September 1, 2008

Chapter 7: X-16


[Audio enabled]
Gremlin:  Watch those corners… it’s getting darker down here.
Phantom: One step ahead of you.
*A click sounds nearby followed by a whine/hum indicating Phantom has turned on his night vision*
Gremlin:  The sooner we get to the bottom of this, the sooner we can get the hell out.
*The sound of machinery humming comes from deep below the Stalkers’ current location*
Jargon: Sounds like we’re right above where most of the noise is coming from.
Gremlin: Let’s just hope we can find an easy way down there, who knows what kind of collateral damage the underground part of the facility has suffered over the years.
Nimbus: I’m guessing a lot if it was enough to create those… monsters.
Phantom: Just watch your step.
*The Stalkers proceed down the hallway, checking all rooms along the way for any hint of the source of the emission or unwelcomed guests*
Phantom: Wait.
*Phantom lets off a few controlled shots while something drops to the ground ahead*
Phantom: Straggler. Down.
Gremlin: Good eye, let’s hope we don’t find any more or alert any “hive” they may have around here again.
*The Stalkers move again, while Phantom lets off the occasional burst from his rifle, dropping an unseen target ahead*
Jargon: Wait, I saw something.
Gremlin: Where?
Jargon: Back there, in that room. Something shiny.
Gremlin: Let’s go check it out.
*The Stalkers backtrack a few rooms towards the light that Jargon reported*
Phantom: Where’s it coming from?
Nimbus: Over there, in the corner with that junk.
Zombie: The light of heaven shines within the hells.
Jargon: Well… I’ll be damned!
Gremlin: What the hell is it?
Jargon: It’s an artifact!
Virtue: Artifact?
Jargon: Yes! They started showing up sometime after the second explosion… supposed to be created from the anomalies located throughout the Zone.
Gremlin: That’s a hell of a find! I wonder what it’s capable of.
Jargon: I’m not sure what this one is… my scanner reads it as safe though.
Gremlin: Your find, your gold.
Jargon: This belongs in the hands of scientists. I’ll show it to Sakharov when we get back.
Nimbus: It’s… beautiful.
Jargon: Maybe it’s a sign that even in the darkest of places, there is still hope.
Gremlin: We’ll never know unless we get to the bottom of this. Let’s get out of here before someone notices we moved their toy.
*The trek continues, with the addition of one shiny artifact. Minutes go by without a word until finally, the hum of the machinery hits its apex*
Gremlin: This is it… the room has to be ahead.
Phantom: Cover me, I’ve got point.
*The Stalkers fan into the room setting up defensive positions, scanning every crack and hole*
Jargon: What… on… earth…
Gremlin: What… is that?
Phantom: Let me take a look.
*Phantom peers down his scope at the mysterious object ahead*
Phantom: It’s… it’s a man.
Gremlin: There’s someone in there?
Phantom: It looks like he’s in suspended animation… just floating in that glass container up there.
Gremlin: Is he the source of the emission?
Phantom: I can’t tell… there are a bunch of tubes running off of him that converge into a bunch on top. They all appear to go to that control booth up top.
Gremlin: We should head there and see what we can find.
*The Stalkers climb several flights of stairs surrounding the strange man, floating in the large glass container near the roof of the vast room*
Gremlin: The control booth is just ahead. There are a few lights on, but nothing substantial*
Jargon: Let’s just hope our floating friend can tell us something about what’s going on here.
*The Stalkers step inside the control booth, facing the man in suspended animation*
Nimbus: At least they were courteous enough to fog the glass below the belt.
Gremlin: Alright, look around for anything interesting. We need to gather as much information as we can while we’re here. I’ll start with this console. Virtue, Nimbus – have a look at those papers on the wall. Phantom, search those cabinets. Zombie - make sure we don’t get interrupted.
*The Stalkers get to work with their assigned tasks*
Gremlin *muttering*: “Purge”… “Filter”… “Communications”… “Shut down”…
Nimbus: Look here.
Virtue: Did you find something?
Nimbus: I think so. These are the blueprints for that device. On the back someone drew what looks like the concept behind the whole thing.
Virtue: You’re right. It looks like it’s based off of some long-range radar technology.
Jargon: You’re right… then that means it’s true!
Nimbus: What’s true?
Jargon: Over-the-horizon radar. The soviets were developing the technology here claiming it was an anti-ballistic missile defense system, but due to its other “properties” many people suspected it to be an attempt at mass-mind control.
Virtue: That would explain the zombified Stalkers.
Jargon: It would… but who is behind this and for what reason?
Gremlin: Uh… guys... did you touch something?
Nimbus: No. Why do you as…
*A voice comes over a speaker from an unknown source*
Unknown (1): Why hello little rats!
*The Stalkers look amongst themselves in confusion, startled*
Gremlin: Who the fuck said that?!
Unknown (1): It was me! I’m right here…
*voice turns into a hoarse whisper*
Unknown (1):  … in your mind…
*Anticipation and fear fills the room as the crackling of static over the speaker dominates the minds of the Stalkers*
Jargon: Who are you?!
Unknown (1): I am the watcher of this place. I control all that you see here. Some call me God… but you can call me Dmytro.
Phantom: How did you know we were here?
Unknown (1) [Identified as Dmytro]: I see everything that goes on inside my playground!
Gremlin: What is this place?
Dmytro: Why… none other than the birthplace of many of the Zone’s children!
Gremlin: What is its purpose?
Dmytro: You might want to ask your companions that one. They figured it out already!
Jargon: We found some blueprints, and on the back the function of the device. It’s a mind-control device. The Soviets had been working on it for years up until ’86 under the cover of over-the-horizon radar.
Dmytro: Nailed it! Good work old man. Hey you look familiar… haven’t I seen you somewhere?
Jargon: I used to work at the plant up until the accident.
Dmytro: “Accident”. *laughs maniacally*
Jargon: It sounds like you’re the man I’ve been searching for all these years.
Dmytro:  Everyone is searching for me in some form or another, because I am the root of all their problems here… and their salvation.
Jargon: What do you “control” exactly?
Dmytro: Everything… more or less. I make sure there’s plenty of work to be had for everyone, human and mutant alike.
Jargon: What work?
Dmytro: Look, you guys show up here to escape whatever problems kicked you in the ass in your former lives. So I make sure your stay is as “comfortable” as possible.
Gremlin: Are you saying you control the mutants here?
Dmytro: Oh no. Hell no. The children of the Zone are beyond control. They killed their parents long ago, there’s no one left to control them. But I do make sure they are “persuaded” to do certain things when I can - especially those who call this place home.
Jargon: Why?
Dmytro: Why? I don’t know… something to do?
Gremlin: Cut the bullshit and give us some real answers.
Dmytro: Temper, temper. What exactly do I get if I tell you? Nothing! Nothing but more questions and fingers pointed at me. What’s the motivation I ask? I can find none.
Jargon: How about justification for all the lives destroyed by the Zone?
Dmytro: Hey, I had nothing to do with that. I just make sure the odds are fair for both sides. All the inhabitants of the Zone need something; I just make sure the ones who need it more get what they deserve.
Nimbus: So you play God?
Dmytro: No, just referee. I like God though… has a nice ring to it. One syllable, rolls off the tongue…
Jargon: Listen to me! We’re here to deactivate the source of the emission. The Stalkers who fell victim to your trap deserve to rest. You’re sick for letting them roam around the soulless abominations that they are.
Dmytro: You’re right. That’s the one ounce of control I have over this place. I should give up all that hard work to satisfy your request.
Jargon: You owe it to every single Stalker out there who could be shooting at their friends and family members because of you.
Dmytro: No… no I don’t think I do. You see… I don’t give two shits about you, and your band of low-class vagabond friends out and about looking for buried treasure… not when there’s a whole world out there ripe for the taking.
Gremlin: So that’s it? You would play with other people’s lives for your own sick amusement?
Dmytro: I would. But that’s only a perk that comes with a job, I have my employers.
Jargon: Who? Who do you work for?
Dmytro: They pay me well enough to keep my mouth shut.
Gremlin: Mark my words: we will find out everything you’ve done here, and anywhere else in the Zone, and when we find you, I’ll put a bullet in your head!
Dmytro *laughs sadistically*: No Stalker! That’s where you’re wrong. You’ll never reach me! No man can! But I’ll tell you what – you and your group of pathetic zealots can leave right now and forget you saw anything and I won’t tell the kids you’re visiting.
Gremlin: I’m afraid we can’t do that.
Jargon: I’d rather die than let you do any more damage here… and rest assured, if I make it out of here, I will find you and on that day, justice will be served.
*The hidden com system laughs hysterically*
Dmytro: No, no, no. You haven’t learned anything! You’ll never find me.
Gremlin: Maybe not, but we CAN make sure you do no more damage here…
*Gremlin hits the shutdown button on the control panel. A warning siren immediately courses through the facility*
Dmytro: No you fool! Turn that back on, don’t let Junior out!
*The man in the glass container in front of them stirs*
Nimbus: Guys…
*The man’s eyes burst open, revealing nothing but empty sockets. He lets out a roar that echoes through the com system*
Dmytro: Now you’ve done it…
Phantom: Get down!
*Phantom jumps on top of the control panel and pumps the container full of lead*
Phantom: Shit… bulletproof…
*The man locks his eye sockets on Phantom*
Phantom: Shoot around it! If we can weaken the glass…
*The air fills with a sharp hum. The Stalkers drop to the ground in pain*
Jargon: IT’S A CONTR…!
*The glass containers shatters into a million pieces as the man thrusts his hand toward Phantom, creating a psionic shockwave that sends him flying through the air*
Phantom: Fuuuuuuuuckkkk…!
*Phantom is hurled into a stack of empty boxes and crates in the back*
Jargon: Stay out of sight! Don’t look at its eyes!
Gremlin: Grenade!
*Gremlin peeks up over the control panel, aiming his attached grenade launcher at the man*
*The man catches a glimpse of Gremlin and sends out another psionic surge*
*Gremlin falls back to the floor, a look of confusion on his face*
Jargon: Gremlin! Are you ok?!
Gremlin: I… you… control…
Jargon: He’s in the Controller’s grasp! Virtue – grab his gun, I’ll distract the Controller.
Virtue: Ok… just tell me when!
Jargon: GO!
*Jargon runs out of the booth and dives behind a support beam outside of the booth. The Controller immediately swivels and sends a shockwave at Gremlin*
*Virtue grabs Gremlin’s gun, aims, and launches a grenade at the Controller*
*The Controller steps back to face the Stalkers, and is instead greeted with a grenade in the face. A Deafening roar and high-pitched whine fill the Stalkers heads*
Nimbus: AHH! MAKE IT STOP!
*The Stalkers fall to the ground in pain, unable to silence the voices in their heads*
*The facility begins to shake as pieces of the device holding the Controller break off and fall to the unseen floor beneath*
Dmytro: Dammit! All that hard work! You’ll pay for that… with your blood! When I get that fixed you’ll…
*A shot echoes in the room, silencing the voice*
Phantom: I found the box.
Gremlin: We should leave, now!
Phantom: Roger that!
*The facility continues to shake as the main supports for the device in the center of the room break apart and fall to the floor*
Jargon: This way! I saw another room back here!
Gremlin: Come on!
*Jargon leads the group to a room off of the central area*
Gremlin: Do you know where this goes?
Jargon: No. Maybe nowhere, but it’s not back there.
Gremlin: Good enough for me.
Zombie: The hunters leave the den.
Gremlin: Wha… oh shit. We’ve got company! More zombies… it looks like hundreds of them!
Phantom: We need to find an exit!
Gremlin: There should be a back door somewhere around here.
Nimbus: Over here… this looks like it could be one.
Gremlin: Good call, let’s go.
*The Stalkers run ahead into the room, shutting the door behind them*
Gremlin: This door is locked… try the others!
Virtue: This one won’t budge.
Nimbus: Stuck here.
Zombie: Immovable.
Jargon: I think this one’s open.
Gremlin: Alright, let’s try that one.
Jargon: Dammit… there must be a strong draft or something, every time I open it, it closes again…
*The floor beneath the Stalkers gives way*
Gremlin: SHIT! Grab a hold of something!
*The Stalkers fall to the floor beneath them*
Gremlin: Everyone ok? Come on! There’s some stairs...
*The floor buckles under the pressure*
Gremlin: EVERYONE HANG ON!
*The floors continue to collapse under the added weight, scattering the group between floors*
Gremlin: VIRTUE! PHANTOM! HANG ON…
… AS53F6w%#agG#Ag%dGAg^rAGa$Gfda$gSAFD@gSF$Dgsgsfg
 [Application error]
[Critical error… rebooting in 60 seconds]
[POST Check]
[Cannot find boot.ini]
[Resetting to factory defaults]
[Continuing with startup]
[Loading startup items]
[Logging in]
[Logged in as Virtue]
[Resuming last application…]
[Audio enabled]
Phantom: Virtue… *grunt* Virtue… wake up man.
Virtue: Wha… *cough* where are we?
Phantom: I think we landed on the bottom floor. The debris is blocking the floors above; we’re separated from the group.
Virtue: Are we stuck here?
Phantom: I’m not sure. We landed in one of the maintenance tunnels I think.
Virtue: What do we do now?
Phantom: I don’t know… we need to get back to the group, wherever they are…
Virtue: After you. *coughs*
Phantom: Alright… just give me a second to find my bag, my shit’s scattered everywhere now.
[3nd 4ud10]
[1735]
D4mm1t th15 th1ng 15 4ll fuck3d up! 1’ll h4v3 t0 h4v3 1t l00ked 4t l4t3r. F0r n0w, Ph4nt0m and 1 4r3 l05t 0n wh4t 4pp3r5 t0 b3 th3 b0tt0m fl00r 0f th15 G0d-f0rs4kk3n c0mpl3x. 1f th1ng5 w3r3 b4d up th3r3, wh0 kn0w5 wh4t c0uld b3 l1v1ng d0wn h3r3…
[4ud10 3n4bl3d]
Phantom: Alright, that’s the last of my inventory. Are you good to go?
Virtue: Yeah, my spinal column is mostly intact. I’m good.
Phantom: Good to hear. It looks like to back of this service tunnel is still accessible, let’s head that way. We should run into a staircase or something that leads back up.
Virtue: Alright, let’s do it.
*The Stalkers leave the debris elevator behind in search for a less painful way back up*
Phantom: I was right; this shaft connects with the floor above.
Virtue: Can you see what’s ahead of us?
Phantom: Vaguely. It looks like a bunch of old machinery for the most part.
Virtue: Hopefully the area past it leads back up.
Phantom: Yeah hope…
*Phantom stops mid-sentence*
Virtue: What is it?
Phantom: Look.
*Virtue looks in the direction indicated, and gasps*
Virtue: Jester?!
Phantom: What happened to you man?!
Jester *in broken speech*: I send… word… from my maaaaaster.
Phantom *whispers*: Look. His eyes are rolled back in his head. His brain got scorched.
Virtue: What’s the word?
Jester *forming a crooked smile*: Diiiiiiiieeeee…
*Jester opens fire*
Phantom: Take cover!
*The Stalkers dive out of the line of fire. Then, Phantom leans out of cover, shooting Jester in the torso. Jester drops to the floor, flopping like a fish out of water*
Phantom: Jester! God dammit… I told you not to go wandering off… now look what it’s done to you.
Jester: You… will neeeeveeer… make it out aliiiiiiveee… I control… the children here. Playtime is nooooooowwww…
*Jester grabs his weapon out from under him and fires at the Stalkers*
Phantom: That motherfu…
*One of the stray bullets finds its way to Phantom’s upper body. He drops to the floor, rolling behind a machine*
Jester: I… AM… GOD…
*POP*
*Virtue pulls out the Makarov he got from his first day in the Zone, and uses it to end Jester’s empty existence. Jester moans a few times, then lets out a final sigh and dies*
Virtue: Phantom! Are you ok?
Phantom *coughs*: I think so… first the floor falls out from under us… and now this. Just another day in the office.
Virtue: Well, at least your sense of humor was not damaged. It looks like that shot missed most of your muscles but I’m no expert. Let me patch you up.
Phantom: Thanks man. I can’t believe it… you killed him.
Virtue: I had to, he was shooting at us.
Phantom: I know. I mean I can’t believe they got him… fried his brain. I know we were doing him a service but that had to be a tough thing to do.
Virtue: I’ve been faced with the same decision before… it wasn’t easier doing it a second time, but it had to be done.
Phantom: I’m a sniper; I shoot people from range. I’ve never had to look someone in the eye while I killed them, I don’t think I could do it. I guess it’s easier for me to end someone’s life without them knowing what hit them.
Virtue: I don’t intend to make a habit out of it.
Phantom: I hope not. Otherwise you’re no better off than one of them.
Virtue: One of “them”. Did you hear what Jester said?
Phantom: You mean the “I am God” part?
Virtue: Yeah.
Phantom: Didn’t that guy… Dmytro, say that? You think he was putting words in Jester’s mouth?
Virtue: He said he controls all the zombified Stalkers and he seems bent on killing us now. I have no doubt in my mind.
Phantom: That sick bastard… for all we know the real Jester was still inside there, trying to get out. If I ever find that guy I will tear him apart piece by piece and feed him to the dogs!
Virtue: First things first, we need to get back up top; our friends could be in trouble.
Phantom: Right. Let’s keep moving. You did a good job of dressing the wound.
*The Stalkers leave the room, making it Jester’s eternal tomb. As they continue up the passage, all other sounds die around them*
Virtue *whispering*: Man… it got really quiet.
Phantom: Too quiet… something’s not right.
*Phantom cocks his rifle, then carefully steps into the room above*
Phantom *gulps*: You may want to hold your breath.
*The smell of death and decay immediately hits their nostrils. The room ahead is filled with the twisted and contorted bodies of many ex-workers of the compound.*
Virtue: Oh my God… what happened to them?
Phantom: These must be the ones who… didn’t make it.
*Suddenly, the Stalker’s Geiger counters rise rapidly*
Phantom: Shit! Run back!
*The Stalkers back down the stairs around the corner as their Geiger counters return to normal*
Phantom: Some of them are still… alive… but dead.
Virtue: Undead?
Phantom: Yeah… they were stirring up dust on the floor… it must be heavily contaminated.
*The Stalkers peek around the corner back into the room. Some of the ex-workers turned zombies are twitching on the floor, most on either side of the room*
Virtue: It looks like they’re eating something…
Phantom: Yeah… what is that?
*The Stalkers watch as one of the closer zombies reaches into a rusty tub filled with a glowing material*
Phantom: My Geiger counter just shot up again… whatever that stuff is it’s contaminated.
Virtue: Look in the corner… there’s some boxes marked “X16”.
*The Stalkers step into the room, hugging the walls to prevent detection*
Phantom: My Geiger counter is reading high levels of radiation inside… it’s the same stuff.
Virtue: Whatever this stuff is, it must have come from Dmytro. Those things look like they love it.
Phantom: I think they’re distracted… let’s try to sneak past them.
*The Stalkers step out of the corner and back to the top of the stairs*
Phantom: Use signals only, don’t say a word until we’re through. Stay on my right.
Virtue: Got it.
*Phantom moves slowly into the room, Virtue directly to his right. Their Geiger counters start to rise as they approach the center of the room, barely within acceptable levels. Phantom taps Virtue on the shoulder, pointing at the readings he’s getting; anymore and they could suffer radiation sickness. Their Geiger counters to click as they walk between the stirring zombies, still distracted with the contaminated material, which they ingest like cereal.*
*Suddenly, a pipe from one of the old machines loosens from its base, and clatters to the floor. The zombies lazily look up from their meal and scanning the room, see their unexpected observers*
Phantom *whispering*: Shit…
*The zombie closest to them yells and throws a glob of his dinner at them. The blog impacts the machine to their left causing their Geiger counters to shoot into dangerous levels. The other zombies take notice and start to moan*
Phantom: RUN!
*The Stalkers break for the other side of the room while the other zombies begin to repeat the actions of the first one*
Phantom: Don’t let that shit hit you, whatever you do!
*The globs of contaminated material continue to pelt the machinery about them, causing hissing and burning sounds as it slowly dissolves the rusty metal*
Phantom: Almost there… keep going!
*The sound of impact comes from nearby and Virtue falls to the ground*
Phantom: Virtue! Shit… come on!
Virtue: It’s eating through my suit!
*The zombies moan victoriously as globs pelt the immediate area around the fallen Stalker*
Phantom: Come on! Take my hand – we’re almost there!
*The Stalkers leap into the unknown darkness of the stairwell outside the room, Phantom slamming what’s left of the door behind them. Several globs impact the door, wearing down the metal and oozing down the holes*
Virtue: Get it off! Get it off!
Phantom: Hang on! I’ll use one of my bandages to wipe off the bulk!
*Phantom takes an unwrapped Gauze strip from his backpack and uses it to wipe off as much of the material as possible. The material hisses and burns away the bulk of the Gauze strip.*
Virtue *chokes for air*: I think it stopped…. But my Geiger counter went ballistic when it hit my suit… I was trying to keep my head away from the fumes coming off of it.
Phantom: That was smart; the fumes look like they’re giving off radiation at 5 times the amount of that stuff by itself. The material is mostly neutralized now… I just wouldn’t touch that part of your suit with your bare hands.
Virtue: Thanks… I appreciate it.
Phantom: Don’t mention it. When we get out of here let Sakharov take a look at it, he’s good at neutralizing radioactive material… some sort of super scrubber he’s made or something.
Virtue: Well… *grunts as Phantom helps him up* it looks like we’re going the right way. Let’s get out of this hellhole.
Phantom: No protests here.
[End audio]
{Excerpt from the PDA of Nimbus}
[Audio enabled]
Nimbus: Hello!? Is anyone up there?! ANYBODY!?
*A moan comes from the other side of the room*
Nimbus: Say something or I’ll blow your fucking head off!
Zombie: Do not shoot.
Nimbus: Zombie! Jesus man… you scared the shit out of me. We were both knocked unconscious; I don’t know where the others are.
Zombie: We are trapped on the third layer of hell.
Nimbus: Three floors down?
Zombie: Indubitably. *Zombie motions over to a dark sign on the wall that reads “Level 03”
Nimbus: Do you see everything around us?
Zombie: My eyes pierce the darkness, revealing the truth behind the unseen.
Nimbus: Can you find us a way out?
Zombie: Yes.
Nimbus: Alright… I’ll watch our backs if you don’t mind… lead on.
*Nimbus and Zombie pick themselves up, and continue into the room adjacent to theirs. The halls are dark and silent, seemingly barren of all life or anything of interest*
Nimbus: Man… this floor looks picked clean. No abandoned offices, old machinery or anything… just concrete wall.
*Zombie says nothing and resumes his usual “scanning” mode. The Stalkers continue down the hall in search of an exit, when finally something catches Zombie’s eye*
Zombie: The light shines and the truth is revealed.
Nimbus: Wha… oh. What have we here… it looks like somebody left that there recently.
*The room at the end of the hallway emits a single light. A small glow comes from the solitary object in the room*
Nimbus: It’s a laptop… and still on too. How can that be? The battery life can’t be more than a few hours. Let’s go have a look.
Zombie: See the light and discover the truth.
*Nimbus flips up the screen on the laptop, immediately checking the remaining battery life*
Nimbus: What the… that can’t be.
*Zombie looks inquisitively*
Nimbus: It’s just… the battery hasn’t been drained at all. But there’s something else… the time remaining shows as infinity.
Zombie: The truth surfaces when it needs to, despite impossible odds.
Nimbus: Well, let’s see what truth we can discover. I’m going to use my PDA to download whatever I can.
[End audio]
[Uplink Status: Complete]
[Downloading contents of C:/X16/Project Woodpecker]
[Download complete]
[Receiving audio]
[Resuming last application]
[Audio enabled]
*The sound of a sharp whisper pierces the silence*
Nimbus: Did you hear that?
*Zombie freezes in place, then swivels around, checking the room*
Nimbus: Maybe it was noth…
*The whisper continues, but is impossible to make out*
Nimbus *whispers*: Who is that?
Zombie: The whispers of the damned.
Nimbus *whispers*: What? What does that mean…?
*The whisper becomes louder until suddenly it seems as though the person making it is standing next to them*
Nimbus *whispers*: Zombie… what the fuck is goi…
Unknown (1) *whispering*: LEEAAAVEEEE… NOOOOOWWWW!
*The Stalkers immediately turn in place, looking for the person obviously standing in the room with them, but find nothing*
Nimbus: I don’t like this…
*Zombies eyes get wide as we looks behind Nimbus*
Nimbus: What’s behind me…?
*Nimbus slowly turns around to find nobody… but the laptop sitting in the desk is now hovering in midair*
Zombie: Do… not… move…
Nimbus: I… I… I…
*The screen flips open and hundreds of image appear showing scenes of the gruesome death and mutation of the ex-workers of the compound*
Zombie: The devil mocks us.
*The images continue to pour onto the screen, becoming more and more gruesome until suddenly the screen freezes on the image of something  Zombie seems to recognize*
Zombie: I know you…
*All activity in the room ceases as the image on the laptop continues to stare at the Stalkers. The static from the speakers increases in amplitude, cutting the silence until a deep, inhuman laugh emanates from them*
*The Stalkers are frozen in place by fear, unsure of what’s happening or what to do. Then the laughter turns into a mixed growl/scream and the laptop is hurled at the Stalkers*
Nimbus: HOLY SHIT!
Zombie: We need to leave. Now!
*The Stalkers run from the room like bats out of hell and are greeted with the missing contents of the rooms, stacked neatly on both sides of the hall they came from*
Nimbus: That wasn’t there before! What the hell…
*The various chairs, desks, and common office tools slowly begin moving towards them, making a sickening grinding sound on the floor*
Nimbus: AHH! WHAT’S GOING ON!? IT HURTS…
*Zombie fights the urge to cover his ears and instead begins firing at the more unstable-looking furniture, carving a hole in the hallway*
*The furniture continues to grind towards them as pieces begin to hurl themselves at them like the laptop*
Nimbus: Zombie! Look out!
*Chairs, garbage cans, and a hail of smaller utensils slam into Zombie, who continues to fire at the possessed items*
Nimbus: The other side is closing in! I’ll help you!
*The barrage continues with many of the smaller items bouncing off the Stalkers and forming a flowing circle around them. Nimbus joins in the fight and begins gunning down the furniture like a pack of dogs*
Zombie: The light! The light!
*A hole begins to form amongst the broken pieces, which continue to get smaller in the path of the bullets*
Nimbus: We gotta get the fuck out of here!
*Nimbus fires through the hole forming as a metal desk near him lurches forward and clips his feet, sending him in a spiraling flip to the ground behind it*
Nimbus: I can’t… I can’t breathe…
*Zombie leaps over the desk, kicking it over and hiding behind it. The desk advances quickly in the other direction, backtracking to the Stalkers position*
Nimbus *gasps for air*: It’s co… it’s coming back!
*The desk grinds along the floor, picking up the Stalkers in its path*
Nimbus: It’s going to crush us between the door!
Zombie: Have faith.
*The Stalkers continue to slide with the desk, then slam into the door, the legs of the desk lodge in the door frame leaving the Stalkers mostly unarmed while the door suffers a large bulge*
Nimbus: I think that broke the latch! We can kick it in…
Zombie: DOWN!
*The hail of utensils flies at Nimbus’ head, hitting the door above him like a hundred tiny bullets*
Nimbus: *whew*…
Zombie: GO! NOW!
*Zombie kicks the door in and dives into the stairwell beyond, Nimbus following in his wake like a paper caught in a breeze*
*The door rips off its hinge as the rest of the furniture in the hall slams into the doorway, causing a loud bang that echoes through the stairwell. The furniture flies over the rail and topples into the darkness below*
Nimbus: We made it… I can’t believe…
*Above the sound of the furniture cascading down the stairwell the sound of electric static fills the hallway above and the same growl/scream they heard before echoes throughout the floor. The remaining furniture becomes lodged in the doorway, trapping the unknown assailant behind it*
Zombie: Our foe is subdued, we must leave.
*Angered growling an a sharp static-y hum continue to protrude from the room, then die down as the Stalkers climb the stairs, out of the creature’s range*
Nimbus: What was that thing? Was it just one, or several? How did it make those things float…?
*Zombie unzips a side pouch on his backpack which he used to store a pad and assorted pens and pencils inside. He pulls out a picture that looks recently finished*
Nimbus: What is it?
Zombie: Poltergeist.
Nimbus: Like a ghost?
Zombie: A malicious spirit, twisted by the Zone.
Nimbus: Why couldn’t we see it?
Zombie: The spirit only reveals itself to those who need to see it.
Nimbus: I hope I never see one… seeing the effects of its presence are enough for me…
Zombie: Level 01. Our fate awaits.
Nimbus: I hope the others made it back…
[End audio]

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