A camera drone activates in a dusty and worn looking building. The floors are scuffed and scratched and the sheetrock has cracked and sloughed off the wall in huge chunks. All the furniture has been removed and Saede Riordan sits on the floor looking out a cracked window. Beyond the glass is an alien sky, lit in a dark reddish tint and across which clouds scuttle angrily in a striated mixture of orange, grey, and brown. Saede turns away from the window and begins speaking to the camera.
“Hello Friends. Welcome to Skarkon.”
The camera pans past Saede to look out at the city of Iddiserigard. Three floors below the window frame is an abandoned alley already beginning to fill with dust and debris. Sand and mutaplasmid laden winds howl down the battle-scarred streets. In the distance, an enormous tower of alien crystals rises hundreds of meters above the ruined cityscape, a spiked glacier of mutaplasmids lit from within by a dull red glow.
"There is an atrocity unfolding here on Skarkon II whose scale and brutality can scarcely be comprehended. When everything is said and done, unless urgent measures are taken, potentially impossible measures, the final death toll on the surface of the planet will likely number in the millions. While on the scale of atrocities that have occurred in New Eden the extirpation of Skarkon is barely a speed bump, for those of us to whom Skarkon was a home, the tragedy is every bit as real and important as every other tragedy which has befallen the cluster.
“I make no secret of the fact that I’m a Multiple. That is to say, I have a series of clones all active at once and all linked into one mind by a conjoiner network. CONCORD considers this illegal of course but CONCORD doesn’t have any power in Skarkon anymore and I’ve never much cared for their nonsense rules anyway. When it became clear that the system was going to fall, I slipped four clones onto Skarkon II along with a large number of Slingshot cloning systems in an attempt to aid the evacuation of the world in whatever ways I could. Since my insertion, two of those clones and the majority of the slingshot systems I brought with me have been destroyed and since the destruction of the system’s stargates I haven’t been able to get new clones or new supplies back in. The evacuation efforts have sputtered and stalled despite the planet still containing millions of people and I fear that it is only a matter of time before the ongoing conflict claims their lives.”
“Let’s take a look around.” she says. The camera pans back to Saede as she stands and makes her way down the stairs towards the street. “Skarkon II is my homeworld and it’s still the place where I’ve spent the majority of my life. These streets are my old teenage haunts and the memories I have here are thick enough to cut with a knife. Skarkon may not have been a very good home, but it was still home to me and nearly twenty million others. I can’t do anything about the Triglavian invasion or the radical changes and damage they have wrought on the biosphere and on the very structure of space, but I can help evacuate the survivors and as a capsuleer I can report what I see to an audience who might be able to take those impossible measures required to save their lives.”
Saede reaches the bottom of the stairs. There is no door separating the inside from the outside, and dust and trash have flooded into the landing in thick drifts which she steps carefully over.
“My remaining clones on the surface will continue aiding in the evacuation efforts until either their deaths or until everyone left alive who wants to leave the planet has done so. During that time I’ll be recording what I do and see here and reporting on it to the wider cluster. I expect that the universe has already moved on for the most part, that few people care about what happens to the people of Skarkon and fewer still are in any position to act, but I will not let the people here vanish without at least a record of their plight.”
Saede exits the building, climbing over a mound of sand that has billowed into the entryway. Crystalline materials are scattered throughout the sands and are growing up the walls on exposed surfaces.
“This was my family’s home before we left Skarkon for Origin five years ago. I kept possession of it and this clone has been living out of the building while helping coordinate the evacuations and collecting information on the mutating biosphere. As you can see, it’s been spared the worst of the fighting that’s been going on here, although the mutaplasmids are starting to affect the structure. Most of the conflicts in Iddiserisgard were in the industrial districts where the CBD mines were located. Now those mines are being used to house survivors until we can get them safely off the planet.”
Outside in the deserted street, Saede pulls a cloth up over her mouth and lowers a pair of goggles in front of her eyes to keep out the stinging dust and crystalline shards. She marches down the narrow lane, having to stomp to gain purchase in the loose and shifting sands.
“The UNF took Iddiserisgard from the CBD Corporation back before the Triglavians took the system, and they successfully evacuated most of the city during the initial push to get people off the world. There are still people here, but most of them are people from outlying towns and settlements who’ve fled here since it’s where we’re running evac ops from.
“When the Triglavians first arrived, there was still fighting going on in Sahaal around the space elevator between warclone forces from the Bosena Accords and the Krullefor and Seykal. It was a bloodbath. People congregated around the elevator to try and evacuate or to watch the fighting. They were packed in like rats, shoulder to shoulder in places, thousands of them. At one point, I saw a bomber make an attack run and drop its bombs too early and hit a group of civilians. I don’t even know whose bomber it was, and I suppose it doesn’t really matter. The people there were…” Saede shakes her head, “It was like someone went at the crowd with a huge lawnmower. Here was a man’s head with bits of neck and shoulder trailing off, there was a child’s foot, still wearing a shoe with colorful spaceship print. I saw a boy who had been thrown against a wall so hard that he stuck to it, flattened and oozing. There had to be a few hundred dead right there in that one moment, it was a horrific sight, and that was before Svarog even really got involved.”
Saede reaches a cross street and hangs a left. This street is wider and bits of the pavement are still visible. All along the street are abandoned storefronts and destroyed shops. There was clearly intense fighting in this area. The streets are littered with craters and lines of bullet holes march along the walls. Buildings are collapsed or have had holes blown in them, and in places bodies or bits and bodies can be seen poking through the rising sand.
“So Svarog took one look at that mess and just hit the elevator ground station from orbit. Snapped the cable and destroyed the foundations. The clone I had in Sahaal died in that blast, so I’m not sure what’s happened there after that, but Svarog’s main landing site wasn’t far from Sahaal and they moved pretty quickly to take the city, so I can’t imagine there’s much in the way of survivors there at this point.”
A few other people are moving around the ruined street in much the same way Saede is. They’re bundled up against the increasingly harsh elements, heads down and shoulders hunched, they nod to Saede as they pass but otherwise don’t acknowledge each other.
“The second clone I lost was in Melorisagard. That was a coastal city on the other side of the sea from where we are now. That sea has kept the Svarog penned up and funneled into a set of conflict zones with the UNF and Bosena Accords, small mercies I suppose. But when the Svarog main force landed, they rolled southwest from their landing sites straight through Sahaal and on down to Melorisagard and that was just a bloodbath. Complete indiscriminate slaughter. They marched their armored soldiers down the streets blasting away anything that moved. I saw whole groups of civilians just scythed down while they screamed and begged for their lives. There were places where the bodies were piled so high you couldn’t see over them and the blood and viscera in the streets were nearly ankle deep. I probably could have avoided losing that clone if I was more careful, but I got cornered and tried to talk my way out. Svarog aren’t much for talking. If I’d just gone in blasting I’d probably have had a decent chance, there were only a couple of them there.”
Saede reaches another intersection, one where all the buildings have been reduced to rubble and an enormous sand filled crater now completely fills the street. She carefully clambers down into it and back up the other side. As the camera drone follows her back up the escarpment, a view of the sea opens up ahead. White tipped waves break against a shore that seems to have shifted inward to encroach upon the industrial outskirts and leave refineries and infrastructure swamped. The waters themselves have taken on an angry dark and reddish tint as they reflect the changed skies overhead. More mutaplasmid glaciers rise from the sea like strange icebergs or islands.
“The growth of the mutaplasmids have shifted the coastlines extensively, as you can see,” she says fishing around in her pockets, she finds her packet of cigarettes and shifts her face covering so she can rest it in the corner of her mouth and light it, cupping her hands to protect the weak flame from the howling winds. “What’s left of Kor’ali is underwater aside from the tops of some of the taller buildings and Sa’kak is an island now, or at least the middle of it is, most of the suburbs and outskirts of it are also flooded.
“The other clone I have still alive is in a refugee camp south of Sa’kak and on the far side of the UNF/Bosena lines from the Svarog. I’ve still got a number of slingshot scanners set up there and we’re managing to process through about two thousand people per day. Obviously, not everyone wants to be scanned so they can be cloned, and also obviously two thousand people per day is a drop in the bucket.”
She turns and heads down another street, climbing up a rising hill towards a set of large industrial buildings. She passes through a gate where a pair of local militia members stand guard with beat up old rifles, nodding to them as she goes, then turns down a narrow alley between two warehouses. Inside the warehouses people have set up temporary shelters and are cooking over improvised fires. It’s clear that the population has begun to undergo somewhat uncontrolled mutadaptions and all manner of strange deformities can be seen.
“The military situation between the warclones and Svarog is surprisingly stable, they’re done a pretty good job of keeping the trigs busy and bottled up in what was Skardisaad, but without any way to get the people left here offworld, it’s really only a matter of time before the lines shift and a lot of people die.”
Saede begins climbing a fire escape on the outside of one of the warehouses, “We need routes out, evacuation ships, and protection. The Raznaborg are going after anything in space they can catch including civilian transports and the Kybernauts are only a bit better, although they at least can theoretically be negotiated with. And then there’s this whole whatever it is,” she gestures as she finishes her ascent and the drone peers out over the crumbling skyline towards the desert beyond, where a strange spiderlike monstrosity many hundreds of meters tall seems to be aggressively attacking a mutaplasmid mass, “None of us are sure what to make of that but it’s killed the scouts who got too close so we’re giving it a wide berth. It’s mostly seemed to busy itself with attacking the mutaplasmid towers, so we’re trying not to worry about it too much.”
Saede spreads her arms out to her sides and for the first time, the camera can see that her clone is also undergoing some form of mutadaption, the skin of her arms and hands taking on a red and black tint and a texture of scaled crystals. Awkward spikes sprout from the backs of her forearms and rude black patches leave her dark skin looking severely infected.
“So yeah, that’s the tour, thanks for watching. If there’s anything you can do to help us here, please do. There’s still millions of people down here who need rescuing and no one knows how much time we have left before the world becomes completely uninhabitable. Providing my clones survive, I’ll keep trying to provide reports from time to time to make sure the rest of the cluster knows what’s going on on the ground here. This world will not be forgotten, the people whose lives were lost here deserve to be remembered and honored. From the surface of Skarkon II in the Krai Svarog of Pochven, this is Saede Riordan, signing out.”
Saede offers the camera an informal salute before the signal cuts out and the message ends.