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The Zone: Life, and Death.

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  06:48:33  18 August 2008
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HL2 Master
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On forum: 06/28/2008
Messages: 271
This story rocks! Keep writing!

  10:15:09  19 August 2008
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On forum: 07/06/2008

Message edited by:
08/19/2008 10:17:30
Messages: 107
psynexus: Wow, the best story I've read here by far, I'm already loving the characters! And I would love if I could be in your story, it's funny because I was actually hoping of asking you if you were willing to use some names of fellow STALKERS in the story in some way, lol.

I go by 'Zombie' in most games I play, and like I said, I would be honored to be included in your story. Keep up the great work!
  22:30:23  19 August 2008
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Senior Resident

On forum: 04/15/2007
Messages: 490
Thanks again for the feedback

And Commissar, you've reserved yourself a place in the story too. It may not be the next part, but it will be in there somewhere.
  23:32:09  19 August 2008
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On forum: 03/04/2008
Messages: 50
How bout
Mitch`ell Hromanik (Hromanik is Czech if you want some sort of backgorund for him)
  00:19:51  20 August 2008
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On forum: 07/06/2008
Messages: 107

Thanks again for the feedback

And Commissar, you've reserved yourself a place in the story too. It may not be the next part, but it will be in there somewhere.

Thanks man, I'm really looking forward to it!
  05:07:15  20 August 2008
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On forum: 05/09/2007
Messages: 79
Great Stalker story. Very interesting. Wish people were that friendly to me when I first got into the zone, free stalker suits and AK-74s, though I guess it wasn't really free, it was more of a reward, but still! I'm jealous... Anyway great story and I have two Stalker names. One obvioiusly, is Jester, the other, Red Fog (stole Red Fog from the game Supreme Commander, he was just too cool) So, use em if you want em.
  01:47:45  28 August 2008
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On forum: 04/15/2007

Message edited by:
08/28/2008 6:29:33
Messages: 490
The Zone: Life and Death - Day 5 (Part 4)

Here it is - Day 5! As always please excuse any formatting errors - copy and paste like to take out all of the break I put in MS Word. Constructive criticism is always welcomed, as well as any advice or comments about the way I work with the "modes" or general story-telling.

Also, to those who gave me character names with or without backgrounds, I hope you enjoy being part of the story. If you would like to give some background for your character please do, everyone will get to fully introduce themselves at some point.

Are you still reading this? Get on to the story! (Added Notes section so you can keep track of everyone)

Yuriy aka “Virtue” – Me, on my mission to start a new life for myself and support my wife outside the Zone

Boris aka “Nimbus” - Bandit turned neutral, he helped me get to the safety of a neutral Stalker outpost during an assault. He’s a good companion to have.

Nikita – The Stalker who’s taken notice in my skills and provides me jobs

Averiy aka “Jargon” – An Ex-Chernobyl worker who seems to have been in the Zone for a long time, he knows a lot about words, hence the nickname

Andriy aka “Mace” – The leader of a neutral Stalker outpost in the Garbage. A compassionate, dedicated leader

Oleksiy and Pavlo – Two brothers, dedicated to a leader and inseparable. Oleksiy seems to be more brute force while Pavlo thinks things through first.

Day 5

[Story mode Active]
I opened my eyes slowly, still deciding if it was morning or not. All the fires in the camp sites had died hours ago so it was freezing cold. I tried to rub the haze out of my eyes only to find that it was the Zone producing it, not my eyes.

Not 5 seconds after I looked around to see if anyone else was awake, Nikita, who had apparently been up for some time, came out of the corner he was crouching in and slowly approached me. I guess he had been watching me for some time.

“Good morning, Stalker.” He said. “The Zone doesn’t announce the sunrise the same way you’re used to. The animals have been howling for a few hours now, you slept right through it.”

“Usually the early morning is comforting to me, but I can’t say I’m disappointed to have missed it.”

He tried to grin, but he was obviously unsettled. He must not handle the morning very well here.

“Well, if you’re ready we should get going so we can make good time. I promise you no morning here can come close to the danger of night where we’re going.”

“And where would that be?”

He whispered to me “A good Stalker never tells others where he is going until he gets there”.

“What if you get lost or need help?"

“You’re on your own, unless you have friends. You could always contact the nearest military outpost but they’d just as soon shoot you for trespassing. I’d rather take my chances.”

Good point. I remember the various military checkpoints I had passed by already. They were armed to the teeth and looked like they were expecting something, anything to happen at any given time.

He got up and signaled to some Stalkers that I hadn’t seen behind him on the other side of a wall panel. I counted 4 of them, all with their own customized Stalker suits. They seemed to have a lot of extra addons too, more than most of the Stalkers in this camp. Gas masks, air tanks, various scanners and some other equipment I couldn’t identify.

“They’ve been waiting for you, let’s not disappoint them.”

“Alright, let me tell Nimbus what’s going on.”

“No! Leave him. We only have room for you.”

“But… without him I might not even be alive.”

“The Zone decides who lives and who dies. He’ll walk the path the Zone lays before him, I’m offering you this one…” he pointed north along the main road.

I sighed “He’s the first Stalker I’ve met who seems to be on the same level as me, the rest of you are still a mystery to me.”

“Today should change that. You’ll more than a taste of what the Zone has to offer, you’ll get a whole bite today.”

Nikita looked back at the other Stalkers, who looked impatient.

“Time to move out” he said as he grabbed my backpack and held it out for me to put on.
I took it and put it on. He started to walk towards the group of Stalkers and I followed behind. I took one last look at Nimbus, my new-found friend. He had a look of inner-peace on him; I only hoped the feeling would remain when he awoke to see that I had abandoned him.

Nikita, the other Stalkers and I have started along the road north – where to I can only guess. The mood seems casual right now; the Garbage seems to be just a stroll through the park for them. I’ll turn on audio logging in case they say anything interesting.

[Begin Audio Log]
Unknown (1): I think the smell is starting to soak through my suit.
Nikita: I doubt that, opposites attract. When was the last time you took a shower?
Unknown (1): Don’t tell me *you’ve* been taking showers. Hasn’t anyone told you the water out there is contaminated?
Nikita: Only from the last time you were in it.
Unknown (1): Not my problem your mother’s a dirty slut.
Nikita: Heh. Yeah… well…
Unknown (2): Is that the best you can come up with?
Unknown (1): With all the little ears around I didn’t want to offend anyone.
Unknown (2): Whose little ears? You mean the new guy?
Unknown (1): No, I meant you.
Unknown (3): What’s his name anyway?
Nikita: His name is Virtue.
Unknown (1): Cute.
Unknown (3): Shut up Jester.
Unknown (1) [Identified as Jester]: Hey, just breaking the silence. I feel like I’m talking to a dead dog when I’m around you guys - especially you, Zombie. You haven’t said shit since yesterday.
Unknown (4) [Identified as Zombie]: The hunter must silently stalk his prey, ever-conscious of those who may be stalking him.
Jester: That’s deep, man. Did you read that off a cereal box somewhere?
Unknown (2): Hey, we were talking about the new guy, remember?
Jester: Yeah, yeah. Well I’m Jester; the only sane one here. He’s Phantom.
Unknown (2) [Identified as Phantom]: At your service.
Jester: Gremlin there.
Unknown (3) [Identified as Gremlin]: Nice to meet you, Stalker.
Jester: And the one who looks like he’s a mile away is Zombie.
Jester: Yeah… well he doesn’t talk much, and when he does you can’t understand shit.
Zombie: The lizard does not compromise his cloak that you may understand him. He remains mysterious until he is assured of safety.
Jester: Right…
Phantom: At least he remembers to close his mouth after he’s done talking.
Gremlin: Enough! We’re nearing the Bar.
[End audio log]

Well, it wasn’t quite the introduction I was expecting, but at least I know their names should a situation arise. We’re continuing north towards what the stalker “Gremlin” identified as “the Bar”. Whatever it is it seems to be a good place to go, Jester’s eyes lit up when he heard the name.

We’ve reached the Bar. From the outside it looks like nothing more than a bunch of abandoned building and warehouses. I can hear a loud voice echoing from the inside, over a speaker system of some sort. Whoever it is seems to be announcing news and jobs. It looks like a central stronghold of Stalkers from all over the Zone; I can see several camps inside with many strange-looking Stalkers around them. Nothing like Cordon, everyone here has their own story and experiences.

I’m inside the Bar now. It looks little like the name suggests, just a bunch of makeshift tables and chairs circling a “bar” along the back wall. It’s a little livelier in here than most places I’ve seen and it’s a relief to know that such a place exists in the Zone. Others in the room don’t look so relieved though; many of them are drunk and have a look of hopelessness about them. Others are containing themselves to the darker corners and are just staring straight ahead, barely moving. The “Barman” as they call the man behind the Bar looks content enough considering the circumstances. He looks like most shop-keepers I’ve seen; on a mission to make as much money as possible, and always trying to hide something about his merchandise from you.

Behind him are racks of beat-up weapons with the corresponding ammo below them, the ammo boxes being in the same condition as the weapons where there are boxes at all. For the Zone, it looks like this is one of the best places to get anything you need for your travels. There are medical supplies and crates of food scattered on the floor behind the bar also. That must be what the man with the rifle next to the bar is guarding, it looks like a precious resource.

We’ve stopped for supplies but Gremlin says we can’t stay long. Phantom had some extra ammo for my AK and I used the money I had to buy some food and a couple of bandages for the journey.

We’re heading west from the Bar. I noticed a heavily-guarded base behind us on the way out the checkpoint. All of the Stalkers there had unique armor with a special logo on them. Jester said that was Duty territory – Duty being one of the factions in the zone. I remember the announcer on the loudspeakers mentioning something about Duty… something like trying to protect the world from the Zone and saving the planet or something. They sound overly zealous, but they seem to have admirable goals. Maybe I’ll run into them some time.

The Bar is fading into the background and the sound of the loudspeakers set up outside is dying away. We’re approaching an area Phantom called the “Wild Territory”. The road there is dotted with abandoned buildings and warehouses, densely-packed like the area inside the Bar, but with no Stalkers in sight. The buildings that still have windows are nearly impossible to see inside of with all the years of dust accumulated on the surface of the glass. The ones without windows are blacker than a moonless night. We’re all on our guard – Gremlin says this is Mercenary territory. I can’t keep typing this, it’s too quiet around here and I’m getting a bad feeling about it.

[Story-mode auto-enable]
The six Stalkers continued into the heart of the Wild Territory, destination unknown to most of them. Being on the road felt like asking anyone or anything that might be in the area to come out of hiding and ambush them. Jester made it well known that he had a bad idea about where they were and where they were going despite constant reprimanding from Phantom. Gremlin refused to go any closer to the abandoned buildings though, he wouldn’t say why. Finally Jester broke the silence once and for all.

“Ok, hold on for just a second. Why are we walking down the center of the road when there could be mercenaries in every single one of those buildings waiting to ambush us?”

“Can you shut up for two seconds?” Phantom yelled at him as quietly as possible.

“Yeah, as soon as our almighty leader here tells us why we’re strolling down headshot lane.”

“No, the question is why you can’t shut the hell up about it…”

Gremlin cut in “The reason we’re not going anywhere near those buildings is because that mouth of yours might wake up something worse than napping mercs.”

“So we’re better off out here in the open, in range of every sniper they have in the area?”

“If they wanted us dead we’d be dead already, mercs keep to themselves unless the job requires them to do otherwise.” Gremlin replied.

“I think you’re just afraid of going in those houses.” Jester said with a slight snicker.

“You’ll thank me for keeping you away from them later.”

“No.” said Jester, stopping. “I’m tired of all this mystery bullshit. Either tell me what the fuck is going on, or I’m going back. I’m not staying anywhere near this clown car.”

Gremlin stopped, the rest of the group stopping with him, looking at him inquisitively. He walked up to Jester and before anyone knew what was going on, pulled out his rifle and hit Jester with the butt across his face. Jester fell to the ground and shouted,
“Fuck! What the hell was that fo…” but before he could finish was cut off by Gremlin.

“I’m tired of your shit! I’m taking us this way because it will keep us alive. If you want to go another way then go! But not on this mission, this one’s mine!”

Jester looked at the others, then back at Gremlin – speechless for once.
Gremlin looked around for a few seconds. Then his eyes locked on a small warehouse covered in over-grown weeds. His eyes lit up and he grabbed Jester by the collar of his suit, then started dragging him over to the warehouse.

“What the hell are you doing?” Jester yelled, trying to grab Gremlin’s hands but unable with the blood from the cut on his head stinging his eyes.

“You want to know why we’re not going near those buildings, so I’m going to show you. I thought it was safe too, so I went in that one once.” He said, indicating to the warehouse he was dragging Jester towards.

“Hey… look, the road is fine! I’ll shut up, I promise.”

“I doubt that. But maybe after you’re shown why, you’ll understand.”

Jester was obviously starting to panic, like he had awakened the beast in Gremlin and was about to wake another.

“What the hell is in there? What is it?”

Gremlin laughed “You’ll see.”

The other Stalkers glanced at one another, unsure of what was about to happen. I walked next to Nikita and asked “What’s going on? What’s in there?

“Only the Zone knows” he said, visibly tense. That didn’t help ease the tension in the group.

Finally, Gremlin came close to the entrance to the warehouse and threw Jester at the front door. Then pointed his weapon at Jester’s head.

“Ok, now listen carefully. Inside this building is the reason why we’re sticking to the roads. Go inside, make a right, and follow the corridor down to the end. Then head down the stairs into the basement.” He started to grin “If you decide you need to exit in a hurry, just make sure you scream real loud to let us know you’re coming. Then run outside and duck.” He picked up Jester’s weapon from the ground and slung it over his shoulder.

“Hey… I might need that!” He said, his fear escalating.

“It’ll only slow you down; you don’t want it swinging around when you’re running.”
“RUNNING FROM WHAT?!” Jester yelled.

At that, a loud roar-like sound echoed from within the warehouse. The Stalkers whipped out their weapons and trained them on the warehouse in the direction they thought the noise was coming from. Jester turned white as a ghost.

“Oh God… don’t make me go…”

Gremlin cocked his rifle. “You’ve already pissed them off, we need bait or they’re going to spread out and come after us one by one.”

“No… please…”

Gremlin shot a round into the wall beside Jester’s ear, causing Jester to fall into the doorway, then scramble back up at the growl the followed the shot. Jester stood just within the door, looking back at the group of Stalkers, all weapons trained in the doorway. He whipped out a pistol that had been hidden in his suit, looking like he might try to kill one of the Stalkers right there. But instead he just spat at the ground in front of Gremlin, and then proceeded deeper into the building, a mixed look of anger and fear on his face.

Once he was out of sight Nikita whispered to me “Aim between the eyes”.
“What is it?!” I whispered, a little too loudly.

Phantom, overhearing said “The question is what *was* it?”

Zombie contributed; “The nightmare within the nightmare.”

Silence for about a minute, nobody moved a muscle. Then, breaking the silence was a soul-piercing roar. Gunshots and screams echoed from within the building, getting louder as they approached. The Stalkers gripped their weapons in the same manner I saw the Stalkers do in Cordon before the dog attack. I braced myself.

The gunshots stopped but the screaming didn’t… and it was getting closer still, just a few rooms in now. We could hear Jester panting, apparently too afraid to scream now. A few seconds later he burst out of the front door, pale as death, and dove all the way behind the semi-circle we had formed in front of the door… how he jumped that far I’ll never know.

He rolled off of his face, and crawled backwards, scared out of his mind. The Stalkers kept their weapons pointed at the door. Nothing stirred inside the warehouse. Everyone was concentrating intently on the door for what seemed like an eternity. I looked away from the iron sight of my rifle for a few seconds at the other Stalkers to see what they were looking at. As I looked away I saw the light distort in the doorway. I immediately looked back at the doorway. At first it was nothing, just what appeared to be a beam of light from a window on the other side of the building. But then the light shifted and turned into two eyes – looking right at us. I could see saliva dripping from just below the eyes. Then the eyes let out a roar that I’m sure even the Bar heard. I dropped my weapon trying to cover my ears. The other Stalkers unloaded their weapons. Bullets streamed into the building, ricocheting off of metal and concrete.

The eyes now had a body attached to them. The thing looked nearly human, with dark skin, an elongated skull, and 4 tentacles coming out of the sides of its mouth. It lunged outside with incredible speed, right at Jester. The Stalkers jumped out of the way scrambling to get back on their feet. The thing had broken the semi-circle and was running right for Jester who broke into a sprint. It lunged.


The shot echoed through the sky, the force of which knocked me to the ground. Everyone scrambled up trying to figure out what was going on, except Jester, who had been knocked to the ground when the thing hit him full-force. The thing was filled with holes, most notably a large one in the frontal chest area. Jester, underneath the fresh kill was covered in blood, still alive, but in shock.

“Who… what… who got it?” Gremlin asked; a look of surprise and confusion on his face.
“That would be me.” A voice from behind me announced.
I swiveled around and stepped out of the way, exposing our possible enemy to the rifles of all the other Stalkers in my group.

“Nimbus?!” I couldn’t believe it… standing right behind me, shotgun barrel still smoking, was Nimbus.

“Why didn’t you tell me you were in trouble?” he said, smirking.

“We weren’t” said Gremlin, trying his best to look composed. “I had everything under control.”

Nobody said anything, least of all, Jester.
I broke the silence “How did you find us?”

“I talked to that old guy… Jargon. He said you guys were headed this way. Mercs and Bandits have a fragile truce so I’ve been over here a few times with the boss. I used one of their towers to look over the area and saw you all together. When I got closer I heard the gunshots and ran to catch up. I came around that corner and saw the Bloodsucker pounce on your friend.”

“Bloodsucker? Is that what that thing was?” I asked.

“The Stalkers that have lived to tell about them call them that.” Gremlin replied.
Jester, who had been buried under the corpse of the Bloodsucker the entire time, finally gathered the strength to push the thing off of him. He stood up, looking at the ground, completely silent.

Gremlin, feeling accomplished yet shaken from the encounter said “We need to keep moving. There’s no telling who or what heard our little shuffle here.” He looked over at Nimbus. “If you keep shooting like that we might just have room for you in our group.”
Nimbus, relieved to be going with us, said “Thanks, I know I wouldn’t survive two seconds out here alone.”

Gremlin smiled “No problem… just stick to the road” he glanced at Jester who was at the back of the group, still staring at the ground. “Let’s go.”

[Story-mode .dat file not found]
Dammit! Jester must have kicked my PDA or something; it looks like some of the modes are all fucked up now. Oh well, I can write just fine and I think the audio capture still works. Anyway, we’re heading out of the Wild Territory now due south-west. I still don’t know where we’re going, but I have a feeling some of the other Stalkers do, and they look unsettled about it. At least some Stalkers are talking now… that incident back there scared most of us shitless.

That… Bloodsucker looked almost human. I can’t think of an animal around here that it could have mutated from. On top of the fact that it might have been human at some point… seeing those eyes, there were nothing human about them, almost as if the man or women who used to inhabit that body was replaced with an animal… or demon. The Blind dogs don’t even have eyes but I’m sure I could sense the same thing when I stared into those sockets… a lust for destruction.

I should probably talk to Nimbus about leaving him this morning.

[Audio enabled]
Virtue: Hey, Nimbus.
Nimbus: Yeah, Virtue?
Virtue: Sorry I left without saying anything, I felt bad about it, but Nikita said there wasn’t any room for you.
Nimbus: I understand. Missions are sensitive things; you can’t have too many or too few people and expect it to go as planned.
Virtue: Yeah, but we’re both pretty inexperienced out here compared to the rest of these guys; I didn’t want to just leave you there after all that happened yesterday.
Nimbus: I’m used to it. I understand why you did.
Virtue: I’m glad to see you decided to tag along anyway.
Nimbus: *laughs* You’re the first ok guy I’ve met since I’ve been here, I wasn’t going to let that get away.
Virtue: Well, I appreciate that.
Nimbus: I doubt you’d keep me around if it weren’t for my amazing skills with a shotgun though.
Virtue: *laughs* probably not.
*Cut Silence*
Phantom: Hey, Virtue – mind some company?
Virtue: Not at all.
Nimbus: I’m gonna go talk to Nikita about the mission.
Virtue: Good luck with that, he’s pretty hushed about it.
*Cut Silence*
Phantom: Hey. You kept your cool pretty good back there.
Virtue: On the outside maybe.
Phantom: Not many Stalkers have a Bloodsucker, let alone survived an attack. And you came out like a trooper… unlike some of us.
Virtue: I hope Jester’s alright.
Phantom: He will be. I’ve been friends with Gremlin for years now. That’s one of the ways he breaks Stalkers into the Zone – he exposes them to it all at once, figuring if they’re still alive afterwards they’re made of the right stuff.
Virtue: Is that what this mission is all about?
Phantom: Not exactly… but it is a side-effect when you take new Stalkers in to missions such as this one.
Virtue: Why all the secrecy with this mission?
Phantom: Let’s just say its top secret, and there are ears everywhere.
Virtue: Fair enough.
Phantom: Trust me when I say the rewards are well worth the risk involved.
Virtue: I hope so. I have a wife waiting for me on the other side of that fence… depending on me. Every day that goes by is another day that I don’t know if she’s still alive.
*Cut Silence*
Phantom: Back in 1986, I was 17, living in Ovruch, when my dad got a job working in Chernobyl. He took my mom and my sister with him but I refused to go. I lived and worked in Ovruch when the first explosion took place. After the cleanup crews finished and the total damage was assessed, I learned that my father was working a shift that night, and was near the reactor when it over-loaded. My mother and sister were convinced that he was still alive, and risked everything they had to try to get back into the Zone after it was evacuated.

The weeks went by and the chance of my father’s survival dwindled. Eventually it turned from a rescue to a search for his body. On one of their journeys into the NPP, they said they could hear screams of what sounded like men… but more animalistic. They also stumbled into a military operation in the area. Apparently a secret command center had been set up inside the plant, for some top secret project.

They kept ranting about something referred to as “Sector X” within the reactor. They always gave me updates on their latest findings. One day I stopped receiving updates. I went to the place they were living to see if they were alright. Someone who knew them say that one day some men in black cars and suits came to the house and left with bags marked as “radioactive”. I checked the obituaries that day, and both of their names were on the list.

It was devastating to me to lose everyone. When I heard of the second explosion in ‘06 I decided it is time to face my problems and begin my journey to Chernobyl to learn the truth of my father’s disappearance.

Virtue: Wow… that’s quite a story. What do you make of your mother and sister’s findings?
Phantom: Well, I know for a fact that the radioactive bags they carried away were the first versions of the artifacts we have in here today. How they got them I can only guess.
Virtue: What about “Sector X”?
Phantom: I can only assume it’s the part of the reactor where the remainder of the nuclear fuel spilled after the explosion. The radiation is most intense there. That might be where the first mutants came from.
*Cut Silence*
Virtue: You don’t mean human, do you?
Phantom: I do. The Soviets rushed everything they did, including the cleanup of the disaster. The Liquidators, for instance, were the ones in charge of shoveling the nuclear waste back into the reactor before the sarcophagus was built over Reactor 4. The radiation was so intense, they had to run in, shovel as much waste as they could back into the reactor, and run to safety within ten seconds or suffer the side-effects of radiation poisoning. Now take into consideration the fact that they were in the middle of the Cold War with America. Do you really think they would have spent the extra resources doing a thorough job when they had other affairs to attend to?
Virtue: What are you getting at?
Phantom: The bodies. They didn’t recover the bodies. There was too much contamination. You might as well be dressing your own corpse for a funeral.
Virtue: So they just left all the bodies? What about the families who had funerals?
Phantom: All closed-casket. It’s easy to claim you identified a body through DNA sampling or Dental records and never show the corpse. The real ones are still in Chernobyl, and some aren’t as dead as people think.
Virtue: How do you know this?
Phantom: The second explosion was a sign to me that the truth needed to be revealed. With the disappearance of my mom and sister and all of the other unexplained things I owed it to myself and the rest of those families who lost their family members to find the truth. So I went into the Zone after the second explosion. I was one of the first ones who made it to the center before the barriers went up. I made it to the NPP.
Virtue: What did you find?
Phantom: Hell.
Virtue: Hell?
Phantom: Between the first and second explosions whatever the government had been working on there had been abandoned, but they didn’t take anything with them. I found bodies strewn about rooms, as if they had just been discarded like garbage. Smaller rooms had bodies stacked inside, all of them charred and mutilated. But all of that was tame compared to what I saw as I neared the reactor…
Virtue: What did you see?
Gremlin: Quiet guys: We’re nearing our destination. Up ahead is the Burner tunnel.
Virtue: Burner Tunnel?
Gremlin: If you haven’t run into an anomaly yet, you have now.
Nimbus: Do you know the way through?
Gremlin: It shifts constantly; we’ll have to “feel” our way through. Everyone follow in a line behind me. I’m going to use these bolts to test where the anomalies are.
*Cut Silence* *A small bolt is tossed, and lands on the ground a few feet away*
Gremlin: So far so good, follow my path.
*Another bolt is thrown, this one triggering a Burner anomaly, incinerating the bolt*
Nimbus: You sure this is going to work?
Gremlin: Just follow my path exactly and you’ll be fine.
*Another bolt is thrown, contacting the ground*
Gremlin: Forward 6 paces, then right 4 paces.
*Another bolt is thrown, incinerating in an anomaly*
Gremlin: Forward 10 paces.
*Another bolt is thrown, and is incinerated*
Gremlin: Left 8 paces.
Nimbus: How do you know this goes all the way through?
Gremlin: It always does.
*Another bolt is thrown, and is incinerated*
Gremlin: Forward 4.
*Another bolt is thrown, contacting ground*
Gremlin: Step around the support, go forward 8 paces.
Phantom: It’s getting hotter.
Gremlin: Don’t worry, this’ll work.
*Another bolt is thrown, and is incinerated*
Gremlin: Left 2 and a half paces, forward 5 paces.
*Another bolt is thrown, and is incinerated*
Gremlin: Right 3 paces, forward 2.
*Another bolt is thrown, and is incinerated*
Gremlin: Uh… Left 1 and a half paces.
Nimbus: It’s getting really hot now.
*Another bolt is thrown, and is incinerated*
Gremlin: Forward 6 paces.
*Another bolt is thrown, and is incinerated*
Gremlin: Shit…
Phantom: Uh oh.
Nimbus: What’s uh oh?
Gremlin: Nothing, it’s no problem. Side-step forward 6 paces, then step behind 1 pace, pivot right and walk 2 paces forward.
*Cut Silence*
Gremlin: 4 paces left, 4 forward, around the support and we’re out.
Phantom: We’re short a man.
Gremlin: Jester, come on!
Jester: What were those directions again?
Gremlin: Weren’t you paying attention? I don’t remember now. Throw something ahead of you.
Jester: I don’t have anything to throw!
Gremlin: Dammit!
*After a brief period of silence there is a sudden burst of flame and a scream from Jester*
Gremlin: Shit! He mis-stepped.
*There is a small whoosh suggesting Jester has jumped more or less around the last Burner anomaly to the other side where the rest of the Stalkers are standing*
Jester: Fuck! Put it out! It’s too hot!
Phantom: Stop, drop and roll!
Jester: I am! It’s not going out!
Gremlin: Stand back!
*Some ripping and slashing sounds mixed in with Jester’s screams of agony*
Gremlin: There! You’re ok now. I had to tear your armor all to hell to get the flames off of you. The fire those things spit out isn’t like normal fire. It’s like Hell fire. The burns will heal though.
Nimbus: Are you alright, man?
Jester: Well let’s see, I was on fucking fire a few seconds ago!
Gremlin: Enough, we need to keep moving if we’re going to make good time.
Jester: I’ll be in the back so you don’t have to smell burnt flesh the whole way.
[End Audio]

That Jester guy can joke his way out of anything, that’s probably how he got his name. He’s got some pretty nasty burns after that incident and his armor looks like an old teddy bear the dog got a hold of. Hopefully he’s learned his lesson though, Gremlin has a harsh way of doing things at times, but he’s gotten us this far.
I can’t stop thinking about Phantom’s story. That really shed the Zone in a different light. The longer I’m in this place the deeper it seems to get. Halfway through that tunnel back there I got the feeling that it was a one-way trip. I’m starting to think that the Zone might keep me here forever.

No, I can’t think that way. Emilia deserves more than that.

It’s getting dark now, but it seems that the light is fading at a faster rate than it should. The area ahead is foggy and it’s hard to make out anything beyond the road in front of us. The only hint at where we’re going is a sign along the road… I think it read “Yantar”. I saw Gremlin shudder a little as we passed it.

This place gives me the creeps. I thought the Zone was a pretty creepy place, but I see now it was just the welcoming room. It smells like a swamp ahead. It’s getting darker by the minute. We’ve all turned on our headlamps, making everything a lot creepier but easier to see. There’s a slight breeze in the area, the air is damp and cold. The air has a kind of deep moan to it as it goes by. I swear… it sounds like someone is nearby, making moaning sounds. It’s just the wind though…

Something’s wrong. The fog is too thick and Gremlin can’t figure out where we are on the map. He and Phantom are looking over it on Gremlin’s PDA while the rest of the Stalkers keep watch. It’s almost completely dark; the sky is a dark blue. The fog does seem to be dissipating a little, but I still can’t see more than 30 meters away. I can’t feel the wind as much but I can still hear the moaning noises… weird. Even Zombie looks a little unnerved now.

It looks like we might be moving out soon, so I’ll turn audio on.

[Begin audio]
Gremlin: Dammit, we should have been there hours ago.
Phantom: You didn’t know the fog was going to be this bad.
Gremlin: We should have left earlier.
Phantom: Well we can’t change that now, let’s just head in the direction of the bunker and hope we hit it.
Gremlin: Do you have any idea what’s out there?! If we just start walking around we could hit the swamp, the facility, or who knows how many pockets of radiation.
Phantom: Well, if we sit here it’s just going to keep getting darker.
Gremlin: Darkness is better than fog.
Phantom: I’m just saying…
Gremlin: I know… I know. It might be best if I try to find the bunker and the rest of you stay here.
Phantom: If you go, you’re not going alone. I’m going with you.
Gremlin: Alright, let’s do it then.
*Cut silence*
Gremlin: Ok, change of plan. Phantom and I are going to scout ahead and try to find the bunker. The rest of you stay here. We’ll come back for you when we find it.
Jester: And what if you don’t come back?
Gremlin: If for some reason we don’t, Zombie will know what to do.
Zombie: I am as the Falcon.
Jester: That’s *real* reassuring.
Gremlin: If we’re not back in an hour, execute plan B, Zombie.
Zombie: It will be as a man on his deathbed.
Jester: Do you try to freak people out, or does it come naturally?
Zombie: Men fear what they do not understand.
Jester: Yeah, well I understand we’re in real shit right now.
Gremlin: Zombie is a capable Stalker. One hour. Good luck to you.
Jester: Yeah, see you in the next life.
[Resume – timeframe + 1 hour]
Jester: It’s been an hour, where are they?
Zombie: Patience is a virtue.
Jester: And Virtue is a Stalker.
Nimbus: Har har.
Jester: What exactly is this “Plan B” anyway…. or Plan A for that matter?
Nikita: I think it’s safe to tell them what Plan A is now.
Zombie: A man has a right to know what he’s fighting for.
Jester: That’s more like it. What’s Plan A – and where the hell are we anyway?
Nikita: Freedom – a faction of Stalkers, recently discovered that the barrier blocking the route to the center of the Zone is a psionic field generated in a lab in the Red Forest. Another such lab exists here. The job was commissioned from Freedom to Gremlin to learn about the device generating the psionic field in hopes that it would be the key to bringing down the field in the Red Forest.
Jester: And where is this lab exactly?
Nikita: It’s underground within the complex west of here.
Jester: Underground?! Nobody told me this was an underground mission!
Nikita: As I recall, you didn’t ask. You just jumped in head first the same way you do with every other mission you go on.
Jester: Yeah… but that detail would have been nice to know before-hand.
Nikita: The reward is well worth it, and you know it.
Nimbus: What’s the reward?
Nikita: One beyond your wildest dreams; a chance to be granted a wish.
Virtue: A wish?
Nikita: You obviously haven’t heard of the local legend around here. Supposedly there’s a monolith inside the sarcophagus that appeared sometime after the second explosion that is capable of granting a wish to the first Stalker who gets there.
Virtue: You believe this?
Nikita: The Zone is a strange place; you never know what truth something may hold until you are staring it in the face. But either way, there’s obviously something to be had behind the barrier, otherwise what’s the point in having one?
Jester: Hey… someone’s coming!
*Footsteps approach slowly in the distance*
Jester: Gremlin? Phantom? Hello?
*Moaning sound*
Virtue: I’ve been hearing that sound for hours now… I don’t think it’s the wind.
*Zombie cocks his weapon*
Zombie: The hunted becomes the hunter.
Jester: What?
Nimbus: What’s over there? Do you know, Nikita?
Nikita: I’ve only heard rumors.
Nimbus: Regarding what, exactly?!
Nikita: Stalkers stay away from this area. They say the danger outweighs any reward.
Jester: Great! Fucking great! We’re going right into the heart of it aren’t we?
Nikita: Yes.
Jester: What’s this danger? Does it have to do with that moaning sound? Huh?
Nikita: Yes.
Jester: Then what is i…
Zombie: Silence!
*Silence for a few seconds while the sound of slow footsteps comes closer*
Jester: Mykola? Is that you?
*Silence for a few seconds*
Jester: Mykola! What the hell are you doing here, I heard you were headed this way but you never reported back! What happened?
Nimbus: Something’s not right… look at his eyes…
Jester: Mykola… man, what’s wrong, you look half dead.
*A loud moan comes from Mykola, followed by the sound of a shotgun blast*
Jester: Shit! What the hell’s wrong?
Nimbus: Get down!
*An AK is unloaded, ceasing the other sounds. There are a few last moans from Mykola until finally, he dies.*
Jester: I… I can’t… what was he?
Nikita: His brain got fried by the emissions out here, he was zombified.
Jester: How? How did that happen?
Nikita: The psionic emission field that is generated here fucks with your mind, making it the ultimate barrier. The body can’t function as intended without the mind, so they fry your mind, turning you into meat shield for them.
Jester: Who’s “them”?
Nikita: Whoever is putting up the barriers.
Jester: Well fuck this. I’m not going to be next on the menu!
Nikita: Jester! Get back here! Don’t go out there!
Jester: They said the bunker is that way, so that’s the way I’m going!
Nikita: You idiot! Stay here; you don’t know what you’re doing!
Jester: Better than staying here. I don’t want to be zombie bait!
Nikita: If you leave, we’re not going to go looking for you!
Jester: I’ll see you all at the bunker!
*Jester walks off into the fog, towards what he thinks is the bunker*
Nikita: Dammit… that stupid idiot.
Nimbus: What do we do now? Gremlin and Phantom still haven’t shown up.
Nikita: I don’t…
*The sound of gunshots close by as well as moans from several sources pierce the night fog.*
Nimbus: Where’s the coming from? Is that Jester?
Nikita: I don’t know… but it’s close by.
Nimbus: Behind you Virtue!
Virtue: Shit!
*Loud thump sound as Virtue falls to the ground, PDA near the impact*
*Boom! The sound of Nimbus’ shotgun shakes the immediate area*
Unknown (1): Youuuuuu… Ouuuutttt…
Unknown (2): Geeeeeett…
*Zombie unloads his AK at anything within range*
Nimbus: Stay down Virtue, there’s more coming up behind you!
Virtue: Shit… I dropped my weapon!
Nikita: I got it… here!
Virtue: Thanks.
*Nikita and Virtue join the other two Stalkers in the firefight.*
Nimbus: How many are there?
Nikita: They must have known about us the whole time, probably just outside our line of sight in the fog!
Zombie: Back to hell you atrocities!
*Continued gunfire from the Stalkers*
Nikita: I need a mag!
Virtue: I’m out!
Zombie: Last one. May it pierce their soulless hearts.
Nikita: Keep it up, there’s more from the south-west!
Nimbus: There’s more gun-fire coming from that direction!
Nikita: It’s not erratic enough to be the zombies… who is that?
Nimbus: Someone else is definitely out there. Nikita! Down!
*Another shotgun blast goes off, emptying the content of the targets head all over the area.*
Nimbus: Oh God!
Nikita: I’m dry!
Nimbus: I’m getting low on shells here!
Zombie: Purge these foul things.
Nimbus: Thanks.
*More gunfire from Nimbus and Zombie*
Zombie: The hunted return.
Nikita: Up ahead… I think it’s Gremlin!
Virtue: That’s them!
*Gremlin shouts from a distance*
Gremlin: Cover us, we’re coming right for you!
Phantom: Watch yourself! They’re closing in from the side.
Gremlin: They used the fog as cover! They’ve been all round us the whole time!
Zombie: The pack is patient until the kill, then instinct takes over.
Gremlin: We found the bunker! We’ll need to make a break for it or we’re dead meat!
Nikita: Virtue and I are out of ammo, the Zombie and Nimbus are low.
Gremlin: Where’s Jester?
Nikita: He ran off a few minutes ago for the bunker, he could be anywhere.
Gremlin: Damn that fool!
Phantom: Here’s a couple magazines for both of you. Don’t waste them.
Gremlin: Alright, we need to get the hell out of here. Go!
*The Stalkers start running, gunning down anything in their path*
Gremlin: It’s not far! I mapped it out on my PDA. The fog made it hard to find, but we found it.
Phantom: Don’t let them get too close to you!
Nikita: Fuck!
Phantom: Nikita is down, I got him.
Gremlin: Phantom! Come on!
Phantom: Keep going, I’ve got him!
Gremlin: Dammit! Come on guys!
Phantom: He twisted his ankle, he won’t make it! I’m staying here!
Gremlin: Don’t be a fool!
Phantom: It’s foolish to leave a good man behind.
Gremlin: Alright… alright… here’s my last mag, and that scope I promised you a while back.
Phantom: Thanks.
Gremlin: I’ll be back for you as soon as I get them to safety.
Phantom: Don’t worry about me. Get out of here.
Gremlin: Alright Stalkers, let’s move!
*A few minutes pass with the sounds of gunfire, moaning, and running all mixed in*
Gremlin: The bunker is just ahead, once we’re inside we’ll be safe!
Nimbus: What about the others?
Gremlin: They’re on their own.
Zombie: The Zone will watch over them.
Gremlin: There’s the perimeter fence! Keep go…
*A loud moan comes from nearby followed by a short burst of gunshots*
Gremlin: Zombie! Are you ok?
Zombie: The prey is wounded.
Gremlin: Shit man, don’t stop now!
Nimbus: His leg is torn up pretty good, give me your arm!
Gremlin: I got this one. Move!
Virtue: I’ll cover you, just keep going!
Gremlin: Don’t let anything through that fence!
*Virtue lays down suppressing fire while the other 3 Stalkers limp towards the bunker*
Virtue: Get back! BACK!
*Retaliating moans answer*
Virtue: Don’t come any closer!
*Sporadic gunshots from multiple sources ricochet off the ground near Virtue*
Virtue: Shit, they’re closing in guys!
*More gunfire form Virtue, followed by several hits on the closest targets*
*A multitude of voices fill the immediate area*
Virtue: Shit… there must be hundreds out there!
Nimbus: I hear them! There’s too many!
Gremlin: That’s the door! Knock three times!
Virtue: They’re inside the perimeter! I can’t kill them all!
Gremlin: Get over here Virtue! We’re almost inside!
Unknown (1): What’s going on out there?
Gremlin: Sakharov! It’s Gremlin!
Unknown (1) [Identified as Sakharov]: Who?
Gremlin: GREMLIN! I was here a few minutes ago with Phantom!
Sakharov: What’s all that noise out there?
Gremlin: We’ve got zombies closing in! Open the door!
Sakharov: Who was this again?
Sakharov: No need to shout. I’ll open the door right now.
Gremlin: Any day now…
Sakharov: Sorry, I can’t remember which button opened the door… I really need to color-coordinate these. Now was it this one… or that one. Maybe that one. No… it might have been…
Sakharov: This is a lab, I can’t just go around pressing buttons without knowing what will happen. The last time I did that I made a Pseudodog. Heh heh… little joke.
Gremlin: COME ON!
Sakharov: Oh! Here it is! I couldn’t see that it said “open” on it. There you go.
*The door to the bunker swings open*
Gremlin: Everyone inside! Come on Virtue!
Virtue: My weapon’s jammed!
Gremlin: I got this. Sakharov! Cycle the door!
Sakharov: Now which button was th…
Gremlin: Virtue! Inside, hit the button on the right side of the door, hurry!
Virtue: Got it.
*A few seconds later*
Virtue: Ok, it’s cycling!
*The door begins to close*
Gremlin: Die you brainless bastards!
*Gremlin opens fire with his AK, resulting in a barrage of gunfire and moans directed at him*
Virtue: Gremlin. Watch your right!
*A satisfied moan comes from nearby as a shotgun blast goes off, sending Gremlin to the ground*
Virtue: GREMLIN!
*Virtue rushes to the front of the closing door and open fire, tearing into the zombie the shot Gremlin and sending the rest into a frenzy of moans*
Gremlin: *coughs and sputters* Unhh… I’m *coughs* ok. Just get me inside. *coughs*
Virtue: I got you, don’t worry.
*Virtue keeps the trigger pulled until the magazine is empty and all that remains are empty clicks*
Gremlin: Another on the right… he’s gonna make it in!
*Virtue lets out a determined yell*
Virtue: BACK!
*The nearest zombie suffers a boot to the face, followed by bones cracking, indicating a hand getting caught in the doorway. The door closes with a hiss from the hydraulics. The moans approach followed by the sound of rubbing against glass and bumping against metal*
Virtue: They’re all pressed up to the door!
Gremlin: They can’t get in, we’re safe.
Nimbus: Are you guys ok?
Virtue: I’m fine. Gremlin took a nice shot to the chest though.
Gremlin: I’ve had worse.
Nimbus: Look at that… they’re all up against the door like they think they can force their way in.
Gremlin: They don’t want inside - they want to keep us inside.
Nimbus: Why?
Gremlin: Nobody ever comes here except to go to the complex where the emissions are coming from. They’re protecting it.
Virtue: You took a good hit, we need to get that fixed up.
Sakharov: What’s going on here? I just cleaned these floors!
Gremlin: Keep complaining and you’ll be cleaning up your own brains old man!
Virtue: Gremlin and Zombie are wounded, they need help.
Sakharov: I have the proper facilities is back, but I can only work on 1 at a time.
Gremlin: Take Zombie first, I’m fine.
Sakharov: Ok. In the meantime here is a medkit and bandages to stop the bleeding. Come with me Zombie.
Nimbus: What about those guys out there? All alone out there…
Gremlin: They made their choices. There’s nothing we can do for them now. We’re stuck in here until those zombies find something better to do.
Virtue: Dammit!
*Silence for a few seconds*
Gremlin: Like Zombie said, the Zone will watch over them. It will decide if they live or die.
Nimbus: Yeah, no offense or anything but I think that’s a load of shit. WE can do something about it.
Gremlin: Oh? You want to go out there and gun down a fuckload of zombies, be my guest.
Nimbus: Are you just going to give up?
*Gremlin attempts to sit up but fails, so instead grabs Nimbus by the collar of his suit*
Gremlin: Listen to me! There is NOTHING we can do! Whatever force is controlling these guys has an agenda… and right now it wants to keep us in here. If we try to go out there we’re all dead!
Nimbus: Well then what CAN we do!?
Gremlin: Wait.
Nimbus: That’s it? Just wait?!
Gremlin: That’s it.
*Nimbus gets up, obviously angry, and walks away*
Gremlin: It’s the way of the Zone. He’ll understand that in time.
Virtue: I can’t help but feel the same way. I mean I know there’s a horde of zombies out there… but I feel like sitting in here is getting us nowhere.
Gremlin: When you’ve been in the Zone as long as I have you’ll learn that everything happens for a reason, and you have absolutely no control over it.
Virtue: I believe that we control our own lives… nothing or nobody else controls it.
Gremlin: *laughs* Maybe outside, but in here it’s different.
Virtue: Why do you say that?
Gremlin: There’s some other force at work here. Something we have no control over. Every Stalker here has tried to understand it, but nobody can. The best we can do is try to stay clear of the barriers and keep whatever secret is hiding there to the power that wants it to stay hidden.
Virtue: You know, before I came to the Zone I thought like that. I thought as long as I stayed in line, respected authority, was a good little citizen I would be fine. No harm would come to me. Then one day the government showed up at the factory I worked in to close it off when the zone expanded. We weren’t just laid off; we were thrown on the streets to fend for ourselves. One of the workers tried to do something about it, only asking for what was fair, and they shot him for wasting their time. The rest of us were beaten and charged with “conspiracy to commit treason”. We couldn’t get work after that. That’s the day I knew there was no future for me in the world. I believe in justice, and that day proved to me that there is no justice left in the world. The Zone took my job and life, so I’m here to get back what is mine. That’s what’s fair. Those Stalkers deserve our help, and I’m not going to let any “force” tell me not to do what is right.
Gremlin: That’s a nice speech and all, but I’m telling you, in this place it’s diff…
Virtue: What about Phantom? Don’t you think he deserves some answers?
Gremlin: Answers to what?
Virtue: About what happened to his family?
Gremlin: He told me they all died when he was a teenager.
Virtue: His father was a worker at the plant when it blew up in ‘86. His mother and sister risked everything to find him or his body. The government got to them and he never heard from them again. When he came into the Zone he made it to back to Chernobyl, and saw the remains of what the government was doing there. They left the bodies and used others for experimentation. They spat in the faces of the families who had loved ones in the Zone that day.
Gremlin: I… I’ve never heard that story.
Virtue: Maybe he never told you because he respects your friendship and didn’t want to compromise your beliefs.
Gremlin: Yeah… but if I had known all of that.
Virtue: You’re a good leader, those are hard to find these days. A good leader has a goal, and motivation to reach that goal. Maybe he didn’t want to distract you from your mission.
Gremlin: Maybe. But now I might never know. He’s still out there and those monsters are blocking our only exit.
Virtue: Well, if there is another force at work here, as you say, maybe it’ll let him live.
Gremlin: One thing’s for sure. The second those things move an inch from that door I’m going out there. You’re right, Virtue. He does deserve my help, and I’ll be damned if I let anyone try to stop me from helping him. He deserves to know what happened to his family.
Virtue: Thanks for hearing me out.
Gremlin: Thanks for giving a damn.
[End audio]

It’s about a quarter to 1 in the morning and the zombies are still outside, barricading the door. I can still hear them moaning and grunting all around the building, mostly in front where the door is though. Zombie and Gremlin are all patched up and should be good to go, according to them. Those guys can really take a beating. As for Jester, Phantom and Nikita… as they say “only the Zone knows”.

My fifth day in the Zone has been one of the most earth-shattering for me. Seeing the heart of the mapped Zone – the Bar, and the look of hopelessness I see in the eyes of other Stalkers makes me wonder if any of us will make it out here.
It’s good to see Nimbus again, I’m amazed he managed to make his way to us and even rescue us from the Bloodsucker.

That Bloodsucker… one of the scariest things I’ve seen in my life. The zombies around me are like something out of a horror movie, but that Bloodsucker is like a nightmare incarnate. Did it used to be human? A Stalker maybe? Did he or she have a husband or wife? Kids? Whatever it used to be, it’s not now. Those eyes seemed to pierce flesh and see right onto every flaw you have, and behind them… only a lust for blood and destruction. If there is another force behind the Zone, it must be stopped… at all costs.
Tomorrow we’re going to complete our mission, which Gremlin has laid out for the rest of us. Our mission is to infiltrate Lab X16 and discover the source of the emission that covers this place.

Sakharov, the scientist in charge of the lab here, has some sort of makeshift device he says should dampen the effect of the emission to prevent it from controlling our higher brain functions. He says it’s the first test of the object, so he doesn’t know how well or for how long we will be protected from the emission. But he suspects that once we’re underneath the complex, the emission should fade away.

Well, Gremlin has given up on trying to get out of the bunker to rescue Phantom and Nikita. He finally laid down, holding his rifle like a teddy bear. I’m the last one awake besides Sakharov, who never seems to sleep. He mumbles a lot and seems to be a bit absent-minded. But he does good research and seems to be a generally good person.

Nimbus and I talked briefly before he was too exhausted to talk anymore. I guess he ran for most of the journey to the Wild Territory, using paths frequented by Bandits and Mercs to get there faster than other Stalkers would able to normally. He enjoys my company and the company of the other Stalkers in the group, it must be a big change compared to what he’s used to in here.

Anyway, we’ve got a long day ahead of us tomorrow. Virtue out.
  03:11:16  28 August 2008
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On forum: 07/06/2008
Messages: 107
Man, it just keeps getting better and better! Loving the new characters, diverse personalities make it even more interesting, and I like the direction you're taking them in so far.

As for a background story, should I send you an e-mail or pm or something? I don't want to post it in the thread so as to ruin the story or anything :\
  03:24:27  28 August 2008
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Senior Resident

On forum: 04/15/2007
Messages: 490
You can send me email -

Phantom and Gremlin are actually 2 of my good RL buddies, and they both gave me a really good background story for their characters. I found it was very easy to construct a story around them once I had the actual characters, so I'll take anything you've got.

Thanks for reading, I'll have the next part up soon.
  06:29:53  28 August 2008
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On forum: 08/28/2008
Messages: 2
Great job with the story psynexus, you are doing a great job on my character
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