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The difference between you and me, series - Ian Clements(BYPASS)

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  08:03:07  6 July 2004
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Amoki
back with a vengeance
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On forum: 07/31/2003
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The difference between you and me, series - Ian Clements(BYPASS)

By popular demand... and a chance to make up my mistake, I hope.

Part 1 of 4

"Abram, are you awake?"

I hesitated, almost certain of the conversation that was to follow if I said yes; where the questions chase their tails and answers are like greased pigs, forever running before you but too slippery and fast to lay your hands on. Rain was still drumming against the windows, as it had been for most of the day, maybe it was the weather that had forced the change in Lukin
  08:08:34  6 July 2004
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Amoki
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On forum: 07/31/2003
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Part 2 of 4

Human beings are never satisfied.

It makes us unique, I suppose, that we have some deeper need to trawl the oceans and probe the heavens, gathering facts and data to lay out in books and theories. We keep moving, keep forming and shaping our world, because if not then what are we? What are we but intelligent animals aware of our own mortality?

What are we indeed.

Stupid, arrogant, I
  08:09:29  6 July 2004
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Amoki
back with a vengeance
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On forum: 07/31/2003
 

Message edited by:
Amoki
03/11/2006 10:14:22
Messages: 1729
Part 3 of 6

"Shoot him."

I swallowed, my hand flexing on the pistol's grip, the wind around us whipping up into a frenzy as though anticipating what was to come. Clouds boiled overhead, threatening rain, we were the only life in a dull, industrial landscape, and I knew I was observing all these things to stop from focusing on the person whose head met the barrel of my Makarov.

The man on his knees, hands bound behind his back with cable ties, who was quickly and quietly praying, eyes squeezed tightly shut in anticipation of my bullet.

Four hours ago he was a Stalker, we didn?t know how long before that he had been hiding the growth on his lower neck, or how he thought he could ever have got away with it for that matter.

Desperation can do strange things, the hot, sickening rush of blunt realities piling up around you will unravel a rational mind with frightening speed. Every move you make plays into it, every intended correction just adds energy to the destruction, and before you know it you?re in quicksand; nothing you can do and no-one you know is going to help you now.

We tested the growth, Bloch declared it malignant, cancerous, and I?m sure that Pravec wondered at the sickening double-standards that could allow the man he bribed to keep this illness quiet, to be the man that was allowed to diagnose him for a second time and seal his fate.

Silence could be bought, but only a fool would keep to that silence when confronted with the undeniable truth. Bloch was not knelt beside Pravec because of the unspoken rules that ran through this place, counters and half-measures which were little more than feeble dressings on festering sores, but enough to soothe cynical consciences.

Pravec was D.N.R, yet he had pretended otherwise, that much was a death sentence in any faction.

Sovereign was no exception.

I looked round and saw the five other men standing watching me, their expressions bored and distant, one urinating noisily against the side of a building. Their listless contempt for this execution triggered a hot surge of anger inside me, and my fist tightened around the Makarov in response. ?do you not think this pointless bloodlust? To take the life of a dying man??

This objection ceased the splash of urine, and the man looked nervously over his shoulder, first at David and then at myself. The others took a sudden and obviously forced interest in their weapons, one lit a cigarette and drew on it nervously as his eyes flicked between me and the group commander.

David was not a natural leader, he did not fill empty rooms with a tremendous presence, but what he did possess was an uncanny understanding of his fellow man. He was one of those rare few who took part in this play but could see the controlling influences surrounding everyone and everything, and while I was certain such knowledge troubled him deeply it also gave him an unquestionable power.

"You believe we should set him free?" David asked evenly, "that his disease is punishment enough?"

I became suddenly aware that the prayers beneath me had ceased, and I knew without looking that Pravec was now staring at me.

There were eight rounds in the pistol, and I was trapped in an argument I could not possibly win, with an innocent man?s life as forfeit. I studied Sovereign as one; calculating how long it would take Hassan to jam that clip back into his AN-94, of how quickly Ladimir could drop that cigarette and draw a bead on me with his Glock, of whether Vlichko would risk unloading his RG-6 at such close quarters.

No way a 9x18 round could ever threaten Kevlar, so I needed five headshots, with a three bullet margin of error.

Impossible.

I know Pravec was praying now not to a Deity about to welcome him into the afterlife, but rather that I really was that good, that I could wipe out an entire Stalker faction and escort him to freedom.

"I do." I replied. "You are judging him for mistakes he has not even committed, how can such a judgment be called justice?"

"So?" David mused, considering the evidence with a vaguely amused smile. "You stand there now, telling me that this man, with cancer gnawing at his bones, would not have failed us in the future? That his body would still be strong, his judgment clear, until the day he died?"

"I risked my life for you, for all of you!" Pravec blurted, his tone wavering, "I only needed enough money for my family, so they at lea-?"

David was on his feet, striding purposefully forward. "Be silent! This... sickness has affected more than your body if you see yourself as a victim! Every man here placed their lives in your hands, you who knew you were not fit for the task! Nothing occurs here today that you have not forced us toward!"

Pravec sobbed, his arms writhing endlessly against the bonds, "I...I would have left before the worst of it, I swear! There... there was no other way!"

He was right, of course. The terminally ill Stalkers, the D.N.Rs, were not allowed to join any existing faction, or even to form their own. Even if you are of sound body and mind, with a disease which won?t extinguish your life for another six months, you will not earn the amount you seek in that time by seeking it alone.

We allowed the D.N.Rs to become Stalkers, but it would have been kinder to turn them away at the outset, rather than pump them full of false hope and send them out into this place, to die away from their families chasing worthless trinkets.

I saw myself in Pravec, so much so that perhaps he should have been pressing this gun to my head, he symbolized everything that Stalkers didn?t want to admit about themselves.

Fear, desperation, despair, betrayal.

By slaying him were we trying to convince ourselves that we had murdered those weaknesses, and in turn gain a few priceless hours as indestructible men, warriors, before the infection crept back in?

I wish I could tell you.

David, adrenaline and perceived righteousness spilling through him, ignored the traitor and turned on me "And you, Abram! Have you learnt nothing during your time here? What do you think will happen if we release this man without punishment? Word will spread, others will take the same path, believing that the worst they might receive is mere banishment."

He stood so both I and the rest of Sovereign could see his face, it was a well-measured performance. "I never desired that it might come to this," he sighed, voice heavy with regret, "and I know that some of you may not wish to see Pravec killed. But this place does not repay acts of kindness, of consideration."

David spoke the next words with great conviction, driving the pommel of his fist into a cupped hand to add weight to the most important of them. "All we have is the solidarity, the strength, of our group. We must defend these at all costs. Because the zone will allow us nothing else. One act of kindness, of mercy, now could unravel any trust we have left in each other."

"Please, David" I said quietly, only for him to hear, "I... cannot do this."

Now staring only at me, he continued speaking as though nothing had been said, loud enough for the entire group to hear. "Would you entrust your lives to a sniper with a brain tumor? Or a medic with AIDS? Once the links that bind us together are weakened, unstable, then we are no longer a faction, no longer a group, just a bunch of hopeless men who know it is safer to be alone."

"Enough!" I snapped, frustration that I couldn't match such eloquence, that it was impossible to win that way, overwhelming me. "No matter how you glorify it this is murder, David! And I will not be the one with this man's blood on my hands!"

The group leader observed me carefully, as though he had just spotted a new species deep in the zone and was trying to figure it out. "If you will not do what is best for the group," he said slowly, "then it falls to me."

David popped the catch on his holster and drew the Browning, keeping it by his side, ?I will give you one last chance to do the right thing.?

"Or what?" I spluttered in nervous disbelief, the Makarov trembling in my grip. "You'll shoot me? Kill me, like you would kill Pravec?"

I locked eyes with David and his stare told me that was exactly what he wanted to do, there was an anger burning in him with such intensity that I marveled at his ability to control it. I knew his kind, they were not so special, brick by brick a logical face was cemented over the rage, keeping it prisoner, but this logic, this intensely black and white view of the world was only another form of fury, it was far too rigid and restricting to be anything else.

A laugh, flat and artificial, broke the silence.

"Don't be so melodramatic, Abram." He chided, smirking. "I don't need to shoot you, why would I? It would be far easier to destroy your reputation, to evict you from Sovereign and spread the reasons of your disgrace. Do you think anyone else will take a D.N.R sympathizer on board? How long do you think you?d survive outside of the factions? A week, two, a month?"

"How long?" he asked aloud, and was met with a chorus of answers:

"Five days!"

"One and a ha-?no, two weeks!"

"A week!"

"Six hours!"

Laughter.

David chuckled. ?You see, Abram? I don't need to kill you. The Zone will do that for me. All I need to do is?..cast you adrift.?

"Abram," a voice beneath me croaked, forcing my gaze down to Pravec's tear-stained face. "Shoot me, Abram. It is not worth both of us dying over this, and I... I would rather have this done by a friend, than by any of those animals."

Some form of quiet dignity had stolen over him, so much so that in a single moment I respected this one man, knelt before me, bruised and beaten, more than anyone else I had ever known.

"Pravec," I murmured, the words sticking in my throat as though they were dry and tacky. I would sooner shoot myself. I cannot admit this as a crime, I cannot punish you for it."

His brow furrowed, and all at once realization flooded his face, animating it, he regarded me with a sudden and desperate hunger ? as though I were a commodity, something to be traded. "You! You're... "

I fired once, a self-preservation reflex, and Pravec's head snapped to the right as the bullet punched through his skull. His body crumpled quietly to the grass, no more words to come from those lips, and with that one sacrifice I knew it was too late to ever go back.
  08:10:22  6 July 2004
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Amoki
back with a vengeance
(V.I.P.)

 

 
On forum: 07/31/2003
 

Message edited by:
Amoki
07/06/2004 8:20:36
Messages: 1729
Part 4 of 6

My name is Lukin Petrenko.

Yesterday was my eighteenth birthday, but I didn
  08:19:40  6 July 2004
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Amoki
back with a vengeance
(V.I.P.)

 

 
On forum: 07/31/2003
Messages: 1729
Part 5 of 6
  08:26:53  6 July 2004
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Amoki
back with a vengeance
(V.I.P.)

 

 
On forum: 07/31/2003
Messages: 1729
Part 6 of 6/finale

Drinking until the most obvious truth becomes something to be handled with hushed awe, fighting and bleeding to prove that you can do it just as well as your unevolved ancestors did, bedding so many women that your eyeballs drown in lust and the taste of their sweat is embedded on your tongue.

I was always led to believe that these were the things which made you a man, basic requirements and needs, but such rules were written by people who had never really become adults at all; seeing themselves in adult skins and with adult voices was enough.

For a long time I thought there must be a point at which my brain would mature, new attitudes and considerations would be loaded like software onto a computer, it would be a natural evolution. Far too frightening to consider that these people around me with adult skins and adult voices might feel the same way as when they were sixteen, that underneath the long words and the rationalizations they were just as lost and afraid as the smallest child.

To exist in a world where no-one ever really grows up is supposed to be the realm of fairy tales, bright places and happy faces, but when you realise that your father is as frightened of death as you used to be of the monsters in your dreams then there is no hiding from the truth.

Becoming a man was nothing more than hiding, surrounding your fear with smoke and mirrors, forgetting how it works, what it tries to tell you.

That there are things you cannot control.

That monster do exist.

The cool yet stale air of the above floor was replaced with an overpowering stench, the smell of things long since dead yet unwilling to be buried. Glass glittered in the flashlight beams, crunching beneath our boots, and my maglite played across shattered windows which for one horrible moment snarled like huge, fanged mouths.

I looked to Abram who was studying the motion detector intently, he glanced up long enough to shake his head.

Raising the shotgun, I entered the nearest room.

It was some kind of medical bay; pools of liquid shone across the floor, leaking from smashed bottles and vials, giant dents had been punched into the stainless steel units, still intact cabinets filled with medicines lined the farthest wall. My flashlight beam caught a dull splash of red, so dried it almost looked like the floor was beginning to rust, I held onto that notion as the splash became a slick, and the slick became another pool.

The centre of the room was dominated by a steel operating table, the sheer size and weight of it turned my stomach, it would have been more at home in an abattoir than a hospital. I was no stranger to corpses, yet those that I had seen were inevitably covered to spare others the trauma, this one was displayed in the fashion of a biology specimen sliced and pinned open.

Details crowded into my mind, unwanted details from idly reading too many medical books when I was younger, when I had actually intended to follow in my father
  10:51:34  6 July 2004
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Goodspeed
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On forum: 07/25/2003
 

Message edited by:
Goodspeed
07/06/2004 10:52:06
Messages: 70
Ah, I see that Amoki has been working on this story as well! Got out all the minor flaws and left the original spirit of the text fully intact! A job well done, I'd say. Looks like you're not just a moderator anymore, but an editor as well!
  18:23:39  6 July 2004
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Ian_C
The man lacking a plan
(V.I.P.)

 

 
On forum: 08/02/2003
Messages: 273
Thanks Amoki, it's interesting to see the changes you made, it certainly looks a lot tidier and smoother this time round.

I'm a bit perturbed that 18(ish) people have viewed my most recent parts posted and not voted, although I think they're probably just as confused on the idea of voting on different parts of the same story as I am. Far better to be able to rate the piece as a whole, but I digress.

Started work on Snowmaiden now, although I'm only about five pages in.
  01:12:02  7 July 2004
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Chode
Token Weird Guy
(Resident)

 

 
On forum: 12/30/2003
Messages: 381
Do you happen to be related to Tom Clancy?


Don't worry about the voting on the main page, according to Amoki it's irrelevant now anyway
  01:20:06  7 July 2004
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Ian_C
The man lacking a plan
(V.I.P.)

 

 
On forum: 08/02/2003
Messages: 273

---QUOTATION---
Do you happen to be related to Tom Clancy?


---END QUOTATION---



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