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From the Raven's Perch

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  01:00:45  15 October 2011
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Colonel Skull
On forum: 11/07/2010
Messages: 95
Goody indeed, but it'd seem that this story has reached it's end.
  10:08:45  14 October 2011
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On forum: 08/18/2010
Messages: 1
Excellent job, mate.
  08:11:48  21 August 2011
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On forum: 04/20/2010
Messages: 2

Footsteps and the sound of conversation alerted Pavel to the fact that he was no longer alone. Immediately he picked up his rifle, shouldering it as he searched for the source of the noise. Finding nothing, he remained on guard.

"Hey! You there! Put the gun down, let's talk!"

Pavel turned to see two stalkers standing in one of the overgrown footpaths that led out of the village. More importantly, both were armed, each holding an AK at the ready. Cautiously, he lowered his weapon.

"Alright, I'm listening. Who are you and what do you want?"

One of them started walking towards him, still talking amiably.

"Who the are you to be asking that, I should be asking, whoa, hey! Put that thing DOWN!" said the visitor as he noticed the weapon pointing towards him again.

The man put down his own AK and slowly pulled out a pistol from his jacket, laying it down beside it.

"See, nothing to worry about. How about you do the same friend?"

"Not till your own friend back there does the same."

"Tolik! Throw down your gun, we've got a difficult case here!"

The other man placed his gun on the grass. Reluctantly, Pavel did the same, keeping it within arms' reach. If there was trouble, he still had the Makarov inside his jacket.

"Now that you're not trying to kills us, mind explaining what you're doing here?" asked the talkative one.

"Artifact hunting. Came out of Rostok this morning."

"That's some amazing time you made. And you won't find any around here, they don't form in places like this. Anyway, mind if my friend and I get our guns back, we don't mean you any harm."

Pavel nodded as the two picked up their weapons and walked towards him. He watched them as sat down beside him. Both were about his age, with the one who addressed him first already chattering with the one he called Tolik.

"Anyway, apologies if that was a bad first impression. Can't be too careful with those things around here. I'm Alexei Krasavchik, good to meet you," said the stalker. Pavel tried hard to stifle a laugh but
couldn't keep from smiling.

"Really, that's your name? Alexei Handsome?"

"Nickname, somewhat of a story behind that. But I'm happy with it. As you might have heard, this here is Tolik. You are?"


"Nothing more than that, just Voronov?"

"Pavel Igorevich, if you want to know."

"Wonderful. You're not from around here are you?"

"No, came from Moscow a month ago."

"Ah, another tourist nosing in our business. I joke of course. We've all got to be on the same side out here you know? It's trouble enough with the anomalies, the bandits, the military and the government
breathing down your neck."


Pavel watched Alexei suspiciously as he went on, needling him with questions and pleasantries. It was one thing to make small talk in the safety of the bar. Out in the Zone proper however, one couldn't be
too safe.

"Say, Voronov, you look like you haven't had lunch yet. Tolik and I were going to take our own just a little while from now, but here seems so cozy and you look like you could use some company."

Pavel's suspicions were not fully gone but there couldn't be too much harm in an odd pair of stalkers who wanted to have lunch with him. Besides, he hadn't eaten since 4 in the morning.

"Sure, why not."

"Great, great. Now, Pasha, if I can call you that, what brings you to our part of world," asked Alexei. He and Tolik were already unzipping their packs and taking out tins of food and utensils. Pavel was
about to answer till he saw steam come out of the tins as they opened.

"How did you get that food? Was that cooked just now?"

"That'll have to be our secret for now."

"I've been staying in Rostok the past few weeks. Nothing but bread and cold army rations there."

"God, why did you do that to yourself. The food is awful and they rob you with how much they sell it for. Hell, have some, you need to eat some real food."

Alexei handed him a tin cylinder wrapped in cloth to absorb the heat. Pavel ate ravenously, still in disbelief that he was eating a freshly cooked soup of cabbage and potatoes in the middle of the Zone. Before he knew it he'd eaten everything and gulped down what was left of the soup. The others ate slowly, quietly
discussing something between bites.

"Oh, Alexei, I'm sorry about how I greeted you," said Pavel.

"What's that?"

"How we met. I shouldn't have given you so much trouble."

"Ah it's nothing. For all you know we could have been bandits. Don't worry. And you didn't answer me, why'd you come here?"

"Why'd I come here?"
"Yes, God knows we wouldn't be here if we could work real jobs."

"Alright, damn it, I know you're not bandits now," laughed Pavel. "I didn't know what I'd do after the army. And I didn't want to get a real job, as you said. So far I've been lucky. Haven't gotten hurt,
haven't gotten robbed. Haven't earned anything yet, but it's a start."

"If you learned anything today, it's not to give the barkeep another kopeck for that poison he serves up. You stay away from that place. Full of alcoholics and con men. The barkeep's the biggest one."

"Really? I thought Sidorovich was the bad one."
"Sidorovich is no different from the worst bandit!" snapped Alexei, his voice rising. "That bastard would rob you blind if he had the chance. Half the rookies that show up are indebted to him within a few
days and he has them out doing his dirty work. I'd end his misery if half the Zone didn't hunt me down afterwards."

Pavel laughed again as Alexei grew more animated and hysterical in his condemnation of Sidorovich. They truly seemed like a safe pair to stay with. Alexei also seemed like a reasonably experienced stalker.
Noticing that he was finished with the soup, Alexei handed him a loaf of bread. It was fresh, still a little hot, and nothing like the stuff in the bar that was hard enough to kill rats with.

"Alexei, you really need to tell me where you get this food," said Pavel amiably.

"I told you, a secret like this is worth more than a bagful of artifacts. I'll tell you when I know I can trust you."

"Fine. Thanks also. I'll have to make it up to you sometime."

"If you want to actually, Tolik and I were going on a little bit of an expedition today. We need a third man. We could do it ourselves, but a third would help us a lot. And increase the profits quite a bit."

Pavel perked up. There was still the chance they were looking to lure him out somewhere and rob him. But would they really go to all this trouble, eating and joking with him, to get some relatively cheap gear?
Besides, his money was locked up for safekeeping back at the Duty base, under the watchful eyes of Plichko and his men. His suspicions aside, Alexei seemed genuinely well-meaning. Pavel couldn't help feeling a little impressed by the quirks and hospitality of his new friend.

"Why, what did you have planned?"

"Have you ever heard of a place called Yantar?"

"Only in passing."

"Nice way of ducking the question. Anytime Yantar comes up in conversation around these parts it's usually about how some poor fellow got fried or how someone just barely escaped it. Most of those stories
are usually bunk. But with Yantar, there's a good chance they're true."

"Yes, so I've heard."

"There's a lab underneath the main facility. It's an old Soviet factory, must have made tractors there or something. I've heard recently from very reliable sources that there's a treasure trove of
artifacts to be found down there. The more people we bring, the more artifacts we carry out. Understand?"

"Of course. How dangerous is it there?"

"Very. Mutants, zombies, radiation, things that would keep you up at night for the rest of your life. There's a reason no faction has claimed Yantar, or ever will, even with the psi-emmitter turned off."

"Having said all that, you want me to join you on this because?"

Alexei smiled.

"Well, Pavel Igorevich, I wouldn't want to mislead you on the risks you'd be taking. But I'm a flexible man. It'd be scary going on this with just Tolik. And here this morning we find you sight-seeing. I figure, why not pick up an extra pair of hands? You'd make a tidy profit from it all. Word of honor, a third of everything we get goes to you. And it'll be from a proven source, one who pays more than barkeep for artifacts."

Pavel bristled at the suggestion. He wasn't expecting such a dilemma on his first day truly exploring the Zone. Yet there was Alexei, smiling shamelessly, trying to lure him into it.

"So, are you with us?"

Pasha, you should know better, he thought. I should politely refuse, walk straight back to Rostok and get a few more tips, get truly started on my own. Not follow some lunatic I've just met who wants me to plunder some undeground terror that'll most likely turn me into a stain on the wall. Yes, he thought, I'll say no, thank him for the food, and go back to Rostok.

"Fine, I'm in."

"Excellent! We can leave in a few minutes. Let the food settle. It's not far and we'll be there before dark."

Pavel couldn't believe himself. He felt as if he'd been tricked. Yet he couldn't deny a little enthusiasm building as Alexei went on.

"Good choice man, real good choice! Oh, the things you're about to see! Pavel Igorevich Voronov, think yourself lucky, for you've just signed on with the best stalker team in the Zone. Sakharov won't have room for all the artifacts we'll bring back and you'll have more cash than you'll know what to do with. To us and a bright future!"
  03:15:03  21 August 2011
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On forum: 01/11/2011
Messages: 27
Great beginning, very well written, but not much has happened yet.
I am interested in seeing more.
  22:04:00  20 August 2011
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On forum: 04/20/2010

Message edited by:
08/20/2011 23:09:00
Messages: 2
From the Raven's Perch

Story idea I've been kicking around since I played through all 3 games. It's set in the opening of SOC, though not too many of the canon events and characters are immediately relevant.


It was far outside Rostok when he stopped. Pavel Voronov had searched for artifacts the entire morning, exploring as much as he searched, as each part of the Zone was still new to him. The noontime sun was already high and the heat bore down on him heavily. He had just found an incredible curiosity, namely, a village buried up to its roofs. Only the attic windows and chimneys poked out from under the earth. Grass had already grown over the dirt and age had withered and splintered the wood. It gave the impression of a place frozen, and literally buried, in time.

Pavel Igorevich Voronov was had arrived in the Zone just two weeks earlier. Originally he was from Nizhny Tagil. Interest and a family better off than most allowed him to go to a military school and eventually join the army as an officer. Eventually he was stationed outside Moscow and came to know the capital as his home. But listlessness and a sense of his own mediocrity plagued him during his service and he soon wanted it to end. Thankfully, due to thrift and spare personal habits, he had enough money saved to give him options.

He had only heard of the Zone in passing, in the fantastic and almost certainly embellished tales of Stalkers on the internet or by word of mouth. No news came out of it and it was an afterthought in the river of issues and commentary that governed the relationship between Russia and Ukraine. And yet, as he wasted his days in a Moscow apartment, it beckoned to him. There was something amazing about it that he couldn't express in his own words.

Just months after his term of service with the Army ended, he announced to his family that he was going to Ukraine for a security job. His parents were puzzled, but their Pasha had always been on top of things and wasn't one to throw his life away on a whim. And so, with a few reservations, they wished him well as he boarded the train for Kiev.
He'd carried his life savings with him in cash, sown into secret compartments in his clothes and luggage. By some strange quirk, the currency of the Zone was rubles. It was one less barrier to get over, as he wouldn't have to explain changing a rather large sum of money from Russian rubles to Ukrainian hryvinia. Through rather shady dealings, he got an old Makarov and some ammunition. Clothes and protective equipment were easier to find. His biggest purchase was a Kevlar vest with ammunition pouches. He also bought a gas mask and a VDV Afghan coat. Lastly, though it served no practical use, he got an old Soviet ushanka with a metal red star still decorating the front.

All of it he stuffed into a suitcase as he headed north to Chernobyl. Getting past the Cordon that surrounded the Zone would be the biggest challenge. Almost nothing save military convoys and heavily guarded government vehicles went in. He felt very much the hapless foreigner as he wandered through the villages near the Cordon, asking if there were any who knew where stalkers entered the Zone. It was foolish and he knew it. But then, a miracle. In the waning hours of the night in a deserted bar, he was told of a group about to enter the Zone. Experienced stalkers willing to take a newcomer along. By morning the next day, he was sitting round a fire with other rookies, just a stone's throw away from Sidorovich's bunker. The group pressed on, past the railway embankment and into the Garbage. He had a few close shaves with anomalies, walking a little too close to what seemed to be only a playful breeze. One of the more experienced stalkers, hoping to teach him to be more careful, threw handful of dirt into a vortex anomaly that Pavel had just barely missed. The winds suddenly howled, spinning violently and lifting the dirt upwards until it exploded with a frightening pop. The old stalker walked on, adding in a matter of of fact voice that "it can do that to people too."

Two days after the Corodn was breached, they arrived in Rostok. The group split up, each member saying goodbyes and wishing the newcomer good luck. Pavel Igorevich was alone again, and disturbingly unaware of what to do next. Rostok was a sprawling, semi-abandoned shantytown that had more in common with a Siberian lead mine than the Zone he was expecting. What it did offer was a place to spend money. The barkeep ran a brisk trade in weapons, ammunition, food, and any miscellaneous gear that a Stalker might need. Pavel complimented the Makarov with a folding stock AK-74 and seven magazines of ammunition. While he felt a little more authentic making conversation with a rifle slung on his back, it was still a little short of his expectations. The stalkers at the bar had a litany of horror stories, most of questionable authenticity, that they could recite by heart once they were drunk. A million and one schemes to get rich were discussed and debunked each day to the sound of chattering gunfire in the distance and the eerie howls and death rattles of mutants.

Pavel did make some friends with the Duty personnel who frequented the Bar when off duty. The Dutiers laughed uproariously when they found out that the soft-spoken young man who had joined the regulars of the Bar was once a Lieutenant in the Russian Army. All those who knew greeted him with "Yes sir, Comrade Lieutenant", even old, grizzled Sergeant Plichko. Each night they swapped stories of their time in the military with Pavel over the dusty old bar tables.

"Can't believe I'm getting this old! I was a green recruit when independence was declared. You know, we were wearing those Ushankas for years after the Soviets folded it all up. The last one I remember seeing used was in '96 practically. Hell, the one you have might even be mine!" said Plichko one night.

Though the atmosphere of the bar was welcoming, the cost of staying was prohibitive. A meal cost a fortune and paying to sleep in the ravaged warehouses and basements of Rostok was not appealing. With over half the money he brought gone, Pavel Igorevich needed to head out. Stalkers occasionally stopped by the bar to sell artifacts, exchanging them for thousands of rubles apiece. With all his supplies gathered, he decided to try his luck at artifact hunting. A few of the regulars offered tips on where to look the night before he left, once again telling incredible tales of gore and glory that only the Zone and inebriated Stalkers can provide. The Duty sentries walked him a hundred yards outside the southern perimeter and he was off.

The Zone was beautifully calm in the early dawn. Once past the dead trees with corpses hanging off them and the other horrors surrounded the road into Rostok, it was tranquil and natural. Pavel Igorevich headed west, away from the Garbage and its industrial ruins, and more deeply into the forests and meadows that seemed so inviting. Just over the tops of the trees he could still see the high roofs and catwalks of what must be the Wild Territory, with their broken windows and exposed metal still shining if the light caught them the right way.

He walked and walked, enjoying the scenery as the dawn gave way into morning. He hadn't found a single artifact, nor did he know what they truly looked like aside from brief glances at the bar. A little after noon and a good dozen kilometers away from Rostok, he'd found the buried village. The sun shined brightly through the trees, casting patches of light and shadow on the grass. Birds sang and fluttered from branch to branch. Pavel took off his pack and put down the Kalashnikov that he'd been carrying vigilantly since he left the bar. The forest seemed utterly safe. He leaned up against the slanted roof of a buried cottage and rested.
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