Here comes the next part! See as our brave soldier explores a silent forest station, sneaks into a mercenary camp and makes a daring escape, and finds the crate with the poison gas and an ugly surprise! See also: Mystery with Grouse, or The Blood is the Life!

What you won't see, and I'm sorry for that, is actual combat. SO far, I only shot a few bandits once, and not much else, aside from boars and the occasional snork. It's disapointing for me, too, but everything that you can shoot is either way too powerful, numerous, or boring (like the Zombies) Nonetheless, I'll try to get something in my sights from now on.

I decided to find the gas, and get those Bloodsuckers out of the way. Sleeping and knowing that these creatures live. Uhu said, the chest should be on the brigde to the south, so let's head there.

When I got closer, it however, I saw that he forgot to mention the anomalies "guarding" the brigde. Yeah. But I had to get there, what can I do?

Gladly, I had learned some tricks from the other Stalkers, like tossing a small screw to see where anomalies are that can't be detected by my detector (the device in the left hand, normaly it would show the location of anomalies as three green bars on the circle) Still, navigating the bridge was tough, and a few times I feared for my life when I felt the sucking of the Vortices. Luckily, nothing but a few bruises.
I managed to get to the truck, and even found some supplies in an abandoned jeep, but much to my dismay, the chest was locked. By two keys. The one time the military decides to be thorough, it has to be my objective. Looks like I'll have to look for the keys, or for Grouse. He is said to be a master with locks.

Well, now that I'm here, let's go check out that mercenary camp in the old sewage plant that Uhu mentioned. All he wants is information.

Sounds easy. But sneaking was never my strength (this is true for me, too). Sadly, it has to be now, I am one, they are, about 10? Bad match.
The first guards were easily avoided, and below their building I should be safe and unseen. Let's see where this gets me.
A-ha! Luck is on my side, for now.
I'm in the first floor, and two floors above me is the laptop. I hope it goes as smooth as it has so far.
But, no, it doesn't. (I'll spare you the countless failed attempts at sneaking up, the countless reloads. I found that I couldn't even stealth-kill one of them without the whole base noticing, and I finally lost my patience, ran up there (they would tolerate me for a few seconds), grabbed the info and run the hell away. Do you see a pattern here?)
Somehow, I managed to escape without ONE of the even glancing me. I guess I must be lucky. Or not, because the moment I was out of reach of the mercs, a blowout started. And I was in the middle of nowhere. Only an old ship as my hideout. It'll have to do.
(Normally, I would ahve hidden somewhere safe, but for you, I braved the storm and shot those fancy pictures from my shelter.)
It begins with weird weather, wind blowing, picking up the leaves. A strange light. Then everything gets brighter, the sky begins to thunder and flash.
I finally turns red, and lighting and terrible winds tear the world asunder. Whil I hid, I actually heard two victims who were too late. I prayed for their poor souls. THe Zone has claimed another two lives.
Back to Uhu. Gues what he paid me: 2000 rubels! 2000! If I ever find him out of the ship, I'm going to beat that smug grin out of him, I swear. Bastard.
With nothing better to do, and Grouse still out and about, I decided to explore the sawmill again, and see if I can find more tools.

Sadly, safe for a few stray Zombies, it was empty. (Here's something I dislike about Stalker. It sometimes makes the game world look bigger than it is by planting giant buildings with texture doors that can't be opened. So a station with four buildings might only have one or two that can actually be explored.)
I decided to investigate the Bloodsucker lair again, and see if I can find Grouse there to talk to him about the missing hunter and the gas. Funnily enough, just when I get there, I get a message from him, saying to meet me back at the headquarter. Finally. (the game seems to be one of the few games where later actually means later, not "after you have finished a trigger mission" or "the next time you talk to me". I find this highly irritating, but cool and consistent at the same time.) Back in the ship, Beard informs me that Grouse went to the old dock cranes, and I should meet him there. All right.
Just that he isn't there! (But the minimap says he must be, so our intrepid Major decides to investigate!) Well, none of the guys on the dock says anything, so I'll look into the only real building around here, an old shack (whose door was locked earlier, and whose porch sports a suprprising spot of blood!). In there, I found madness. Grouse on a table, drained of all blood. Before him, a freak with his m,outh and clothes soaked in blood! Somehow, he says he has expected me, that one day he knew somebody would find out. Tells me he's addicted to heamoglobine, and went to the Zone, hoping that the rough environment would distract him. It didn't.
And having finished his confession, he pulls pout his gun and finishes himself. I... I really don't know what to say here. Grouse was, for the short time I knew him, compassionate, caring and concerned. He wanted to do things right, and were other Stalkers would have abandoned the lost hunter the moment he didn't return to camp, Grouse investigated. And this was what killed him.
At least Beard is grateful, and rewards me with the coordinates of two hidden stashes and 10000 rubels. That's something, though it leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. The Stalkers however, now respect me, and repsect can be worth more than money here.

It also awards me an achievement, called "Detective". The Stalkers will now leave medical supplies in my personal chest in the headquarters at certain intervals. Nice, and I really like that you can buld up a reputation, but don't have too. After all, I could have gone straight for my main objectives. By the way, that's a really nice picture of a Bloodsucker, as the strongst mutant I've defeated so far. It does them justice. Those eyes in the darkness...
One of the hidden objects is a sniper rifle! At last! I suffered severe burns, because some idiot decided that the attic of an old farm filled with burner anomalies and searing heat was a good place to hide things, but a sniper rifle definitely improves my chances of survival. Maybe now I'll be able to take on enemies without being pumped full of lead in a matter of seconds.

I'm really at a loss for what to do now. I guess I'll take a look at the choppers, shall I?