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Metro: Beyond

A Gentle Craft, For Gentle Hands

Maksym Vasylchenko

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Maksym Vasylchenko's biggest problem with watchmaking nowadays wasn't the tedium of it. After many a long day out on the surface, facing all that the world had left to offer, the tedium was practically a gift from God. 

It was more that he wasn't built for it. No longer was he the gangly, acne-pocked boy of 16, he was a grown man now, broad of body and hearty. He'd spent so much time lugging shit about the surface that his hands were more like bear paws. A watch was a small, delicate thing, and it wasn't something for his hands, yet he tried nonetheless. 

The parts were painstakingly milled and crafted to his father's exact specifications and the customer's preferences. While Piotr had a few timepieces on display, most of those were easier-to-construct digital watches that sold for a modest number of rounds. His handmade pieces? All made-to-order, and at a hefty premium, but oh, you got what you paid for. The one he'd built for Maksym had needed a battery replacement only last year, and the battery had lasted almost six before that. Quartz was extremely hard to come by on the surface unless you specifically went looking for watches or other such appliances, and usually, it was Maksym or Timur who would go to the surface and look for them, and every hand-made piece came with fine quartz, not to mention the finer parts going into the analogs, hand-milled faces and perfectly-articulated hands. 

Maksym wasn't much for watchmaking, but he had to try his best while he was under his father's roof again. The old man needed the help, and Maksym was once again on his own after one argument too many. 

The watch in front of him was a custom project, one that had taken his father a fair two weeks to tweak to his satisfaction. It was all pretty much assembled now, it just had to be calibrated. Maksym looked to his own watch as he slowly turned the knob on the new piece. 1805 hours. It would be time for dinner before long. 

"It's done!" Maksym called out, turning his head back to the other end of the 'shop floor' of Piotr's home. 'The Hands of Time', the little board that advertised him said, sitting in one of the windowsills. It had been Piotr's home for the past five years, far better than the huddled corners they'd slept in back when the world went up in flames. "The order for Simon!"

"Ah, yes, yes," came the throaty, aged voice of his father, like a deep rumble from the Metro's darkest corners. The air in Polis was better than other parts of the Metro, to be sure, but it wasn't doing Piotr many favors. He wasn't going anywhere anytime soon, mind, but he wasn't going on any treks much farther than Hanza at this point. "Let me see, please."

Gingerly, Maksym took the timepiece, and met his father near the door to their establishment. They'd cut out another awning and placed a wooden shutter over it to use as a display, and that was where his father would usually sit when he was manning the shop. Watching the people of Polis pass by, no doubt reminiscing about the surface, and when such a thing was normal, but not... this normal. Maksym placed the watch next to his father, who turned and examined the piece with bleary, tired green eyes. Through a thick, white beard, he began to smile.

"Excellent, excellent, excellent. Thank you, Maks. I'm sure Simon will be pleased."

"It's not Simon who needs to be pleased, papa, it's Sasha. That woman's a hellion. Still, you did fine work. Not our fault she thinks herself above it." Maksym clapped a gentle hand on his father's shoulder and smiled. "Your work, not mine."

"Nonsense, you've been a far greater help these past few months. I wish you would stay like this more often. Timur works himself to sleep somedays, bless him." 

"I worry more for you," Maks replied, pulling a second stool from the side of the stall and taking a seat next to his father. No doubt it was a strange sight to those who knew him, seeing him inside the shop instead of on his way out the tunnels and into the Metro beyond, or up to the surface. "Timur surely cannot be the only help you can find."

"He's the only one who cares, Maks. I can't just have anyone making these pieces, it requires a gentle touch, care. I do not sell cheap labor, and I do not want cheap labor to bear my name. Otherwise, I would just tell you to bring me those watches from the surface so I could resell them. Timur understands the craft, cares about what he creates. I cannot find that just anywhere in Polis." 

Maksym sighed. His father was so stubborn, and over something as silly as a watch. "Papa, you're killing me. No, you're killing yourself with this nonsense. What about Misha, the butcher's boy? He always seems to be around here nowadays."

"He's here more for you than me," Piotr stated, matter-of-fact. "Your adventures on the surface are all he cares about." 

"Well, for now, I'm not doing any adventuring, and he knows that. Maybe you can use that to your advantage- he can get closer to his hero through his work, no?" 

"You're asking me to take advantage of a little boy."

Maksym shook his head, chuckling. "Not taking advantage of him, papa. Just... using alternate methods of persuasion. I'm not saying you shouldn't pay him for his work, but maybe introduce him to the concept. Surely there's someone in Polis who wants to learn how to make a watch."

"It's not just 'making watches' that I do, son." 

Maksym sighed once again, longer and deeper. Not this conversation again. "Right, right. Do you need anything? I'm thinking I'm going to go out and get some drinks, run some errands." 

A few bullets were passed. "If Nikita has any kvass ready, could you spare the time?" 

"Of course, of course." With that, Maksym pushed himself back from the stall with a grunt and stood up, stretching stiff limbs. He needed to stretch a bit more in the mornings, that was for sure. "I'll be back within an hour or two."

"Be well, son."

Maksym opened the door of the shop, and stepped back out into Polis again. Another day in 'paradise'. 

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(OOC: Mind if I join this?)

Polis was the closest thing the metro had to a capital city, and as such crowds were the norm, whether it be 'day' or 'night' at the station, the city never truly took a break. Making his way through the usual crowds, Maksym made his way to the bar; as usual there were dozens of people already seated but enough tables remained open. Most of those who were there where either the Polis Kshatriya who were off duty, very few of the Brahman's due to some rumor of a big project they were needed for, and the rest where of the other castes that made up Polis society.

This was not Mikhail's first time in Polis, nor was it the first time for his friend/partner Grischa. Both had arrived at the bar about an hour before, in that time only a few new people came into the bar. Some of the Kshatriya as expected, and some young man.

"Out of all the places to get a crew together why did you choose Polis again? I doubt the Kshatriya will help, their too busy picking the library clean." Mikhail asked, looking down at the little bit of shroom vodka that remained in its bottle.

"It's not the Kshatriya I'm after, Misha. Sure they'd be nice, but their not the only people who'd be willing to head up top." Grischa explained.

"Yeah, no shit. But there's not alot of people like us either--this isn't Hansa we're you can find an independent stalker as easily as you could a rat in one of the tunnels." Misha continued.

"True, but I'd rather find a local for this, and what better place than the bar?" Grischa asked, somewhat tired of his friends tone by this point.

"Oh I can think of a few places, back home for me, or the Arbat for you--either is the place to go for Stalkers." 

"But not in this part of the city!" Grischa sighed out.

Edited by AnOriginalAccountNam
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(OOC: not at all! I've been waiting for a reply 🙂

"Yeah, no shit. But there's not alot of people like us either--this isn't Hansa we're you can find an independent stalker as easily as you could a rat in one of the tunnels." 

"True, but I'd rather find a local for this, and what better place than the bar?" 

"Oh I can think of a few places, back home for me, or the Arbat for you--either is the place to go for Stalkers." 

"But not in this part of the city!" 

Huh. Wasn't often you heard people talking like that in this part of Polis. 

As much as he wanted to stay and help Piotr run shop, and as much as he was debating settling down, a little odd job wouldn't hurt. If they were looking for a local, it was likely only a little dalliance, nothing too special. It wasn't often you went to Polis to look for workers unless it was light work. 

As casually as one could muster, Maksym made his way over to the bar, giving the duo a bit more time to talk before intervening.

"Heard some talk about looking for people to go topside. I happen to make runs pretty regularly. Looking for something in particular?" he asked, cocking a brow. 

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(OOC: Cool. 🙂

Mikhail and Grischa gave each other a look before Mikhail turned back to look at Maksym.

"Uh...look sir, I admire your bravery but--" Mikhail began, he was going to mention how Maksym didn't look like he could bring much to the table but Grischa cut him off.

"Ignore him, welcome aboard." Grischa said quickly before gesturing for Maksym to come over to their table, Grischa pulled an extra seat out and when Maksym settled him he pulled out what looked like a home made map. 

"It's a simple job--more or less. Me and my friend here are from Hansa, well he is, I'm from the Arbat Confederation, anyway we've been told that there is an old building from the USSR days. A police station that is somewhat unique. The main offices and the armory have been obviously picked clean. Stalkers like us made them our first targets when we first started going out unsurprisingly, but it seems we missed something, there is a subbasement that from what we've been told has remained untouched. While us Stalkers are more used to gather spare parts we're not one to shy away from sending in some old guns for Kuznetsky Most to fix up, the blacksmiths there pay quite handsomely." Grischa explained as he unfolded the map, pointing to an badly drawn building a few kilometres to the west from Polis. Grischa had marked some areas that seemed to be of note, most of them were radiation symbols with Geiger counter readings in small print next to them, and a few other symbols, seemingly one that looked like a bio-hazard sign along the way as well and two odd exclamation points near the Moscow River. 

"It's not the most interesting thing I know, and I'm sure it sounds odd but we've heard this all through a friend who is really in the know about these odd nooks and crannies you never hear about." Grischa continued.

(OOC: If you're curious I'm building something of a story that connects all of the stories involving these Grischa and Mikhail characters, my other characters and some stories that I'm working on with Moorigan and the others, all of them sort of surrounding Metro-2, you can read that on some of the stories back on the main page. They have a sub-section for that if you want to get in on that too.) 

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(OOC: I'll do some more digging but I'd love to squeeze into some of this good plot)

Maksym noted Mikhail's hesitancy, and almost envied him. Maks was a tough-looking man, yes, but he was 'Polis' tough- he had that glow about him that living an almost pre-war life seemed to give people, and bore very few scars from his trips to the surface- he was usually one to be quiet and avoid confrontation rather than actively seek it out. It gave the impression to some that he was 'soft'. 

That being said, the old, beat-up rifle in Piotr's home spoke more to his talents than anything else. That old piece of shit wasn't just for show. 

"Certainly sounds odd, especially if the whole rest of the building is clean," Maksym noted. "Hm. I can take a look, at least. How soon do you want this done?" 

He noted that the path to his objective seemed rather... fraught- Maksym wasn't much of a risk taker. He'd probably try to find a way around the worst of it if he could, but if not, he'd at least try to do this trip quietly. 

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(OOC: For the metro-2 thing, or more for this story overall?)

Grischa smirked.

"Personally whenever you're ready. If you want to get yourself ready we can go now, or early tomorrow before the sun comes up, don't want to go blind after all." Grischa explained. After almost thirty years underground human eyes had become accustomed to the lights of campfires and dim electrical station lighting. Polis and the richer stations of Hansa were partial exceptions to this, but most other metro dwellers would inevitably go blind from the sun, tinting on the gas masks could only do so much. Maksym could remember some rumors that existed of a stalker around Exhibition who had trained his eyes to get used to the sunlight after numerous and short lived repeated expeditions, but last he could recall all the rumors said that guy vanished sometime back in '35.

"Either one works for us" Grischa continued then nodded to the map. "Most people would rather not deal with any of this crap..." The old man held a finger over most of the previously noticed hazard markings, especially the series of exclamation points near the river. "even for what's in that police station, so I doubt anyone will take what we want...so again, no rush."

"How are we gonna get them to Kusnetsky Most anyway, Grischa? Hansa's border guards are beginning to crack down on anything heading for the Redline..." Misha began to explain. "Or rather their 'free stations' as they put it." Misha continued with a snide tone. 

"Well..." Grischa began, trying to make his 'plan' come across confidently. "We'll take what we can, and run it over to the Arbat. Alot of guards there owe me one anyway, they'll get them to Hansa's transfer to Shabolovskaya then we'll get them put on a caravan to Kuznetsky Most. Not the most basic plan but it's worked before." Grischa explained, and by now Maksym was beginning to wonder what he was getting involved in with these two. Shabolovskaya was the first in a series of stations past the southern portion of Hansa that was in an alliance with the four stations behind it, all of them, Shabolovskaya itself included, we're ruled by kingpins and cutthroats, it was Moscow's only little gangland, a mini nation built for criminals by criminals, at least according to all the rumors anyone could hear about that part of the metro. Gangs were nothing knew to the metro, bandits hide in the technical tunnels and jumped caravans, the transfer station now known as Venice was a massive hive of scum and villainy , Katay-Gorod was ruled over by a combination of Chechen's and Bandits forever struggling to control the station and a well known target for Nazi raids, meanwhile placed like Tsvetnoy Boulevard to the north was metro's own little Sodom and Gomorrah while Mayakovskaya to the west of it was a place so horrible that neither the Hanza military tried to help, nor could peace keepers like the Spartan Rangers actually succeed in doing so when they mustered up enough men to even attempt, worse still even the Nazi's of all people refused to go there, even to 'purge' it of their so called undesirables. It was Hell, all of them were, and the rumors about what was going on near Shabalovskaya were no different, those stories only seemed to allude to a more organized Hell more than anything else. 

And all of this seemed to be of no bother to either of these men. In fact they all seemed rather familiar with all of it.

"Ehh, maybe you might want to rework it, not scare the new guy?" Misha asked softly.

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Finally, some good, honest work-

Or not. 

"... this is starting to sound less and less my speed the more you talk, friend," Maksim said, cutting his eyes around the room. "What exactly is it you're expecting out there? Shabolovskya's not friendly territory." 

Maksim folded his arms. "I'm no coward, but you seem to be playing with some dangerous shit." 

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"See, Gregory, you went and spooked the new guy..." Misha said and Grischa shook his head.

"Like I said, just some weapons. Or old weapons that can be recycled by the guys back at the Armory." Grischa said, giving Misha a quick dirty look forcing the younger stalker to look away. 

"Look, I know you've probably heard alot about Shabolovskaya--we don't like it either. Getting things through Hansa and into the Redline where the armory is, is next to impossible these days friend. So we do what we need to. It's not as bad as you might have heard, hand them some money and they'll smuggle some stuff in for you and all without Hansa knowing." Grischa began to explain then sighed and shrugged, seemingly in thought.

"If your wondering how...well, there's alot more to the metro than what's just on the maps you see everyday. Tunnels from the days of the Tsars, old gold mine shafts, technical tunnels, maintence tunnels, tunnels for parts of the metro that never got past the earliest parts of construction and so forth...." Grischa continued on with an almost bored ton, for a brief moment he stopped then shrugged once more, seemingly banishing whatever he had thought up.

 "You know...a whole bunch of secret passages, or long forgotten ones that only the gangs at Shabolovskaya know about. A few of which lead to the area around the Armory." He said. "It's basically easy money, we get the old guns, bribe some guys here and there, get around Hansa's bullshit, go to the Armory, meet a friend of ours there named Andrey Raikov, and then get whatever they can make off it, then we go our separate ways. We won't be rich as Kings but you'd be amazed at how much money can come out of the Armory...." Grischa explained with a small smile.

"If you don't want to...we understand..." Grischa began.


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Well, they at least sounded like they'd done this before. Perhaps they hadn't and were just bullshitting Maksym. Perhaps they weren't. Only one way to find out.

Maksym nodded slowly, relaxing his posture and even giving a little bit of a smirk. "You don't make a convincing case, but fortunately for you, I don't need much convincing. Give me a day to gather some last minute supplies, and I'll be ready. " 

Instantly, Maksym regretted his choice, but at the same time, he felt it was the right one. There was nothing in life more rewarding than a great risk, and this could turn out to be far more profitable than it seemed on the surface. "I'm staying at the Hands of Time, the little watchmaker's shop. If it's not too much trouble, perhaps we can meet there in the morning and be on the surface for sunrise. We need to maximize our daylight hours." 

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Grischa nodded. "We'll be there." He said confidently, then turned to Misha soon getting engrossed in their own little conversation.

"I don't make a convincing case?" Grischa asked, seemingly insulted and Misha smirked.

"Afraid so old man, maybe I should do the talking next time." Misha offered, to which Grischa shook his head almost instantly.

"Last time you did the talking we nearly got arrested." 

"It was a misunderstand--when will you let that go?" Misha chucked.

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