• Published 8th Dec 2012
  • 4,895 Views, 167 Comments

The Zone - Rostok



This is a story of what happens when inhabitants of Equestria are shown a wasteland of decay, depravity, sadness and death. A S.T.A.L.K.E.R crossover. An experienced stalker and wanderer is teleported far, far away into a land of happiness and joy.

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1: Discovery

Garry and the girls wandered through Pripyat, heading west, towards the center. He was devastated by the demise of Giant. He had barely spoken, only to give tersely worded orders and instructions. It was clear that they were in shock from the appearance of the mutilated stalker. He saw the fear in their eyes every time he looked at them. Even stubborn Rainbow Dash and level-headed Zecora were shaken up heavily. Nothing had troubled them, except for a lone snork. It had leapt towards them, seeing an easy meal. The four women screamed. He swung the butt of his rifle, slamming it in it's torso as it landed on him. Rolling on top of it, he held it down, pressing on the monster's torn visage with his sniper-rifle. Pulling out his knife, he drove it into the thing's skull, to the hilt. The four ponies stood there watching, as he utterly destroyed the mutated beast of the soldier, annihilating it's head and neck entirely. He was a changed man. After that the four had stayed silent as well.

=

Hiker looked down on the small village. According to the sign on entrance, it was called Haysborough. Bloody pun-based names. Murk was starting a fire, and preparing a shelter while he went out to check out the village. All they had were sharpened lengths of wood, crude spears. Still, enough to fend off anything Equestria had to offer, hopefully. The ponies didn't seem like they were preyed on anything. Below him, life went on for the equines, going about their daily business. He headed back to camp, dejected. What was there to do?

=

It was late afternoon in Pripyat. They were stood at one edge of the large central courtyard in front of the theatre. The long-worn remains of some statue stood before them, surrounded by gravitational anomalies. Garry held up a hand to the others, stopping them as he walked in between them, snaking a path across the cracked and overgrown concrete slabs. At the feet of the statue there was a long, low pile of earth, covered with weeds and headed by a cross. On a little makeshift metal plaque, a few short inscriptions were carved:

Fang, seems like even the Zone does not relent for it's toughest stalker. Rest in peace, brother. Ghost”

“I'm on my way Fang, to get past that locked door. To find the truth. It's just me left now, Ghost is dead, Doctor is too old for these things now. I wonder if anyone will ever remember us, and the way we held the Zone at our mercy, if only for a while. The path ahead gets ever darker, ever more dangerous, and I know that whatever happens, I expect not to return. All I can hope for is an answer, before the end, as we all did. I'll let you both know soon when I see you. Strelok”

Garry stood there, in front of the grave for a while, in reflection. The little cross was a historic turning point in the Zone. After Strelok penetrated the NPP to the core, the Zone had spiraled slowly down and down into darkness and anarchy. The time of the stalkers, and their artifact hunting and wars and adventures and lives and deaths was in it's twilight hours. How many months before they were gone completely, defeated by the Zone's defense mechanisms. He made his way back to the other four.

“That small grave belonged to a legend among stalkers. One of the trio who reached the power plant and lived to tell the tale.”

“Well, how come he's dead then?” asked Rainbow

“It was as if they were cursed by the journey, for they were split and all but Strelok killed, The Zone is a sentient being, with machinations beyond human comprehension.”

“Yeah right. Even I don't believe that” replied Twilight. She looked highly skeptical.

“I am deadly serious. There is hard evidence, buried deep inside the dark laboratories of the Zone. They built something, something with a mind. Strelok met it in person apparently, according to an intelligence officer that infiltrated the Zone as a stalker that met him.”

“Are you crazy? You can't just simply create a sentient being out of nothing but a radiation filled wasteland. I find your version of events hard to believe.”

“From what I have heard and seen over the years, they didn't just create it out of nothing. There was something among the documents that hinted at a human conscience, maybe more than one. Whatever it is, there is something at the heart of the Zone beyond the radiological waste and hoards of artifacts that people dream of, that the scientists built.”

“Whatever it is Garry, can we please move on? I do not wish to linger in this cold city.” asked Luna.

“You are right. We should go.”

He led them on, through the shattered bones of the ancient Soviet city.

==

Hiker and Murk sat by the fire, tearing chunks out of a loaf of bread and slowly cooking a rabbit, skinned and attached to a spit. Their raid on the village had been lucrative. With a small lean-to shelter made of branches and copious leaves and foliage, and a small fire pit with logs to sit on, they had somewhere to call home in this alien land.

“How did you get the bread in the end, Hiker? Was it easy lifting it from one of those thing's shops?”

“To be honest, all I had to do was go round the backs of the houses, then out onto the street into the bakery. It was as dead as a graveyard, not a soul in sight for the whole time I was there. The door wasn't even locked, it was practically an invitation...”

As they sat regaling memories, the night sky of Equestria lay dull and unimaginative compared to the glorious day, telltale of Luna's absence, leaving the moon hovering motionless and small. All around them, strange animals roamed the night, calling to each other, the soundscape the antithesis to the silence of the Zone night that would be broken by howls and distant screams. Nearby, a family lay sobbing and weeping at the hooves of a young mare; a family of rabbits robbed of their father.

The mare held them and comforted them, trying desperately to understand their frantic gestures and cries. In the woods, down a track leading away from the village, she saw a plume of smoke rising. She slowly rose, and left the rabbits to their mourning, heading towards the smoke with baited breath, trying to calm the hammer in her heart. As the path rose, a glow lit the trees ahead of her, and voices rose over the sounds of the night. She crawled to the bushes covering the glow. Two green, gangly monsters sat in discussion over their meal, the poor father rabbit. Seeing the charred animal being so cruelly eaten, she retched, the odour of burnt flesh invading her muzzle. She turned to one side, letting her rebelling stomach get the better of her. She crawled back out, determined to get justice for the poor, helpless rabbits.

==

As the sky above them began to clear, Garry stopped by a road intersection. He pulled out his PDA. Looking intently at the map. The others drew up behind him.

“Why've we stopped? Are you lost or something, human?”

Garry looked around angrily at her. “No, Rainbow Dash, I am trying to decide which way we take. West leads to Yanov Station and Jupiter, South towards Rostok and the Army Warehouses, through the Radar. Neither way is particularly easy, and everything really depends on what you four want out of this casual little jaunt into one of the most dangerous places on the planet. If we go West to Yanov, you won't learn all that much, there's shit all there. It's a frontier for most stalkers, and too dangerous for most traders and dealers. Go South, and you'll get all you need and more from Barkeep at the Bar. However, the rest of the Zone will end up probably knowing just as much about you, whether you like it or not. Feel free to chose yourselves if you think you know better.”

“Let us think on this, Garry. This is a most important decision.”

Luna led the rest of the transformed ponies into a huddle, muttering and murmuring, clearly not trusting their guide with their silly, ill thought-out plans. He wanted no truck with it. All he wished for was a safe bed, a cool vodka and company of his own species for once. The inhuman idioms of the four women unnerved him, and only Zecora truly treated him with respect and tact.

He looked to the west, towards Yanov and the area around Jupiter. To get there they had to cross the foetid, stinking canal that separated it from Pripyat, on a makeshift bridge of junk and waste that led through the chemical anomalies. It was a nasty route, for sure, but unfortunately it was the only one available that led between the City and the countryside in that direction. The small rail tunnel nearby the crossing provided respite for travelers. He turned back to the ponies.

“Lead us West, to this Yanov.”

==

Every day began to gain a routine for the two out of place stalkers in rural Equestria. Each morning they would set out into the woods, foraging for berries and fruit, trapping for animals. Though easy at first, the rabbits and other creatures became ever more wary of the pair, running at the sight of them, even trying in vain to repel them by throwing small stones and sticks. They were quickly becoming an unviable source of food. Thankfully tracks of something larger were etched into the mud of the forest floor. Hunting something possibly edible was a welcome change from the irradiated mutated flesh of the Zone's wildlife. They hadn't been spotted by any ponies, thankfully, but they couldn't be too careful, living so close to the village. They'd refrained from stealing too much more food; getting caught didn't bear thinking about.

==

Leafy Glades had always enjoyed searching for the company of the animals, feeding them in the snowy depths of winter, watching their young ones in spring. But now they came to her, some teary-eyed and sobbing from loss of family to the monsters, others bereft of homes, all affected by the two creatures that had taken up residence in the woods surrounding Haysborough. Bread had been stolen from the baker, cloth and blankets from the local clothes maker, and only she knew what was behind it all.

Action needed to be taken.

==

The five made their way down to the edge of the canal. Garry paused at the water's edge, looking for a path through the muck. The others lined up behind up, casting long shadows in the still evening air laced with noxious fumes. As they watched, he produced his hand-held detector, panning around.

“Hey, Garry, are we going anywhere? Can't me and the Princess just fly across?”

Garry looked back at them ruefully.

“Feel free, just stay close, and please don't go above the ridge. I'd so hate anyone taking pot-shots at you.” he replied sarcastically, returning to searching for a path as the two winged women prepared for flight. All around the tall reeds obscured his vision, setting his nerves on edge. The Zone was outright lethal now, a far cry from the early days when one could walk without fear from the cordon all the way to the Barrier.

As the sun dipped below the horizon, he led the remaining two out onto a long concrete tube, traversing the acidic swamp water to a mound of earth leading to the other side. In the distance sat Luna and Rainbow Dash, giving encouragement and support to their two comrades behind him. Balancing carefully, he jogged on ahead, when a low, distant roar shattered the early evening silence. The two on the bank shot to their feet, as Garry, Twilight and Zecora sprinted for the safety of the canal-side. As the others rushed up the bank to safety, Garry unslung his Vintorez, heart beating, looking for the creature that was following them.

There was none, not even the rustling and shimmering of a bloodsucker.

He turned and ran for the others, waiting for him at the top, practically shaking with fear.

“What in Celestia's name was that Garry?” asked Twilight quietly.

They stood on an old railway track, leading round the huge quarry that dominated eastern Yanov.

“No idea, all I know is that we need to get to the station now. No time for rest.”

He took a pace forward, then abruptly stopped. The others stood on, perplexed.

“Erm, are we going Garry? You said this place was dangerous...”

He stood there, binoculars against his eyes, looking over the quarry into the murky twilight of the dusk. He stayed there, stock still, lowering his binoculars, and pointed towards a flashing lump on the horizon. Quiet cracks and bangs pierced the air.

“Change of plan. That building under attack is Yanov Station, the only safe-house within reach before all the nasty shit comes out in the night. Something bad must be happening, it's a no fire Zone. Come!” He looked south, towards a tunnel down the railway line. “We'll have to camp out there instead.”

==

Leafy sat dejectedly in her room, over-looking the main street of the little village of Haysborough. Her teacher had accused her of telling stories when she had brought up the monsters in school that morning. No one had believed her, even though it was true! Why wasn't life fair? She would have to wait for these monsters herself, even if it meant not sleeping...

After a week of tiring nights, all thoughts of monsters were forgotten. The animals had slowly adapted to the disruption, and no more bread had been stolen. She was beginning to think she'd imagined them. She sat staring out of the window, thoughts wandering aimlessly in the spring warmth. Outside, spots appeared in the sky, approaching slowly. Pegasi. She squealed in delight, peering for a closer look. Haysborough had always been purely a unicorn and earth pony settlement, being so far from Cloudsdale and the other floating cities. She ran down to the front door, out into the street for a better look. Rats of sunlight glinted from shining armour and helmets: they were Royal Guards, their experience shown by their sharp spears and proud scars of battle. As they landed, ponies from all over the town rushed out to meet them, greeting the rarely seen presence of the Royals. The leader of the group, a tall bronze-haired rough-looking stallion, held up a hoof with a document, quieting the crowds.

“The Royal Guard is tracking two highly dangerous beasts that escaped in the surrounding forests. They are tall, two legged animals, tail-less and mostly hairless, covering themselves in green cloths and skins. Anyone with information on them is asked to come forward to help us find the creatures.”

In his hoof he held a rough sketch of the two things she had so almost disregarded. Now was her chance! She stepped towards the guards.