METRO 2033. WELCOME TO THE METRO OF MOSCOW

your last refuge when the world ends

Since its first release in 2005, Dmitry Glukhovsky’s best-selling novel, Metro 2033, has captivated audiences all over the world. It has been translated to dozens of languages, has inspired an award winning computer game and its hugely anticipated sequel.

The year is 2033. The world has been reduced to rubble. Humanity is nearly extinct. The half-destroyed cities have become uninhabitable through radiation. Beyond their boundaries, they say, lie endless burned-out deserts and the remains of splintered forests. Survivors still remember the past greatness of humankind. But the last remains of civilisation have already become a distant memory, the stuff of myth and legend. More than 20 years have passed since the last plane took off from the earth. Man's time is over. A few score thousand survivors live on, not knowing whether they are the only ones left on earth. They live in the Moscow Metro — the biggest air-raid shelter ever built. Artyom, a young man from one of the stations, is given the task to alert everyone to a new awful threat. The future is suddenly in his hands...

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  •     ‘Who’s there? Artyom – go have a look!" Artyom rose reluctantly from his seat by the fire and, shifting the machine gun from his back to his chest, headed towards the darkness. He stood right at the edge of the lighted area and then, as loudly and threateningly as he could, he clicked the slide on his gun and shouted gruffly, "Stop! Password!"
    He could hear quick, staccato footsteps in the darkness where moments ago he’d heard a strange rustle and hollow-sounding murmurings. Someone was retreating into the depths of the tunnel, frightened away by Artyom’s gruff voice and the rattling of his weapon. Artyom hurriedly returned to the fire and flung an answer at Pyotr Andreevich:
         "Nope, no one came forward. No response, they just ran off."
         ‘You idiot! You were clearly told. If they don’t respond, then shoot immediately! How do you know who that was? Maybe the dark ones are getting closer!
         "No… I don’t think they were people… The sounds were really strange… And the footsteps weren’t human either. What? You think I don’t know what human footsteps sound like? And anyway, when have the dark ones ever run off like that? You know it yourself, Pyotr Andreevich. Lately they’ve been lunging forward without hesitation. They attacked a patrol with nothing but their bare hands, marching straight into machine-gun fire. But this thing, it ran off straight away… Like some kind of scared animal."
         ‘All right, Artyom! You’re too smart for your own good. But you’ve got instructions – so follow them, don’t think about it. Maybe it was a scout. And now it knows how few of us are here, and how much ammunition they’d need… They might just wipe us out here and now for fun. Put a knife to our throat, and butcher the entire station, just
    like at Polezhaevskaya – and all just because you didn’t get rid of that rat… Watch it! Next time I’ll make you run after them into the tunnel!'     It made Artyom shudder to imagine the tunnel beyond the sevenhundredth metre. It was horrifying just to think about it. No one had the guts to go beyond the seven-hundredth metre to the north. Patrols had made it to the fivehundredth, and having illuminated the boundary post with the spotlight on the trolley and convinced themselves that no scum had crossed it, they hastily returned. Even the scouts – big guys, former marines – would stop at the six hundred and eightieth metre. They’d turn their burning cigarettes into their cupped palms and stand stockstill, clinging to their nightvision instruments. And then, they’d slowly, quietly head back, without taking their eyes off the tunnel, and never turning their backs to it.
         They were now on patrol at the four hundred and fiftieth metre, fifty metres from the boundary post. The boundary was checked once a day and today’s inspection had been completed several hours ago. Now their post was the outermost and, since the last check, the beasts that the last patrol might have scared off would have certainly begun to crawl closer once again. They were drawn to the flame, to people…
         Artyom settled back down into his seat and asked, ‘So what actually happened at Polezhaevskaya?’
         Although he already knew this blood-curdling story (from the traders at the station), he had an urge to hear it again, like a child who feels an irrepressible urge to hear scary stories about headless mutants and dark ones who kidnap young children.
         ‘At Polezhaevskaya? What, you didn’t hear about it? It was a strange story. Strange and frightening. First their scouts began
  • disappearing. Went off into the tunnels and didn’t come back. Granted, their scouts are completely green, nothing like ours, but then again, their station’s smaller, a lot less people live there… well, used to live there. So anyway, their scouts start disappearing. One detachment leaves – and vanishes. At first they thought something was holding them up – up there the tunnel twists and turns just like it does here…’ Artyom felt ill at ease when he heard these words. ‘And neither the patrols, nor those at the station could see anything, no matter how much light they threw at it. No one appeared – for half an hour, then for an hour, then two. They wondered where the scouts could have gone – they were only going one kilometre in. They weren’t allowed to go any further and anyway, they aren’t total idiots… Long story short, they couldn’t wait to find out. They sent reinforcements who searched and searched, and shouted and shouted – but it was all in vain. The patrol was gone. The scouts had vanished. And it wasn’t just that no one had seen what had happened to them. The worst part was that they hadn’t heard a sound… not a sound. There was no trace of them whatsoever.’
         Artyom was already beginning to regret that he had asked Pyotr Andreevich to recount the story of Polezhaevskaya. Pyotr Andreevich was either better informed, or was embellishing the story somewhat; but in any case, he was telling details of the sort that the traders couldn’t have dreamed, despite being masters and true enthusiasts of story-telling. The story’s details sent a chill over Artyom’s skin, and he became uncomfortable even sitting next to the fire. Any rustlings from the tunnel, even the most innocent, were now exciting his imagination.
         ‘So, there you have it. They hadn’t heard any gunfire so they
    decided that the scouts had simply left them – maybe they were dissatisfied with something, and had decided to run. So, to hell with them. If it’s an easy life they want, if they want to run around with all kinds of riff-raff, then let them run around to their hearts’ content. It was simpler to see it that way. Easier. But a week later, yet another scout team disappeared. And they weren’t supposed to go any further than half a kilometre from the station. And again, the same old story. Not a sound, not a trace. Like they’d vanished into thin air. So then they started getting worried back at the station. Now they had a real mess on their hands – two squadrons had disappeared within a week. They’d have to do something about it. Meaning, they’d have to take measures. Well, they set up a cordon at the threehundredth metre. They dragged sandbags to the cordon, set up machine guns and a spotlight – according to the rules of fortification. They sent a runner to Begovaya – they’d established a confederation with Begovaya and 1905 Street. Initially, October Field had also been included, but then something had happened, no one knows exactly what – some kind of accident. Conditions there had become unliveable, and everyone had fled.
         ‘Anyway, then they sent a runner to Begovaya, to warn them that, as they said, trouble was afoot, and to ask for help, should anything happen. The first runner had only just made it to Begovaya – and the people there were still considering their answer – when a second runner arrived at Begovaya, lathered in sweat, and said that their reinforced cordon had perished to a man, without firing a single shot. Every last one of them had been slaughtered. And it was as if they’d been butchered in their sleep – that’s what was scary! But they wouldn’t have fallen asleep, not after the scare they’d had, not to
  • mention the orders and instructions. At this point, the people at Begovaya understood that if they did nothing, the same story would begin in their neck of the woods as well. They equipped a strike force of veterans, about a hundred men, machine guns, and grenade launchers. Of course, that all took a bit of time, about a day and a half, but all the same, they dispatched the group to go and help. And when the group entered Polezhaevskaya, there wasn’t a living soul to be seen. There weren’t even bodies – just blood everywhere. There you go. And who knows who the hell did it. I, for one, don’t believe that humans are capable of such a thing.’
         ‘And what happened to Begovaya?’ Artyom’s voice sounded unusual, unlike him.
         ‘Nothing happened to them. They saw what the deal was, and exploded the tunnel that led to Polezhaevskaya. I hear forty metres’ worth of tunnel is collapsed; there’s no digging through it without special machinery, and even with machinery, I bet you wouldn’t get very far… And where are you going to find that kind of machinery, anyway? Our machinery rotted away fifteen years ago already…’
         Pyotr Andreevich fell silent, gazing into the fire. Artyom gave a loud cough and said,
         ‘Yeah… I should’ve shot the thing, of course… I was an idiot.’
         A shout came from the south, from the direction of the station:
         station: ‘Hey there, at the four-hundredth metre! Everything OK there?’
         Pyotr Andreevich folded his hands into the shape of a megaphone and shouted in reply:
         ‘Come closer! We’ve got a situation here!’
         Three figures approached in the tunnel, from the station, their
    flashlights shining – probably patrol members from the three‑hundredth metre. Stepping into the light of the fire, they put out their flashlights and sat down.
         ‘Hi there, Pyotr! So it’s you here. And I’m thinking to myself – who’d they send off to the edge of the earth today?’ said the senior patrolman, smiling and shaking a cigarette from his pack.
         ‘Listen, Andryukha! One of my guys saw someone up here. But he didn’t get to shoot… It hid in the tunnel. He says it didn’t look human.’
         ‘Didn’t look human? What did it look like, then?’ Andrey turned to Artyom.
         ‘I didn’t even see it… I just asked for the password, and it ran right off, heading north. But the footsteps weren’t human – they were light, and very quick, as if it had four legs instead of two…’
         ‘Or three!’ winked Andrey, making a scary face.
         Artyom choked, remembering the stories about the three-legged people from the Filevskaya line where some of the stations went up to the surface, and the tunnel didn’t run very deep at all, so they had almost no protection from the radiation. There were three-legged things, two-headed things and all kinds of weird shit crawling all over the metro from those parts.
         Andrey took a drag of his cigarette and said to his men, ‘All right, guys, since we’re already here why don’t we sit down for a while? If any three-legged things crawl up on these guys again, we’ll lend a hand. Hey, Artyom! Got a kettle?’
         Pyotr Andreevich got up and poured some water from a canister into a beat-up, soot-covered kettle, and hung it over the flame. In a few minutes, the kettle began to whistle as it came to a boil. The sound, so domestic and comforting, made Artyom feel warmer and
  • calmer. He looked around at the men who were sitting at the fire: all of them strong dependable people, hardened by the challenging life they led here. You could trust men like these; you could count on them. Their station always had the reputation for being the most successful along the entire line – and that was all thanks to the men gathered here, and to others like them. They were all connected to each other with warm, almost brotherly bonds.
         Artyom was just over twenty years old and had come into the world when life was still up there, on the surface. He wasn’t as thin and pale as the others who’d been born in the metro, who wouldn’t dare go up to the surface for fear of radiation and the searing rays of the sun, which are so ruinous for underground dwellers. True, even Artyom, as far as he could remember, had been on the surface only once, and then it was only for a moment – the background radiation there had been so bad that anyone who got a bit too curious would be completely fried within a couple of hours, before he’d even managed to enjoy a good stroll, and see his fill of the bizarre world that lay on the surface.
         He didn’t remember his father at all. His mother had been with him until he was five years old. They lived at Timiryazevskaya. Things had been good, and life had gone smoothly and peacefully, until Timiryazevskaya fell victim to a rat infestation.
         One day, huge, grey, wet rats poured from one of the tunnels on the dark side of the station without any warning. It was a tunnel that plunged off to the side, a disregarded branch of the primary northern leg, which descended to great depths, only to become lost in the complex network of hundreds of corridors – freezing, stinking labyrinths of horror. The tunnel stretched into the kingdom of rats,
    where even the most hopeless adventurer wouldn’t dare to go. Even a wanderer who was lost and couldn’t find his way using underground maps and paths, would stop at this threshold, sensing instinctively the black and sinister danger emerging from it, and would have rushed away from the gaping crevasse of that entrance as though from the gates of a plague-infested city.
         No one bothered the rats. No one descended into their dominions. No one dared to violate their borders.
         They came to the people.
         Many people perished that day, when a living torrent of gigantic rats – bigger than had ever been seen at either the stations or in the tunnels – had flooded through the cordons and the station, burying all of its defenders and its population, muffling their dying screams with the mass of its bodies. Consuming everything in their path – the living, the dead, and their own fallen comrades – the rats tore ahead, further and further, blindly, inexorably, propelled by a force beyond human comprehension.
         Only a few men remained alive. No women, no old men or children – none of the people who would normally have been saved first, but rather five healthy men who had managed to keep ahead of the deathwreaking torrent. And the only reason they’d outrun it was because they’d happened to be standing near a trolley, on watch in the southern tunnel. Hearing the shouts from the station, one of them sprinted to see what had happened. Timiryazevskaya was already perishing when he caught sight of it as he entered the station. At the station’s entrance, he understood what had happened from the first rivulets of rats seeping onto the platform and he was about to turn back, knowing that he couldn’t possibly help those who were
  • defending the station, when suddenly his hand was seized from behind. He turned around and a woman, her face contorted with horror, pulling insistently at his sleeve, shouted, in an effort to overcome the manyvoiced choir of despair, ‘Save him, soldier! Have mercy!’
         He saw that she was handing him a child’s hand, a small, chubby hand, and he grabbed the hand without even thinking that he was saving someone’s life. And, pulling the child behind him and then picking him up and tucking him under his arm, he raced off with the frontrunner rats in a race with death – forward through the tunnel, where the trolley was waiting with his fellow patrolmen. He started to shout at them from afar, from a distance of fifty metres or so, telling them to start up the trolley. Their trolley was motorized, the only one of its kind in the surrounding ten stations, and it was only because of it that they were able to outrun the rats. The patrolmen raced forward, and flew through the abandoned station of Dmitrovskaya at full speed, where a few hermits had sought shelter, just managing to shout to them: ‘Run! Rats!’ (Without realizing that there was no chance of the hermits saving themselves.) As they approached the cordons of Savyolovskaya (with whom, thank God, they had peaceful arrangements), they slowed down so they wouldn’t be fired at. They would have been taken for raiders at such high speed. And they shouted at the top of their lungs to the guards, ‘Rats! The rats are coming!’ They were prepared to keep running right through Savyolovskaya, and further along the line, prepared to beg to be let through, as long as there was somewhere further to go, as long as the grey lava hadn’t inundated the entire metro.
         But luckily, there was something at Savyolovskaya that would
    save them, the station and perhaps the entire Serpukhovsko-Timiryazevskaya branch. They were nearly at the station, soaked in sweat, shouting at the Savyolovskaya guards about their narrow escape from death. Meanwhile, the guards at the post were quickly pulling the cover off of some kind of impressive-looking piece of gear.
         It was a flamethrower, assembled by the local craftsmen from spare parts – homemade, but incredibly powerful. When the first ranks of rats became visible, gathering force, and you could hear the rustling and the scratching of a thousand rats’ paws from the darkness, the guards fired up the flamethrower. And they didn’t turn it off until the fuel was spent. A howling orange flame filled the tunnel for tens of metres and burned the rats, burned them all, without stopping, for ten, fifteen, twenty minutes. The tunnel was filled with the repulsive stench of burnt flesh and the wild screeching of rats. And behind the guards of Savyolovskaya, who had become heroes and had earned fame along the entire metro line, the trolley came to a stop, cooling down. On it were the five men who had fled from Timiryazevskaya station, and there was one more – the child they had saved. A boy. Artyom.
         The rats retreated. Their blind will had been broken by one of the last inventions of human military genius. Humans had always been better at killing than any other living thing.
         The rats flowed backwards and returned to their enormous kingdom, whose true dimensions were known to no one. All of these labyrinths, lying at incredible depth, were so mysterious and, it seemed, completely useless for the functioning of the metro. It was hard to believe, despite the assurances of various persons of
  • authority on the matter, that all of this was built by ordinary metro-builders.
         One such person of authority had once worked as a conductor’s assistant on an electric train in the old days. There were hardly any of his kind left and they were greatly valued, because at first they had proven to be the only ones who could find their way around. And they didn’t give in to fear the moment they found themselves outside the comfortable and safe capsules of the train, in the dark tunnels of the Moscow metro, in these stone bowels of the great metropolis. Everyone at the station treated the conductor’s assistant with respect, and taught their children to do the same; it was for that reason, probably, that Artyom had remembered him, remembered him all his life: a thin, haggard man, emaciated by the long years of work underground who wore a threadbare and faded metro employee uniform that had long ago lost its chic but that he donned with the same pride a retired admiral would feel when putting on his parade uniform. Even Artyom, still just a kid at that time, had seen a certain dignity and power in the sickly figure of the conductor’s assistant…
         Of course he did. For all those who survived, the employees of the metro were like local guides to scientific expeditions in the jungles. They were almost religiously worshipped, they were depended upon completely, and the survival of everyone else was based on their knowledge and skill. Many of them became the heads of stations when the united system of government disintegrated, and the metro was transformed from a complex object of civil defence, a huge fallout shelter, into a multitude of stations unconnected by a single power, and was plunged into chaos and anarchy. The stations became independent and self-sufficient, distinctive dwarf states, with
    their own ideologies and regimes, their own leaders and armies. They warred against each other, they joined to form federations and confederations. They became metropolitan centres of rising empire one day, only to be subjugated and colonized the next, by their erstwhile friends or slaves. They formed short-term unions against a common threat, only to fall at each other’s throats again with renewed energy the moment that threat had passed. They scrapped over everything with total abandon: over living spaces, over food – over the plantings of albuminous yeast, the crops of mushrooms that didn’t require any sunlight, the chicken coops and pig-farms, where pale subterranean pigs and emaciated chicks were raised on colourless underground mushrooms. They fought, of course, over water – that is, over filters. Barbarians, who didn’t know how to repair filtration systems that had fallen into disuse, and were dying from water that was poisoned by radiation, threw themselves with animal rage upon the bastions of civilized life, at the stations where the dynamo-machines and small home-made hydroelectric stations functioned correctly, where filters were repaired and cleaned regularly, where, tended by the caring female hands, the damp ground was punctuated with the little white caps of champignons, and well-fed pigs grunted in their pens.
         They were driven forward, in their endless and desperate onslaught, by an instinct for self-preservation, and by that eternal revolutionary principle: take away and distribute. The defenders of successful stations, organized into battle-ready divisions by former military professionals, stood up to the assaults of vandals, to the very last drop of their blood. They went on to launch counter-attacks and won back every metre of the inter-station tunnels with a fight. The
  • stations amassed their military power in order to answer any incursions with punitive expeditions; in order to push their civilized neighbours from territory that was important for sustaining life, if they hadn’t managed to attain these agreements by peaceful means; and in order to offer resistance to the crap that was climbing out of every hole and tunnel. These were strange, freakish, and dangerous creatures, the likes of which might well have brought Darwin himself to despair with their obvious lack of conformity to the laws of evolutionary development. As much as these beasts might differ from the animals humans were used to, and whether they had been reborn under the invisible and ruinous rays of sunlight, turned from harmless representatives of urban fauna into the spawn of hell, or whether they had always dwelled in the depths, only now to be disturbed by man – still, they were an evident part of life on earth. Disfigured, perverted – but a part of life here all the same. And they remained subject to that very same driving impulse known to every organic thing on this planet.
         Survive. Survive at any cost.
         Artyom accepted a white, enamelled cup, in which some of their homemade station tea was splashing around. Of course, it wasn’t really tea at all, but an infusion of dried mushrooms and other additives. Real tea was a rarity. They rationed it and drank it only at major holidays, and it fetched a price dozens of times higher than the price of the mushroom infusion. Nevertheless, they liked their own station brew and were even proud enough of it to call it ‘tea.’ It’s true that strangers would spit it out at first, since they weren’t used to its taste; but soon they got used to it. And the fame of their tea spread beyond the bounds of their station – even the traders came to get it,
    one by one, risking life and limb, and soon after their tea made it down the whole metro line – even the Hanseatic League had started to become interested in it and great caravans of the magical infusion rolled towards VDNKh. Cash started to flow. And wherever there was money, there were weapons, there was firewood and there were vitamins. And there was life. Ever since they started making the very same tea at VDNKh, the station had begun to grow strong; people from the nearby stations moved to the station and stretches of track were laid to the station; prosperity had come. They were also very proud of their pigs at VDNKh, and legend had it that it was precisely from this station that the pigs had entered the metro: back at the very beginning of things when certain daredevils had made their way to the ‘pig-breeding pavilion’ at the Exhibition and managed to herd the animals back down to the station.
         ‘Listen, Artyom – how are things going with Sukhoi?’ asked Andrey, drinking his tea with small, cautious sips and blowing on it carefully.
         ‘With Uncle Sasha? Everything’s fine. He came back a little while ago from a hike down the line with some of our people. An expedition. As you probably know.’
         Andrey was about fifteen years older than Artyom. Generally speaking, he was a scout, and rarely stood at a watch nearer than the four hundred and fiftieth metre, and then only as a cordon commander. And here they’d posted him at the three-hundredth metre, with good cover, but all the same, he felt the urge to head deeper, and made use of any pretext, any false alarm, to get closer to the darkness, closer to the secret. He loved the tunnel and knew its branches very well but, at the station, he felt uncomfortable
  • among the farmers, the workers, the businessmen and the administration – he felt unneeded, perhaps. He couldn’t bring himself to hoe the earth for mushrooms, or, even worse, stuff the fat pigs at the station’s farms with mushrooms, standing up to his knees in manure. And he couldn’t be a trader either – he’d been unable to stand traders from the day he was born. He had always been a soldier, a warrior, and he believed with all his soul that this was the only occupation worthy of a man. He was proud that he had done nothing his entire life but defend the stinking farmers, the fussy traders, the administrators who were business-like to a fault, and the women and children. Women were attracted to his arrogant strength, to his total confidence in himself, to his sense of calm in relation to himself and those around him (because he was always capable of defending them). Women promised him love, they promised him comfort, but he could only feel comfortable beyond the fiftieth metre, beyond the turning point, where the station lights were hidden. And the women didn’t follow him. Why not?
         Now he’d warmed up nicely as a result of the tea, and he removed his old black beret and wiped his moustache, damp from the steam, with his sleeve. Then he began to question Artyom eagerly for news and rumours from the south, brought by the last expedition, by Artyom’s stepfather – by the very man who, nineteen years ago had torn Artyom from the rats at Timiryazevskaya, unable to abandon a child, and had raised him.
         ‘I myself might know a thing or two, but I’ll listen with pleasure, even for a second time. What – do you mind?’ insisted Andrey.
         He didn’t have to spend any time persuading him: Artyom himself enjoyed recalling and retelling his stepfather’s stories – after all,
    everyone would listen to them, their mouths agape.
         ‘Well, you probably know where they went…’ began Artyom.
         ‘I know they went south. They’re so top-secret, those ‘‘hikers’’ of yours,’ laughed Andrey. ‘They are special missions of the administration, you know!’ he winked at one of his people.
         ‘Come on, there wasn’t anything secret about it,’ Artyom waved his hand dismissively. ‘The expedition was for reconnaissance, the collection of information… Reliable information. Because you can’t believe strangers, the traders who wag their tongues at us at the station – they could be traders or they could be provocateurs, spreading misinformation.’
         ‘You can never trust traders,’ grumbled Andrey. ‘They’re out for their own good. How are you supposed to know whether to trust one – one day he’ll sell your tea to the Hansa, and the next he’ll sell you and your entrails to someone else. They may well be collecting information here, among us. To be honest, I don’t particularly trust ours either.’
         ‘Well, you’re wrong to go after our own, Andrey Arkadych. Our guys are all OK. I know almost all of them myself. They’re people, just like people anywhere. They love money, too. They want to live better than others do, they’re striving towards something,’ said Artyom, attempting to defend the local traders.
         ‘There it is. That’s exactly what I’m talking about. They love money. They want to live better than everyone else does. And who knows what they do when they go off into the tunnel? Can you tell me with certainty that at the very next station they aren’t recruited by agents? Can you – or not?’
         ‘What agents? Whose agents did our traders submit to?’
  • ‘Here’s what I’ll say, Artyom. You’re still young, and there’s a lot you don’t know. You should listen to your elders – pay attention, and you’ll stick around a bit longer.’
         ‘Someone has to do their work! If it weren’t for the traders, we’d be sitting here without military supplies, with Berdan rifles, and we’d be tossing salt at the dark ones and drinking our tea,’ said Artyom, not backing down.
         ‘All right, all right, we’ve got an economist in our midst… Simmer down now. You’d do better to tell us what Sukhoi saw there. What’s going on there with the neighbours? At Alekseevskaya? At Rizhskaya?’
         ‘At Alekseevskaya? Nothing new. They’re growing mushrooms. And what is Alekseevskaya anyway? A farmyard, that’s all… So they say.’ Then Artyom lowered his voice in light of the secrecy of the information he was about to give: ‘They want to join us. And Rizhskaya isn’t against it either. They’re facing growing pressure over there from the south. There’s a sombre mood – everyone’s whispering about some sort of threat, everyone’s afraid of something, but of what, nobody knows. It’s either that there’s some sort of new empire at the far end of the line, or that they’re afraid of the Hansa, thinking they might want to expand, or it’s something else altogether. And all of these barnyards are starting to cuddle up to us. Rizhskaya and Alekseevskaya both.’
         ‘But what do they want, in concrete terms? What are they offering?’ asked Andrey.
         ‘They want to create a federation with us that has a common defence system, to strengthen the borders on both ends, to establish constant illumination inside the inter-station tunnels, to organize a
    police force, to plug up the side tunnels and corridors, to launch transport trolleys, to lay a telephone cable, to designate any available space for mushroom-growing… They want a common economy – to work, and to help each other, should it prove necessary.’
         ‘And where were they when we needed them? Where were they when there was vermin crawling at us from the Botanical Gardens, from Medvedkov? When the dark ones were attacking us, where were they?’ growled Andrey.
         ‘Don’t jinx us, Andrey, be careful!’ interceded Pyotr Andreevich. ‘There aren’t any dark ones here for the time being, and all’s well. It wasn’t us who defeated them. Something happened that was of their own doing, it was something among themselves, and now they’ve quietened down. They might be saving up their strength for now. So a union won’t hurt us. All the more so, if we unify with our neighbours. It’ll be to their benefit, and for our good as well.’
         ‘And we’ll have freedom, and equality, and brotherhood!’ said Andrey ironically, counting on his fingers.
         ‘What, you don’t want to listen?’ asked Artyom, offended.
         ‘No, go ahead, Artyom, continue,’ said Andrey. ‘We’ll have it out with Pyotr later. This is a long-standing argument between us.’
         ‘All right then. And, they say that their chief supposedly agrees. Doesn’t have any fundamental objections. It’s just necessary to consider the details. Soon there’ll be an assembly. And then, a referendum.’
         ‘What do you mean, a referendum? If the people say yes, then it’s a yes. If they say no, then the people didn’t think hard enough. Let the people think again,’ quipped Andrey.
        
  • ‘Well, Artyom, and what’s going on beyond Rizhskaya?’ asked Pyotr Andreevich, not paying attention to Andrey.
         ‘What’s next? Prospect Mira station. Well, and it makes sense that it’s Prospect Mira. That’s the boundary of the Hanseatic League. My stepfather says that everything’s still the same between the Hansa and the Reds – they’ve kept the peace. No one there gives a thought to the war anymore,’ said Artyom.
         ‘The Hanseatic League’ was the name of the ‘Concord of Ring Line Stations.’ These stations were located at the intersection of all the other lines, and, therefore of all the trade routes. The lines were linked to one another by tunnels, which became a meeting place for businessmen from all over the metro. These businessmen grew rich with fantastic speed, and soon, knowing that their wealth was arousing the envy of too many, they decided to join forces. The official name was too unwieldy though, and among the people, the Concord was nicknamed the ‘Hansa’ (someone had once accurately compared them to the union of trade cities in Medieval Germany). The short word was catchy, and it stuck. At the beginning, the Hansa consisted of only a few stations; the Concord only came together gradually. The part of the Ring from Kievskaya to Prospect Mira, what’s called the Northern Arc, and that included Kurskaya, Taganskaya and Oktyabrskaya. Then Paveletskaya and Dobrynskaya joined in and formed another Arc, the Southern Arc. But the biggest problem and the biggest hindrance to uniting the Northern and Southern Arcs was the Sokol Line.
         The thing was, Artyom’s stepfather told him, the Sokol line was always sort of special. When you glance at the map, your attention is immediately drawn to it. First of all, it’s a straight line, straight as an
    arrow. Secondly, it was marked in bright red on metro maps. And its station names contributed too: Krasnoselskaya, Krasne Vorota, Komsomolskaya, Biblioteka imena Lenina and Leninskie Gori. And whether it was because of these names or because of something else, the line would draw to itself everyone who was nostalgic for the glorious Soviet past. The idea of a resurrection of the Soviet state took easily there. At first, just one station returned to communist ideals and a socialist form of rule, and then the one next to it, and then people from the tunnel on the other side caught wind of this optimistic revolution and chucked out their administration and so on and so on. The veterans who were still alive, former Komsomol men and Party officials, permanent members of the proletariat – they all came together at the revolutionary stations. They founded a committee, responsible for the dissemination of this new revolution and its communist idea throughout the metro system, under the almost Lenin-era name of ‘Interstational.’ It prepared divisions of professional revolutionaries and propagandists and sent them to enemy stations. In general, little blood was spilt since the starving inhabitants of the Sokol line were thirsting for the restoration of justice, for which, as far as they understood, apart from unjustified egalitarianism, there was no other option. So the whole branch, having flared up at one end, was soon engulfed by the crimson flames of revolution. The stations returned to their old, Soviet names: Chistye Prudy became Kirovskaya again; Lubyanka became Dzerzhinskaya; Okhotnyi Ryad became Prospect Marx. The stations with neutral names were renamed with something more ideologically clear: Sportivnaya became Kommunisticheskaya; Sokolniki became Stalinskaya; Preobrazhenskaya Ploshchhad where it all began,
  • became Znamya Revolutsya. And the line itself, once Sokol, was now called by most the ‘Red Line’ – it was usual in the old days for Muscovites to call their metro lines by their colours on the map anyway, but now the line was officially called the ‘Red Line.’ But it didn’t go any further. When the Red Line had formed itself and had ideas about spreading itself through the metro, patience quickly wore thin at other stations. Too many people remembered the Soviet era. Too many people saw the agitators that were sent by the Interstational throughout the metro as a tumour that was metastasising, threatening to kill the whole organism. And as much as the agitators and propagandists promised electricity for the whole metro, that by joining with the Soviet powers they would experience real communism (it was unlikely that this had come from any actual slogan of Lenin’s – it was so exploitative), people beyond their boundaries weren’t tempted. The Interstational sloganeers were caught and thrown back to their Soviet territory. Then the Red leadership decided that it was time to act more resolutely: if the rest of the metro wouldn’t take up the merry revolution flame then they needed to be lit from underneath. Neighbouring stations, worried about the strengthening communist propaganda, also came to the same conclusion. Historical experience demonstrates well that there isn’t a better way of injecting communist bacilli into an area than with a bayonet.
         And the thunder rumbled.
         The coalition of anti-communist stations, directed by the Hansa, broke the Red Line and wanting to close the Ring circle took up the call. The Reds, of course, didn’t expect the organized resistance and overestimated their own strength. The easy victory they had
    anticipated couldn’t even be seen in their distant future. The war turned out to be long and bloody, wearing on and on – meanwhile, the population of the metro wasn’t all that large… It went on for almost a year and a half and mostly consisted of battles for position involving guerrilla excursions and diversions, the barricading of tunnels, the execution of prisoners, and several other atrocities committed by either side. All sorts of things happened: Army operations, encirclement, the breaking of encirclement, various feats, there were commanders, heroes and traitors. But the main feature of this war was that neither of belligerent parties could shift the front line any considerable distance.
         Sometimes, it seemed that one side was gaining an edge, would take over an adjacent station, but their opponent resisted, mobilized additional forces – and the scales were tipped to the other side.
         But the war exhausted resources. The war eliminated the best people. The war was generally exhausting. And those that survived grew tired of it. The revolutionary government had subtly replaced their initial problems with more modest ones. In the beginning, they strove for the distribution of socialist power and communistic ideas throughout the underground but now the Reds only wanted to have control over what they saw as the inner sanctum: the station called Revolution Square. Firstly, because of its name and secondly because it was closer than the any other station in the metro to the Red Square and to the Kremlin, the towers of which were still adorned with ruby stars if you believed the brave men who were so ideologically strong that they broke the surface just to look at them. But, of course, there at the surface, near the Kremlin, right in the centre of the Red Square was the Mausoleum. Whether Lenin’s body
  • was still there or not, no one knew, but that didn’t really matter. For the many years of the Soviet era, the mausoleum had ceased to be a tomb and had become its own shrine, a sacred symbol of the continuity of power.
         Great leaders of the past started their parades there. Current leaders aspired to it. Also, they say that from the offices of the Revolution Square station there are secret passages to the covert laboratories of the mausoleum, which lead directly to the coffin itself. The Reds still had Prospect Marx, formerly Okhotnyi Ryad, which was fortified and had become a base from which attacks on Revolution Square were launched. More than one crusade was blessed by the revolutionary leadership and sent to liberate this station and its tomb. But its defenders also understood what meaning it held for the Reds and they stood to the last. Revolution Square had turned into an unapproachable fortress. The most severe and bloody fights took place at the approach to the station. The biggest number of people was killed there. There were plenty of heroics, those that faced bullets with their chests, and brave men who tied grenades to themselves to blow themselves up together with an enemy artillery point, and those that used forbidden flamethrowers against people… Everything was in vain. They recaptured the station for a day but didn’t manage to fortify it, and they were defeated, retreating the next day when the coalition came back with a counterattack.
         Exactly the same thing was happening at Lenin Library. That was the Reds’ fort and the coalition forces repeatedly tried to seize it from them. The station had huge strategic value because they could split the Red Line in two parts there, and then they would have a direct passage to the three other lines with which the Red Line doesn’t intersect
    anywhere else. It was the only place. It was like a lymph gland, infected with the Red plague, which would then be spread across the whole organism. And, to prevent this, they had to take the Lenin Library, had to take it at any cost.
         But as unsuccessful as the Reds’ attempts were to take Revolution Square, the efforts of the coalition to squeeze them out of Lenin Library were equally fruitless. Meanwhile, people were tiring of the fight. Desertion was already rife, and there were incidents of fraternization when soldiers from both sides laid down their arms upon confrontation… But, unlike the First World War, the Reds didn’t gain an advantage. Their revolutionary fuse fizzled out quietly. The coalition didn’t fare much better: dissatisfied with the fact that they had to constantly tremble for their lives, people picked themselves up and went off in whole family groups from the central stations to the outer stations. The Hansa emptied and weakened. The war had badly affected trade; traders found other ways around the system, and the important trading routes because empty and quiet…
         The politicians, who were supported by fewer and fewer soldiers, had to urgently find a way to end the war, before the guns turned against them. So, under the strictest of secret conditions and at a necessarily neutral station, the leaders from enemy sides met: the Hansa president, Loginov, and the head of the Arbat Confederation, Kolpakov.
         They quickly signed a peace agreement. The parties exchanged stations. The Red Line received the dilapidated Revolution Square but conceded the Lenin Library to the Arbat Confederation. It wasn’t an easy step for either to make. The confederation lost one of its parts along with its influence over the north-west. The Red Line became
  • punctuated since there was now a station in the middle of it that didn’t belong to it and cut it in half. Despite the fact that both parties guaranteed each other the right to free transit through their former territories, that sort of situation couldn’t help but upset the Reds… But what the coalition was proposing was too tempting. And the Red Line didn’t resist. The Hansa gained more of an advantage from the agreement, of course, because they could now close the Ring, removing the final obstacles to their prosperity.
         They agreed to observe the status quo, and an interdiction about conducting propaganda and subversive activities in the territory of their former opponent. Everyone was satisfied. And now, when the cannons and the politicians had gone silent, it was the turn of the propagandists to explain to the masses that their own side had managed an outstanding diplomatic feat and, in essence, had won the war.
         Years have passed since that memorable day when the peace agreement was signed. It was observed by both parties too – the Hansa found in the Red Line a favourable economic partner and the latter left behind its aggressive intentions: comrade Moskvin, the secretary general of Communist party of the Moscow Underground in the name of V.I.Lenin, dialectically proved the possibility of constructing communism in one separate metro line. The old enmity was forgotten.
         Artyom remembered this lesson in recent history well, just as he strived to remember everything his stepfather told him.
         ‘It’s good that the slaughter came to an end,’ Pyotr Andreevich said. ‘It was impossible to go anywhere near the Ring for a year and a half: there were cordons everywhere, and they would check your
    documents a hundred times. I had dealings there at the time and there was no way to get through apart from past the Hansa. And they stopped me right at Prospect Mira. They almost put me up against a wall.’
         ‘And? You’ve never told us about this, Pyotr… How did it work out?’ Andrey was interested.
         Artyom slouched slightly, seeing that the story-teller’s flashlight had been passed from his hands. But this promised to be interested so he didn’t bother to butt in.
         ‘Well… It was very simple. They took me for a Red spy. So, I’m coming out of the tunnel at Prospect Mira, on our line. And Prospect is also under the Hansa. It’s an annexe, so to speak. Well, things aren’t so strict there yet – they’ve got a market there, a trading zone. As you know, it’s the same everywhere with the Hansa: the stations on the Ring itself form something like their home territory. And the transfer passages from the Ring stations are like radials – and they’ve put customs and passport controls there…’
         ‘Come on, we all know that, what are you lecturing us for… Tell us instead what happened to you there!’ Andrey interrupted him.
         ‘Passport controls,’ repeated Pyotr Andreevich, sternly drawing his eyebrows together, determined to make a point. ‘At the radial stations, they have markets, bazaars… Foreigners are allowed there. But you can’t cross the border – no way. I got out at Prospect Mira, I had half a kilo of tea with me… I needed some ammunition for my rifle. I thought I’d make a trade. Well, turns out they’re under martial law. They won’t let go of any military supplies. I ask one person, then another – they all make excuses, and sidle away from me. Only one whispered to me: ‘‘What ammunition, you moron… Get the hell out of
  • here, and quick – they’ve probably already informed on you.’’ I thanked him and headed quietly back into the tunnel. And right at the exit, a patrol stops me, and whistles ring out from the station, and still another detachment is running towards us. They ask for my documents. I give them my passport, with our station’s stamp. They look at it carefully and ask, ‘‘And where’s your pass?’’ I answer, surprised, ‘‘What pass?’’ It turns out that to get to the station, you’re obliged to get a pass: near the tunnel exit there’s alittle table, and they have an office there. They check identification and issue a pass when necessary. They’re up to their ears in bureaucracy, the rats…
         ‘How I made it past that table, I don’t know… Why didn’t the blockheads stop me? And now I’m the one who has to explain myself to the patrol. So this muscle-head stands there with his shaved skull and his camouflage and says, ‘‘He slipped past! He snuck past! He crept past!’’ He flips further through my passport, and sees the Sokol stamp there. I lived there earlier, at Sokol… He sees this stamp, and his eyes all but filled with blood. Like a bull seeing red. He jerked his gun from his shoulder and roars, ‘‘Hands above your head, you scum!’’ His level of training was immediately apparent. He grabs me by the scruff of my neck and drags me across the entire station, to the pass point in the transfer passage, to his superior. And he says, threateningly, ‘‘Just you wait, all I need is to get permission from command – and you’ll be against the wall, spy.’’ I was about to be sick. So I try to justify myself, I say, ‘‘What kind of a spy am I? I’m a businessman! I brought some tea from VDNKh.’’ And he replies that he’ll stuff my mouth full of tea and ram it in with the barrel of his gun. I can see that I’m not very convincing, and that, if his brass gives their approval, he’ll lead me off to the twohundredth metre, put my
    face to the pipes, and shoot me full of holes, in accordance with the laws of war. Things weren’t turning out too well, I thought… We approached the pass point, and this muscle-head of mine went to discuss the best place to shoot me. I looked at his boss, and it was as if a burden fell from my shoulders: it was Pashka Fedotov, my former classmate – we’d remained friends even after school, and then we’d lost track of each other…’
         ‘Well fuck! You scared the hell out of me! And I already thought you were done for, that they’d killed you,’ inserted Andrey venomously, and all of the men who were gathered tightly around the campfire at the four hundred and fiftieth metre burst into friendly laughter.
         Even Pyotr Andreevich himself, first glancing angrily at Andrey, couldn’t restrain himself and smiled. Laughter sounded along the tunnel, giving birth, somewhere in its depths, to a distorted echo, a sinister screech that sounded unlike anything… And everyone gradually fell silent upon hearing it.
         From the depths of the tunnel, form the north, the suspicious sounds were rather distinct now: there were rustlings and light rhythmic steps.
         Andrey, of course, was the first to hear them. He went silent instantly and waved a hand to signal the others to be quiet too, and he picked up his machine gun from the ground and jumped up from where he was sitting.
         Slowly undoing his safety catch and loading a cartridge, his back to the wall, he silently moved from the fireside into the tunnel. Artyom got up too – he was curious to see who he had missed the last time but Andrey turned back and frowned at him angrily. He
  • stopped at the border of the darkness, put his gun to his shoulder and lay down flat shouting, ‘Give me some light!’
         One of his guys, holding a powerful accumulator flashlight, which had been assembled from old car headlights, turned it on, and the bright beam ripped through the darkness. Snatched from the darkness, a fuzzy silhouette appeared on the floor for a second. It was something small, something not really scary looking, something which rushed back to the north.
         Artyom couldn’t restrain himself and he cried out:
         ‘Shoot! It’s getting away!’
         But for some reason Andrey did not shoot. Pyotr Andreevich got up too, keeping his machine gun at the ready, and shouted:
         ‘Andryukha! You still alive?’
         The guys sitting at the fire whispered in agitation, hearing the lock of Andrey’s gun slide back. Finally Andrey appeared in the light of the flashlight, dusting off his jacket.
         ‘Yes, I’m alive, I’m alive!’ he said, laughing.
         ‘Why you snorting?’ Pyotr Andreevich asked him suspiciously.
         ‘It had three feet! And two heads. Mutants! The dark ones are here! They’ll cut our throats! Shoot, or they’ll get away! Must have been a lot of them! Must have!’ Andrey continued to laugh.
         ‘Why didn’t you shoot? Fine, my young man might not have but he’s young, didn’t get it. But why did you mess it up? You’re not new to this, after all. You know what happened at Polezhaevskaya?’ asked Pyotr Andreevich angrily when Andrey had returned to the fire.
         ‘Yes I’ve heard about Polezhaevskaya a dozen times!’ Andrey waved him away. – ‘It was a dog! A puppy, not even a dog… It’s already the second time it’s tried to get close to the fire, towards the
    heat and the light. And you almost took him out and now you’re asking me why I’m being too considerate. Knackers!’
         ‘How was I supposed to know it was a dog?’ Artyom had taken offence. ‘It gave out such sounds… And then, a week ago they were talking about seeing a rat the size of a pig.’
         ‘You believe in fairy tales! Wait a second and I’ll bring you your rat!’ Andrey said, throwing his machine gun over his shoulder and walking off into the darkness.
         A minute later, they heard a fine whistle from the darkness. And then a voice called out, affectionately, coaxingly:
         ‘Come here, come here little one, don’t be afraid!’
         He spent a long time convincing it, about ten minutes, calling it and whistling to it and then finally his figure appeared again in the twilight.
         He returned to the fire and smiled triumphantly as he opened his jacket. A puppy fell out onto the ground, shivering, piteous, wet and intolerably dirty, with matted fur of an indistinct colour, and black eyes full of horror, and flattened ears.
         Once on the ground, he immediately tried to get away but Andrey’s firm hand grabbed it and held it in place. Petting it on its head, he removed his jacket and covered the little dog.
         ‘The puppy needs to be warmed up,’ he explained.
         ‘Come on, Andrey, it’s a fleabag!’ Pyotr Andreevich tried to bring Andrey to his senses. ‘And he might even have worms. And generally you might pick up an infection and spread it through the station…’
         ‘OK, Pyotr, that’s enough, stop whining. Just look at it!’ And he pulled back the flaps of his jacket showing Pyotr the muzzle of the puppy that was still shivering either out of fear or cold. ‘Look at its
  • eyes – those eyes could never lie!’
         Pyotr Andreevich looked at the puppy sceptically. They were frightened eyes but they were undoubtedly honest. Pyotr Andreevich thawed a bit.
         ‘All right… You nature-lover… Wait, I’ll find something for him to chew on,’ he muttered and started to look in his rucksack.
         ‘Have a look, have a look. You never know, maybe something useful will grow from it – a German Shepherd for example,’ Andrey said and moved the jacket containing the puppy closer to the fire.
         ‘But where could a puppy come from to get here? There aren’t any people in that direction. Only dark ones. Do the dark ones keep dogs?’ one of Andrey’s men, a thin man with tousled hair who hadn’t said anything until now asked as he looked suspiciously at the puppy who had dozed off in the heat.
         ‘You’re right, of course, Kirill,’ Andrey answered seriously. ‘The dark ones don’t keep pets as far as I know.’
         ‘Well how do they live then? What do they eat, anyway?’ asked another man, scratching his unshaven jaw with a light, electric crackling sound.
         He was tall and obviously battle-hardened, broadshouldered and thickset, with a completely shaven head. He was dressed in a long and well-sewn leather cloak, which, in this day and age, was a rarity.
         ‘What do they eat? They say they eat all kinds of junk. They eat carrion. They eat rats. They eat humans. They’re not picky, you know,’ answered Andrey, contorting his face in disgust.
         ‘Cannibals?’ asked the man with the shaved head, without a shadow of surprise – and it sounded as though he’d come across cannibals before.
        
    ‘Cannibals… They’re not even human. They’re undead. Who knows what the hell they are! It’s good they don’t have weapons, so we’re able to fend them off. For the time being. Pyotr! Remember, six months ago we managed to take one of them captive?’
         ‘I remember,’ spoke up Pyotr Andreevich. ‘He sat in our lock-up for two weeks, wouldn’t drink our water, didn’t touch our food, and then croaked.’
         ‘You didn’t interrogate him?’ asked the man.
         ‘He didn’t understand a word we said, in our language. They’d speak plain Russian to him, and he’d keep quiet. He kept quiet the entire time. Like his mouth was full of water. They’d beat him too, and he said nothing. And they’d give him something to eat, and he’d say nothing. He’d just growl every once in a while. And he howled so loudly just before he died that the whole station woke up…’
         ‘So how’d the dog get here anyway?’ Kirill reminded them.
         ‘Who the hell knows how it got here… Maybe it ran away fromthem. Maybe they wanted to eat it. It’s about two kilometres to here. Couldn’t a dog have run here from there? Maybe it belongs to someone. Maybe someone was coming from the north and fell on the dark ones. And the little dog managed to get away. Doesn’t matter anyway how she got here. Look at her yourself. Does she look like a monster? Like a mutant? No, she’s a little puppy dog, nothing special. And she’s drawn to people – that means she’s used to us. Otherwise why would she have tried three times to get close to the fire?’
         Kirill went silent, thinking through the argument. Pyotr Andreevich filled up the kettle with water from the canister, and asked:
         ‘Anyone want more tea? Let’s have a final cup, soon it’ll be time for us to be relieved.’
        
  • ‘Tea – now you’re talking! Let’s have some,’ Andrey said. The others became animated at the idea as well.
         The kettle came to a boil. Pyotr Andreevich poured another cup for those who wanted it, and made a request:
         ‘You guys… There’s no point in talking about the dark ones. The last time we were sitting like this and talking about them, they crawled up. Other guys have told me that the very same thing happened to them. Maybe it’s just a coincidence, I’m not superstitious – but what if it’s not? What if they can sense it? Our shift’s almost over already, what do we need these shenanigans for at the last minute?’
         ‘Yeah, actually… It’s probably not worth it,’ seconded Artyom.
         ‘OK, that’s enough, man, don’t chicken out on us! We’ll get there in the end!’ said Andrey, trying to cheer up Artyom but not really succeeding in convincing him.
         The mere thought of the dark ones sent an unpleasant shiver through everyone, including Andrey, although he tried to hide it. He didn’t fear humans of any kind: not bandits, not cutthroat anarchists, not soldiers of the Red Army. But the undead disgusted him, and it wasn’t that he was afraid of them, but that he couldn’t stay calm when he thought about them or indeed any other danger.
         Everyone fell quiet. A heavy, oppressive silence came over the men grouped around the fire. The knobbly logs in the fire were crackling, and to the north, a muted, deepchested croaking sound in the tunnel could be heard from time to time in the distance, as if the Moscow metro were the giant intestine of some unknown monster.
         And these sounds were really terrifying.

hanseatic league

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RED LINE

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VDNKh ALLIANCE

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NEUTRAL STATIONS

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NEUTRAL STATIONS