• Published 8th Dec 2012
  • 4,898 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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2: Itinerary

Central Ukraine, just inside the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone

Through breaks in the trees, the thin spire of the NPP was visible. The last hour, through the beginning of the exclusion zone, was a different sight to how it had looked mere months ago. All along the wooded, winding road, stalker and military camps were set up; ramshackle, their residents looking tired and fearful. As they had driven by, neither a single folk song sung by some musical stalker, nor the tradition rowdiness of the army grunts graced their ears.

The fact they were set up together, and not engaged in a firefight was a particular novelty. The thing other than fear they had in common was their direction, opposite to that of the two in the Jeep. They were fleeing the Zone. It was clear in their eyes. The Jeep's destination: the Cordon. The entrance to ‘the Zone proper’, it was a renowned place of relative safety for rookie stalkers, the location of the legendary Sidorovich, and the hub the loner stalkers came together to rest and restock. Now it seemed to be a refugee camp. Ahead, the group of low brick buildings on either side of the cracked road signalled journey’s end. They had reached the military checkpoint, the southern tip of the Zone.

Strelok and Degtayrev climbed out of the old military jeep they’d been travelling in for the last few days, taking in the sights and smells of the most dangerous place on the planet. In the back was an assortment of military survival kit and scavenged gear, almost enough to stock an army surplus store. It would probably all be needed for the Zone, though. To Strelok, it was home: the withered trees, the grey cloud, the fractured concrete, the state of perpetual decay.

Walking to the command hut, they garnered more than a few stares from the soldiers on watch, a tall man in full military stalker gear and a stalker in a sheer black SEVA suit, curtain hood up, with a sleek, silenced AK74 slung over one shoulder. They entered. The major behind the desk inside leapt up, practically running to meet them.

“Shit, that you Alexander? What the hell have you been up to since Fairway? It’s good to see you alive and well.”

The military stalker embraced the surprised officer.

“Good to see you to, Tarasov. We’re here on official business.”

He produced a sheaf of papers, handing them over. As he leafed through, Tarasov’s brow furrowed more and more.

“So, let me get this straight. You’re headed into the Zone to find out what pissed it off and I’m meant to give you whatever you need for the job?”

Degtayrev nodded.

“Let me just explain the situation to you in detail. I think you might be underestimating the state of things here just a little. Take a seat, you might need it. Oh, and no need for the hood Strelok. We’re safe here, hopefully.”

==

“First things first, the Zone is in so much trouble you wouldn’t believe it unless you saw it. Let me put in perspective, compared to the rest of the Zone, the Cordon is just as safe as ever. Thing is though, we have a barricade of trains, cars, crates, machinery and whatever junk we can find 10 feet high running along the whole length of the railway across the Cordon, and a fort inside the old cement works, manned by a team of sentries day and night. Every few hours, mutants come rushing towards it, kicking up a fuss, trying to break through and pull down our guys both stalker and military. Not just any mutants, there are snorks and bloodsuckers out in those woods now; we even get zombies occasionally. Any party that leaves the safety of the southern Cordon will barely make it to the checkpoint on the way to the garbage.

We have it easy. The few messages we've had from Rostok city in the north say that Duty and the stalkers up there are in an all-out war for survival just to keep the monsters at bay, with upwards of 50 zombified plus other snorks, fleshes and boars attacking every day. We got a broadcast from Freedom a few weeks ago, they're in pretty much the same situation, but low on men and ammo.

I don't think we've had a single report of stalkers alive anywhere but here or with those two factions. The Zone is fucked at the moment, as you can see I've started an evacuation effort but this place will get overrun without all these men to defend it. Your mission is suicide, even for you two.”

“Seriously? Surely there's more than just that. You can't just wipe out the majority of the stalker population in a matter of weeks, even with the turmoil.”

“Back when you were a military stalker, Degtayrev, maybe, but numbers were dropping before this anyway. It seems like the message that this place isn't nice reached the outside world at the same time a lot of the experienced guys gained a sense of self preservation. Now whole tracts of the Zone are uninhabited by humans, desolate of mutants too now that their food source left.”

A silence fell over the three of them. Outside, the cool evening air blew in through the shoddy patchwork of glass in the window. The light was fading; the few shadows cast by the murky sky were long along the ground. Strelok, previously silent in thought, looked up at the other two.


“Tarasov, you ever heard of Strider?”

'Yeah, vaguely, some small faction leader or something wasn't he?”

“Was?”

“Last I heard he was up in the Yantar area, and that was just before this shit-storm broke. The chances of him or his guys being alive are pretty slim.”

“True, maybe. You said that most of the Zone's deserted now?”

“Yeah?”

“Get out your map, I've got the beginnings of a plan.”

Tarasov unwrapped his moth-bitten map of the exclusion zone, spreading it wide across the table, knocking shot glasses and rifle mags out of the way.

“According to Guide, there was a tunnel through the hills just up to the west of here, leading to the Swamps.”

“That thing? I thought it was blocked, we've had mutants come from every direction but there?”

“Did you ever check?”

“No, not really, they stretch for miles without lights. I'm not risking my boys in that.”

“Assuming it's open, we head through there. Guide said the swamps were barren, never even settled by stalkers from what he saw of them. I'm guessing there are barely any mutants there either. From there, we make our way up through the swamps, over the railway to the north towards Agroprom. From what you say, that'll likely be deserted too, stalkers left there after the Spetznaz moved in to clear them out. We can continue north through there, all the way to the Yantar. Hopefully, we'll find Strider there, maybe Kulgrov as well.”

“Do you really expect them to be alive that much? I wouldn't bet more than a ruble on it.”

“No offence to you or your men, Tarasov, but Strider and his squad are probably better fighters than all your army of rookie stalkers and green as grass soldiers combined. If anyone is left alive in the Zone, it'd be them. Even if they aren't there, we need to head north. I think we all know that the root of this problem is that way.”

“You're right about that, without a doubt. I know it's a lot to ask, but can we please take some of that pile of kit you bought. You'll need to travel light to stay ahead of the Zone's menaces, and all we have is scavenged rubbish. There hasn't been a supply truck in months.

“Fair enough, but make sure to put a good word in with barkeep if you get a message to him.”

“Thanks man, I'll set you up with quarters for the night.”

==

Pripyat City

Yar looked over his handiwork, impressed, despite the rough and ready nature of the job, and the shoddy materials. Still, it was the first of its kind he'd done extensive work on. Not every day did one get the opportunity to work on a whole building?

Living in Pripyat was strange nowadays. With the emissions happening every few hours now, all the mutants and Monolithians had fled, leaving behind the ghost city unperturbed as before. With not much else to do but scavenge supplies, he'd tinkered here and there, blocking off lower windows, creating a dedicated store-room, even shifting a ratty old bed from the department store to the south all the way up over a few days. With the capacitative cable system he had set up all over the roof leeching power from electro anomalies, basic lighting was now up and running. Still, he'd been alone for weeks now. At least he didn't talk to himself. Much. Yet.

=

“Sure you won't stay longer? The rookies could do with learning from a truly experienced stalker.”

“We can't Major, this crisis needs to be ended, and sitting in safety isn't the answer.”

“Well, make sure you come back in one piece, enough of the best have died already.”

Looking back at the middle-aged soldier standing on the watch-tower, Strelok lead Degtayrev up the hill west of the base, strewn with boulders and fallen trees. Visible in the distance above was an overgrown concrete opening, the way to the swamps. As they approached the entrance, a feeling of foreboding overtook him. Pitch black darkness loomed inside; the floor of the tunnel was littered with all sorts of assorted debris and junk, even a few rusted trucks could be seen in the darkness.

“Remember. The Zone is different now, who knows what's down there, stay alert. It's roughly 4 kilometers to the exit to the swamps according to the map.”

“If I didn't know better, I would say doing something like this would be certain death Strelok”

“What is it then?”

“Almost certain death.”

Strelok looked at him with a reproachful look.

“Stop being such a girl, Alex. I'm sure the bloodsuckers are as afraid of you as you are of them.”

He promptly walked into the tunnel, disappearing into the darkness.

“Bitch”

The military man jogged after him.

==

Some hours later

Strelok held up a fist, stopping dead. Degtayrev paused behind him. The way ahead was blocked completely by a military flatbed truck jack-knifed across the whole tunnel.

“What are-'

Strelok swiftly held up a finger in a 'shush' gesture, and cupped his hand by the side of his head. As Degtayrev's ears accustomed to the silence, a low rustle became ever more audible. He looked back at Strelok. He shrugged, pulling a knife and a PSO scope from pouches at his hips. Approaching the upturned bed of the truck, he jabbed the blade between two rotten boards, and slowly twisted, forcing them apart until he could fit the scope through.

Degtayrev waited, time slowing from the numbing quiet and cold of the underground. Eventually Strelok stepped back, motioning him to have a look through. Removing his helmet, he pressed his eye to the lens.

Ahead of the truck in the tunnel lay a small recess, a rest stop midway by the looks of it, lit by the flashes of a lone electro anomaly. To the side of it lay a skeleton, dressed in strange blue flecktan fatigues, the bones of his lifeless hand still wrapped around the trigger of off his rifle. Lying next to it was a lone snork, thin beyond belief, crawling around helplessly. A dark doorway was visible next to it. Apart from the quiet laboured breathing of the snork, all was silent.

Strelok carefully cut the spyhole wider and took aim with his silenced AK74, letting out a burst of muffled shots, tearing through the dying snork. It lay lifeless and crumpled, surrounded by flecks of brown-red blood. Everything was still. Nothing burst out from the dark corners or the doorway. Pulling the barrel of his gun back out from the small hole in the back of the upturned truck, he quietly walked towards the cab end, hauling himself up to the small gap between the truck and the ceiling. He squeezed through gently, dragging his rucksack down behind him.

As Degtayrev did the same, he wandered over to the skeleton, digging through it's pockets, pulling out empty mags and half-used first aid supplies. As Alex arrived next to him, he asked,
“You ever seen these colours before Strelok? They don't belong to any faction, I swear.”

“They.... look familiar, and they certainly belong to a faction, but... there almost seems to be a dark cloud over my memory, There must have been a badge somewhere, but with all these rips and tears, who knows. Part of me screams at it being important, but the rest just dismisses it as another dead- aha!”

As he was speaking, he slipped a slim PDA from a small opening in the side of the Kevlar chest plate it was wearing, and slipped it into his pocket.

“Before we go, since we're not coming back. Sometimes you find amazing things in the undiscovered corners of the Zone.”

He strode over to the dark doorway in the side of the recess that the lone stalker was presumably guarding, raising his machine gun. Degtayrev watched as he stepped inside. With barely a sound, he was suddenly thrust upwards back out of the room, suspended in the air as if by an invisible string, his arms clawing at the air in front of him. As Strelok grunted in pain, the bloodsucker materialized, pulling him in closer to it's outstretched maw.

In a flash, Degtayrev ripped his handgun from it's holster, putting a bullet into the bloodsucker's skull, blasting it lifeless to the ground. Strelok fell next to it, scrambling for his AK as another rushed through the doorway. Degtayrev emptied more rounds into it's back, punching bloody holes in it's torso until he felt it click empty. As he reached for his rifle, Strelok sprayed the third with submachine gun fire, hitting it square on as it leapt at him, it's corpse landing on him. Degtayrev stood there, Abakan poised to fire, waiting for another. None came.

“Get this thing off me will you. It fucking stinks.”

Wordlessly they grabbed their kit and jogged deeper into the tunnel, leaving the blue-clad stalker to his mysteries, weapons very firmly in hand now. Behind them their shadows writhed and contorted in the chaotic light of the distant electro anomaly.

==

Yar was stumped. All the Monolithians had vanished. Not just from central Pripyat; that had happened a while ago, but as the weeks went by and the situation deteriorated more and more, even the strange radio signals channelled by their pylons of trash had gotten weaker and eventually stopped altogether. Over the last few days he had plucked up the courage and visited what was their headquarters: the Pripyat theatre.

On the back wall of the stage, now smeared and barely legible words of blood over a meter tall read “Because it wills it” Underneath, in much clearer white paint someone had written “WE ARE ALONE! IT HAS ABANDONED US! WE ARE FORESAKEN!” The odd discoveries did not end there. In the rooms underneath, presumably their command bunker, a single sheet of paper was left on a desk, quite clearly written in sporadic bursts, the age and colour of each sentence different to the next.

Not stopping to read it, he carefully stowed it inside his sack and moved on. Then, a whole storeroom, full of spare ammunition and explosives. Things were still stowed neatly. Another note, much shorter than the other simply read: “To any brother reading this; take what you need and leave. there is no place for us here any longer.” Stocking up on sniper rounds, he left. The rest of the building was empty.

Trudging back through Pripyat, he kept his SVD loaded, in hand. Only twice in the last month had he seen mutants here. Once was a swarm of Tushanka, more than a hundred strong, fleeing southwards, presumably from the NPP. The other was what scared him. During one night the previous week, he had stayed up staring out the window of his top-storey barricaded safehouse. Looking down with a night-vision scope through the streets, he spotted movement. A huge, malformed creature strode through the central plaza, walking on two feet, almost 10 feet tall, vaguely resembling a bloodsucker. Zooming in further, he nearly retched. Spined protrusions jutted from it's back and shoulders, bloody and serrated. Most horribly, it clothed itself in the skins of men; faces stared out from it's body, ripped and torn. He had dubbed it the Headtaker after that.

Leaving such nasty thoughts behind, he clambered through the crumbling building that housed his safe-house, avoiding the complex traps he'd set up on every floor. By the time he reached home, the orange glow of the setting sun poured through his windows. Shutting the curtains and turning on a small lamp, he extracted the note he'd found.

It has stopped. It will not answer our prayers. This has never happened, not since I woke up to it's light. Why does it leave us afraid and helpless so? We are but young and willing acolytes, needing the tender guiding of a shepherd. Why did it forsake us. Does it seek to punish us? Every day it vents more and more anger and displeasure. Did we stray from it's guiding path of light? Did the infidels cause harm to it's glorious wonder? It twinkles to me, like the light of a little star, dying, dimming, decaying. Why do you dim little star. WHY? ARE WE NOT WORTHY OF YOUR BENEVOLENT LIGHT ANY LONGER?
Something else calls to me now, something from before my waking. It is safety, a place untouched by the poisonous clutches of both the infidels and our monolith. Somewhere forgotten in time. More and more brothers are falling back into their sleep, returning to the darkness. Do I, Charon, lead us, what is left of us, away from it's light. Dare I? I fear I must. It is turning on us. Betraying us. Once we were all in darkness, a time before this glorious brotherhood saw the light. This is the first step to turning our backs to it. Perhaps our destination is a symbol. A symbol that we can be changed. Maybe even be healed.
Monolith forgive me.

Author's Note:

And so it begins....

So, things are getting underway. Strelok's here, and he's looking for trouble. And the chapters are getting longer. :gasp:



More to follow.