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The Zone: Life, and Death.

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  23:45:02  12 August 2008
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Psynexus
Senior Resident
 

 
On forum: 04/15/2007
Messages: 490
From the author

So I started this story over a year ago and have had nothing but good reviews. All of us are anxiously awaiting Clear Sky and I'm getting anxious. I'm thinking about resurrecting this story.

I'd like to hear the thoughts of anyone who has read this, I just need the final push to start writing again.
  00:34:17  13 August 2008
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Serensius
Resident Norwegian
(Resident)

 

 
On forum: 03/15/2007
Messages: 399

---QUOTATION---
From the author

So I started this story over a year ago and have had nothing but good reviews. All of us are anxiously awaiting Clear Sky and I'm getting anxious. I'm thinking about resurrecting this story.

I'd like to hear the thoughts of anyone who has read this, I just need the final push to start writing again.
---END QUOTATION---



I hadn't seen this thread before, but I just read through the story, and I thought it was great! It really captures the Zone; great atmosphere and description. Love the way it was presented as well. I definitely think you should continue!
  06:16:46  13 August 2008
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HL2 Master
Senior Resident
 

 
On forum: 06/28/2008
Messages: 271
The Zone: Life, and Death.

My first time seeing and reading it too! Bloody amazing man! PLEASE PLEASE keep writing!

HL2
  06:48:31  13 August 2008
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Psynexus
Senior Resident
 

 
On forum: 04/15/2007
 

Message edited by:
Psynexus
08/13/2008 6:56:21
Messages: 490
The Zone: Life and Death - Part 3

Alright, here it is - Part 3. I messed around will all sorts of ways to present this story, and eventually I got really tired of the way I've been doing it and decided to add in a "story mode" function to the PDA at the very end that I might use to tell the story easier with access to more information than I could give by just doing audio/texts logs.

Also, this part is meant to be more for background and character development, so hang in tight because the action cometh!

It's a long one, so without further ado -
The Zone: Life and Death - Part 3
_____________________________

Day 4


The Garbage; a rotting pile of irradiated filth that glistens like gold to anyone in search of artifacts and other Zone-related wealth. Nikita seems calm and confident, nothing like most of those back in Cordon. I travel next to him and glance over once in a while to gauge his reaction to this place. It seems to him that this is just a stroll in the park, but I notice at certain points along our path he looks around in a sort of self-induced panic, as if something terrible happened there.

The air here is stagnant and reeks of God knows what. At times I can hear distant gunfire, who it is, where, and for what reason are completely beyond me. Averiy’s words about the “inhabitants” of the Zone are with me constantly and I see them around every turn, in my mind.

Nikita seems less-distant now, I’m turning on the recorder.

[Audio Enabled]

Nikita: We’re nearing our destination, friend.

Yuriy: Where are we going?

Nikita: The front lines.

Yuriy: But… the only time I’ve ever fired was yesterday, and the only thing I managed to kill was some other guy who just happened to be slow with his trigger-finger.

Nikita: What better way to learn, right?

*slight chuckle*

Yuriy: I don’t know about this.

Nikita: Remember what I told you? It’s obvious you’re not here to sight-see. If you’re going to survive here you need to be thrust into the action. If you survive, only chance will dictate if you continue to live in the Zone afterwards. Skill can only get you so far, the other half is luck.

Yuriy: If I had any luck left in life I wouldn’t be here right now.

Nikita: On the contrary my friend! You made it past the pigs at the gates, survived a few dogs, and you were still breathing last I checked.

Yuriy: Yeah, I guess so, but how many more of those encounters will go as “smoothly”?

Nikita: As many as the Zone allows.

Yuriy: Comforting.

Nikita: I won’t bullshit you. Most Stalkers never make it out of Cordon, I’m just advancing you to the next level of chance in the Zone.

Yuriy: It’s just a lot to take in.

Nikita: Then take a deep breath and keep moving.

[End Log]

Well, the guy is blunt, but he makes a good point. Every day I’m still alive in this place is a good day. Maybe chance is half of everything, but if the other half is skill then I’ve got a lot of work on my hands.

We arrived at a Stalker outpost in the Garbage. These Stalkers are unlike the ones I’ve seen. All of them have these specialized suits of some sort, I’m no expert but it appears to be some sort of Kevlar body armor on top of standard military uniforms, the uniforms being heavily modified with their own custom gear, logos, gas masks, and other things I don’t recognize. These guys have seen some action, their gear and the distant look in their eyes says it all.

I met with a Stalker, Andriy, who appears to be the leader of this “outpost”. It’s really more of an abandoned warehouse, and a really worn-down one at that, but it seems to hold some significant value to them. The outside is a wreck, but deeper inside the inner-walls have been repaired (more or less), and there are radios and PDAs scattered about.

There also seems to be some sort of inter-Stalker communication network setup through the PDAs on the tables. I hear com chatter over a few of them, just idle conversation for the most part but some of the chatter seems to be orders to other Stalkers. I thought I heard brief seconds of gunfire as well as screams coming over one of them.

Andriy has given me patrol duty on the west side of the complex. The area seems relatively open so it’s easy to spot anyone coming by that way… or it might just make me an easier target for anyone who may be watching. I was given a rifle to aid me should anything come my way, a smaller version of an AK-74. My shift begins now.

Well… patrol duty sure is unexciting. But the tension in this place is enough to keep me on alert. The smell still hasn’t died away though, it smells like decay and something else I can’t place. This place is dark and dreary. There are some “vehicle graveyards” scattered around where the irradiated vehicles used in the Chernobyl disaster were put to final rest. I’ve been wanted to wander a little off my patrol path to see what my Geiger counter reads but it’s out of the way and I have a bad feeling about it.

It’s nearing dark and all is well. This place is silent as death and I don’t even know what my pay will be once I’m done here. I’m getting really anxious; I don’t think I’ve heard anything but the wind for hours now. I’m pretty sure I’m wearing a tread in the ground too, I don’t know if it’s always like this or if something bad is about to happen. I want to go check out that vehicle graveyard but I still don’t have the balls.

Fuck it. This shit is getting me nowhere. I have a wife to think about and all I’m doing is walking around soaking up the smell of this place. I’m gonna go check that place out, the things in there have been untouched for years, you never know what you might find in there if it’s all just abandoned junk. Maybe I’ll find one of those artifacts everyone is talking about too… if I do I only hope I’ll know what to do with it. I’ll turn on audio so I can refer to this later.

[Audio Enabled]

Yuriy: Ok, so I’m approaching the scrap yard now. I don’t think anyone even noticed I was gone, my side seems to be the most barricaded so

I doubt anyone could see my position.

Alright, I just crossed the fence surrounding the scrap yard. There are tons of vehicles in here, and all unusable for hundreds of years due to contamination. Let’s see if I can get a count off of one of them.

*Geiger counter begins to click*

There we go. Looks like this ones at about 20 rads. According to the research I did before I came, the higher the levels of radiation, the higher the risk of symptoms and possible after-effects. The way I read, the higher the radiation, the less time you have to live if you stay in that pocket of radiation, unless you can get to a place with lower radiation levels. Let’s try another one

*Geiger counter clicks more rapidly*

It looks like this one was closer to the action, about 55 rads on this one. If I were to sit inside of it for a while I would probably start to feel sick after a while. I think I saw a helicopter up ahead, if it was airborne at the time it probably has a massive amount of radiation on it.

*Geiger counter clicks very rapidly, indicating dangerous levels*

Wow, I’m standing about 20 feet away from it and it’s in the red. I don’t want to stand here too long, time to move.
Well, I should probably…

*Sounds of shouting in the distance*

Wait… what is that?

*Sounds of footsteps in the grass*

Shit! A group of people are coming over the hill, I think they’re bandits if I remember what Andriy said correctly.

Black jackets, some have masks… yeah, that’s got to be them. I need to get back to base but there are two open aisles on either side of this helicopter and they’re coming right at me. Fuck, I knew I sensed something bad about this.

Where to go… where to go. They’re getting closer. Here, maybe I can distract them.

*Sound of an object being thrown through the air and hitting a
headlight, shattering it*

Unknown (1): Wait.

Unknown (2): What the hell was that?

Unknown (1): Boris, go check it out.

Yuriy: Well, that got 1 out of the picture, but there’s at least 4 more still heading this way.

Unknown (1): Boris! Did something eat you?

Unknown (3) [Identified as Boris]: No boss!

Unknown (1) [Identified as Bandit leader]: Well get out here then! If you mess around in there too long you’re dog meat. Some mutated shit probably calls this place home.

Boris: Sorry boss.

Bandit leader: Well, what was it?

Boris: Some headlight got smashed with a pipe.

Bandit leader: And?

Boris: It broke.

Bandit leader: No shit? You’re detective skills must be the talk of whatever shithole town you’re from. What broke it, you idiot.

Boris: I don’t know.

Bandit leader: Well I suggest you put those detective skills to the test and find out or this mission is over, and you’ll go back to trying to pull guns and ammo out of a dog’s ass to survive out here.

Boris: Yes, boss.

Bandit leader: Well… are you waiting for the Zone to invite you in for tea? Move!

Boris: Well uh… can Hedeon come with me?

Bandit leader: No, Hedeon is more valuable that you. If you turned into dog food nobody would give a shit.

Boris: I uh… ok boss.

Bandit leader: The rest of you keep moving, we have an agenda to attend to.

Yuriy: Tough crowd… that didn’t really help me a whole lot though. Maybe I can sneak up on this Boris guy and at least save myself some pain.

*Sounds of footsteps fade into the distance*

Yuriy: I can’t see where they’re going without exposing myself… maybe if I can get to that Boris guy he’ll have some information on him.

*Sounds of footsteps approaching*

Yuriy: Here he comes.

Boris: Hey… who are you?!

*Sounds of a punch to the face*

Boris: Shit! Help me! HELP!

Yuriy: QUIET! You make another sound and I’ll shoot you.

Boris: Don’t kill me! I don’t mean any harm!

Yuriy: What are you and your friends up to?

Boris: We’re… we’re raiding the Stalker outpost just north of here.

Yuriy: Why?

Boris: The boss wants to kill everyone and take all their weapons and artifacts. I’m just in it for the food.

Yuriy: Why not just stick with the neutral Stalkers? There’s enough food if you get work done.

Boris: I’m an ex-convict, I got out in a prison break and fled here. I heard it was the only place nobody would bother to track me. As soon as I got here, I was spotted by a military patrol near Cordon. They were going to escort me out of the Zone and into custody when the boss came. He saved my life and in return I work for him. He sends me on dangerous missions and gives me just enough food to survive on as a reward.

Yuriy: How long have you been in the Zone?

Boris: A few weeks.

Yuriy: I’m a new recruit myself. There’s got to be better out there what he’s giving you. The Zone may be hell, but it’s also an opporitunity.

Boris: I know… but he said if I ever betrayed him, he’d kill me.

Yuriy: You might as well still be in that cell of yours. What he’s doing is no better than prison.

Boris: You… you’re right. I just feel like there’s always someone after me, and in here, with the stories I hear, you never know who… or what, is watching you.

Yuriy: Alright… if I let you live, will you come with me and warn the neutral base about the raid?

Boris: No! If he sees you helping me he’ll kill me.

Yuriy: The only thing I can offer is a fresh start with the neutral Stalkers. It’s either that or you go back to being his bitch… and possible killed in this raid of yours.

Boris: How do I know you or your friends won’t just use me for your own benefit afterwards.

Yuriy: You have my word, that’s all I can offer you here.

Boris: Well… I… I’ll do it.

Yuriy: Excellent. In that case, let me help you up.

Boris: Th… thanks.

Yuriy: Don’t mention it. But if you even think about betraying me…

Boris: No! I won’t… if what you’re saying is true I would be stupid to go back to the Bandits.

Yuriy: Good man. Here’s your weapon.

Boris: Thanks. We need to be careful getting out of here, there’s lots or radiation around the vehicles and dogs like to wander around here in search of food. I thought you were one.

Yuriy: Noted, you lead then.

Boris: O... ok. But if catch up to them and I’m in front, I’ll just be a meat-shield. The boss always says, “you sign with your life, break that contract, and your life is null and void”.

Yuriy: Then we’ll walk side-by side.

[End Audio]

Boris and I are heading back to the neutral base together, avoiding pockets of radiation and bad-looking spots. He seems to know his way around the Garbage pretty well. Under his timid skin there seems to be an intelligent man there. Maybe he just got off on the wrong foot in the Zone and needs a fresh start.

We’re on the outskirts of the neutral outpost now, I can see the south and east patrols on the perimeter. Boris is just ahead scouting for where the Bandits were supposed to prep for the assault. I hope nobody notices I’m not where I was supposed to be, the last thing I need right now is to make an enemy with anyone out here. I need the work too, and the neutral Stalkers have provided some good jobs so far, I can’t afford to lose that or I might end up like Boris, working with my life as the price of failure.


[Audio Enabled]

Yuriy: What did you find?

Boris: There’s a bit of a problem.

Yuriy: What’s that?

Boris: There are more Bandits than I thought there would be.

Yuriy: How many are we talking about?

Boris: There are 4 groups of 4, excluding the one I was in which has 3 now.

Yuriy: Shit… where are they at?

Boris: Located on the west side of the outpost, hidden in an arc. If they do what they normally do, they will close in to a point on the west entrance to the warehouse and force their way in. Boss calls it “choking” all resistance.

Yuriy: If I had been out there, I’m sure they would have killed me easily.

Boris: Yes, the point of the sweep is to eliminate everyone within the “choke”, not allowing anyone to get away for maximum profit.

Yuriy: How long do we have?

Boris: Not long… since there is no other patrol on the west side, chances are…

Yuriy: They’re moving in.

Boris: Yes, seeing no patrol they must think they have little resistance and are rushing in.

Yuriy: We can’t warn the base now, if we run out into the open now they’ll see us.

Boris: Yeah.

Yuriy: Wait, I remember a network of sorts they had setup using

PDAs… but I don’t know the info to connect to it with.

Boris: I know it, we listen to it all the time so we can move in when a
Stalker is in need of help and rob him. Let me see that.

Yuriy: Ok.

Boris. Ok, let’s see. Hey, you’re recording right now, did you know that?

Yuriy: No, I had no idea.

Boris: It’s eating up your battery, I can turn it off.

Yuriy: No it’s fine.

Boris: Alright… don’t say I didn’t warn you next time you’re in trouble and your PDA is dead.
Ok... enter IP… password… and… bingo.

*Filtering excessive audio*

Yuriy: Who’s that talking?

Boris: That’s the “lobby” if you will. It’s a general server for all Stalkers, used for idle conversation mostly, it’s also used as a method for locating Stalkers since your PDA gives off a GPS locator.

Yuriy: So how do I send a message?

Boris: Ever been in a chat room?

Yuriy: No.

Boris: Uh… ok, I’ll set you up… there you go. I’ll send out a general
distress singal. We might want to move afterwards.

Yuriy: Why’s that?

Boris: Because if we have any listeners on the Bandits end they’ll see the beacon as an easy profit, if someone finds it significant they’ll contact any nearby Bandits and they’ll be all over us.

Yuriy: But the Stalkers in the compound will see it too right?

Boris: They should if anyone is paying attention.

Yuriy: Let’s hope they are then.

Boris: Here’s your PDA, all we can do now is wait.

[Cutting 7 minutes of audio silence]

Yuriy: Why aren’t they moving?

Boris: They might have been alerted to the distress signal and might be calling off the assault.

Yuriy: Wait… something’s happening.

Boris: It looks like they’re going through with the plan… wait… my group is breaking from the formation and heading this way.

Yuriy: Shit… what are they doing?

Boris: Tying up loose ends, I think they’re coming for us. Dammit! If the Stalkers didn’t get our message we’re fucked. On top of that, I’m out of ammo for my shotgun, all I have is a clip for my pistol.

Yuriy: Here, I got some shotgun rounds in Cordon, take them.

Boris: Oh thank you! This will come in handy.

Yuriy: Just stay close, we’ll work as a team. You hide behind this tree and I’ll stay low in the grass, if they come up here, wait for them to pass the tree then shoot them in the head, I’ll aim for the body and hopefully disperse anyone still standing.

Boris: Ok… just promise me one thing.

Yuriy: What’s that?

Boris: Let me take care of the boss.

Yuriy: That might not be possible, we react quickly, or we die.

Boris: Then, if we survive this, tell the Stalkers that I helped you. I’ve spent enough of my life being a coward, if I can make some friends then maybe I can start living my life the right way.

Yuriy: I promise.

Boris: Ok… I’ll get into position.

[Cutting 3 minutes of audio silence]

Yuriy: They’re coming.

Boris: Ok!

Yuriy: Shh!

Bandit leader: I know this is where it came from… there’s no way they could have gotten past us, they’re here! Hey little Stalker, come out come out! We just want to help ease your pain!
Where are you? We got your distress call and we’re here to “help”

*Muffled snickering*

Bandit leader: Quiet you fools!

Yuriy: Psst… they’re almost to you.

Boris: Got it.

Bandit leader: Ok Stalker, you have 5 seconds to come out here or the next part of the Zone you’ll visit is the inside of a stomach.

*Sounds of a shotgun cocking*

Bandit leader: Ah, so you do want to play!

Boris: Hey boss.

*Sounds of a shotgun discharge*

Bandit leader: Son of a bitch!

*Sounds of an AK-74S discharging*

Unknown (1): Ambush! Get the fuck out!

Unknown (2): He shot me!

Unknown (1): Hurry and get the f…

Unknown (2): Shit! SHIT!

*End of AK-74S discharge*

Boris: Haha! We did it!

Yuriy: Yeah, I guess we did…

*Sounds of several weapons firing and bullet ricochets off of metal*

Boris: They’re assaulting the base!

Yuriy: Well, if they didn’t get the warning they know now.

*coughing sounds*

Bandit leader: Boris, you aim like shit.

Boris: Stay down! I promise I’ll hit you in the head this time.

Bandit leader: Ah yes… this just proves you can’t trust anyone these days. After all I gave you I find myself bleeding on the ground, from the very gun I gave you, and have to pay the price for your terrible accuracy even now. Must you insult me more?

Boris: The only thing you taught me is that being a Bandit blows.

Bandit leader: No, you’re just a terrible Bandit.

Boris: Well then I guess I’ll try my hand somewhere else.

Bandit leader: I doubt that. You paid with your life, and you just broke your contract.

*Gunshot, Boris falls to the ground*

Bandit leader: Heh heh, you always were shit Boris. You’re worthless…
always depending on others.

*Fierce coughing and gurgling sounds as the Bandit leader dies*

Boris: Nice shot.

Yuriy: I’ve seen that trick before. A bandit on my first day here tried to pull a weapon on me the exact same way.

Boris: Well, I’d give a speech saying how in debt to you I am but we have more pressing matters at hand…

Yuriy: We need to get in there, we’re sitting ducks and they need our help.

Boris: Well, I’m dressed for the occasion, why don’t you try on their clothes?

Yuriy: It’s our best shot. We can at least make it to the other side of the base and ditch the clothes once we get there. Let’s just hope we can find a hiding spot before anyone sees me in this outfit, otherwise we can kiss any shot of making it in alive goodbye.
Boris: You lead this time.

*Sounds of running across a grass field*

Yuriy: Almost there.

Boris: It looks like the Bandits are too distracted at the moment, I don’t think anyone paid attention to us. There’s some bushes up ahead, you can ditch your outfit there.

Unknown (1): Stop right there!

Unknown (2): Throw down your weapons… and pull your pants up!

Yuriy: I’m on your side, I’m the new guy, Yuriy.

Unknown (1): WHO?!

Yuriy: Relax! I just had to disguise myself from the Bandits before I ran out in the open!

Unknown (2): What about him?

Yuriy: He’s with me, it’s a long story, but we’re here to help.

Unknown (1): Should we shoot them?

Unknown (2): We need all the help we can get… you guys come with us, we’ll be right behind you in case you try anything stupid.

Yuriy: Fair enough.

Boris: You have nothing to worry about!

Unknown (1): Right… let’s move.

*Sounds of sprinting on concrete*

Unknown (2): Make a left up here then make a right. The action’s on the west wall.

Yuriy: What’s it look like over there?

Unknown (1): You’ll see when you get there.

*Sounds of gunfire and explosions getting louder*

Unknown (2): Andriy is just ahead. He’s pinned down in the upper levels and we’re fighting to him.

Unknown (1): If you even cock your weapon within 50 feet of him…

Unknown (2): Relax bro, they’ve made it this far, I don’t think they’re stupid enough to run through the firefight to the join the Bandits.

Ok, we’re going to make our move. The rest of the Stalkers behind the lines are on standby. We have an RPG launcher with a few rounds in the back. Our guy is going to start firing to set up a distraction for the main group while the 4 of us try to get to Andriy.

Yuriy: Let’s do it.

Boris: Ready.

Unknown (1): Move out.

Unknown (2): [Over radio] Do it!

*The whoosh of an RGP fills the air followed by an explosion.

Unknown (1): Haha! That took out a chunk of them!

Unknown (2): That’s our cue, make a break for it, kill anything in your path and get into that room, we’ll make sure no incoming fire gets to you.

Boris: Got 2 here!

*Sounds of shotgun discharging twice followed by 2 grunts*

Unknown (1): Nice! Keep going, we’ll keep you covered. Hit it bro.

*Sounds of 2 AK-74s discharging simultaneously*

Unknown (2): One to your left!

*AK-74 discharge*

Unknown (1): Down. One on the catwalk above you.

*AK-74 discharge*

Unknown (2): Eighty-six’d. Keep moving Stalkers.

Yuriy: Get down Boris!

*AK-74S discharge followed by the falling body of a bandit*

Yuriy: Almost there, keep moving

*Additional rifle and shotgun discharges*

Boris: You better take point, man. If I walk into that room dressed like this I’m dead.

Yuriy: No problem.

*Sounds of footsteps up metal stairs*

Yuriy: Andriy! We’re here to get you out of here!

Andriy: There you are, I was wondering when you’d show up. You’re
that new guy aren’t you?

Yuriy: Yes, Yuriy’s my name.

Unknown (2): We weren’t sure whether to trust them or not, otherwise we would have rushed in first.

Andriy: I know, Oleksiy. You and Pavlo have always been dependable.

Unknown (2) [Identified as Oleksiy]: Thanks… now we need to get you back to your guys, sir.

Unknown (1) [Identified as Pavlo]: We’re with you, sir.

Andriy: Agreed, let’s go.

[End Audio]

We cleaned up the rest of the bandits in the base with little problem once Andriy was back on the frontlines. I see now why the Stalkers here look up to him as their leader; he’s a master with a rifle. I told him about Boris and he welcomed him into the ranks of the other Stalkers. As reward for our actions, we were both given Stalker suits. This will provide much needed protection against bullets, dogs, anomalies, and hopefully whatever else the Zone decides to throw at me.

As darkness falls, I have some down time. Most of the bodies are being buried and the spoils divided among the Stalkers here. Boris seems to be pretty good with the inner-workings of things, and since I’ve already entered so much information into my PDA he showed me how to inter-weave the audio with the text to make things more presentable. This should help if I live long enough access these logs again. I’m activating this feature now.

[Story-mode active]

I’ve noticed some of the Stalkers around here whispering about their “Stalker” names. I guess they use these openly on com channels, but try not to associate with them around other Stalkers because of all the “unwanted ears”. I’ve been trying to think of a good one for myself, it seems as though starting life over in the Zone goes even as far as your name. Well, Boris should be back from talking to Andriy, or “Mace” as I’ve heard him called.

[Begin Story-mode]

Boris returned from the upper area of the warehouse where Mace’s room was located, beaming about his new allegiance and reward. I have to admit, it’s pretty hard not to feel like a badass wearing one of those Stalker suits, and you can tell that he felt invincible at that moment.

“All done.” He said.

“Are you sure?” I asked. “You might want to ask for some extra light-bulbs for that beam of yours.”

“Har. You don’t look too bad yourself”

“Yeah… if only I had a name to associate with the suit.”

“You mean those aliases I keep hearing other Stalkers whisper about?”

“Yeah… I heard that guy Oleksiy call Andriy “Mace” earlier. I guess all Stalkers have their own that they go by.

He lit up at this. “Hmm. I remember my mother telling me my name meant something like battle or glory.”

“You seem to be a pretty good shot with a shotgun in the heat of battle.”

He smirked. “How about Nimbus?”

“Nimbus… what’s it mean?”

“In Greek mythology, a shining cloud sometimes surrounded a deity when on earth. It’s also commonly known as a rain cloud.

“That kind of fits, you used to be a bandit in a dark raincoat.

“Yeah… I think you’re right. Nimbus… nice. What about you?”

“I don’t know. I don’t know what my name means.”

“Well I heard that most Stalkers just pick the name of an animal they are like, or something that means something to them.”

“I might be able to help you with that one.” Averiy, the old man I met in Cordon who saved me from the blind dog was apparently here, and listening to our conversation. He came up and sat next to Boris and I.

“From what I’ve seen so far, you have an honest heart, and you’ll go out of your way to do what is right regardless of how dangerous it is. It seems to me that you’re made up of all different kinds of good, and that you’re the kind of man who fights for fairness. I would consider you both like a guardian angel and a judge… and those words just happen to share a common synonym; Virtue.”

I looked at him, dumbfounded, “How do you know that?”

“Back when I worked at the Plant I had a lot of reading time, I figured I might as well get some heavy reading in – what better than the dictionary? Nothing like raw, uncut information.”

“Well, I guess that’s one way.”

“It earned me the nickname Jargon. I may know a lot about words, but it doesn’t mean it helps other people understand the words that leave my lips.” He grinned, slightly.

“So what are you doing here, anyway? Have you been following me?”

“I would say I have been monitoring you. I sensed good things about you from the moment I met you in Cordon. I guess I just wanted to make sure things turned out ok for you. And I see they have so far.”

“Yeah… but as you put it, this is just another entrance into the heart of the Zone. I haven’t really seen anything yet.”

“No, you haven’t.” Any hint of happiness he had on his face was washed off. “There are many paths from this point on, and all of them have terrible things at the end of them. I hope you made some friends today, you’ll need all the help you can get.”

With that he stood up, and said, “Good luck, Virtue. Keep your rifle close, and never lose sight of your target.”
He could have meant anything by “target”, and I figured he probably meant it in every sense of the word. Boris looked after him as he left.
“Who was that guy?”

“A former employee at the Chernobyl plant.”

“No shit? How long has he been here?

“Since Day 1 I think”

“He must have a big set on him, I couldn’t imagine living in an irradiated wasteland all by myself with the Zone changing all around me, before even the first Stalkers got in. It would have been just him and a few thousand ghosts.”

“Well, for whatever reason he seems to know his way around the Zone and has his eye on me. I don’t know…”

“Hey, Stalker!” The Stalker from the fight, Oleksiy, was coming down the stairs from the upper level towards me. “Mace wants to see you and your friend.”
I got up, Boris – now dubbed Nimbus – followed behind looking nervous. We got up to the door and Mace waved us in.

“Good to see you alive, Yuriy… and your friend Boris. How are the new suits treating you?”

“Very good, it’s a perfect fit”. I said.

“Well it’s one size fits all, so good for you.” He said. “But I wanted to tell you that we’re indebted to you. If we hadn’t picked up your distress signal the bandits would have gotten much further inside and done a lot more damage than they did. I don’t know how you managed not to get picked off by their scouts and get to safety, but you did it.
You friend told me about the whole encounter with you while on patrol and a little about his background.”

I glanced over at him and mouthed “Thank you” for not telling him that I had wandered into the vehicle scrap yard.

Mace continued, “As you can see, I was sympathetic towards him and was willing to give him a chance on our side. I don’t know how you two managed it, but I decided I would like to thank you personally. So I’ve decided to give you better than the standard armament for doing a service for me. I’d like to reward you, Yuriy…”

“It’s Virtue now, sir”, I said.

“Virtue eh? Very good! I can see you’ve overheard some of the other Stalkers then. Anyway, I’d like to reward you with a modified version of the AK-74 most of the Stalkers around here carry. It’s lightweight and has increased recoil reduction. As for you Boris…”

“Nimbus, sir.”

“Well… Nimbus it is, I managed to dig up a weapon that came in handy for me when I first came to the Zone; a modified Winchester pump shotgun, also modified to reduce recoil as well as a faster rate of fire.
Boris’ eyes got wide as he beheld the wonder of his new-found friend.
“Tha… thank you sir!”

“Treat her well.” He said with a grin. “You both should have our network information uploaded to our PDAs. Feel free to use it as a means of communication with other Stalkers as well as to call for helps, should you need it.”

“Will do, thank you sir.” I replied.

“Just call me Mace, I never liked the whole title thing. I may lead the Stalkers here but they are not obligated to stay, I don’t consider myself any better than most, maybe just more used to the Zone. Good luck to you, Stalkers.”

We left his office and returned downstairs where the other Stalkers were getting ready for the night. Fires were going up and there were conversations and some light music going around. Nimbus and I pulled out our sleeping bags, which we had also been provided as well as some other things to help us out along the way. After finding a nice corner away from the main group and settling down for some rest, he turned and said,

“So why are you here?”

“My son died and I’m trying to get food and work to support my wife.”

“Sounds a lot better than my reason… at least you have something worth fighting for, I’m just fleeing the mistakes I made in my life.”

“What did you do?”

“Basically the same thing I’ve been doing in here; I was forced into crime when I couldn’t afford to pay the rent in my apartment. The owner just happened to a member of the mob and called some of his dogs on me to “set me straight”.

“Well, I think you’ve been given a second chance today, maybe now that you have your head above water you can find that thing that you want to fight for.”

“Yeah, maybe. Well, I’ve got a lot to think about and I think a good nights rest is the only way to get started on that, the action today has still got me a little shaken up. I’ve known a lot of those guys since the first day I got here… and to have to look them in the eye as I took their lives away was not an easy thing to do.”

“I know the feeling” I said, remembering the bandit in Cordon – my first official kill in the Zone.
Nimbus rolled over and fell asleep. Shortly afterwards, the Stalker who brought me here, Nikita, started walking towards me. I sat up.

“Oh sorry, I didn’t mean to disturb you, but after seeing you in action today I just wanted to let you know that I have some more work for you tomorrow – if you’re still interested.”

“I am.”

“Good, I’ll wake you in the morning and we’ll head out. Make sure you get all the supplies you need, it could prove quite a treacherous journey.”

“You got it, thanks for helping me out so far.”

“You may not thank me later, but you’re welcome.”
Finally, I turned over and fell asleep to the sound of a guitar, crackling fire, and stories of Zone experiences that I couldn’t really separate from one another. I wonder what tomorrow has in store…

_______________

If you've made it this far, I'd like to give you the opportunity to become involved in the story also. All of us have out own "Stalker" names (don't deny it). If you would like to generate some names for me to use in the story I would be happy to.

As a little spoiler in the "making of" I searched for Ukrainian names online and got their meanings in English, then typed the meaning into dictionary.com and used the thesaurus to find synonyms, and thus, generated their Stalker names based off that.

If you would like to assist me with this, don't hesitate to generate names in the same fashion, or come up with your own meaningful name.

Last, but not least, I want to know what format of the story you like most - audio log, text log, "story-mode", or any combination of those. If you like them all, that's good too, I'm just looking for constructive criticism so I can continue the story using the best method possible.

I await your comments before I start on Part 4
  09:05:27  13 August 2008
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HL2 Master
Senior Resident
 

 
On forum: 06/28/2008
Messages: 271
The Zone: Life, and Death.

Another great installment!!!

I ove Nimbus, he seems so good natured inside, I hope he lives, him and Virtue are like best friends in the making.

HL2
  22:23:44  13 August 2008
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Psynexus
Senior Resident
 

 
On forum: 04/15/2007
Messages: 490

---QUOTATION---
The Zone: Life, and Death.

Another great installment!!!

I ove Nimbus, he seems so good natured inside, I hope he lives, him and Virtue are like best friends in the making.

HL2
---END QUOTATION---



I was thinking the same thing while I was writing it. Even I don't know what will happen to him, I just write it as it comes to me. But I know for sure they're both going to get into some heavy shit soon.
  23:27:47  13 August 2008
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Serensius
Resident Norwegian
(Resident)

 

 
On forum: 03/15/2007
Messages: 399
Firstly, another great episode This is getting really interesting.


---QUOTATION---

Last, but not least, I want to know what format of the story you like most - audio log, text log, "story-mode", or any combination of those. If you like them all, that's good too, I'm just looking for constructive criticism so I can continue the story using the best method possible.

I await your comments before I start on Part 4
---END QUOTATION---



I like all the 'modes', but I think the audio logs are especially good for bringing out the tension in a scene. Do whatever suits you the most though!
  23:39:31  13 August 2008
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Zaphial
(Novice)
 
On forum: 05/01/2007
Messages: 26
Awesome read Psynexus. I wondered if you were still around. Haven't seen you since the last beta run of REDUX and EXTREME. Keep up the good work man.
  06:47:53  14 August 2008
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odyseus
(Senior)
 
On forum: 03/04/2008
 

Message edited by:
odyseus
08/14/2008 6:49:02
Messages: 50
All i have to say is, WOW, at first i was a bit intimidated by the (not so much of a) wall of text at the beginning, but then i had some time on my hands and started reading. I have a few things i would like to ask though.

In part 2. I dont think Flesh's are that intimidating, in the game im just used to them being big huge running targets, i dont think ive ever had one attack me though, maybe you shouldve used boars instead.

In this story, a rookie who has to Steal a geiger counter, and gets a "rental" gun from the group. Has a PDA, everyone has a PDA, a very good one in fact ones that have some sort of system linked in, what did they give them out as they entered the zone, i dont mean to critisize (critize? critizize? cretizise?) but ive always wondered where everyones getting these fancy PDA's.

I also cant help to think like things like these wouldnt happen in the zone, happy things like oh he saw the bandits and saved the day, or he made an ally by chance who just happened to want to join his side, it sounds too much like a story (lol even though it is a story and thats the point of it.. sry :\)

i hope im not being too honest, i really love this story and would like to see more of it.
  18:24:03  14 August 2008
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Psynexus
Senior Resident
 

 
On forum: 04/15/2007
 

Message edited by:
Psynexus
08/14/2008 18:25:02
Messages: 490
Thanks for the feedback

Serensius - I'm glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for the feedback.

Zaphial - Thank you. I remember you as well. After most of the Redux team moved on I took a break from Stalker and upon coming back saw the 2 new top mods AMK and OL. I switched between both for a while (yes, I am a Stalkerholic), and now I'm all about OL.

Clear Sky is only weeks away so my inspiration for the story has returned. Kany has helped with that also by making a great mod that brings how I see the Zone into the light.

odyseus - When I've played Stalker, the Flesh's tend to "home in" on me faster and more precisely than the Boars who just run, charge, and miss easily. But in my story, everything is more deadly than in the game too.

As for the PDAs, since it started out as a short story I didn't bother with the detail, so here's what happened: Sidorvich provides all new Stalkers with them so he can track them down and reclaim any merchandise in case they get killed. It's a service to both Stalkers and himself.

Yes, it does sound a bit like a story, because I think that's what it's becoming. Part 3 laid down some background for character development and also worked as a transition to the real shit that's coming up. It was necessary to have a calm before the storm.

I hope that cleared everything up. Thanks to everyone who followed up. Expect Part 4 soon
 
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