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Speaker for the Zone

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  22:10:21  8 September 2012
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Hauuu
(Senior)
 
On forum: 09/02/2011
Messages: 97
Speaker for the Zone
Chapter 4

“Don’t mention it. Just go south, and around the bog, don’t go in it, even though you can see across. If you go in there, you won’t come out. Just take the long way over the rocks. If you see any caves or crevices, stay away from them.”

“Got it.” The two stalkers supported a third, bandaged, but alive.

I saluted them with the ration bar they’d given me in exchange for directions.

It’s not easy to walk the Zone with nothing but the clothes on your back and a canteen.

They headed off south, and I sat down on a rock to rest and think about my next move.

It was a beautiful day. A deep blue sky, bright sun, fluffy clouds. I was at low elevation, so the darkness of Chernobyl wasn’t looming on the horizon to kill the buzz. Even the crows, if there were any around, had decided to shut up for a bit. You could almost think this was just a national park somewhere.

I decided to keep going, through the trees, down the hill, and into the ravine. There was some water there, maybe from an underground spring, or maybe just pooled rainwater from the storm two nights ago.

It had been over a week since what everyone was now calling the Massacre at Yantar. That was a little misleading; Duty and its adjuncts had sustained far more grievous losses than Freedom, taken in proportion.

But the Zone was outraged, and what I did pick up from the stalkers I encountered on the road was encouraging. It sounded like Velvet, though still unable to walk, was at least able to shout, though from what I heard, it pained her, which just made her shout more. Whatever she was doing, with the support of Ever and the Biker, it was working.

Freedom couldn’t just bounce back, but it could very easily have choked and died in the aftermath of that bloody battle. It hadn’t. Velvet wouldn’t let it. Not before her year was up. I smiled at the thought and crouched by the water to take a drink. There was a cavern on the other side of the clear pool, which I eyed warily for a moment.

Duty was having great difficulty. As time passed, more damning information was coming to light. The Colonel’s actions had cost many Duty lives, and even more Duty personnel, disgusted by the affair, had quit. Some had even defected to Freedom to make amends. If what I heard was true, at the moment, Duty only had about double the manpower that Freedom did – the smallest margin in memory.

Of course, it wouldn’t last. Duty’s backers would pour more money into them, and memory of this ugly chapter in the Zone’s history would fade. People seemed to remember the Battle at Chernobyl clearly enough, but that had been much bigger; it had probably involved one out of every three stalkers in the Zone. Of course they remembered. This had been a trifling little scuffle by comparison. But people would still remember.

They’d remember that Duty had been so scared of a woman that it brought all its friends and still lost.
Not a killing blow for an organization with as much money to throw around as Duty, but at least they got to bleed a little.

I got up and moved on into the gully. It was overhung with trees, and soon I was walking in very pleasant shade. I’d never been here before; in fact, I’d never been anywhere near this place – and I’d done some traveling during my six months with Freedom. There could be anything in a forgotten corner of the Zone like this; who would know?

The night before I’d found signs of cultists in the area. I wasn’t exactly looking for them, per say, but if I found them, I could at least warn other stalkers. That wasn’t what I was out here for, though. I had come for something else.

Velvet had known something like Duty’s assault was possible. In fact, despite what the Morton Stalker had done for her, I think a part of her expected it. I knew about the events that had shaped her worldview, and I knew she always expected the worst. And she’d gotten it. But she shouldn’t have.

We could say that she gambled and lost – but would that be true? That was what I’d left Freedom to find out. And I’d stumbled over all sorts of interesting things along the way. There were plenty of stalkers who needed help out of tight spots, and plenty of sights to see in the Zone. The place never runs out of things to show you. I’d found a hidden vale south of the plateau that was quite breathtaking, and some bizarre rock formations that I seriously doubted had natural origins.

I’d witnessed a drinker mixing it up with a boar twice his size, and winning. There had been a blowout that changed the landscape right in front of my eyes as I walked through it.

I hadn’t seen the Morton Stalker since Yantar. Chernobyl was darkening steadily on the horizon.
Bandits were out in force, now that both Duty and Freedom were substantially weakened, and loners were traveling in pairs and groups to counter them. Every day I found another body, or clear signs of a brief, but brutal shootout or ambush.

I found a stash beneath the rickety planks bridging a small creek, packed with candy bars. I only took one. Later I gave a lost rookie directions to the rookie camp, and realizing he couldn’t get there on his own, escorted him. The fat trader there fed me an excellent meal, and a local trainer tried to recruit me to drive some bandits from a nearby establishment. I declined. It wasn’t my place to get involved in petty conflicts anymore.

I found the PDA of a stalker who was, after listening to some of his audio logs, clearly quite mad. Unfortunately, I wasn’t aware of any good therapists in the Zone, and the man was probably dead by now anyway. It didn’t seem fair. Life in the Zone was hard enough for sane people, but then again, what were sane people doing here in the first place?

I didn’t have to worry about Freedom or Russett worrying about me; I was encountering enough people that word had to be getting around that I was still up and about. News about Freedom was too easy to get. The same couldn’t be said of Duty, but that was no surprise. In their humiliation, of course they were playing things close to the chest.

As for Russett, well, sooner or later my meandering course would take me close to wherever Freedom decided to set up shop – so far I hadn’t heard anything to indicate they’d moved yet, and that made sense. They wouldn’t move until the wounded were fit to travel, and it was still too soon for that. There was plenty of prime real estate – much of it more desirable than Yantar. We’d only been there for Grigor. Though I’d have preferred to have Grigor alive and be stuck at Yantar to the current situation.

I bet Velvet was chafing to get away from Yantar. It wouldn’t be long before she mobilized and moved the operation; the sooner they moved, the sooner real rebuilding could take place.

As an outsider, I would have thought that in light of recent events, the Zone would be a dark and ugly place in times like these, with stalkers at an all time low, and everything else coming out of the woodwork. No one could navigate anymore without the satellite maps. That was a stroke of luck for Freedom, because stalkers were actively seeking other places where stalkers gathered to pool their information.

I stopped and folded my arms, looking up into the dark trees.

“I know you’re not real, but it doesn’t bother me if you want to come along,” I said honestly. It really didn’t. I knew he was up there – the stalker in black.

“Where are we going?” he called down.

“We find out when we get there,” I replied. “Why don’t you come down? It’s weird to have you following like I can’t see you.”

“Most people can’t.”

That, I believed. “Come on, what do you have to be afraid of? People will think I’m talking to myself. Not a good sign, talking to yourself. Especially not for someone with my reputation,” I added.

“Afraid? I’m just shy.”

Indeed, this stalker did have a bit of a reedy voice, and the glimpses I’d gotten of him hadn’t made him out to be very big. But at least he wasn’t a total shrimp, like Venge, who had, despite his small size, somehow managed to come through the battle alive.

“Are you doing a funny voice on purpose?” I called up.

“That’s not very nice!” the stalker called back from the shadowed boughs.

“I didn’t mean anything by it.”

There was a ruffled silence. Then very suddenly, a dark figure landed beside me without a sound. It was the first time I’d seen the specter up close. The bloodstains on his black fatigues looked fresh, but ghosts don’t bleed. Neither do hallucinations. But they do, now that I looked a little closer, have remarkably slender and girlish physiques. I realized I’d made a faulty assumption.

“You’re not a guy,” I said stupidly.

“Hmm?”

“Nothing.”

“Shall we go?”

“You got a name?”

“I don’t remember.”

“Have it your way, Stranger.”

“I will, thank you. What now?”

“It’s a big Zone out there.” I turned east and shaded my eyes against the sun. “And we’ve got a little time yet. Let’s go exploring.”



---

Big newspost on the blog, too much to link here - might want to check it out.
http://pseudozone.blogspot.com/
  17:06:42  14 September 2012
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PCDania
The Dane
(Resident)

 

 
On forum: 09/22/2007
Messages: 1538
Aargh, how am I going to survive without my weekly story fixes?
  21:17:30  17 September 2012
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Hauuu
(Senior)
 
On forum: 09/02/2011
Messages: 97
Well, it's at least *possible* that the Atrophy ebook will be released while I'm gone, so you can keep an eye out for that. In any case, thanks for sticking with the stories.

Zone should start up again in 9-10 weeks. That's not so long.

But I leave today! It'll be interesting to see how I write about all these military people once I've actually *had* some military training...

Take care, everyone.
  22:42:23  17 September 2012
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PCDania
The Dane
(Resident)

 

 
On forum: 09/22/2007
Messages: 1538
Take care yourself, try not to damage any tanks

9-10 weeks... If Atrophy is released within that time frame I sure know what to do. If not, well, at least it looks like I've got some beta testing to do while waiting.
  14:05:54  19 November 2012
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Hauuu
(Senior)
 
On forum: 09/02/2011
Messages: 97
I'm back. Story's back on this week. Training was fun. I think Atrophy's scheduled for the 26th.
  14:34:55  19 November 2012
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belizarius
Strelok Holmes
(Resident)

 

 
On forum: 09/02/2009
 

Message edited by:
belizarius
11/19/2012 14:35:07
Messages: 222

---QUOTATION---
I'm back. Story's back on this week. Training was fun. I think Atrophy's scheduled for the 26th.
---END QUOTATION---


Welcome back, recruit
  20:34:01  23 November 2012
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Hauuu
(Senior)
 
On forum: 09/02/2011
Messages: 97
Thanks. I'll be shooting for new Zone chapters on Saturdays. (Maybe not this Saturday, since I just posted a new one yesterday, but you get the idea.)
  21:56:07  23 November 2012
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PCDania
The Dane
(Resident)

 

 
On forum: 09/22/2007
Messages: 1538
I see your writing skills have not suffered while you have been away.
Welcome back
  03:49:21  22 December 2012
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Hauuu
(Senior)
 
On forum: 09/02/2011
Messages: 97
Thanks. Happy holidays, internet. Gonna be a few new chapters between now and the new year.
  13:48:56  22 December 2012
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PCDania
The Dane
(Resident)

 

 
On forum: 09/22/2007
 

Message edited by:
PCDania
12/22/2012 13:49:29
Messages: 1538
Merry Christmas.

I've brought you a gift:

Wrapping

Wrapping

Wrapping

Wrapping

Wrapping

Wrapping

Wrapping

Wrapping

Bought both your books at amazon (Kindle versions).
 
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