- 1 The Chernobyl Exclusion Zone (or simply The Zone)
The Chernobyl Exclusion Zone (or simply The Zone)
The Chernobyl Exclusion Zone is a place known all over the world for what happened on April 26, 1986, when the #4 reactor of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant suffered a full-fledged meltdown, causing radioactive fallout to explode high into the air and spreading all throughout the Eastern hemisphere of Earth, reaching as far as the East Coast of the United States. Following the massive scale of the disaster, the Soviet Union evacuated everyone from the region and established a massive "No Man's Land" around the reactor (covering about 2600 square kilometers), declaring it the "Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant Zone of Alienation", or more simply the Exclusion Zone.
However, the Soviets did NOT leave the Zone unoccupied for very long. After the accident, groups of workers called "Liquidators" were brought in by the Soviets to build a containment structure around the remains of Reactor 4. This structure was later nicknamed the Sarcophagus. Since then, few people have any reason to enter the Zone, and the Soviet military maintains a well-guarded perimeter around the 30 kilometer wide border.
In late 2018, the Zone became the location for one of the Kits' most recent survival training exercises which quickly transformed into one of their most harrowing, sparking a desperate rescue attempt that later became a massive battle against an enemy previously believed to be dead.
Unknown History of the Zone
Throughout the remainder of the 1980s the Soviet government established hidden underground research facilities inside the Zone since the nuclear power plant was still partially functional, and the lack of anyone living in the region made the entire area a perfect Black Site. This unsanctioned research continued long after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Many projects were halted due to lack of resources. However, some project leaders were unwilling to stop and continued their research into various psychic applications, receiving a trickle of funding from the Ukrainian government (partly due to fears of what the international community would do if it found out).
Throughout the 1990s the situation inside the Zone became more bizarre. Six experimental field generators of unknown purpose were built in the center of the Zone, high-powered antenna arrays were modified to project energy fields that had nothing to do with radar or radio, and test subjects continued to be brought into the Zone never to return. Finally on February 22, 1999, the Ukrainian government began an official investigation, followed soon afterwards by an attempt to take control by the USSS.
As the 21st Century began, the situation inside the Zone progressed from "Bizarre" to "Otherworldly". Rumors of strange phenomena within 10 kilometers of the Chernobyl NNP became widespread. The city of Pripyat developed a reputation of being "haunted" by strange creatures, and after an entire busload of foreign tourists vanished the Ukrainian government officially closed off the ENTIRE Zone and militarized the border. This didn't put an end to the strange occurrences, which became more widespread over the next few years and began to include aberrant weather patterns (including hurricane winds) and seismic tremors.
In March of 2006 nothing would ever be normal again in the Zone.
The Second Chernobyl Disaster
On March 4, 2006 a blinding light flared into existence in the skies above the Chernobyl NNP. Witnesses reported that the light remained for two hours before winking out of existence.
On April 12, 2006, a little over a month after the first light phenomena a second flare of even greater power suddenly appeared in the skies. The clouds evaporated from the skies and a massive peal of thunder radiated outwards across the Zone, lasting for several minutes. The thunder faded, then an earthquake registering 6.9 on the Richter Scale struck the entire Zone. The glow grew and radiated outwards, engulfing the heart of the Zone with deadly energy disturbances and intense radiation. No rescue attempts were possible. A subsequent investigation determined that the explosion occurred about a kilometer away from the nuclear plant itself and was speculated to be the nuclear fuel dump detonating.
On June 10 a massive energy storm of unknown energy swept out from the center of the Zone and surged throughout it. Unprepared, all military and scientific personnel caught outside when it happened were incinerated by the intensity of the dimensional energy. Reality began to break down as dimensional rifts tore open. In a panic, the Exclusion Zone's boundaries were pulled back another 5 kilometers, with the entire populations of the cities and villages near the original border being forced to evacuate almost overnight. A military expedition was quickly organized to attempt to contact and withdraw anyone else still trapped deeper inside, but met with total failure: the Zone had become filled with areas of intense radiation, toxic gas, acidic mist, plasma storms, zones of altered gravity, and other areas of anomalous activity that defied the laws of science. The majority of the Ukrainian soldiers sent into the Zone were lost, and anyone still missing inside the Zone were officially declared lost.
For the next few years, the Ukrainians could only watch and observe as the energy storms (later called Emissions) periodically swept throughout the Zone. Few attempts to explore the Zone were made as most expeditions either disappeared without a trace or died soon after entering. However, once a group of scientists from Kiev succeeded in creating portable detectors capable of detecting areas of anomalous activity (or simply Anomalies) within 10 meters the first successful expedition was made into the Zone. They succeeded in travelling a kilometer into the Zone and returned without injury or incident. Further expeditions enabled them to observe and tentatively study subsequent Emissions as well as brought back samples of strange objects that defied explanation.
In 2011 news of the potential to actually survive inside the Zone leaked out, drawing amateur researchers, explorers, scavengers, and criminals from all over the world. These scavengers soon became known collectively as "Stalkers". While many of them died inside the Zone due to the extremely hostile conditions, many more of them began to bring out samples of mutant creatures never encountered before in nature, warped and alien flora, and even artifacts of unknown origin that possessed highly unusual powers that bordered on paranormal. These Artifacts immediately became highly sought after by various private businesses, corporations, and criminal groups, forcing the Ukrainian government to began fortifying the Zone's border even more: the entire border is now protected by regiments of infantry and supported by air and naval elements where applicable. No one is allowed into the Zone now without authorization from the government and military, and attempting to enter illegally can easily result in death from machine gun fire, minefields, or even the cannons of an Mi-24 Hind helicopter gunship as the Ukrainian Army is authorized to shoot Stalkers on sight.
The Faction War and the Third Emission
In late 2011 the situation inside the Zone deteriorated significantly when another massive Emission struck without warning, causing MORE Anomalies to form and making the Zone itself expand outwards another five kilometers. No one knows for certain what caused it, but rumors circulated that someone had reached the center of the Zone and discovered an alien artifact within the center of the Sarcophagus. This pillar of xenos-crystal was apparently conscious on some level and had the power to grant the wishes of whoever made it through the myriad of hazards to stand before it. But something had gone wrong (or the person was a complete asshole) and the wish resulted in the Zone becoming even worse. Soon afterward, the Military received its orders to shoot Stalkers on sight after several major clashes with various Stalker groups.
In the aftermath of the Third Emission, the topography of the Zone had changed, with some Anomaly Fields vanishing and new ones appearing elsewhere. This forced many people to relocate, resulting in much confusion and more than a little strife. Two of the largest factions in the Zone, Freedom and Duty, came into direct conflict and tensions soon erupted into genuine warfare. At the same time another faction, Clear Sky, took advantage of the confusion to launch a militarized expedition into the heart of the Zone in an attempt to reach the Chernobyl NPP and possibly shut down whatever was causing the Emissions in the first place as smaller, less destructive but no less dangerous Emissions had become common (happening every few days). Clear Sky failed and was almost wiped out when another massive Emission triggered and engulfed the Zone, causing it to expand yet a few more kilometers.
Not long after that event, the entire Neo-Soviet Bloc recognized the Zone as a dire threat and began investigating their options (if any) of how to halt any further expansion. After a few weeks of deliberation and investigation, they determined that the best way to stop the Zone was to invade, take over the Chernobyl NPP from the faction known as Monolith, and shut it down entirely. Unfortunately, their preliminary investigation had turned up new complications: the skies over the Zone were filled with Anomalies, and a huge section of the Zone's interior encompassing the Chernobyl NPP and the abandoned town of Pripyat (a 10 km area overall ) was enveloped by a powerful psychic energy field known locally as the "Brain Scorcher". The Brain Scorcher caused hallucinations and extreme anxiety in Humans on its outskirts that got progressively worse the further the subject went inside. Prolonged exposure caused psychotic episodes, intense hallucinations, and potential death, with those "dying" from it actually getting back up again as parts of their brains had been "scorched" but then reactivated as one of the shambling, mindless "Zombies" of the Zone. Eliminating the threat of the Brain Scorcher was their primary objective at that point.
Then someone inside the Zone shut down the Brain Scorcher for them. The airborne invasion classified as "Operation Fairway" was launched and dozens of Neo-Soviet helicopters carrying multiple squads of VDV and Spetsnaz were dispatched. As they flew over the Zone they were quick to notice that every faction had begun an invasion of Pripyat on their own: the shutdown of the Brain Scorcher had opened up new sections of the Zone that had been previously closed off to them. An Artifact "gold rush" had begun, forcing Monolith to go on the defensive in order to protect its own holdings. As they got closer, the Neo-Soviet helicopters began to be destroyed: some were shot down by the few anti-aircraft defenses that Monolith had cobbled together, but many more of the helicopters had struck aerial Anomalies that hadn't been charted. Only a few helicopters remained to attack the Chernobyl NPP and even they they weren't enough to overwhelm Monolith's forces. They did, however, manage to inadvertently provide covering fire for a single lone Stalker who managed to take advantage of the chaos to fight his way through Monolith's defenses to reach Chernobyl itself and get inside.
However, the commanders of Operation Fairway were unaware of any of this. As losses continued to mount and strange energy readings began to be detected from inside Chernobyl, the final option was declared. A nuclear strike was authorized and launched, and the center of the Zone was struck by a single five-megaton ICBM fired from Kiev. When the smoke finally cleared, much to their dismay they discovered that the force of the blast had been almost entirely dispersed and dispelled by the appearance of MANY Anomalies that resembled wormholes. Something HAD happened at Chernobyl though, and there was evidence of some parts of the Zone stabilizing, as well as Monolith suddenly becoming disorganized and falling back in disarray. The radiation of the nuclear strike had NOT been dispelled, so the entire Zone and much of the region immediately surrounding it was impacted by the radiation (no big deal for any decent Stalker). As such, the Neo-Soviet government declared a complete media blackout regarding the Zone and issued the statement that they'd obliterated the Chernobyl NPP and put a halt to any further expansion. However, due to the inimically toxic nature of the Zone, the perimeter would be enhanced even FURTHER and no unauthorized people would ever be allowed inside again. Fortunately, the Zone itself seems to be complying as no further massive Emissions have occurred since late 2011. Minor ones and Psi-storms occur every few days, but they're all much weaker by a full order of magnitude.
The truth of what happened to the lone Stalker, and what he did inside Chernobyl, has never been determined.
The Environment of the Zone
Mutants and Anomalies, a Brief Overview
The Crusade of the KITS
The Zone's Factions
Soon after the establishment of the Stalkers and the lockdown of the Zone, in true Human fashion communities began to establish themselves in the form of factions revolving around ideologies and mission objectives in regards to the Zone. Of the many groups that formed and came to the Zone, nine distinct factions established themselves as the most stable and influential (or just incorporated similar groups for convenience).
Bandits - Members of the criminal underworld who operate in the Zone for various reasons: illegal Artifact trade, gun running, to represent various organized crime cartels, or just to escape from the law. They don't get along with anyone outside of the Mercenaries.
Loners - Sometimes called the Free Stalkers, the Loners aren't aligned with any of the major factions. They've established a loose confederation of sorts, typically try to help each other out when possible, and maintain several small trading outposts throughout the Zone, in particular the derelict cargo ship-become-settlement of Skadovsk. They get along fairly well with everyone except the Bandits, the Military, and Monolith.
Clear Sky - An independent scientific and militarized group, Clear Sky focused on researching and understanding the Zone, primarily in an attempt to figure out the physics and mechanisms that made it work. Clear Sky's center of operations is near the southern border of the Zone in the region called the Great Swamp, where they maintain smuggling routes in and out of the Zone and was known for having access to some highly advanced body armor specializing in hostile environments. In 2012 the faction was nearly wiped out during the failed attack on the NPP, but the survivors managed to rebuild. The surviving Moon-Rabbit deserters from the Lunar Assault Corps are currently filling Clear Sky with new members, and will probably result in the faction being renamed the "Zone Rabbits" or something. Like the Loners, Clear Sky gets along fairly well with everyone.
Mercenaries - Operating as individuals or small groups, the Mercs are foreigners who offer their services as hired soldiers but also serve clients from outside the Zone. Little is known about who they serve overall, but there's no shortage of corporations, governments, or super-wealthy individuals who have the money to finance small private armies to represent them inside the Zone. While most factions are equipped with whatever mix of weaponry and equipment they can find (mostly Warsaw Pact gear) the Mercenaries are different in that their gear is almost uniformly of NATO origins, giving them a distinctive almost-Western appearance. The Mercs are antagonistic towards almost everyone except the Bandits, Clear Sky, and Ecologists.
Ecologists - The Ecologists are a government-funded group researching the Zone in order to properly harness its potential for the good of Humanity. They're not a militant faction, but they do have access to high-end medical and scientific gear, as well as sealed environment suits specifically for use inside the Zone (including reinforced military-grade types). The Ecologists are the most eager to collect Artifacts and other anomalous samples and operate out of several heavily armored bunkers that serve as both research labs and trading stations. The Ecologists get along well with everyone except the Bandits and Monolith. They're one of the only factions that the Military isn't hostile towards.
Military - The Military was formerly the Ukrainian military, but was replaced by the Neo-Soviet Military once the Restoration happened. Regardless of where High Command is located (Kiev or Moscow), the Military is made up entirely of active-duty soldiers and maintained by the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Their members are all highly trained (compared to the Zone's inhabitants) and are all equipped with modern weapons and gear. However, depending on just WHERE the soldiers are brought in and supplied from, their equipment might be anything from Ukrainian reservist gear (cirqua late 1980s), Russian conscripts equipped to early Russian Federation standard (turn of the Millennium), or advanced Neo-Soviet equipment from just a few years ago. Military Stalkers are some of the best equipped and most dangerous entities in the Zone. The Military only gets along with the Ecologists and Duty.
Duty - Duty is a large paramilitary faction at odds with anyone that seeks to exploit the Zone and spread its corruption to the outside world. Depending on who you ask, the members of Duty call the Zone either a demonic blight, an alien invasion, a manifestation of the sins of Man, or any number of other things. Regardless, they view it as their duty to combat the spread of the Zone and hold its horrors at bay. They deal with Artifacts only grudgingly, trading them for money as a necessary evil to procure the resources to continue their war. Duty is not only best known for their distinctive red and black colors on their suits, but almost all of them have received some degree of military-style training and have access to high-grade Soviet weaponry and armor, including some early exoskeleton suit prototypes. Duty is neutral towards everyone except the Bandits, Mercenaries, Monolith, and especially hates Freedom due to their conflicting ideologies.
Freedom - The members of Freedom describe themselves as anarchists and daredevils fighting for free access to the Zone, believing it to be a gift to Humanity filled with all sorts of potential new discoveries that could change the world. As such, they desire for as much information about the Zone to be distributed throughout the world. Naturally, they're at direct odds with Duty and open warfare has broken out more than once. Freedom lacks the militaristic hierarchy of Duty and tends to operate with only the barest hints of structure. However, their members are highly motivated and through the Artifact trade (which they happily engage in) they're quite well funded. Freedom's Stalkers are usually recognizable by their green and blue outfits, and are also known for having access to high-quality armor and weapons from the West.
Monolith - Monolith is a fanatical group hostile to everyone outside themselves, displaying many of the features of a religious cult. Its members believe in the existence of a complex alien crystal, the Wish Granter, located somewhere in the heart of the Zone. They guard the inner reaches of the Zone rabidly and have launched more than a few massive surges outwards from the Chernobyl NPP that resembled crusades. Members of Monolith fight without fear or even a sense of self-preservation, often fighting on despite severe injuries that would have crippled normal people. No member of Monolith has ever allowed themselves to be captured alive, resorting to blowing themselves up with grenades or even bashing their own heads against the wall to kill themselves. Even more enigmatic is the fact that members of Monolith are actually IMMUNE to the mind-damaging effects of Psi-storms and Emissions (although they'll still take cover from its other effects).