Shady Dead Man
On forum: 05/09/2010
S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Hells Sanctuary|
After reading and enjoying both Tiger’s Spring and most of Snork Bait, I thought I would have a go at one myself. Please leave constructive criticism and any suggestions for improving the story.
Roman ‘Buckshot’ Kovalsky
Southern Bandit Outpost – Guarding Tunnel to Cordon, Dark Valley, 2014, Midnight, Thursday, December 25th
“How’s it going down there, Buckshot?” The familiar voice of Overseer came over the PDA. It was in rather a too pleased with himself tone that really meant ‘How the fuck do you like freezing your balls off in waist deep snow when you could be up here watching strippers, getting drunk and high while feasting on decent food instead of chomping down on radioactive fleshes and boars. Not to mention dodging moving anomalies and fending off attacks by mutated beasts and staring into that tunnel for weeks on end, waiting to be relieved.’ At least that’s what Buckshot would have been thinking if their situations were reversed.
“Everything’s quiet, boss. We haven’t seen a goddamn thing all day, apart from a pack of wild boars. They got a bit too close for our liking and ended up in the cooking pot.” Buckshot replied through chattering teeth as he readjusted his hood as it was slowly slipping backwards off his head.
“Besides what the fuck is going to come through the tunnel that we aren’t already expecting to come through. The army has got the other end of the tunnel secured and would let us know when we are due a delivery, not that the fucking trucks could get through this bastard snow. We’ve been here for weeks now, boss. Isn’t it time we were relieved? Let some of those fucking rookies have their turn down here.” Buckshot carried on, his tone was one of barely concealed anger, made even worse by the fact that Overseer was sniggering down the PDA.
“Quit your fucking whining, Buckshot. You know you’ve got a few days left, then you can come back and get yourself an eye full of pussy, a gut full of vodka, and anything else that we have going on up here. Just be certain to make sure nothing enters or leaves that tunnel without my say so. And remember to keep an eye out for stalkers straying into the Dark Valley, some of those stupid little bastards might not have got the message to stay out of our territory. Although finding their way through the electric fences, razor wire and mine fields is probably a bit too much for most of those dumb fucks. I want to keep the Valley locked up tighter than a virgin’s chastity belt. If anything goes wrong, Kingpin will roast my fucking hide, and in return if I’m still alive I’ll fucking kill whoever’s responsible, slowly, very slowly, you got that, Buckshot?” Overseer said with perhaps a little too much emphasis on the menace. He almost sounded like a comic book villain, but Buckshot knew better than to get on the wrong side of the master bandit.
“No offence, boss, but I know how to do my fucking job. Could you at least get some of those worthless fucking rookies to bring us a few crates of vodka and some tinned food down here, supplies are running short and we are sick of eating this radioactive crap, I’ve been pissing luminous green for the last few weeks, fuck knows what damage this shit is doing to my insides.” Buckshot complained, hoping he wasn’t pushing his luck a little too far.
“Alright, Buckshot, but you’re becoming a real pain in the ass. Where’s Pilgrim anyway, I put him in charge of you bunch of rejects and the bastard never answers his PDA when I contact him.”
“I think he’s in his tent, he had a few bottles of vodka earlier and told Buzzard and myself to keep an eye on things while he had a sleep.”
“Useless, lazy bastard. Tell him to contact me the moment he sobers up, or he’ll be down there for another month.” Overseer growled and left Buckshot in doubt that the veteran bandit was in deep trouble for ignoring his boss.
“Will do, is that all, boss?”
“That’s it for now. Oh one more thing Buckshot, tell those rejects I wished them a Happy Christmas.” Overseer said through a fit full of laughter and then the PDA went quiet.
“Bastard, rot in hell, you fat fucking piece of crap. Merry fucking Christmas my ass, stuck down here with this bunch of retarded apes.” Buckshot complained as he silently questioned his reasons for being in the Zone and wished he were anywhere but there.
Buckshot looked up as Buzzard approached. The old man had let his beard grow long and wild, it added another ten years to his craggy, wrinkled face, Buckshot would have put his actual age at about fifty five to sixty, though he was certainly well worn. The Zone had taken its toll on this veteran. He wore a light brown thigh length padded and hooded coat over a typical bandit jacket with armoured plates sown into it to provide at least some protection from gunfire. He wore dark green camouflaged trousers and high black leather army boots. He carried a sporterised SKS carbine barely recognizable due to the heavy modifications that had been done to the weapon. A large carryall was swung over his shoulder and rested at his waist, in it he carried 30 10 round magazines of 7.62x39mm cartridges for use with the carbine. At his waist he wore a holster and a Makarov PM semiautomatic pistol, he carried six eight round magazines of 9x18mm Makarov cartridges in his coat pocket.
Buzzard was at heart a hunter and liked nothing more than to take his scoped carbine and track down mutated beasts for the cooking pot, and valued parts to sell to collectors outside the zone who were only to happy to pay his inflated prices for the mutants body parts. Sometimes he would take specific orders from his customers on the outside and spend days or weeks tracking the desired target, usually bloodsuckers, as they fetched a high price, but were tough and deadly opponents, on those occasions he would form a small hunting party of experienced hunters and trackers. The money he sent to his family on the outside, his wife, twelve kids, and 38 grandkids, if it wasn’t for the fact that he was wanted for several murders on the outside he would gladly return to them.
“Who’s a retarded ape?” Buzzard asked, a wild look in his eyes as they darted from side to side, never still, always watching and alert.
“Look around, Buzzard, they’re all around us.” Buckshot spat back, still silently cursing the day he ever set eyes on his fellow bandits. Buckshot cradled his Russian made KS-23K bullpup shotgun in his arms, just in case the veteran bandit took the insult personally and decided to take action.
“I hope I’m not included. What’s wrong anyway, Overseer getting to you again?”
“It’s nothing, Buzzard, well yes in fact it is that fat bastard if you must know. He just loves the fact that he’s up at the main base and we are all stuck down here in the middle of nowhere up to our balls in snow and mutants.”
“You could always take off, Buckshot. Go to the Cordon; just don’t expect a warm welcome from the stalkers or the army. You could always try travelling north but I wouldn’t advise it, word is the fucking army are moving up there in strength to fight those Monolithian bastards and they’re not too bothered about shooting whoever gets in their way.”
“Nah, screw that, I’m just sick of being stuck down here with nothing to do.”
“You could always come hunting with me. I’ve got an order for a dozen bloodsuckers. Give you a chance to use that fucking cannon on something other than fleshes and boars.”
“Thanks for the offer, but if we are both gone who’s going to make sure these fucking idiots don’t fuck up. Pilgrim’s away with the fairies most days and can’t be relied upon while he’s drinking.” Buckshot explained, although in truth he was terrified of bloodsuckers, he’d seen what a mess they made of their victims and wanted no part of hunting them, unless he really had no other choice. Buzzard was old and more than a little crazy, and undoubtedly fearless, but one day his luck would run out and he’d be drained by those fucking vampiric mutant scum and then he’d become one of them, doomed to a life as a beast.
“No problem, Buckshot, it takes a rare sort to want to hunt bloodsuckers. I’ve seen big, tough, violent men, fill their fucking pants just by the sudden sight of one of those things and then run away screaming like a little fucking girl. Ain’t no shame being afraid.”
“Fuck you, Buzzard, I ain’t scared.”
“If you say so, old friend.” Buzzard grinned, and left Buckshot wondering what the hell he was talking about. Buckshot had a little respect for the old man, but they were never friends, and probably never would be.
If Buckshot was honest with himself, he could count on one hand the number of men he would call a friend in the Zone. And still have fingers to spare. He didn’t make friends easily and in truth despised most of the petty criminals he was associated with. All the would-be gangsters and so called hardened criminals. There were plenty of hard men who worked for Kingpin, but most of the new ones who had arrived in the last six months were nothing more than rookies, hundreds of the bastards. Buckshot wondered why they needed so much manpower when Kingpin’s men weren’t even allowed outside the Dark Valley. He was certainly building up for something, all those military trucks that had arrived during the summer, full of weapons and munitions. Kingpin had the new Colonel in charge of the Cordon on a tight leash, and the Colonel was happy to go along with it while the pay checks were rolling in.
“Anyway, at least you got the experienced men. I got stuck with all the wasters.”
“You’re hardly ever here, Buzzard. I’m the one left to make sure your men don’t fuck things up.”
“Well it’s just a few more days, and then we can leave. I’ve got me a date with one of those whores Kingpin had shipped into the Zone.”
“It’s hard to believe there’s a military blockade of the Zone with everything that comes in and out of this place. They’ll fucking hang that Colonel if he ever gets found out. I don’t know how Kingpin does it, but he’s turned this place into the biggest Sanctuary on earth for the world’s worst unwanted scum. The way things are going there’ll be more drugs shipped out of this place than the rest of the country put together. I mean how the hell can he get away with sending out trucks full of drugs and nobody even notices. You would think this would be one of the hardest places in the world to get in and out of.”
“Kingpin has his contacts on the outside and in the military. Some even say his influence goes right to the top of the government. What the fuck do you care what goes on around here. We are all well paid, better than those dumb ass stalkers crawling around in the mud for scraps and artefacts. Do yourself a favour when we get back. Grab yourself a whore and sample some of the stock, you need to lighten up a bit, Buckshot. Too much stress will kill you even before the Zone gets a chance to.”
“I guess so, it’s not like I can leave the Zone, so I’d better make the best of it.”
“You could leave, but they’ll be waiting for you with a fucking noose to tie around your neck. We are all here for a reason, Buckshot, some just settle in and accept it better than others. It’s not like you’re a fucking rookie, you’ve had what, three years here now, you should be used to it.”
“Two and a half years. Though back then I was a clueless stalker. If Kingpin hadn’t taken me in I guess I still would be, or perhaps I’d already be dead by now.”
“Damn, I’ve been here for thirteen years now, wandering the zone for the first ten of them. I can’t say I miss the stalker life, too lonely, too fucking dangerous, at least here we’ve got some protection. I spent some time with the smaller gangs, but most of them were useless, they didn’t last more than a few months.” Buzzard said as he reached into his inside coat pocket and pulled out a full bottle of vodka.
“I thought Pilgrim had drunk the last one.”
“I managed to hide one. Do you want to share it? We’ll get Lurch to cook us up some of that boar meat and stew and sit around the fire.”
“Sounds good, although if I eat any more of that fucking meat I’m going to start glowing in the dark.”
The two bandits walked to the centre of camp. Twenty three single man tents were neatly positioned around a wide circular area with a large blazing fire in the middle of it. Two skinned and roasting boars were skewered on spits, slowly cooking and letting off a welcoming smell of well done cooked meat. A smaller fire to the side was heating up a large pot of steaming water for the men’s coffee, now the vodka had run out. Ten men sat around the fire, some were eating, others drinking, all were chatting. One played a guitar and sang old folk songs. Buckshot looked at them in turn, Lurch, Nipper, Guppy, Sleeper, Whelp, Piglet, Stray, Sugar, Amber, Hazard. They had all arrived together from the outside about six months earlier, during Kingpin’s recruitment drive. As far as Buckshot was concerned they were all still rookies. They formed the closest thing the bandits had to a squad, Buzzard was their leader and responsible for anything they did, but most of the time Buckshot was left to watch his own men and Buzzards.
Buckshot’s own men, Skinner, Pebbles, Colt, Whistler, Mercy, Stargazer, Deathwish, Messenger, and Hate manned the four heavy machine gun nests and the barricade blocking the tunnel to the Cordon. It was four hours on and four hours off, and sleep whenever they got the chance.
Nipper and Guppy saw the two men approach and parted to allow them to sit down. Lurch gave a toothless smile and passed each of them a pot of stew and plate of meat. He went to pour them a coffee but both men waved him away and took a long gulp from the bottle of vodka. The men looked on thirstily, all hoping the supplies would arrive soon from the main base. For some the vodka and the drugs were all that kept them sane when they were stationed at one of the outposts. Hopefully the bandits at the southern farm would have some left over and Overseer would order some of them to bring supplies for the outpost. Otherwise they would have to wait for it to arrive from the base and that was a long walk in this snow.
“When do we get to go back to base, boss?” Nipper asked Buzzard as he took a large chunk out of the piece of meat he held in his hand.
“You know when we go back, Nipper. Two days, stop asking stupid questions.”
The men huddled closely around the fire all dressed in winter clothing. They were part of a shipment of goods that had arrived during the summer. Kingpin was nothing if not thorough in his dealings with his men. They were no good to him half frozen to death. Many had arrived with little more than the clothes they were dressed in. All had been outfitted with clothes and weapons. All were well fed and kept in good supply of drink and occasionally drugs. Although Kingpin was careful not to end up with an army of drug addicts.
The standard kit for the rookies was a bandit jacket with sown in armoured plates, a winter overcoat, camouflaged trousers, boots, An AK-74 and ten magazines, A Makarov and ten magazines and a combat knife. Nothing was free however. The cost of their gear came out of their wages for the first few months. The underworld crime boss was building an army not running a charity shop.
Buckshot took a cigarette from a packet that young Piglet was handing around to those around the fire. The fresh faced youth was the youngest of the twenty three men present at the outpost. At eighteen he had seen more than his fair share of death. He was a gang member from the back streets of Kiev.
“Thanks, Piglet.” Buckshot said to the plump faced youth who nodded back without saying a word. Buckshot took a lighter from his pocket, lit the cigarette and blew out several smoke rings watching them rise into the cold night sky.
Buckshot looked over at Amber, the only woman at the outpost. Although she certainly was not the only one who worked for Kingpin. She played the guitar like it was second nature. While singing an old Ukrainian folk song she had learned from her grandfather when she was a child. She was an average looking young woman of twenty three. A long scar ran from her forehead down to her chin where she had been glassed during a night out in town before she ever had any thoughts of stepping foot inside the Zone.
She’d had to leave the city after taking revenge several years later for the glassing when she put a bullet through the man’s head, actually her jilted lover. Her cousin Sergei, now known as Sugar, was a petty criminal on the run from the police. When she went to him after murdering her ex lover, he suggested they contact one of the local crime bosses whom he had run errands for in the past. It was suggested that an associate of the local crime lord was looking for people to travel to the Zone. The two of them were smuggled in while the good Colonel, as per usual, turned a blind eye and they had been here ever since. Buckshot liked the no nonsense young woman. She was not beautiful or even particularly attractive, and the skinhead and numerous tattoos and face piercings would put many men off. But Buckshot had a soft spot for the girl, even if she was nearly half his age.
At forty three, Buckshot was starting to do a lot of reflecting on his troubled life. He had served in the Ukrainian army for fifteen years from the age of eighteen. When he left the army things began to go wrong. His mind travelled back over the last ten years and the series of events that had led him to the Zone. He thought for several minutes, staring across at Amber and then let the thoughts go, not wishing to sour his mood any more than Overseer had already done.
Amber looked up and noticed him watching her. Most of the other rookies were actually scared of her. They knew she had a wild and violent temper and was never happier than when she was shooting at something. They gave her a wide berth. Which she actually appreciated as that was the intention. The only one who seemed to bother her was one of Buckshot’s men, Hate. He didn’t get his name for nothing. The seven foot tall giant of a man was one big raging mass of hatred and violence, and Buckshot knew that sooner or later he would have to put the bastard in the dirt. If Amber didn’t do it herself. But he was also weary of sticking his neck out for the woman.
Amber smirked and winked at him, then looked away as she carried on playing and singing. Buckshot passed the bottle of Vodka back to Buzzard and stood up, placing his pot and plate on the ground.
“I’ll be back in a few minutes, Buzzard. I’d better check on the men, make sure they aren’t all asleep.”
“Sit down, Buckshot, you stress too much. Those sons of bitches aren’t going anywhere.”
“Lurch, keep my food warm. I’ll be back soon.” Buckshot said, the toothless old timer grinned back and nodded.
“Sure will, boss.”
Buckshot wandered out of the camp and hundred metres down the road towards the machine gun nests and road blockade. High powered lights had been set up over the tunnel and he could see as far as the entrance but the tunnel itself was like a dark abyss. Even though he knew both sides of the mile long tunnel were guarded, it still gave him an uneasy feeling. It wasn’t unknown for corpses that had died in the tunnel to get up and start walking. Such was the nature of the Zone. Attempts to clear the tunnel usually led to casualties. A whole squad of soldiers were patrolling the tunnel when they were attacked by hordes of walking dead, or so the story goes. The last time anyone saw any of those soldiers they were shambling out of the Cordon end of the tunnel with those that had killed them. Trucks that were delivering goods to Kingpin generally hit the accelerator while travelling through the tunnel and didn’t stop for anything. Anything that got in their way would end up splattered all over the road.
The heavy machinegun nests were surrounded by sandbags and covered over with makeshift plastic sheeting roofs to keep the snow out. There were two nests on either side of the road, twenty feet apart with the machine guns facing into the tunnel. Concrete blocks filled in the gaps between the nests, and a truck was parked across the road to keep out any vehicles that were not meant to be there. Just how Kingpin had managed to get the Colonel to agree to this arrangement was anybodies guess. But undoubtedly it had the backing of those further up the chain of command. They were probably on Kingpin’s payroll. Either that or they were being blackmailed or threatened. There was no doubt that the crime lord’s reach was a long one.
The one rule Kingpin had to stick to though was to limit his activities to the Dark Valley. He was glad to oblige for now. His main goal was to become the largest manufacturer and distributor of designer drugs in the Ukraine. The base had been turned into one gigantic drugs lab. An army of bandits had moved into the Dark Valley and guarded the whole place from possible invasion by other factions. In a year and a half he had built up the drug labs and his army to such a state that it would be near impossible to remove him short of sending in a decent sized military force to remove him from power. Although if the Monolith forces ever reached this far south, even Kingpin worried that his army would not be enough to stop them. But they were for now occupied with something approaching a small scale war in the north that had raged for the last two years with no sign of an end. Pripyat and Limansk were war zones that were now visited only by the most insane and suicidal stalkers. The Red Forest was swarming with ever increasing numbers of mutants and undead and had become something of a no mans land with whole companies of men disappearing, never to be seen again. The mutants somehow managed to trickle down to the southern regions of the ever expanding Zone. Even though Kingpin’s men had every entrance and exit covered, they still managed to find their way into the Dark Valley.
Buckshot waded through the waist high snow to reach the first of the nests. Skinner and Pebbles both sat on wooden crates drinking cups of coffee and smoking cigarettes. The Kalashnikov PKS machinegun mounted on a tripod and aimed at the tunnel entrance sat idle. The two men’s AK-74’s lay on a small table inside the nest, surrounded by magazines, cups, plates and cutlery. A porn mag lay open on a page with two topless young women writhing about in a swimming pool. Boxes of 250 7,62x54R round belts were stacked neatly against the sandbag wall of the nest.
“Hey, Boss, how’s it going?” Skinner asked, taking a gulp of steaming hot coffee.
“It’s going shit, just like always. I take it you haven’t seen anything tonight?”
“Not a fucking thing, Boss. I think the muties have all stayed in to celebrate Christmas.”
“Well let’s hope it stays that way … Wait what the hell was that, it’s off to the east.”
The two men jumped up, turned the machinegun around and waited while Buckshot picked up one of the high beam torches from the floor and began to shine it. Within seconds he caught sight of movement, something edging forward. Skinner positioned himself on the machinegun, ready to fire if Buckshot gave the order.
“Wait, Skinner. Don’t fire yet.”
A set of eyes shone back in the darkness. Buckshot kept the torch on the creature and readied his shotgun with the other hand.
“Shall I fire, Boss.” Skinner questioned, slightly puzzled why they hadn’t blown the thing apart.
“No, not yet.” Buckshot walked forward, dropping the torch into his pocket and turning on his head light. He readied the shotgun and carried on.
He could hear the thing whimpering now, a pitiful sound that might have put a rookie into a false sense of security.
“What the fuck is that dumb son of a bitch doing, Skinner.” Pebbles asked, confused as to why the hell they didn’t just kill the damn thing, whatever it was.
“Fucked if I know, Pebbles. Maybe he’s lost the plot.”
“Well just be sure to keep on that trigger. Buckshot might not mind being food for the fucking muties, but I intend to keep myself in one piece. If he goes down blast the fucking thing.” Pebbles said as he picked up a torch and shone it in the direction Buckshot had walked.
Buckshot looked down at the pathetic sight at his feet. The whimper had turned to a half hearted growl.
“Well look at you, all fucked up. What the hell happened to you pup.” Buckshot said as he looked down at the small dog. He looked around checking to see if there was anything else out there.
“You ok, Boss?” Skinner shouted from the machine gun nest about fifty metres away.
“I’m fine, it’s just an injured dog.” Buckshot replied as he wondered what to do next.
“You should probably put it out of its misery, Boss. No sense in leaving it to get chewed up by some other mutie.”
“What do you say pup? Should I put a bullet in your head and be done with it?” The pup looked up at him through terrified eyes. Whatever had attacked it had done a good job of nearly killing it.
“Ah fuck it. I know I’m going to regret this.” Buckshot said as he reached down to pick the animal up.
“I think the crazy bastard really has lost it this time, Skinner. Do you see that, he’s picking the fucking mutie up, what the hell is he going to do with it?” Pebbles questioned, though Skinner looked just as baffled as he felt.
The dog nipped at his hand but was far too small to draw blood and eventually settled for licking his fingers.
“What the hell do I do with you now pup. It doesn’t look like you’ll survive the night. Well we’ll see if you’re any tougher than you look. Let’s take you back to the outpost and get you cleaned up.” Buckshot said as he tucked the whimpering animal under his arm and began walking back towards the machinegun nest.
“What are you doing, Boss?” Skinner asked.
“Hell if I know. Best thing would be a quick death, but I ain’t feeling in a killing mood tonight.”
“Well I guess it is Christmas, Boss.” Pebbles smirked.
“Funny fucker aren’t you, Pebbles …”
“What the hell was that, that was no fucking dog, there’s something out there.” Skinner shouted, looking out into the darkness.
“Probably whatever caused this mess. Get on the PDA and warn the other nests and the men back at camp.” Buckshot said as he put the pup in a large wooden crate and covered it over with an old blanket that was lying on the floor. The animal looked up at him, and then settled underneath the blanket, too injured to move.
Suddenly gunfire could be heard coming from the direction of the camp. Buckshot’s PDA sprang to life.
“Boss, we’re under attack, Whelp and Stray are down, Buzzard’s been dragged off somewhere, we need help quick, ah shit, it’s coming back, HELPPPPP …” Nipper screamed down the PDA, then suddenly it was silent. Gunshots rang out from the camp.
“Take care of things here, Skinner. Make sure everyone knows what’s going on. I had better get back to the rookies while there’s still some left to get back to. And take care of the dog. It had better be in one piece when I get back.”
“No problem, Boss. We’ll keep an eye on things down here.”
Moments later Buckshot broke into a sprint towards the camp, gunshots and screams rang out.