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"She's got a uniform and a badge, let her through." One of the higher ranking Rangers ordered, and then got on a handheld radio.

"Hey, Lev; it's Andrey, open the airlock and get the medics. We got injured." He continued as the Rangers began to help Joe towards the airlock inside the entrance way to the station, where Misha and Ilia had been carried off to, Misha still more or less bound by another Ranger.

"No idea....My guess is Joe by the looks of her." Andrey continued on his radio. Soon the airlock opened up, and the group was hurried inside into the usual decontamination rooms that were in more well supplied stations. The group got hit with a quick spray of water and bleach and soon the door opened up into the station proper. The ranger that was helping Joe along moved here through the door, but by now here head was beginning to act up again; everything was getting blurry, her head felt like it was in a vice and it was becoming harder to stand. Just as she made it out of the decontamination room she stumbled forward, out of her comrades grip and landed face first onto the floor and then everything went black.

It was like that for some time, no dreams, no pain, just darkness then her vision began to slowly return. Blurry at first, but then the outlines of what looked like the support beams inside of a tent appeared in her vision. She saw something move in the corner of her vision, and forced herself up out of instinct.

"Whoa, whoa--Stop, Joe it's me, Volodya!" The figure announced and Joe looked around confused before looking back at the person sitting next to her. It took a moment for her vision to focus but when it did she could see the same young but scarred face of Vladimir, another Ranger, one of the few who didn't mind her attitude and even found it endearing on occasion. 

"Just relax..." He said, gesturing for her to lay back down.

"You're fine, Joe. You're safe. You're in Smolenskaya...everything's fine." Volodya continued, and turned on a lantern next to the bed Joe now found herself in. She looked around the room, it was a medical tent to be sure. She could see an IV next to the bed, and then the tubes hooked up to her arm, then she reached for her head, feeling thick bandages wrapped around it.

"The doctors had to do alot to fix you up, but they say you'll be fine." Volodya explained. "In a few months, anyway." He added.

Edited by AnOriginalAccountNam
added in emails and fixed a typo.
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When Joe finally couldn't stand anymore it was like her stubbornness failed her in that moment but she had gotten to the station, she didn't need to push any more so it was a relief with the darkness came for a while.

"Yeah fucking right," she said to him as she sat up and put her hand to her head. "I'm ready now. Where is Ilia? Is he okay?" she rubbed her face to try to focus a little better on where she was. "And I guess I should ask about the vulture... Misha or whatever," she said.


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"So that was his name? Yeah, the doctors checked him out and last I heard he either bolted, or he's trying to get on the next ride to Hansa." Volodya said then leaned back in his chair.

"As for Ilia, he's fine. A little out of it but otherwise normal. He's sleeping in another tent a few rows down from this one." Volodya explained and Joe could begin to feel some relief, she was about to stand but Volodya gently pushed her back down onto the bed by the shoulders.

"As for you, Sousa. I'm under strict orders from the major himself to make sure you actually get some bed rest, and get some info out of you for a report." He said, this time more strict. "The major also said you are not to either threaten to punch me, or pull rank on me to let you go. You're kind of the talk of The Order right now after you're little mission into the Dead City and the higher ups want to make sure you and Ilia get better, no running off. 

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Joe snerked. "What if I don't threaten you that I'll do it and just do it?" she said to him looking at him side eyed. "I'm fine," she reiterated to him. "See I'm awake which means I'm all fucking better. Ta-dah. Its like fucking magic," she said dryly.


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Volodya sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose in annoyance.

"No, Joe, it isn't..." He said. "You broke that fucking skull of yours, really badly too. Not a concussion or a minor fracture, a full on break. You couldn't even make it through the decontamination room door, you face planted less than three steps into the actual station. So now, you're not running off back home with Ilia." Volodya explained then looked at the flap leading out of the tent before looking back at Joe.

"Look...from Ranger to Ranger, friend to friend...I'll do what I can to get Ilia moved closer to you're tent, and talk the doctors into allowing him to visit, but you need to stop with that attitude and listen to the doctors for once." He explained.

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@Morrigan @Dragon

Volodya sighed and nooded.

"I guess that's the best I'm gonna get....alright." He mumbled and pulled out a pad and paper.

"Right now, we want to know what went wrong, Sousa. You're missing a man, the truck is missing, you and Ilia are gonna be out of commission for sometime and it took a civilian to save two Spartan Rangers--at least that's what you're vulture friend told us. So, for all of that, what actually happened?" Volodya asked, clicking the button on his pen and waiting for an answer.

"I highly doubt this Misha was telling the full truth--and the major doesn't really believe it too much either." He added.

Meanwhile, one of the rumors about Misha was correct, he had bolted. It took all the money he still had on him for a first class ticket on the next rail cart from the closest Hansa station back home to Serpukhovskaya, but it was worth every bullet. He had spent two days at Smolenskaya, answered some questions--maybe embellished his role in the groups escape from the dead city, but overall told the truth. They changed the bandages Ilia had put on him and sent him to Hansa. Plus he figured it'd be good to get as far from Butterfly as he possibly could, and all he could do right now was hope and pray he'd never run into her ever again. 

From Smolenskaya to Serpukhovskaya, through the Hansa controlled portion of the tunnels, it took another day, most of which he spent resting inside the rail cart. Eventually though he could see the familiar barricades outside the station and breathed a heavy sigh of relief as the rail cart began to slow down just outside of the checkpoint. He thanked the rail cart operator for the ride, and presented his passport to the guards at the checkpoint.

"We thought you were dead, Mikhail." One of the guards, a middle aged balding man named Ivan said, welcoming the stalker into the station. Misha just nodded, too tired to think of anything clever in response....he just wanted to rest...

He made it past the guards and then to the platform of the station, then stopped once he saw what was waiting outside his tent under the familiar marble pillars.

"Everyone ready?" Grischa asked.

What the hell had that lunatic done now? Grischa was surrounded by a group of six other stalkers, all armed to the teeth with assault rifles and machine guns. They all gave a series of 'yes's' and yes sir from the ones who were former military, many of the older stalkers were.

"Good--So, the plan once again; we'll head northwest from the airlock, covering each other, all standard procedure. Hopefully Misha was smart enough to find somewhere to wait for us and--" Grischa began to explain.

"You calling me a dummy, old man?" Misha called out, and Grischa's heart skipped a beat, the old man turning around in shock and confusion.
"Of course I found somewhere to hide..." Misha explained as he slowly walked over to the stunned old man. 

"Misha?" Grischa mumbled in confusion.

"Holy shit." One of the stalkers mumbled.

"Was this some kind of a joke?" Another asked angrily.

"What are you all still doing here, he's--" Another voice began to ask, a woman whose voice was filled with worry soon walked out of Misha's tent. It was Katya...her confused face soon morphed into one of sadness then relief before rushing over to Misha, who had expected a hug but soon got a lecture.

"Where in Lenin's name were you!? You said it'd be a few hours, not three days, Misha! What happened, why did you go alone, why--" She began to shout, tears flooding her eyes as she did but Misha sighed before hugging her as tightly as he could.

"Just...stop worrying. Please. Just for right now." He mumbled as he hugged her.

".....So are we still getting paid?" One of the stalkers asked.

"Just...get going, guys. I'll find you later..." Grischa mumbled, and gestured with his hand for the stalkers to leave as he looked at the hugging couple.

"Misha...you're kind of hugging a little tight there...." Katya mumbled out, and Misha let up a little but still held her as he looked to the side, seeing the old man through his own tear filled eyes. Misha moved his right arm outwards, grabbing hold of the old man and pulling him over into the group hug. For a moment they were silent, then Katya gave a soft chuckle towards the whole situation.

"Yeah...we all love each other. Can you let go?" Grischa asked. Not annoyed or angry as one who knew him would have expected but more so confused over how to handle all of this. Misha nodded and let go of the two, just nodding and smiling as he looked them over.

"Sorry I took so long..." he said. 


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Joe glared at Voldya. "Would anyone believe that sniveling little vulture? Honestly?" she rolled her shoulders which made her head hurt and she placed a hand against her head. "I don't think they'd believe me either for fucks sake," she said as she pulled her hand away from her face and set it on her knee.

"Have I ever told you that I fucking hate the Dead City?" she asked him as she sighed.

"We were on our way back... well fucking back here," she started. "When something hit the truck. I was in the gunner position and I got thrown off into a wall, that's why my head was fucked up," she explained. "Novikoff got attacked by.... I don't even know but he was dead and we had to move so I made the vulture and Ilia move. Come on. Can I just go fucking see the nerd? I need to make sure its not bullshit that you're saying he's okay."


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Volodya shook his head and put the paper aside and leaned forward in his chair.

"Sousa, I've known you since you first became a Ranger. I've trained alongside you, and fought alongside you at D6, you and the rest of the Rangers are practically family. You are family....I'd never lie about the Nerd being dead." He told her firmly then sighed and held his hands up in a surrender like gesture.

"But hey, if you don't believe me, I'll go and get him." Volodya said and stood up.

"But you're staying here." Volodya ordered, with alot more authority than someone only with the rank of Corporal, and walked out of the tent. Joe fought the urge to rip the IV from her arm and run out after him, the ten or so minutes it took felt like an eternity but she could hear the familiar sound of an old wheel chair being pushed down the platform and soon Volodya pushed in an exhausted and bandaged Ilia into the tent.

"Teach you to doubt me..." He whispered as he pushed Ilia over to Joe's bed side and locked the wheelchair when he was done. 

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Joe just looked to Voldya and shook her head. It was less trust and more a ploy to try to get out of here faster but when her head started to pound she just sat back down. When she saw Ilia bandaged up from the demon attack she felt about as miserable as it got. She didn't protect him like she should have. She gave him a smile albeit halfhearted. She should have done a better job.

Grabbing Ilia's hand she took in a breath. "I looked at the maps and figured out where we were and how to get home," she said. "We started in that direction but there was a large open area we had to cross. I crossed first to show the vulture and Solokov how to do it. The vulture got across just fine but Solokov got attacked by a Demon," she said.

"The vulture thought he was helping by running out and providing a bigger target while I collected Solokov. and brought him to the building that we were going to," she rubbed her face because remembering was actually a little painful at the moment. It was like a pounding headache as she went through the events. "I made sure he was okay but he was unconscious and I couldn't wake him up so I carried him while the vulture complained."

Joe took in a breath. "We had to walk through the tunnel of screams. The vulture nearly collapsed and I probably should have just let him but I forced him down the hall to the... the... the thing and made him go up. He did help me lift Ilia out of the tunnel," she said. "That was all the help he was. He looked fucking more scared than a cornered rabbit though. "He yelled at me and called me princess so I yelled at him back and we... finally got moving again. Then... the rest is a blur and I fucking woke up here."


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@Morrigan @Dragon

(OOC: The Tunnel of Screams, I was thinking of a good name for that place but yours is really good. I'm working on another story in the dead city, the mention of a surprise Misha has for Katya below is sort of an illusion to the Echoes story that just started up, it might make another appearance there. Anyway it sounds like an anomaly you'd run into in the games, nice idea too by the way.)

Voloyda nodded.

"Well, you did good, Sousa. You carried Ilia back here despite you injuries, and Andrey got Lev and his medics to help you here sound you didn't miss out on much." Voloyda explained, Ilia mostly just seemed to be in his own little world, thinking back over everything that happened and everything Joe had described. 

"....I'll fill out the report for the major--you two want me to leave you alone for a while?" He asked.

Meanwhile back at Serpukhovskaya, Grischa had gone off to pay the would be band of rescuers the bullets he owed them while Misha and Katya had found their way to their bed, with Misha mostly just laying their, still hearing the faint echos of the screaming from the tunnel, and still feeling as if all the life had been sucked out of him from it.

"...Why did you go alone?" Katya asked again, resting a hand on Misha's cheek. Part of him just wanted to tell her about his little idea, but at the same time part of him wanted it to remain a secret for now. That jewelry store and his surprise could wait...

"I heard there was some old guns and some ammo stashed away, from a stalker who died a few years back." Misha eventually said, finally piecing together something of a believable story for her. It only seemed to anger her further though.

"You almost joined that idiot yourself!" She exclaimed. "And all over some old guns and bullets?"

"It'd make us some decent money..." Misha muttered, trying to stay awake, and keep his white lie going.

"I'd rather have you alive and poor, then for me to be rich and alone." Katya said with a tired look in her eyes and Misha just nodded after a while.

"I know." He finally said.

"You look exhausted..." Katya replied after a few minutes of looking him over.

"I am..." he groaned and she nodded. "Then sleep." She told him and sat up on the cot.

"I'll be back soon, I'm gonna go and get something we can enjoy later." She said. "When I come back I want to hear you snoring like a saw!" She ordered with a smirk and walked out of the tent once he closed his eyes and almost immediately passed out. 

Katya quickly made her way to the bar, there was a particular bottle of pre-war kvass that Misha had asked to be set aside once he got enough bullets for it, being personal friends with the bar tender no doubt also helped in actually allowing that to happen. She had saved up enough money from her various jobs, she figured he'd want a drink in the morning to forget his latest trip to the surface anyway. Plus she could use a drink herself, she was still somewhat shaking with anxiety. 

When she made it she proudly handed over the eighty bullets the bar-tender had offered as a 'discount' to Misha a few weeks back, and then gave three more for a bottle of shroom vodka to help calm her nerves. She sat there, eyeing the bottle of kvass for a few moments in silence.

"Hey, Yekaterina!" A voice called out and Katya turned to see a man in a radiation suit much like Misha's. It was another friend of his, a man named Adam, and one of the few people who shared her little obsession.

"Adam?" She asked in surprise with a smile as the young man came over. 

"The one and only..." Adam said with a smirk, and sat himself down at Katya's table. She had not seen him at the station in a few weeks but the two picked up immediately where they left off, and as the bar began to gain more customers as the night wore on they began to talk about Katya's own little project.

"So....what did you learn on your trip?" She asked in a whisper, not wanting to deal with the usual stares of ridicule that the subject brought up.

"Supposedly there's a direct connection at Polis!" Adam whispered back excitedly. "You need to get into some maintenance tunnels, either through the vents near the guard posts at the western station of Polis, or you can find another entrance near the Kshatriya's chief's office." He explained.

"Kshatriya?" Katya asked, she had heard it before in conversations about Polis but never got a straight forward answer and even got some contradictory ones.

"Basically a mix between a local militia, a social class, and the closest thing Polis has to a police force." Adam explained, finishing off a drink he had bought. 

"Police....well that complicates things." Katya muttered and Adam nodded.

"Well, with how good you are at sneaking around, I doubt it'll be an issue, especially if you take the vents I mentioned. They go all over Polis, and from what I heard even into the storage rooms that connect to that part of Metro-2." He continued. 

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"Yeah. Especially if you want me to sleep before tomorrow," she said to him. "Don't forget I'm leaving tomorrow," she reminded him as she settled back down still holding Ilia's hand. "Don't scare me like that you fucking idiot," she muttered to Ilia.

@Dragon @AnOriginalAccountNam

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