Metro

Metro: Endgame [Short Story] Part One

Metro: Endgame

Part One: Discovery

Note: Parts one and two of this story were written in 2017 and part three is being written currently, so expect some changes to the writing style throughout. This story takes place not long after the events of Metro: Last Light. It was written before I read Metro 2035 and therefore events unfold differently here than in the canon novels. However, since Dmitry Glukhovsky helped write the story for Last Light, and since events of Last Light are used in the Metro 2035 book, then the video game is completely canon, and therefore, so are any references to the video game in this short story. Also, I have never been to Moscow, so most landmarks that are used are fictional (aside from the Metro stations). With that aside, I really hope you enjoy it.

The handcar creaked along the rails before coming to a stop at Krasnoselskaya, the Red Village. I swallowed my nervousness- in the form of a double shot of vodka- and grabbed my things before walking over there. Amongst my belongings was a Kalashnikov assault rifle (a homemade version produced in the metro), a .357 revolver (likewise produced in the metro), eighteen pistol cartridges, and two spare magazines, as well as a helmet with a headlamp, some body armor, and of course, a gas mask. All of this was contained in a large duffel bag which I set down at the back of the handcar. To my friends and family, I was just performing a safe task in service of the Red Line, though of course I knew my true destination.

I was followed by the other two men, Boris and Alexei. In the handcar already was Captain Vladimir Antonovich, a soldier recently pulled from the Reich front to accompany us on our mission. None of us, the captain included, knew what we were being sent to retrieve, only that it had been marked by our scouts and is of great importance to the Red Line. The captain was already dressed in his military equipment; his Kalash rested on the seat beside him. He moved it to allow room for Boris, who sat down nervously beside him.

“Vadim Kutsnetzky,” I said, offering my hand to the captain. He shook it, though he didn’t say anything in return.

“Clear the line!” called a guard near the entrance to the tunnel. He repeated himself, cupping his hands around his mouth. I began to pull the lever, pausing to wave goodbye to the few friendly faces I saw on the station. The handcar moved hesitantly at first, then picked up speed, moaning on its old and unlubricated wheels. We proceeded down the tunnel until we were out of sight of the station and then Boris began pulling the other lever so that we could pick up speed. We continued in this manner for quite a while, occasionally switching off on the levers so the previous puller could rest a bit. After a couple hours of doing so, occasionally passing patrols of two or three men, the captain motioned for us to stop. There was an old service door on the right, locked and probably rusted shut. In a case on the wall near the door was a gas mask and two filters. We all left the handcar, lugging our cumbersome packs with us, and waited by the door while the captain withdrew a key and inserted it into the lock. The door refused to budge at first, but after a curse (blyat!) and a hefty kick, it clanged open, spewing out a cloud of ancient dust that had been stirred from the floor.

“Kit up,” Vladimir said, the first words he had spoken during the entire trip. We set our packs on the ground and began withdrawing the contents: kevlar pants, a heavy armored tunic that weighed at least twenty pounds but provided protection over the torso and the arms, waterproof rubber boots, old military gloves to prevent frostbite, a modern steel helmet with a built-in headlamp, our gas masks and filters, an army-issue medkit, and our weapons. My revolver felt uncomfortably heavy in its chest holster but I was accustomed to the Kalash, as most male citizens of the Red Line undergo some form of training due to the ever-increasing need of troops on the Reich front.

We left our masks off until we reached the end of the hallway, where a derelict old ladder hung loosely from the wall. All of us put on the masks then, and attached our filters. Finally, we made sure we had rounds chambered in our weapons. The captain climbed up first; we had to go up one at a time because the ladder was in disrepair and we were quite heavy with all of our gear. Next went Alexei.

As Alexei slowly made his way up, Boris spoke to me. “Are you ready to see the world?” His voice sounded odd and muffled behind the mask. I hated wearing mine; it had to be airtight, so it clung to my face and felt like it was squeezing my skull.

“No,” I said. I had never been to the surface and in truth I was scared shitless.

“Don’t worry, it’s nothing,” he said, clapping my shoulder, but his voice was shaky and I knew he was afraid too. He began climbing and I watched him do so. The sky was a mass of gray clouds- I could see through the manhole up above- and it filled me with a strange cocktail of feelings. I had no idea what to expect up there. It was exciting and horrifying at the same time. Finally my turn came and I began to climb, slowly, weighed down by all of my gear. The butterflies in my stomach worsened with each progressive rung, and I briefly worried that I would throw up inside my mask, but the feeling passed when my head cleared the manhole and I got my first true look at the real world.

It was so big! There were no walls around me, no ceiling above me, and it was so bright I had to squint even behind the tinted glass of the mask. Aside from my paralytic astonishment, I felt horribly exposed; anything could come at me from any direction. The crippled husks of old skyscrapers, stores, homes, libraries, and restaurants were everywhere, and for the first time in my life, I got a true sense of the world we missed out on.

“Vadim! Snap out of it. We have work to do,” barked the captain. He was clearly as anxious as the rest of us to be up here, and he was right: the faster we did this, the better.

Snow crunched under my boots and the air felt both thinner and colder than down in the metro. A strong draft swept from the east, chilling me through my heavy clothes. There were strange sounds coming from the buildings and brush all around, and the four of us glanced around warily, Kalashnikovs at the ready. We were in a wide alleyway between two three-story buildings heading towards a back road. The captain was the only one among us who knew the route, and the rest of us just followed behind him, wondering if a pack of hungry nosalises would come creeping up on us. The hefty body armor did little to abate my fears; if anything, it would slow me down later, and prolong my suffering whilst being pinned down and devoured.

“Hang on,” said Vladimir at the corner, holding up his hand palm outward, his gun being held level in one hand. “There’s a couple demons up ahead. They’re a little far away but they’re fast, and they have great eyes. Stick to the side of the building, in the shade, and if you need to, get inside quick.”

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Demons. The word itself seemed very sinister, and the beasts for which it was used were even more so. The stalkers back home often told tales about the demons, about how they would pick up their prey and carry them up in the air and then drop them to their deaths before tearing them apart and eating them. When we emerged from the alley and I saw them, my fear only grew. They were large, easily the size of a full-grown man. Their wings stretched out for eight feet in both directions and when they cried out, the blood curdled and froze in the veins. I decided right then and there that when the bombs fell, they not only destroyed the cities, but also tore open the earth, and Hell and its denizens rose up from this abyss and took over. My desire to go home increased with every step up here.

“We need to go towards them,” said Vladimir.

“Ah, shit, I was hoping you wouldn’t say that,” Boris grunted.

“Our destination is that tall building they are circling over. The one there, on the left,” he added, for there were two buildings adjacent to one another. “We are really going to the one on the right. But the bottom floor is collapsed or flooded or some shit, and there’s supposed to be a bridge connecting the two from higher up. Let’s go.”

There was an ominous howl in the distance, followed by several more much closer. Looking back, we saw a Watchman jump on top of a car, raise up to its hind legs, and roar to the sky. Three more joined its side.

Cyka, blin,” Alexei muttered, almost to himself.

“Ok, slow, everybody, slow and steady,” Vladimir ordered quietly, backing away towards an open storefront.

The Watchmen hopped down, and several more replaced them on the cars. There was a real herd coming this way. One of them began to sniff the ground, and two others stared at us men with wide eyes. They began to cautiously advance, pausing to smell the air every once in a while, while we steadily retreated to the store. Finally, after shaking out its fur, the first of them tore after us. The gunshots echoed in that alleyway, and the beast tumbled to the pavement, bleeding and gasping. The cacophony of noise halted the rest of the pack for the briefest of moments while we hurtled through the glassless windows of the store before they charged. We backed up to the far wall, waiting for the onslaught to come, panting through our gas masks. My heart was hammering, but my mind was clear, and no thoughts raced through it. I stared at my gunsights, waiting for them to fill up with the hulking form of a mutant, and I did not have to wait long. Four of them flew through the windows with insane speed; one of them unseamed its own torso on a protruding shard of glass, and lay there writhing in its own intestines and shrieking while the others rushed right into our bullets, coming apart as they ran. Before the final shell casing had even touched the ground, several more of the devils replaced their fallen.

My bolt fell on an empty chamber and produced a dry click that left me standing there in confusion for a moment. The others managed to slay most of the approaching Watchmen, but one slipped through and came crashing straight towards me. Alexei swung to deal with it but it pounced, landing right on top of me, and forced me to the ground. He didn’t have a clear shot and more were entering the windows, so Alexei was forced to ignore my plight and continue firing.

The maw of the beast was inches from my face, its teeth snapping for my throat, drool pooling on my plexiglass visor. Its hind paws weren’t idle, either; they scratched and tore at my stomach, and if I didn’t have the bulky armor on, it would have eviscerated me. My previous sentiments about my gear were gone. The chest holster, which I also thought was uncomfortable at first, now proved to be very convenient. My arms were pinned to my chest since I had to hold the Watchman by the throat, and that allowed me to tug my revolver free from its resting place. Placing the barrel under the creature’s chin, I pulled the trigger. My visor immediately turned dark red and the weight of my assailant seemed to increase with its death. I rolled the corpse off of me and sat up. Ahead of me, the final Watchman was standing back, bristling, and the captain shot it through the head.

“Vadim, are you ok?” Boris asked to my left. He held out his hand and I took it, rising to my feet. The outer cloth covering my armor was ripped to shreds, but the steel plate beneath was in good shape still.

“Yes, spasiba, I’m alright,” I said, smearing the gore from my gas mask with my sleeve.

“Five minutes on the surface and we’ve already killed a dozen Watchmen,” Alexei remarked.

“More than a dozen,” the captain scoffed, reloading his Kalashnikov. “C’mon. Chit-chat is useless. Let’s go.”

I reloaded the spent shell from my sidearm and reholstered it before retrieving my assault rifle and ejecting the old magazine. The new one slipped in with a quiet click and I slid back the bolt, loading the round into the chamber, and released it. I contemplated turning on the safety but decided against it, considering the circumstances.

From outside suddenly came a strange sound, like a tarp being thrown over something. The captain looked out and then came back, looking grim. “Those demons are a little riled up,” he reported. “We’ll look for a way around.” The instant he said that, one of the demons landed by the body of a Watchman, glared at us with its milky eyes, hissed, and, gripping the corpse in its talons, took off into the air.

Cyka blyat,” muttered Boris. “I would not want to be caught by that thing.”

“Yeah,” Alexei breathed. “I think we may have escaped the real threat there.”

Captain Vladimir discovered an unlocked door at the back that connected to an adjacent building. This second one seemed to be the office of a medical practitioner of some kind; not a doctor, but perhaps a dentist or something. It hardly mattered now. What used to be a pristine, sanitary office was now derelict, partially flooded, full of overgrown spiders. Moss clung to the ceiling and paint peeled off the walls. Our feet sunk into a layer of dirt and grime that had accumulated over decades. A lone Nosalis, long dead and badly decomposed, lay huddled in a corner. All of the electrical equipment and metal scrap had been removed by stalkers in years past. There was a dark corridor beyond the office that grew progressively more flooded on the right and led to a staircase on the left.

“Shit’s nasty,” Alexei commented upon looking at the black sludge in the hall. “Probably radioactive as hell. Who knows what’s swimming around in there anyway.”

“Yeah, we’ll take the stairs,” Vladimir seconded. “If the hallway is flooded its safe to assume the street beyond isn’t in such great condition either.”

“I’ll take point,” I offered. The others fell in behind me, breathing laboriously in their masks. I turned on my headlamp and carefully began to climb the stairs, step by step, with my gun up and at the ready. I almost tripped on a section that was crumbled away and pointed it out to the others.

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Most of the buildings on this street were connected to one another, and therefore the fire escape on the outside connected to the entire street. The four of us emerged from the building and looked towards our goal. The two buildings weren’t skyscrapers by any means, but they were very tall, at least five stories, and what’s more, they lay at the other end of a small swamp. This place had once been a public park or square of some kind, but it was at a lower elevation than its surroundings, and had filled up from years of storms. Strange plants and creatures, changed in countless ways from the extreme background radiation, thrived here, and the water stood at least six feet deep, and even more so in certain places.

“Look, there’s a raft. There. Ok, people, davai, we are not so far now,” Vladimir said. Without another word he climbed down the metal ladder and hopped into the water. It was shallow on this end and came up to his shins; the waterproof boots largely kept the moisture out. “Watch out, it’s slippery on the bottom!” he warned, and then began wading his way towards the raft. The rest of us, after exchanging worried glances, joined him in the swill, and together the four of us approached the raft. A demon passed by overhead but it had little interest in us and instead flew into the top floor of some building. Nonetheless, it scared the hell out of us, and we quickened our pace until we were at the raft.

It was constructed by stalkers out of old wood and other materials. We each stepped on tentatively, testing if it would sustain our combined weight, and once we were satisfied, the captain lifted a short steel support beam and began using it like an oar. The raft glided across the water easily enough, though Vladimir had to steer us away from several obstacles, like old cars and such. Once a large, heavily armored creature rose from the murky depths and raised its great claws above its head. The four of us cursed and went to shoot it but it had apparently decided that four was too many and sank back down into the water.

“I don’t like the thought of that being underneath us somewhere,” Boris said nervously.

“I don’t either,” I agreed.

“The sooner we cross, the better,” Vladimir said. “If those scouts left us something heavy to take back, I don’t quite see how we’re going to make it back to Sokolnicheskaya.”

“We’ll make it,” said Alexei, “but we might have some trouble of it yet.”

The raft scraped gently against the ground and came to a stop very close to our destination. I now saw why the second building couldn’t be accessed directly: it was much farther out in the swamp, and was submerged all the way up to its second floor. The service ladder on the outside of the building had also fallen off a long time ago, and now rested somewhere in the deep waters surrounding it. The first building, although it was also flooded, was substantially less so. Water only reached up to one’s knees in the first floor. On the top floor was some kind of makeshift bridge, constructed out of old wooden planks and debris, that stretched across to our destination. How it was built and by whom was a complete mystery, but it did not look very sturdy, even from all the way down here.

We entered the building and began to climb the stairs. Evidently some great fight had occurred here in the past, for bullet casings and old corpses littered the floor. The guns and ammo had, of course, long since been scavenged, but we weren’t on a looting run, so it didn’t matter much. We proceeded on to the next floor, and the next, and the next, so that we were on the fifth floor- the top. The windows up here were very large and made up the entire wall on two sides; the corner where the stairs were and the walls that sheltered them were solid. The windows were all broken. The bridge was to our left, and we headed straight for it, eager to get the mission over with. In our haste, we forgot something important: we should’ve gone one at a time.

The wooden planks began to squeal beneath us as soon as we all set foot on them, and I had a peculiar feeling in my gut. The wind was strong up here, and the planks began to sway beneath us. I suddenly grew very afraid and quickened my step. I was at the rear. When I made it to the halfway point, the inevitable happened: the wood buckled, broke, and seemed to hover momentarily before plunging to the water below. I hardly had time to realize what was happening before I saw the black murk below me suddenly grow larger and closer, and with a forceful and painful splash, I sunk down, dazed and confused.

Bubbles began to spew out of my filter. My body grew numb rapidly, being submerged in freezing water, though for a moment I had no sense of my bearings whatsoever and almost swam downwards instead of upwards. Something slimy brushed my leg and I slapped at it in a panic until I noticed that it was just a plant. However, beyond my position, something large and dark moved about in the water, and I knew it for what it was. Real panic took over now, and I began swimming frantically for the building, the one that was submerged. It was a very short distance, since I fell from the halfway point between the two buildings, but I had drifted in the air somewhat, and anyways, it was difficult to swim when you had never been taught how to, and while being heavily encumbered with armor on top of that. I had almost made it to the completely-underwater first floor of the building when the great arm of the beast swept me back towards it.

“No! Nooo!” I screamed, kicking frantically, though the water weakened my blows, and the armor of the monster negated them. It drew me in at frightful speed. Its mouth, a great, round cavity needled with irregular teeth, opened and closed in anticipation of its meal. Above it were two small, round eyes, and in utter desperation I jammed my thumbs into them as hard as I could and began to gouge them out.

The creature screamed, and the sound so resembled a human scream that I was taken aback for a second and almost gave it the advantage. The aqueous beast was still stunned from the destruction of its optical capabilities, however, and I forced myself from its grasp. It immediately came after me, wanting to kill more than feed now, but I managed to tear free my revolver first and took aim. Water trickled out of the barrel, greenish water full of algae and countless toxins. I fired, trying to aim for the soft flesh of its face, though it was very difficult with all the commotion. The water was very choppy, I was moving around a lot, and the creature was approaching very quickly. The bullet ricocheted off of the thick plate on its head instead, but the power of the large round did stun it further, and I managed to make it to the outside wall of the building.

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There was a loud splashing sound behind me, and I spun around. The creature was gone, retreated back to whatever lair it had beneath the water… or so I thought, for it suddenly appeared beneath me. With a surprised yelp I was lifted up into the air. I fell right back into the monster’s claws, and it tried to snip me in half like a scrap of cloth. My armor saved me for the second time that day, though I did feel a nauseating pressure in my torso as the creature actually began to crumple the steel plate. I still had my revolver out, and I jammed the barrel into the thing’s mouth and pulled the trigger. The shot produced a strange echo inside the enclosed space of the beast’s mouth, accompanied by the sound of meat being rent apart. The squeal that the monster produced was far from human this time, and it flicked its tail up with extreme force and sent me flying into the air again.

This time my luck was good, and instead of plummeting back down into the unchecked fury of my assailant, I flew through a broken section of wall and tumbled across the ground. It still hurt, but the armor and helmet absorbed the worst of the impact by far, and I suffered no real injuries. I felt like cheering when my overstressed mind finally began to comprehend what had happened. I ran back to the ledge and looked down at the monster, large, green, almost insect-like, sitting there splashing around in the water like a drunken fool, hopelessly searching for its elusive prey. I shot at it, not so much to hurt it as to say ‘hey, fuck you, I’m alive up here, bitch!’ The monster did not seem happy about it, but what could it do?

My problems were far from over, though. I had lost my AK in the fall, and my filter was broken and full of water. I unscrewed it and then screwed on another, then reloaded my revolver. It glistened with moisture and was covered with plants and dirt. It could not be brought back to the metro, nor could my clothes. Everything was contaminated. I was freezing now that I was soaking wet and standing in the wind, and I still needed to find my group, who had to be on one of the upper floors. I steeled myself and looked for the door to the stairwell. Most of them were locked, but one near the elevator wasn’t, and it happened to be the one. The stairs were no good, though; debris had collapsed from the ceiling and completely blocked off the way up.

I pried the elevator door open, and saw that the elevator was down on the first floor. The shaft was full of some strange gas. It was nearly opaque, white, and swirled around in the beam of my flashlight. I shuddered and was very thankful that I had a gas mask on and that no parts of my skin were exposed. There was an old service ladder, but it looked pretty unsafe, so I holstered my gun and began to climb the iron frame around the elevator shaft. It was difficult to see with all the gas, and I was starting to feel lightheaded. I began to wonder if all my filters had been ruined, but dismissed the thought. Aside from the lightheadedness, I felt fine. It was probably fatigue or something.

I was about halfway up when something strange began happening. I began to hear an odd rustling sound. It came from all around me, though I could not see through the gas. That’s when a spider the size of a fist crawled right over my hand and down my arm. I almost fell trying to swat it off, but in the end I did succeed. There were more spiders, a lot more, swarming down the walls all around me. I could only see the ones nearby but I heard the others, and I knew they were there. I thought I would have a heart attack and fall straight down to the bottom, but I managed to struggle up to the fifth floor door. I pounded on it, desperate to escape this horde. There were some scraping sounds and then the doors opened and Boris stood there, holding his knife. I pulled myself up as quickly as possible and dived from the door.

“You’re okay! We thought you were a goner,” Boris said.

“Close the doors, the spiders will get in!” I cried. Boris looked down the shaft in confusion.

“Spiders? Are you alright, man?”

“You don’t see them?” I asked, incredulous. I knew they had been there.

“No, there is nothing here,” he said. I came over to him and looked down. There was no gas, no spiders, nothing. It was just an elevator shaft.

“What the hell,” I muttered. “But I saw them… that is a bad fucking place, comrades.”

“We found the objective,” Vladimir interrupted. Then he got a good look at me and said “Your mask is broken, Vadim! God damn.”

“What? Where?” I looked down, to the bottom corner of my visor. There was a small chip in the plexiglass, hardly noticeable. So I had breathed in the gas. Perhaps the spiders had been a hallucination, a symptom. But then where was the gas at?

“You’ve been breathing in the radiation this whole time,” he said. “Alexei! Fetch me the spare mask in the pack.”

I swapped masks and then looked at what they had discovered. It was a steel door, almost like a vault, and on it was painted a hammer and sickle. It was the marking the scouts had left. There was something dangerous inside, which was the whole reason we were needed. I didn’t feel good about being stuck with only a pistol, but there was nothing I could do.

“Now that we’re all together, I say we open it,” said the captain. We formed a line behind him and he twisted the valve to unlock it. It opened with a quiet sigh, and we shined our lights into the darkness beyond. There was a medium sized room, all concrete, that was empty save for a table in the middle. On the table was a small metal crate, with the radiation warning sign on the top. Beside this, drawn in the thick dust that had gathered over decades, was another hammer and sickle. There was no perceivable threat here at all.

“What the hell,” muttered Alexei.

“Vadim, open it,” ordered the captain. “Everyone else, cover the door.”

I had a strange feeling both in my gut and in my head as I approached the container. There were two large clasps holding it closed, and I hesitantly unlocked them. The box clicked open, and I lifted the heavy lid slowly. I was not sure I could believe what I was seeing.

It was a suitcase nuke.

Source: reddit.com

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