Predator. Escape from Tarkov
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“Why did you come here?”
“You live nearby, and you’re a better driver than me.”
That’s true. Pasha bought his license, but sadly couldn’t also buy the ability to drive the Mazda he bought on credit. He could just about manage to get around the city without crashing, but out on the highway it was a different story.
“It’s time to go. Right now!”
“Hang about, I’ve got to get my stuff together.”
“What stuff? Do you really not get it? We need to leave. Fast.”
Say what you will about Pasha, he can be convincing. I just couldn’t find any objections. Followed round the flat by his constant shouting, I feverishly shoved anything useful I could find into a backpack. It wasn’t even my biggest backpack, but sad to say there was still plenty of space to spare. I used to think everything I had was necessary and useful. Like hell! Outside the flat, it wasn’t worth a thing. What on earth was I going to do, for example, with a golf club, even if it was signed by the vice-president of Terra Group?
Slamming the door, we head downstairs. In the entrance, we’re met by another familiar face – Demyan Slootskiy. A programmer just like me, although he works in the next department. The funny thing is that we even look quite alike. In the office, they joke that it’s the job that smooths out the differences in appearance. And he and Pasha are almost neighbours, live on the same staircase. Galperin must have left him in the yard on purpose to guard the car. He had a point, I guess, although what exactly could Demyan do against even one armed man? We quickly load up my stuff and get into the car. It’s warm inside. Pasha’s even kept the engine running, with the heater working all this time.
“I’m thirsty,” whines Slootskiy.
“Well, I’ve got mineral water upstairs. And we’ve got a long road ahead of us.”
“Just get it fast, then. And what are you taking your jacket for, for Christ’s sake?”
Good point. I even managed to work up a sweat with all this running around. Why would I put it on?
I dash back into the building, up in the lift, through the door, and there’s the water on the table.
I grab the bottle and slam the door. The lift sings its little song, and I’m back on the ground floor. I run towards the steps. Shit, my laces! I almost went arse over tip. I crouch down…
“Aaaaa!” A wild shriek sweeps in from the yard. It bounces off the glass and echoes deep in the entryway.
“Shut him up!”
Two more shots cracked dryly.
“Now they’re done twitching.”
“Check their documents. Bags, coats. Go through everything.”
I press myself into a niche in the foyer. There were supposed to be flowers here, but no one ever got the money together.
“That’s Galperin. His photo’s right here on his license.”
“Who’s the other one?”
“He’s got nothing with him.”
“Then get up those fucking stairs! Karasev should live here, too, and he’s on the list.Third floor, flat 15. No hanging around.”
I hear steps and try to make my spine grow into the concrete. True, there’s no light in the entryway, thanks to the unknown lightbulb thief. But they might have a torch with them…
“Boss, there’s a pass card here. It’s Karasev.”
“So that’s who he was hurrying to see. I guess he made it that far. Makes no difference, we still have to search the flat. Who knows what he’s got up there?”
Again I heard boots on tarmac. Now they’ll come through the door and shine their torches around. But then, why would they? What do they need light for in here? It’s not that dark outside yet, they may not have torches, and the lift door is always lit up with LEDs. You can’t miss it. And that’s exactly what happened. A couple of the bad guys made straight for the lift without hesitating, and only at the last minute did one of them shine a light on the call button for some reason. The lift played its little tune, and the cabin rose to my floor.
So far, so good. Now they go up there, break into my flat somehow, take a look around, and then what?
I don’t know exactly what they’re looking for, but it’s going to take them all of five minutes to turn everything in there upside down. I don’t have that much furniture in the flat – it’s all modern minimalism. And then… Then they come back down. Makes no difference how they come, on foot down the staircase or back in the lift. Either way, they’ll see me. My niche is easily visible from the bottom of the staircase and from the lift door. And now I know they have a torch.
So, I’ve got five minutes left, have I? Well, maybe six or seven. They’ll bury me here. Should I run outside? Yeah, right. How many of them are there out by the car? Perhaps they’re all deaf and blind? No, it’s really not funny.
I don’t know quite what got into me, but instead of looking for a safer hiding place, I took off running up the staircase. The stairwells in our house are also all modern and minimalist, too, with no recesses or twists. Wherever you go, you can see everything. And there’s no need for a torch, the lights are still on. I did at least have the brains to keep quiet, even taking off my shoes and climbing the stairs in my socks. First floor, second floor. Above me there was a crash and a screeching sound. My poor door!
“You are illegally entering private property. I will now call the police.”
My alarm system! I installed it myself. Fat lot of good it’s going to do me now. The police won’t even come out for murder.
“Stupid bitch!” swore somebody upstairs. “I almost started firing. Take that!”
There was a smash and the voice of the alarm fell silent.
“That’s more like it!”
Having reached my floor, I take a careful peek round the corner. My door is wide open and the hallway light is on, though I remember turning it off. There’s nobody in the doorway, but voices can be heard from inside the flat.
Pressing my shoes to my chest and trying to make as little noise as possible, I cross the passage and turn on to the flight of stairs going up. And that’s where I lose my nerve. I flop on the floor right where I am. I just can’t go any further up. It was all I could do to get to the landing.
The voices sounded louder. It seemed clear the bad guys had found nothing and were now leaving.
“Rig up something there just in case.” It’s the same guy who was scared by the alarm system.
“What the fuck for? The owner’s lying downstairs!”
“You never know… One of his friends might drop by.”
“Ha! Like they’ll live that long. And what if his neighbour pokes his nose in?”
“What do you care about his neighbour?”
“Yeah, fair enough,” agrees the second bad guy.
There’s some scratching and scraping. While he’s waiting, the first guy has a smoke, judging by the smell rising up the stairwell.
“There we go. Just like they taught us. They’ll never put those bones back together.”
“With any luck the smartarses who hired us won’t give a fuck about the little details.”
The song of the lift doors opening rings out, and I’m left all alone.
What would the hero of an action film do now if they were in my place? They’d run down, find the tripwire, disarm it, and throw the grenade after the bad guys. As far as I know, they use grenades to make that sort of trap. Which means you could throw it just as the bad guys were coming out of the front door. No doubt that’s what an action hero would do, but I’m not in a film and I don’t know how to disarm a tripwire. During my year of military service, I only fired an assault rifle twice, and I’ve never even seen a grenade except in the movies.
So, I stay sitting there on the staircase. I heard doors slamming in the yard, and the roar of the motor pulling off. Then something flickered across the window. I didn’t need to look outside to know what that was. Galperin’s Mazda was burning. Along with the smoke, my last chance of escaping this nightmare drifted away.
I don’t remember how long I sat on the staircase. Nobody came in or out of any of the flats, and the house was completely silent, as if all the residents had given up the ghost. More likely, they’d all fled the city. It was only thirst that brought me to my senses. I desperately wanted something to drink, but I had nothing with me. I stand up. My bones crack and my muscles ache. How long have I been sitting here?
The Mazda had stopped burning and was now just smoking. The stinking fumes poured out of the windows and spread through the yard. I couldn’t see my mates’ bodies, so I assumed they were inside the burnt out car. Where to now? My empty water bottle was hanging on my belt, and my knife was in my pocket. That was all I had. No food or water, nothing.
I turn the corner and set off towards the same ransacked shop. There was mineral water there, and at least that’s something.
Strangely, I didn’t see a single passing car or person on the way. It was as if the whole city had died. At the end of my street as I turn towards the store, I see a fresh scratch with traces of paint on the side of a building. Clearly somebody had a close shave. And there’s the car. Turns out they didn’t get far anyway. The windows are smashed and the doors riddled with bullet holes. No luck for the driver. And then comes the smell… the smell of blood. Splashes of red cover part of the windscreen and spray across the passenger-side window. Summoning my willpower, I walk around the car and look warily inside. No luck for the driver – his last drive didn’t get him far. A giant of a man lies slumped across the wheel, his head sticking into the instrument panel. That’s one big guy. How did he ever fit behind the wheel? It’s clear why they shot him straight away. If someone that size had time to get out, there’d be no stopping him. His pockets are turned inside out and the glove compartment’s open. On the back seat, some eviscerated bags are scattered about in a spill of clothes, spanners, and screwdrivers. Looks like the guy was in a hurry. Looks like he didn’t get too far. The boot’s open, too, but there’s nothing in it apart from the spare wheel.
I feel terrible, and move away fast, willing myself not to throw up. But what would I throw up anyway? I haven’t eaten since yesterday afternoon.
Time to get to the shop! Nothing’s changed much there since yesterday. Not much to tempt the window shopper in the ransacked store. And the bottles of water are still in one piece. I grab one thirstily and just drink and drink. Phew, that’s better! I almost empty the bottle.
Shit, how can I carry more than three or four? Christ, I’m an idiot. There was a bag in that car, wasn’t there? Didn’t look like it was covered in blood, either. I run back and grab the bag, and while I’m at it pick up some spanners, screwdrivers, and pliers from the floor. Why? Tools always come in useful. Now, back to the shop.
I managed to fit seven bottles of water into the bag, along with a few packs of bread snacks (beggars can’t be choosers), a packet of some grain or other – and that was all I could find. Everything else was sold out before I got there. I take a look around. Yesterday’s corpse is beginning to smell, or is that just my imagination?
Something catches my eye. What is it? I don’t get it. There’s an idea jumping around in the back of my head, but I just can’t work out what it is. It’s only as I’m leaving the empty shop that I realize what it is – a jacket! I should have taken the jacket off the dead driver. It was lying on the floor. But then, it was covered in blood. How could I put that on? “Don’t be fussy,” nags a voice in my head. “Are you planning to run around at night in just that shirt? Aren’t you the tough guy!”
Still, it’s not that cold yet. During the day your teeth don’t chatter, at any rate.
But then I remember my night on the staircase. There was no draft, but you wouldn’t say it was warm, either. And that was in a building. A residential building, mind, with a good heating system. A building I can’t go back to, either. What am I going to do, knock on my neighbour’s door and say: “Sorry, but they tried to kill me here yesterday and put a tripwire in my flat. Mind if I stay with you for a while?” I can imagine the response.
Which reminds me, where can I go? Round to one of my co-workers and risk catching a bullet? Clearly they were looking for us from some kind of list, and I doubt it was just the three of us on there. Apparently, it’s the people I was working with the last few days. So I might meet yesterday’s visitors at any of their homes.
So, where am I heading, then? Nothing comes to mind. Do I really want to crawl into some basement like a homeless guy? Well, the basements round here aren’t so bad. Hell, some of them even have offices in them. I’ve been in quite a few. True, they nearly always have steel doors. But then again, I’ve got tools now. And there’s an office I know not so far from here.
Alas, my talents as a housebreaker were enough only to pull the decorative cover off the keyhole. Beyond that, it was just thick steel that I could do nothing with. Any attempt to pick the lock with a bent piece of wire was stymied from the start – I didn’t have any wire. And even if I did, I had no idea how to bend it. Somehow, I doubt a simple right angle’s enough… Having spent a couple of hours trying to get in, I gave up, sat down on the steps, and opened up a pack of Baby Mum-mum. There’s no need to laugh. I’d like to see what you’d do in a similar situation.
What about the window? It’s got bars on it. Damn, what am I going to do? If only I had a crowbar…
Where could I get hold of a few good tools? All the shops were closed. At the port, obviously. But the port’s a fair hike away. There must be something closer. Construction sites! They’re bound to have crowbars, and all sorts of other useful stuff. That’s where to go, but where exactly? I didn’t know the address of the nearest construction site, but I had seen something out of the bus window. Hang on, I’ll get there just as night falls. And? Do I really have a choice? No, I don’t. Let’s go. But what about my supplies? What if I find something useful there? Where am I going to put it? The shop water, my water bottle, and the bread snacks find a temporary home at the bottom of the steps that lead down to the basement. You can’t see them from the street, and no animal’s going to find them. It’s not like I’ve got sausages or anything. I took only a single bottle with me, and the bag. Great, tomorrow I’ll bring a crowbar, and I can finally move in to my new digs.
I can’t say that my walk to the construction site made for a nice, leisurely stroll. When I was about half way there, frenetic gunfire started up not far away, and I heard the whistle of a bullet close by. I had absolutely no idea I could run that fast. In the end, I had to hide behind an empty garage and wait until the unknown opponents finally finished resolving their issues. It took them nearly an hour. Then there was a burst of automatic fire (from something bigger than an assault rifles, as far as I could tell), and everything fell quiet. Before that, most of the firing had been from shotguns and pistols, I think.
I waited another hour before finally emerging from my hideout. It was quiet and there was no firing. Who exactly had beaten whom was of no interest to me. The main thing is that there’s no more whistling bullets and I can move on. I stick my head out from behind the garage and look around. Nothing. I make a dash for the cover of the nearest building. After another half-hour’s walk, I notice a crane towering over the rooftops. I’ve made it! There’s the construction site, and now it’ll all be simple. I’ll find a crowbar, and maybe a few other useful things, then I’m off. I may even have a roof to sleep under tonight.
I skirt round the building.
“Hold up there!”
Who’s this, then?
A pair of guys in leather jackets. One’s holding a hunting rifle, and the others not armed as far as I can see.
“What do you guys want?”
I approach, trying to keep my distance. No good, the guy with the rifle jerks the barrel insistently, as if to say, “Don’t fuck about.” They tear off my bag and turn it inside out. The bottle of water falls to the ground and is kicked suspiciously by the one who’s searching me.
“Is that it? Show us your pockets!”
But there’s nothing of value there either – this pair aren’t interested in a few spanners.
“Are you taking the fucking piss? Show us your cash!”
“But, I don’t have any.”
Crack! The butt of the rifle slams under my ribs with full force.
Ah… That hurts!
“What the hell? What have I done?”
“Where do you live, arsehole?”
“Larch Alley, 5. Flat 15”
The two men exchange glances.
“Miles away. What’s a shithead like this going to have, anyway? You, get up!”
They kick me forcefully and make me pick my bag up off the tarmac, then direct me with a poke between the shoulders.
We haven’t gone far before my nostrils catch the smell of smoke. We turn a corner, and in front of us appears a long fence topped with barbed wire. We walk along the fence, turn again, and come to some gates. They’re closed. There’s a fire burning next to them, round which sit several men. They’re all armed, mostly with hunting rifles.
“Greetings, Mityay! Who have you got there?”
“Just some freak. Put him with all the others.”
There’s a mid-size building of corrugated iron to the left of the gates. After removing my bag and taking the padlock off the shack door, they shove me inside. I take a few steps and drop weakly to the floor. Christ, what in the hell’s going on?
“Were you captured, too?”
I turn towards the voice. A middle-aged man in glasses with a cracked lens is sitting on the floor. A respectable citizen, by the look of him.
“Yes. They took everything and hit me with a rifle. What’s going on here?”
“This, my friend, is the former depot of the Tarkov Municipal Housing Authority. And those men, if you can call them that, sitting outside are simple bandits. Or, at least, that’s what they’re becoming.”
“But they’ve got guns.”
“Not all of them, at least for now, but they’re getting armed quickly. They rob apartments, and take anything of value. That’s where they find rifles.”
“What do they need me for?”
From my new acquaintance’s explanation, I understand the following. He and his unwilling roommates have been there for three days already. When the troubles started, Pavel (that’s his name) was expecting an organized evacuation, as he was convinced that it was the duty of the powers that be to do everything they could to ensure the safety of the city’s residents. An error, as all the bureaucrats had fled at the first opportunity, leaving the city to the mercy of fate. After that, he was not sure what had happened as, on his way to buy bread, he had been captured by Mityay’s henchmen and incarcerated in this shed. Since then, twice a day, the prisoners were sent off to clear out buildings – those in the neighbourhood for now. Pavel had suffered a misfortune that morning. The beam they used to break down doors had fallen on his foot. He had returned to the shed with great difficulty, and was now incapacitated.
“So, what happens next? Do they feed us, at least?”
“Yesterday they gave us a little tinned fish. There’s water over there.” He indicated the direction with his head. “There’s a tap in the toilet. I imagine they’ve captured you to replace me. I’m of no further use to them if I can’t walk! I hope that they’ll release me…”
Well, it’s alright for some! He’ll get to go free, but what about me? Will I have to slave away for some… Pavel, seeing my frustration, shook his head. In his view, our situation wasn’t so bad, after all. Sooner or later, the bandits would have looted all the flats they needed, and then what would be the use of their captives, who had to be fed after all?
“You too will be released soon enough, I have no doubt. After a week or so… And the authorities will have to come back here sooner or later. They can’t just abandon the city. Then those men outside will have to justify their actions, and having prisoners will only cause them greater difficulties.”
Can’t say I share his optimism, but there is at least a grain of logic in what he says. Anyway, what was he saying about water?
Having taken a good drink and splashed my face, I took a look around the improvised barracks. I found nothing of any use in the room we were in, and the doors to other rooms were not just locked but boarded over. After wandering around my jail for a while, I drop down onto a mattress left next to the wall. Time for a snooze, perhaps?
I was kicked awake. What the fuck? When did this become the in thing?
“What do you want?”
“What the hell are you doing in my place?”
A skinny, long-haired guy is giving me the evil eye.
“What’s so special about this mattress? There’s plenty more around.”
“Yeah, but this one’s mine.”
All the other inhabitants of the barracks are looking on with interest, it turns out. Granted, there’s not much else for entertainment. I’d take a swing at the guy, but I doubt that beam fell on Pavel’s foot by accident. He said, or at least hinted, as much. So, for now no fighting.
“This lump of crap’s all yours.”
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