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The Zone: Life, and Death.

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  06:55:36  28 August 2008
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On forum: 03/04/2008
Messages: 50
OMG OMG OMG!!!!! I love this story i just spent about 50 minutes just reading the last post! i bet it took you a while to write all of the last one though.

Im thinking of writing a story but im afraid it wont be very good, or i will just run out of ideas. I have a few things that i could make into a story, a few characters, but not alot of detail. i got to think more and decide which character's story im gonna choose first.
  08:30:17  28 August 2008
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Senior Resident

On forum: 04/15/2007
Messages: 490

I'm glad you enjoyed it, thanks.

I'll give you some advice about writing style that's really worked for me in this story. Just make it up as you go. When the time comes to introduce a new character, get as much information about his/her background as you can and develop a personality.

The dialogue and the way they react to a situation comes a lot easier when you can think to yourself "what would this person do in this situation".

One of the things that has been awesome in this story is my 2 best friends making characters based off their personalities and researching a solid backstory. Also, a couple of the readers suggested some names and 1 of them sent me a backstory for his character also.

That's how I've done it with this story. It's also affected the overall plot as I've been writing it. Obviously I have an ultimate goal, but how the characters reach that goal is still a mystery, even to me.

All I can say at this point is see you in X16.
  04:47:01  30 August 2008
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Senior Resident

On forum: 04/15/2007

Message edited by:
08/30/2008 5:00:35
Messages: 490
The Zone: Life and Death - Part 5

Here it is, once again! Reviews, comments and suggestions are always welcome. Remember that if you like the story you can suggest a character name and even put a background in with them!

Don't hesitate to show some love... these take a long time to write, so I want to know you're enjoying them!


Day 6

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.

Gremlin – The Stalker in charge of the current mission. Dedicated to his goal, he expects everyone to get the job done. He and Phantom are best friends.

Phantom (MIA) – The son of a Chernobyl worker presumed dead in the ’86 explosion. His mother and sister went missing after unearthing some government secrets about the events that transpired afterwards. He is on a mission of truth to uncover what really happened in the Zone. Last seen in Yantar, he offered to stay with Nikita, who had been shot in the leg by a zombified Stalker.

Zombie – A quiet, mysterious Stalker. Often speaks in metaphors. He is a loyal follower; even while a bit creepy at times.

Jester (MIA) – His name says it all. He can’t stand uneasy silences and will say anything to cut the tension. Coupled with his natural ability to insult and speak without thinking he’s both a blessing and a curse. Last Seen in Yantar, after a horde of zombified Stalkers attacked the group waiting for Gremlin and Phantom to find the Ecologist bunker. He left to go find them and hasn’t returned.

Nikita (MIA) – The Stalker who’s taken notice in my skills and provides me jobs. Last seen in Yantar, he took a few rounds to the leg from a zombified Stalker.

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 through first.

I remember when I was little. I would lie in bed while the trees outside would knock against the side of our house and tap on the windows. My parents reassured me that it was only the wind and that nobody was out there. My parents always seemed to know everything about anything when I was a kid. Last night I could have proved them wrong. The moaning and shuffling of the zombies outside continued all night. If I hadn’t been so worn out I doubt I would have fallen asleep at all.

I was the last one up again, but not by much. Gremlin was talking with Sakharov, obviously pissed about the events of last night and agitated about our current state of affairs. The zombies left the bunker, but they were still out there… and hopefully our comrades along with them.

Zombie was sitting on a crate near the door. He seemed to be drawing something. I went over to see what it was but I couldn’t make it out. It looked kind of like a ghost, but there was flesh hanging off of it. Freaky.

Nimbus was checking out some of the wares Sakharov carries… a few over-priced rifles and some old Hazmat suits. He poured over various types of shotgun ammo and bought a few dozen boxes. After last night I don’t blame him.

Gremlin’s urging me over, I better go see what he wants.

[Audio enabled]
Gremlin: Hey. How’d you sleep?
Virtue: Well enough, despite the company.
Gremlin: *laughs slightly* Yeah, the Stalkers out here can be quite… unsettling.
Virtue: I think I understand the importance of this mission now.
Gremlin: That’s not why we’re here, but if we succeed our friends should visit us less often…
Virtue: Nobody deserves the kind of fate they’re suffering through.
Gremlin: Absolutely not, it’s a terrible way for a man to die; for the body to go on living without the mind is a violation of nature… which is why we need to get to that lab, find the cause of this abomination, and make sure the men who did this suffer for what they have done.
Virtue: Those men deserve a proper death.
Gremlin: Right, and it’s up to us to ensure that justice is served.
*Gremlin cocks his rifle*
Gremlin: Make sure to stock up on ammo and med kits. Where we’re going, we’ll need all the supplies we can muster.
Virtue: Got it.
[End audio]

We’re all stocked up on supplies. Zombie gave me a scope to attach to my rifle and helped me zero it in. This should help me take out anything at range before it gets too close. He told me “Aim for the absence of life”, I assume he meant the head.

Before we left Sakharov provided us with top-of-the-line suit upgrades. All of us were given gas masks, anomaly detectors, air tanks, night vision, and special belts for holding artifacts. I feel like a real Stalker now… there’s no turning back, I’ve committed.

Now there’s a job to be done… one that other Stalkers have stayed far away from. I’ll be honest… I’m afraid. There are mindless Stalkers out for blood wandering outside along with God knows what else… and in that lab… I don’t want to think about it. I’ve got to figure out how to use all of these new devices before we go. I’m positive any recording I do on this mission will be played over and over again should I survive this.

[Audio enabled]
*The bunker door closes with a clank and a hiss. Sakharov speaks over the speaker outside the door*
Sakharov: Good luck Stalkers. It’s a brave thing you’re doing. The Zone depends on this.
Gremlin: Just doing what’s necessary.
Sakharov: Remember that the prototype is still in its alpha phase… there is no guarantee it will protect you under every circumstance!
Gremlin: I’m well aware of the risk, we all are. Thanks for the help and supplies.
Sakharov: Just remember: if you all get killed that equipment goes to the next team crazy enough to get into that place!
Gremlin: I didn’t know you cared so much.
Sakharov: Yes, well… just remember you’re doing it for the scientific community as well, there’s no telling what the results of your mission could do for humanity! You better get moving. It may take a while to get there what with the anomalies, swamps, and zombies everywhere.
Gremlin: Alright, let’s go.
*The Stalkers start walking away from the bunker and exit through the main gate*
Gremlin: Ok… here’s the plan. We need to head due north, following the main road. Along the way we’ll encounter a few swamps and our fair share of zombies, as well so some other undesirable things. Make sure to listen for the beep your anomaly detector makes. If it beeps more than once per second you are too close. I’ll use bolts when that happens to mark the anomalies.
Nimbus: Good, I hate those things. I’ve seen Stalkers run into them before… the bandits aren’t exactly careful about where they hide sometimes.
Gremlin: Watch the radiation levels also. One hundred REMs equal 1 Sievert. Anything above ½ a Sievert can make you sick. Anything above 1 Sievert is hazardous if you’re exposed to it for too long. Just follow my lead and we’ll make it there in one piece.
Virtue: Got it.
Gremlin: Good. Don’t hesitate to shoot any zombies that take interest in you. For the most part they’re too dumb to do anything about it, but they are attracted to sight and sound when they’re not already distracted. Whatever force is working against us here doesn’t want us getting into that lab… I’m sure of it, so let’s make ourselves as uninteresting as possible. Stay close.
[End audio]

So far so good. Almost 4 hours have gone by and it hasn’t gotten any lighter outside. The fog is not quite as bad as last night… I can see about 100 meters in front of me, but I still can’t see into the distance. I only see the path ahead, and grass and bushes lining the side of the road. If I meander slightly off the center of the road my Geiger counter clicks a little bit… the radiation must be pretty high out there.

Walking down this road is like something out of a dream; it’s not dark, but it’s not visibly light either. Everything has a haze about it, like walking through a cloud. Every once in a while the silhouette of a building comes into view and it’s like seeing a memory. But this is no dream… this is reality, and we’re about to walk into a nightmare.

Zombie squints like he can see through the fog, almost like he can see things nobody else can. I’ve come to notice that even though he’s quiet, he’s also observant. His eyes don’t wander aimlessly; they’re scanning. He’s mapping the area in his head. So he’s a poet, an artist and a mapper… there must be quite a story behind him. Though I doubt he’ll ever tell, he’s not exactly the kind for general conversation.

It’s still no lighter than it was 2 and a half hours ago. We’ve been traveling along this road forever. It almost seems like as soon as we hit the end of the road it starts over; everything has looked the same for hours now. Maybe this is a dream and I’m still sleeping back in that bunker… or at home with Emilia sleeping next to me.

We just heard gunshots up ahead. I’m switching audio on.

[Audio enabled]
Gremlin: Hold.
Nimbus: Where did that come from?
Gremlin: Up ahead. It sounded like it came from inside somewhere.
Zombie: The pack needs aid!
*Zombie rushes forward ahead of the group*
Gremlin: Come on! Let’s go!
*The Stalkers run ahead in the direction of the gunfire*
Gremlin: Some fellow Stalkers… they’re cut off by zombies! Let’s give them a hand!
*Gremlin kicks open a side door on the abandoned where the shooting is taking place*
Gremlin: Zombie! Cover them; I’m going to cover you from upstairs.
Zombie: Affirmative.
Gremlin: Nimbus – you’re with Zombie. Virtue, come with me. Time to practice your sharp-shooting!
Virtue: Yes sir!
Nimbus: On it!
*The stalkers split up, Gremlin running up the stairs with Virtue right behind*
Gremlin: There’s a hole in the roof above the garage that they’re in. Just aim for the head.
Virtue: Ok!
*Controlled breathing, indicating Virtue steadying himself for better aiming. A shot is fired.*
Gremlin: Nice shot! Keep it up!
*Gremlin lets out some burst fire while another shot is fired from Virtue*
Gremlin: You’re a natural, man; make ‘em sing!
*More burst fire and controlled shots are released until a few minutes later the fight dies down*
Gremlin: I think that’s the last of them… let’s head back downstairs and help them mop up.
*Gremlin starts down the stairs, then trips on a loose floorboard near the top, tumbling down half the flight*
Gremlin: Shit… son of a bitch… fucking *random unintelligible cursing*
*A zombified Stalker, near the bottom of the stairs looks over at the noise and discharges his weapon*
Virtue: Behind you!
*Virtue let’s out 3 rounds, aimed for the zombies head, ceasing the gunfire*
Gremlin: Th… thanks man. Good shot.
Virtue: No problem, let’s get out of here.
Gremlin: Come on!
*The Stalkers exit the upstairs and run around the corner to the garage.*
Zombie: The pack is reunited.
*Gremlin speaks, panting*
Gremlin: How… is… everyone?
Phantom: Tired.
Gremlin: Phantom! You made it… I knew you would.
Phantom: We haven’t slept since yesterday, but we’re fine.
Nikita: Yeah… thanks to you and that other guy who showed up.
Gremlin: Other guy?
Jargon: Hello there.
Gremlin: Jargon. You son of a bitch! What are you doing out here?
*Gremlin hugs Jargon*
Jargon: Just enjoying the sunlight and the smell of decay, same old same old.
Gremlin: Can’t you find somewhere else in the Zone to do that? This isn’t exactly the most welcoming place.
Jargon: Something told me the sunrise would be especially beautiful in this part of the Zone today.
Gremlin: Well, I hate to burst your bubble, but it’s been foggy ever since we’ve gotten here.
Jargon: Hmm… it must have been something else then. Maybe it had to do with the mission you’re on.
Gremlin: How do you know about… wait… you always know.
Jargon: Don’t forget that.
Gremlin: Why does our mission interest you?
Jargon: You should know the answer to that one, considering my history.
Gremlin: You want to know what events transpired after the Day 1.
Jargon: Bingo.
Gremlin: Well, you’re in the right place. We can’t be far from X16 now.
Jargon: No. In fact you’re about 50 meters away from the wall.
*A few seconds of silence*
Gremlin: Son of a bitch, you’re right. I can see the outer wall from here.
Jargon: We should make for it as soon as possible.
Gremlin: You’re right. Let’s… wait… shit.
Jargon: Is there a problem?
Gremlin: Yeah… we were separated last night and Phantom and Nikita never got the prototype.
Jargon: You mean these things? I’ve been Sakharov’s guinea pig for years. Take them.
Gremlin: By the way, we’re short a man. Did you happen to see anyone else on your way here?
Jargon: No.
Phantom: Jester never made it to you guys?
Gremlin: No, we we’re trapped in the bunker by the zombies until sometime last night. I thought you were him when you came out of hiding.
Jargon: I’m sorry, I didn’t see him.
Gremlin: Alright. Let’s do an inventory check.
[End audio]

Man… it’s good to see Phantom and Nikita again. Words can’t describe the scene in that garage. Phantom and Nikita were propped up around a central support with bodies all around them, the ones that fell face up all had holes in the direct center of their heads. Phantom is obviously a sharp-shooter, and extremely quick on the draw too judging by the lack or bullet holes anywhere other than on the zombies.

Jargon, once again has successfully found me, this time deep inside Yantar. Gremlin obviously knows him, and they seem to be good friends. I don’t know why he’s following me, but I think I finally understand part of why. He was a worker at Chernobyl when overloaded, and taking into account that he hasn’t left the Zone since that day he had to have uncovered something that needs explanation. I wonder if he and Phantom are after the same thing: the truth about what took place there after the meltdown.

Gremlin told me I was a naturally good shot, I have no doubt this will come in handy as we venture deeper into the complex ahead. Speaking of which I think the inventory check is done, we should get moving.

[Audio enabled]
Gremlin: We’re ready to go. When we get inside the complex, expect anything. Stay close, and watch your sensors. The fog is still pretty thick, so double-check all corners and dark spots. Let’s go.
*The footsteps of the Stalkers go from gravel to concrete, indicating that they have entered the complex. An eerie humming sound increases in amplitude as they walk*
Nikita: What is that?
Gremlin: That’s the emission bouncing out of our heads. The prototype blocks it, but we can still hear it.
Zombie: The devil is speaking to us.
Jargon: Sakharov said the hums are part of the Extremely Low Frequency or ELF sound spectrum. Normally it’s undetectable by human ears, but the emission amplifies somehow so that humans receive it like a radio wave. Think subliminal advertising.
Phantom: Where the advertising is just one word: kill.
Jargon: Or “protect” maybe.
Gremlin: Well whatever it is, we have no idea when it could become the main topic of discussion if we’re not careful. Sakharov said he didn’t know if it will withstand a burst of the emission or for how long it would protect us.
Virtue: How do we know if we’re unprotected?
Gremlin: He said it would beep when it was unsure about the level of protection.
Virtue: Then what?
Gremlin: Try to get underground real fast and hope its safer than it is out here. But I wouldn’t recommend going underground until we find the place we’re looking for. The zombified Stalkers are just for show… there’s worse brewing in here.
Jargon: Nothing we can’t handle.
Nimbus: Do you know of anyone who’s made it out of the lab alive?
Jargon: No.
[End audio]

That shut everyone up. This… complex, looks like it used to be a manufacturing plant of some sort. There are various buildings with concrete pathways between each of them. Many of them are warehouses for storage and others have tables and assembly lines inside of them. There’s a large loading crane in the middle and storage containers in the back of the facility. The whole place is run down and dreary. The fog makes it impossible to gauge the size of the entire complex, but from what is visible around us I can tell that a lot of fighting and death has occurred here. I can see spent casings, some discarded weapons, dried blood and bone fragments, and even a few bodies in the corners.

The whole place smells of death. It’s hard to see inside most of the buildings, like in the Wild Territory. The ones I can see inside look like they’ve been frozen in time; some of the machines are halfway through whatever job they were doing, several cars are still parked inside, covered in dust, and even some of the lights are still working.

Right now this feels like a walk through a deserted park at night; creepy, but no immediate danger. Something in the back of my head is constantly telling me we’re being watched and that we shouldn’t be here, but then I look up and it’s just the same foggy, empty buildings. It seems like the second part of the dream I was in on the way here, but more detail this time… and a lot creepier.

I wonder what we’ll find when we get to the…

[Audio Enabled]
Nikita: Did you guys hear that?
Gremlin: Shh… quiet.
*A low rumbling noise comes through the sound of wind and leaves blowing down the deserted path.
Nimbus: What was that?
Gremlin: I don’t know. Stay quiet.
*The rumbling noise gets louder and becomes mixed with an electric hum*
Nikita: What… the… hell…
*The hum turns into a crackle then dissipates. The rumble stays constant, then the sound of a barrel clanking across the ground distracts from it*
Gremlin: Brace yourselves.
*The sound of the metallic barrel grinding along the ground comes to a halt suddenly*
Nimbus: Where… where is that?
Phantom: SHIT!
*Nimbus puts a round in the barrel while Nikita unloads his gun in the direction of the noise. Zombie falls to the ground*
Nimbus: Where is it?!
Nikita: Fuck! FUCK!!!
Gremlin: Stop firing! It’s gone!
*Nikita stops firing*
Nikita: Wh… what the hell was that?
Gremlin: Just a barrel.
Nikita: Barrels don’t fly through the fucking air!
Gremlin: It’s gone now, keep going.
Nikita: What’s gone! Zombie just got decked with a fucking flying barrel… something threw it at him!
Gremlin: Whatever it was is only trying to distract us from the mission.
Nikita: It’s doing a damn good job… I’m losing it here man!
Gremlin: Zombie’s fine, no harm done. We have to keep moving.
Nikita: Shit man… shit.
Nimbus: At least I know my barrel-shooting skills are up to date.
*Nimbus cocks his shotgun*
Nikita: I hope so… if barrels can do that in here, you better be ready for the living shit that might come flying at you.
[End audio]

So a barrel flew out of nowhere taking out Zombie. That guy is probably the buffest one of all of us and he fell to the ground faster than testifying preacher. Who, or what threw it… we don’t know, but it’s obvious someone or something knows we’re here and doesn’t want us to be. We’re close to the north-west wall of the complex now. The door to the lab isn’t far ahead according to Gremlin.

[Audio enabled]
Gremlin: The door should be just ahead. Once inside we need to get to the back of the building and find the door to the underground tunnels.
Virtue: Sounds simple enough.
Nimbus: I’ll take the first flying barrel watch once we’re inside.
Gremlin: Zombie, take up the rear. Make sure we don’t encounter any more unpleasant surprises.
Zombie: Affirmative.
Gremlin: There’s the door ahead.
Nimbus: Hey… there’s someone up there.
Gremlin: Phantom?
Phantom: Let me see what I can see.
*Phantom kneels to the ground, aiming down the scope in an attempt to get a better look*
Phantom: Too far away, I can’t make it out.
Gremlin: Keep your eyes peeled.
*The Stalkers march along, making for the front door of the building*
Gremlin: Anything?
Phantom: No… whoever it was is out of sight now.
Nimbus: I’m sure I saw someone. They had no protection on though so I don’t think it was a zombified Stalker, it looked more like a straggler or something… like one of those people who decided to come back into the Zone despite the radiation?
Jargon: No… not quite…
Gremlin: You know something?
Jargon: It’s a straggler alright… but he never left the Zone.
Gremlin: What do you mean?
Jargon: I think it was a mutant.
*Silence for a few seconds*
Nikita: Human?
Jargon: Ex-human.
Gremlin: Shit… one of the smart ones.
Nimbus: What’s that mean?
Gremlin: The human mutants tend to be the smarter, more aggressive ones. Mutation tends to case higher brain function, and given enough time the primal ones take over; feed and mate.
Nikita: What do they eat?
Gremlin: Meat… and it doesn’t matter what it comes from or how old it is.
Nikita: So those things have been multiplying and eating other people?
Gremlin: Yeah, basically.
Nikita: Well… that’s just dandy!
Gremlin: Keep your cool! We’ve made it this far.
Nikita: Alright… sorry… I just hate zombies. Especially the “real” ones…
Nimbus: You and me both.
Gremlin: Come on, Jargon and I have point, just make sure nothing comes up beside us.
Nikita: Fair enough.
*The Stalkers slowly progress towards the front door for what seems an eternity until, finally, they cross onto the wood floor of the entryway.
Gremlin: Left clear.
Jargon: Stairs clear.
Gremlin: Move in.
*Slowly advancing footsteps, with sounds of choppy breathing from some of the Stalkers*
*Suddenly, a low mumble cuts the silence*
Gremlin: *whispering* Wait.
*Gremlin advances a few steps forward, then quickly checks a door on the left*
Gremlin: Clear.
*Gremlin slowly advances to the next door *
Gremlin: Clear. Moving o…
*Gremlin stops in his tracks*
Gremlin: Nobody move.
Phantom: What is it?
Gremlin: Shh… Nikita… step slowly to your right.
Nikita: Why… wha…
*Nikita carefully glances around only to find that standing a meter from him is the zombie seen outside, staring right at him - crookedly with dead eyes, jaw locked open and offset, drooling on the floor in front of him*
Nikita: HOLY SHIT!
*Nikita falls to the floor and drains the remainder of his magazine into the zombie’s torso*
Gremlin: Open fire!
*The group opens fire on the zombie, dropping it to the floor instantly*
Gremlin: I said step to your right! Not fall on the floor in front of him! What are you, inviting him to eat you?
Nikita: He was standing right fucking there! You could have said get down or something!
Gremlin: I was trying to hit him in the head and avoid making too much noise!
Nikita: Shit… I didn’t mean to yell… but Jesus, he was looking right at me. He looked hungry too.
Gremlin: It’s fine. Everyone’s a little on edge… we just need to get in…
*A roar-like growl comes from where the zombie fell on the floor, then another yell from Nikita*
Nimbus: It’s not dead!
Gremlin: That got it!
*The zombie again falls to the floor, while Nikita proceeds to bash it’s skull in with the butt of his rifle*
Gremlin: Nikita! It’s dead!
Nikita: It’s still twitching! I’m not letting this fucker up again!
Jargon: It’s just reflex, Nimbus got him.
*Nikita pants furiously, not letting up on his beating*
*Nikita starts to slow down until the butt of his rifle strikes the wooden floor, through the back of the zombie’s skull*
Phantom: Shit…
Nimbus: That’s disgusting.
Gremlin: Alright… as you can see those things are resilient. Simply shooting them in the head won’t to it either; you have to tear apart their motor functions - which usually means pumping them full of bullets. It goes against my philosophy, but that’s what it takes to drop them and keep them down.
Jargon: Believe me when I say, you’ll be doing them and their families a favor.
Gremlin: We’re not safe lingering here, we need to get inside.
[End audio]

There’s some weird shit going on around here. First the flying barrel, then that zombie. He was different than those zombified Stalkers; they all looked “intact” besides the fact that their brains were fried by the emission… that one looked like it had died years ago. I noticed that it was still in full clothing too, the logo on his shirt matched one we passed on the way here, suggesting he used to be a worker here. So I guess what Jargon and Gremlin said was right… he must have survived to a point until the radiation got to him, mutating him into a mindless zombie.

I’m sure I’ll have time to talk about this later, but now is definitely not the time for a debate; we’re standing outside the door now.

[Audio enabled]
Gremlin: This is it. Once we enter this lab we’re on uncharted territory, so be on the lookout for anything – especially holes or loose sections of floor. If you fall through anything there’s a good chance you’ll be stuck there. If that happens you better hope you die soon afterwards or suffer the fate of our friend back there.
Phantom: I’m ready
*All the Stalkers announce their readiness*
Gremlin: Ok… here we go.
*Gremlin grabs hold of the door handle and yanks it open, causing a grinding sound along the concrete floor before it. The door squeals as it opens, telling of countless years of wear.*
Gremlin: Headlamps on, it’s clear.
*A deep bass sound emanates from deep within the underground facility, imitating a bottomless pit. Every sound is amplified by the unoccupied space *
Gremlin: Stay close Phantom. Jargon: behind me. Zombie, keep our asses covered.
*The Stalkers proceed down the dark, empty stairs as cautiously as humanly possible*
Gremlin: Fan out at the bottom, let’s try to get the scope of this place. Go.
Phantom: Right clear.
Jargon: Left clear.
Zombie: Only echoes of time back here.
Gremlin: Alright… let’s see. There’s a control booth on the right and a lift at the end of the room. It looks like there’s a service ladder next to it… I don’t like the look of that lift, so let’s check out that ladder.
*The Stalkers advance into the room at the bottom of the stairs, making footprints in the dust covering the floor*
Phantom: It looks like the last guys who used this lift tried to leave in a hurry; it’s off the track on the right side and the tether has snapped on that side. The “up” button is jammed in place and it looks like someone overrode the safety limit for the speed.
Gremlin: The service ladder is on that side, I’ll go down first and test it. I have a harness so we can rappel down if we need to.
Jargon: Right behind you.
Gremlin: Alright.
*Gremlin steps on to the top rung of the service ladder, then, after verifying its stability, proceeds down the ladder*
Gremlin *shouts*: It looks like there are about 4 platforms on the way down! Each one has ladders in-between! I can’t see to the bottom but I can see a light beyond it! This platform’s stable, come on down!
Phantom *shouts*: Alright! Let’s get down there guys.
Nimbus: Ok.
Nikita: Whatever you say.
*The Stalkers climb down the first ladder while Gremlin proceeds ahead to make sure the ladders and platforms hold*
Gremlin *shouts*: Keep coming! I’m just above the bottom floor now!
*Suddenly, a pipe clatters to the ground somewhere in a room below, echoing throughout the immediate area. All movement stops. After a few seconds Gremlin peers into the room below, then motions everyone down*
Gremlin: I’m gonna try to make out that light. Hurry down; I’m dropping to the floor now.
*Gremlin dismounts the last ladder, dropping into the mound of dust on the floor*
Phantom: Hold up, Gremlin. I can’t see you anymore.
*A loud roar resonates throughout the shaft*
*Gremlin screams, then curses and open fire*
Phantom: Gremlin?! I’m getting down there, come on.
*Phantom slides down to the platform above the bottom floor just in time to see Gremlin get knocked to the back of the shaft by a creature springing out of the shadows*
Phantom: Holy shit!
*Gremlin pulls out a knife and starts hacking at the creature while it grunts and roars*
Phantom: Hang in there!
*Phantom jumps from the bottom platform to the floor of the shaft and kicks the creature in the head, causing a vicious roar in reply*
Nimbus: We’re coming! Hang on!
Nikita: Right behind you…
*The ladder they were on buckles under the stress of the weight and clatters to the ground with a loud clang, Stalkers still attached*
Gremlin: Shoot it! Shoot it!
*Phantom opens fire, putting 3 rounds directly in the side of the creature’s head*
*The creature gives off a final roar; cursing everyone around it, then grunts and collapses*
Gremlin: Get it off of me!
*Phantom kicks the carcass off of Gremlin, revealing what looks like the slow reverse-evolution of a man to a 4-legged predator*
Phantom: What the hell is it?
Jargon: Snork.
Phantom: Another one of the devil’s experiments?
Jargon: Call it what you will.
Gremlin: It leapt on top of me out of nowhere, it looked like a man-sized bullet was coming at me.
Jargon: They’ve developed some sort of super-human strength, especially in their back legs. They also have heightened senses similar to the average dog; scent mostly.
Gremlin: It looks so human… it had a gasmask and everything still attached to it.
Jargon: Some of the Zone’s less fortunate survivors thought they would be safe in underground tunnels during the events after the first explosion, as long as they kept their gasmasks on. But when the radiation seeped into the water they didn’t stand a chance, and by that time they were too sick with radiation poisoning to escape. Now they inhabit irradiated swamps and other damp places where they drink the same water the once made them sick… only now it sustains them.
Virtue: More helpless people condemned to a lifeless shell… only an echo of what they used to be.
Jargon: Just pray we don’t run into worse.
Nikita: I’m starting to regret signing up for this mission.
Phantom: Don’t talk like that! We owe it to that man, and the others like him to end this hell.
Nikita: You… you’re right.
Phantom: Let’s move further in, the source of the emission has to be around here somewhere. I’ll take point if it’s alright with you, Gremlin.
*Gremlin, obviously still in a state of shock, looks up briefly and nods*
Gremlin *mumbles*: His face… teeth bared… through the gasmask… dark eyes… evil…
Phantom: Uh… come on guys. Stay sharp.
[End audio]

Gremlin seems to still seems to be shaken up about the whole incident with what Jargon called a “Snork”. I don’t blame him… the thing would have looked almost fully human had it been standing up… but it pounced on him like a dog and crawled around on all fours. I couldn’t help but look back at the body on the floor… shredded up protective clothing and the top part of a gas mask – the eye pieces clouded over like the thing didn’t know how to clean them and relied on some other sense. The bottom half of the gas mask had either been lost or torn off, revealing the things sharp teeth and hardened, crusty skin – a lot like that zombie we saw on the way down here.

Whatever happened between being human and turning into that thing must have been brutal and torturous.

I… I can’t keep writing in this place. It’s getting too difficult to type with the lack of light and the fear that floats around this place. It’s cold and damp down here, but I know that’s not the reason I’m shaking.

[Audio enabled]
Phantom *whispering*: Hey, it’s ok man. Just take deep breaths.
Gremlin: *whispering*: I know… that thing just scared the living shit out of me is all. Give me a few minutes.
Phantom *whispering*: You know I don’t mind leading for short periods of time, but if the others see you this shaken up it’ll break their spirits.
Gremlin *whispering*: I know… I know. 5 Minutes man… just… just 5 minutes. *sighs*
Phantom: *whispering*: Just keep your composure.
Phantom: Keep lights in those corners guys, we don’t want any more surprises.
Jargon: He must have been alone, nothing else is stirring.
Zombie: The calm before the storm.
Phantom: We don’t know that. There might be nothing between us and the emission’s source.
Jargon: Unlikely. Somebody wants their investment under twenty-four hour surveillance… and no trespassers.
*A section of ceiling tile falls to the ground in front of the group with a loud crash*
*Phantom lets out some controlled shots at the unknown target*
Nikita: Zombie!
*Nikita and the rest of the Stalkers join the fight*
Nikita: Fill it full of lead!
*The zombie grunts and howls as more of the ceiling crashes down in front of the Stalkers*
*The room is filled with the sounds of gunfire and zombies wailing*
Phantom: Grenade out!
*The grenade rolls along the floor into the group of zombies, resulting in an explosion that rocks the room, sending dust cascading through the area and causing an uproar amongst the zombies*
Gremlin: Switch to Armor-piercing rounds if you’ve got ‘em.
Phantom: Take cover behind those supports! Target the one closest to you!
*Gunfire continues to fill the room as the zombies shuffle closer, screaming at the Stalkers*
Phantom: Fire in the hole!
*A second grenade shakes the room, resulting in body parts flying against the walls and a chorus of wails from the zombies*
Nikita: They’re still coming! There’s gotta be dozens of them!
Phantom: Don’t let up! Keep Nimbus covered, he’ll do more damage up close!
*Nimbus, now at the front of the group, goes to town on the zombies, each shot resulting in a loud boom and splattering body parts*
Nimbus: Gotta reload!
Virtue: I got you!
*Virtue steps in alongside Phantom, keeping a constant stream of bullets at the zombies*
Phantom: Careful! They’re starting to circle around us!
Gremlin: Get the ones on the side! Nimbus stay up front!
Nimbus: I’m good to go, make way!
*The Stalkers continue to open fire, aiming to the side while Nimbus, Phantom, and Virtue hold the middle*
Gremlin: Watch that one, he’s too close!
Jargon: Got him!
Zombie: The imprisoned approaches!
Gremlin: Stop speaking in code! What approaches?
*A loud grunt, followed by a roar comes from behind the zombies*
Gremlin: Shit… not another…
*Before the Stalkers can react, another Snork lunges out of the darkness, right into the group of Stalkers*
Nikita: Shit… AHHHH…!
*Nikita skids across the floor, behind the Stalkers while the Snork tears into his suit*
*A group of zombies take notice and divert their attention to the exposed target, a drooling grin over their faces*
Gremlin: Get those ones! THOSE ONES!
*The group of zombies shuffle over to Nikita, moaning and forming bits of words as they go*
Unknown (1): Kiiiiill!
Unknown (2): Soldier! Soldier! Soldierrrrrrr!
*Nikita struggles under the super-strength of the Snork on top of him to reach his weapon, knocked to the ground a few feet to his left*
Gremlin: Nimbus! I need you over here!
Nimbus: On it!
Jargon: I’ll cover front!
*Nimbus switches to the back of the group in an attempt to neutralize the zombies closing in on Nikita*
Gremlin: The walls! ON THE WALLS!
*Tapping and banging noises come from the walls on the side of the room*
Jargon: More Snorks!
Nimbus: They’re climbing the God damn walls!
Phantom: Aim for the head! They’re not that strong if you shoot first!
*Bullets ricochet off the walls, aimed at the Snorks crawling along the walls*
Phantom: One down! Two more on the right!
*Nimbus lets off a blast in the direction of the Snorks on the right wall. A squeal of pain echoes through the room, then a thud as the creature lands on the platform below it and gurgles blood*
Gremlin: Get the last one!
*There’s a hefty grunt and a loud thud as a larger Snork leaps and lands to Nikita’s left, kicking his rifle across the floor*
*Nikita screams in horror*
Gremlin: Phantom, hit the big one!
*Bullets start flying in Nikita’s direction, with several direct hits to the head*
Phantom: He won’t fucking die!
*The larger Snork, enraged, starts running towards the group*
Gremlin: HEADS UP! It’s coming this way!
*The Snork lunges into the group, plowing a path through the middle of the group*
Gremlin: Regroup! Form a circle and fall back to the elevator shaft!
*Nikita, out of options, pulls out a grenade and shoves it into the mouth of the Snork on top of him. Then, with all his energy, shoves the creature to his side and makes for the shaft*
Nikita: Get down! Live grenade!
*The Snork scrambles to get its footing on the floor and before doing so, starts in Nikita’s direction, sliding across the floor*
Gremlin: Drop that Snork!
Phantom: I don’t have a shot!
*Nikita pulls out a pistol and unloads it at the Snork while it pounces at him again*
Nikita: Sit boy! SIT!
*The grenade detonates with a pop and a cloud of internal organs and blood, sending the remains of the Snork flying through the air*
Gremlin: Holy shit…
Nimbus: Guys, we’ve got problems up here!
Gremlin: I got these back here, keep on the front ones!
Nikita *coughs*: I guess you can teach an old dog new tricks.
Gremlin: Shit, you’re burned badly.
Nikita: Just keep the rest of those fuckers out, I got these.
*Panting, Nikita raises his pistol at the still approaching zombies and starts firing*
Nikita: Stay back you motherfuckers!
*The rounds slowly drain from the clip until Nikita is left pulling the trigger, shooting nothing but air*
Gremlin: Hang in there, man, there’s only 3 left!
*Gremlin continues to fire*
Nikita *panting*: Wa… wait… I’ve got… one last ‘nade. H… Here it goes.
*Nikita pulls the pin his grenade, and wearily holds it above his head, like a symbol of triumph*
Gremlin: Wait! I’ve got them!
*Nikita throws the grenade with all his strength, hitting one of the zombies in the forehead*
Nikita: Catch.
*The grenade explodes, spreading the zombies over the room*
Nikita: Home run.
Gremlin: Nice throw! Just hang on… we’re almost throu…
*The shaft above him groans as debris bounces off the top of the lift into the bottom of the shaft*
Gremlin: WATCH OUT!
*A piece of concrete bounces off the walls of the shaft, stopping upon hitting Nikita in the chest*
Gremlin: NIKITA!
Phantom: Gremlin! We need your help here!
Gremlin: Dammit! Why… why…
*The Stalkers keep up the firing while the moans of the zombies continue*
Phantom: On the ledges above us!
Jargon: Right side is down!
Zombie: Left is dust.
*The screams of the zombies continue until the hoard finally dwindles to a few stragglers*
Phantom: Ceiling looks clear.
*A shotgun blast resonates through the room*
Nimbus: Stay dead you piece of shit.
Phantom: One more to the left.
Gremlin: He’s mine.
*Gremlin strolls over to the zombie and opens fire point blank*
Gremlin: DIE YOU MERCILESS SON OF A BITCH! That one’s for Nikita you mutated fucks!
*Gremlin continues to fire and lets out a yell while he does so, the muzzle flashes illuminating the sick look on his face*
Phantom: Gremlin! GREMLIN! It’s dead! Let off!
*Gremlin finishes the clip until the magazine empties and the chamber clicks a few dozen times*
Phantom: Come on man… let off.
*Gremlin pants furiously, teeth bared. The other Stalkers stare in confusion*
Gremlin: Too many lives… too many. The sooner we get to the source of the emission the sooner the lost souls of this place can finally go to hell where they belong. Do you hear me you piece of shit? DO YOU HEAR ME?!
*Gremlin yells again, kicking the corpse of the zombie and smashing its head with his rifle*
Jargon: THAT’S ENOUGH! You’re not solving anything! You’re right – the sooner we get to the source, the sooner we get out of here… then maybe no one else will have to die.
Nikita *coughing*: I’m not quite dead yet.
Gremlin: Nikita!
*The group rushes over to the elevator shaft where Nikita, half buried under concrete and debris, is propped up, blood dripping from his mouth*
Gremlin: Dammit man, I thought you were dead! We finished off those sons of bitches.
Jargon: Hold still, I’ve got some medical experience, let me check those wounds.
Nikita: I already know the diagnosis doc… don’t bother.
Jargon: Don’t be an idiot, let me see.
Gremlin: Nikita, I’m sorry… I could have gotten those guys before they got too close. But I was fucking stupid!
*Gremlin punches the concrete in front of him*
Nikita: Don’t punish yourself. You couldn’t have done anything.
Gremlin: Maybe not… but I should have expected an ambush the second we stepped foot in here, but I was too busy being a pussy after that Snork pounced on me.
Nikita: You weren’t being a pussy. You’re only a pussy if you keep blaming yourself for not preventing the unpreventable. I’m the Zone’s now.
Gremlin: Fuck that. I don’t believe that anymore. The Zone doesn’t dictate who lives and who dies – nobody does.
Phantom: You believe that?
Gremlin: I do… and I’m sorry I made you believe otherwise.
Phantom: No… don’t worry about it.
Nikita: Well… either way it’s too late for me now.
Gremlin: No it’s not. How is he Jargon?
Jargon: Not good. I’m sorry.
Gremlin: Dammit! Stay with us! We have a mission to accomplish.
Nikita: My mission ends here.
Gremlin: NO! We have lives to save… you can’t give up on that.
Nikita: I gave my life for the Zone; I’d gladly die so that others live.
*Gremlin curses and stands up abruptly, walking back into the room in an attempt to look like he’s patrolling the area, hiding his face from the group*
Nikita *sputters*: Listen! Stop lingering around here; you have a job to do. I’ve always been a nobody. Nobody knew me in life, and nobody will in death. I’ve lived a meaningless life – at least let me die for a cause.
Virtue: You did the right thing, signing me up for this mission. I thank you for that.
Nikita *laughs, spitting up blood*: You needed a job, I needed a sixth man.
Virtue: No, you picked me for a reason.
Nikita: Yeah… well I guess I thought you were the type that would get it done in the end. I knew you were different than the average Stalker.
Jargon: You were right, Nikita. Virtue’s not a normal Stalker; he has heart and the will to keep going despite the odds.
Nikita *coughs violently*: Well, who am I to stand in your way then? Get to it Stalkers. Don’t let the Zone have any more lives.
*Nikita coughs up more blood, then heaves a few times, and lets out a sigh – committing his spirit to the Zone*
Jargon: Rest in peace, Stalker.
Virtue: Thanks again.
*The Stalkers stare in silence for a few moments*
Phantom: We’ll need his ammo and med kits. The rest will stay with him forever.
Jargon: I’ll attend to that.
Phantom: Very well. Come on guys… let’s go.
*Jargon takes what supplies are necessary while the rest of the Stalkers group up with Gremlin, who is standing on guard, unmoving and silent*
Jargon: Ok, we’ve got what we need.
Phantom: Alright, everyone ready?
Gremlin: …
Phantom: … let’s go.
[End audio]

Nikita is dead. I barely knew him. He was one of the first Stalkers I met in the Zone… and one of the first friendly faces I had seen in a long time. His death still lingers with me… it reminds me of what that bandit said my first day in the Zone…

[Log - Day 2]
"Are you going to shoot me? What do you think you and your little band of freedom-fighters are going to do here? Nothing! If you kill me, that's one more life the Zone claims, and one more soul that will be forgotten. Can you handle that "Stalker"? I bet you and I are not so unalike."

The bandit had lived an empty life like Nikita claimed he had also. I believe there was dignity in his death… but does he believe that? What if this mission is just a waste of time and we’re solving nothing here? His death would have been in vain, and so will be any more deaths along the way. We’re no better off than the soulless abominations that crawl around these halls if this mission fails. If we don’t discover the source of the emission, or shed any light on the cause of the death and destruction that litters the Zone like the leftovers of Chernobyl, we fail everyone who has died here sine that day… and I fail Emilia.

Gremlin hasn’t said a word since Nikita’s death so Phantom is calling most of the shots with an occasional suggestion or comment from Jargon. Zombie is ever vigilant in his silent analysis of the areas we pass through. Nimbus seems rather distant over the death of Nikita… I can’t say that I blame him; death is not an easy thing to get over, especially when you’re at his level of experience. I’m no better off than he is… I honestly don’t know if we’ll ever get out of this place, but I know that if we do, anything above ground will be a great sight to see from now on.

So we march on, ever-conscious of the danger that surrounds us. But we can’t stray from our target now, not with so much depending on it. The sound of machinery beneath us gets louder as we stalk the halls of this place. I can feel an internal battle going on inside me… am I willing to sacrifice my life so that others may live… or do I do the job, and get the hell out so my wife will live to see another day? I can’t answer that now… but I know there is a huge burden on my shoulders, and who lives depends on what we do here today.
  06:24:29  30 August 2008
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On forum: 07/06/2008
Messages: 107
Awesome job, as always. You do a wonderful job of bringing us into the minds of all the STALKERS, and you have managed to bring a bit of humanity to all of them.

I love the huge chunks of story posted, so at least after waiting I get a good, long read to make up for it

Keep up the awesome work, I really can't wait to keep reading more!
  06:32:09  30 August 2008
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Senior Resident

On forum: 04/15/2007
Messages: 490
Thanks... your support is appreciated. Nay... required.
  06:34:26  30 August 2008
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Senior Resident

On forum: 04/15/2007
Messages: 490

Great job with the story psynexus, you are doing a great job on my character

Holy shit! Where did you come from? I totally missed your post. But you're welcome, bro... I hope you enjoy the journey.
  08:53:05  31 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

Holy shit! Where did you come from? I totally missed your post. But you're welcome, bro... I hope you enjoy the journey.

to quote zombie

The hunter must silently stalk his prey, ever-conscious of those who may be stalking him.

As, i have enjoyed it still i continue to, I await part 6!
  19:31:47  31 August 2008
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On forum: 12/30/2007
Messages: 69
Excellent story so far, looking forward to the rest.

I can has Part 6 now?
  20:56:53  31 August 2008
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Senior Resident

On forum: 04/15/2007
Messages: 490

Excellent story so far, looking forward to the rest.

I can has Part 6 now?

You can has Part 6 when it's done.

Otherwise you can has invisible paper.
  23:02:39  31 August 2008
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On forum: 12/30/2007
Messages: 69
Heh, funny. Also, if I may ask you a quick question... provided we give you good feedback, and you continue, when weill the story end? I mean, are you planning to end it in say, Pripyat, or go right up to the NPP? Or are you not telling us because you're evi- I mean, want to surprise us?

Also, if you need any more character backgrounds, gimme a shout, I have some I'm using in a fic of my own that I wouldnt mind giving you.
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