T.R.O.T.T.E.R. Shadow of Everfree

by DancingOnTheAshes


It was a dark and stormy night, as most nights are at the edge of the Zone, and in a nondescript clearing waited a lone unicorn. He was clad in a dark flowing robe that seemed to melt into the foliage as it rippled in the night wind. His only armament, all he needed, was a small pistol loaded with 9mm NETO hollowpoints. It wasn't much, but then... he never entered the Zone proper, he just took people there. The occasional vermin in the pathways were easily dispatched... usually.

His ears twitched as the leaves rustled unnaturally. With blinding speed, he spun, pistol raised and hammer cocked back. "Who's there?" He demanded, not an ounce of worry in his voice, only steely determination.

"I-it's me... Lo-" The newcomer began before being cut off.

"Don't. Telling me your real name is very bad for both our healths... You the newbie?" The hooded unicorn took his magic from the trigger of the hovering pistol, but didn't lower the weapon.

"Uhm... yeah." The Newbie admitted, sounding less than glad at the moniker. "Although, the moon was supposed to be up, so that we could make our way by the gibbous light." The voice was stilted, and the tone yelled that this was a code phrase to anypony with half a brain.

The ferrypony sighed and shook his head. This punk wasn't going to last more than a day, less maybe. "There's no gibbous, only the crescent." Having exchanged coded phrases, the two relaxed, and the small pistol was lowered.

The more experienced pony took this opportunity to examine the newcomer by the light of his horn. He appeared to be male (although it was hard to tell in the low light), earth pony, and maybe twenty to twenty five years of age. Rust colored and wearing a black crew-cut, with a short cut tail... Good, he had read his homework; Long flowing manes and tails got you killed in the zone when they snagged on something... or set off an anomaly.

The ferrypony's eyes drifted over the clothing and armaments; a tough full body leather suit with a flip up hood covered the slim frame, probably with a rubber bodysuit underneath and enchantments to handle the rough environment of the Zone. A full-face breathing mask hung around the neck with air-hoses leading to a filtration system on the back, simple design and not terribly hard to get a hold of for a civilian pony.

"Huh..." The older stallion was surprised as he took in the weaponry of the young buck. Two linked S.E.A.R.'s sat on either side of his body, fastened to the torso by a rifle harness. He whistled low in approval. "So, I see that you're not -completely- green."

The Standard Equestrian Army Rifle, or Sear as it is also known, is the standard rifle for the soldiers of the Equestrian army. It is known for its rugged mechanism, sleek and simple design, and the ability for extensive modification. It was, and after five years, still is the magnum opus of the Canterlot Gunsmiths. Chambered to take the standard 5.56mm NETO, it can be altered with different barrels to work as close combat carbine, low to mid range rifle, and mid range sniper rifle, all of this with items that can be carried in a simple soft case in the soldiers saddlebags.

The young buck scratched the back of his head with a hoof. "Heh, I guess... I read everything I could get a hold of about the zone..." Which wasn't much, those who made it out didn't in general discuss what happened in there.

As he set the hoof back down, the ferrypony saw the pistol by his fetlock. Oh bother, as if a pistol would do him any good. He stole a quick glance at the other hoof; and it wore a broad bladed and spring loaded knife, simple construction and old army issue, and nearly noiseless if the mechanism was greased.

"Well, you got the payment?" The cloaked pony asked, a bit impatiently.

The inexperienced buck blinked. "Huh? Oh, yeah... here." With little fuss, he dug around in his pockets and brought out a small bag and tossed it towards the ferrypony, who deftly caught it in his hoof.

"Right, let's see..." He opened the bag and examined the extremely rare gemstones within using a jewelers' loupe. "Seems to be the right amount, and I take artifacts as the return payment." This was the usual offer, and not many returned to take him up on it.

"Oh, okay... soo... how do we..." The buck looked around uncertainly, hoping that the way in was relatively safe.

"Easy." The ferrypony said as he put the bag of gemstones in a pocket of his robe and the loupe in another. "We go by sewer."

"Sewer? Aren't those sealed off?" The earth pony tilted his head, and gave the cloaked unicorn a dubious look.

The equine smuggler noted that the young pony had very sharp angles to his face. The hooded stallion didn't reply, he simply let his magic flow and triangulated on the spot where he remembered the old pipes to be.

With a brilliant white flash, the two ponies vanished into thin air, leaving the grove of trees empty apart from the howling of the wind.

This story is entirely fictional, and based on the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. games and the 1979 Russian film Stalker. I am, as of writing, reading the novel Roadside Picnic, the source inspiration for both the movie, and the original 2007 game.