**** WHISPERS S03-EP03 ****

At the military base, I was pushed into a cage and ignored for a while. Then a couple came and they took me to the head of the base. This man looked normal, well, maybe a little strict … He offered me some water and sometimes, looking at me, began to fill out some documents. Probably half an hour has passed. The door opened from the blow of the foot and the quartermaster ran in.

  • – The third checkpoint was attacked by unknown stalkers, all of our people were killed, a container with additional ammunition was stolen. It is necessary to organize a rapid response squad and search the surrounding area.
  • – Quiet, quiet, who attacked? How many people? There is still at least some information, because sending a squad and losing it at night would have been easier than ever. Let the warrant officer deal with this case, for this he was returned.

The quartermaster turned white, but turned around and left, slowly closing the door.

  • “You are a young man in an unenviable situation,” began the head of the base. – We are now on full combat readiness, everyone is running around on their ears. You have nothing to know, but the fact that you were brought here alive by some kind of joke of fate, in the current situation you should have been shot on the spot and not even buried. Though …. you can also be useful … If you have any information, bring it, because all that remains is to sign the documents on your liquidation and carry out the sentence.

Then I told the head of the base what I am telling you. Only omitting some details that are not essential or could somehow affect the inhabitants of the zone.

  • – Well, we already guessed about many things, only now everything has been confirmed. After all, these white-skinned scientists are probably rubbing their hands now, drooling and dancing a polka with a sleigh, because they will be able to ram their civil faces to the ZONE again. They will again want to settle away from us so that we cannot control them.

The unit commander sat in thought. He tapped the table with the fingers of one hand, and twisted a pencil in the other. The eyes were tired. Long-cold tea was on the table. There was a soft knock at the door. The unit commander slowly turned his gaze to the doors and uttered without any desire.

  • – Come in

The doors opened and a military man entered the impromptu office.

  • – Commander, Zadov is searching the area, now is the time to decide what to do with this guy. Can we deport or waste..? – the military grinned.
  • – Hmmm, no, this one turns out to be able to survive, there are thoughts to make him our eyes in the zone, because there is a problem with collecting information. We control a small part of the territory, the stalkers all slip into the ZONE, we don’t know the paths of smuggling, and having collected enough information about the anomalous and radiation zones, we could send the squads deeper into the forests without fear that they would stay there.
  • – So now we are going to accept illegal stalkers as soldiers?
  • – No, we will not officially accept it, but, as I said, we can close our eyes if we receive reliable and important information.

The base commander turned to FLOW.

  • – Well, the decision has been made, you are lucky, you can live for some more time. Whatever unnecessary questions arise, you will refer all the information to scientists, it will also be useful for them, and they will already pass it on to us.

FLOW is crumpled, it seems nothing at all an option to keep the skin intact. – I agree with everything, but when they let go – catch the wind in the field, – he thought, and asked himself:

  • – What information is needed and what is not? And if there is something important that scientists do not need to know about, but for you it will be priceless?
  • – For a long time we have been drawing up a map of anomalies, making identification of dangerous and radioactively exposed zones, collecting information about stalkers in the zone where they eat, sleep, shit or drink, where weapons, ammunition and everything else come from in the ZONE. And what would you be interested in not disappearing, we offer you this option: if the information is worthwhile, the scientists will give you an official piece of paper, with it you can replenish the supply of cartridges from the quartermaster.
  • – How can I reach you if yours from the checkpoint shoot at everything that moves?
  • – Well, here already turn on your imagination. I inform the attendants that a stalker may come with permission from scientists. And yet, only a few military men will know about our agreement, so if those who do not know are caught in the ZONE, these will be your problems.

The gray matter of the brain FLOW began to boil: – It is both beneficial and not so difficult, and you can replenish stocks, you need to think about everything well.

The unit commander waved his hand to the intendant – throw him out of here. Closing the door, he took the completed forms and layers them into an ashtray, setting the edge of the paper on fire.

In the silence, one of the stalkers could be heard trying to strike a flame with a flint, sparks falling on wet grass and an old newspaper. In a few moments, the newspaper flashed into a small flame, and smoke began to rise. The conductor took a burning spruce twig from the fire and set the cigarette on fire.

  • – So you say now you can trade information with scientists and earn money from this?
  • “Probably I don’t know, but they let me go. They returned my old pistol, gave me 10 rounds, a can of canned food and a kick in the ass.
  • – So you want to say that, with bulging eyes, I ran with happiness,
  • – Well, certainly not, I’m telling what I remember. So, they kicked me out of the military base, I went to Sidorovich without thinking for a long time. Since ancient times, he has been known as a reliable assistant to free stalkers. He will always help with a word, advice or what work he will throw. I got to Sidorovich extremely safely, several bandos just pushed on, demanded to give them cigarettes, but after examining me they realized that they would not get anything, so they quickly let me go. A fire was smoldering near Sidorovich’s base, but there was no one around. He knocked softly on the door, it was still night, slowly opened and went inside. It was not Sidorovich who stood at Sidorovich’s table, but a wildly familiar stalker. An old “sports” hat, which I wore as a child, black with red lines, a dirty face, huge glasses. An old bluish quilted jacket, if not strangely clean. On the table is an open box of cartridgespiles of documents and books. My legs gave way, the thought in my head that Sidorovich’s business was taken over by some faction, or that it was a robbery. A plan flashed through my head as to how quickly I could grab the pistol and how many steps I could take to reach the door. The bespectacled man slowly turned his eyes to me, so crazy, running around. He grinned with white teeth.
  • – Scary, right? Don’t worry, Sidorovich is asleep, so don’t make a noise, he hired me as an assistant, because almost everyone in the zone knows and respects me.

One stalker whispered something in another’s ear and the story FLOW was interrupted by a loud cackle of stalkers. The conductor glared at the stalkers. They stopped laughing loudly, but still giggled softly. The guide looked at them with uncomprehending eyes.

  • – Do you know something that I do not know? The conductor said angrily enough.
  • – So this is nobody else, and Seryoga, everyone knows him, he would probably even make the controller laugh, he has such a nature. We heard that Sidorovich hires him when he wants to rest. Seryoga needs to be afraid, but not because of his bad deeds.
  • – You say Seryoga, well, Sidorovich probably wants to make his business working 24 hours a day, it is quite logical. – Said the Guide, raised his finger to his lips, asking for silence and nodded FLOW to continue the story.
  • – Well, I didn’t immediately understand that it was Seryoga, but that’s not the point. So, I was looking for Sidorovich, not Seryoga, therefore, having exchanged a couple of phrases with him, I went to the side of the scientist base, I can find that scientist who has been wandering around the zone for a long time. He may have information about what is happening here in the zone, or he may give some information that can be sold. A few hours later I got to the former bunker of scientists, unfortunately, not scientists, but bandits founded their base there. Still at the dead lake I was caught from the forest thicket by two peasants in sweatpants with old AK-sami. They searched, examined and dragged away to the entrance to the bunker. A campfire was burning nearby, illuminating the bandits sitting in a circle, a peasant emerged from the depths of the bunker: patent leather boots, a dark suit, a leather cloak, a tie, an old shabby suitcase in his hands, the dial of a watch glittered on his hand.My eyes fell out of their sockets, like I was in the Lonedes business center for a business lunch. He spoke to the leader of the bandits.
  • – Heard about what? – Anxiously asked the Guide.
  • – I didn’t really hear what they said, only scraps, weapons, cartridges, delivery, they talked about documents and the like. He also did not see who the head of the bandits was, but did not recognize by his voice, he stood in the shadows, only twisted a tooth of unhealthy size in his hand, they say about such stalkers at night near the fire, they must have belonged to no one else, but Chimera. The costumed shook hands with the leader of the bandits and slowly but surely walked into the darkness. The leader of the bandits watched him go and turned to me, examined me from head to foot.
  • – What do you want boy? Looking for work, fun, drink, thrill?
  • – No, I walk around, look around, looking for something valuable. Pretended to be a fool newcomer who had not yet learned the cruelty of the ZONE.
  • – So you say you go, you look, and so I will say that I have already found. Let’s think about how you can be of use to us, and stop shaking your knees, no one is going to kill you. Having said this, the leader of the bandits lit a cigarette, inhaled, but remained standing in the shadows.

Far on the horizon, the night sky lit up with a blue glow, quiet thunder slowly rolled over the ZONE. There was an angry buzzing noise in my ears. The feeling was as if all living things began to make sounds, trees, bushes, even grass and stones seemed to come to life, spoke and sighed. Around the fire, the seated bandits suddenly fell to the ground and began to writhe in pain, grabbed their heads, their mouths were open, but they did not make a sound, their white faces distorted by pain, raised veins and drops of cold sweat resembled a scene from a horror movie. Only FLOW sat and did not react, he slowly got up, turned to the horizon and with a slow step, without making a sound, went into the darkness.

  • – So, the last thing I saw was the bandits’ base, I think it was a few days ago, after that I don’t remember anything, only your faces were like in a dream, from which you pulled me out.

The four sat in silence, their eyes lowered to the dancing fire of the fire. A gentle breeze brought quiet nocturnal sounds from the forest, sometimes rustling of leaves and sounds of breaking branches were heard. The ZONE creatures kept a fair distance from the firelight. In the east, the sky lit up with blood red, the night receded and a new day was approaching. Suddenly the horizon lit up in blue, an invisible wave swept across the zone. Everyone who was in the ZONE seemed to freeze. The four began to breathe heavily, it seemed that even the air froze and each breath of the ball was riddled with pain. Gathering all his will, the Guide took a lead box out of his pocket, opened the lid … In the center of the box lay a small piece of a blue crystal. Now it glowed and pulsed, an unexpected flash of blue light from the crystal illuminated the faces of the stalkers. The faces of the stalkers froze, turned blue, their eyes were clouded with fog,a couple of drops of blood dripped from FLOW’s nose. The stalkers got up slowly and with a slow stumbling gait walked towards the radiance. In the Conductor’s head, the remnants of common sense tried to resist, to escape from this binding cage. Darkened in his eyes, he plunged into complete darkness. In the endless black darkness, quiet, alluring, but at the same time threatening, calling somewhere WHISPERS of thousands of voices were heard.

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