Another day, another dance with death. My toes are still smarting from the last pas de deux. Sadly, no man leads when Death is on the floor. I see bunions in my future.
As much like Groundhog Day as this is, there's plenty that changes with each new attempt. There's different people wandering around, different weather and the anomalies are in different, sometimes inconvenient, locations.
My daily routine goes as normal, running around camp in the predawn light, offering my help to Wolf and so on.
I set out to meet the boys on the hill, remembering to stop and get the extra rounds from the underpass this time.
The Garage Job: I've pretty much settled into this flanking business. The others fire from some distance and I move in to distract or take care of the distracted if I can. There's only ever two bandits in that front fire barrel room so there may be some more effective way. It's not like the others will listen to me so I go along with it as is.
We storm that front room quite nicely, not that I've ever been in an armed assault, but we're winning and mostly unscathed.
I take a cautious breather for a moment, but the others are keen to wade into the gathering bandits. Then it becomes one of those 'everybody dies' sort of fights. I heard most of it, but I saw Petruha stick his shotty in a guy's face while saying something no doubt badass in Russian (or it could have been 'ouch') and fold the guy over, only to get cut down while he reloaded.
When the smoke clears it's just me and a couple of blips on my scope remaining. I lay low for a while to see if anyone comes for me. Creeping over to a hole in the wall I spot that the lookout on the roof has relaxed and has not seen me. He's easy on my bullet budget and then there's one left.
I warily step out into the courtyard, expecting to hear him shuffling about somewhere. I think I'm at least aware of all the angles when I eventually step forward, obviously into his line of sight, and take several rounds in my side. I limp back into the building, bandage and snatch up some food from the corpses. I almost retreat to where we started, sure he'll be coming for me soon.
But he doesn't come. I didn't see exactly where he was but he must have been in or next to the far post by the front entrance. Tiptoeing around the outside to the window I find him, looking the wrong way.
I win. By keeping my head down, as it turns out.
Some bandit took a moment to shoot the hostage this time though. But he's still breathing. He's also happy to give up the flashdrive before asking for a medkit. It's just the kind of guy he is I guess. Nimble runs off leaving me all alone. On the bright side I get all the stuff.
The dogs on the trip home are wild about something. Every now and then a pack or two will just decide to tear headlong across the country for no apparent reason. Maybe a storm is coming.
You know, it might be useful to have regular weather forecasting in this game, since it's certainly helped get me killed a couple of times.
Back at camp I check in and cash out with the relevant parties (I would dearly love to inform Wolf of the massacre of his friends, but I can't. I'm sure he'd take it with the defeated stoicism that infects the Zone anyway. What's the difference?).
Despite the armful of guns I hefted over Sid's counter I'm still not that well-to-do. I've been avoiding taking side missions up until now thinking they're just a good way to put myself in uneccesary danger. But a desire for shinier things sooner is making me reconsider that. You can subsist on getting better guns and things from the dead. The trouble is that quite often they've got better guns and are still alive when you meet them. I don't want to scrounge, I want an edge.
I go see Wolf again and take his first job. He and his friend made a storage spot over in the fields to the east of camp. Some boars moved in there though, which is inconvenient. I'm to go shoot the boars (and grab back whatever I find). It's not far away. It does take me closer to the Army post than I'd like.
Here are the piggies in question on the left. You can see the Army post through the trees beyond. It's easy enough with a bit of care and a shotgun. For my trouble Wolf gives me a Wrenched artifact. It gives me some small protection. Like most artifacts I have I'm reluctant to wear them for the radiation dose they give (anti-radiation treatments costing 700R a pop from Sid). They're worth a bit though and every bit helps.
Next I drop in on Nimble as he dozes in the house he's moved into. He wants me to go find a 'pefected suit' that's up the back road from the Garage.
It's a windy road with a lot of dogs and anomalies that leads here:
Spooky ain't it? Nimble told me some story about a beast living here. It's not as bad as you'd think though. It's a pseudodog and they're not too much trouble by themselves if you're ready for it. The tunnel can't take me anywhere from this side as it's blocked off with junk.
The prize is an upgraded bandit jacket with better bullet proofing. My suit is better, but it's worth a decent amount of money.
My journey up there left behind plenty to keep the dogs occupied. I admire this guy's ambition, dragging a whole boar off for himself (I can't really say he has eyes bigger than his stomach since it's a blind dog with no eyes at all).
Back at camp I give Nimble the suit. I could have sold it or worn it, but instead he gives me Stone Flower, a nice bulletproofing artifact a step up from a Jellyfish. Its worth a decent amount of money by itself, but it's worth even more if I use it to complete a second tier artifact quest for Sid (which also nets me a nice supply of shotgun slugs).
Now I can actually afford a brand new MP5 and some ammo. Methinks I should have been doing side quests before.
Since I'm changing habits all of a sudden, I'm going to follow up a lead I usually ignore. At the same time Sid tells me to head north over the rail embankment, where I'm contacted by Fox, he also mentions a guy who was last seen around the south west end of the embankment. So I head off in search of this journeyman, as he's known.
He's not hard to find, of course, because he's effectively marked on the map. I end up at this place:
A tunnel through the western end of the embankment, down the hill on the far side of the factory and alive with fizzing electro anomalies. Just outside I find the body of the guy. His info points out that the anomalies in the tunnel have a predictable cycle that they follow. I already knew this was here of course. This supposedly gives me another way through the embankment, without dealing with the soldiers. All I have to do is time it correctly.
Hah. Yeah, right. Not in a million years am I going in there. You have to admit, it would be a little foolhardy to take the advice of a corpse too seriously. I head back east and cross at the usual place.
Rescuing Fox is pretty straightforward this time, despite the five dogs we have to fight. Nothing else complicates matters.
It's a pretty quiet day all around, or so it seems. To test that theory I decide to head up the the crossing post before dark. The crossing post typically spits out some hilarious obstacle for me to deal with. Being 1815 it's too late to do anything more than merely investigate. It'll give me something to have nightmares about tonight.
1840 - Well whadaya know.
That sparking thing is a Poltergeist. A mutant (stop me if you've heard this one) you don't usually meet until much later in the game.
It's not as bad as it could be though. In fact this might just work to my advantage for once.
Continued in Part 2...