Perched on the first of a number of service platforms in this old elevator shaft. My sights focused on that feral creature below as it casually crawls around the base. It is not aware of my presence and I’d like to keep it that way. That creature was once like us. A person with hopes and dreams. Now a mutated horror whose cry fill me with dread. It appears to be alone which is unusual as they typically travel in packs.
One silenced shot from my rifle stopped it in its track, If others were close by they’ll come running. Not a peep. I carefully lowered myself to the next platform and peered over the edge. Still quiet. One more flight, then another. I can now hear fractures shuffling around in the adjacent room below. Hard to tell how many. Will need to be quick.
Landing was came off more awkward than I had hoped. A mild panic set in as I staggered into a clumsy jog over the mutants corpse and into the next room. To my immediate right, a number of fractures wandered around aimlessly. I hear a Bloodsucker roar, but am unable to tell where it is. At the far end of the room another Snork released his sickening cry and charged. He clipped me something awful as I tried to dodge his attack. The pain was excruciating. Bleeding profuse. No time to waste I thought and immediately ran towards that row of machinery at the far left of the room. That is when the Bloodsucker revealed itself. It appeared a few meters ahead, eyes burning with pure indifference, then it disappeared. I dove head first into the crawlspace behind the machinery and hid. Med kits were in order.
The horde cannot reach the crawlspace. I sat and watched them scramble back and forth as I tend to my needs. Sucks to be you, I mumbled. It took a while to clear the room. The Bloodsucker being the most difficult. It would often camouflage itself making it impossible to target. I was tempted to charge at the beast with my knife but thought better. I’d like to complete this task with the least amount of damage taken and resources wasted. The loot was less than impressive. More weight than value. The Bloodsucker parts I will take. They fetch a decent price.
Aged corpses littered the floor in the hallway ahead. The preserved remains of past stalkers. The dry air blowing from the passage carried with it that familiar scent, more mutants ahead. The moment I reached the end of the hall, a random crate explodes exposing another Snork, followed closely by a small group of fractures. The Snork howled at me viciously and lunged. Set to automatic, I braced and emptied half my clip into it. The creature fell limp and rolled harmlessly to the side. I then retreated a few paces and systematically eliminated each fracture upon approach. One head shot to drop, a few more rounds to kill. Rinse repeat. The loot was again disappointing. I did however stumble across a few med kits among the broken crates. Score.
The next hallway was empty, save for a number of shelved boxes left unmolested. A quick search turned up a few useful item. A couple of scientific med kits, a broken radio and flashlight. To the right a dead end hosting a pair of steel cages. They looked like makeshift prisons. At the other end of this hallway. A row of large steel tubes protrude from the wall then curve down into the floor. Beyond that, the lab. I readied my weapon and made my way towards the tubes.
The Bloodsuckers came out of nowhere. Must have been quietly watching as I did not hear their approach. I opened fire hitting one in the chest. Must have hurt as it immediately camouflaged itself and retreated. I sought refuge between the steel tubes as the other appeared and rushed at me. Tried a knife offensive. Bad idea. Took more damage than delivered. I then retreated to what I assumed was a safer position. I was wrong. One came from behind and tore viciously at my gear. This game of spot the Bloodsucker wasn’t working out in my favor. I had lost control of the situation. With few options remaining, I rearmed the rifle and fired blindly, munition supply be damned. This time I think I hurt one. Badly too. I can hear the suffering. Another round in that general direction and one after the other they charged directly into my line of fire. A fortunate moment indeed. One fell but the hid itself and was nowhere to be seen. I can hear it breathing, too late though. Got hammered hard from behind once again and my sights blurred momentarily . I re-positioned myself and focused my rifle towards the end of the hallway. The Bloodsucker briefly appeared and seem to be turning around before it disappeared again. I fired in its direction. I could see my bullets hit their mark. The creature immediately stopped. Shed its camouflage, then fell limp to the floor. More Bloodsucker parts to sell I groaned.
The lab is a vast structure with numerous levels surrounding a giant brain like creature encased in a stasis pod. A most impressive sight to behold. As to why that thing is still alive. Well that is beyond me. My instructions are clear. Disable not destroy. Weapons are useless anyway as the entire structure is made from a material bullets can’t scratch and grenades can’t breach. The first platform hosted a single easy to dispose of fracture. And with the first switch disabled, I began my trek to the next. A Snork and three more fractures were eliminated on the way, minor injuries sustained. That process was repeated all the way to the top where the last switch remain.
The moment the psi-emitter was disabled a Burer came at me. His psi-attacks were extremely effective and forced me into cover. Two fractures appeared and were headed my way. His minions I suppose. They had to be dealt with, and quickly. Cover and shoot was the play of the day, effective to say the least. The fractures fell leaving that lone Burer. This fight became almost comical. I would pop up and shoot. He would block with his psi shield. He would issue psi-attacks. I would duck for cover. This went on for a while until I got his timing down. The thing finally collapsed and tumbled to the level below. I made my way to where the corpse rested. A sudden blast of psi-energy engulfed my consciousness. My vision infected with a sickness. Everything became discolored and pale. There was a Controller near and I differed to my first instinct. Run very far away.
From the safety of distance, I contemplated options. Then dug into my back pack for some weed. I remember once reading something about a proximity offensive. Supposedly Controllers are less harmful the closest you can get to them. This weed will help with his psi-effects. I huffed greedily.
I imagined: knife in hand and charging towards that room. Enter the doorway and face to face. I then imagined the monster pulling what can only be described as my very soul away from my now lifeless body, holding my mind close, whispering something profoundly unintelligible, then violently release me into the ether. Nothing about a proximity offensive seem ideal.
Rifle set to automatic and protection sufficiently enhanced. I hastily made my way to the top platform. The psi-energy grew stronger the closer I got. Vision once again infected. That feeling of nausea resonates. Struggling to keep focus. Surprisingly the Controller came to me. Apparently in a hurry to feed. We locked eyes briefly and both reacted. I fired mercilessly into his head, reloaded then fired more rounds into his now lifeless body. How’s that for proximity I barked.
While canvasing the lab for loot, my detector spotted a Stone Blood on the lower level. Another score in my favor. Am also pleased as punch that I had packed a container to carry one in. Had almost decided not to. With this task done and a thorough search completed. I rested for a few before moving to the only exit available. The sewers.
The moment I landed in that passage. The nearby Snorks lunged hungrily at me. I was at a disadvantage. Unable to see anything. A blind melee ensued. I flailed, sliced and stabbed blindly at the shadowy figures tearing at my person. Victorious I was. A world of damage I took. Again I rested and tended to my injuries. I fished out an advanced application contained Gravi. This artifact is used to improve encumbrance and since I no longer need psi-protection, I traded attachments. The effects felt when wearing an artifact is palpable. Switching from Black Spray to Gravi offered a sudden sense of heightened physical strength and vigor. Finally, I retrieved my last bottle of Hercules. The preferred energy drink for the serious Stalker and consumed every last drop. Secondary energy surge experienced. Carry weight no longer mattered. I felt like a God. Should last for the next few minutes.
I illuminated the passage exposing the path ahead. It was cramped and wound back and forth around the mounds of sewer build up. Flashlight in one hand. Pistol in the other. I started an energetic jog. The first encounter was with a lone Snork. That one was easily side stepped, and I kept moving. The passage then curved to the left, revealing a broken gas pipeline at the end. It spewed an out of control bloom of flame and heat. The Snork behind me scrambled to catch up. I dropped low and carefully crawled under that cloud of fire and into the passage to the left. There I met another Snork. He was clearly not prepared for sudden my arrival as I was allowed to scoot by unscathed, I bid him good day kept running.
The passage then curved to the right. Up ahead, a Zombie and his shotgun turned to face me. His first round hit me square in the chest but did very little damage. Old bullets I suppose. I charged ahead with boosted confidence and fired back but his exoskeleton though old, proved resilient. He returned his second round, missed and proceeded to reload. I simply ran around him. Zombies may be slow, Snorks are not. One sharp right turn into the next passage, up a mound of debris and more Snorks. Jesus Christ who feeds these things. My sidestep hustle proved ineffective. Each Snork took turns tearing at me as they rolled by. I was momentarily staggered me and the bleeding began. Despite injuries sustained, my stamina felt incredible. I quickly swallowed from my Vinca reserves. Regained my composure, and kept moving forward, Snorks close behind.
Pseudogiants are a rare occurrence in the Zone. As luck would have it, that rare occurrence happens to be now and located at the far end of the passage. The junction up ahead was my only hope. I broke left and ran into handful of wandering Zombies. No time to chat fellows I quipped and dodged in between and around them. I then ran to the end of the passage and broke right into the next junction. Behind me I could hear the sickening sound of bodies being crushed as the giant came into contact with that pursuing horde. I pushed on, broke left into the last passage before the surface exit. Turned around with rifle in hand and readied it.
Enhancement effects began to wear off leaving a slight headache. In the distance I could still hear the giant fighting with that mutant mob. When that’s all done, I thought. There will be loot to collect and maybe a much weaker Pseudogiant to kill. Just rest up here for a bit. Then go back in and do a little cleaning up.