• Published 8th Dec 2012
  • 4,832 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: Ghost City

Hiker jerked and stumbled as he appeared on a concrete surface. Looking up, the red trees of the Red Forest surrounded him in the distance on all sides, and by the look of it, it was early evening, as the sun shined weakly just above the horizon. He appeared to be in some old entrance area to the forest, judging by the closed, rusted gates and tourist info board leading into the forest. He wouldn't be going in there anytime soon. Turning round, a tall brick tower stood undamaged behind him, surrounded by the junk of the Zone. He breathed in the bracing, cold air, savouring the moment.

His reverie was broken by a voice.

“So, uh, this is your world then? It looks kinda shabby tah me.”

Looking around, it was Applejack talking, in an almost predictable American drawl. Both her and Twilight were staring at the ruined cars, rusted metal and derelict walls, all slowly being overtaken by the woods. Twilight spoke this time:

“How come all of this is ruined? Does no one look after this place?”

“This is the Zone, all of this was abandoned decades ago, and the weather and plants set to work making it their own, there's nothing anyone can really do.”

“Where are we?” Twilight again. She seemed to have quite the thirst for knowledge.

“No idea. Not where I left from, that's certain. Also please don't wander, you won't feel or see radiation pockets, and I would hate for you to die slowly and painfully from radiation sickness. Even a small dose, untreated will slowly degrade your body over time.“

The ponies stayed silent, coming to terms with what they were getting into. The sudden chirping of his PDA rang through the evening air.

“Hey, Hiker, you made it out of the Space Bubble. You've been gone for days. I honestly thought the emission had caught you. You're one lucky bastard, you are. Apparently you're right outside my tower, so come inside and we'll have a chat over some vodka, you probably need it after a trek through the forest. I would come down to greet you myself, but I'm an old man, and the stairs get harder by the day.”

Hiker wandered over to the door at the base of the tower, slowly opening it. Inside was brightly lit, illuminating a set of iron stair leading up to a single room above, and across from them was a small antechamber with lockers and sleeping rolls. He gestured for the ponies to come inside, letting them get comfortable on the old moth-eaten bedrolls. He ascended the stairs, entering the room.

An old, weather-beaten man sat in one corner, across from a small stove. All around the room hung the heads of all sorts of dangerous and rare mutants, from bloodsuckers to psy-dogs. This man was no slouch.

“Come in, have a seat. I've been dying to hear your tales of how you reached the forest, and got yourself out of that Space Bubble.”

Forester handed him a vodka, pulling out a chair for him.

“It all began the day before I entered the Space Bubble, as I crossed the Barrier. I was heading north, searching for loot on the NPP road..."

They chatted for an hour or so, regaling his rough adventure on the way to the Red Forest. According to Forester, the roads to the forest had been closed since 2011, after a mercenary by the name of 'Scar' had pursued Strelok all the way into the power plant, triggering a massive emission, presumably the one that had made Strelok the infamous 'Marked One'. All the while though, the thought of trying to explain his impromptu visit to Equestria or whatever the ponies' land was daunted him. How would Forester react to his grudging companions? Eventually, he made up his mind. He had to tell him. He held the key of getting out of the Red Forest, and it would be impossible to get him and the ponies out without his help.

“So, Forester, how about I tell you about my time in the Space Bubble?”

“Go on young man, as I said, I would be very interested to hear how you escaped the looped space inside.”

“What if I said that I was transported to a world of talking, magical horse-creatures?”

“Bullshit. The Zone has done some strange things to your mind, my friend.”

“I'm deadly serious. I was even forced to take to back here with me, as their Princess, the one who returned me, wanted to research our world. They're downstairs.”

Forester sat there speechless. Hiker called out loudly:

“Twilight and Applejack, can you come up here a second?”

A muted grumbling emanated from below. Hoofsteps echoed on the rickety stairs. The two ponies, looking alien with their garishly coloured coats walked into the room. Both they and Forester were shocked, scrambling away from each other.

“It's fine, neither of you are planning on hurting each other, I hope. Forester, meet Twilight Sparkle and Applejack. This is Forester, the old caretaker of these woods. He means you no harm.”

They stared at each other for a moment, before Applejack warily made the first move.

“N... nice to meet you Mr. Forester”

“Likewise to you. Anyone's welcome in my old tower here. It's the safest place for miles.”

Forester turned to Hiker,

“Shit, I didn't expect them to be real. What happened when you got stuck in their world?”

“I took it badly to say the least. Anyway, Twilight and Applejack, see if you can get some sleep. This might be the last chance for days.”

The ponies trotted away, murmuring over their first interaction with another human.

“So, Hiker, what do you plan on next?”

“Getting out of here, probably. I don't particularly want to keep them so close the Red Forest, seeing how dangerous it is. Then again, where else is much safer for them?”

“Yeah, that's a good point. Though I'm too old to get you out of here myself. Since you won't be taking the route out you took in, I'll call a dear friend of mine, the only other guy who got here alive since the emission. Garry's his name; he brings me supplies every month. From what I've seen, he's the best guide in the Zone since Guide himself. Still, even he doesn't like the journey here.”

“Why's that?”

“The only way he found was through an abandoned service tunnel Southwest of here, blocked up when Strelok fled from Scar. However, there's a long ventilation shaft, big enough to walk down, that leads out of here.”

“Is that it?”

“Well, most of the other paths lead through the forest, and they're blocked by anomaly fields anyway. The only other ways out are South, along the road going through the Yantar factory.”

“Not nice, I've been round the edge of it before, gave a headache anywhere within sight of it.”

“Yeah, not nice at all. The only other over-land one is across the bridge at the entrance to the service tunnel, going into Limansk.”

“Limansk? Never heard of it.”

“It's an old town for workers at the local radar stations, though now I shudder to think what's there now. Scar, along with a whole faction went through Limansk to get to the NPP. Apparently, they had a full scale war going through there with the Monolithians, barely got through. Even those that did probably ended up in the Monolith themselves, after that emission. I wouldn't set a foot in that graveyard.”

“So, the service tunnel it is then.”

“That's it, leads straight into center of the city.”

“Seriously, you want me to go through Pripyat?”

“That's the only way, son. I'm not forcing you, but even so I can't support four here forever.”

“That's a lot to think on.”

“Have a sleep, we'll decide in the morning.”

Hiker had a difficult decision ahead of him. It was either go through the forests, and try to find the way in he took originally, that would almost certainly get one of the ponies wounded or killed, unprepared and inexperienced as they were. That, or lead them through Pripyat. He had only ever skirted round that ghost city, though it was enough to show that the tales were largely true. It was truly a ghost city, the streets were as dead as a graveyard. Yet looking harder, it revealed horrors. Even from nearly a mile away, looking through his binoculars, he could just about make out the hazy air disturbances of bloodsuckers hunting during broad daylight, bloodstains on another street all over the place, yet no signs of any remains or corpses and strange swirling, ethereal mists coming from one building. In the distance he had heard the indistinct sounds of a Monolith sermon. After seeing that, he had never wanted to return.

Between a trek through Pripyat and a trek through the Red Forest though, he chose Pripyat.

_________________________________________________________

As light streamed in through cracks in the window shutters, he woke to the sound of chopping. Startled, he clambered from his sleeping roll, quickly descending the stairs and pushing the outside door open. Forester was a short distance away, felling a tree. He wandered over, stretching in the cool morning air, watching the red rays of dawn shine through the red boughs of the surrounding forest. Forester turned to him,

“You're awake. Give and old man a hand, will you?”

Hiker took over, hacking away until the trunk buckled. Together they started to pull it away by the trunk, into the open by a toolshed.

“I contacted Garry last night, before I went to sleep, he should be arriving fairly soon. Apparently the recent emission had some strange effects, which doesn't bode well for your departure I'm afraid. He should call when he reaches the end of the tunnel, and we'll start out to meet him then.”

“What sort of effects?”

“He didn't say, that's what worries me. He's a hard man to scare, and must really worry him.”

As they talked, Applejack and Twilight emerged from the tower, bearing their kit. They approached, and Twilight stubbornly demanded to know everything there was to know about the Zone.

“If me and Applejack are going to be safe here, then we need to know about all the creatures and natural hazards you warned us were so bad.”
Hiker produced his PDA, pulling up a map of the Zone. Zooming closer onto the red blotch that was the Red Forest, he started,

“This is the part of Zone we are in now. To the north lies the city of Pripyat, and Chernobyl NPP itself. To the south lies Rostok, the Agroprom, the Cordon, Yantar and the Garbage, the safer areas that are more widely inhabited by stalkers. This area here, our location, is the Red Forest, renowned for its red plant life, caused by the dangerously high levels of radiation in the area.”

“Radiation?” Twilight interjected.

“The gamma radiation from the radioactive particles ejected from the reactor at power plant when it went into meltdown. Normal amounts are harmless, but going into a highly radioactive area will do nasty things to your body, causing its cells to mutate or die, slowly killing it off from the inside. The problem with radiation is that it is, as I said, undetectable by all but a special device, which all stalkers carry, that clicks in the presence of radiation, a Geiger counter. I'll find one for each of you as soon as possible.'

While he spoke, Forester brought out Hiker's rucksack, along with all sorts of bits and pieces of stalker hardware, from basic detectors to food and ammunition.

“The radiation also causes the other natural hazards in the Zone, things called anomalies. According to the scientists at the bunker down south, when the rads build up in an area, they can be converted in some form of energy or something. No one really understands how they exist, just that there are a few distinct types, and most are activated by disturbing them. The most obvious are Electro anomalies, areas of high static electricity for some reason, that discharge into the victim. They appear as contorted blue lightning flashes in the active area. Those are some there.”

He pointed to the old power-lines above them, wreathed in the electrostatic lightning.

“The next main ones are fire anomalies. They usually appear as an intense heat-haze above the ground in a small spot, they burst into flames if anything enters them. They are fairly easy to spot, if you have your wits about you.

After fire anomalies, chemical-based ones are the next most common. They only really occur in damp, wet places such as swamps, or underground. They usually take the form of a noxious greenish gas or slimy moss, and burn through armour and flesh nastily. Like fire and electro anomalies, they are pretty apparent to the observant.

The final, and worst kind are gravitational anomalies. They will quite literally rip you limb from limb, or crush you to a small ball with their extreme forces. Unfortunately, they will all suck you in quite readily, stopping you from sprinting past or jumping over them in an emergency. The fact that they are almost invisible is another problem. If you see the air rippling, as if it was water, or leaves and other debris being pulled from all directions in a vortex, then you've found a gravitational anomaly. I've seen a few people walk into them by accident in my time, just by not paying attention, and what came out wasn't pretty.”

Those things look mighty bad, human. Why'd you people go so near them anyway? Seems stupid to me.”

“Because, Applejack, only anomalies produce these.” He pulled out two of his artifacts from his belt pouches, holding them in each hand. He handed the Wrenched to the confused pony first, then the Gravi.

“What the hay? I feel lighter all of a sudden!”

“Many artifacts have strange and wondrous properties, in this case, the brown lumpy one, called a Gravi, reduces gravitational field strength or something according to the scientists, letting you carry more. The problem is, is that most of them emit radiation, so you really need another, rarer type to clear it out to balance the effects.”

Twilight, in her seemingly inexhaustible thirst for knowledge asked:

'What can all of these artifacts do then?”

“All sorts of things, from radiation reduction to resistance from things like fire and chemical burns, to accelerated healing and clotting. I don't have time to explain them all now, you need to know about the other danger of the Zone, its inhabitants.

All sorts of creatures can be found here, mutated by the radiation. The most common kinds are dogs, boars, and fleshes, god-knows what they were originally. They move around and hunt in packs, but thankfully don't actively hunt down humans to eat, though they will attack if they see you. As long as you keep a reasonable difference, you should be fine. There are worse things out there, but they're rare enough to leave for now.”

“What about other humans? You said they don't get along with each other.”

“Most don't. The two big groups, Duty and Freedom, shoot each other on sight. The mercenaries vary, some are hostile, others can be friendly, but all of them are ruthless. The bandits try to rob everyone and everything they see, and everyone else hates them for it, and the Monolithians, well, they kill everything that moves. Don't worry about them for the moment, the direction we're going, no stalker in their right mind dares to tread.”

“Sounds like a right friendly place.” said Applejack.

Forester approached.

“I hate to bring you little tutorial to an end, but we need to move soon. Hiker, here's some extra food and shotgun shells, you'll need them in Pripyat. For you ponies, I got you some old jackets to protect you from the elements, and basic anomaly and radiation detectors. Hopefully it'll all fit.”

“Thank you, it sounds like we need them from what Hiker was saying.”

“No problem my dear, Twilight was it? I don't need any of this old junk anymore anyway. We best be off.”

Hiker stood up, following the Forester to the rusted old gate, leading into the woods, as the ponies struggled to don their coats and bags. Forester unlocked the gate, propping it open and started inside. As he passed the threshold into the forest, his very gait changed into that of a hunter, as he produced a small sawn-off from his jacket. It was clear he knew how to survive in this dark, dank, deadly place.

They quietly walked through the woods, in single file, with Forester leading the way around radiation spots by instinct, past occasional anomalies, Both he and Hiker had their shotguns at the ready, ears pricked to the distant growls and barks to the east. Thankfully, the journey was uneventful, if not awkward, as they had to take regular detours through bushes and over rocks to avoid the radiation. According to Forester, the mutants were less active this early in the morning. Soon enough, they spotted a yellow brick wall up ahead, with a large gap smashed through it, showing grass outside.

They hurried toward it, clambering over the piles of old bricks, Stepping out of the forest, they were next to a large tunnel entrance, surrounded by old military vehicles and the remains of long gone stalker camps. Slowly spreading out, they walked further, Ahead of them was a huge steel girder bridge, leading across a small river gorge to a second tunnel on the other side. The tops of buildings were visible in the distance, just behind the hill with the tunnel. An old watchtower guarded the bridge. Splitting off from the rest, Forester went round, and up into the tower, as he was about to enter-

A man walked out of the top of the tower, with pale skin and slicked back brown hair. He was dressed in a green Sunrise suit, and carried a long rifle slung behind his back. This must be Garry, the man who found the way from Yanov station to Pripyat, among other things.

“Hello there Forester, what brings you here to need me now? The emission?”

“In a manner of speaking, yes. Let us go inside, and let my... companions rest here for a second.”

Hiker watched them go into the top of the tower, letting Twilight and Applejack sit and talk together. Listening, he could here short phrases here and there,

“What sort of creatures? I hope no dangerous!”

“-well, the stalker that found them was trapped in a space bubble-”

“Teleported! What?”

“-that but he has the evidence to prove it.”

“Pripyat, are you serious?”

“-the emission, the place has been deserted, Yar and his boys vanished, the Monolith sitting tight, minding their own business, hell I even found another-”

“Really?”

“Yeah, he seems trustworthy, if a bit detached.”

Hiker walked away. Something was obviously wrong in the Zone to trouble an expert like this so much. Looking round, he saw Forester and Garry coming out, looking serious.

Forester came forwards first.

“I'd better be off, and distract all those nasty things in the forest following you. Any of you, feel free to visit me. You're all welcome.”

As he wandered away, Garry spoke up next,

“Right, so, you are Twilight Sparkle and Applejack, is that right?”

“That's us.”

“Good. We'll be heading through that tunnel in a second. Follow me, and wait next to the entrance for the moment. Hiker, with me.”

He and Hiker slowly paced towards the small steel opening in the ruined road tunnel. Garry spoke under his breath,

“Get your shotgun out. I heard something in there when I came through a few hours ago, and it following me all the way here.”

Garry stepped inside first, quietly removing the scope from his VSS Vintorez, shouldering it. Hiker followed, pump-action at the ready. Inside, it was darker than night; Hiker thanked his night vision goggles, how Garry saw without them was a mystery. They treaded silently around the abandoned BTRs and trucks, looking for movement. As they rounded a toppled military jeep overlooking a small slope downwards, something scuffled the floor, echoing on the hard concrete. Both men tensed. Hiker looked round, straining to hear through his thick full-head mask, trying to see- WHAM!

He was knocked back by something slamming past him. Garry cried out, propelled backwards by a dark shape. Hiker snapped back up, spinning round to see Garry on the floor, pinned by a humanoid shape. He sprinted forwards, diving at it. The three of them went tumbling over, and Hiker landed on top of the beast, rolling onto its front. A Snork. It clawed at him, grabbing his face in its clawed hands, pulling him towards its face. Its blood-encrusted nails dug fruitlessly at the hard Perspex visor, scratching it. They wrestled and fought, one trying to escape, one trying to kill. The snork, as inhumanly strong as it was, couldn't shift the heavy man sprawled atop it, to get to less-armoured areas. Suddenly, Hiker was jerked backwards, as Garry slammed his rifle's barrel into the snork's baying mouth, unloading it into it' face. With every muffled thud of the suppressed rifle, parts of its head were turned to a red mist of gore and bone. Then, everything was quiet.

The silence was shattered.

“WHAT WAS THAT THING? WHY WOULD ANY PERSON DEGENERATE INTO SUCH ANIMAL?”

Twilight was getting hysterical, screaming and crying at the sight of the seemingly human snork try to eat both the stalkers, only to be brutally killed. Applejack was silent, horrified Garry was the first to respond,

“Twilight, that was a snork. That... abomination is worse than an animal, that was mercy compared to what things like that deserve-”

“JUST BECAUSE IT CAN'T CONTROL ITSELF, IT DOESN'T MEAN THAT IT DESERVED THAT BRUTALITY! THIS WHOLE WORLD ARE A BUNCH OF MINDLESS PREDTORS AND MORONIC BLOODTHIRSTY HUMANS. I DON'T EVEN KNOW WHICH ONE LIKES KILLING MORE! AGH!”

She vanished in a puff of purple smoke.

The three looked at each other.

“What just happened?” asked Hiker.

Applejack spoke, still shocked.

“She overreacted; she has a habit o' doing that. I don't think this expedition was a good idea for her anyways, let alone any of us. She'll be over it in a couple of days- Oh horseapples! She's gone an' left me behind here! Stupid filly! Now I'm stuck here 'till she gets the courage to come get me. I'm not even meant to do the research; jus' help her live rough and protect her. What am I gonna do?”

''Follow me. As I said.” Garry again. “We have to move now. I don't want any more mutants getting in here, or we won't get out alive. All we can do is continue up the tunnel.”

He motioned to them to follow him, and he led them through the long, dark road tunnels to a small doorway, illuminated by a dim sodium lamp. Fiddling with some keys, he eventually forced it open. Ahead lay a thin, long passage, barely wide enough for one man. There were no lights.

“Hiker, take point. I'll stay at the back and lock up. Just go straight ahead, there's no side passages. You'll come to the exit in about five kilometers.”

They started the arduous journey through the long dark of the only road to freedom.

______________________________________________________

Hiker stumbled, weary from the cramped march, face-first into the door. Recovering himself, he slammed the door open, revealing a small spiral staircase going up. The cold glow of the yellow lights stung his eyes, a welcome sight from the fuzzy night-vision he'd been using for the last hour and a half. Squeezing his body along a tight concrete corridor wasn't good for his body. He was about to ascend when Garry let out the first words since they'd set off.

'Wait here a second, you need to know some things before you go out there. First, Pripyat is the most dangerous area in the Zone, bar the NPP itself, as far as I can guess. There are things here that you just run from at the slightest suspicion of their existence. If I say to flee, just run, don't look back, get the fuck out of there.

Second, the emission a few days ago caused something major. All of the few groups of hardened veterans I knew that stayed here vanished overnight, without a trace. Many of those guys made me look like a rookie, and were kitted out like a tank with legs. That's bad. Of the Monolithians, large numbers vanished as well, and the rest are hiding, scared shitless by something. That's even worse. If the Monolith guys are scared, well, I don't even know what could happen. They don't even feel fear.

Thankfully, I picked up a hard-nut exoskeleton expert left out on his lonesome as a companion. Even stranger, this guy's ex-Monolith.”

“What?” said Hiker incredulously. “How do you become an ex-Monolithian? All they are are bloodthirsty brainwashed vegetables.”

“Ever meet Strider? He and his squad woke up with amnesia and Monolith gear, and an uncanny knack for survival. He was at Yanov a while back; he left with that Major Degtaryev to go to Pripyat. He had no idea what he'd done when he was brainwashed. Just woke up a crackshot sniper with only a Monolith SEVA and an SVU to his name. My guy's like that. Apparently he was with this scientist faction that went to the center a few years back, wore blue camo or something. Anyway, he's nearly 7 foot tall, in an exoskeleton with a special-forces rifle and a light machine gun. I'm not complaining.”

Both Applejack and Hiker (under his visor) looked daunted.

“Enough chit-chat I'm afraid, it doesn't bode well to linger underground.”

They ascended, into the corner of an old underground car-park. A giant of a man, sitting next to a small brazier in barrel looked up at them. His chest was covered in thick Kevlar plates, arms and legs rigged with steel struts and hydraulics and on his head he wore the distinctive, skeletal mask of the exoskeleton. Outside, through the opening, the grey, cloudy skies were pierced by the decaying, decrepit apartment blocks and towers of Pripyat. Muffled words came from the giant by the fire.

“Welcome to the Ghost City, friends.”