Author : Josh Zingg

Ariston crunched his way along Access-01 toward what was left of the capitol, keeping his head down and goggles tight over his eyes. The wind surged at him, and he felt its coarse touch wearing away his spirit. Wasn’t much left to wear, these days. He pulled aside his face cloth and sneezed into the air, immediately regretting it as the gale blew his dusty spit back on him. He sighed internally and wiped a gloved hand over the pockmarked chest plate of the old Sanja mk. II he wore under his various wraps.

He looked up and squinted, not because of the light, since of course there wasn’t much anymore, but because his goggles were so abraded he had a hard time seeing. The signal lights of the SC guard stations blinked lazily at him through the haze, and he could see the distant lights of the city and the dull black edifice they had dropped in the middle as a command center. “Reconstruction Nexus” they called it in the leaflets they kept dropping on every village they could spot.

“This cutting edge modular facility will serve as the central hub of the Sol Consortium’s reconstruction efforts. It serves as a home base for the J9 Precipitators hard at work in the upper atmosphere and houses the peacekeepers ensuring your safety throughout the area surrounding Ouranopolis.”

Lyle snorted at the thought, puffing a bit of dust out of his red nose.

Picking up his pace he adjusted the thin cloth covering his mouth and nose in the vain attempt to get a few clean breaths. He heard a rumbling from behind him and hurled himself to the side of the road, tucking his head and rolling down the embankment. Seconds later, a huge APC trundled by, weighed down with “peacekeepers” and entirely heedless of pedestrians. With the wind always howling in your face it took you a while to hear the things coming. Their solid tires churned the gravel of Access-01 and their engines were brutish Clodians, built for strength over grace, but no sound overpowered the ever-driving wind for long.

For a long moment Ariston just lay there in the ditch, his chest laboring in the thinned air. He closed his eyes and tried to imagine it was a year ago and he was lying on green grass in Independence Park. The sky above him was a pure blue dotted with fluffy clouds here and there. A cool breeze blew from the northeast, rustling the squat native trees. All of Eleuthera’s lifeforms were rather squat, but they had a certain elegance to them. He could smell the Sunbursts in bloom all around and Eirene was next to him… Eirene.

His eyes snapped open and he looked up, not at a clear blue sky but at a whirling brown smear, streaked with darker bands. He could make out a diffuse glow on the horizon where the bloated red sun was rising. High above him he noticed one of the peculiar eddies in the dust storm that marked the presence of a Precipitator. The massive SC gravships trolled the stratosphere, straining out the dust and particulate matter kicked up by their own mass drivers a little over two standard years ago.


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