• Published 8th Dec 2012
  • 4,831 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: A Quick Sojourn

Garry awoke with a groan. When Murk arrived, saying everything went to shit would have been an understatement. He could barely remember what happened, other than being hit by a projectile of purple flames. He looked around him. He was in a large marble ballroom, with stylized statues of ponies in various corners, and various rugs and carpets which he, Hiker and Murk were lying, covered with blankets and sheets. In one corner, by a window, was a large table on which a jug of water, and various items of food stood; by the look of it, mostly things based on salad or hay. He looked back at the other two. Murk had large, twisted patch of scar tissue reaching around the back of his neck, and stretching down onto his back, with irregular, rough edges. By the shape of it, it resembled some strange bite mark. Suddenly, it occurred to him. Though wrapped in blankets, they were all naked.

At this his brain really started to work as he fashioned something to cover himself with. Where the hell were they? Not the Zone, that was as clear as glass. Not some stately palace, who could possibly have a room made entirely of polished, perfect marble? The statues must mean... they were in whatever strange world had spawned those ponies. He shuddered at the thought. They obviously eschewed clothes. He didn't ask for this. All he had done was help them, and now they had kidnapped him. So much for friendship-loving peaceful creatures. He slowly rose, and padded over to the window. Looking out, the view was breathtaking. Stretching far below him was a city, resembling a massive castle of marble. Tall, pristine white towers poked up from the skyline, and on the main streets minute quadrupedal figures went about their daily life. It was beautiful to say the least. Standing there, looking at the cleanness and order of the place made him feel calm, shrugging off the stress of life in the Zone.

Taking a sip of water, he took a closer look at the place they were in. The doorway on the opposite side of the room was ornate, inlaid with what must be gold, silver and a multitude of gemstones. It must have been cleared out in a hurry, what with the various sets of chairs, tables, chandeliers and other stately goods tucked to the sides of the room. No sign of their gear though. Looking along at the food, there was little appetizing there. Three kinds of salad, flowers, hay, various strange types of fruit. Eventually he picked an apple, one of the few things he recognised. As he bit into it, he noticed a small note, written in exquisite handwriting:

“Dear Humans ,

I realise that you are probably confused. Let me explain: you are in Equestria, our homeland. Please attempt to behave in a civil manner, as last time one of your kind was here, he caused much grief and pain, though due to extraneous circumstances he was not punished. His name was Hiker I believe, one of you three here now. We will come to you soon after you wake, so we can discuss matters further,

Princess Celestia, co-ruler of the kingdom of Equestria”

Alarmed, he quickly ran to the others and shook them awake, ignoring their protests for more sleep. Once they had gotten over the situation, (Hiker took it calmly, though clutching his scarred cheek in anxiety. This 'Murk' tried repeatedly to pinch himself to wake up until Hiker assured him that this was very much real) they relaxed noticeably. something was gnawing at Garry's mind though.

“Murk, were you the man with Leshiy and Yar at the Laundromat? I found Leshiy's skeleton, along with his PDA log.'

“What? He recorded the attack there? Thank god for that, I thought we'd be lost without a trace. To answer your question yes, I was. To answer your next question, I don't know what the thing was that attacked us, except that it was tall, bigger than any man, with strange, deformed black skin, and this bulbous head, warped and twisted, with tentacles like a 'sucker has. It's gotta be psychic too, my vision went blurry and weird when it got close. To answer your third question, me and Yar split up, to try and lose the thing after we escaped the building, and I have no idea where he is, but knowing Yar, somewhere safe, with a cool vodka and everywhere for miles around in the sights of his SVD.”

“That's no mutant I've ever seen, let alone heard of.”

“Trust me, that's what killed Leshiy. Didn't see how though, we were running faster than a sprinter on speed to get away from that thing. Poor guy. I'll tell you the full story later. It's a long one, that needs lots of stiff drinks with it. I don't think telling it while pretty much stark naked in an alien world of bloody talking horse-things will do it justice.”

Hiker spoke up

“Just so you know, they're called ponies, the ones with horns do magic, some can fly, they all abhor all violence, and they worship that crazy Princess thing that wrote the note. The lack of clothes was a problem last time I was here, surprised they didn't take the hint. I don't know if I trust them further than I can spit."

“What do we do? We haven't got a way back without them anyway, so... I guess we've got no choice.”

The door opened.

__

In walked the Princess, accompanied by the six ponies that were with her in the Zone, including Twilight and Applejack. They stood in a semi-circle around them, piercing them with their gaze. The imposing Princess looked as enigmatic as ever, yet the others still held the same fear that they had developed from first contact.

“Humans, I come here to talk with you. As you, Hiker, know, we have been trying to understand your culture and society, a feat largely unsuccessful in the initial expedition into your world, due to the fact that this 'Zone' is so secluded and removed from the rest of the world as you have described to us. To venture into your world as ponies would be folly, that is clear. What I propose is, in the guise of humans, to send a small group out to pick up information about you and your culture. I understand even sending them out of the deadzone you say the Zone is would risk our discovery, so it would be wise to remain within the Zone.”

“You're saying that you want to send out ponies again, just disguised as humans?” said Garry after a short pause.

“In essence, yes.”

“Well, I suppose it would work better. I'm not convinced.”

“From what we've analysed, it is clear that as humans, the ponies will stand a better chance of defending themselves, and will most obviously be much less conspicuous. As we speak, our scientists are trying to reverse engineer and recreate your equipment, and we plan to outfit all of those going with the best we can do.”

The three humans look at each other. Hiker nodded at Garry. He spoke again.

“It seems like this might actually stand a chance of working, with some luck. With a bit of preparation, we might e able to get you into the loop of finding info about us. What remains to be seen is the quality of the kit you produce, the quality of the disguises, whatever they are, and who's going. I assume just one or two, like last time.”

“To answer your questions, I will magically transform the ponies that volunteered into humans, using magical residue heritage samples to determine the nature of your biology. What you have to realise is that this is no illusion, they will be, for all intents and purposes, humans for a large amount of time. I will show you personally Garry who will be traveling with you, as the other two will stay, to help us here.”

Garry fell silent. The Princess gestured to him to follow Twilight, who was nearby the door, ready to lead him away. He slowly stood, and followed her, seeming almost dazed at being separated from the others. Stalkers didn't like to go it solo. Many a greedy or foolhardy person had vanished or died without anyone to help or go looking for him.

Hiker and Murk still sat there, unsure what to say, having just being told they would be confined to the alien world. The rest of the ponies left after Twilight and Garry, leaving them with the Princess.

“I do not mean you an harm, let me say that first. I only wish you to give us as much information as we can about your world, so we can decide whether to attempt to contact it and earn it's ways. In return you will be kept safe, fed and looked after in this city, and educated about our culture, to repay our gratitude. You are not prisoners.”

Murk looked up.

“Well Princess, we seem to have a while, so we might as well start of in the beginning, with some of the classic Greek myths I remember from when I was a child...”

__

Garry followed the ponies throughout the various passages, deeper into the castle, feeling very self-conscious, even with the blanket he had draped around him like a toga.

“Twilight?”

“Yes, what is it?”

“Do you realise that its considered indecent not to wear clothes in all human cultures?”

“Well, er, we assumed that all the things you wore were for protection, since wearing clothes is a largely cosmetic thing in pony society, but um, that seems quite obvious now...”

Garry sighed deeply. If anything, the major flaw of these creatures was their naivety, something completely alien in the cynical, sarcastic eyes of the assorted waste and neglected parts human that graced the Zone. Just the fundamental difference in outlook made the two races seem incompatible. Yet, who was he to judge? It was over a decade since he had lived in anywhere with a semblance of normality, years since he'd even stepped out of the Zone. It just kept calling to him, and every other stalker, the unnatural draw to the center, to the power plant itself. Strelok had felt that, and unlike almost every other, had lived to return. He had returned a changed man, both times he'd been. He remembered talking to the three of them, some of the best stalkers in the Zone's history, about to set out to make it. When they came back, they bore only unanswered questions, tales of locked doors. The youthful spark was gone from them, replaced by a dark determination.

Over the time afterwards, the Zone was almost successful in keeping its closely guarded secrets. Ghost died on a job that went badly wrong for the scientists, Fang killed after being left for dead in Pripyat, and abandoned alone there. Garry hadn't known any of the three that well, but he managed to find Fang's grave, despite it's lethal position in the courtyard directly in front of the Monolith headquarters in the city.

He knew little of what happened to Strelok when he had left for the second time, other than he became a Marked One, an agent of the mysterious C-Consciousness rumoured to exist. Little was known about the various Marked Ones in the Zone's history. Only two people had ever been found with the distinctive tattoo of S.T.A.L.K.E.R on the arm: Strelok and Strider. Their purpose was anyone's guess, though a loner by the name of Hermit had once told him about the speculation of the experiments that went on deep inside the Zone's underground labs.

Garry snapped back to reality. Before him stood two ponies, a midnight blue one, as tall and as regal as the Princess, along with a stocky Zebra, decorated with all sorts of African-style trinkets and bangles. Twilight turned to him, saying:

“We've assembled the four of us who are going to accompany you back. You know me, so let me introduce the others. To your left is Rainbow Dash, ahead of you is the zebra alchemist Zecora, and the royal Princess Luna.”

Garry stood there, thoroughly unenthused by the group.

“Hey.”

“The Princess and I thought it would be wise to transform now, to get used to our new bodies, considering where we're going. Can I also say that this has never been done before, so we don't quite know what will happen, but hopefully nothing bad, like getting bodies mixed up or only certain parts being transformed or-”

“Calm thyself, Twilight. Relax. Let us perform the spell.”

Twilight stepped forward, slowing her hyperventilating to stand in front of Luna. Out of each of their horns came a long, shining tendril of pure energy. Garry watched in amazement as the two met, and curled around each other, melding then splitting into four, each reaching out to one of the ponies in the room. As each approached, it widened, slowly encapsulating each pony in a bubble of magic, swirling and sparkling. Suddenly, a fifth leapt out of the join, flinging itself towards him, latching onto his arm. As the spell continued, each one slowly increased in size, audibly humming with power. In a flash, all four magical cocoons vanished, along with their tethers.

His jaw dropped. Out of each one, came a human. Stood before him were four women, all looking just as confused as he felt. They were no-where near normal however. Though their bodies and features where almost perfect, they had retained aspects of their previous appearances. Specifically, Luna's hair was still it's hovering, shimmering blue, and from her forehead her horn still sprouted. Large, feathered wings sat behind her back, the same colour as her previous fur. The same went for Twilight and Rainbow Dash. Only Zecora passed for a human, with her deep ebony skin and black hair with streaks of grey. The Princess was perhaps the first one to recover from the transformation, almost falling over on her unsteady legs.

“How does one walk on only two legs? It seems impossible, I just seem to fall one way or another.”

Rainbow Dash solved the problem by beating her huge, cyan-plumed wings, lifting her up into the air, and promptly propelling her onto her back. Zecora and Twilight fared better, managing a few shaky steps to reach various items of furniture to support themselves with. Garry just stood there chuckling at the four grown women trying and comically failing to even stand. He took a look at the protective suits that the ponies had reverse engineered. By the look of things, they were fairly sturdy and would protect well against fire, chemicals and the elements, and shut out a decent amount of radiation. They were light too. The only problems came with them being brightly coloured in the hue of the pony it was designed for, being designed to men's bulky dimensions and having protection against neither bullets nor claws.

He would see if he could find whichever of the ponies in this place made them, and get them changed. Even worse, he knew there was a high probability they'd be shot on sight in the Zone, or worse. The complete and utter absence of women in the Zone meant tensions ran high, and few would take kindly to some of them having large wings or horns on their foreheads. How they would go incognito was anyone's guess.

__

He'd searched for days. No sign of them anywhere, not in the city, not in the surrounding areas, not in the underground labs.

He felt helpless without them.

After the things had arrived, and the Zone had sent its warning, they had vanished. He'd been left on his own, aimless.

He had almost reached back to the small presence in his mind, almost begged it to take him back. He had resisted, thankfully.

Even now, it's power gave him trouble sleeping at night.

He didn't know anyone that might feel it too, apart from the Strider. He was not close enough to visit, being as he was forging a new identity for him and his men in the uncharted new areas of the Zone.

The old Zone was falling apart now, all the structure that had held the balance of power had shattered, and the Zone had ruthlessly swept in to pick up the pieces, like the proverbial grim reaper.

The time of the petty squabbles between bandit and loner, the war between Duty and Freedom had come. Such things seemed civilized compared with the muffled radio messages he heard every so often.

He wasn't sure if he could go on like this, alone, deserted by thing that had given him purpose for so long.

__

Garry was unsure what to do. All the kit was ready. Plans had been made, crude sketch maps drawn, issues raised. For over a week, they had prepared. Just things didn't feel right. Twiight and Luna were woefully under-prepared for the harsh life as a stalker. If only Applejack was here, she had grasped life in the Zone well. This Rainbow Dash, she was strong, fast and daring, but stubborn and reckless. Stalkers like her surfaced from time to time, sure of themselves, kitted out with as much as they could buy. Their corpses were occasionally found, other times just the PDA, gun and bones. Zecora he had faith. She at least appreciated the dangers and often unintuitive ways needed to survive.

All in all, things weren't looking great, but realistically, they were the best they were likely to be. That was good, since they were stood at attention, ready to be taken back to man made hell.