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Orwell

Har Nevo

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The salt was stained and grey, accumulating into piles across the lake bed. The wind never let up, and the fine salt and sand became one with your clothes. Even from this distance one could make it out.

 

I pulled the wrapping over my mouth. From here, one could see everything.

 

The scorched sides of the Wasatch Mountains were drab and grey.

The twisted metal from what was left of Ogden stretched up into the air; a mangled mess of melted support beams and rubble. The air warbled and distorted under the hot sun, shifting the images from far away into a wobbling haze.

I breathed heavily, sucking in the stinging air into my lungs. I planted my hands on my knees, and looked out over the summit.

The entire lake had disappeared.

Dropship hulls were littered across the choked lake bed. A gust of hot air rose up the windward side of the peak, bringing with it a taste from the foothills of the shore. They said it would snow, but that was a week ago.

 

My ears are ringing.

 

He placed a hand on my shoulder.

 

"There. Further South. Do you see it?"

 

I pried the caps off my binoculars. I hefted them up to my goggles, squinting.

 

A shimmering spit of land, rising up out of the lake bed.

 

 

 

 

My lungs ached. 

 

He pulled on the burnt, peeling sign, grunting.

 

ANTELOPE ISLAND

 

The land was desolate, and piled with heaps of ash and salt.

 

"Did they really have antelopes here, back then?"

 

"In the beginning."

 

"What do you mean?"

 

We crested over a dune, trampling over a rusted fence.

 

A scattering of massive chalky bones, arched into vaulting cages crowned with a long and flat skull flanked by two small horns.

 

 

"When our ancestors first came, they raised buffalo here."

 

I reached out and grasped the dark horn. It broke off in my hand.

 

"Behind us."

 

He almost whispered it. We both saw it.

Bulbous and bleeding feet. Warped skin saturated with salt.

A pulsating mass of silently shuffling flesh, calloused and burned by the sun.

Tendons hung off the exposed bone as it staggered towards us. 

Arms and prongs hanging off of its waist, supporting a vestigial set of legs above its pelvis.

 

Pop. Pop.

 

My ears ring. A chunk of its midsection slides off onto the sand, taking a string of tangled innards with it.

 

Pop. Pop. Pop.

 

I start to join in.

 

Pop. Pop. Pop. Ba-bum. Ba-bum.

 

He hated doing it, despite everything. I wasn't as bothered. 

 

We watched it writhe on the ground, bleeding out of the holes drilled through its body.

 

Ba-bum.

 

I smelled the propellant floating up from the barrel, and time resumed.

 

In the distance, we saw another salt-encrusted body turn on the shore of the lake bed. It rolled aimlessly in the sand, pitifully dragging its body along.

 

"Are you still up for the rest of all this?"

 

"It's too late to be asking questions like that, don't you think?"

 

 

 

 

We walked towards the ruins to the South.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The interior was totally still, as though it were suspended in time.

Not even the particles of dust seemed to stir with our entrance, and poking around.

 

All the seats fanned out around a decrepit stage.

 

I sat down, and for a moment, imagined what it must've been like.

 

I thought of the shows, the music, the laughter, the drama...

To be able to forget, if just for a brief moment.

 

The seat gave away, and my fall kicked up a plume of dust and sent an echo through the ruined chamber.

 

I looked up at the sunlight spilling in through the gaps blown through the ceiling, tracing the perfectly angular beams of light illuminating the dirty floor up to the holes they poured in from.

 

I found a dirty pamphlet.

 

 

 

C A P I T O L    T H E A T E R

 

D E C E M B E R   A T T R A C T I O N S

 

 

The rest was burnt and ruined.

 

 

I could hear the doors swing open, followed by his footsteps.

 

 

"Look."

 

 

 

 

 

 

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"...How old is this?"

 

"Very old. Back when they still used these."

 

"It looks so... Green. There's snow in the mountains. This was really here?"

 

"Yes. But, that was a long time ago. You've seen the ruins- it's since been built up. Hundred floor buildings, shopping megacenters..."

 

"It must have been beautiful."

 

He knitted his brow, before nodding slowly. 

 

"It still is. We just need time, and diligence."

 

I looked around at the chamber pit.

 

There was an old grand piano with a rack of a burnt collection of pages resting on the music rack.

 

The elaborate designs in the carpet had long since been singed off by the immense heat.

 

He sat down on the bench while I wandered towards the entrance. 

 

 

 

 

 

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They were a series of huts, re-purposed from the little wood that could be reclaimed.

It took days to clear the rubble.

It's a strange experience, to pick through what used to be someone's living room.

Holding fragments and pieces of family histories in your hands.

I was delegated to the lighter work, at their insistence.

 

The road ahead seemed fret with troubles, but seeing the rows of houses we had raised ourselves put a bounce in my step.

 

I thought of my future.

 

I thought of our future.

 

In a sea of debris and destruction, we'd made an isolated stand; the first steps towards the restoration of what once was.

 

All I had to go on was scripture, and the knowledge of those who had seen it first-hand.

 

He looks out over the salt flats, and despite everything, he smiles. 

 

I think he wanted this, deep down. A chance to be a part of history, like our ancestors did so long ago.

 

It feels somewhat ethereal to walk the same ground as them.

 

To think, what it would have been like to cross the Wasatch on covered wagon.

 

To see this land for the first time.

 

I keep myself busy with these thoughts when there's not work to be done.

 

We've run into the same problems they did, according to him.

 

The canals that lead to the lake are completely dry. Only stagnant puddles of tainted water remain, festering with flies and gnats.

 

We've penetrated the water table with the help of some equipment, and have built a handful of wells that will supply us until the Spring.

 

As temperatures rise, hopefully the snow melt from the mountains will seep down into the valley and provide us with a bit of excess.

 

We found the old temple. It was of course, destroyed. He spent many hours there, alone in deep thought.

 

We're still visited by them. We come across new ones pinned under the rubble, paralyzed and malformed. 

 

They've become less of an active threat, and more of a nuisance that must be dealt with before further expansion.

 

His voice is drenched in vitriol when he speaks of them.

 

 

With our numbers, we'll have our work cut out for us. Others are arriving here as well.

 

They talk among each other, both glad and apprehensive at the lack of any Mobile Infantry.

 

I ask him if it's only a matter of time.

 

"They won't ignore us. It's inevitable that they will eventually come here."

 

"And what then?"

 

"We won't repeat the mistakes of the past, and allow more blood to be spilled. We must show them that we can sustain ourselves independently. They're tired. Fatigued from fighting."

 

"Has that stopped them before?"

 

"This is different..."

 

He planted the sign into the soil. Nearby, we were putting in the supports for our greenhouse.

 

On it were four words emblazoned over a painting of a beehive.

 

 

 

 

S A L T   L A K E   C I T Y

D E S E R E T

 

 

 

 

 

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New arrivals today from Nauvoo. Some of their ships landed near our dwellings.

More would be passing through in the coming days.

The peculiarity of everything wasn't lost on them, I don't think.

 

I learned later that there were some among us who felt the leader of their camp had buckled, and made a grave mistake by surrendering Nauvoo on faith.

An argument broke out, and it escalated to blows near the southern well. They had to take him to the infirmary.

 

"...Ultimately, not something that could've been rectified in the eyes of the more extreme among us. Nauvoo rivalled Chicago in its heyday. Couched on the Mississippi, they would've had a lot to work with."

 

"It sounds like they were forced."

 

"I agree, but..."

 

"But what? Would you have rather they died there? You heard how it happened."

 

"Of course not. I just know that this won't bear well for the future, that's all."

 

 

"What are you afraid of?"

 

"I'm afraid that the Federation doesn't hold up their end of the bargain. We're alone out here. There's not much stopping them from painting us into the rubble. I know I wouldn't have been able to have put my faith in a Mobile Infantry officer to keep his word, even if I were a veteran."

 

Thunder clapped in the distance. A front was coming our way, laden with acid rain. We'll have to repaint everything again.

 

"If our numbers keep growing, then I think we can stand a chance. Show them that we can hold our own against the Neons. It wouldn't be hard."

 

 

 

 

"We'll see how it goes."

 

 

 

We're driving down to Provo tomorrow. According to reports, it's not as leveled as Ogden.

 

On the way back, we're splitting and stopping by Camp Williams, in the mountains.

 

Much of the freshwater deposits have been tainted. They're deep in the earth. Every drink has to be saturated with iodine.

 

Some of the animals are starting to get sick.

 

I hope nothing comes of it.

 

 

 

 

 

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I placed the final rock over the small pile.

 

No headstone. No markings, just a pile of rocks out on the dead plain. There was no name.

 

Snow had started to fall. It smelled of sulfur, and was stained with ash.

 

The ground was still too warm for it to stick. It turned into this soupy slush that covered everything, and clung to your clothes.

 

I spent the night swaddled in blankets, caught in a never ending cold sweat.

 

Neighbors came by to bring gifts of consolation, constituting of the little surplus that they had.

 

I felt sick to my stomach. I wondered what I had done to deserve this.

 

I heaved and sobbed until I passed out.

 

I sat out on my knees, in the cold.

 

Before the pile.

 

I listened to the wind cross the dried lake bed, and the distant humming of ships passing overhead.

 

Air traffic had picked up recently.

 

People were starting to get more and more concerned about the inevitable.

 

He came down and sat beside me, and pulled me close to him.

 

"We can try again. It's not the end of the world."

 

"I failed."

 

"No, you didn't fail. It's happened to plenty of people. It doesn't make you any less of a woman, or a mother."

 

My eyes welled up again. I couldn't clear the images from my mind.

 

"...It happens. Sometimes, without a proper reason why."

 

"...If I had done something differently, maybe..."

 

"You'll drive yourself crazy, dwelling on it like that. These kinds of things happen, and plenty of women who have them go on to deliver healthy babies. God has a plan for us. This was part of it."

 

"Aren't you upset?"

 

"I am upset. But I'm not upset at you. You know that."

 

"I just wanted..."

 

"I know. It's alright."

 

 

 

 

Our livestock are dwindling. Many are ill, and there's little to graze on this time of year.

 

Scouts at Provo said they saw dropships buzzing around.

 

People are getting nervous, and it's only being fueled by dwindling supplies.

 

We may have to begin rationing to last through the Winter.

 

Our numbers are burgeoning, and there are fears that we may not be able to support them all.

 

The temple is being restored. It keeps us together.

 

The cold is biting.

 

I can't forget why we're here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Abstract Mission Briefing

i. Reconnaissance Team Alpha is to scout the Wasatch National Forest-Vernon Division.

ii. Reconnaissance Team Bravo is to scout the ruins of Alta and ascend Mt. Baldy.

iii. Reconnaissance Team Alpha is to confirm reports of resettlement on ruins of Temple Square, Salt Lake City.

 

Mission Log

>> 24/11/2298 - 1:31 Federation Standard - Sgt. Usman Karsai as drop lead. Cpl. Patrick Strugatsky as RTO / SIC for Alpha, Sgt. Mallory Humphrey as drop lead. Cpl. Mario Caro as RTO / SIC for Bravo.

>> 1:42 - Thunderbird 1-0 touches down. Recon Team Alpha deploys. Thunderbird 1-0 returns to Nellis Fleet Base.
>> 1:57 - Thunderbird 1-1 touches down. Recon Team Bravo deploys outside of Alta. Thunderbird 1-1 returns to Nellis Fleet Base.

>> 2:01 - Recon Team Alpha encounters minimal Neon resistance. Notes of upwards of 12 Neon corpses shot to death and strung along the route from Alpha's LZ to Interstate 80.

>> 2:08 - Recon Team Bravo encounters moderate resistance in ruins of Alta, reported difficulties in the snow and ice in the ruins. 1x KIA (LCpl. Bobby Yang).

>> 2:47 - Alpha crosses I-80, proceeds north along UT-65. Reports of apartment buildings littered with Neon corpses, shot to death. Snowstorm moves in and obscures vision.

>> 2:55 - Bravo confirms liquidation of Neon presence in Alta, they proceed to Alta Ski Lodge and begin to restore cable car system.

>> 3:02 - Alpha confirms signs of settlement as snowstorm clears. Alpha begins to record evidence.

>> 3:35 - Bravo repairs cable car system, and begins ascent of Mt. Baldy.

>> 3:42 - Alpha confirms signs of settlement as snowstorm clears near ruins of University of Utah. Alpha begins to record evidence, and proceeds north towards Bountiful Peak.

>> 3:59 - Bravo completes their ascent, clears summit of Mt. Baldy of minor Neon presence. Bravo receives new orders to mark the location for an FOB for future operations.

>> 4:03 - Alpha concludes scouting operations, and proceeds to extract near ruins of Bountiful. Thunderbird 1-0 retrieves Alpha, and returns to Nellis Fleet Base.

>> 4:15 - Bravo concludes marking the area, and proceeds to extract via Thunderbird 1-1. Thunderbird 1-1 returns to Nellis Fleet Base.

 

Abstract Mission Conclusion

Reports of settlements in ruins of Salt Lake City confirmed, G&T provided with video footage and photographic evidence of 64~ structures near Temple Square, at least 23 of said structures dedicated for agricultural purposes. The footage denotes very little foot traffic, and the presence of at least 6 space-faring vessels on site. Alpha acknowledges poor visibility from the weather affected recording efforts. G&T is now tasked with investigating Mormon connection. Bravo has cleared the summit of Mt. Baldy, and has opened up a convenient method of transport between the city of Alta. The decision to act further on the matter has been passed up to Col. Ivan Sikorsky of the 9th Brigade now that reclamation efforts in Las Vegas and St. George are concluding as part of Operation Manifest.

 

 

 

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"You sure? They're from Rhohan. The tobacco there's got a different flavor from the soil."

 

"Not for me."

 

"Suit yourself."
 

He pulled down his scarf, fit a cigarette between his lips, and lit the end.

 

The night was cold and snowy, but the prefab provided shelter and warmth. Outside, a flurry battered the encampment.

 

"To me, it seems like you're damned if you do, damned if you don't."

 

Dropships were coming in from the Rockies and setting down nearby. Outside bustled with troopers moving to and fro. 

 

"...Nobody wants to have to deal with that sort of thing, especially at a time like this. Too messy."

 

"Did we get a response from the Church?"

 

He nodded, ashing the cigarette. "They're not affiliated, haven't been for quite a while now. Their rep' said he'd stay in touch, help us fill in the details once we figure out who's who."

 

Outside of the window, a cavalcade of armored vehicles began to roll by.

 

"Hands off, huh?"

 

"For the most part. They're cooperating, at the very least. They took a similar stance during the hubbub on Terra Neue, remember?"

 

He nodded. 

 

"You're one of them, aren't you?"

 

"Hard not to be, when you're from St. George. Foot of Zion."

 

"You taken any time to visit since you've been around?"

 

"No. I know what happened, me seeing it and soaking in it won't do any good. Why do you ask?"
 

"That area, near the Great Salt Lake. What's so special about it? It's a desolate hellhole. Even back when it was first settled. Why crawl back there of all places? Surely there's better land for the taking."

 

"We went west because there was no place else to go. We had been chased out of our communities in the east. Built something out of nothing, made our own promised land."

 

He ashed his cigarette, listening.

 

"...A testament to triumph in the face of adversity."

 

"Your kind were never exceptionally well-received anywhere, were they?"

 

"I'm no historian, and I'm not the best Mormon, but I can't think of any time where that wasn't the case."

 

"Do you agree with them?"

 

"...No. I think that kind of thinking is... not practical, at this point. They had to have known that it would've come to a head at some point, and they probably have some kind of a plan. That's what worries me. It's a stubborn line of thinking for them. I just hope they'll realize it's not worth adding more bodies to the pile for.

 

"For their sake, I hope you're right. I knew Colonel Sikorsky before he was commissioned."

 

"What was he like?"

 

"A little odd, but he was sharp as hell. Cool as a cucumber. We fought in the civil war together.

We ran into a really rough patch on Faraway. He always told everyone to treat the enemy with respect, thought that the war would end a lot sooner than it actually did.

We got ambushed, and he lost his hand in the fighting. Our guys kept on getting wasted in the jungle. Sikorsky moved like he was in a trance, keeping everything together despite his wounds. When all was said and done, only about one third of us were left alive. He lead us out of there, trying to keep us safe with bullets flying all around us. We'd all have died if he'd bought it back there. I owe him my life, but he was never the same after that. He changed when we jettisoned out those empty coffins in orbit."

 

"What was different about him?"

 

"I think he became angry, angry at the whole war. When he enlisted, Arachnids were the enemy everyone rallied against. He hated the fact that troopers had to take one another's lives, but he realized that was the only way to bring this war to a close as quickly as possible. He was ambitious before, and he became more ambitious afterwards, eager to do whatever it took to bring the fighting to a close. Now he's decorated, and holds the outcome to this issue in the palm of his hand, and I worry that he will roll over these people. "

 

"Ambition can be a dangerous thing."

 

 "A massacre, especially after all of the trouble we went through, would be a horrible thing to mark the beginning of this new chapter of ours."

 

"Hopefully they'll come to their senses, then."

 

A runner swaddled in winter gear knocks on the door.

 

"Sir? Bravo and Charlie want to know when we're rolling out."

 

He checked his watch.

 

"About ten mikes, tell Watson to keep the engines running on the APC's. Give me a moment to finish this."

 

The runner departed. 

 

"...You heard the rumors?"

 

"About what?"

 

"Intelligence. They're cooking something up. A kind of weapon for the Neons. Rumor is they're starting dry runs in the Pacific next month. It's supposed to make the fight a breeze."

 

"Sounds like that'd put us out of a job."

 

"Egh, there's always freaks to fight somewhere. I'd rather be here than anywhere else."

 

"...Maybe somewhere warmer, if you ask me."

 

 

 

 

 

 

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