It's morning and it's storming once more, not that it seems to slow anyone down. Most of the stalkers seem fine with sitting by the camp fire over, say, somewhere with a roof. It says a lot about the stalker spirit, I think.
The task for the day is to finally make the crossing to the Garbage. I've had my armour patched up (not that it offers all that much protection to begin with) and I've got an MP5 and a couple of clips worth of bullets, some health supplies and food. I could always use more though. Other things weigh on my mind as well; There's a blowout due in about 4 hours if the forecast is to be believed and I already know there's no good shelter in the early part of the Garbage.
I figure I can make it most of the way to the crossing post, or to the crossing post itself, before it hits and wait it out there. Then I can carry on. Of course, these things always go exactly to plan...
I set out on the road north again.
0850 - Near the turn off to the Garage I get a tweet from Max. You remember Max; sole survivor of the Nimble mission (apart from me and Nimble). He thinks he saw a bandit nearby. I'm headed near there to sidestep the rats at the bus stop so I wander a little closer.
I do actually remember that this is just the sort of thing that gets me into trouble. "Into trouble" being a nice way of saying "dead". I swear to myself that I'll only assess the situation and then bail at the first sign of trouble. I edge in to try and get a reading on how many people are in there. Max's guitar playing drifts into the scene. At least he's not stressing out.
I get two indications on my scope, but don't see any dots, before I rustle a bush in just the wrong way. Someone (maybe more than one) inside the main building takes umbrage and I can hear scrambling around and gun priming. I take my own advice and retreat back up the track and hide behind a tree, waiting.
0915 - No one comes for me, and I can still hear guitar being played, so I chance a second look. Getting closer to the entrance again I can hear it's not one guitar, but two. There are two people on scope, but there's one dot marked. So one is Max. Which means there's only one bandit and he's playing guitar too. I wonder if we can sort this out with duelling banjos. I creep on in.
0936 - Shooting a man down while he's playing guitar by the fireside may represent a new low.
I leave Max to his tunes. At least I know how many bandits got through yesterday's battle at Fox's place.
1032 - I time my sneak over the embankment poorly and one of the guards spots me. His AK makes a distinctive sound when fired at me. For a second, as I cower behind the ridge top, I contemplate shooting the guy and somehow getting his stuff without the others seeing me. Yes, I actually thought this. Momentarily at least. Hey, maybe he would come after me alone and I could get him away from the others.
Just in time to remind me that this is a stupid thought my PDA chirps and shows three people closing on me. I turn tail and run down the line, crouching by the fence for a while. I wait, scanning the grass, hoping they've given up and wondering if I can sneak back.
I get an answer to my question before I even stand up, as bullet hits start throwing up dirt around me. I sprint down the line even further, preparing to do the same again. But I'm running out of line. Much further toward the tunnel and the area around the track becomes badly radioactive and there are anomalies everywhere.
1038 - Blowout! Oh holy hell.
It's heralded by a thunderous howl and the sky turning blood red. From that point you've got about a minute and half to get under cover before the sky microwaves everything exposed to it. Through deafening shrieks, shaking ground and blinding light you and everything else with a brain will try to crawl down the deepest hole available and hope like hell it does the job. And hope like hell nothing dangerous wants the same hole.
From here I can make the rail tunnel or do a long dash to the Garage. The rail tunnel is dangerous at the best of times, so I go with what I know. But from this angle a straight run to the Garage takes me a long way over unfamilair ground with a lot of anomalies.
I run as fast as I dare, straining to hear any anomalies over the approaching din. The whistling of a Whirligig is almost inaudible in all this.
1045 - Made it. But only just. I can hear less fortunate dogs shrieking in agony outside. Dying birds fall from the sky.
What's the matter Max? You seem a little on edge.
1107 - The blowout clears and everything gets back to normal. Except that it means things are quite different now as well. Blowouts stir up wildlife and move all the anomalies around. I can't take for granted any knowledge of the ground that I've been using up until now. I need extra bolt vigilance again.
As I head back to the north again I can hear that the army guys are right back out there looking for me. That's the spirit fellas. I give them a very wide berth, crossing the rail line at the gap in the fence I was near when the blowout hit. Now I just have to get to Fox's place, right through anomaly and boar country.
1204 - I wasted a lot of ammo thanks to not being able to travel very fast. But on the bright side I scored two boar hoofs and a pretty cool scar (probably).
Animal parts are usually worth a bit by themselves and they're also bounty items for the side missions you can get, which can be pretty lucrative.
The boars aren't done with me yet and a couple set upon me and Fox.
No more hooves this time. Aww. It's also nearly 1300 and I still haven't got in sight of the crossing post yet. Time to get moving.
1304 - You have got to be joking.
The humanoid guy on the right is a Controller and the other thing is a Pseudogiant. Both of them are hanging around outside the crossing post.
Pseudogiants are mostly manageable out in the open like this. They're big and very strong and they can make the ground shake so much you can't run from them. They're also very tough. But if you keep your distance you're mostly fine. Getting past one in a fairly narrow area like the crossing is less fun. One of these guys here would be bad enough. Together they are a fearsome combination. Difficult to run past or kill. How the hell am I going to get through with my puny arsenal?
I turn back, heading for camp again. Maybe luck will present me with some grenades or a rifle. Maybe some hapless group blunders through and softens them up for me.
1505 - I took a bit of a detour out in the fields to the east of the road, still on the north side of the embankment. There were a couple of corpses I could see that seemed worth investigating and this way I'd avoid the soldiers again as I crossed the line.
But as I'm wandering around there I get a blip and hear pistol shots. I can't see the guy, but I can hear it's a bandit. I've no idea what he's shooting at, but it doesn't seem to be me.
Then it dawns on me. Fox. Too late. Sorry pal. I can hear more of them further up the road tangling with some dogs. They sound like they have AKs too. Where the hell did these guys come from? They don't know I'm here and I'm not geting involved. They're too spread out and too well armed (some of them at least).
Since they're coming this way I decide to see how well they do against the soldiers. I get right out of their way; across the road to the old farm.
Getting up on the old tractor gives me a better view. With any luck they won't see me. With any luck the guards will pick them off at range and I can move in and collect their stuff without too much trouble.
1530 - The fight didn't last long. The guards do take the the bandits out at some range, but not far enough that I could go stand next to the corpses and not get shot myself.
As the guards take out the last bandit a couple of them venture out to get the loot themselves. The weather has taken a turn for the worse too. I abandon any idea of hanging around at all and take a very big arc to avoid the embankment completely, right around the back of Fox's building (RIP) almost to where I was before. All those nice guns. It's such a waste.
The rain sets in as I reach the rail line, with some thunder for good measure. I'm really not sure what I'm going to do next or how going back to camp is going to help me. Perhaps I just want to go home.
Sight of the Garage brings me this:
Not too obvious from this shot but it's Controller sign. Making that momentary bright haze is one of its tricks, adding to the hearing and visibility problems from the weather. I wait until a break in the howling and take a couple of steps forward. I've wandered into an anomaly field. I can hear the trilling of a whirligig right on top of me. A quick bolt check shows it's immediately to my right.
- The Marked One bled to death after walking into the Whirligig in front of him.
T.O.D. 1620 aprox.