*** Episode #3 ***

One more ordinary and quiet morning in the Zone, at a distance you can clearly hear a bloodsucker’s noises. It seems he’s avoiding day light, even though he scents humans… Two man, armed with rifles are laying down near a well-trodden path, it is unclear if they are trying to hide or not, from afar it’s possible to smell their man stink, strongly blended with the scent of alcohol, perhaps this is exactly why the bloodsucker isn’t interested in them, it’s clear that the men are not worried about the fact that there is a bloodsucker nearby. Suddenly one them opened his eyes and sat down, his eyes don’t move, as if a predator sensed its prey. His friend is still laying, seemingly dead, you could only see his chest moving. The one that was sitting kneeled, cocked his AK-47 and kept waiting.

Aaahaa! Cheeki Breeki! – Antoshka screams and jumps out of the bushes. “What the hell, what’s going on?!” – Still unware of the situation, still half-sleeping Niko jumps together with him.
Yes, Antoshka is not ready to sleep… Yesterday we had a good time, we smashed more than one bottle, and he’s fucking jumping here at sunrise. Why the fuck is he doing this? I can barely hold my eyes open, I’m trying to understand what they’re showing me, my head is buzzing… What do we have here? Right, two ragged stalkers… Antoshka, blocked the road, pointing his Kalashnikov at them…

– So? Where are we headed, boys? What are we carrying so early in the morning? – Asked Antoshka, in a cheerful and friendly manner. I can’t understand this, he drank so much yesterday and fuck… He’s standing as if nothing happened.

– Hmm… We’re just headed to the swamp, and we have nothing on us…

– There’s no passage here, and it’s not a free road.

– No, seriously, my friend here, he’s not well, radiation and what not… We searched for help in the bar, but we have nothing, so…

– Yea, right, you’re planning to go to the swamp to drown yourselves there?

– No… They say there’s a doctor there, maybe he’ll help us…

Antoshka starts laughing… – Doctor?!… You won’t find him anyway, obviously you don’t know the road, we’re the ones who can help you. – Hitting me on the shoulder with his fist – right, Niko?

I’m still drowsy, agreeing only by nodding my head, and inside my head there’s a brain made of gelatine wiggling around.

So, what are you suggesting? Here no one does anything for free… Look, your backpack seems to be too heavy.

The stalkers understood, speechlessly and unwillingly handed the backpack over. I’ll check it. Just a bunch of rags… Oh, look, three bullets, not much, but it’ll do. I didn’t find much, just 20 in cash… A can… Argh, fuck it, let them keep this crap, I’ll put it back in the backpack. And a bottle of vodka half full! We’re keeping this one. I’ll return the backpack.

Rather scarce, boys…

We told you we didn’t have much… – you could see some signs of anxiety on the stalkers face, but his voice was calm.

– Ok, go on then, search, just there is no passage here, you’ll have to find another way.

– Do you really know about the swamp doctor? – The stalker understands where this is going…

– Of course, are you taking me as a deceiver?

The stalkers exchange glances and hand over a few more rolled bills.

Uh! Were keeping them in your ass? Ok… Last year… Last year you had to go to the swamp, who the fuck knows where your doctor is now. Someone saw him at the swamp, but only a few times close to the dam and that’s it. The doctor was searching for something last year. Rumours say, he’s gone mad… Ok, bye. Oh, and I saw what you have there, so behave wisely.

The stalkers calmly passed by us… I see, how they look at me staggering…

– Niko, did you see that one with his pistol hidden in his underwear… – Antoshka laughs out loud.

– Well… – My mouth is totally dry and my body demands rest…

– What well, what well?… Sober up already, you have the remedy for hung over, let’s go.

<…>

After passing through the bandits, Pavlik and Shponka kept walking quietly, perhaps they were listing for chasers… One skinny 2 meter guy, the other one small 1m 65cm… Quickly disappeared behind the turn.

Phew, bastards, leeches, want to loot everything…

– They left the can…

– They fooled us about the doctor, but of course, it’s obvious that they would, we should have shot them!

– Yea right, shoot them… You’d probably press the trigger with your dick…

– At least I still have my pistol and a full magazine – Pavlik grabbed his gun and turned it to one side and to the other. – Shponka, what if the doctor really did go mad? You’re our brain and there’s no use of having a body without a brain…

– Pavlik, what did the brain tell you?

– Less talking, more thinking, ok, Pavlik will think.

Stalkers stopped at the crossroad, seems like a calm and warm morning. It would be really unfortunate to run in to another group of bandits… Our boots were wet due to the morning dew, and because of that, the journey was becoming unpleasant and we wanted to rest at the morning sunlight, but in the Zone resting at the sunlight is the worst place for a Stalker. Shponka turned to the direction of the thicker vegetation and reaching the shadow he crouched.

– What are you doing?

– I’ll take a shit. – Pavlik turned and went away.

– Come here. – Said Shponka in a serious manner and wasn’t joking.

– I was really thinking you were going to take a shit…

While Shponka was unfolding the map, Pavlik looked around one more time: nobody sees them, good.

– Pavlik, do you remember everything, where they told us to go?

– Pavlik remembers everything!

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