The Zone Diaries Episode 1 | MOUSE n JOYPAD

 Episode 1

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As you will surely notice when you start reading this text, it differs from what I described in the intro last week. After a couple of rewrites I decided to ditch the original idea because it didn’t work as expected. Describing firefights gets really stale really fast, however unbeliveable that might sound. Besides, this will be a much more effective way to translate the atmosphere of the games into written form. The overarching storyline will follow the adventures of an unnamed merc, who will serve as a mirror image of Scar in this slightly altered version of the STALKER universe. We’ll avoid any real spoilers this way, while still being able to transpire the meaning of the original storyline.

 

Wow. The swamps suck. Radioactive swamps riddled with mutants suck even more, though.

It’s been a couple of days since I’ve woken up in an old outpost currently held by Clear Sky. They’re a bunch of geeks who can hardly handle a rifle, but they’re okay. I certainly prefer them over the bandit bastards who would’ve gutted me on sight if given the chance.

I’m getting ahead of myself. I guess I should begin by telling how I got here in the first place. I’m a gun for hire, and I’ve been in the Zone for about a year now. Mostly hanging around army warehouses and the 100 Rads bar, since that’s where most of the work is. There I was, talking to Barkeep, when two dudes clad in scientific suits came asking for a guide to the marshes. When you get a job offer in the Zone, you don’t ask around too much. It’s safer that way.

I usually avoid going to the swamps, but they offered good money and it was the only job I could get, for the time being. We took off and everything was dandy until we got to the marshes. As I found out later on, a group of stalkers lead by a certain nobody called Strelok got to the center of the Zone, which in turn reacted by emitting waves of… something. These „emissions“, as Clear Skies call them, effectively fry the brain of anyone stupid or careless enough to be out about when one of them hits. My group was killed off by the first emission. They found me unconscious and the scientists zombified. Nobody knows why I wasn’t in the same state as they were.

Either way, all’s well and good, but I really can’t stay here any longer without doing anything productive. I was hoping to access the Internet and contact Barkeep, but turns out all the computers in the base have been permanently BSOD’d. After asking Lebedev, the big honcho of Clear Sky, about this, he said that the emission crashed the OS and froze the machines altogether. This happened just a week earlier, and with all the hassle going on around here, there simply was no time to look into what’s going on with the computers. Lebedev asked me if I could try and find someone to fix them. Of course, I saw this as a possible opportunity to move my ass out of the base for a while, even if it means trudging through the marsh with mutated animals chomping right after me.

Shit’s Broken

While they might be the science-types, nobody at the outpost has any idea of how to unbrick the computers, so I took it upon myself to find an outsider techie who could fix these things. Anyway, I’m preparing myself for the upcoming trip across the marshlands. Cold, the guy in charge of a local bar, has been helping me with the supplies.

So, merc, do you have any idea who you’re looking for?

 

I do, actually, and I’m taking that as a sign to get out of this place for a while.

 

Fair enough. Oh, don’t forget to bring some vodka with you. I heard it’ll help if you crash into a bloodsucker.

 

Come on, Cold. I’m no rookie here.

 

No, seriously, priyatel ! Listen up. After the damn thing catches up to you, hit it over the head with something and empty the bottle, eh. That way, it’ll be pissed off and kill you quickly, and you’ll be way too drunk to feel anything!

 

Shit, man, you have a dark sense of humour.

 

Everybody keeps saying that. Truth be told, we could use your help, so try not to die too soon, eh?

 

It’s always nice to feel wanted. Which reminds me of something else. Did you hear Lebedev say anything about that guy, Strelok? I’m curious as to what’s going on with his crew, and Lebedev isn’t too keen to share any information.

Not a damn thing. He’s been awfully grim these days and I can hardly blame him. Listen, don’t expect much support from our guys out there. The bandits have overrun almost all of our checkpoints so it might be wise to play it safe and stay out of the clearings.

Walking through tall, radioactive grass doesn’t exactly scream safety to me. I’d prefer to take on half a dozen of those bandit assholes than a single bloodsucker.

 

Well, that’s your choice. Me? I’d take the mutant on. The vodka tactic is something I’d like to try out before I die. Here’s some bread and dry meat. Don’t ask what it’s made from, eh.

 

 

He hands me two loafs of spongy bread and a moderately-sized piece of meat. I’m not too thrilled about its origins, but whatever, it’ll do for a day or two.

Thanks, I appreciate it. Until next time, tovarish.

 

 

I’ve got food, some antirads, a medkit and a bottle of presumably non-irradiated water. Now I gotta get my weapons and charge back into the midst of the Zone. I’m actually looking forward to this. Well, maybe not about the swamps, but I’m gonna have to pass through them sooner or later.

Walking across the courtyard, I hear Novikov, the mechanic, shouting out the window about some tin foil or something. I don’t know, that guy’s weird.

Since it’s still early in the morning, I decide to sit down by the fire and relax listening to one of the rookies playing a guitar. You can always tell a newbie by his yellow jacket. It’s as if they get them for free in Cordon or something.

“You guys, individualism is great and all, but these jackets are way cooler.“

I hear them hammering about some of the older stories of the Zone. Like the one about the legendary Guide: „Have you heard about the Guide? The very first true stalker. He was the one who originally broke into the Zone and he’s still alive. People say he can take you to any place, you just need to name it. Now, finding him’s a bit tricky, ain’t no posters around with his address… And he won’t go with just anybody, either. From what I hear, he charges quite a bit. But if you find him and have enough cash, you can rest assured he’ll take you where you need to go. Now, that’s someone I’d like to have a chat with. You can bet he’s been past the Red Forest…“

Well, I sure haven’t seen that guy and I’ve been places. Taking a moment to soak in the fresh morning air, I close my eyes and try to come up with a plan. As I said to Cold, I remember hearing about some tech-savy dudes in Cordon. Sidorovich probably knows about them. That’s gonna be my best choice – making a push through the marsh to get to Cordon.

Welp, enough frolicking. Time to move. I grab a shotgun and a pistol and talk to the guide to lead me out. The only reason Clear Sky is still standing is that this base is so well hidden that even most of its members don’t know the way out. Since all the buildings are camoflagued from the above, I doubt even an aerial search could easily find this place.

After a quick discussion about where I need to go, we move out, into the wild. About damn time, too.

 

That wraps up the first episode. It might seem a bit short, but that’s because I’ve been experimenting with multiple approaches to this subject, only to settle for a Twilight Zone version of the given universe. For the follow up, expect a longer and significantly more dynamic entry.

As the veterans will notice, I’ve included some of the Zone’s folklore in form of the Guide story. I’ll probably do this more often to make these tales seem like actual legends, instead of something that randomly pops up in your PDA when playing.The next episode is going to be online next Monday, 4th of May.