used for notes. Anton nearly asked how Roman was feeling, but was stopped by Vasiliy who announced their arrival.

“It’s just a few more blocks ahead,” He said, now in his serious officer tone. “We’ll stop a bit early and go in quiet.”

“Check your gear, boys. Even if we don’t expect targets, I don’t think the first squad just got lost, get me?” Anton called to the squad.

“Sir, I can’t find…” Edik’s words were cut short when the jeep abruptly stopped. It then began to vibrate violently. “You run us into a ditch, Vas?”

“Get out, now!” Anton ordered, wasting no time on doing so himself. The troops popped open the doors and piled out just as the jeep began to rise off the ground. Leaves and dirt swirled around it as if caught in a small twister. Anton ran to the edge of the road before looking, but nearly ran back when he saw that the driver’s door had not been open. He could only see the silhouette of Vasiliy, still behind the wheel, but struggling with his seatbelt. “Vas, get out!”

The swirling wind grew as the car continued to rise; Anton’s voice was being drowned out by the roar. Suddenly, there appeared a glow at the base of the twister which began to pulse with a strange light. Anton and the squad could only watch from the roadside as the jeep crumpled and groaned. It continued until only a large ball of twisted steel remained floating above the ground. Finally the winds died, dropping the mass of steaming metal to the pavement, rolling awkwardly into a ditch not ten meters from where Anton lay. Silence swept over the area, the team dared not move or speak for several moments.

“What the hell was that?” Mark finally choked from across the road.

“Anomaly, probably gravitational or magnetic,” Roman answered, oddly calm after the sudden event. “It’s harmless now, no charge left.”

“It killed Vas!”

“So let’s be more careful than he was as we move to the yard.” Roman’s statement came as a shock to Mark.

“To Hell with that, we don’t have a vehicle anymore, or anyone who knows the way back, if we weren’t screwed enough already. The mission has gone to shit.”

“Shut up, everyone,” Anton ordered. He had to keep his team together, now that he was the ranking officer. One of the most dangerous things a Stalker group can face is panic and fear. It leads to compulsive actions, maybe even betrayal for the sake of one’s own survival. The last thing Anton wanted was the team to start killing each other or deserting. “We go to the yard, take a quick look, and start heading southeast back to the base.”

“What about our radio?” Edik asked, knowing the answer, but hoping someone was holding out.

“It was in the truck,” Anton answered quickly, securing his equipment and motioning to the others to do the same. “Just form up on me, keep your eyes open, and don’t book it at the first sign of danger. I’ll take point.”

The four stalkers grouped together and took a final look at the twisted wreck that was once their ride and their friend.



More to come later... too tired to finish... -Brett (ThatGuy25)
 
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