Mykola slid his backpack from his shoulders, reaching inside and lining up a row of artifacts on the counter. The past day, he'd been scouring the outskirts of the Cordon for them, strange baubles produced by the anomalies which dotted the Zone. Many had special properties, which made them very valuable to Stalkers. Any trader would be happy to get his hands on the things. Mykola placed the last one down and leaned on the counter.
1986, Pripyat, Ukraine. The Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant's No. 4 reactor suffers a catastrophic power increase, causing explosions in its core. The disaster sends mass amounts of radioactive particles into the air around Pripyat and beyond, the toxic cloud reaching as far a Norway. Years later, the Ukrainian government tries to clean up and repopulate the area around Pripyat, stationing military personnel and scientists in the region. However, another critical accident occurs in 2006 and the majority of Pripyat's new inhabitants are killed or mutated by the event.
It is now 2012 and the Zone of Alienation is now home to many individuals called "stalkers." Stalkers are wanderers, seeing thrills, wealth and adventure within the Zone. The Zone has become a new frontier of sorts, although is officially off-limits and policed by the Ukranian State Security Service. Stalkers are an illegal, but ever-present feature of the Zone, attracting many different kinds of people. Some stalkers band together to form paramilitary organizations, research groups, or simply to get by. Being a stalker is dangerous business, especially with the Zone teeming with mutants, the children of Chernobyl. Not to mention the radiation and anomalies that dot the wilds.
Despite the hardships, you have come to the Zone with a band of like-minded hopefuls, seeking a new life inside of the Zone. Will you find whatever it is you seek? Will you join other stalkers for a greater cause? Or will you simply try to survive the dangers that lurk in the dark? The Zone is your frontier, for better or worse.
"I've got four for you today, Sid," he said. "These two weren't easy." He pointed to the pair on the left.
"Mama's Beads and Flash, eh? Let's see..." Sidorovich handled the artifacts like a prospector, turning them over in his hands, inspecting the surface. "I can do 7500 Rubles for both. The other two aren't as rare, you know, so you'll get another 2000. 9500 Rubles in all, my friend."
"They're yours," Mykola replied. Sidorovich's register opened with a -ding- and he counted out Mykola's total before dropping the stack into his hand.
"Anything new since I've been gone?"
"Well, a few fresh-faced Stalkers just arrived this morning," Sid recalled, scratching his head. "The first newbies in a week, I think. Four of them. Why don't you greet them yourself? Maybe you can teach them a thing or two!" The trader chuckled and bundled Mykola's artifacts, dropping them into a door on his shelf.
"We'll see. Take it easy, Sid." Mykola threw his pack over his shoulders again and worked his way up the steps from Sidrovich's bunker. He approached the tiny village of wrecked houses, passing a couple of Stalkers on guard.
"Sid told me some newbies passed by today. You see them?"
"I think you're looking for them." A Stalker pointed to a stone dwelling on the opposite side of the village. Mykola could make out four of them sitting around a fire.
"Yeah, thanks." Mykola turned away towards the building. He pondered to himself if these rookies would be fresh-faced and amateur like the majority of new Stalkers he'd met. Many foolhardy youth tried to penetrate the Zone's perimeter. Those that didn't get shot by the military were either stripped of their gear and sent home or just dwelled around the rookie camp for a while before loosing interest. The majority, Mykola found, weren't as aware of the Zone's dangers as the ought to be. He paused in front of the house, peeking his head in through the ruined wall.
"You the newbies who dropped by this morning?"