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Unlikely Treaties

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  23:06:25  29 January 2009
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S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Grimm
On forum: 01/18/2009
Messages: 47
Unlikely Treaties

My first Stalker-esque Fan Fiction

It was winter in the Zone, or rather as winter as it was going to get, for there was no snow, there hadn’t been since he, the Barkeep, had come there. Lucky that, glowing snowflakes would be a sight to see but then again radiation was as much of a problem now as it had been when Chernobyl had first lit up their skies on that fateful day.

Cleaning the glass in his hand the Barkeep surveyed the Stalkers in tonight; there were an awful lot of them, the entire floor space was filled, he had to remove the chairs to make sure there was enough room for them to stand and in all honesty he didn’t blame them. Outside those doors it was about as warm as Duty’s sympathy for Freedom. As his mind contemplated those black clad soldiers two appeared in the doorway. The Barkeep’s head snapped across to look at them; he put the glass down immediately. The atmosphere in the room dropped like a stone as the crowd stepped back; Duty had that effect on people. It was rare for them to come to the bar, no not rare; unheard of. The Duty members made their way through their hated Stalkers, coming to the bar.
“With all respect gentlemen, I wouldn’t ban you for being Duty, but you have your own bar, this here is a Stalkers bar” the Barkeep informed them, keeping his tone civil but there was a sting there; he wanted them out. The soldiers raised their hands
“We don’t want trouble Barkeep, we need your help” the soldier explained “We would not be down here otherwise” the soldier looked around at the inches of space the Stalkers had given him. The Stalkers, to be fair to them, were pushed up as close to their partners as they could be, sardines in a concrete can that was the bar.
“What’s it about?” the Barkeep wondered; Duty didn’t ask for help, ever, but then again they never entered the bar either.
“Its best we do this in private” the soldier suggested
“Our place” the Duty member stepped away from the bar. Curiosity had a hold on the Barkeep and so, closing the wooden shutters, apologised to the Stalkers but they understood, he could see that they were as intrigued as he was. Leaving the bar under the watchful eye of his guard, the Barkeep followed the Duty officers out of the bar and across the freezing concrete to their own place.

They descended into the Duty main-base, off-limits for civilians but the Barkeep knew what it looked like, he had worked with ex-duty members (as rare as they were, usually someone was Duty until death, something that happened a lot in the Zone) passing the lines of Duty, the Barkeep was starting to worry, there were more Duty than he usually saw. Some he recognised, for they had their helmets off and the Barkeep, having once explored a fair bit of the zone, recognised them as Duty soldiers who were stationed as far out as the Red Forest. What are they back here for?
As he passed through more lines, heading towards a small table, the Barkeep faltered mi-step; Freedom. It was surreal, black and yellow stood side-by-side. The Duty Commander seemed to sense the Barkeep’s confusion.
“Sit down barkeep” he ordered from out of sight. As the crowd parted, allowing him to sit, he almost gasped aloud; Lukesh was there, sat at the table, across from the Duty commander. The barkeep did as he was asked, sitting opposite Lukesh who gave him a curt nod.
“Can someone explain what’s going on here?” the Barkeep questioned looking around him. Duty, Freedom and him, a known Stalker contact sitting pretty in the heavily protected Duty Camp; surreal wasn’t strong enough a word for what the Barkeep was thinking.
“Barkeep, seeing as you’ve just joined us, I would like you to meet Kern” he gestured to a young man, early twenties at most, dressed in typical green Stalker garb, his short blonde hair had traces of dirt and his pale skin was coated in the stuff. The young man, Kern, gave a nod; he seemed the most nervous there.
“Lukesh was kind enough to bring him to us” the Commander explained “and Kern will be kind enough to tell us his story” there was malice in the Commander’s voice, he was not a man to argue with even when he was unarmed.
Kern sat forwards and took a glass of water off the table, he was shaking, the glass close to spilling as he took several large gulps.
“I’m from the North, Pripyat and I came down here for your help” he said “We’ve had waves of unprecedented killing, hundreds dead, not just Mercenaries; everyone is being slaughtered”
“Bloodsucker, they’re tougher than people give them credit for” the Barkeep suggested “One of them must have got smart, attacking at night when they’re harder to pin down” Kern shook his head violently
“Gunshots” he added “They were killed during the day, usually groups of them at once and not once has anyone ever got a shot off, all the rifles we found were fully loaded and there were no spent cartridges”
The Barkeep looked from the Duty commander to Lukesh who raised his eyebrows.
“Any ideas?” he asked.
“A rogue Stalker?” he suggested
“But all those bodies without a single shot being fired” Lukesh said
“That’s not all” Kern added “We’ve had some of the dead…” he paused, taking a drink “…well…they had no injuries; they were just dead”
For a few seconds there was silence, Barkeep broke it with a question he had been building for
“With all respect, this is mighty interesting but why are we getting involved? Duty and Freedom, you’d never have sat down over such a triviality”
More silence, only now it was tainted with something the Barkeep couldn’t quite put his finger on. Lukesh spoke over the both of them
“The Army Warehouses are nigh-empty, of life anyway” he said “We’ve been wiped out and the Duty members fled too, my men followed suit; something’s killed all the mutants in the area. I mean all of them, you can go there now and listen; tranquillity has descended but it’s not the type of tranquillity that you can sit through; it’s the tranquillity that comes hand in hand with fear” he explained “So we’re putting a party together, we need Stalkers too, our soldiers are good but Stalkers can hold their own in a different way; we need those expertise”
The Barkeep sat back in the squashy sofa and rubbed his eyes; it was one of those situations. “You’re sure it’s no anomaly?” the Barkeep suggested “Because if I send Stalkers out to get massacred by an anomaly I’m going to be shunned, they won’t ever come to me again” the Duty Commander shook his head.
“There’s more to it, people have been killed in groups, all across the Zone; massacred where they stand, you can tell it’s not an anomaly because there’s a kill pattern, look hard enough and you can determine where the killer was stood” the Commander told him. The Barkeep sighed
“Come on then, to the Bar” he got to his feet, Lukesh followed suit, taking Kern by the arm and helping him up forcefully.
“Come on” he smiled; it was pleasant with hidden bite “We have hunting to do”
  23:43:20  29 January 2009
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S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Grimm
On forum: 01/18/2009
Messages: 47
It didn’t go according to plan. Standing there, in front of the Stalkers with Lukesh and the Duty commander the Barkeep felt traitorous. They were all looking his way, while it was true that they weren’t enemies; they felt like it. For years they had been treated as hated outcasts but the Barkeep hoped they would run with the plan. The Stalkers were an elite-army unto themselves; each one was as good, if not better, than your average Duty or Freedom squadron when it came to wiping out mutants or discovering anomalies.
“Brothers, I’ve come to ask something of you all” he started, Lukesh opened his mouth and took a breath to say something but the Barkeep silenced him with a wave “These aren’t your soldiers Lukesh, don’t preach to them” Barkeep hissed. A few of the Stalkers heard this, a shallow chuckle passed through them. “You got told” one of the Stalkers shouted over the heads of the others. Another collective chuckle.
“There’s been a slaughter up north, someone is wiping out all life without care and its heading this way, from Pripyat all the way down to the Warehouses it has spread; unstoppable but unseen” the Barkeep explained “But, it’s not some anomaly the Zone has created; it’s a person, using bullets and a gun; he has killed our kind, killed Duty and killed Freedom. Whoever it is has no compassion for anyone; Duty and Freedom don’t have the strength or the intelligence to stop whoever it is; they need us”
“Why can’t they deal with it? Duty have soldiers everywhere” one of the Stalkers argued
“We’ve had to retreat” the Commander admitted “Numbers don’t mean anything, whoever is doing this is moving fast and hard; we can’t determine how the person moves or where he’s heading next, it’s like he never sleeps; kills happen anytime of the day or night”
The same hush dropped over the Stalkers as had done in the Duty base. The Stalkers were whispering among themselves. The Barkeep found his heart nestling somewhere in his throat; make or break time. His mind was still settled on who could have the skill to take out groups of soldiers with such speed. He would have thought some evolution of the Brain Scorcher; if they were in immediate proximity then they would die on the spot but that didn’t explain the gunshots.
“I’ll join you” one of the Stalkers announced, raising his rifle. The Barkeep nodded
“Thanks” he smiled. Other rifles were raised
“Me too” “I shall join you also” and other variations echoed throughout the room.
“I won’t be joining you I’m afraid Barkeep, something about this isn’t striking a good chord” the Stalker explained regrettably. The Barkeep silenced him with a wave.
“You don’t have to explain yourself Kerch, there are many who won’t join this mission for the reason that it is incredibly dangerous” he sympathised, he had planned on staying back but now that so many were willing to go with; he had to be there as their Captain of sorts.

The party departed the Bar and headed North several hours later, Duty had amassed the largest force; lines and lines of black soldiers stood out in the sunlight like a small army. Freedom were there in large numbers too but the Barkeep was most impressed with the Stalkers. They stood there, almost thirty of them, casually leaning on their rifles; there was no order among them, each one was a professional in his own right and surveyed the Duty and Freedom soldiers with a mild smugness.
“So then, where first?” the Barkeep questioned; the Commander pointed to a tower in the distance
“The Warehouses, largest slaughter site; we’re setting up there tonight” he explained
“Do you have a plan?” Barkeep asked, cocking his rifle
“Sit and wait” the Commander told him; it was a pretty lame plan the Stalkers thought.
As the army marched out, the Stalkers chatting among themselves showing no military precision but Lukesh and the Duty Commander could see their eyes were burning with determination.
“Barkeep” one of the Stalkers whispered, Barkeep didn’t look around he just made a sound that suggested he was listening “Tonight, while the Duty and Freedom boys are patrolling we’re going to use them as bait” the Stalker explained. Barkeep smiled; that was the thinking that put them ahead of Freedom, willingness to sacrifice.
“They have sniper towers, Duty and Freedom will be on them” another Stalker added quietly “That will suggest that they’re expecting an attack, but they’ll be the obvious target”
“We need a few Stalkers in the camp though, spread out in groups of three, one group per guard tower” another suggested “If all the Stalkers went missing; well, it would look a bit suspicious”
“Groups of three, agreed, just be careful; whoever it is operates in the dark” the Barkeep warned. There was a murmur of agreement as the Stalkers spread out to talk amongst themselves.
It was getting dark, and the barkeep got a taste of what Lukesh had said; it was eerily silent, for miles nothing stirred, even the wind was keeping a low profile.
“Take a look” Lukesh called from up ahead.

They had stopped on a cliff edge, they were someway up a hill that towered above the open areas away from the Warehouses. More muttering from the Stalkers, most of it exclaiming and many gasps; For miles there were bodies scattered across the grasslands. Large groups of Freedom soldiers, lone Stalkers, Duty soldiers, mutants; hundreds and hundreds of them lying face down or on their backs. The barkeep raised his hands to his mouth; it was horrific, bone-chilling. He turned away but in his mind he saw them, men of all statures and ages cut down by someone. Countless numbers lying there in their own blood, in the dirt, unburied and callously left out in the open. One Stalker walked over to him, standing directly in front of him.
“He dies tonight” he growled, he was shaking but it was not fear; it was rage. The Barkeep saw it in his eyes; somewhere between distress and shock. The Barkeep nodded
“Agreed” was all he could say.

They made their way towards the Freedom Warehouses, Duty and Freedom soldiers teaming up to take positions on the sniper-towers. As night fell countless Stalkers spread out in their teams, like ninja they snuck into the night; Duty and Freedom soldiers unaware that they had become bait in the grand scheme of things. As the moon rose in the sky the Stalkers settled in for a long night but they were all on edge, rifles dismantled and rebuilt with upmost care; there would be no jammed guns tonight, they were a well oiled machine, unparalleled killers. As the Stalkers had left the camp, barkeep had pulled one of them to one-side to tell him to be careful. The Stalker had looked him straight in the eye as he cocked his silenced sniper rifle “This is what we do” he had said before jumping the wall and disappearing into the darkness.
  02:55:18  30 January 2009
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Sashya Loner
Official Forum Bandit Leader


On forum: 01/29/2009
Messages: 808
I love it! Gimme more!
  03:44:23  30 January 2009
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Cake Muncher


On forum: 01/08/2009
Messages: 4119
Really nice, I'd love to read more of it.
  18:26:16  4 February 2009
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S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Grimm
On forum: 01/18/2009
Messages: 47
I'll update tonight I think! Been away for a few days so haven't had the chance

  22:17:44  4 February 2009
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Sashya Loner
Official Forum Bandit Leader


On forum: 01/29/2009
Messages: 808

I'll update tonight I think! Been away for a few days so haven't had the chance


  19:12:36  5 February 2009
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S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Grimm
On forum: 01/18/2009
Messages: 47
**As Stated! Had work today for hours but I got some done **
**Still writing now, just posting before food**


Every meter of the Freedom base was bathed in vivid white lights once the Duty soldiers had finished wiring up the lamps then just as quickly they went out. “Security lights up and running, how’s it look?” the soldier called up. At the top of one of the sniper towers two Duty and two Freedom soldiers stood looking down at the compound. The soldiers wiring stepped into the security field and immediately the base was lit up like the old Chernobyl explosion.
“Nothing’s going to get in here without us or everyone else in the Zone for that matter, noticing” the Freedom soldier joked, the Duty solders chuckled. A Stalker in the area laughed and elbowed his partner
“Would you look at that, Duty and Freedom actually sharing a joke” the Stalker smiled. They were a stone’s throw from the wall, hidden in a low-cut hedge, rifles lying next to them. At their feet a portable proximity unit sat quiet.

Inside the compounds walls the Barkeep sat with the usual suspects around a fire. Their minds were now on Kern. “So what brought you to the Zone, Kern?” Lukesh asked
“My parents, my father was a nuclear physicist and my mother a medical student” he said “We lived at Pripyat, they worked at Chernobyl and on that day…well, it’s safe to say they never walked out alive”
Silence, it seemed to be a common occurrence these days.
“How did you survive the blast? Pripyat isn’t exactly miles from ground-zero” a Freedom soldier asked
“A Stalker took me in, you could say the original stalker” Kern explained “He was a guard up at Chernobyl, the head of security but also a scientist, well, I think he was a scientist, he certainly knew his way around the dangerous chemicals in the area”
“So you survived the years until the Stalkers arrived, then what?” Barkeep questioned politely
“Well, its only recently the major forces have moved into Pripyat, we had an accord, they left us alone and if they didn’t…well they had to die” he laughed “But then it came, death on the wind they called it, Pripyat quietened, bodies were found and I fled”
“What about your stalker guardian? Did he get caught or get out?” the Duty Commander asked
“No idea, got up one day and he’d gone, I imagine he went out to sweep the area. I waited a few days but nothing so I barricaded the door and the next day at daybreak I made a run for it”
He sighed, scratching his head and looking up at the dark sky. Tonight there were no stars, there was no moon, it seemed that even the very heavens were backing away, hiding out of sight from this predator.
“Tell us about Pripyat, what happened on your escape?” Lukesh said; Kern smiled, Lukesh was a soldier after his guardian’s heart, always on the job and never taking a moment to relax. Kern thought back, onto that day, the look on his face told the others his memories weren’t the types he wanted to share and some of the soldiers preferred he keep them to himself.
“If I’m honest, Lukesh, there’s not much to tell” he shrugged staring into the heart of the fire.
“Not much to tell?!” Lukesh barked, a crack in his usual coolness “You’re telling us Pripyat was slaughtered and there’s ‘not much to tell’?” Kern looked up at him, a look that caused Lukesh to reel subconsciously; he had seen predators in the wild look at him like that but never a man.
“Bodies Lukesh, bodies!” Kern snapped “Hundreds of them lining the street, their blood baking in the sun, massacred, handing from the very drains; can you imagine what that’s like? Heading down a street looking straight ahead because all around you, EVERY BIT OF ROAD IS BLOOD STAINED!” Kern was on his feet now, raging at Lukesh who had shouldered his rifle but kept it pointed away “Every single street!” he emphasised “All of them! Hanging bodies, bodies strewn aside like so much litter! I recognised them all, THEM ALL LUKESH!” he advanced on Lukesh but found his way barred by two Freedom members. Lukesh was on his feet now, wary, the security lights were on because of all the movement. Stalkers were stepping from the shadows, taking advantage of the trouble to change shifts.
The Duty Commander placed a hand on Kern’s shoulder “I know how you feel, I once stumbled upon a platoon of my shoulders killed by a pride of Bloodsuckers” Kern looked as though he was ignoring the Duty commander but eventually he nodded.
“It’s not easy, seeing everything I knew slaughtered” Kern admitted “Lukesh, I’m sorry”
Slowly he headed for the main Freedom building, once inside he closed the door behind him. The group looked at each other, Lukesh seemed as though he wanted to speak to Kern some more but the Duty Commander waved him down. “Sit your ass down, Lukesh” he ordered “He’s not a soldier like us, he doesn’t have the stomach to see death…he’s just another casualty of the Zone”
  01:27:33  6 February 2009
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S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Grimm
On forum: 01/18/2009
Messages: 47
The night wore on, it was indeed a long night, the Stalkers changed ranks secretly once more and came to join the Barkeep around the fire.
“So then, Commander, what’s the plan for the Zone once this is all over and done with?” Barkeep asked. The Duty officer scratched the top of his helmet, his breathing heavy through the grille.
“Who knows? This relationship will not last, we will return to shooting each other” he said. Lukesh shrugged
“We were winning, nothing has changed” he smiled. The Duty Commander laughed
“You were winning were you? I’ll be sure to carve that on your grave”
The two of them laughed, the edge in their banter was clear, so clear in fact it could have cut the very flames that separated them.
“Anyway, he’s not a Commander” Lukesh pointed out, swigging from his bottle of vodka before passing it on to a Duty soldier “He is a General” the Duty Commander (now turned General) shrugged
“Each to their own” was his reply as he lay back “I’m going to sleep, keep an eye out”
Lukesh rolled his eyes
“Typical Duty” he jested as he too lay back “Barkeep, your watch”
“Oi, we never discussed this!” he argued but the two men were already asleep. Looking around him Barkeep saw most of the men, who he had thought were awake, were merely sleeping sitting up. Some of them leaning on their rifles others rather cleverly leaning on their hands and looking as though they were listening. Barkeep shook his head and sighed; long night ahead.

Pashka Buffalo, a Duty soldier who had been stationed in the Warehouse area to begin with, was stood high on a watch-tower surveying the deep blue sky above him; sunrise was coming and not a moment too soon in his books. All night he had been stationed up this cold tower and he wanted sleep. Energy drink now made up about 70% of his blood he thought. Orange shards were beginning to penetrate the sky. Footsteps beneath him didn’t faze Pashka; the new pair were on their way up to take watch. As planned a Duty and a Freedom pair appeared. On the floor the Freedom soldier, who had been softly slumbering for the last four hours, lifted his head.
“Shift change?”
“Aye, shift change” Pashka confirmed, taking the hand extended to him and pulling the old enemy to his feet.
The Duty soldier who had joined them stretched “Damn uncomfortable down there, try not to sleep on the ‘crete”
“Who would sleep on concrete?” Pashka laughed. The other soldier shrugged
“Everyone did” he said, turning off his torch.

The sun was now almost visible, a shimmering on the horizon before the final raise. All four soldiers turned towards the sun; it was a beautiful sight, they had been told. In a few seconds the sun would come above the horizon and golden light would flood the valley like a mist. It came as smooth as they had expected, the orange and yellow sphere peeking over the very edge of the world; the golden rays cut through the mist, lighting it and the valley up and in those seconds the Zone looked beautiful, as though in the night it had been peppered with diamond-rain. Trees in the sunlight were dark and mysterious, their long slender branches casting shard shadows but…something was wrong, the soldiers froze as their eyes took in the scene. Oh god Pashka thought, running to the edge of the tower.
In the morning sun, casting deathly shadows, hung the bodies of the Stalkers out the night before. Countless bodies, shot dead, wire lashed tightly around their exposed throats hung like tree-ornaments, swaying slightly in the fresh-morning wind.
“GENERAL!” Pashka screamed, and it was a scream, a scream from deep inside where fear clawed its way up his chest. The Freedom soldier who had been on duty with Pashka took an unconscious step back, a choke escaping him.
Pashka screamed again, not for his commander, but for himself. Across the Warehouse district the bodies hung. Countless Stalkers, Dutiers and Freedom soldiers with rope around their throats. Hanging from the beams of the Warehouse, at the base of the towers; everywhere. The rest of the camp awoke; screams for fellow comrades broke across the valley as swift as the morning sun. Or was that Mourning Sun?
  03:35:37  6 February 2009
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S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Grimm
On forum: 01/18/2009
Messages: 47
Lukash, the General and the Barkeep stood in the shadows of the kitchen area, the chef lay drunk in the corner, moaning, but they ignored him.
"Barkeep, I'm sure you have a reason as to why your Stalkers were outside the wall? We have found the place where they were executed; just like before it was a perfect kill-zone" the General removed his helmet and stowed it under one arm.
"We were....the Stalkers were using your men as bait while your men were on an eye out for the intruder, it was a simple enough plan" the Barkeep explained. General Voronin had him by the throat in an instant. The Barkeep quickly backpeddled but Voronin used the movement to his advatage, using it to lift him from the ground and slam him against the concrete wall.
"You let them outside!" he roared, his face inches from the Barkeeps "You-let-them-outside!" he repeated loudly
"I know! They were capable men!" Barkeep gasped between tight breaths.
"Think, Barkeep! What happened in the night? WHAT HAPPENED?" he roared. The Barkeep thought about it
"Nothing! We got no warning, the Stalkers came and went...." he felt his heart stop; the stalkers came and went. Voronin let him go and the Barkeep slid down the wall, his shaking knees unable to hold his weight.
"Oh god....oh please god no" he whispered "The killer walked right in on the shift-change...."
Lukash was quiet, thinking but also not wanting to say anything just incase he followed General Voronin's lead of choking the Barkeep to death. His men had been among the men they had buried that morning, it was a personal happening but he had to keep a clear mind, there was more to come, he knew it.
"There's no use arguing about it, its another mistake to add to the list but not one we'll make again" Lukash said. Voroning disagreed, moving faster than Lukash was anticipating he drove his steel toe-capped boot into the Barkeep's ribs. Before he could kick again Lukash intervened which came in the form of a well-placed elbow to the throat.
Voronin stumbled back, gasping and coughing loudly.
"Keep a hold of yourself!" Lukash ordered "We don't have time to be kicking the shit out of each other, there's someone out there who's single purpose is to kill everything! We don't have time or the energy to waste on each other" Voronin shot him a dirty look before jamming his helmet back on. Once again the gutteral breathing commenced.
"You're right Lukash, but if you strike me again, you'll be sorry" he said, his voice hoarse even through the grille; he would have trouble speaking for sometime. Lukash didn't bother responding, instead he crouched to speak to the Barkeep.
"Are you ok?"
"I think he broke a rib" he groaned, lying on the floor clutching his side.
The General snorted and walked away, muttering to himself about Stalkers and the Barkeep.

Duty officers were waiting outside, their dead were on a pyre waiting for the General to strike the match; this was their way of respecting their dead, a warriors burial. As the fire burned, the black acrid smoke rose high into the already dark clouds.
"Get everyone here now, I want you in-line and ready to recieve orders in the next ten, ignore the Stalkers and Freedom, understood?"
The soldiers saluted and were off; of course it was understood. The Duty soldiers quickly rounded up their men and returned to the General who was stood on the bridge.
"Men, its a very dark day, thanks to the Barkeep and his feeble ideas some of our brothers died" he shouted, his voice carrying through the lines of black-clad stormtroopers "It is their weakness that allowed our strength to be compromised but not today! Today we find our brothers killer, today we quell this rebellion on life itself! Not with the weapons or tactics of these lesser men! But with a Duty bullet from a Duty rifle! Today we end this!"
The Duty soldiers roared as they scattered in groups of six, heading every-which way they could. The Freedom soldiers stood motionless but they itched to follow, the Duty General had the right idea they thought but where was Lukash to lead them?
On the brow of a hill the Stalkers sat, watching the drama unfold. They were sombre, brooding about the loss of their comrades. "Look at them go; I wonder what they'll find" one Stalker said, putting his rifle back together again after a good cleaning.
"Something, I hope" another answered "I know we don't get on but all this running isn't for me, especially after last night"
A murmer of agreement.
"Sleep men, I will keep an eye out" another Stalker suggested.
"Aye, i will too" another added.
In the shade of a tree the Stalker's slept, away from the commotion of the base down below. They were loners by nature but today they had died as brothers in arms.
  20:46:47  6 February 2009
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S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Grimm
On forum: 01/18/2009

Message edited by:
S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Grimm
02/06/2009 20:48:18
Messages: 47
**I'm afraid I'm back to typing in my browser window so there is a high chance of rather short chapters, sorry!**

Kern, who had spent the morning watching the burning bodies of Duty soldiers, now found himself sat on the roof of a tumble-down concrete building looking out at the Stalkers on the hill. He knew that he would probably never bond with them. Although he doubted if Stalkers actually "bonded" they were sat there now, up on the high hill smoking but he wasn't sure if they were together as friends or just as numbers screaming against the larger Duty force.
Swining his legs off the edge of the building Kern wondered what the fall would be like if he stepped away, the feeling of the concrete underfoot at velocity. "It would hurt most probs" he said aloud.
Next to him his radio buzzed into life, startling him enough to almost push him clear of the edge.
"We have something" the voice whispered. Kern grabbed the radio and turned it up. Looking around he could see that groups had stopped walking, the Stalkers on the hill were looking at a point between two of the others. No doubt their radio, Kern thought.
Footsteps filtered through the dirty black grille, heavy breathing too and the signature sound of a cocking-rifle.
Kern clasped it close, not wanting to miss a thing.
"Where are you?" Voronin barked into the radio loudly
"The small village near the Farmstead, there's a tent"
Kern's heartrate doubled; a tent, there was life that wasn't connected to them!
"Hold your position, back-up is on the way" Vorinin ordered
"Sir, I'm right outside the tent" the Duty officer whispered "I'm just going to have a look"...then the line went dead.

The young Duty soldier advanced, he was almost suprised when Voronin came across the radio like a verbal-rhino.
"Where are you?" he asked, ask being quite a soft-word for how it felt in the Dutier's ear.
"The small village by the Farmstead, there's a tent" he whispered, turning down the volume on his radio to almost mute.
There was, in fact, a tent, quite a big tent, big enough for two or one man and a very big gun. It was tan in colour and stood out like a sore thumb. The Dutier continued to move at a crouch, his rifle's laser flickering on the tan material.
"Hold your position, backup is on the way" Voronin instructed. Taking in the order, the Dutier's step faltered but he was so close, so close he could actually touch the material with his rifle barrel.
"Sir, I'm right outside the tent, I'm just going to look" he whispered before poking the rifle's barrel between the fold in the door and pulling it back.
Static crackled from his radio and the Stalker paused. There was a sleeping bag, next to it a flickering red light; the Comm-Supression unit (which the Dutier recognised as one that had gone missing last year) but then his eyes were drawn from the base of the sleeping bag; there were two cables. Following them with his eyes they led to the tent's door; he had broke their connection. Quickly scanning the area he saw that two cables, identical to the ones he had broken, were connected to the CSU and then into the sleeping bag. His mind screamed run but his curiosity was too much. Crawling slightly into the tent he reached up and pulled back the head-covering of the sleeping bag.
Beneath there was a large black slab that seemed to absorb the light around them. He sighed, lowering his head; he recognised it. Naturally, being millitary.

I should have listened...I should have listened....I really should...have....
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