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Old 2013-08-15, 03:53 PM   [Ignore Me] #1
Sonny
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First Sergeant
 
The Last City


You can find this and all my other Planetside 2 lore stories here: http://www.talesfromauraxis.com

THE LAST CITY

APRIL 23rd 2886 – 41 years after the start of the War

The Indarian Capitol was once the jewel of the Terran Republic. I can still picture the magnificent skyscrapers that glittered high above the steppe, the parks packed with people bathing in the midsummer heat, the boulevards lined with market traders shouting to passers-by.

There are five of us remaining in the rubble. The sand covers the streets to our ankles. Given fifty years and a few desert tempests, the Capitol will be completely buried in dust. Lost until archaeologists hundreds of years from now unearth the true depth of our foolishness.

You see, it wasn’t the War that destroyed centuries of Terran Republic knowledge, democracy and culture on Auraxis. We did it ourselves. In the shadow of the Great Siege and our ultimate destruction, we panicked and abandoned everything we stood for; we surrendered our lives for the soothing security of the rebirthing matrix. Some of us tried to end the terrible addiction to endless life, but our warnings were too little, too late. Will anyone be left to learn from our mistakes once we are gone?



25 YEARS EARLIER

General Tycho’s voice boomed into the auditorium. He looked impressive in full commander’s regalia – from Commissar cap to the black cloak to thick boots. An enormous holographic map hovered in front of him, twenty feet in the air. Blood red arrows punched deep into the southern suburbs of the Capitol. The Vanu surge.

“…the bridges have been lost. We simply cannot compete with their new hover tank technology. So, except for a few skirmishing units, we have abandoned the open land outside of the city. Within the suburbs we believe we limit their manoeuvrability.”

The Congressmen and women in the hall nodded in lockstep with his every word. The needs of the army now dictated all policy. At the outbreak of the War, all of the remaining political ‘parties’ had united under the banner of the Terran Republic military, and it had remained that way ever since.

Our ‘Life’ party was the sole surviving source of political opposition in the Terran Republic, still hanging on with a single representative. Me. Our sole objective – to halt the spread of respawn tech throughout the Terran population. Eighty percent of our population now served in the military, and our once great culture of democracy, art and independent thought was now a shadow of its former self. And over sixteen years of war, the damage rebirthing could do to the human body was clear – no memories, no personality, no children – no longer human. Their half-lives governed wholly by the whims of unelected Generals, who used them as cannon fodder while they lazed at beach front homes holding cocktails and exclusive dinner parties.

General Tycho continued.

“…with our current numbers we will struggle to hold the streets into the centre. Reinforcements are being flown in from Amerish, but we do not expect their arrival for another two weeks. In the meantime we ask the Congress consider complete civilian conscription…”

I barely stopped myself crying out in protest.

“…Without the additional numbers from civilian respawn recruits, we estimate only a 50% probability that we can hold the primary arteries into the city centre for the first month. The defenders of the Republic trust the Congress to make the right decision.”

“FOR THE REPUBLIC!” someone shouted from the stalls.

“FOR THE REPUBLIC!” erupted the entire hall. The room echoed for what seemed like minutes with the cacophony of sheep-like, cowardly politicians. It would not be their children on the battle lines.

“Thank you General.” The chairman motioned towards my seat. “Congressman Chie, your time at the stand.”

My black shoes clicked loudly on the marble floor as I paced nervously to the lectern. The air was empty apart from the flutter of distant cameras.

“Congressmen, friends, people of the Republic! It is clear that our greatest struggle is near. Very soon, every Terran will fight to defend our homeland, to the death if needs be.

As we face our ultimate challenge, it becomes ever clearer what is most important to our great society, and the values we have pledged to defend. Freedom and the right to self-determination are the foundation of our constitution. Words that are alien to the Vanu barbarian. So it is more important than ever to preserve the values that we hold dear, including our decades-long oath that every Terran citizen has the right to choose their own path, to choose whether to accept the respawn tube. No one should be forced to submit to rebirthing technology.”

“TRAITOR!” a faceless voice from the balustrade. I held up my hand in protest.

“No, my friend, you misunderstand me. I am as loyal to the Republic as any man or woman in this room. I am prepared to sacrifice my life on the front line for my people, as are we all. But I pledge to do it as a free, living man, with control over my own life. I will fight without the crutch of the respawn tube, as our grandfathers did in the old times.

Brothers and sisters of Congress, I only ask of you to give our people the chance to choose their fate… Can’t you see the madness in forcing our men, women, children and culture into an endless lifetime of war?! How could we subject our families and children to a technology that destroys their memories and makes them infertile?”

“AND YOU RISK OUR DEFEAT?! YOU WOULD HAVE TERRAN CHILDREN DIE?!”

The silence of the crowd grew into jeers; I had pushed too far. The jeers grew into shouts. Soon, the entire hall echoed with protest and revulsion aimed in my direction. Something flew past my head, more missiles soon followed. Time to leave. I retreated through the side door.



As it turned out, the session had been live on all the main networks. I had embarrassed the Military and the political class in front of the entire Terran population; the few remaining free-thinking citizens had complained. So the Congress let us have our ‘one-life’ division, on the provision that we fought alongside the respawned. A small victory.

The ‘Lifers’ they called us in the media. My heart jumped when I spotted the two hundred volunteers, waiting nervously at the checkpoint with ID papers in hand. They were handed a stock rifle and ammunition, and sent to the range for basic training. In the first week we prepared defences, hauled ammunition and supplies, our movements ever more skittish as the sounds of distant artillery fire crept closer and closer.

As Tycho had predicted, on the seventh day the enemy reached the gates. Vanu scouts tried to filter through weak points in our defences using assaults from invisible men and drops from above. Fighting respawned soldiers – they are fearless. They do not hide or wait; they assault with all the ferocity that their battle-honed bodies will allow. The brute reality of our task struck us hard; we were dying. Seventeen young men and women from our division were lost on the first day. Breathless from the reality of such pain and sacrifice, fourteen initially enthusiastic volunteers immediately transferred to the respawned divisions.

On the eighth, ninth, tenth, countless days, we were assaulted relentlessly. The boulevard quickly became known as ‘suicide alley’ – anyone who stepped into that open street faced sniper shot or death from a barrage of tank shells. We held onto our adhoc fortress – an old, dilapidated school building – with increasing desperation. As the weeks dragged on, every day came more attacks, more casualties and more defections.

Those weary nights, as we huddled together in amongst the falling embers from our campfire, we spoke and sang as if it was our last day on Auraxis. We chanted old patriotic songs from our fathers and regaled tales from our youth until morning broke. Some even found lovers among the loss. Each evening we felt the cold, hollow gazes of growing numbers of respawned Terran Soldiers from the edge of our camp. Watching us, their eyes whispered with distant emotions untouched since their first rebirth. We invited them to sit with us. But always, they stared at the fire for long moments, mute, motionless, before retreating back behind the walls. It seemed there was no way to bridge the dissonance that separated the living from the half-dead.

The Vanu pressure lessened into the second month as they consolidated their forces. But as they sat back, their long-range batteries pounded the Capitol. The great towers, the final testaments to the glory of the Auraxian Terran Republic, were unceremoniously torn down by Vanu artillery, slowly, one by one. A punishment that we had exacted on their own cities, years before. As they squeezed our supply lines more tightly each day, food was tightly rationed and we became exhausted from the threat of incursions dawn, day and night. Somehow, we endured.

More and more Republican soldiers watched our evening reverie. Many asked to join our brigade, more and more wanted to fight as living beings. New faces filled the gaps in our lines. Sergeants from nearby brigades struggled to control the slow bleed of soldiers renouncing their control. They tried to bring them back, but then lost them again in the confusion of the battle. A movement was growing within the Terran ranks. Could the tide really be turning against respawn technology?

But then came the final assault, and at our moment of greatest need we were betrayed. The entire Terran army was pulled off suicide alley to the centre of the Capitol. All except us. That same morning, the radio gave the announcement that I had been dreading: all remaining civilians were compelled to report to their nearest military checkpoint for respawn activation. In one fell swoop, the Generals had achieved their ultimate goal: complete control of the Terran population. Abandoned on the front line, we were powerless to stop them.

Only thirty-six of us remained in the Lifers brigade, alone on the front line with ten rounds and half a meal each. The last of the living in the entire Terran Republic. As dawn broke, we embraced our final day of sacrifice. We hugged each other, made jokes and said our goodbyes. One final time, we aimed our rifles through the shattered windows and shell craters that lined the walls, shaking as we caught sight of the broad line of Vanu assault troopers, striding confidently along the boulevard. But even then, when I looked around at the faces of my exhausted sisters and brothers, I could not give the order to fire. I could not sacrifice such beauty, such courage for this pointless war.

I pulled up my rifle, and limped towards the enemy line. As if one silent swarm, they stopped together, stock still. With two blue lights bleeding out of his curved helmet, I easily spotted the Vanu commander. He stood a full foot taller than me, muscles bulging out of skin-tight black armour.
Approaching fearlessly ahead of his own brigade, he met me in no-man’s land.

“I’m the commander of this brigade. I surrender, on the condition you let my platoon live.”

“You are the brigade of the living?” he droned thickly through his respirator.
My voice caught in my throat, I could only nod.

He surveyed our weary battle line.

“Your bravery is impressive. You should live, as an example for all our peoples. Remain here, and you will not be harmed.”

Wordlessly, turned to his platoon and nodded. They lowered their weapons silently, and glided past us into the next alley, not one turning to look behind them. We stared in disbelief for what seemed like hours, until the loud cracks of battle resumed two hundred metres further along the road. We spent the next day dazed, sandwiched between gunfire that raged on every side. In that act of clemency I learned that our goal was not just to save the people of the Terran Republic, but all peoples on Auraxis. We were all slaves to the same terrible addiction that fuelled this endless war.

Two days later, news filtered through that the Terran third army had broken the Vanu supply lines 100 kilometres to the south. The Vanu divisions calmly pulled back along suicide alley. And minutes later, the battered remainders of the Terran defence force chased after them, piling top speed down the highway, black and red flags fluttering in the air. But there was no shouting, no cheering. As the final troop vehicle pulled away into the distance, there was no one left in the city to celebrate our victory.

The front line moved rapidly south, and with it the civilians of the Republic, now chained to the whims of the military commanders. Lobotomised and neutered by respawning tubes and combat drugs. Even as the Vanu were pushed off Indar, it was clear to us that for the Terran people, defeat was absolute.



I am seventy five now and see no end in sight to the torment of the citizens of the Republic. The achievements of the Lifers brigade during the siege have been forgotten, indeed, the very existence of the Capitol itself has fallen out of the cultural memory of the Terran Republic.

When the Terran people were put to the test – they chose the poisoned chalice of eternal life and eternal war. But who can blame them? Our people were terrified, lost. When the pounding cannons of the Vanu hover tanks breached the city gates, we feared it was the end for all of us. Many had begged to be hooked up to the respawn network; mothers had offered their children as the Generals smiled on, a legion of new recruits for the taking. And now they are all gone.

I may have given up on our future, but still, our children do not surrender to despair. They leave the city, chasing rumours of free, living peoples that still exist on faraway continents. Those few who escaped conscription or deserters who regain sanity after years away from the respawn tubes. We veterans of the Great Siege may be far too decrepit, too cynical to join them, but we still cling to this faint glimmer of hope; that our people will wake up, reject the demands of the Generals and return greatness to the Terran society once more.

Until then we pass our time in the ruins, repeating and writing fond memories of our youth. We have achieved nothing. Could we have done more? Could we have spoken out louder? Could we have been bolder, more demanding? Who knows? I find little solace in such reflection. I only know that I lived a full life, fighting for what I believed in as a free man. In a world of half-dead warrior slaves, that is perhaps the greatest achievement of all.

Fernando Chie

Last edited by Sonny; 2014-01-20 at 06:40 AM.
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