A LONERS STORY 9 – Anomaly, without a word

Not much to be said about his visit to the Outskirts. The courier and contact were alive and well, there was no drama experienced, and traveling between each base was trivial. All in all an uneventful stay he thought. The loner was tempted to take on another mission from his contact, but decided against it. This Strelok thing nagged him, and even though It wasn’t much, that vague piece of information picked up in chat, piqued his interest. The loner had stumbled upon Doc reaching out to Strelok on the message board, and was now sure that swamp dweller knew something useful. It soon became time to head back to Jupiter, and the loner followed closely behind Tourist, leaving the Outskirts without a word.

As he journeyed, his gaze went out to the countryside. The loner took that moment to reflect on the curious stalker he met, a while back at Skadovsk. The strange stalker that purged the ship of a hostile occupying force, which the loner had strategically decided to hide from at that time. A strange fellow indeed. His skin was darkened far beyond olive, hair long, natty, unkept and that accent, going to say from the islands maybe? He was, without a doubt, just another stalker passing through the zone. Though a rare one indeed.

He never had a chance to talk at length, but was approached and a quick exchange took place. The stalker called himself “The Rude One”, yet another name that made no sense. Something common with zone inhabitants it seems. There were questions about Strelok, for which the loner had no response, in turn the stranger was asked about that secret passage to Jupiter. That question drew a pause and Rude One stared at him. An odd smile followed as he leaned in close and told the loner something that made no sense.

“Lenny say, just cool man. Your time soon come.” Leaning back, he continued. “Trust your dreams young stalker, and follow that road north.” Rude grinned knowingly for a moment, then walked away.

“My dreams?”

The loner pondered as he chewed greedily on that chunk of bread pulled from storage. For starters. He was already north, and what the hell is with this Lenny character? Filling his tummy and dealing with his anti-rads high, had greater priority over this oddballs cryptic wordplay. The loner never did get a clarification on the comment and that mysterious stalker left the ship without a word.

The moment stuck though, now Strelok and that stalker is lounging rent-free in his head.

“God dammit!”

“Rostok, Rostok, Rostok.” The loner repeated as he made the bend.

Duty was still on patrol at the checkpoint keeping mutants and whatnot at bay. He hailed the approachable, probed for easy tasks while searching for information on Strelok. Duty was focused, and had a hard on for the Freedom faction. The loner had little interest in their tribal politics, so he moved on to socializing with the other stalkers populating the town, before wasting countless hours in that Mantrap anomaly north, searching for the unsearchable. His Veles detector was certain artifacts were strewn about. Alas, there were none.

A quick trip to Garbage and back was his next bright idea. Did not plan on being there long, but the faction war he stumbled unto urged him to stay awhile. The loner wasn’t sure who he was supposed to shoot and wasn’t interested in accidentally tapping a friendly, so he kept low, just outside the gate, to wait for their exchanges to die down.

It was a Monolith Bandit beef, he soon discovered, as he approached the entrance. The moment he stuck his head around the gate, he was greeted with gunfire from the one remaining shooter. The bandit was hurrying to take cover among the concrete structures lying to his left, but a few shots from the loners’ rifle ended the bandits plan, silencing his aggression. Dead stalkers laden with loot were scattered everywhere, he carefully picked through the remains, collected his fill and hauled it forward breathlessly to the Flea Market just up ahead. There, a brief exchange with the traders took place. He then returned to Rostok immediately thereafter, and simply idled. There was no good reason to spend as much time as he did in that makeshift town, but did so anyway. He simply enjoyed the calm of being able to wander around aimlessly in the open, without a care. The checkpoint would at times call out for some assistance and indeed the loner would rush out to join in on whatever they were shooting at. Fun moments he thought, and that was the rest of his afternoon.

As the day drew to an end, things began to change and the population became restless. Relations between the Clear Sky and Duty factions deteriorated and it showed. There were a few entertaining moments on display as the change in relations began to spread. None of that conflict affected him directly, as his relationship with both factions exceeded the neutral threshold, and he was still allowed to wander amongst them armed. The mood at that makeshift town had grown darker though, no longer a peaceful haven. He mulled the thought of taking the courier but balked at that idea. A brisk stroll south he thought, would do him fine.

So the loner prepared himself once again, and left Rostok behind without saying a word.