With a groan Subaru forced his eyes open to a dark ceiling of cracked cement and long shadows. Weird. Last thing I remember was a thunderstorm. He thought as he forced himself to sit up. Looking around he was in a cramped and dark cement room full of crude shelves and crates. Huh, a warehouse? That thought made Subaru somewhat uneasy. As he was looking around he heard some english music coming from an opening. Getting up he slowly crept to the opening and peered through the archway.
It led to another room that seemed full of crates with a crude iron bar divider at one end reminiscent of a jail cell. Against the divider was a workbench where two men were working. A fat, balding man in a grimy white shirt and suspenders typing away on a computer and a younger man in a somewhat ripped green outfit was doing something on what looked like a tool workbench. The Music was coming from a scratchy radio somewhere in the room Abruptly the fat man turned to Subaru.
"Ah your awake." He droned out in a gravelly and harshly accented, but strangely understandable voice.
"What's going on. Who are you?" Subaru responded. This seemed suspicious.
"Lucky you. He speaks Russian" the fat man muttered to the second man, who had looked up and turned to the boy. "You were in a truck crash. My associates rescued you on my instruction and brought to my humble abode."
"Thanks I guess. Also what do you mean Russian? I'm speaking Japanese."
"What is this bullshit. It sounds like Russian to me. Shitty accent maybe but understandable enough. Anyway we have business to attend to. What's your name boy?"
He considered answering but then he noticed the second man had turned to watch what was going on, and in doing so had revealed a number of firearms, parts, tools, and bullets sitting on the bench.
Subaru was no gun expert, but he certainly recognised the weapons lying on the table to be some sort of machine gun. His blood ran cold. These guys had to be criminals of some sort. Had he been kidnapped? He wanted to bolt but the only exit was what seemed to be a locked door in the crude divider in the current room and a massive vaultlike door in the wall.
He was trapped with the strange men. And It scared him.
Noticing his unease the fat man raised his hand in a placating gesture.
"Relax, we'll have a nice long conversation about your circumstances and where we go from there. I don't plan on killing you. My name is Sidorovich. What is yours?"
"Okay Subaru. Here's how it's going to work. If you want to get out of here the easy way you'll tell me the names of your family back home, I'll contact them, and if they can foot the bill you will be sent right on your way and never see me or this place again. If they can't then you can work around here to pay me back and maybe get enough cash to get out yourself.
"So I'm a hostage then."
"It will take some time to explain but this is for your own safety. I could let you go out and wander around right now, but chances are you will die within about a dozen steps. And I at minimum want a return on the investment I made saving your sorry ass before you die."
"Sure whatever… same difference." Subaru replied sarcastically.
"Fuckin kids" Sidorovich grumbled before unfolding a tattered map depicting a portion of a country Subaru didn't recognise that was centered on what appeared to be a major city and surrounding countryside and some smaller population centers on the outskirts. Lots of harsh, illegible text and marks littered the area surrounding the city.
"Alright let's start with the basics. You're in the Chernobyl Zone of Alienation surrounding the city of Pripyat and the Nuclear Power Plant." As he spoke Sidorovich jabbed a finger at the large urban section and the complex a short distance away.
"Wait. Chernobyl? Isn't that the Nuclear Power Plant that exploded and made the surrounding area uninhabitable?" Subaru interrupted.
"The first disaster yes. Sidorovich said. "After the second disaster in 2006 it became quite a bit more…lively" He chuckled before transitioning to a hacking cough. Before Subaru could inquire to the second disaster Sidorovich held up an hand to keep him quiet.
"As I was saying." He recovered. "Right now your near the outer border of this exclusion zone, about here." He gestured to a small village quite a distance from the city. "Following the Second Disaster Ukraine and Belarus moved considerable resources to lock down The Zone, keep people out and keep The Zone in. The perimeter is heavily guarded with checkpoints, barricades, minefields, etc. with soldiers authorised to shoot anyone within on sight."
"But if I can explain to them. If this is Ukraine there has to be an embassy I can ca-"
"The Military will shoot you well before you can talk to them. Even if you do somehow survive you will be thrown into Prison for trespassing and not having ID. And I warn you our prisons are not nearly as…lenient… as American prisons." Sidorovich interrupted. "Now then. The best way for both of us to get you out of here is for you to put me in contact with someone who will pay for your return."
Subaru Sighed and told the man his Home Phone number and street address in Japan. As the man searched something on his computer an immediate concern came to Subaru's Mind.
"How much will this cost?"
Subaru looked out the corner of his eye and at the and paused for a minute in thought. "Probably around 150 000 American Dollars." He replied, resuming his searching.
Subaru's jaw dropped. He generally assumed an American dollar was worth about 100 yen. This guy was asking for well over 15 million yen. It was an absurd amount of money to the teen.
"That's if you want to get out and back home with a good degree of reliability." You can probably chop about $15,000 if you cheap out on the fake passport, stamps, and all that but then you risk getting caught at customs during an inspection, more so if you want to pass the military without help. Factor in bribes, a long distance flight, expenses for food, hotels, new clothes, getting out of the Zone in the first place, not to mention compensating me for the trouble, that's where I see it coming to."
Subaru balked. That was almost half the price of a small house. He wasn't from a poor family but he knew it was unlikely that his family would have so much money just sitting around. Still he had to at least let them know what was going on even if they couldn't afford to get him out. "What about the embassy?"
"Don't know don't care. Once you're on your way and I've been payed I don't give a shit what you do. I just told you the guaranteed price to get you home in one piece with my known associates and minimal issues with some of the more troublesome people. By the way do these people speak English?"
"Yeah, I don't but my dad does."
"Ah got it." Sidorovich scribbled something on a pad of paper and punched the numbers into his phone before handing It over to Subaru. "You are to introduce yourself, verify who they are, give a brief summary of your situation, then hand me the phone".
Subaru rolled his eyes and took the phone from the fat man. Holding it to his ear he heard the ringing interrupt as the recipient answered.
"Dad! Is that you."
"Who is this."
"It's me, Natsuki, I don't have time for this."
"What? Where did you hear-"
"No time just listen. Apparently I'm a hostage or something In Ukraine. He's demanding 15 million yen to release me."
Before he could hear the answer Sidorovich grabbed the phone and started speaking in English. He started out calm before getting louder and more irritated before finally hanging up. He suddenly turned to Subaru with a fierce expression on his face.
"What was that bullshit. They said they're kid is in their fucking house right now What the fuck are you playing at. You have any fucking idea how much long distance calls cost you cunt!"
"Wha-? What do you mean" Subaru was shaken. Hadn't his father heard his plight. Why was he acting like this. Maybe he threatened the fat man and it was being taken out on him.
Yeah that had to be it. He wouldn't just be abandoned here. It wouldn't happen like that. Steeling himself he prepared to weather the abuse from Sidorovich.
Only to be surprised as the fat man turned back to the computer and began typing. He then yelled to the second man that had been quietly watching from the bench and guns.
"Get this piece of shit out of here and give him a quick tour around the entrance while I calm down. Try not to lose him."
"Got it, done with the Bizon mags by the way." The man said. He sounded much younger then Sidorovich though slightly older then Subaru himself. Getting himself up he grabbed an old green backpack from the floor and places some tins sitting on the workbench into the main pocket as he approaches Subaru. He was slightly taller then Subaru but he was noticeably thinner with a hard stare. Looking Subaru up and down he then made towards the divider and opened the door Subaru walked wordlessly through ending up in a small room that was mostly bare save for an old locker shelf and a large, vault like door. As his escort entered the room he opened one of the lockers and retrieved what looked to Subaru like a somewhat molten and warped AK-47, like a wax model that had just begun to melt. Opening the door led to some stairs and his escort gestured upward.
As Subaru began climbing the stairs he heard a dull thud as the vault door slammed shut. Turning to his escort the man suddenly broke out into a grin.
"Oh man you got balls dude, not many people would piss off Fatass down their lightly given how important he is. What did happened with that phone call by the way."
Subaru felt somewhat calmed by this. "No idea, like I said, I don't speak English."
"Either way still funny. Though I'd advise against pissing him off in the future lest he blacklist you. I'm Trout by the way."
"Yeah about that. Looks like your going to be here for a while so might as well start your lessons." Trout said in a serious tone.
"Lessons? What, you going to send me to school?" Subaru chortled.
"Lessons that will keep you alive. First off, Don't use your name. It's probably not too big a deal with Sidorovich as long as you don't scam or slander his work to customers and I won't pry but there are people here with powerful connections. Connections that can impact you and your family even back in civilisation many years from now."
"Okay, I guess, so what should I call myself."
"I dunno, I'm thinking Balls would be a good one for now" Trout chortled before stopping at what appeared to be a cellar door. He turned to Subaru. His small grins replaced with a stony expression
"Okay. Comedy hours over. Stay near me, keep your voice down, don't walk anywhere I don't tell you to go, and don't touch anything. Got it?
"Okay okay sheesh, next you'll tell me to brush my teeth and eat my broccoli
"Man balls really is a good nickname for you, you're a real pain down there alright. Look here smartass I'm telling you this for your own fucking sake. If you don't do that you'll probably die in a very messy and painful manner."
"Sheesh you make it sound like people just drop dead left and right out there for no good reason"
"Well there usually is a reason, even if it's some anomalous bullshit reason, but yes, people do drop dead left and right out there." Trout said as he opened the door and gestured Subaru out.
Subaru found himself on a hillside shaded by massive trees. To the right and left were more hills that largely blocked his view while ahead was a small, dilapidated village. Even from the distance Subaru could see missing bricks, collapsed walls, and rust on the vehicles throughout the village. He could also see what appeared to be a campfire in an old courtyard.
He had barely taken in the view before he made his move. Despite being a shut in he was in remarkably good shape, and more importantly he wasn't carrying a full backpack and rifle. He immediately dashed to the left hill.
"What the fuck! Stop you retard!" Trout called out form behind, running but slowed by his equipment compared to the unencumbered teen. Subaru ignored him as he approached the top of the hill. He now saw what appeared to be a small pile of construction equipment in a crude landfill and large field dotted with trees. In the distance was a farm and a steep embankment that led to a worn looking bridge. He immediately ran down towards the landfill.
A sudden series of loud cracks sounded from behind him. Turning he saw Trout near the top of the embankment holding something small and metallic in his hands. Another pop and the fragmenting of cement immediately told Subaru he was being shot at by what seemed to be a pistol. There was more shouting that Subaru didn't hear and ignored, starting to zigzags running hoping to throw Trout's aim off. It seemed to work as there we no further shots fired at him.
Then he suddenly felt a strange force knock him to his side. It felt and sounded like a strong wind abruptly bowling him over. Furthermore, he could feel the invisible force dragging him somewhere. He desperately grasped at the soil but his fingers found no purchase. The force seemed to get stronger and stronger and his legs abruptly came off the ground. Looking around he saw Trout standing a good distance away with a strange device in his hand making an incessant beeping noise. He simply stared at what was happening before him with the device hanging by his side. Even from this distance Subaru could see his expression of mute horror. Suddenly he was pulled completely off the ground.
"Help!" Subaru called out but he couldn't hear his own cry over the deafening noise. He stopped rising at almost 15 feet off the ground, rotating slowly.
Then the pain started. It felt like a stubbed toe, but all over his body. His legs were forced to bend and his back arch. The pain was forcing him into a fetal position. He screamed in pain as the pressure increased forcing his body into a tighter and tighter curl. More and more the pain grew. He felt cracking in his rib cage and legs. He struggled to breathe as his chest simply refused to expand.
And then there was a split second of the worst pain Subaru had ever felt as his body was instantaneously compressed into a space the size of a tennis ball. Almost as soon as it started the mysterious force abated, causing an explosion of gore, torn nylon and viscera from the dead boys body to shower the surrounding area.
Subaru abruptly rose form his prone position with a scream in a cold sweat. He looked around. The last thing he remembered was being crushed by the mysterious force. He was back in Sidorovich's bunker with the same radio music playing.
"W-What the hell. I died, I died." Subaru muttered to himself before lying back down to collect his thoughts.
As he waited Trout suddenly poked his head in the doorway.
"Hey. The kid's awake." He called out.
"Bring him in." Sidorovich called out.
Subaru suddenly remembered that Trout had shot at him right before he died. He backed off.
"No way Trout, I'm not getting shot" Subaru all but shrieked as he backed towards the corner.
Trout's eyes narrowed "Where the fuck did you hear my name from?"
"You fucking told me right before shooting at me and that damn wind crusher thingy I ran into."
"What? Fucking death truck. I knew this was a bad idea!"
Subaru suddenly rushed Trout hoping to barrel past him and get out before he could get shot. He drove a fist into Trout's face that sent him rocking back before kicking him in the balls. The gaunt man crumpled over in pain.
"The Fucks going on back there?" Sidorovich yelled out. Subaru could hear shuffling. He ran for the divider door checking Sidorovich into his workbench before running for the divider door. As he opened the door he suddenly felt a burning sensation in his back as his legs gave out under him accompanied by a slowly spreading sensation of coldness. A trio of loud cracks told him he'd been shot. As he crumpled to the ground in pain he turned to the back of the room.
Trout was standing in the doorway. Hunched over and limping but holding the same pistol as last time in outstretched hands.
"Damn death truck freaks." Trout said, spitting on the dying boy and ignoring his grunts of pain. "I should have listened to those guys back at the Villiage. Nothing but Fucked up bullshit."
"What the fuck Trout! You were supposed to teach him to stay alive, not shoot him." Sidorovich raged.
"Not my fault. The little cunt rushed me. He knew my fucking name." Trout retorted.
"Goddamn it! Just hope the other one isn't this bad." Sidorovich said as he facepalmed
"Well count me out of any fucking orientation work with that guy, he seems even worse then this piece of shit." Trout huffed, turning to the divider door to open it."
"Clean your mess up before you leave. Your damn lucky I don't blacklist you for this shit" Sidorovich yelled out.
"Fine Fine." Trout replied, albeit in a shaky manner. He knew how serious being blacklisted by the fat man was. He turned to the dying boy and drew a bead from his Makarov to the boys head.
Subaru never even heard the shot that ended his life.
Subaru suddenly awoke. Once again in a cold sweat.
And once again on Sidorovich's lumpy couch.
Am i really coming back from the dead in the past? If so I have to plan this through. He thought. Based on the conversation he heard from Trout and Sidorovich the strange men didn't seem to outright want him dead. Furthermore they were somewhat trying to explain his situation to him. But Trout also seemed extremely paranoid for some reason. He had nearly come to blows when Subaru revealed his name without being told it. He would have to be careful about what little he knew about this strange place.
After thinking for a few minutes he came to a conclusion. It would probably be best to at least humour them a little longer. He could get more information about his circumstances at the very least.
So with a deep breath he got off the couch and walked towards the archway. Once again he was met with the sight of Sidorovich typing on his computer and Trout working on the strange guns.
"Ah your awake."
Well Subaru is going to have one bullshit OP ability, but it is one that will really make the horrors of The Zone more...tangible IMO. (Also its basically the only way a completely unprepared novice even has a shot at making it anywhere in the Zone.). Thanks for the support.