An Oral History of the 8th Extinction

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Chapter 3 (v.1) - Disappearances

Submitted: February 11, 2019

Reads: 6

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Submitted: February 11, 2019

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Jade Station, Jiang System

[At the height of the Fu Dynasty, Jade Station served as the centre of commerce within the Jiang System. Before the great war, the station could house a population of over 5 million. Nearly half a century later, less than 20,000 still live within its dwellings. Reconstruction has been slow. The Monarchy has diverted most funds planet side, choosing to focus on the more densely populated dwellings. Supplies are low as well. The inhabitants struggle to establish a steady trade route with the other planets. As it stands, it is unlikely for Jade Station to every reclaim its former glory.

Despite this, Wei Yang has decided to call this spinning junkyard his home. I meet him within one of the station’s few recreational facilities, a small café that specialises in selling ancient Chinese tea. After the former army officer orders a pot Oolong Cha, we begin to talk]

One of the first reports we received was a distress signal from some back-water colony called Sin Dong. I’ve never even heard of such a planet. Hell, I wasn’t even aware that it was part of the dynasty. It’s a marsh world, with a population of less than a billion colonist. The people weren’t even true aziatics. They were a mix of Mughals and Tibetenese, not even worthy of being called Fu citizens.

The moment we got the orders, most of us were annoyed to say the least. We were just finishing a tour around the Spice Arm when we were shipped out into the middle of nowhere. The system was several dozen jumps away from the nearest core world. That means Ration Packs for the next month or so, no booze and a lack of hiveclubs. The younger members of the platoon were… as you birth worlders say ‘pissed’.

The trip itself took 3 weeks. I spent most of my time in my quarters, playing Dapai with my squad mates and drinking cheap Dachang beer. By the time we got to Sin Dong, our alcohol reserves were at an all-time low.

[He chuckles, scratching the back of his head]

As you can see, discipline within the army wasn’t a main concern.

Anyway…we had finally reached our system after 3 weeks of utter boredom. We expected a welcoming party. Not an actual one, but a military escort. Our battlegroup consisted of only 1 destroyer and two troop transports after all.

Except… There was nothing. No response when we announced to the regional channel that we were here, no fighter wing to escort us towards the nearest landing zone. In fact, there was no radio chatter across the whole planet. There was nothing but eerie, dead silence. It was as if there was no sign of human civilization on the planet.

[He looks at me, his eyes widening]

Can you believe that? An entire population of a billion souls, gone. Just vanished. We got the creeps, that was for sure. My platoon spent the whole deployment phase talking about it. Me? I just wanted the new recruits to be quiet.

The chatter kept up even as we made our way planetside in our Peacocks. It was only when the Colonel told us to shut up when we got ready for a potential combat scenario. That was when most of us realised the gravity of the situation. It was all quiet during the trip down.

 

What did you see when you got there?

The capital we landed in was empty. We hoped that perhaps any remnants of the population would come out of hiding when they saw our ships. Instead, we made base within the centre of a former firefight.

There were bullet markers all over the plaza. Vehicles were nothing more than wrecks and most of the buildings, a majority being small three-story flats had been destroyed by what we assumed was artillery. There was blood on the ground as well. Red mixed with… green. No corpses though.

That’s what puzzled me. The populace must have put up quite a fight but if that was so, where were the bodies. There should have been something! The bullets were still on the ground, the vehicles had been left behind! Salamander Light tanks and FHV-3’s as well.

The local militia were well supplied. We could tell because there were several stacks of ammunition crates located around the centre of a dried out fountain. This must have been their last stand. Before whatever had attack the planet got to them.

Our platoon wasn’t enough to handle it. We contacted command and they told us to hold the planet at all cost. Three weeks later, an entire battlegroup arrived to reinforce us, along with a team of ‘experts’ from the scientific community.

The officers in charge of the reinforcements ordered us to remain silent, to speak nothing of the matter. Then, they shipped us back to our home planets.

But you didn’t keep quiet did you?

How could we? The things we saw on Sin Dong… Of course, something would get out. Half of the veterans in my platoon came from my town. We would discuss about the matter over a six pack. Soon, more of the men from other platoons came to tell their own tales, of whole populations vanishing on frontier worlds, of drifter colonies being rendered lifeless, their inhabitants nowhere to be found.

I heard a tale, more chilling than the rest. The man was a pilot in the 3rd fleet. His battlegroup  was doing a routine patrol along the frontier when they encountered an unknown vessel. It didn’t match any human design and its heat signature was… abnormal, or that was what he claimed. The fleet tried to communicate with it. They used comm links, radio waves, even Morse code. Then it just vanished.

We were stupid about that. They made sure to put a stop to our late-night gatherings.

They?

The eyes and ears of the Huangdi. The Zhengwei, otherwise known as the Commissariat. Every child in the Dynasty knows to fear them through midnight whispers that their parents will tell. Political officers made to ensure loyalty and love for the Emperor and the state .They serve the Huangdi alone and fall under his direct command. Sing the national anthem wrong and you were liable to getting shot in the head. Skip your national service and your whole family will be forced to serve in a penal regiment.

Soon, some of my platoon mates started getting into accidents. One died of a drunk driving accident. Another got food poisoning and passed away. Our corporal got mugged in some back alley on 7th Street. Bastards didn’t even take his money. I stopped going to those gatherings after that. It was clear that the Zhengwei were actively targeting those that were revealing information on the disappearances.

I think the rest of the platoon got the message and the conversations stopped. But it did nothing to quell my fear. These incidents were growing in number.

We should have revealed this to the whole galaxy, if we had, we could have prepared.

We really did make a mess of things didn’t we.

 


© Copyright 2019 Delvin Foo. All rights reserved.

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