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my first STALKER fanfic: Liberation

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  16:59:49  31 January 2005
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doggydog
Tripping on waste
(Resident)

 

 
On forum: 03/06/2004
 

Message edited by:
Amoki
02/07/2005 11:29:18
Messages: 1524
my first STALKER fanfic: Liberation

First of all, thanks to NaziKilla for giving me a few pointers on how to continue my plot. For the rest, thanks to the ever-helpful Don Reba, who's name I used to name the main character

(Amoki - lol, what about me ) )

Here goes.

Edit: You don't have to read it all at once, just do it one chapter at a time...

_____________________________________________________________

The clouds passed over Mischa's head.

It felt like he had been standing here for days.

The sweat ran in criss-crossing lines over his forehead, along his neck, into his vest. His muscles were all cramped up, and his eyes were hurting as if the sun burned right through them. And the heat... There was so much heat.. His muscles felt like he'd been standing like this for days, without moving them once. Yet, he couldn't move. His arms didn't budge. His toes wouldn't curl. His fingers couldn’t form a fist. His eyelids couldn't close. In this.. trance, he was in... It made a minute seem like an hour. An hour felt like a day. A day became eternity. Eternity, a mere blink of an eye. Mischa tried, but he couldn't. He couldn't close his eyes. those parched, dry, red eyes. He couldn't blink. He just stared into the sun, the souls inside, endless..

Then suddenly, he snatched. His concentration broke. His cramped muscles loosened. His eyes closed... With a dried out, parched voice, he managed to speak:

"Finally..."

In an instant, his body was engulfed in fire. All the bones in his body snatched. His face was covered with blood.

Time.

***

6 days earlier...

Mihail had always been a little crazy. At childhood, he, his dog and his parents were caught in a snowstorm in the middle of Siberia. Only he survived. "How could a twelve year old survive a Siberian winter storm?" was the mystery. No one really knows. Some say he took refuge in an old shack that used to be inhabited by a wolf-hunter, before Soviet authorities locked him away. But they left his shack untouched. Two years later, a Soviet helicopter spotted the shack from up high, burning. According to the Soviet police, a boy had trapped a bear in the shack, and burned it down to kill it. The boy supposedly had kept him and his dog alive with the flesh of wolves. They say he forgot how to speak. they say he growled like a wolf. But those are just rumours. Tales.

In the zone, many tales are told. They come and go. Sometimes they sound ridiculous, sometimes sincere. But you know what they say about tales.. They grow. But most say every tale contains a core of truth. And no one questioned the fact that Mihail wasn't what you'd call an average stalker. My friend, that guy is crazy! Some newbies call him a predator, as in the American movie. some say he's a straight lunatic. Others see him as a demon.

Mischa (as the other like to call him) is the leader of the Duty clan. In fact, he was its founder. Strange though, how a crazy drunk man and a mob of drunk followers can ignite the start of a crusade like that.. He vowed never to rest again until the human race was free of 'barbaric demons' that threatened mother earth.. The zone creatures, in this case. His clan now consists of about 23 core members, with several loose contacts and hideouts. The members are scattered in groups of 3, hunting the zone for evil. They occasionally rally someplace and get ready to march into the zone after a blowout, to kill off confused monsters and animals still under the effects of the blast. They kill people sometimes, too, because they got suspicious and hid for the frenzy of Mischa and his appostles.Then they'd spot the hiding and fire away at the threatening looking stalkers in the bushes.. and kill them. It has now been over a month ago he was last seen outside, apart from his clan members, who won't speak up. The Duty clan itself is rumoured to be very rich. Ofcourse, it's not a very big surprise they get funded by some more 'sinister' organisations.. But the question is, how do they get such expensive material? And where? Whenever you see some dodgy-looking character sitting in a building or atop of a tree with nightvision goggles or one of those high-tech toys with thermal capabilities, you can be sure he's an affiliate of the Duty-clan. Not only do their members sport such fancy looking gear, but so do most stalkers who work for them regularly. Whenever you bring them something valuable, they'll offer you a present nobody else can get. Although the artefacts are usually worth more than the price of these gadgets, the mercenaries don't care since they wouldn't be able to acquire the stuff anyway. So everyone's happy this way.

A Duty 'team' usually consisted of 3 men who were assigned to 'guard' a section of the zone that was either a place of interest or a suitable place for mutants to live in. They can't allow that. That about summarises what they discuss in their annual meeting. A meeting is organised every year. Mischa rents himself a place, designates a certain building on the outskirts of the Zone, or bribes the garrison commander of an outpost to allow certain stalkers into the base grounds. Mischa's men are still at their assigned posts at that time, or at least, they should be. They'd better. Because, before you're accepted into the Duty clan, there's a set of 'blood oaths' you need to swear to live by. They include, among others, never leaving your assigned post without permission, even when under constant threat. When attacked, Duty members are expected to fight to the death. If a member tries to leave his post, or even considers it, then he's no longer worthy of Duty's honour, and not even to live. So, deserters of Duty are no better than ordinary cowards, and are to be shot on sight. Such is the code Duty serves, and respects. Second, leaving the Duty clan is not a free choice. Duty expects eternal loyalty of its of its members. Unless a member is diseased or wounded in a way he can no longer continue fighting, he's not allowed to leave. Even if a member makes a run for it without his teammates knowing why or where he went to, Duty always has its ways to find out where he's hiding out. Even if he left the Zone, or even the country. In any case, Mischa always knows ways to make the deserter's life a hell on earth.

So, the members need to gather for their meeting. But I know Duty doesn't rely on radio-messaging to signal its members to attend it. The Zone's strange anomalies and blowouts tend to disturb and interfere with long-distance radio waves. I know. I've researched it. So Mischa has to rely on another way of signalling his exhausted men out of their posts and to the rendezvous point. Carrion birds have been attempted before, but the strange nature of the zone tends to disrupt the pigeon's natural 'pathfinding' instincts, confusing the birds into plain flying to the centre of the zone, disappearing and never to be seen again. Researchers have yet to discover what is luring them into the centre...

Most people tend to use couriers these days. One or two messengers, or 'liberators' as they are called in the Duty clan. Their work is dangerous, and important. Liberators are the prime target of Duty's rivals. They, my friend, are the sole band of men that keeps the Duty clan's heart pumping. Why, you ask? Because if they don't deliver their message to Duty's guards, then these guards will not leave their posts. They have sworn not too. Failing this blood oath they have sworn on their mother's graves means death. So they will keep fighting. And by the time Mischa realises his men should have been there by now, it's already too late. I'm sure I don't have to tell you staying in the Zone for longer than 5 to 6 months without a break is a deathwish. Not because of the monsters.. But just the pure madness of spending 6 months with the same people, in the same place, with a constant threat of mutants and anomalies.. But we, we save them. We bring them back. We rescue them. We liberate them. We are the ones who come releave them of their duties, and tell them they can go back home, to safety. We are the liberators. I am one of those men. Then they can rest for 6 months, until the next meeting. Such is the life of a Duty member. Six months of peace, six months of war. That is the life we chose. That is the code we serve.

Duty contains some of the most battle-hardened men in the entire zone. It sports both daredevils and guerrilla type soldiers. Most are not of the ex-military type, although some people say certain Duty members outclass even the finest Soviet military has to offer. This is just another one of those tales, I guess, but I'll tell you anyway... They say a young man, a Duty member, was travelling along with a liberator and a hired stalker, through an area that was known to be a controller strongpoint, defended with hordes of armed zombies. The liberator had no other choice but to move through it hoping the controller would not detect them, because there simply wouldn't be enough food left if they went around. So, he had to take the risk.

What the group didn't know, was that the Soviet military was preparing a raid in that area as well, with a purpose to try and capture a live controller specimen. You see, I don't like to ruin the story for everyone, but this is the statement that doesn't make sense: Soviet Special Forces would never assault a controller stronghold without the proper equipment, as this story suggests. That happened in the early days, before military command realised how dangerous the controllers were. So if this story revolves around the early period, Duty clan wouldn't have existed yet... Or maybe the so-called Duty member joined the Duty clan afterwards... But nobody knows for sure. So anyways, the group decided to move during the day, as the controllers sleep at that time. The military knew of this too, and moved it's special forces into the Zone by 2 Hind choppers. The 2 choppers touched down, delivered the troops, and took off. But, as they took of, something happened. Some say the choppers ran out of fuel, or maybe the rotor engines were broken. Maybe the controllers caused the pilots to snap. Either way, the pilots took off, both choppers started spinning, faster and faster, in opposite directions... And flew into eachother. One chopper crashed almost exactly on the place it had landed, the other one a little further. The capsizing wreck's rotor instantly bashed into the group of soldiers, ripping 3 soldiers in half. Thus, the group of 3 stalkers and 9 SF soldiers (rumoured to be of the ALFA force) survived the 'accident'. The 9 soldiers, seeing their only way out of the zone gone, panicked. They had never even been in the zone and dealt with its enemies before! So, in a stalker's eyes they're no better than rookies. So the 3 stalkers chose not to make contact with them, they couldn't feed them anyway. 4 days later, the 3 stalkers safely made it back to camp. 8 days after that, 2 Soviet soldiers made it back alive. They didn't have any ammo left. One of them had severe brain damage. Both were suffering of intense starvation and undercooling... They both died some days afterwards.

Whether this story was true or not, I doubt it... But I'm sure I'd believe it in other circumstances. Duty really does have tough men, with no equal. But any man can be broken here, in the Zone.

So, when the meeting is gathered, each Duty team assembles around a large table, and puts all of its recorded materials, photographs, tabloids, schematics, plans, diaries and audio recordings on it. They discuss what they saw on which date, and on which time of the day, the frequency of blowouts and anomalies, and every reason how or why this could affect mutant migration. Then, later off, how they were going to deal with it. The skilled, but few soldiers of the Duty clan know they can't fight the chaos and barren wastes of the Zone by themselves, and that they could only succeed by striking on the places where they are needed. That is what they discuss in this meeting. Not only did they discuss mutant activity, but also which people they saw, how many, and how many times the same group or person passed by the Duty outpost. What weapons were they carrying? What were they searching for? What equipment did they possess? Did they notice the outpost? Mostly, when a Duty outpost is discovered, the tale spreads fast. In a matter of days, when a Duty team was spotted inhabiting a city building, camping in a shack overlooking a certain field, or just plain living under a tree or in a dug-out hole in the sand, it was only a matter of days before the entire population of the Zone knew of its details. Therefore, Duty members were responsible for camouflaging their stakeout nests. But even if they were discovered, usually nobody intervened. Well, not the military atleast. Duty keeps tabs on the mutants. The military would be losing much, much more men if it weren't for Duty constantly researching and suppressing their migration. And who knows, maybe they really do sell their reports and video material to the highest bidder, as the rumours suggest... but, again, those are just rumours.

When every single piece of evidence and schematic had been thoroughly investigated and discussed (which usually takes about 3 to 4 days), they start discussing how Duty should react. First of all, schematics of mutant and anomaly activity and occurrence were drawn. Second, Duty would investigate were mutant activity was on the rise. Mischa knew the best way to fight and exterminate a species was to suppress it and drive them close together. They had to deny the species of its natural sources of food. Mostly preys of smaller mutants, in this case. Traps and snipers would be strategically deployed, the goal was to kill as many mutants as possible by luring them to an open spot. Then, the trap sprung, killing a group of creatures, and 3 euphorical stalkers would run screaming for their dying prey, to have the honour of killing it off themselves...

Traps usually consist of either claymore mines or snipers, because they are the only way to make 'safe' traps. Mischa didn't want Duty to accidentally kill or wound a soldier, or even a stalker, that would be catastrophical for the observation team. If a group of stalkers stumble upon a Duty trap, and one dies, the other stalkers usually left to come back with reinforcements, and flush the hunters out of their foxholes. And you know the Duty members aren't allowed to run off... Indeed, this would bring the Duty clan in danger. So only sniping and remote-controlled bombs are allowed. The observers are to make visual contact with their prey, wait for it to come into range and "BANG!" ... mutant dead. Actually, making a choice between taking a sniper-rifle or some claymore mines tends to be quite an interesting one... People who pick the sniper rifle, know they will be stuck with it for nearly 6 months. And, imagine, having to live in the same dump for an eternity with nothing else to do but to sit, read and observe your environment, with the same rifle, all the time. The men take turns to stand watch for 3 hours each shift, constantly gazing through that scope, waiting. By the time a courier brings you your first 2 week-supply of military rations, you'll already have memorised how everything looks. Men try to make the time pass by counting the number of trees, clouds, bullet-holes... Or, if they choose to take the claymores, they amuse themselves by marking the mine's killzone (the effective area around a mine, ensuring a kill) with twigs, memorize it, and take the marks away. Then, they'll be sure to kill a mutant when it passes by. Obsession, I call it. But you can't blame them, can you?

All returning team members need a certain period of rest before leaving off for their next assignment. First of all, for recovering from the wounds and scars they might have suffered while fighting. Second, to try and ease up the body after a long time in an irradiated area. But mostly, because they seriously need to catch up on lost sleep, and to be able to move around again. Their physical condition usually weakens allot during stakeouts after sitting in the same cramped spot for so long, only being able to stretch your legs when going outside to urinate or catching some food when the courier's running late. Then, when they are ready, when each squad has been assigned a stakeout spot and has selected its gear, they get one week to prepare, arrange for transportation, and discuss which courier is going to serve which team. A courier's standard post is safely out of the zone, but whenever Mischa gives them an assignment to supply or extract a team, they are given a certain period to gear up for their 5-day venture into the Zone. They fulfil there assignments, and return. When the observation team reaches its objective, they set up camp, secure the area, and get ready to spend half a year there, waiting. Hunting the Zone for evil. That is about all there is to be told about the Duty clan.

My name is Alexei. I've lived in the Kiev region for most of my life, and lost my baby brother during the Chernobyl accident. 8 years ago, I finished my education in the university of Moscow, and started my career working as a nuclear physicist. After reading a book, written by a Stalker in the Zone, I decided to travel here in search for knowledge, or rather, experience. Coming here was one of the things in life I'll never regret. I've met some great, devoted people here, and allot strange phenomena. Any man can spend a lifetime in search for knowledge, and yet learn nothing that comes even close to what a single day out in the wilderness of the Zone can teach you. I've heard breathtaking stories and fought monsters -- I've seen things I never even dared dreaming of seeing! And now... I'm a liberator.

I have an assignment coming up. Duty's meeting Starts in 4 days, and I still have to bring 2 reconnaissance teams to the rendezvous point: a scientific research outpost. I have all the equipment I need: My dosimeter, my gasmask, my bodyarmour and my Vintorez. And a first-aid kit, just in case anyone can't move on his own. I've decided to leave at dawn, march all day with one 15-minute break, and reach the first team before dark. It's the middle of the summer now, so daylight lasts long...

I strapped on my gear, checked my dosimeter, readied my Vintorez, and put my gasmask on. Before leaving, I looked in the mirror one last time.

What I saw was... A hooded, tired looking man with brown eyes, pale skin, and a gasmask that reached until the nose. The rest of my face was clear. I wore a thin, brown coat with red elbow patches and Duty insignia. This insignia alone could save my life. If any stalker spots my insignia, realising I'm a courier for the Duty clan, would only fire without thinking of the consequences it would have on his reputation amongst the Duty recon squads, and, worst of all, Mischa. You don't want Mischa chasing you. Hunting you. Shortly after leaving, I'd start running into wild mutants in about 6 hours. Then, six more hours through hazardous zones and to the first squad's outpost. "They should be in a small apartment building on the second floor, expect the stairs to be barricaded", said Mischa.

I knew the team was ordered to sweep the area of every mutated dog they could find... So I'd know what to expect once I make it there.

The first 6 hours of my trip were, as expected, without contact. I did spot 2 men scurrying around a dead mutant, inspecting it. They were probably a bunch of rookies seeing their first dead animal. Good luck to them. After walking inside the infested part of the Zone for 2 hours without seeing one mutant, it started getting chilly. leaves were tossed around by the wind, and the sky got darker. That's very unusual for a summerday... I kept walking for a few more minutes. Nothing strange to see. It just seemed to get colder... And darker..

Probably that time of the month again, just 2 days after a blowout... The weather tends to act a little funny now and then. Nothing special.

It kept getting cooler and colder, although my thermometer kept indicating 19,2° C. The sky looked as if it was evening already. Very strange.. Maybe I should research this, when I have the time. Just 3 more hours until I get to the finish... Hmm?
I distinctly heard a noise. Of a footstep. Must be another stalker.

Silently, I crept though the semi-urban streets of Pripyat, looking in the direction of the footstep I heard. However.. How could I've only heard one step? Don't people usually walk... with two feet? Suddenly, I started getting dizzy.. My head was hurting. I had to sit.. or lie down...

My eyes began to hurt.. and my ears. The quietness of the city was getting louder... I couldn't take it, I couldn't take the silence! Paranoia... I began hallucinating... , I sat down on my knees... I couldn't take it... My head...

The pain kept getting worse. the clouds above moved faster and faster. The sun peeked through the clouds and burned into my skin... Days passed by. Weeks. Months. Years. My skin began to corrode. My muscles grew weaker. My eyes were tired. The sky turned black...

***

"Hm?" I woke up... My head... was clear again. The sky was bright. The clouds returned to normal. I'm feeling fine... What in the name of God was that...

No! I know what it was! It must've been a telepathic creature, influencing me.. A controll-- "Aaargh!" The instant I though of it's name, it happened again! I dropped on the floor, screaming, crying, headache... The clouds passed by with an impossible speed.. the sky flickered, the wind blew faster and faster, the leaves corroded, my skin...

I passed out.

The howling of a wolf awakened me. It was night. The howling of the wind made me shiver. Where was I?

"The Zone... Oh no, not the Zone... No!..."

I cried.

"I'm so alone.."

It felt as if a thousand crying voices dwept with me.

"The Zone.... So full of sorrow.. death..."

"Why me... Why here? Why now..."

What had this controller done to me?.. Did it demoralise me? Did it try to make me weak? Make me afraid?

Or did it open my heart?..

I stood up, full of sorrow. Now, I wish, I had never come here... How, how could I've been so foolish..?

I had to continue. For Duty. I have to get to the recon team. I had to get them out of here. I had to get out of here. I stood up, strapped my gasmask tighter, picked up my Vintorez, and continued. I was running late.

Let's hope I'll make it in time.. Hope they're still alive. I've got to hurry. Run!

I ran as fast as I can, it began to rain. Puddles began to form. I had to avoid stepping in them, you never know what could be in the water. Probably something that eats through my boots in a matter of seconds. Better not to step under the trees either..
I kept running. I should be reaching the outpost in a few minutes. Lighting struck. Thunder raged... There it was, the outpost! I saw them! They're alive!

I saw the lightning glance off the sniper's scope. I could see his breath. He aimed at me... "Liberator!?" He yelled. I waved at him. "It's me! Alexei!"

The sniper stood up, opened the window, and stuck his head through, in the rain. "Alexei, is that you?!"

His face was full of scars, and his eyes were tired. He wore a black scarf that covered his nose and mouth. Only his eyes were visible. No helmet. "Alexei, do not go through the front door of the building, it is barricaded!" He talked as loud and clear as possible, the wind and rain made it hard to understand eachother. "Wait for me to unlock the door! Go get some shelter!"

I pulled my coat closer to my body and took shelter in a doorway. For a second, I saw 3 lighting bolts flicker between the stars. Thunder struck. The door of the building was kicked open from the inside by one of the men. He signalled me to come closer, while aiming at me with his rifle. Once he confirmed my identity, he lowered his weapon. "Alexei!!! Oh god, am I glad to see you! Come in, quick!" He grabbed my arm and pulled my inside, and shut the door. Immediately, he grabbed the doormat and slammed it into my coat, to wipe the acid rain off. After my coat was clean, he guided me onto the stairs. They were full of blood... "About time you made it, Alexei. We were beginning to think you wouldn't show up. But you always do, don't you?" he laughed. I noticed his hands were shaking. Looks like he really did think I wasn't going to come..

When he opened the door to the second floor, I saw two exhausted, desperate faces twist into my direction.. as if I they had waited for Santa Clause to bring them gifts... "Alexei! You came! Oh god, you're here! Thank god you came!" the two men embraced me immediately. The sniper had to pull them away from me. "Hey, do you want to get burning acid all over your skin? These things can cause a rash, you know?" The two men let go. "You remember us, don't you Alexei? It's been so long ago... I'm Gregor, remember? This is Yegor, and that horny bastard over there is Andrei. "Pleased to meet you!" said Andrei. Andrei looked young, he wore a long, thin coat like me, without a gasmask. His face looked neatly shaven, although they didn't bring a shaver with them. So he must've been about 20. Yegor looked a little older, with a little facial hair, and green eyes. He didn't smile. Gregor looked the oldest of all 3. He wore glasses and a thick, camouflaged wintercoat. His Dragunov's colour scheme matched with the one on his clothes.

With my right hand I unstrapped the gasmask from my face. I felt the prints of the gasmask on my skin after removing it. "Mischa's organising a meeting in the research outpost 12 kilometres away from here. Tomorrow morning, we leave for a second team I need to pick up, and we'll move to the outpost together. Show your ID cards and they'll let us in. Mischa's waiting... So, what did you see here?"

"Not much.." Gregor answered, "We got attacked by a pack of hounds about.. five times, each time we thinned out their little pack by a few. The fifth time, only one hound escaped. We never saw him back. We also spotted the usual people... a few choppers, and a team of researchers too. I don't think they spotted us." He stood up and walked towards the window where his sniper was. "We usually keeps this window shut and camouflaged, and we peek out through an optical cable, only taking out the sniper when something dangerous approached. The hounds, in this case. We experienced about 9 blowouts, but they didn't affect us much."

The next team I had to reach was about 2 hours away. After that, it's a short walk to the outpost. According to last year's material, there's a way along an old road monsters tend to stay away from. The military patrol there too, sometimes. I had to follow the road until the 4th exit, which led to an old chopper crash site. I don't know why, but the crash site and its surroundings tend to be a popular place for those strange, black markings on the wall. What are they called again... I don't remember. Anyways, the recon squad set up camp in a small shack that overlooks it, where they'll study the marking's movement pattern, and what animals they attract. But since no effective way of killing it exists, they only needed to observe. For the rest, there would be no activity. That is our challenge now. I remember the road's often visited by the nocturnal bloodsuckers... So it'd be best to go during daytime.

"We'll spend the night here. At dawn, we head east. We rendezvous with Pasha's team near the chopper crash site, we head home. Understood? The men nodded. "Good."

I couldn't sleep at night. Neither could the men. Not because of the guard-shifts but because this night felt different. They were going home. But me... I didn't know what was going on. That controller, that panic-attack... I've never experienced it before, I don't know... It changed something inside me. I feel it. It changed.. it snapped me. It did something to me, I don't know what. But, it's like... I don't want to be here anymore. I don't want to see it anymore, I don't want to feel it. Now... now I know what I feel. I don't belong here. That's what I feel. And he... he knows. He can feel it. He can feel my fears. He can feel my insecurity. He knows. He's watching me. I can see his eyes, stinging in the back of my neck, I can sense him, going through my mind, searching, inspecting... observing.

'you don't belong here!'


"Alexei! Wake up! It's time to leave!"

Time to leave. The sun was shining.

I picked up my Vintorez and strapped on my gasmask once more. Time to go. Andrei and Yegor were ready to go. Gregor was still checking out his AK 74, cleaning it. "Time to go home!" he said. Together, Gregor in front, we went down the stairs and kicked the door open. The sun immediately blinded our eyes. A beautiful morning. Another day in the Zone. In a steady pace, we moved further east, and the road was in our sights. "Watch it now," I said, “this place is patrolled by the military during the day, and bloodsuckers lurk during the night. Watch your step, and your back." The men continued.

Still, no sign of the military, or mutants. It's dead quiet. Too quiet.

The crash site was near. This is the 4th exit, now if we follow this path we'll reach the crash site from the south. Then, the shack'll be to our right, close to the trees.
We're getting close. As soon as the first glance of the crashed chopper came out, Andrei ordered us to stop. "Wait here", he said. He slowly crept into the bushes and climbed into a tree. His young body was very athletic. When he made it to the top, Gregor asked what he saw. "Nothing unusual," Andrei replied, "I think I can see a man with a gasmask inside, looks like Pasha's anticipating us. Let's go greet him!" He climbed back down and we continued. As we carefully approached the shack, Andrei, being a close friend of Pasha's, went ahead to wave at him. He stood up, went to the front of the shack, and yelled:

"Paaaashaaaaa! Remember me? Guess what, we're here to bring you back home! Come shake my hand, you bastard!"

No response.

Andrei jumped up and down, waving. "Pasha! you lazy whore! Stop joking around and greet an old friend! I know you're in there! I saw you!"

Still, nothing happened.

"He's just being paranoid," said andrei, "he's probably a little scared after sitting in this godforsaken shack for so long. Let's go meet him inside."

"Andrei... are you sure you saw it right? Are you sure you saw Pasha from that tree?"

"Ofcourse I'm sure! Let's go inside already!"

Andrei ran to the door of the shack, followed by the rest, and knocked thrice. No sound.
"Damn you, Pasha! open the goddamn door for us! Now!"
...
"Damnit, I guess we'll have to do it ourselves then. Yegor! Hand me your crowbar!"
With Yegor's crowbar, he breached the lock of the shack's door. A squeaky door, but nobody was really surprised of that...

"Pasha.... come out, it’s me, Andrei!... Why the hell won't he come?" We went in. First thing we saw, were lots of bulletholes and blood on the think wooden walls... "Alright, this must be what got him scared. He got into a fight with someone and he's afraid to com--" Gregor immediately shut his mouth, suggesting to be quiet. He whispered: "Shut up, you little brat! Whatever he fought is probably still in here! Now keep quiet and ready your god-bloody-damn gun!" Andrei's face turned pale, and he loaded his AK. We're in for trouble..

Everyone loaded a cartridge into the barrels of their weapons and ducked against the walls, looking around. Yegor signalled everyone to be quiet, and raised his finger to his ear, indicating us to listen closely...

... Nothing...

*BUMP!*

"Upstairs, upstairs! Move! Kill it!" Gregor roared. This is what the Duty clan is known for!
Everyone fired up and ran for the stairs, tactically scaling it once the area is safe. Andrei peeked around the corner and rolled sideways into the next room. "Clear!" The squad split in half, Andrei and Gregor to the left, me and Yegor to the right. I peeked into the room and saw nothing. Yegor did the same, on his side. The rightern part of the second floor was now cleared, so we went to the left, were Gregor and Andrei were. We couldn't see them.

"Where did they go?" asked Yegor, ducking against the wall, as if listening to the sounds on the other side. "Wait, I hear something... They're on the other side of this wall!" he said.

Something wasn't right with that.. "Are you sure there's a room behind that wall, Yegor?"

"GRUAAAGH!"

A pale, strong arm literally punched right through the wooden wall Yegor was ducking against, and grabbed him by the throat. "AAAaaahhh....aaaAAAAAAHH!!" Yegor's neck snapped. I panicked and fired away at the wall the creature was behind. It was a Snork!!!

"KILL IT!!! FIRE AT WILL!"

Gregor and Andrei unleashed a storm of jacketed hollow pointed lead in the direction of the gruesome monster, killing Yegor again, too. "Fools! You've hit Yegor, damnit!" "He was already dead! Alexei, move the fuck away from that wall, damnit! He's still behind it!" I realised how vulnerable I was, and dived away from that gruesome wall, with the sound of Yegor's snapping neck still in my head...

"Throw a grenade!"

Andrei unpinned one of his grenades and crept to the hole the Snork punched through... he was shaking. He stretched out his hand, and went a brief step forward to throw the grenade into the hole.

...
nothing happened.

"Andrei! Did you take out the pin right, damnit!?" Andrei showed us the pin around his finger. What the...

suddenly, the Snork punched a hole in the floor directly in front of us, nearly dragging Andrei down, and throws the grenade back up!

"WATCH OUT!"

*BANG!*

"Godamnit!!! That thing is smart! Is anybody hurt?!" No one was injured. the smoke cleared.

Everything was quiet now, for a brief moment... But now, Andrei began looking at the floor, the walls, the ceiling...

That thing is everywhere! It's all around us! All of us panicked, started taking nervous steps backwards, afraid of the walls, the ceiling, the floor...

"Run! We have to go down!" yelled Andrei, trying to pass Gregor behind him. "You're not going anywhere, you little brat!" We're killing this thing! You swore to!" Andrei tried to relax... I started going forward once again, closing in on the hole. "Enough of this!" screamed Gregor, pulling the pin out of a gas grenade, holding his hand on his scarf, and waiting until it popped. "Argh, shit, hot!" he yelled, and threw it into the hole. Andrei coughed a little, he wasn't wearing a mask. "That'll flush him out!" Nothing happened... once the grenade had released all the gas it contained, the sharp noise stopped and everything was quiet. A little gas poured out of the cracks in the floor. Suddenly, I realised: "Hey, that thing was wearing a gasmask! It's immune to gas!"
"Goddamnit!" Gregor mumbled, getting ready fire a few bursts into the ground. "Maybe this'll help."

*BANG-BANG-BANG!* ... *BANG-BANG-BANG-BANG-BANG!*

"Gruuaahgh!"

"I think I hit him! Get ready, he's coming up!..."

Then we heard the beast bashing away at the floors below us. It seemed to come from my side of the hole. With a gruesome roar, the beast had punched its way up, ripping off the shards of wood around him, and pulling himself up , jumping up -- bringing a pocket of gas with him -- and landing in a cloud of suffocating smoke... Truly a scary sight. Its face was full of blood, bullet wounds, and pieces of corroding skin and wounds, a sight that looked gruesomely familiar to me. "SHOOT!" Andrei kneeled, aimed, and popped the bastard right in the back of his head! the beast dropped, still twitching..

"NOW DIE, MUTANT!" Gregor leapt forward and planted his knife in the creatures back, pulled it back out, and stabbed it again! Andrei took his revenge too. He unholstered his Browning Hi-Power, grabbed the bleeding Snork by its nose and shot it in the mouth, splashing blood over the walls. "For Yegor!" He screamed.

Exhausted, I took a few steps away from the dead mutant, and sat down... "So.. tired..." ... I was dead tired....

"You don't belong here!"

"Ahh!"

"Alexei, what's happening? Are you alright?.."

It happened again.

I walked alone, in an open field. A distant tower was visible. From close by, I heard my baby brother's voice... "Alyosha! When will you be ready with your homework? I'm so bored!"

Then I heard my voice, as a 14 year old: "Soon, Sasha, everything in time."

You don't belong here!

the sky turned dark and a storm approached. It rained. It rained... acid. The rain washed away my protective suit, my clothes, my skin...

"Go away, Alyosha! Go to your brother! He so longs to see you again."

Alyosha.. that was how my brother liked to call me...

"Sasha..."


"Alexei! ALEXEI, wake up! You're hallucinating!"

"I.... can't take it anymore, Gregor."

"What do you mean, 'I can't take it'? Listen, we have to get to the outpost now, Alexei. Relax, it was just a bad dream. You've been in the zone for too long again. Common, we can't go on without our liberator!" I struggled to get up, but fell down again. After drinking some wodka to ease the pain, I reluctantly continued to the outpost. To get to the outpost, all we need to do is cross a small bridge over a pond, pass a few houses and the outpost should be in reach. Mischa will be waiting for us there. We discussed whether or not to bring Yegor's body along, and agreed to carry it to the outpost for proper burial. It wasn't very far, anyways. After about 30 minutes of walking, we stood across the entrance of the outpost, which was guarded by two soldiers by the gate and several others in guard towers. "Identification?" asked the first soldier. "We're friends of Mischa's. this here is Gregor, Andrei, and this is Yegor. He's dead.

"Go ahead."

The guards opened the gates for us, and we went in. Time to meet the boss...
I had only seen Mihail once in my life. And even then, it was dark. I don't really remember his face, he didn't like to come out in public. allot of people were after his head -- the rumours suggested -- and only during meetings he liked to come out. We get new recruits every year, who need to swear true to Duty's oaths, in front of the boss, Mischa. A familiar face guided me into one of the buildings. It was Pasha's brother, Krystiyan. Krys was a young-looking man with long, blonde hair, always with that serious look on his face. He should've been with Pasha in that house, where we fought that Snork. Did he escape? No, he wouldn't. I've never heard of a more courageous man in Duty other than Krystiyan. If someone made him the main character in the story about the two crashing choppers, putting him between the crossfire of a squad of ALFA forces and an army of controller zombies, I'd believe without a doubt. Nobody shoots better, runs faster, or thinks clearer than Krys. I'd trust him with my life, and that of many others. "Good to see you made it," he said, "the meeting's about to start."

"Yegor's dead," I said. "We were attacked by a Snork right on the spot your brother was supposed to be guarding... We didn't find his body."

"Pasha? Oh, don't worry about him. Mischa sent someone to pick him up for relocating, instead they placed him at a hotter zone, where they could use a talent like him... But wait, are you sure.. you didn't see his teammates there?"

"No, there was no-one in there, except a blood-thirsty Snork we killed, losing a man. But there were allot of bullet-holes and blood pools.." I said.

"That's unfortunate... The mutant must've killed them and took the bodies somewhere. How long would you guess his teammates had died? Pasha only left that place several weeks ago."

"Hmmm... I'd say only a few days, considering how dry the blood was. But why would that Snork stay in there for so long after killing them? Do you think it... knew, we were coming?"

Krys sighed. He didn't want to respond to that question. "We'll discuss that later, Alexei. first off, I need some rest. We'll continue in a few hours."

I was going to do the same... I need some sleep. Even if it were only a few hours...
I went to the bathroom, took a leak, washed my hands, and looked in the mirror... Man, my eyes looked tired... The gasmask's prints were still visible on my face. I took a minute to wash my face with icecold water, Man would I like a shower right now... So tired... Tired...

I stared at my face in the mirror... at the white paint on the wall... At the black and white tiles on the floor... Then my face again.

'Hm?'

My face... there was something different. Something had changed. My skin...

"You don't belong here!"

"AARGH!"

My head.. there's something.. in my head! Now I can see! I can see his face in that mirror! HIS face!

You don't belong here, Alyosha!

I fell on my knees... My hands pinched hard into my head, my thumbs pressured my eyes...

"WHY... WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME!?"

Go back, Alyosha! Go back to your brother!

The walls, the ceiling, the floor, my face.... They spinned around me... Wherever my eyes went, no matter how hard I pinched, no matter how loud I screamed, he wouldn't leave me alone!

"Leave me alone!!!"

"Alexei..."

"Sasha..."

"Alexei. Are you awake?"

"Who.. are you?...."

"It's me, Mihail."

"Mischa..."

"Yes, it's me. Alexei, I know what happened to you and your squad. I know how you fought that mutant at the place Pasha's team was supposed to be guarding. I'm sorry I didn't inform you of his depart, Alexei."

When I opened my eyes, I though I was looking through a mirror... He looked so much like me. He even had gasmask prints on his face.

"Rest in this couch for now, Alexei. I'll inform you when the meeting begins. You need some rest."

Mischa left the room.

...

"Right, here's the deal!" yelled Krystiyan in front of the experienced and disciplined members if the Duty clan, "I know you're all very tired after spending your required shift in the zone, but a situation's come up and we need to act fast. We've gathered as much people as possible for this assignment, because we know: this time it's getting dangerous. Last week, the observation team assigned to protect the southern Chernobyl outskirts was attacked and eliminated by members of a certain group called the Monolith-clan. We don't know if they did this on purpose or declared war against us. Although hey don't seem to have as much members and arsenal as we do, some of them are rumoured to have served with both the Ukrainian Special Forces and a number of more... terrorist groupings. All we know about them is their leader is a former Chechen sympathizer who fought during the Chechen crisis, and came here to gather funds and artefacts, make money smuggling them outside of the zone, and donate the profits to illegal and terrorist organisations. The military isn't asking us to fight them, but we'd sure as hell like to know their diplomacy towards us. Tonight, our leader is going to meet up with theirs on a rendezvous point and everyone's going to protect him. We’ve been able to allocate 14 men, you. The Monolith group is said to contain only about 16 men, of which only half would be able to show up at this time. The meeting's scheduled for tonight at 9 PM, dusk. Gear up. We leave in 30 minutes."

The men mumbled. Trouble's coming. Nobody was looking forward to conflict... as if the mutant's weren't enough already. But fighting humans... some men were more afraid of that than fighting the beasts, the evil. Some stalkers have more ethical issues fighting this way...

Either way, a war wouldn't be in Duty's best interests. The military might get troublesome. Some Duty affiliates might object. You never know...

I hoped, someway, although it didn't seem possible, that this would be my last assignment. I didn't have the courage to fight on anymore. I've seen enough of this godforsaken place...

I just had to stop. It was wrecking my nerves... And that controller... He knows.. He senses my weakness...

With a silent feeling of loneliness and serenity, I strapped on my gasmask once more. I cleaned, checked and loaded my Vintorez. It's time to leave.

"Time to go, Alexei", said Gregor while tapping me on the shoulder. "We've got our work cut out for us."

Before I left, I greeted the pale body of Yegor one last time.

"I'll see you soon, my friend..."

I kneeled down in front of his body and prayed. Prayed to God. I prayed, I begged him to cleanse me of my sins, and guide me out of the darkness, into the light.

"Sasha..."

Andrei stood in the doorway. He nudged his head at me, signalling me to come. Together with the expedition team, we left the outpost, under the burning sun. We each stepped into the military truck and drove away, into the Zone. The ride seemed to last for ages...

By the time we got to our meeting place, it was getting darker. We parked our truck somewhere out back, and covered it with a camouflaging net. The terrain we stood in was wide, open, with a few electricity poles along the dust-road and a few trees, a few abandoned farms. No sign of the Monolith stalkers.

"Monolith will arrive in about 2 hours, make sure you've picked a comfy spot by then, and try to stay undetected when they come. Cover Krystiyan at all times, make sure the Monolith won't try out anything stupid." yelled Mischa over the mumbling voices of the men. The men nodded and strapped on their gasmasks, Nightvision and thermal vision goggles, readied their weapons and picked a spot. Krystiyan was going to pretend to be Mischa and do the talking, while the real Mischa was going to stay back and cover him. Probably no coincidence, Mischa went to sit next to me in a tree. Gregor and Andrei were lying on their stomachs in the bushes, sniping. The rest of the men had spots in farms, side of the road, bushes... Most of them were armed with AK's, one man had a PKM, Gregor had a Dragunov and I had my Vintorez. Mischa carried carried his trademark weapon... a Mosin-Nagant M1891. Why, you ask? He says it's one of his 'relics from the old days'... They say he used that thing to fend off wolves. About 15 minutes before Monolith's expected arrival, Mischa began to talk.

"I'm sorry about what happened in Pasha's shack, Alexei."

"It wasn't your fault, sir. It could've happened to anyone."

"You can call me Mischa, Alexei."
...
"Alexei, is it true what I've heard, about how you lost your brother during the accident?"
"Well... y..yes, that's true.." I stuttered back.

"Hmm... First your brother, then Yegor, who next, Alexei.." he sighed. His voice felt comforting.

"Do you see that sun, Alexei, that bright, red sun?

My father once told me a story about it. He said: 'That sun, Mischa, that sun is what keeps the Earth warm. But who knows what keeps the sun burning? Who knows? Well, nobody knows for sure. Not even the scientists. But there is one thing we know. There will always be war. There will always be bloodshed. there will always be death' ."

"You see, Alexei, death is what keeps our sun burning. The sun is fed by the souls of our loved ones. Without death, there can be no life. And that, Alexei, is what you must always keep in mind. The only way for a human being to find true peace in his hearth, is by death. The only way to rise in life, is to fall. Life is a test, Alexei, and I know you are up to the challenge."

I closed my eyes, and thought about what he said. The sun went under. Monolith was coming.

Night fell. the Monolith truck was in view.... It pulled over, and about 10 armed men with hoods, ski masks and gasmasks poured out. They immediately set up a perimeter to guard, and two bodyguards escorted the negotiator out to the open. The two bodyguards positioned themselves behind trees and houses, and aimed their rifles for the approaching Krystiyan...

The two men started talking, but Mischa and me were to far away to hear what they were saying. They walked around eachother, in circles.. competing with eachother. The conversation was heated. I gazed out across the field, trying to spot the Duty soldiers in their hideouts... And then Monolith's...

My eyes turned back to the negotiators. Then men were pointing at each other, and speaking loud. The Monolith negotiator had a dark hood over him, and wore a heavily camouflaged vest, with a silver insignia on the shoulder. His face was covered with scars. Must be their leader, the Chechen sympathizer. He probably didn't trust Russians, even though Krystiyan was Ukrainian. I grabbed a thermal scope from around Mischa's neck and inspected the horizon with it... woah! Looks like Monolith had quite allot of men hidden. Looked almost as numerous as ours. By the blue shape of the rifles they carried, I distinguished two bullpup snipers and one Vintorez... Looks like they didn't come as cheap as we suspected. I slowly gazed back and forward with my scope, looking for something... Hm?

What was that? I knew I distinctively saw a humanoid shape creeping in the woods!.. Was Monolith trying to screw us over by ambushing us from behind?? "Mischa, look at this." I whispered. Mischa looked at the point where I saw the intruders.
"I don't see anything..."

"Look closer. In the bushes, creeping.."
"Holy motherf... Damn! Those aren't humans! They're bloodsuckers!" With shaky hands, he grabbed his walkie-talkie and warned the men. "Men, to the north! Use your thermal goggles!"

I could already hear some men swearing and cursing around, on both sides. Looks like the Monoliths saw it too. Cries and yells came from both sides. I saw Krystiyan grab his walkie-talkie and hailing Mischa. "Sir! What the hell is going on here!? Why won't they shut up!"

"Trouble's coming, Krys!" Mischa answered, "Get back to our side at once. We've got bloodsuckers closing in on the north!"

I could hear Krys briefly bidding the Monolith negotiator farewell. He turned his back, and attempted to run back to our side... But suddenly, the Monolith commander unholstered his pistol and shot Krys in the back...

"NOOO!" Mischa loaded his Mosin and shot the bastard in the stomach, he dropped in agony. It started raining. For a few seconds, nothing was heard but the two negotiators screaming out in pain... They were both still alive.

"Open covering fire with that PKM! Gregor! Strap on that thermal scope on your Dragunov, you're gonna need it!" Mischa yelled his orders through the walkie-talkie. "And get Krys some first-aid, damnit! And remember, deserters will be shot!"
The men started moving around. A machinegun opened fire on the other side, and ours. Yellow tracer rounds sprayed back and forth. Andrei, together with a couple of men advanced forward before Monolith could react, in an attempt to save Krys... Andrei carefully moved him onto a stretcher and pulled out, after planting his knife in the wounded Monolith leader. Monolith made one last attempt to make sure our 'leader' was dead, by firing an RPG into the stretcher. Luckily, the rocket squeaked by it's target and landed into the trees, were the bloodsuckers were. This was the sign for them to attack! Instantly, an entire HORDE of them came running out of the woods, attacking both parties. The men began to panic on both sides and fired randomly into the bloodsuckers, who had the ability to turn invisible... Only the men with thermal vision could track their movement somewhat, but with it turned on, they couldn't recognise which faction they were shooting, since all colours looked the same! Total chaos..

Some men began turning their flashlights on, afraid of getting ambushed in the dark.. A stray bullet flew right past my eyes, and another one was lucky enough to hit my thermal scope and knocking it out; I was blinded... "Turn your flashlight on! stay low!" yelled Mischa from behind me. Both of us weren't firing.

"GRUUAAAAAHHLLL!" the bloodsuckers howled! The howling was all around!

Surrounding us! We were surrounded by them!

Now I saw it... hundreds.. hundreds of RED EYES litting up behind us! This can't be real! THIS CAN'T BE HAPPENING!
"Oh... dear.. god....." Mischa stuttered...

"Hundreds of them.."

They charged. The men screamed.

"GRUUAAAAHLLL!"

The men went manic. Over the edge. There was no way we could survive this...

Lighting flash. It almost gave me a heart attack... there were hundreds of them, bloodsuckers... All those teeth, tentacles, red eyes...

The man began blasting away at the charging horde. The PKM's rattled. Dozens of bloodsuckers died, but they kept coming. Turning invisible. Growling. Howling.
The stalkers were no longer shooting in eachother's directions. They weren't fighting eachother any longer. They were now fighting for their very survival. The AK's rattled and fired away... the men screamed, fighting desperately to fight off the horde. The Monoliths turned their RPG's against the mutants. Thunder raged. It felt more like a battle than a skirmish. The Bloodsucker wave was coming closer, they were almost in fighting range... The PKM's burned up belt after belt full of ammo. How long could they keep this up? No-one questioned it. they just fired away.

Men with thermal goggles unstrapped them. They couldn't see clear anymore, the screen was too bright full of red stains.. too much for the thermal scope to hold apart. Flashlights were turned on. The first bloodsuckers started attacking the already exhausted men on the Monolith side, who were dug in around their truck. They fought, clawed, and ripped the soldiers to shreds. Most men were out of ammo already and used their high-powered pistols.. Some even used knives. I got ready to move into the defended area. The men where scattered in and around a small farmhouse out in the open, it was the centerpoint of all Duty's defences. Gregor had already taken his place on the roof, sniping bloodsucker after bloodsucker with his Dragunov. His scarf was a playtoy of the wind. Krystiyan had been brought inside. The PKM-wielding stalker had placed his machinegun in the window firing non-stop at the approaching bloodsuckers, killing dozens. But it just wasn't enough.

Me and Mischa positioned ourselves behind a wooden fence. "Time for the hunt!!" Mischa laughed, and fired shot after shot with his bolt-action Mosin, and me firing away with my Vintorez. My Vintorez was only equipped with a nightvision scope, not that it mattered. We could only fire at a bloodsucker every once in a while when it popped up visible, so we didn't have a clear idea if we killed one or not.

The horde was coming closer. They kept pouring out of the woods, no end of it. I only had 3 mags left… I saw everybody turning his rifle to single-shot mode to save up on ammo. Someone threw a heavy grenade into the field in front of us, killing several bloodsuckers with it. That was a cue for everyone to unpin their grenades and load their grenade-launchers on their AKs and unleash a hailstorm of explosives on them. I threw one too. “Hmpf!”

*BANG!* *BANG!* *BANG!* *BANG!* someone threw a gas grenade too, and some threw flashbangs. The PKM in the house fired a few stray bursts. A big cloud of smoke ensued…

All was quiet.

“Are they dead?” wondered someone…

“I think so…”

The men lowered their weapons and looked around. We could see a few dead bodies near Monolith's truck. Mischa wondered: "This doesn't seem right..."

Lightning flash.

"GRRUUAAAAHHL!"

I almost fainted. They were all around us, invisible! I can see their EYES!!!

"AHHH!" the men fired blindly around themselves, the bloodsuckers turned invisible and had infiltrated us! It turned into a melee fight. Men were clawed open, shredded to pieces, limbs and heads were all over the place. The bloodsuckers had blood over them, making them somewhat visible. The howling was constant... The mutants slashed and growled around themselves, with their red, protruding eyes... The men's flashlights glanced off their glowing white skin. Their eyes were terrifying. The bloodsuckers howled constantly, non-stop, as if they were fighting in a trance together, like the howling of wolves... we were desperate.

Mischa grabbed me by the arm and guided me towards the shack. "You'll be safer in there!" He kicked open the door and pushed me in. "I'm gonna round up the men! It's a deathtrap out there!"

It was a small farmhouse with brick walls, a few barricaded windows, and about 4 rooms. Krystiyan was being treated by a doctor in one of them, another had a few weapons and ammunition, in another one was Andrei fixing a weapon missfire, and in the main room was a man with a PKM firing maniacally at the bloodsuckers around the shack. "They're all over the place!" he yelled. "How's Mischa doing!?" asked Andrei. "He's rounding up the men to get around the shack, everyone's scattered all over the place! I think he's preparing to wear out the bloodsuckers. Remember, it's pitch dark out there!"

"Damn!.." he muttered, "Defending this place is going to be a difficult task.."
Mischa entered, preceded by 2 healthy men with AK's. Mischa was helping a wounded man walk to the room where Krystiyan was. "How's Krys doing?" he asked.
"He's stable for now, but if we don't get him to a hospital by tomorrow, I don't think he'll make it." the doctor replied.

"Damn, that's bad... 'cause I don't think we'll be going anywhere soon... But anyways, let's take a look at the situation. We've got 6 healthy men inside the shack and another 2 around the fence. I don't know what's wrong with Gregor, he's not firing anymore so he's probably laying low on top of the--" Mischa was interrupted by a stomping noise coming from the roof. "Hey! I can't get off this roof, I'm out of ammo! How can you get me in?!" it was Gregor.

"You'll have to go through the front door! Wait for us to cover you and we'll give you a signal when it's safe!"

"Okay, but be careful, the bloodsuckers are invisible again, I think they're planning somethi-- AAAHH! AHH! Get off me you damn--" "GRRUUUAAAHLL!"

A bloodsucker smashed Gregor's head through the roof, howling.

"AAAAHH!" Gregor screamed in agony. The bloodsucker released Gregor's body, dropping it into the shack. It was mutilated. "DAMN YOU!!" I screamed, and fired my entire mag into the roof.

"Grrraaahl!"

"Take that, BASTARD!" Me, Mischa and the rest fired everything we had into the roof, slaying the foul creature and pulling it's head through the broken part of the roof together, then blasting it some more. "DIE!"

The men breathed heavily and kneeled. "We... we can't keep this up all night, Mischa..."
"Don't worry... We'll get out of here, men... Even if I have to break Duty's code, we'll make it out.."

"Is Gregor still alive..?" The doctor put his hand on his pulse. "No pulse..."

"Take care, men. It's gonna be a long night."

...


We've been sitting here for hours now. Nobody's fired a shot in 45 minutes. All is quiet.
But I know they're out there, watching.

They know where we're hiding.

They're watching... I can sense them.

And him...

He's out there too...

Although they're quiet now, I can still feel their howling in my head...

And him...

I can feel their breath in my neck. I can see their eyes in the lighting. I can smell them in the dark, longing for our blood...

I'm not going out there. I'd rather starve to death.

I'm not going out there!

"Now you know how it feels to be on watch duty, Alexei..." said Mischa.

Him.

I stared at Mischa's sad face. He was leaning on his Mosin, thinking.

For a moment, I saw him. He linked me through with Mischa's mind... I could read.. Mischa's mind, through him.. And Mischa read mine..

"Father! Mother! Don't leave me!"

So... I'm not the only one.... That controller, he's seen us both, read our minds...

You don't belong here! Go back to your mother, Mischa! Go see your father!

So that's why he told me... About the sun... Mischa knew it all along... That controller, it's linking us together, entwining our thoughts...

Go back to your brother, Alyosha!

Mischa stood up. "Men.. I think it's time to leave this place. If we stay here, Krys is gonna die. There's a full moon, visibility is clear. Strap on your thermal goggles, if you have them. Load your weapons. You, on the PKM, what's your name?"

"It's Pavlo, sir."

"Alright, Pavlo, grab hold of Gregor's Fort 12 and leave the PKM here. It is of no use to us. You, can you walk?"

"I think I can manage it.. I'll keep up.."

"Okay, everyone, make sure you protect him, with his hurting leg he'll make an easy prey. I'm relying on you to keep him safe."

The men nodded.

"You two'll carry the stretcher. We're gonna try to fight ourselves to the Monolith truck. I'm sure all the Monolith have been killed by bloodsuckers. Let's get ready to move out."

While the others were readying their weapons, I sat down near the body of Gregor.

"I'm sorry..."

I took Gregor's scarf and put it on. The scarf was going to be what I'll bury once I make it to safety. Andrei loaded his AK. Mischa loaded his Mosin. The doctor and one of the men lifted Krys's stretcher up, Pavlo checked the Fort 12. We were ready to move out.

"Check the window."

Andrei carefully held a mirror out of the window, searching for enemies. "I can't see any."

"Wait for lighting to strike. You'll see the reflection of their eyes."
...
Lighting flashed. Thunder.

"And?"

"Nothing, sir."

"They must be hiding... get ready to move."

Mischa carefully opened the door... and held out his mirror. Nothing. then he stuck out his head, looked swiftly left and right, and shut it again. "there's nothing there, sir!"

"Then what are we waiting for?" Asked the doctor.

"Well, that's just it... there's nothing there..."

We were scared.

"Let's just move out. don't look for them, try to hear them coming."

Something was telling me there was danger outside. But I know who it was... He was warning me...

"Move!" the men poured out of the shack and kneeled down, aiming their rifles in every direction. "No visual!"

"Alright, move the stretcher!" the doctor and his aid carefully moved the wounded Krystiyan outside. "Put a blanket over him, cover him for the rain!" The stretcher advanced forward, covered in all directions by the soldiers. They kept going, but still no sign of the enemy. Suddenly.. Lighting.

The men froze.
...
there was nothing.

They kept advancing. They were about halfway to the Monolith truck. Just a little further...

"Freeze!"

3 Monolith stalkers popped out from their cover. They were about 30 metres away from us. “Drop your weapons!"

"We're not dropping anything."

"Suit yourself!"

The 3 men opened fire, and Pavlo was hit. The doctor put the stretcher on the ground and dragged it behind a bush, relatively safe. "Cover the stretcher! throw grenades!"
  17:02:44  31 January 2005
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On forum: 03/06/2004
 

Message edited by:
Amoki
02/07/2005 11:39:17
Messages: 1524
The 3 men opened fire, and Pavlo was hit. The doctor put the stretcher on the ground and dragged it behind a bush, relatively safe. "Cover the stretcher! throw grenades!" I was now down to my last mag. I fire carefully whenever I saw one pop his head up. Only Pavlo had a grenade left, and threw one as far as he could, wounded. It made the Monolith stalkers run from their shelter into the open. Mischa hit one in the back, another one was struggling with his own legs, because of the blast.

Lightning flashed.

The men almost choked on their own tongues.

"Bloodsuckers!"

Bloodsuckers had appeared on the Monolith side. 8 of them. The two remaining Monolith soldiers were immediately killed by them. A bloodsucker lifted the wounded man up, and slashed its claws into his face. The men opened fire and killed atleast two of them, before they all turned invisible. "Put on your thermal goggles!"

We weren't sure who had any thermals left. Pavlo had them, but he's down. Maybe Andrei had one too... Yes, Andrei had them, as sole Duty member who was up to the invisible enemy. He must've picked that up from one of the corpses around here. "I can see them coming!... Mischa, in front of you!!" -- "In front of me? Like this?" -- "Yes, there! Shoot!"

*BANG!* "GHRRUAAAHL!"

"Alright, you got him, he's dead!"

Pavlo's body was suddenly thrown high into the air, and slammed back into the ground by an invisible force. "Aaahhh! Somebody! Somebody HELP ME!!! AHHH!.. AAaaAAHH!"
"Pavlo!" Andrei kneeled, aimed, and fired 2 bursts in Pavlo's direction. "AAAAH--"

*splat*

Pavlo was dead. But the bloodsucker was visible, and got shot again, by Andrei. I didn't know if Andrei aimed for Pavlo on purpose or not. The men kept firing at whatever suspicious noise they heard. Anything could be an invisible bloodsucker. The doctor and his aid decided to lift up the stretcher and keep going. Covered by the men, the crept forward, coming close to the truck. They were almost home free.

"Alright, check the truck for enemies, load up and let's go! There's no time to lose!"
I peeked under the windshield of the back of the Kamaz truck, nothing there. I went back outside, and kneeled down for a minute...

"Man... what a night." Mischa came sitting next to me. "The sun's coming up..."

And there it was, the first sunrays tickled my eyes... I've never been so glad to see the end of the night... The wounded had been loaded in the back of the truck, along with the doctor and the aide. Andrei and the others climbed in too. It was time to go home.

"The sun rises ever bright. Think about the feast she's had last night.." said Mischa.
Suddenly, I felt something stinging in my neck.

"You can feel him too, can't you, Alexei?"

Him again.

I stood up, and walked into the direction of the sun. "You... y..you're here, aren't you?.."

"You don't belong here!"

Mischa stood up too, and followed me in my footsteps.

He yelled across the field: "Hasn't it been enough?! Haven't you made me suffer ENOUGH?! I'm trying to forget about the past, but you keep confronting me with it! You've tormented me for so long! I've had enough of it! I've had enough of YOU!"

"AAAAAHHHAAAARGH!!!"

Mischa screamed out in pain, rolling and shaking over the ground, holding his hands on his ears. "OUT! Get out of my MIND!"

I dropped on my knees, and pressured my eyes with my thumbs...

Suddenly, he was there.

I didn't know whether it was real or not.

His face...

I recognised it...

Mischa stood back up, and stumbled in the direction of the controller. "You... 're not... BOTHERING ME.... ANY LONGER!!!" He stumbled to the controller's image, and swayed his knife at it. The knife just went right through! As if fighting a ghost!

"You've been asking me to die... And die I shall! But I'm gonna take you with me, demon!"

He kept struggling on his own legs, desperately slashing at the ghostly image of the controller.

"You've tormented me for so long, that I raised an army to hunt you down, and everyone of your wretched kind!"

So that's how he...

"Now, why don't you come out here and FIGHT ME!"
...
"Mischa! Stop fighting! Put that knife away!"

"Hm?"

"Mischa! That controller.. It isn't real! You're only trying to kill your memories, let it go!"

"But... I saw him.. you saw him too..."

"No, Mischa, we're only dreaming this! This isn't real! Stop fighting!"

"Alexei... NO! You're being possessed by that controller! He's manipulating me, through you!"

"No!.."

"Don't worry Alexei, I'll free you! I'll kill the evil demon inside you!"

"No Mischa, no!"

The threatening shape of a man, possessed with hatred and sorrow, approached me with his knife...

"Die, demon! DIE!"

I dodged his first attempt to cut me, and floored the struggling man with a swift kick in the shin. Then I confiscated his knife.

"No, Alexei, don't let him take controll! Don't let him! You'll kill us all!"

Mischa had gone crazy. He seemed as if possessed. I could sense the controller's presence all around us...

Suddenly, the both of us froze. It happened again.

Time passed by. It passed by so fast, so fast it seemed to stand still. Until Mischa stood up, and walked relaxed into the sun. The horizon shimmered. The heat... Even though Mischa walked for out in front of me, I could hear his comforting voice close by:

"The Zone is a rough place, Alexei. Any man who enters, will never be the same again. When I spent those 2 years in Siberia, I never thought I would see my family again. We each have our problems and difficulties, and we all have our worries, our sorrows... But you need to look beyond that! There's so much beauty to see in life...

I'm happy to be relieved, now... This life taught me a valuable lesson. Without death, there can be no life. But without life, there would be no death! How could we enjoy our existence without life? How could there be existence without death? Alexei... promise me this. Promise me, you'll live a good life. Leave this place. Never come back! Start anew! Don't you bury that scarf, boy! Live with it! Live your life to the fullest!"

That brimming sky wasn't because of the heat. It was an anomaly.

"Mihail! Stop! Don't do it!"

It was already too late. Mischa froze, and dropped to his knees. I could see his pain from afar, the brimming heat...

"Finally..."

That very day, I left the zone for good. I vowed never to return to that place.

I never felt that controller again.
  01:15:40  2 February 2005
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Amoki
back with a vengeance
(V.I.P.)

 

 
On forum: 07/31/2003
Messages: 1729
Spacing, spacing, spacing. You're not writing a book for fans, you're posting a fanfic on the GSC forum in hope that someone would review tit for you. ATM the paragraphing is horrible, and I'll reserve my moderator super power until you need it.
  07:06:04  2 February 2005
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doggydog
Tripping on waste
(Resident)

 

 
On forum: 03/06/2004
 

Message edited by:
doggydog
02/02/2005 7:09:30
Messages: 1524

---QUOTATION---
Spacing, spacing, spacing. You're not writing a book for fans, you're posting a fanfic on the GSC forum in hope that someone would review it for you. ATM the paragraphing is horrible, and I'll reserve my moderator super power until you need it.
---END QUOTATION---



I'm sure you've been influenced by my sig.

Hey, if I could edit my post, I'd redo some of the spacing for you... Or perhaps, could I 'lend' your secret powers for a minute so I can redo it? I've written a whole bunch of stories in my life (although I didn't finish most) and all my spacing were like this. Anyways, constructive criticism is always welcome.

PS: I was also a little scared someone would blame me for pressing enter way too much to make my story seem longer. Besides, any comment on the storyline? Contradictions? Lame characters? Too much sentences starting with 'I'?
  23:54:32  5 February 2005
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GrislySilence
Fanfic Reviewer
(Resident)

 

 
On forum: 10/06/2003
Messages: 168
It's too bad you weren't able to submit this story before the deadline, it would have gotten high marks, I'm sure. Very fluent writing style that just carried me through the story, engrossed. Good descriptions, but the heart of it is in the characters. The dialogue, their feelings and thoughts, all are very real and believable. Very very well done.

I like how you included some of the new monsters, snork and birthmarks and the rest. Less concentration on one or two types like most of the stories. The inner workings of Duty clan were also very well done. They were believable, but more importantly, interesting. I was thoroughly enjoying reading about everything that happens in the clan.

Your combat could use some improvement, but all-in-all is very enjoyable and engaging to read. My only real problem with combat is that the actual fighting doesn't seem quite as well done as the rest. Some of it seems to go by too fast, and needs more description. With some touch-up on that part, the intensity would be raised by several notches.

One small note on the weapons; you should explain what the weapons are. While there's a good possibility that the person reading the story will know what a AK-74 is, they might not know what a Vintorez or Mosin-Nagant is. I had the same problem with another of my stories, and while I know what those are, it's very confusing to somebody who doesn't know.

I liked the plot a lot, actually. The idea of Liberators, and the meetings was a really nice detail. The fact that Duty clan does all this research is a nice change from the common idea that clans are just banded together to survive, or shoot stuff . I also thought your idea of what the controller was doing was very interesting, it tied a bunch of stuff together and ended in a very satisfying conclusion...except for one small thing. Why was the controller doing it?

And the horde of bloodsuckers was kinda creepy, but could have used more tension, and wasn't really explained why they were in such a huge group. And about the Snork, the thought of the one character about it maybe waiting for them was really interesting, and could have possibly been tied into the bloodsuckers/controller ideas and smoothed that out.

A very good story. I really enjoyed it.
  00:53:27  6 February 2005
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Amoki
back with a vengeance
(V.I.P.)

 

 
On forum: 07/31/2003
Messages: 1729
Hey DoggyDog, I've asked Don Reba about it... and the answer is no. However, you can post what you'll like others to see by "posting a new message". I'll edit your post personally.

P.S - Grisly, nice avatar. And nice winter in Colorado
  07:35:09  6 February 2005
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GrislySilence
Fanfic Reviewer
(Resident)

 

 
On forum: 10/06/2003
Messages: 168

---QUOTATION---
Hey DoggyDog, I've asked Don Reba about it... and the answer is no. However, you can post what you'll like others to see by "posting a new message". I'll edit your post personally.

P.S - Grisly, nice avatar. And nice winter in Colorado
---END QUOTATION---



Thanks. Yeah, it's really cold up here. Only about 30 mins north of the Colorado border, so we're getting quite a bit of the cold. Brrrrr...
  12:55:32  7 February 2005
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Amoki
back with a vengeance
(V.I.P.)

 

 
On forum: 07/31/2003
 

Message edited by:
Amoki
02/07/2005 13:02:45
Messages: 1729
Grisly said a lot of nice things about your story. I am not going to say THAT much .

Overall, I applaud the effort you have invested in. The length really tells it all. In fact, you reminded me a lot of my first fanfic (meh heh heh, everyone gotta start somewhere, and I started mine in STALKER).

Now, onto real comments.
1) Plot - basically, just another STALKER adventure fanfic, like nearly 80% of most STALKER fanfics out there. The story is something like "Full Metal Jacket", but that's it. Shoot shoot, bang bang, and that's the way it goes around. I've been in the contest for 3 years, and I've seen too much fanfics that go that way. However, your action scenes definitely worth my praises.

Plot faults:
i) Siberia! DO you have any idea how cold is Siberia? It can be about -50 degree celsius! A flask of hot water, if being forced onto the upward direction, will freeze nearly immediately. With that in mind - how do a 12 years old survive Siberia however lucky he is when he doesn't have advance survival skill? (A wooden shack alone will not be enough to survive. Think clothing lots of food.)
ii) Alfa is the Russian Anti-terrorist force. You'll be better off sticking with 'Spetnatz'.
iii)If he (Alexei) remembers his comrades, why the lengthy introduction (I'm saying the conversation for that part is too cheesy)
iv) You've said that the members of 'Duty' are battled-hardened veterans who are better than the Soviet army. Well, first of all, they handled the Snork like amateurs. There is a concept in using grenades called "delay". A grenade has 5 second fuse by default.. If they really want to frag a Snork in a room without risk, just pull the pin, wait for 3 sec, and throw it. Not chucking it in and let the Snork pick up and chuck it at them again.
v) Dry blood stays dry. The way you look at how long blood stains has been the
vi) Gas Grenades don't explode. Neither do you use Flashbang in open space (and don't tell me you got that info about Flashbang from CS ). Flashbang is a CQB (close-quarter) accesory to blind and cripple the hearing of your enemy. But only at close range. You don't throw Flashbang 50 metres from you towards a target that you don't know is there (the bloodsuckers).
vii) Battle-hardened Vet on Night Op? However deep the rivalry between 'Duty' and 'Monolith' is, Mishca would have simply avoided conflict at night if he is a good leader. Night Op, as what you have succesfully portrayed, is one messy op . Especially in The Zone.
vIII) Make a clear-cut difference between "Soviet" and "Ukrainian". "Soviet" refers to the Soviet Union, which includes Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania, Georgia... during the Communist times. "Ukrainian" more or less refers to the democratic republic of Ukraine



2) Characterization - Basically, it's good. You've fillled out the history and background of your main characters (Alexei and Mishca), and that is basically what it takes to have good characterization of your story.

However, you've created too many characters, and because of that you had a hard time characterizing all of them. The best way to go is to use as little number of character as possible, and when you have a squad-based action fanfic, try to only characterize whoever is important to the plot. Don't even bother giving names.

I'll also suggests adding perks to your characters, that'll make them more interesting. Certain style of speech, their special way of making their point (vulgar language perhaps ) , language they swear in.... make use of all of them.



3) Style -
i)The intro leading to the story is not compatible with the way the story is done as a whole. normally,

1st P -->> 3rd P to give background information -->> back to 1st p

Yours:
3rd P as intro --->>> 1st P to the end.

Your intro is very misleading, as I initially expected this story to be dedicated about Mishca

You should be sticking to only one perspective throughtout, and even if you want to mix them, you should be using 3rd person perspective as something that provides additional background/information to your plot. You should not be using it as a intro to your story, its quite confusing. Also, your introduction of the 'Alexei' character... you shouldn't be introducing him so late, he is your centre-point of the story after all.


ii) You had filled in too much details. The best rule of thumb in writing is to "make every shot count". Meaning, you make sure every paragraph written down makes a contribution to your plot. We don't need to know everything. For example:

"So, the members need to gather for their meeting. But I know Duty doesn't rely on radio-messaging to signal its members to attend it. The Zone's strange anomalies and blowouts tend to disturb and interfere with long-distance radio waves. I know. I've researched it. So Mischa has to rely on another way of signalling his exhausted men out of their posts and to the rendezvous point. Carrion birds have been attempted before, but the strange nature of the zone tends to disrupt the pigeon's natural 'pathfinding' instincts, confusing the birds into plain flying to the centre of the zone, disappearing and never to be seen again. Researchers have yet to discover what is luring them into the centre..."

You could have easily edited it to "When Mishca needs to gather the members for a meeting, he'll signal his men using non-conventional method because Zone anomalies make short work of modern technology in The Zone" One sentence sums it all. Doing so will allow your readers to finish your story faster, and also avoid giving the impression that you're ranting.

Don't worry about it too much, doing something like this takes a lot of practice and constant rewriting.

iii) Your paragraphing needs a lot of work. You've cramped too much things in one single paragraph. Best way is to isolate one thing in one paragraph. For example

speech --->>> 1 paragraph
thoughts --->>> one paragraph
action, or what's happening --->>> 1 paragraph.

Cramping everything in a go will stress the readers a lot. Particularly when reading a fanfic as long as yours.




Aside from a couple of typos and occasional repetitions (cooler and colder) which can't be easily spotted, that's it.
  13:00:23  7 February 2005
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Amoki
back with a vengeance
(V.I.P.)

 

 
On forum: 07/31/2003
Messages: 1729
I forgot about giving you a pat in the back about realistic dialogues though .
  13:19:04  7 February 2005
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doggydog
Tripping on waste
(Resident)

 

 
On forum: 03/06/2004
Messages: 1524

---QUOTATION---
Plot faults:
i) Siberia! DO you have any idea how cold is Siberia? It can be about -50 degree celsius! A flask of hot water, if being forced onto the upward direction, will freeze nearly immediately. With that in mind - how do a 12 years old survive Siberia however lucky he is when he doesn't have advance survival skill? (A wooden shack alone will not be enough to survive. Think clothing lots of food.)
---END QUOTATION---



Yes I know how cold it is in Siberia. I specifically asked for this region due to having read a book about it.


---QUOTATION---
iii)If he (Alexei) remembers his comrades, why the lengthy introduction (I'm saying the conversation for that part is too cheesy)
---END QUOTATION---



They aren't really his 'comrades'. The men just tell them about themselves because it has been over six months, and they're looking for Alexei's comfort right then. I guess I didn't really press on that fact.. I was going to, but got draaged away.
Sorftof my fault, that one.


---QUOTATION---
You do not use Flashbang in open space (and don't tell me you got that info about Flashbang from CS ). Flashbang is a CQB (close-quarter) accesory to blind and cripple the hearing of your enemy. But only at close range. You don't throw Flashbang 50 metres from you towards a target that you don't know is there (the bloodsuckers).
---END QUOTATION---



Actually, they were doing that for the "lighting-effect", trying to make the flash give away the reflections in their eyes... Once again, I was GOING to explain about that, but got dragged away. My fault.


---QUOTATION---
However, you've created too many characters, and because of that you had a hard time characterizing all of them. The best way to go is to use as little number of character as possible, and when you have a squad-based action fanfic, try to only characterize whoever is important to the plot. Don't even bother giving names.
---END QUOTATION---



Yes, I was expecting that to be a general con, and I knew it was also dificult for me to actually notice that when reading your own story. I totally think you're right.


---QUOTATION---
I'll also suggests adding perks to your characters, that'll make them more interesting. Certain style of speech, their special way of making their point (vulgar language perhaps ) , language they swear in.... make use of all of them.
---END QUOTATION---



Argh, yes, should have...


---QUOTATION---
ii) You had filled in too much details. The best rule of thumb in writing is to "make every shot count". Meaning, you make sure every paragraph written down makes a contribution to your plot. We don't need to know everything. For example:

"So, the members need to gather for their meeting. But I know Duty doesn't rely on radio-messaging to signal its members to attend it. The Zone's strange anomalies and blowouts tend to disturb and interfere with long-distance radio waves. I know. I've researched it. So Mischa has to rely on another way of signalling his exhausted men out of their posts and to the rendezvous point. Carrion birds have been attempted before, but the strange nature of the zone tends to disrupt the pigeon's natural 'pathfinding' instincts, confusing the birds into plain flying to the centre of the zone, disappearing and never to be seen again. Researchers have yet to discover what is luring them into the centre..."

You could have easily edited it to "When Mishca needs to gather the members for a meeting, he'll signal his men using non-conventional method because Zone anomalies make short work of modern technology in The Zone" One sentence sums it all. Doing so will allow your readers to finish your story faster, and also avoid giving the impression that you're ranting.
---END QUOTATION---



Let's just say I quickly coughed that one up while finding a reason to make the factions use couriers.. Rushed it there in the end, and sortof caused all the trouble you mentioned.

Thanks for your reviews people.
 
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