Ghosts of Erebus: Prologue
Posted By: Chuckles
Date: 30 October 2004, 7:55 AM
Ghosts of Erebus: Prologue
September 18, 2544. Somewhere in New Afghanistan
They tried not to walk on the body parts, but that proved impossible. Two thousand men had been slaughtered in an area no larger than a soccer field, turning the ground red and transforming a beautiful valley into a nightmare. Fear hung over them like a poison cloud, and as they suffocated they trembled. Even after seven years of war, they had never seen anything this horrific.
But that wasn't why they trembled.
Desperation made for quick work, and in less than an hour they had located both bodies. But not all time is counted in seconds and minutes: sometimes it is measured in lives. Five soldiers driven mad by fear had been shot as they tried to desert. By the next morning seven had committed suicide, and over half needed chemical sedation to relax. Two days after they returned to base, the commanding officer was murdered as he slept.
The dead soldiers were mourned, but not the slain officer. Colonel Solotov had willing led them to that place: Colonel
Solotov could rot in Hell.
September 31, 2544. Bishkek, Capitol of New Afghanistan
Iosif and Anatoly were his last hope, and as he stood before the caskets that held their mangled bodies, Viktor Turpolev knew that hope was dead. After decisive victories in the first month of fighting, the war had been all but over. The Bishkek Rebellion had seemed destined for victory. That was then. Now, his armies were deserting, his sons were dead, and all too soon the flag that adorned their coffins would be no more. The Bishkek Rebellion would fail and United Asia would pass into history.
It had begun with such promise, back in May of 2537. As Commander of a third of the United Nations' earthbound forces, Turpolev had quietly won the allegiance of nearly every top officer in Asia. Like him, they were weary of UN control. In establishing a sovereign state in Asia they would both win autonomy and establish a viable check to the UN's growing power.
His plan was as brilliant as it was cruel.
During a massive joint training operation, Turpolev made his move. In a merciless surprise attack upon his fellow UN forces, he all but obliterated every military installation within a thousand miles of the borders of Asia. After only a month the UN was forced to the negotiating table. Talks dragged on for over a year as minor fighting continued.
Finally, in the fall of 2538, the UN made it's final offer. It stated that United Asia would be recognized as a sovereign state "on the condition that it demonstrates complete control of its territories by January 1, 2545." All competing armies and leaders must be put down by that date or the UN would regain control of Asia by "any means necessary."
Baited with easy victory and the promise of great power, Turpolev signed the agreement too willingly. Blinded by the cordial talks, smiling faces and pleasant ceremony, he failed to discern what was really happening: that even as the UN signed the treaty with it's right hand, it summoned the Devil with it's left.
October 18, 2538. Wilderness of Moshe, 200 miles south of Bishkek, New Afghanistan
"I think I see something . . ." Sasha lowered his Pelican for a better look as he reported to Captain Singh, two hundred miles north in Bishkek. Just two days before an entire division had vanished as it headed north to the Capitol. Since the UNSC had long since destroyed the rebellion's few satellites, every available Pelican was searching the huge area. "I don't know . . . it looks like slaughtered sheep, maybe. Wait . . . oh no. Oh my God! Oh—" Singh winced as the sound of vomiting filled his ears. "Sir . . . I-I think we found them. My God."
Rescue teams arrived within minutes, but the vultures merely glanced and the dead paid no notice at all. The would-be rescuers stared in numb horror. Strewn across the valley before them was a scene belched out of Hell. That entire division had been killed was readily apparent. But they knew, they all knew, what had happened here was more than killing. Not a single body had been left in one piece, and that was a message for the living, not the dead. These soldiers looked as if they had been torn apart by the gods, and the gods were angry; the gods were vengeful. This was more than killing—this was retribution.
Best they could tell, the division had been ambushed by no more that two attackers. Thousands of heavily armed men had not just been beaten, but torn to pieces, by only a couple of soldiers? What's more, something strange had been scratched on top of two burned out vehicles. Language experts concluded that it was an ancient symbol meaning "Clown". But nobody was laughing.
Unexplained massacres and disappearances became common place, sowing fear into the heart of the rebellion. Soon the word "clown" became synonymous with "death".
THE FOLLOWING IS WHAT REMAINS OF A LETTER FOUND ON THE CHARRED CORPSE OF A SOLDIER IN THE CENTRAL REGION OF NEW AFGHANISTAN
. . . because just a few minutes ago we saw the symbol scratched into some trees by the road. Men are beginning to go mad from the fear. It is like nothing I've felt before. I can hardly hold a pen. They usually cut them down before . . . is the territory that "they" operate in, and our CO is a fool to bring us in here. The madman has decided to stay here for the night. There it is again. I have never seen the "Clown" symbol close up before. Oh God. Men are losing, control, running into the woods screaming. Some mad fool is firing a weapon. Tell Alina I love her.
As the years passed and the UN deadline approached, officers were under terrific pressure from their superiors to find and eliminate the Clowns. Yet soldiers ordered into known "Clown" territory were as likely to kill their commander as obey. This tension destroyed morale throughout the rebel forces, and by late 2544 only two Generals could control fear and men enough to pursue the Clowns: Turpolev's sons, Iosif and Anatoly.
Together they led a handpicked group of soldiers deep into Clown controlled area. A few days into the operation a short radio communication reported that the Clowns had been located. A week later, Viktor Turpolev stood in front of two impressive coffins, each draped with the flag of his failing state. He harbored no more hope for a country of his own. His hope lay burned and mangled in the boxes before him.
For years he had wondered who or what the Clowns were, but now finding out became an obsession. They had murdered his sons—his sons. Be they wild animals or the Titans of Greek myth, they would see his face before they died. Iosif and Anatoly had burned alive as they sat in the command vehicle. His sons had suffered enormous pain.
The Clowns would suffer much, much worse.