Estimated reading time — 7 minutes
“Tarnov, I am ascending the stairs. I have a reading on the floor above me, meet me up there.” said Yuri.
“This is Anna, I have movement on that floor, three figures, about 1.2 meters in height.”
“They could be Barkers..use caution.” said Serginsky. Yuri cautiously started up the metal staircase. The air was filled with a thick dust; they mingled with other particles of unknown nature. Despite his secured hazard gear, he could almost feel the air irritating his throat. He gripped his AK47 once more to relieve some lingering anxiety. He flinched when the reading on his optics grew stronger. There is Gallo Quartz here.., he thought, Good, we’re not leaving empty handed this time.
“Confirmed, they’re Barkers. They just shifted to the East wall.” Anna reported, her voice crackled over his earpiece. “I think..two pups, and one alpha.”
“I could take the pups, but the alpha is going to be a problem.” replied Yuri.
“I’m almost to the top of the east stairwell.” said Tarnov.
“Copy that, I am at the west door.” replied Yuri.
“I am scanning the floor.” said Tarnov. “Yes, there are Barkers here…and something else..” Tarnov’s scanner showed the three Barkers in the center of the large floor..his scanner also picked up two figures that seemed more human. “Serginsky, are there any records of humanoid mutations?”
“Hold on..there are some bits of information but nothing solid. Just some surveillance photos of what one team assumed were drifters.” replied Serginsky.
“I don’t think those were drifters…” Yuri uttered under his breath.
“Why do you say that?” asked Tarnov.
“Because, they were alive…long enough for someone to take one or more photos of them…” Yuri stopped when he heard lough shuffling from inside the room. Then a series of loud footsteps of what sounded similar to a large animal. Just then, something big stood by the door..he could hear something sniffing the air through the threshold. Yuri quietly held his breath. The other teammates could see what he was seeing via their synced optics. They all went silent on the radios, as not to alert the Barker. These creatures had really good hearing; so good that they could hear the chatter over the radios. Teams have recorded them hearing radio chatter at a maximum distance of 5-15 meters, and actual physical communications at a maximum distance of 1-3 miles. These beasts measured a little over a meter in height, and were a mutated derivative of Canis and Canis Lupus Familiaris. Obvious changes are that they can now stand on their hind legs, increase in size, as well as ferocity. They do tend to travel in a pack manner, as well as hints of increased intelligence but these have never been confirmed.
Anna could see the dust being trashed about on her optics, the threshold that Yuri that now stood in front of. She trained her rifle on a third floor window near where the other two Barkers were standing. Flipping a switch on her rifle, she activated a high-powered LED light. Setting it to flash/repeat, she was able to catch the attention of the two Barkers. The alpha gave out a low howl, catching the attention of the one near Yuri. It turned back towards its pack mates and ran back to join them. The loud thunder of it running from one point to another shook the floor startling Yuri and Tarnov They all then grouped at the window where the light was coming through. Nobody knew what about the light was so mesmerizing, some likened it to how cats see little red dots but still all it was speculation.
“We almost lost you.” Tarnov said with a chuckle.
“God knows that the door wasn’t going to mean anything to that fucker.” replied Yuri.
“I have them at the main window, facing the courtyard.” said Anna. “You should be able to go in and grab the quartz.”
“Copy that, switching to silent.” said Yuri. “Tarnov, use suppressors.”
“Be careful when engaging the Humanoids, if they have enough time they will alert the Barkers, and no newfangled light is going to turn their heads.” said Serginsky. Yuri shouldered his rifle and brought out his sidearm, he attached a suppressor and held a knife alongside his pistol.
“Okay, we’re entering.” said Yuri. He slowly turned the lock; a quick gust of wind pushed a cloud of dust into his face mask as he entered. His visor was a slightly fogged over as the door fully opened. He came out into a maze of ails. Each ail had tall metal shelves with various sizes of boxes. He switched on his night vision, and after a visual A-Okay from Tarnov via their optics, they proceeded into the maze. Their main objective was to retrieve the Gallo Quartz, a rare crystal quartz that was mined near Chernobyl, prior to the Chernobyl incident. Evidence is sketchy, but some have connected the incident to the discovery of the Gallo Quartz. Some months after it was mined, strange things began to happen in and around Chernobyl. Pets went missing, livestock turned up mangled, torn apart, or mutilated in some way. On a smaller scale but still equally valid, certain social conflicts between parties in Chernobyl were resolved. These events were around the same time, with the first missing reports less than a week or so before the conflicts resolved themselves.
Yuri was barely a glimmer in his mother’s eye when the reactor exploded…his parents were both from Minsk, but his father’s brother and Yuri’s uncle had worked as a scientist at the Chernobyl reactor. He had known him when he was a child, but growing older he saw less and less of him. The last thing he remembers is the short tale that he was told before he left. In the month of January, 1986 a mining crew dogging up ground for a new urban town center came upon a deposit of dark colored crystal quartz that they had never seen before. Bringing back a sample for testing, they soon discovered the crystal was able to interfere with communications as well as set off dogs and most other animals. It was reported that a guard’s dog became so scared at the sight of just a small chunk of it, it let out a series of worried whines and then scrambled free of his master’s leash and ran off. The dog was never seen again.
In the following months his uncle began to talk a lot less about the work he did. In March, when he and a select group of workers were allowed to go on vacation…he never came..Yuri sat silently at dinner that night, disappointed that there would be no scary story from his uncle. There would instead be stories from Yuri..this thought rushed to the back of his mind as he traversed the storage room. He stopped by a gap in the boxes where he came face to face with Tarnov. He made a peace sign, silently stating there are two Humanoids nearby. These specific mutations were the result of random people getting to close to the crystal without proper protective gear. Drifters sometimes wander into the Exclusion Zone, and those that run afoul of Barkers or an undiscovered deposit of Gallo Quartz are never seen again, at least not as they were… Tarnov and Yuri were on opposite sides of a row of shelves. Ahead of them the two Humanoids stood guard. These Humanoids as they were labeled, acted primarily as guard dogs for the Barkers. While they were blind, they had amazing hearing. If they heard something that seemed threatening, they would let out a loud shriek. This would attract any Barkers in the immediate area, and god help the person who can’t run faster than the Barkers. Tarnov nodded towards Yuri, Yuri responded with a raised fist. Tarnov then made his way towards the first Humanoid. Turning a corner he raised his gun and pulled the trigger. A bullet was fired punching through the creature’s head, quietly neutralizing it. He caught the body in his arms before it hit the ground. Any second later and the one standing not six feet away would’ve been alerted. Yuri soon came from the other ail, turning quickly he shot and killed the last one. Following protocol, he too grabbed the body and gently brought it down as not to make any noise.
Yuri checked his scanner, the crystals were close. The readings on his scanner were two times stronger than they were when he was in the stairwell. He and Tarnov surveyed the storage room for any bare standing crystals or unusual looking boxes, but everything seemed normal. Save for the three Barkers distracted by a bright blue flashing light. If I was a Soviet scientist from the 80’s, thought Yuri, where would I hide the important stuff?
Yuri caught sight of a large steel box among a pile of corrugated metal and random tools. He pointed Tarnov towards the box. They both made their way over to a shelf with a large steel lock box nestled on the lower rack. His scanner started reading red. This was it, the samples that they had been looking for. Well, we’re not losing our minds yet, so this Gallo Quartz hasn’t been activated yet…thankfully. thought Yuri. Tarnov went into his shoulder pack and brought out a small needle. He slid the needle into both of the locks, and filled them with acid. The mechanisms on the locks dissolved, allowing them access. Upon opening the box they found a solid chunk of Gallo Quartz. This was a not giving off any negative affects, so this had to be unaffected by the incident. Yuri took the chunk and locked it away in a secure container. Protected from residual radiation and from hurting anything…or anyone.
Yuri and Tarnov both made their way back towards the south stairwell. Chunk of Gallo in tow. “This is Tarnov, we descending the south stairwell. We have the sample.”
“Copy that, we’re bringing the carrier around the block, we are thirty seconds out. Be out there when we pull up.” Serginsky replied.
“You guys might want to hurry it up..” said Anna over the radios.
“Why! What’s happening?” asked Yuri.
“My light just died..and they just found the bodies.” she replied.
“Shit..” blurted Tarnov. They both bolted down the last flight of stairs. When they reached ground floor a loud crash came from the third floor entrance. A howl emanated from the top of the stairs. It sent chills down Yuri’s spine. It sounded so similar to a wolf’s howl…yet there was something about it that was wholly alien. The exit was in sight. Tarnov and Yuri both rushed outside and into the moonlit night. The stars were out bright tonight. A stark contrast to the latent miniature necropolis below. As they got outside, Yuri turned to see the moonlight shining down the hallway into the stairwell. It was there, that the alpha Barker stood tall and ready to strike at a moment’s notice. Whatever the crystals had done, it had truly changed the once noble animal into a beast of seemingly otherworldly nature. Its fur had fallen off, leaving only patches. Its eyes were a solid red. And there were small deposits of Gallo Quartz growing out of its body. Its eyes were a solid color but he could seem them baring him down. The beast then reared up and charged down the hallway.
Just then the carrier rounded the corner. It came to a screeching halt. The back opened up and Tarnov and Yuri both practically fell inside. The tires on the carrier screeched loudly as they sped off. The Barkers in close pursuit.
CREDIT : D.R. Brigham