- "Trying hard to keep track of how long I have been here. Strange, fractured land."
- — Kazimir Zykov in the Dark Aether
Kazimir Zykov grew up in Burata, a small village in the Pskov Oblast in the Soviet Union, in the early 20th century where he married his wife Raisa. Both survived the famine of 1922 as well as the 1929 plague that struck the country. They also survived Joseph Stalin's Great Purges during the 1930s. Their daughter, Anya, was born sometime before World War II broke out.
Zykov became a sergeant and a mechanic within the 1st Guards Tank Army of the Red Army scavenging parts of German Panzer and Tigers tanks to repair Soviet T-34s. After the discovery of the Endstation facility and its dimensional breach in early 1945, Zykov was tasked by NKVD Colonel Pavel Lazarev to enter the facility and shutdown the cyclotron because of his knowledge of German machinery.
Knowing the suicidal nature of the mission, Zykov agreed to complete the mission for the greater good. Zykov was awarded Hero of the Soviet Union by Lazarev before entering the facility. The doors were welded behind him. Zykov managed to close the rift but ultimately left him trapped in the Dark Aether with no means of escape as he became tethered to this hostile dimension.
Life in the Dark Aether
His first year was marked by the exploration of the Dark Aether which he described as a "strange, fractured land". He started gathering food and water as well as electronics in hope to build a transmitter. He noted that, in addition to the undead, other people were also trapped in this dimension, but always tried to avoid them. At one point, Zykov encountered a group of people sheltered in a warehouse. He tried to save the group as Plaguehounds were approaching. Zykov managed to pull at least one person out of the warehouse, but he ran back inside while the hounds were still there. The first year ended with a complete base of operations with stockpiled weapons, a "little fort". The base featured barricades and traps in case the creatures from the Dark Aether came too close.
During the second year, Zykov gathered lots of electronics but was unsuccessful in building the transmitter. He, however, found "weak spots" where the Dark Aether overlap with their original world. While he couldn't pass through, he caught a glimpse of Southeast Asia.
In the third year, Zykov made several attempts to pass through the weak spots and managed to enter his world for a brief period of time, usually 10 or 15 seconds before being pulled back in the Dark Aether. He visited different locations each time including a village, a jungle and a glacier. Zykov noted that while in their world he wandered unseen, "like a ghost".
The fourth year was marked by his encounter with an Elder God, as some of the survivors called them. Zykov described them as "tall as building". He kept their distance as the creature passed.
During the seventh year, Zykov managed to visit his world for almost 30 seconds. He arrived in a military base where soldiers communicated on an equipment similar to the electronics they gathered. Knowing how it was meant to operate, Zykov returned to his transmitter project. By this point, he was now eating the creatures living in the Dark Aether to survive, noting that consumption of the vegetation yielded in "poor results".
In the eighth year, Zykov managed to visit his world for several minutes. He believed to have arrived in New York City observing "tall glass buildings" and "long cars with fins on tails". Nobody noticed him and the world went without him. Zykov noticed during that year that fewer creatures were pursuing them while still attacking newcomers. However, the powerful creatures have started to notice his presence.
During his tenth year in the Dark Aether, Zykov managed to tame an injured Hellhound and nursed him back to health. The hound was now answering his calls, and stayed close and hunted alongside him. Zykov gave him the name "Cinder" and gave him a place within his fort, keeping it warm. He wished, however, he could pet the hound.
During the eleventh year, he found a dead Elder God, also referred to as an Overlord, with talk that one of them was hunting the rest. Zykov first thought it was crazy talk as some survivors were worshipping those giants, though he soon started to believe the rumors and worried about what could happen if one of the Elder God imposed its will on the others. His fears became realized as he discovered that this entity, whom he referred to as "The Forsaken", was not only slaying the other Elder Gods but absorbing their power and experience, and integrating their followers into his own army.
In the sixteenth year, he found several "machines filled with beverages". Believing them to be a trap, he let other survivors consume what the machines had to offer. He then realized that the beverages had "profound effects useful for combat". He noted that the machines also played music while dispensing the beverages. At one point, he found a red beverage machine which was badly damaged with the internals exposed. He tried to fix it but some parts were beyond repair.
During the seventeenth, Zykov found a new broken device looking like a a kiln, or a crucible but couldn't fix it. He started considering looking for help. He also became confident that they could complete the transmitter project. Zykov encountered another survivor who was trading items and components and told them about the machines they were repairing. Four days later, however, the Trader arrived with several survivors to attack Zykov's fort. He avoided the trap and broke in. Cinder attacked the invaders but was killed while Zykov was almost burned alive when his only friend exploded. The group stole all the machines and components before leaving the fort. Two days later, Zykov visited the Trader to make peace at first, as human life is rare and precious in the Dark Aether. When they refused his offer, Zykov killed them all. He noted that while they knew that there was still good in humanity, the longer he was in the Dark Aether, the less he remembered what it was.
Twenty years later, 37 years after becoming stuck in the Dark Aether, Zykov finished his transmitter and started broadcasting his journal of survival, hoping someone was listening. Ten days later, he found a device set to the frequency he was using for broadcasts in a weak spot. He could see all his transmissions on the screen. After being pulled back, he set his transmitter to indicate if the receiving device has been used, and began looking forward to any sign of someone on the other end.
During Requiem's undertaking of Operation Threshold, Zykov resumed contact through the device, informing those on the other side that he would be working on a way to create vocal transmissions, as well as stating their intent to inform them about the going-ons of the Dark Aether, stating that Requiem's lives "may depend on it". Sometime later, Zykov succeeded in making vocal contact, informing those on the other end that he was Russian, and that he had encountered both electric men that float mid-air and armored monsters. After continuing to observe their fighting, Zykov decides to reveal his true identity to Requiem. He tells Requiem that an army is forming in the Dark Aether, and that they need to bring him home. He also reveals that he is responsible for many of the devices and items that assist Requiem in their battles, such as the Pack-a-Punch Machine, crafting tables, among other things.
Alongside his contact with Requiem, when Omega Group scientist William Peck got a hold of a "strange computer", Zykov came into contact with him - seeking another way to come home. Zykov assisted Peck in the initial construction of the inversion warheads to kill the Forsaken, but soon abandoned the plan after Requiem disposed of the warheads. Zykov then began construction of a new device that he stated would be instrumental in defeating the Forsaken.
During Valentina's invasion of Berlin, Zykov came into contact with Requiem once again. He elaborated further on the Forsaken's nature, explaining that the entity is able to change shape and manipulate people into doing it's bidding, USING Valentina as an example. He also spoke of a time in the Dark Aether when the Forsaken did not exist, where other entities (that had since either been devoured or subjugated by the Forsaken) had warred with one another for power.
After the invasion in Berlin, Zykov resumed contact with Peck and had him propose a plan to Lev Kravchenko to bring him back from the Dark Aether. Zykov had sent schematics to Peck for the construction of a device only known as "The Machine" that could bring Zykov home. Peck noted that these schematics were highly advanced and far beyond anything Omega had accomplished. Kravchenko eventually approved of the plan, dubbing it "Operatsiya Izbavitel" as well as diverting all of Omega's funds and attention to it. On February 9th, 1985, Peck triangulated Zykov's position in the Dark Aether, who had become so imbedded in the reality that Primordial Aetherium was required to bring him back. Utilizing Test Site "Anna", Omega now planned to construct The Machine there and bring Zykov back to their reality, in exchange for the Forsaken, who they intended to capture and use against the West.