So.. the second chapter is up. I hope that it's not worse than the first one. Not that very many are going to read this, but what the hell..
"Wake up, boy." Chuikov shook the now, after a few hours of unconsciousness, at least semi-awake Ivan. "We don't have all day, you know. The sun have been up for hours.. We better get moving if we want to reach our destination. The snowstorm has moved on, by the way." Ivan blinked a few times, still quite dizzy. "Wha.. what happened, Chuikov?" he mumbled.
"Oh, nothing special. Some bandits tried to kill us, but you retaliated. Then you were deviously attacked from behind by a set of drawers. The bastard gave you quite a hit, it did. Nothing to worry about though, I've seen far worse. You must have a guardian angel - that was quite a blast." the old man noted, seemingly trying to not chuckle a bit. "Now, let's go. I've told you why once, and I don't like repeating myself." Chuikov helped Ivan up on his feet. The young man quickly gathered what little gear he had. It didn't take long. Within a minute, they were set to go "Boy, you.." Chuikov began, with an odd tone to his voice. "You might want to, you know, shut your eyes until we're out of the building." Without a word, Ivan followed Chuikov's advice as the old man opened the basement door, which was after the explosion hanging on one hinge.
A wise decision. The staircase leading up was not a pretty sight, and Chuikov had feared that seeing the consequences of his actions might traumatize his young - very young - companion, who he had subconsciously come to think of as a very close friend. Chuikov knew that in the harsh world they inhabited, you needed to take care of your friends. Especially those who had saved your life.
They finally left the now somewhat less intact basement, and again began wandering towards a distant objective through the broken streets. As they did so, Ivan found himself no longer caring about the snow, the sky or the city, all which yesterday had seemed so important. He didn't even give the constant threat of a mutant attack a single thought. His entire mind was focused on one single subject: He had killed. Taken the lives of three, despite their actions, fellow human beings. Three complete strangers, dead at his hands. The thought that he did what he did in self-defence didn't cross his mind. Even if it had done so, it's doubtful if it would have had any effect.
"Comrade Chuikov, I.." Ivan begun, only to be interrupted. "I recall saying something about that word, no?" Chuikov said, slightly annoyed. "Sorry, it's a reflex. It's mandatory in.. Never mind. What I wanted to ask was.. have you ever killed?" The old man stopped in his tracks and turned around. "As a matter of fact, I have." he said, coldly. "I know exactly what you are feeling, boy. You have done nothing wrong. It was us or them, and they deserved it." He did of course not mention the fact that he himself most likely belonged in the 'deserving' category. Once again, his words did little to sooth Ivan's misery.
"Now, all this is making me unhappy as well." Chuikov exclaimed, intending to turn Ivan's mind away from the grim subject of death. "Let's talk about something else, boy. How are things at home? Got somebody special waiting for you when you get back?" From past experiences, Chuikov had learned that discussing home, family and friends was a good topic for lightening up a conversation. Once he had even made a Nazi stabsführer cheer up by making him talk about his newborn daughter, and those guys were pretty damn cold. Surprisingly enough, this did not seem to be the case now - Ivan appeared to sigh heavily under his mask. "No. I don't." he said, in a somewhat awkward, distant tone. "Really? A strapping young lad like yourself? I'd expect the ladies to be swarming around you, boy. How about relatives, then?"
The young man merely shrugged. "My aunt and my dad. Nobody else." Chuikov decided to drop the subject, for understandable reasons. They continued on through the bleak landscape in silence.
Ivan was again returning to his dark thoughts - albeit with a different subject: Home. Thoughts of his meagre housing, little more than a glorified hole in the wall in the outskirts of the station. Thoughts of his family. Father, kind but distant, always busy. Aunt Karinka, compassionate yet stern. Mother, dead and almost forgotten. Almost. It was thinking about her that made said thoughts dark. Ivan, desperate to get away from the vague shadows of the past, did his best to push away the thoughts of his mother. "So.. 'Smuggler'.." he began. "Why did they call you that? Are you some kind of wanted criminal?" Any subject, no matter how pointless, would help if it distracted him. Although, he was somewhat nervous about how the old man would respond.
Chuikov almost seemed as if he had been preparing for questions like these. "Wanted, yes. Criminal, no. I don't consider what I did to be a crime."
"Which is.." Ivan said curiously. He realized now how little he knew of his companion. Just about only his name - surname, that is. "I hauled goods, mostly dirt ammo and canned food, through Hansa's blockades to various independent stations in the outskirts of the Metro. Dirt poor stations, due to Hansa's rather extreme tariffs, I might add." Ivan was quite relieved - Chuikov had in fact done something good, working against Hansa - who, he had been told for most of his life during the mandatory indoctrinations once a week, were deceitful capitalists. The truth that the Party teached was the only one he knew. The right amount of propaganda could do wonders to a populace.
"Sorry for asking, but.. how long until we're there? And, ah, where are we going? You never told me about our des.." The final word was cut short. Ivan silenced quickly, as the old man abruptly stopped, raising his hand and signaling to him to down - and quickly. They both crouched, and Chuikov immediately took cover behind what used to be a car, and Ivan followed suit. "Chuikov, what.." he tried, but was quickly hushed at.
"Keep quiet, you fool." the old man whispered, pointing towards something high up on a rooftop - a dark figure. Ivan gasped, realizing what it was: A demon. A truly nightmarish creature - large, black, winged and with fangs and claws capable of ripping off the your head almost effortlessly. "Shit.. I knew were getting away too easily. This explains why we haven't seen a single mutant.." Chuikov mumbled. "Don't make any loud noises or quick movements, boy. There's probably a nest full of 'em somewhere around here - the damned things have a habit of nesting, mating, killing and eating everything alive for a few miles around and then moving on. Shit." Ivan was only an inch from despair at this point.
Chuikov pointed towards Ivan's backpack. "Didn't you have a pair of binoculars? Get them out and take a closer look at the bastard up there. Slowly. It should have spotted us by now, as unstealthy as we were walking.. Check what's holding it up." Ivan obeyed. It was hard to see anything with the binoculars with the gas mask in the way, but if you looked closely you could almost see..
Ivan froze, chills going down his spine. The demon hadn't noticed they because it was busy feeding on.. somebody. One glance towards Ivan told Chuikov everything he needed to know. "I feared as much." he mumbled, sighing. "No time to waste. Let's move on while the bastard is distracted. Hopefully, the poor bugger up there with it will buy us enough time to get away safely." Afterwards, they'd would regret those words. Tempting fate was never a good idea. From right behind them came the one sound they did not want to hear right now: The very distinct roar of a demon ready to attack.
Acting on instinct, Ivan tumbled to the left, out of the demon's immediate reach. Chuikov, unusually, was not as quick. Age always takes it's toll in the end, no matter how skilled you are. Ivan turned around just in time to see the mutant fiercely gripping Chuikov, holding him down. He quickly reached for his revolver, desperate to help out - It was nowhere to be found. Instead, he grabbed his knife. It was tiny but sharp as hell, and it would have to do. He didn't have much time - Chuikov would be torn to pieces within a few seconds if he didn't act.
With a sudden surge of strength the young man threw himself onto the beast's back, with one hand holding on to it and with the other stabbing the knife into it's thick neck. The demon quickly let go of Chuikov and turned around to face it's assailant, almost throwing off Ivan. He stabbed again, his right hand now flecked in blood. As he hit a third time, he could feel the blade touching it's spine. The demon let out another roar, now mixed with pain and panic. Even a creature as monstrous as this could know fear, apparently.
After a short moment of internal struggle, and another final stabbing from Ivan, the demon collapsed. Ivan immediately got up and rushed over to Chuikov, who was still lying on the icy street, and.. "Shit! Chuikov, get up!" The demon up on the rooftop had stopped feeding when it heard the final call of it's mate, and came quickly flying down to avenge it's death.
"Chuikov, we gotta.. " Ivan yelled. No response. He grabbed his seemingly unconscious friend and began dragging him away. A few metres down the street was a large but shallow crevice, created by unknown forces. In it Ivan could see a big, rusted and broken sewage pipe sticking up through the ground, cracked open by.. something. It had once probably been covered by a manhole at the top, but that part of it was long gone. He desperately tried to drag Chuikov over there, heading for the pipe - the only at least possible way to escape within reach. The demon was still a fair distance away, but was closing in very fast.
Just as Ivan was almost able to touch the pipe, he realized he wouldn't make it if he didn't do something. He pulled Chuikov's shotgun of the old man's back and turned around, aiming towards the mutant behind him. The demon was only a metre and a half or so away, preparing to claw his face off. Ivan pressed the worn trigger. The shotgun merely clicked. It wasn't loaded.
The demon threw itself towards him. Panicking, Ivan acted on impulse again - it was becoming a habit. Using the shotgun, he bashed the approaching beast across it's deformed snout. It wasn't expecting that reaction. The mutant was stunned, stopping in it's tracks. In a final effort Ivan violently threw the gun at it, grabbed Chuikov and used every little ounce of strength left in him to push the old man into the pipe, then threw himself into it as well.
They fell far down through the rusted pipe into the dark underground, landing softly. For the second time in a very short period, Ivan was knocked out cold.