It means nothing, just noises coming out of those animals
We travelled across the wasteland in a convoy of lightly armoured cars. I looked out at the landscape from the gunner seat in the middle car. It was barren with almost vegetation at all, the earth itself was an ashy grey with specks of yellow of a few surviving shrubs, around there was a light fog due to the heavy amount of smoke in the area. In the distance, large chemical fires could be seen. Most had a sickly greenish tint to them even though my gas mask. The smell made me feel sick, “You know around here used to be farmland, before the war.” Larry commented his voice sounding somewhat interesting came out robotic through his voice auditor. I changed filters on my mask and then responded with, “Yeah my grandfather used to tell me that his grandfather’s distant relatives used to travel to work on farms.” “My grandad was one of the first people in my family to see the world outside the Citadel,” Edward commented. “Well, mine fucked his hand up so he couldn’t join,” I stated. “It’s been so long you’d think the rebels would give up,” Joseph exclaimed. “The rebels are a bunch of blood-thirsty fanatics; they'll only be stopped when we wipe every single one of them,” Pavel stated. “Will it look like we’re certainly on the right track then,” I commented seeing how desolate everything was. This was my first tour of duty into the wastelands which lay beyond the Citadel in which what little remained of the true humanity resided. The war had been going on since before I and even my parents had been born although for most of it growing up it did not truly affect me living in safety when our rations were cut short or when power had to be diverted which was often. “You know my dad once told me that the people in the wastelands were no better than animals.” William exclaimed, “you ever met one.” Pavel asked. “No, of course not. This is my first time in the wastelands.” William replied.
I wondered to myself as I observed the horizon how could anyone survive out here there was nothing in terms of vegetation or animals for that matter. Edward then spoke, “We got food in the citadels and the outposts, so anyone still out here is most likely a rebel or a traitor.” “No, remember what they told you back in training, everyone outside of the Citadel is to be presumed to be rebels with exception only in rare and special circumstances,” Johnson explained, Johnson was our platoon-Commander and was the most senior one of us and the most experienced having been in the wasteland multiple times already. Johnson continued, “from my experience they cannot be trusted, back when I was just a trooper fresh from training, our Platoon Commander Michael tried helping some woman who claimed her kids were stuck in a cave that they’d been hiding in, he went in there only to be butchered alive, by the time we found him he’d already been cooked by them.” I swallowed slightly upon hearing this, I’d have been told tales of outsiders being monsters doing shit like killing children and people surrendering, getting infected with venereal diseases, and then offering “services” up to rangers like us so that we’d bring them diseases back home with us but never cannibalism. “So, what happened afterward,” I asked. “We gathered them all up into the weakest portion of the cave and blew it in burying all of them alive, afterwards we took Michael’s remains and buried them outside,” Johnson stated. “So, in short, don't help them.” Pavel stated, “exactly.” Johnson said in a clipped voice.
A few hours later our convoy came across the remains of what was once a forest. The burnt and blackened remains of trees stood like skeletons on the horizon before us. “I saw one of these things in a book once, but it was far greener and nicer than this.” Pavel stated, “Yeah my dad went to one when he was my age.” Larry responded. The car came to a stop and Johnson signalled us to get out and so we did. The men in the car behind us did the same, we all walked in a single file line through the burnt-out husks of trees, constantly looking out for any rebels or stragglers. We reached a clearing in what was once a forest to find the burnt-out remains of a few crudely put-together huts, all of which had been burnt out, four in total. Johnson signalled for me and Cameron to check the hut nearest to us. The two of us approached it cautiously as we looked for tripwire or any other tell-tale signs of a possible booby trap. “They must have been napalmed,” I explained as I pointed to the burn damages which the hut had sustained both inside and out. The inside of the hut was crude and haphazard, consisting of a single room containing around three bunk beds and, in the middle, a makeshift oven with a chimney. “It’s so imperfect and disgusting,” William muttered. “You don’t see piles of shit like this back at the Citadel,” I replied. I looked around to see that there were a series of reddish-brown footprints in the dirt floor which circled around the hut in an unclear frantic pattern, following them however I made out a possible start and endpoint, these being the door and a set of bunk beds all of which were charred black.
We would soon be finished with looking around so we left. Johnson greeted us outside and asked, “you find anything?” I promptly shook my head and then I noticed Walter and Pavel coming towards us each carrying boxes which they then put down a few feet away from us. Larry then came over; he shooed the other two away and knelt carefully observing them. He then opened one and then the other and took out from each a worn-out looking pistol and then an old-fashioned bolt-action rifle. “It’s nothing much, just some old guns.” He exclaimed.
The platoon regrouped and gathered around Johnson who then spoke. “It looks like there are no survivors here, let's get back to our cars.” “Yes Sir.” We all replied in unison as we made our way back to the cars. Soon enough we were back on the road continuing for a few more hours until we got to our destination: a set of large, corrugated iron gates beset by two large guard towers. We got out of the vehicles and followed behind Johnson. A man in a similar uniform to ours stood just behind the gate and called out to us. “You there, you Rangers state your business here.” Johnson then replied. “Yes, we are Rangers, this is Echo Outpost, right?” he asked. “Yes, it is, we weren't expecting any new Ranger Platoons.” The man replied. “You’ll let us in, right?” Johnson asked. “Yes of course." the man replied as he stretched out his arm in greeting, ``I'm East Gate Commander Huxley and you?” the man stated. “, Platoon Commander Johnson,” Johnson answered. We followed Johnson as we entered the outpost, there were a few buildings and other rangers and some outpost guards wandering around. The protective gear we all wore made us nigh indistinguishable from each other save for our rank insignia and unit affiliation we wore on our right shoulder. Although I could not see any of their faces, I guessed they must be bored, stuck out here in the middle of nowhere. We were led inside a large building which was grey and rectangular like all the rest lacking any windows or distinctive features save for a large red number one painted on its side.
Inside we were instructed to strip off all our gear and enter a decontamination chamber afterwards we were given new clothes to wear, simple-looking green jumpsuits, and were shown to our bunks. We stood at attention waiting to be instructed whether we could sit. A man came into the room wearing a similar silver-grey uniform as the other guards in the outpost. He was a man of average height and medium build with hair which matched in colour to his uniform, he looked at around fifty. “Good afternoon, everyone, I am Deputy Out-Post, Director Gordon. I hope you will all settle in well here. I must tell you that there are a few rules you must abide by during your time here. You must not leave the outpost, but you can travel inside it as you please, although some areas are restricted, you are free to use facilities such as the mess hall, showers, toilets, and recreational areas. You are dismissed.” He stated before promptly leaving, then Johnson addressed us. “We’ll be here until I get us into communication with Citadel Command, they’ll give us new orders while you’re here, try to get as much as you can out of it, right away.” We then shouted, “Sir, yes sir.” Johnson then left the room.
I turned to Cameron, “want to look around this place.” I asked, “Sure I guess.” He replied. We wandered around the facility which had nothing truly interesting about it until I came to one of the very few windows within it. We had at this point ended up on the other side of the facility to the side in which we had entered. The window overlooked the horizon which was barren with no life that could be seen even in the sky. I did not see a single bird; in fact, I cannot truly recall seeing any birds since we had left the Citadel. Looking down I could see a large chasm of some kind, it was formed of around four layers neatly into a circular formation going deeper and deeper into the Earth in a spiral pattern. I could see that people were down there, however they were too far away to make out any features. They seemed to be either standing around or pulling various carts of different sizes, some even looked to be operating machinery of some sort. “Check this out.” I said calling Cameron over, “Looks like some kind of quarry, I wonder what they could be mining.” He stated. “Do you think it’s the guards working down there?” I asked. Cameron responded, “No, probably not, could be Labourers brought in from the Citadel.” “They’re not.” A voice said behind us, I quickly snapped around to see one of the Outpost Guards standing before me, he was of medium height with short blond hair and looked to be in his mid-twenties. “So, who are they then?” I asked, “Wastelanders, we use them as free labour mainly down there in the Uranium mines. They perform other duties around here like basic maintenance.” the guard explained. Cameron furrowed his brow, perturbed by what he was told, “Why’d you have subhumans working and living amongst you.” He asked. “As I said, free labour lets us guards get on with more important duties.” The guard stated. “We weren’t informed of this back at the Citadel,” I stated. “Of course not, you’re a part of the Office of Long-Range Reconnaissance Operations not the Office of Citadel Outpost stations therefore your senior Commanders will have no real interest in explaining any of this to you.” He explained.
“What are they like?” I asked, “What do you mean?” the guard responded. “You know, like are they cannibals, are they deformed or insane, I mean that’s what is said about them back at the Citadel,” I stated. “Some of them are deformed or suffer from insanity; most look fairly normal, just dirty and starving. They’re fairly passive to some extent although I guess since we give them food, they don’t have much of a choice.” He answered. “So, they’re like slaves?” I asked, “Yes they are, which is a better predicament for such reprobates.” He replied. I wondered for a moment what it was like for the guards at the outpost working so closely to the Wastelanders, Cameron asked my question without knowing, “Do you ever work up close with them.” He asked. “Sometimes, we usually draw lots to see who has to be the overseer for the week. At first, I felt kind of bad but after a while, I just kept reminding myself that they weren’t real people.” The guard explained. “Closest I’ve come was during a raid on one of their little settlements, there were no survivors so I could not really talk to any of them, not that I’d want to.” Said Cameron. The guard turned to me and asked, “What about you then, you killed any yet.” The way the man said “kill” in such a plain and straightforward manner seemed strange, back in training and during our mission debriefs our senior commanders rarely said, “kill” but preferred to use terms such as “destroy”, “neutralise”, “annihilate” and “exterminate.” I shook my head, “No I haven’t” I responded. “Well just remember when they cry and beg, it means nothing, just noises coming out of those animals” the guard stated. “We should get going before mess time begins,” Cameron stated. “Yeah sure,” I replied. “See you later.” I said to the guard, “yeah, and good luck on your mission.” He responded. “Thanks” I replied. We got to the mess hall, dinner was as usual artificially grown protein and nutrition packs which we simply called, “packs” the taste was awful however when something has been your staple almost all your life you can’t really complain, in fact, I can count only a handful of times I’ve had any real food.
The next day Johnson managed to establish a connection with command back at the Citadel, at 5:30 in the morning he debriefed us. “Men, our mission is to travel two hundred and thirty miles west of here, to a valley in which the drones have taken a few photos showing a man we think could be a ranger. We don’t know if he’s being held prisoner or if he’s defected to them.” Johnson then turned on a projector and an image of a stern-faced man clean-shaven and bald stared back at us. “This is our guy Senior Platoon Commander Donald, he’s 189 centimetres and weighs around 94 kilograms. He’s a ranger like us so expect this not to be easy if he has defected. Any questions.” I raised my hand up and Johnson responded. “Yes, Trooper Matthew.” “Sir, if we are going to take him prisoner, we won’t have enough room in the cars for him,” I asked. “No, if he has defected, we will kill him there and then, any more questions?” He answered. The rest of the men asked some more questions surrounding the mission. Later on we went to stock up on water, packs, uppers, and downers alongside various other supplies. Soon enough we were back on the road heading to the valley in which Donald was either residing or being held prisoner. We dismounted when we got close by and continued the rest of the journey on foot, a few of us Larry, Pavel, Henry, and Thomason stayed behind to protect the cars. We hurried up a large hill, which, unlike the burnt-out forest we had gone to, still retained its foliage to some extent enveloping us as we entered it. It must have rained last night in the area as the ground was muddy making traversing uphill with all our gear a difficult task. “It’s about a half a mile uphill,” Johnson stated. I sighed silently making sure no one heard as we all made our way uphill. We walked in a single line of twenty-one men with Johnson in front and Cameron behind. I felt the anticipation of the firefight swell inside me.
We stopped at a ridge which looked over the valley, a couple hundred yards down was a village of sorts, it was far larger, and the buildings looked far more put together than the camp we came across. The houses, although small and simplistic, were made from wood and stone, however, they were not put together haphazardly and were arranged in a sort of horseshoe shape. Adjacent to the village was a river in which I could see a few people fishing. As I looked through my binoculars, I could see young children running around chasing each other, I was not sure exactly why. Growing up in the citadel there was no time for such things, even during childhood. Some adults including both men and women had rifles slung over their shoulders although most seemed to be unarmed. I then spotted who I thought could be Donald although he had long blonde hair and a large stained blonde beard, a far cry from the clean-shaven man shown at the debriefing. “Sir, I think I can see the target.” I stated, “Where?” Johnson asked. I then pointed and replied. “He’s sitting down on that log talking to some woman.” “Yeah, I can see him too, I don’t think he’s a prisoner,” George stated. “We’ve got fewer men, but we’ve got a superior position and better firepower so I think we should attack,” Cameron stated.
“Ok, Cameron, Davidson, Creighton, Matthews, George, Williams, Edward, and Joseph you lot stay here and provide covering fire. The rest is with me.” Johnson ordered. “Yes sir.” We chanted in unison. Cameron and the others set up at the ridge as we made our way down to the village. We split off into two groups, one group hid behind some rocks whilst the other hid behind another set of rocks, both on either side of the pathway leading up to the village. On the comms, Johnson said, "Get in position, fix suppressors, and I'll fire the first shot.". I held my rifle in one hand as I reached into my pocket to take an upper. as one of the villagers came down the path, an old-fashioned lever action was slung onto his shoulder, he must have been no older than nineteen. For a split second, Johnson came out from undercover, and then gunfire could be heard, and the young man dropped dead. The winds, although not harsh in the valley, still muffled the sound of suppressed gunfire. A group of villagers who saw the body rushed over and crowded around it. I saw a woman probably a similar age to the young man holding his lifeless head in her lap and weeping. Armed villagers began to surround the crowd with their guns and other arms at their ready. A few of them broke rank and searched for where gunshots could have come from. “Fire at will,” Johnson commanded. And so, we did, opening fire at them, our bullets tore through them simply through their roughly spun tunics, our rifles being capable of automatic fire we could keep up a far more intense rate of the fire whilst they could not. They retreated further back into the village, taking up their own positions, readying themselves to return fire.
During the firefight a whistling sound could be heard from the sky, before I knew it, I was thrown up into the air with mud cascading over me. I lay there for a few seconds, my face buried in the earth. I thought for a few long seconds that I was dead as everything fell into silence. I felt a hand on my shoulder drag me back to my feet. It was Gregory. We then rushed to a ditch in which some of the other rangers were taking cover. Another explosion happened a few feet away from us as we ran. My heartbeat was so powerful that it felt like it would burst out of my chest. As we got to cover Gregory exclaimed, “I think it’s a mortar or something.” Hunter then started counting on his fingers, “There’s only one of them so we have some time to close distance with the village. The closer we get the safer we are, they surely won’t risk hitting their own.” Hunter explained. “Good thinking son.” My hearing slowly returned to me but it still all sounded as if I was underwater. We got up from the ditch and ran towards the nearest hut, as we did so, the others back on the ridge gave us covering fire, that was until the mortar team located their position and fired upon them. I heard Cameron’s voice come in over the comms, “Matthews he’s dead, we’re going to change position.” “Ok, Squad-Commander,” Johnson responded over the comms. We fought our way further into the village firing upon any of its inhabitants, in the lust and the fury of the moment we did not care who shot at, we only cared that our bullets met their mark. To me the villagers all looked the same, man or woman, young or old, armed or unarmed it did not matter to us. All that could be heard were screams and gunfire alongside the sobs of those who were dying alongside the pleading of those who looked over them in anguish.
Cameron and the others sometime later joined us as reinforcement, with our numbers even greater than before we pushed forward. At the moment I felt invisible as I kept up the fire against the villagers but as soon as it seemingly started it ended with deathly silence, as all around us lay the dead and the dying. As the gunfire and screams ended, so did my feeling of invincibility as all I saw around me was death. The only sound which accompanied me was a faint ringing sound and my own breathing which was hurried. Corpses lay upon the grass, their blood staining it and the sides of the houses. I saw one man slumped over next to the wall, fresh smoke rose from bloody holes in his chest, his eyes open and glassy stared into nothing. No, it was nothing they were staring into silently judging me. I felt a bit sick at the whole scene, “No, no they’re animals they aren’t human fuck them they deserve this shit.” I repeated to myself over and over in my head before I knew it, I was saying out loud. Cameron overheard me. “You are alright.” He asked. I just nodded, “Come we’ll need to clear out the houses.” He stated. I nodded again and joined him and Williams.
We breached the house nearest to us, it was more like a simple hut made from wood, as we went inside a woman came charging at me the sunlight reflected off the knife she held in her hand, I opened fire and she dropped down clutching her stomach. “Anyone else gonna fuck with us,” Cameron yelled out. An older man came out from behind some furniture. “Please don’t.” He pleaded. “Please don’t what?” Cameron responded. “Please don’t shoot Sir, we haven't done anything wrong.” The man cried out. “Shut the hell up mutie,” Cameron yelled as he spat on the floor. Then another voice came, “I’d do what he said.” I then saw it, the man we thought might be Donald who held a large hunting knife to William’s throat. “Just please leave us, we won’t do anything to you.” The older man cried out, tears welling in his eyes. He continued, “You’ve already taken my son and now my daughter and her child.” I looked down at the woman I had shot, I saw that she was the same woman who had held the young man shot by John earlier. I then noticed it; she had a slight bump on her stomach. “You fucking bastards took my wife and son,” Donald yelled. He looked at me and we made eye contact, “You know you really don’t mean shit to them back at the Citadel, just another weapon to exploit.” This angered me, I heard worked hard to become a ranger and yelled back at him. “I’m a ranger and you’re some traitorous dog.” “I was a ranger for almost ten years, I know what I’m talking about boy.” He responded. “Put the gun down or your mate here gets it.” Donald threatened. Williams looked at me pleadingly, the red-tinted lenses of his gas mask stared into mine. Cameron had put down his rifle and made his way to the dead woman on the ground, he knelt placing his hand on her extended stomach. “Don’t you dare fucking touch her at all,” Donald yelled, pushing Williams to one side and rushing at Cameron. Who then in a split second pulled out the pistol on his hip and fired at Donald who soon collapsed onto the floor? We all watched Donald as he crawled towards the woman cradling her the same way she did to the young man earlier. I felt a tinge of guilt as I saw this man brought to his knees, “why?” he sobbed out loud as he cradled her lifeless corpse in his arms. He then placed his head onto the baby bump and wept. Williams came over and placed the barrel of his gun to the man’s head. “Just do it.” He exclaimed. Williams was about to, until Cameron stopped him, “No he’s a traitor, the others deserve to see him die a true coward’s death.” He explained. Williams then hoisted Donald to his feet. “What about him?” I explained, pointing to the cowering man in the corner. “Take him as well, let him watch,” Cameron ordered. I picked up my rifle and signalled for the man to follow me.
As we all left the house, we saw that the remaining villagers; men, women, and children had all been rounded up. “Is that him?” Johnson asked. “Yes, it is,” Cameron replied. Donald was put to one side and the older man was forced to join the others. “Look at me, traitor.” Johnson ordered Donald who was staring downwards, “I said look at me, don’t make me repeat myself.” Johnson snapped, this time Donald did as he was told and met the vacant stare of Johnson’s gas mask-clad face. “You are former Senior-Platoon Commander James Donald, is that right?” Johnson asked. Donald nodded, “Tell me why you betrayed us all, and join these animals?” Johnson continued. “What I was doing, what you lot are doing is wrong, we call these people animals, mutants, subhumans, etc but they’re not they are people like you and me.” Donald pleaded. Johnson struck Donald and yelled. “You dare compare my men and me to these animals.” Donald clutched his cheek in pain but said nothing. Johnson then turned to face us and addressed us. “Your Ranger kit is here somewhere?” Johnson asked, “I have it hidden out there,” Donald replied pointing towards the woods. “Hey, that’s where the mortar was coming from,” George stated. “The mortar team is still out there, if any of my men stray too far from the village they’ll get fired upon. So, tell me where exactly the mortar is located and how many men are with it.” Johnson asked. “It’s over by those trees hidden in the foliage, it’s got about four men with it,” Donald replied. “Ok then Williams takes Creighton, Hunter and Gregory grab two villagers each, go to the trees over there and kill the mortar team.” “Yes Sir,” Williams replied who then departed signalling for the other men to join him, all four of them picked from the crowd two villagers each, the villagers screamed and shouted refusing to go. Williams grabbed onto a boy who looked around fourteen dragging him by the arm, he then pointed to an elderly woman. The others did the same and they headed towards the direction of the mortar.
Later, we heard some gunshots and screams, soon enough Williams and the others had returned but this time the villagers they took carried in their arms severed heads, three of these heads were clearly of men in the twenties to thirties whilst one looked much younger than the others, two of them carried the mortar. “Sir, we've eliminated the mortar team.” Williams stated as he took one of the heads and placed it on the ground just before resting his foot on it “Williams put those prisoners back with the others.” Johnson ordered. Williams then frog marched the eight prisoners he and his men had taken with him back to join the others. “Please, let me see her again before anything else.” Donald pleaded. Johnson turned to him. “See who?” He asked. “My wife, her body is still in there,” Donald said, pointing to the hut I had encountered him in. “Why is she dead?” Johnson asked, Donald, nodded. “Wallace and Williams go back in there and bring out the body,” Johnson ordered. “Yes Sir.” We both replied as we entered the hut to find the lifeless corpse of the woman. I winced a little as I grabbed onto her legs and Williams grabbed onto her arms. We then carried her out and placed her before Donald and Johnson. In the midday, sun pregnancy was far more pronounced and clearer than it had been in the dimly lit hut. Johnson pointed to her stomach with the barrel of his gun and asked. “She's pregnant?.” Donald weakly nodded. “So which one of you got her?.” Johnson asked as if the dead woman was some sort of trophy buck. “I did sir, she came at me with a knife, so I shot her,” I replied. “Came at you with a knife. Wallace, it sounds like you were trying to excuse yourself just there. You don’t need a justification to kill them, their existence alone justifies such action.” Johnson replied.
“You bagged two for the price of one.” Cameron joked causing some others but not me to laugh, Donald lunged forward at Cameron tackling him to the ground. Donald then started to choke Cameron and smash his head against the ground, Henry ran over the swiftly kicked Donald in the head before pulling him off Cameron, “You better behave yourself.” He yelled. Meanwhile, some of the others had been searching the village and they found some rope which they laid down at Johnson’s feet. “Good, take our friend and tie him by the hands over that tree,” Johnson ordered whilst pointing towards a lone tree that stood in the middle of the village. Donald was soon dragged away by Gregory and some of the others who preceded him to tie each wrist to a banister of one of the houses. I saw Donald’s face wince in pain as the weight of his body pulled down on his wrists. Larry turned to Johnson and asked, “Sir you think that’ll hold him.” Johnson shrugged his shoulders and responded. “It’ll do, for now, have the men be ready for the execution.” “Yes Sir,” Cameron stated. Cameron then yelled over to us, “Right then everyone execution position.” We all turned to face the crowd of prisoners, rifles at the ready as we stood in formation, the upper’s effects were slowly wearing off on me as I stared down at the crowd of villagers, we had taken prisoner, there was around fifty of them, most of them were either too scared or injured to run. As I observed their faces, I did not see the monstrous subhumans that I had whilst on the peak but instead I saw bloodied and broken men and women cowering from their inevitable fate. My gloved hands felt cold and clammy as I gripped my rifle. “What am I doing?” I kept repeating in my head, the execution order seemed to be taking forever. I contemplated firing into the sky when the order came but when it did, I just shot forward into the crowd of prisoners, I tried to not aim at anyone, fortunately, with the others also firing into them there was no true way for me to tell who I had shot. We were ordered to fire continuously at the prisoners, those who tried to run were dealt with by the more experienced marksman in our platoon. Soon enough every villager had been killed, their bodies piled in a heap before us, the others laid dead elsewhere around the village or in their homes. We took the inglorious task of gathering up the bodies and counting them.
As I dragged one corpse with the aid of Larry, I caught the eye of Donald still crucified and staring at the scene before him. As we looked at each other all he did was a tut and shake his head, I looked away and continued with carrying the dead. Soon enough all the villagers were arranged in rows and columns, their glassy eyes facing upwards towards the afternoon sky. Their faces were cold, some still bore expressions of shock and anguish. I started counting the dead to turn them into simple numbers to calm my nerves, “one two three four five.” I counted on in my head until I ended up thinking out loud, “eighty-four bodies.” Creighton overheard, “Huh?” he exclaimed. “There are eighty-four of them,” I explained. Creighton then counted them, “No there’s eighty-eight of them.” He replied. George, Walter, and Williams took the task of painstakingly photographing the dead, individually they then photographed the bodies neatly arranged side by side, head to foot. As soon as they were finished Williams returned to Johnson and stated. “Platoon-Commander, there are eighty-nine dead.” Johnson nodded and responded. “Thank you, Fireteam-Commander.” Johnson then addressed us all, “We have won a great victory here over the eternal enemy, an enemy which wishes to strip us of the Citadel’s light and take us into their own primitive darkness. Eighty-nine of the scum lie here dead, vanquished by us.” He then raised his knife up to the sky, the blade catching the last of the day’s sunlight. “All for the Citadel.” He yelled three times. We all repeated the same. “All for the Citadel.” Another three times.
Johnson then went over to Donald who was still in the same place, his face red with tears and his eyes glazed over staring into the horizon of the hilly forest. “Former Platoon Commander Donald, you have disgraced yourself and the Citadel through your actions of desertion and entering social and physical relations with the subhuman wastes of the outside. The penalty for your actions is death, if we were back home such a death would be beyond description in pain and terror.” Johnson was soon cut off by Donald who seemed to have worked up some new strength, the crucified man spat, “You’ve already taken what I hold dear, to hell with the Citadel you devils can’t do any more to me.” He exclaimed. “Devils” the word sounded strange; I had never heard of such a thing; was it an insult the wasteland people used or was it a nightmarish monstrosity that stalked the wastes in the dark. Johnson began speaking again. “The Citadel is what man like you should have held dear but instead you squandered the glory and love of the Citadel to rut amongst the beasts.” Johnson soon drew his pistol and aimed up. “On account of your service in the Reconnaissance Ranger Task Force, I’ll make this as quick as I can.” Before Donald could react or protest, Johnson pulled the trigger firing at point-blank through Donald’s lower jaw and out the back of his head. Johnson placed his pistol in his holster and then called over, “Williams, over here.” Williams came over and took out his camera and then photographed Donald who hung there suspended, eyes and mouth still open never to see nor speak again. “Right, everyone, Creighton, Davison, and George gather Matthews' remains, everyone else it’s time to head back to the cars,” Johnson ordered. We then yelled. “Yes Sir” The three tasked with gathering up what remained of Matthews returned with the young man’s body whole save for a singular leg that George had strung up over his shoulder. We then left the village departing from the corpse which lay on the ground. I tried to not look back at them, but I couldn't help it but fortunately the further away we went the harder they were to make out. We were greeted by those who remained with the cars, who saluted the body of Matthew as it went past them. Matthew was placed into the back seat of one of the cars first. We all, including Johnson, waited out of respect before entering the cars ourselves. We then made the journey back to the Outpost, where the results of the assault on the village and the execution of Donald. The photographs were to be sent to the higher-ups back at the Citadel where they would most likely be used in some sort of propaganda film. Matthew’s body was placed in the Outpost Morgue to be kept until his family back at the Citadel could be contacted.
Two months later our platoon was allowed leave and we were able to depart back to the citadel. I now sit on my desk chair, the only piece of furniture in my home quarter saves for my single bed. Nothing else is here with me save for my typewriter, single ceiling light, and radio. Fortunately for my service as a Ranger, I was given a home quarter with a window in it, a far cry from most of my neighbours in the skyscraper-like apartment block I called home who did not have windows. A faint hum of a propaganda song could be heard from a distance as could people going to and from work below on the city streets all of which walked in groups with strict formation. There was no true sunlight, the one thing I missed the most about outside was just the cold false light of the Citadel UV emitter which shone above us all. My memories of what the wind and sun felt like upon me and how the sky outside looked above me are beginning to fade as the monotony of the Citadel consumes me. Yet the memories of the village, to Donald and the woman he claimed to be his wife who I had killed, did not leave me. The anguished sobs of the old man in the hut rung from my head constantly only to be countered by the words of the Outpost-guard. “When they cry and beg, it means nothing, just noises coming out of those animals.”
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