As a result of having some gaming features still enabled. The stalker my reticle focused on, was conveniently identified to me as Henri German. I knew another stalker once who went by that name, and that’s the reason it caught my attention. He was located way out in the distance, traveling across an open field accompanied by four others. Seems Henri had become one of those mindless souls following their routes. There is never a short supply of zombies out here, perhaps one of the reasons we are drawn to this world. Undead control, with artifacts, as the lure.
Henri was still armed, at least that much of his humanity was intact. I watched as that undead squad carry themselves through the bushes, headed towards Volkhov and they kept moving until no longer visible.
Nothing of interest left at that complex, at least not to me. Yet, the undead still gather there. The Feathers brothers didn’t seem impressed, actually they weren’t paying attention at all. Vadim Feather, the more level headed of the two had his weapon pointed off in the opposite direction. Tasha Feather, that one stayed a short distance away from us, perhaps hoping to be the first, or last of the group to see action. Neither had the experience to survive a visit to the Red Forest. But towards the forest, we were headed.
Vadim mumbled something inaudible, I looked around, and caught sight of a pack of pseudos frolicking some distance up ahead,
“Good catch Vadim, ” I said while mentally updating our projected travel plans. We would need to navigate around that pack anyway, so why not pay Henri and his crew a visit.
I met Henri a while back at that bar in Rostok. A friendly enough curator, who was hunting for a weapon to add to his collection. Henri wanted to find a Desert Eagle, a piece he claimed to have lost recently to a raid. A simple enough task I thought, as I was already headed to a region where western armaments could be found. He promised a rather rare artifact in return, how could I refuse.
A few updates, reloads and terrible life choices later. I stumble onto that handgun while rummaging through the remains of some unlucky merc in freedom territory. The pistol was still in good condition and I thought Henri would be pleased. The automated adjustments to my task entry elicited a delightful chirp from my mobile. But after careful review, my contact could not be located at all. The stalker simply vanished. My task remains listed as active, that meant he was still around somewhere, but where. The loner wasn’t at the bar, garbage or the village further south. Never at the places loners frequented and believe me I looked. There were no reports of his death and no one knew who the hell he was. I soon regulated that task, to the “yet another bug” status, and moved on to exploring other activities.
The world Anomaly provides, is an anomaly on its own. It borrows from what it considers to be the best of what the zone shares, and opens it up to a generous dose of polish. The purists hate it, but the average stalker seems to adjust well to its flaws. There are issues, always will be. Some will break you, others leave you perplexed. A work in progress that draws me in and I do enjoy my moments here. I’m that odd stalker, whose only contribution is his participation. A stalker smothered in cultural references that escapes him.
As for the Desert Eagle. That thing has been living rent free in my backpack ever since. I had this rationale that was predicated on the foolish notion that no two characters, could share the same name, and thought maybe I could game the task mechanics somehow. Additionally, If this was the Henri German I sought, that rare artifact he bragged about, could still be on his person and I wanted to find out. So we broke camp, and marched briskly down the hill, towards Volkhov. A bit of a detour, but could be worth the effort.
We crossed tracks that ran south towards the forest, and stopped at the mobile lab as it was on the way. There we met with ecologists that would speak to us, and traded away a few items before moving on towards our destination. Upon arrival I signaled for stealth, and the brothers immediately dropped low. We slowly crawled to the embankments peak, and carefully peered through the bushes bordering the fence.
Henri and his entourage were indeed there, and they were close. Further into the complex, a handful of fractures shared space with a pack of rats, and were far enough away to be of little concern. I then sent the signal to wait. The plan was, I eliminate that undead squad with an ambush, check inventory then leave, while my boys watch my back. Simple right?
Weapon in hand I inched myself forward, through the bushes and along the fence. Verified my team had stayed put, then push myself forward some more. Had my target in sight, a clean headshot for Henri, followed by a hasty sequence for his associates.
But it was the obnoxious “cheeky breeky,” from Tasha, that made my blood boil. This one decided, and without consultation, that he too wanted in on the action. And the best way to achieve that, would be to position himself, directly before my sights.
Tasha, armed with an old hunting rifle, opened up the exchange with an uncontrolled blast that hit nothing at all. That squad, now annoyed to say the least, turned around and responded in kind, instantly devaluing Tashas’ contribution to the cause. Fortunately he was still alive, I could tell, but left him bleeding anyways, he was much safer that way. Instead I focused on dropping as many zombies as I could. Then Vadim appeared next to me, firing his rifle repeatedly into the mob. Not the fight I was hoping for, but we reigned victorious nonetheless. I let Tasha bleed out some more, before offering aid, because that stalker lost all my respect, and had to go.
I then signaled once more, for my team to stay put and ran into the complex to search the remains. No artifacts to be found on this lot, disappointing indeed. I did however, recover another Desert Eagle in Henri’s supply. Found that to be interesting. As I dragged my squad and loot back to the station. I still wondered if that was the stalker who gave me that still active task. And If it was, did another stalker intervene with a weapon of his own, my role play delusion at its finest.
After reaching the station, I immediately disbanded the squad, and made my way to the technician as repairs were in order. Thought it best to explore The Red Forest on my own, companions require more maintenance than they are worth. Forever alone, I say.