Sid sends me off into the wild to repay my debt to him. How he plans to recoup costs if I get killed is a bit of a mystery. I, the Marked One, am an amnesiac so it's possible I've just forgotten about Sid's sidelines in corpse harvesting and bodyfarming and maybe it's for the best.
I like to think Wolf's expression here is saying "This time, try not to catch so much buckshot all at once perhaps? Space it out a little bit."
Words to live by. After getting my suit out of the roof I rummage around the camp for something to help with those between pellet moments. The starting kit, by the way, is a pistol and forty rounds of ammo. I know there's some tinned food in one of the basements at least, so I go in and grab it. I could really use some bandages though.
(retrospective note: at this stage in the project I'm really champing at the bit and ignoring quite a lot of usefull stuff, trying to move the game along to the truly adventurous later stages where lots of interesting things can happen. Despite playing this game at length using similar difficulties, I have no idea what I'm up against and just how blase I'm still being is yet to dawn on me. As I write this I am on Expedition #16.)
I send Tolik back home in one piece and carry on up the road and on to the hill where Petruha and co are waiting. Same method as before: I head in straight at that first window again, reducing the bandit count by one, then I move to the main entrance. The fellas steam on in to my right, blazing away. This time I stick behind the corner for cover. The others are making a meal of the bandits by the sounds, and they have little time to get at me. I don't get a mark (and, in fairness I don't do much more than mark them) until one guy comes right around the far side of the building and peppers me.
Before I know it, it's all over. Everything goes quiet and I can hear cries for help coming from the big building on the left side. All of us are still standing and Petruha radios in the victory.
I follow the cries to Nimble, still in the surrender position by the fire.
At last we meet. He thanks me profusely and tells me the location of a stash he knows about. I just really want the flash drive. He trots off toward camp as I step back outside. Hunting around for some ammo I realise none of the bandits have any stuff left! While I was talking with Nimble the others have cleaned out all the loot and are chilling by the fire.
Breakfast of Champions = Weaties. Breakfast of Stalkers = vodka and bread tainted by the odour of dead bandit socks.Which means I'm still stuck with a pistol for the time being. Thanks guys. I think about buying some stuff off them but their prices aren't much better than Sid's and besides, I'm broke.
I head back to camp hoping to rectify the situation. On the way back this happens:
It's a little hard to tell from that but, my vision is going bonkers and I can hear this incessant howling in my ears. That's the sign of a Controller being nearby.
In case you don't know, a Controller is a very powerful psionic mutant that you normally don't meet until later on. He messes with the heads of anyone nearby and the closer you get the more messed up things become. If you get in his line of sight he psi-blasts you to death (an unsettling effect which looks as though he pulls you over to him and punches you in the face, without you actually moving). Oh and he can also zombify any other stalkers around and send them to kill you.
In short: Avoid. And here one is, in Cordon, right after the first mission.
I have no idea where he is and really don't want to find out. If he's around here though, I may find things have gotten interesting back at camp.
Fortunately everything is fine when I arrive. Which then makes me wonder if the beast came wandering in behind me to the Garage as I left. Wolf's happy to hear it all went well and gives me a Jellyfish artifact. This would make me slightly more resistant to bullets if I wore it, but it would also give me a radiation dose. Since I tend to forget I have these things on and haven't got any anti-rad medication, I'll leave using this kind of thing until I have an artifact that counteracts radiation.
Nimble's here as well, dozing in one of the front rooms.
Both he and Wolf now have a few side missions I can take, but I'm more interested in what Sid's got to say.
He gives me 1500R for getting the flash drive. I can wander around at this point, but then taking Sid's next job will become the objective so I decide to hear him out right now.
It turns out he's heard of Strelok (the guy I'm supposed to kill, remember). Strelok and his group are kinda famous, rumoured to have broken through to the centre of the Zone. The kind of place that no one really gets in to, let alone gets out of, alive. There's something in particular called the Brain Scorcher standing in the way. Find a way past that and I'll probably find Strelok too.
Sid and the other traders are working together on an investigation into this thing. Their spies have told them there's some important info the Army is holding at their base in the Agroprom Research Institute.
One thing at a time. The task now is to cross the rail embankment and head north.
Continued in Part 2...