The OSS put me on the mission. I guess it was because when I retired I went into the zone to seek my fortune. I didn’t find it, to be blunt, and went back to the OSS. Now I’m chasing these five crashed choppers.
Zaton: swampy river between two limestone ranges. The Volga is almost dry at the moment.
I make my way through a cloudy morning with soft breeze and gently swaying grasses to see the area before me. According to the PDA three choppers are crashed in this area.
A scan of the area to my south with binoculars picks up some movement. The optic system frames the movement and frames it to indicate distance. About 200metres away there are some trees where two stalkers are resting. I approach and one, probably senior since he’s decked out with better kit than his comrade, waves me over. We chat briefly, guarded, hands carefully staying away from our weapons.
"Heard some choppers crashed recently."
"Yeah. I saw one go down into the Iron Forest; a power substation. There’s a poltergeist in there. Likes to force its victims into the electric anomalies. I doubt anyone survived that crash."
"You should go to Shedovsk. Its that barge to the south. There’s a friendly camp there and a safe place. Traders, a technician, booze and even a doctor, although they call him Tremor. Hahah."
"Will do. What are you doing here?" I ask, meaning at this time.
"Never you mind." He answers and I take my cue to leave.
The farm looks like its been ravage by anomalies. Probably some artifacts. I should head over, try find a rad-dampener, or at least something to sell for a better weapon than this AKSU. Off I go, taking it easy, keeping quiet.
My neck prickles and a giant hog mutant is grunting as it attacks some stalkers. Unwilling to fire into their melee I approach.A flesh, those ugly cowardly things that look like man-pigs with long twisted legs, also attacks in support of the hog. The stalker in the hiking jacket goes down. I am about to fire when the other stalker takes out the flesh. Then the hog takes him down and he moans as he falls. The hog comes straight for me but it’s limping. I finish it with my Honorary PMm.
No time for sentiments so I loot the bodies and find some ammo, med-gear, rad-recovery and bandages. Quickly, I leave the scene, heading towards the burning farmhouse. I’ve got an ECHO detector and figure I’ll see if there are any artifacts.
I’m cautious. I still think that the zone is the deadliest place on Earth. Heading up the hill I come at the farmhouse from the north where it is less exposed. As I close on it the heat-haze shimmers and currents of hot air flick embers about. It makes me breathe faster and I struggle to keep relaxed enough to move quickly.
ECHO detector and bolts ready: picking my way into the anomalies I pick up a signal on the ECHO. Suddenly blind-dogs are growling and rushing me. They make it through the burners and don’t even get singed. I squeal in fright and open up on them with the AKSU. They try to circle me and I empty my magazine. No time to reload I whip out my knife but it rips into my leg then keeps running. There’s only one left and I lash out with the blade: the blind-dog yelps, whimpers and bleeds out in front of me. I struggle with the bandages. My hands are slick with blood.
A quick sit down and I’ll be okay. Damned I’m hungry. I chow down on some bread and diet sausage looted from the unfortunate stalkers. It’s pretty good but I’m so hungry anything would be good.
There’s a thunderclap and heavy rumbling. I didn’t notice any storm clouds. My PDA crackles with a broadcast.
"All stalkers in the area. There is an emission coming. Take cover. There is an emission coming."
What he really means is a blow-out. One of those rad-psi waves that kill most things caught in the open.
I look at the farmhouse but they’ve got no roofs. I head south towards the barge I saw earlier. My leg is still painful from the blind-dog’s snapping jaws. As I limp along I check the PDA and its map. Better run. I’m carrying too much. I drop the sawn-off and the battered AKSU. A tug is alongside the barge and there’s a plank leading on to the barge’s deck. I run up there. The sky is turning red and lightning is lashing the hill I was just standing on.
I’m not sure where to go. My Geiger counter is starting to sound like munching gravel it’s ticking so fast. I take some rad-recovery and run up to the bridge. The door is rusty and hard to open. My head is lolling to one side as I fall into the cabins behind the bridge. Someone swings the door shut and I hear the crows fall out of the sky as the blow-out rolls over us.