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The Dust Settles


Shadowsage
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OOC: Hey guys, this is my last big shabang as a member of CNRP, except for hopefully a bit of land I can keep down south. As a favor to me, I'd appreciate it if you wouldn't do your invasions and the like until this is finished; it won't take long, and if anything it means that I won't be contesting landings and the like. It's been fun, but with school and the like I just can't provide the level of activity that this community deserves. A few of you, that know who you are, are near and dear to me and I thank you all for making my time here as a player of the great game so rich. Every one of you has taught me something about myself, and it means an awful lot to me to have taken this wild ride with you all. I came here when I was 14, and I resign myself now a mere month from my 18th birthday. This community has given me more than I could possibly give back, and I will return to you as soon as I may.

And now, without further ado, I start the final chapter of the Rise and Fall of the Holy American Empire.

[center][b]The Dust Settles[/b][/center]

Five years ago, Emperor Roxas went missing after the massive Aegis Cathedral crumbled in on itself due to a massive explosion. Investigations seemed promising but all inexplicably ceased before catching any culprit. At this point several members of the Imperial Joint Chiefs of Staff had launched their own inquiry and come to the shocking conclusion that a significant portion of the Imperial Senate had ordered the attacks and financed them with Imperial Largesse. It was at this point that prominent military officials began dying one by one in attacks much the same as the one which claimed the life of the Emperor on public television.

All things when pushed too far reach a breaking point. Lord Admiral Andrew Wiggin, considered by many to be Heir Apparent embarked on a whirlwind tour of the Empire's principalities to raise some answers, and support for an unprecedented idea; insurrection. Everywhere he went, bombs detonated and bullets flew minutes behind his visitations. It was entirely clear that whomever was behind the original attack desperately wanted the Admiral out of the picture.

An eventual plebiscite (in areas not under the thumb of the Senate) revealed that a significant majority of citizens believed change was necessary in the tumultuous times they found themselves in. The second most popular option was fatalistically Imperial; 'My country, right or wrong.” That attitude meant that the Separatists would be fighting not only a corrupt cabal of power-hungry warmongers but a people who hated their cause and still died for it.

During a televised address streamed out across the entire Empire through the Imperial intranet, Wiggin announced his people's new decision; to fight the unjust central government until the bitter end. The cry of “Victory or Death” rung all across the Northern half of the Empire. These areas were those that Wiggin could travel to without assassins managing to claim his life. And so it was set that men claiming to represent the Empire instead led her into a new era of ignorance and death; a conflagration that would tear apart families and herald the death of an Empire one way or the other.

Months passed in what many termed the phony war. Negotiations were ongoing for both sides, but began to break down over the reunification of the two regions. In the meantime, rioting had broken out in several Loyalist cities to the South. All of Imperial Antarctica, the Falklands, and portions of Argentina broke off to form a neutral third party that would rejoin the victors in the war. Both the Empire of the Southern Rim and the Holy American Loyalists immensely disliked the position, but could hardly do anything about it without leaving an opening for the other side to exploit. The two were bitterly locked into a waltz where one false move would result in open warfare. The Cabal of senators responsible for the disappearance of the last Emperor were rightfully fearful for their lives, and Lord Admiral Wiggin absolutely refused to consider a chance of letting those responsible off the hook. The clone-progeny of the original Emperor held that same streak of vindictive tenacity that fueled the meteoric rise of a once-proud people.

And in this age of dust, all of those built up accomplishments and rightfully won pride came crashing down about their ears.

Beginning in June of Imperial Year 504, border cities on both sides reported conflicts between bodyguards for the negotiating staff. It was at this same time that horrors of the old Imperium resurfaced. Rumors abounded, but generally centered on the ideal that a lone Theron Guard, lost in the desperate struggle through Diberia emerged and began massacring loyalist soldiers. The ancient weapon manufactured in the days of the Imperium tore a bloody swathe through Imperial forces on the outskirts of Foundation, an event which caused the City of Ashes, Macapa, to collectively shrug and throw their lot in with Wiggin. The onslaught of the last Theron was repulsed by the barest of margins when the creature withdrew to tend its' wounds. When word reached the soldiers of the Southern Rim, they cheered loud enough to instill frothing bloodlust in their counterparts across the trenches dug in dozens of cities.

At this point a 'rogue' battalion of soldiers and scientists hijacked the launch loop in the name of the one true Holy America. Dozens of missiles were launched into the sky, shooting down both sides' satellites and trashing installations across the breadth of South America. It was only thanks to the timely intervention of a motley crew of Grey Knights supposedly led by the legendary Jerrey Rough. They vanished as soon as the controls for the Loop were safely deactivated.

Halfway through July, the conflict began in earnest. On both sides eager commanders jousted with each other for position, incurring hundreds of casualties in the process. Leaders faced friends and family that had gone through the same classes and became closest of comrades on the field of battle. For many, it was too much. In both armies suicide among officers became noticeably more common, as did “accidents” among the enlisted personnel. Cities such as Macapa and Lima became heavy battlegrounds due to their positions on the frontlines, or significance as a symbol for both sides. Macapa had been blasted into rubble countless times before, but never conquered. For many citizens on the fence should the Loyalist forces conquer the city it would prove them worthy of the Imperial mantle. Similarly, the Southern Rim's commanders understood they simply could not afford to leave cities to die on the vine. Supplies and soldiers alike from both sides flooded into the border regions.

Much like the ancient First World War, trenches and artillery came to dominate the landscape. Heavy jungle was nigh impassable for large formations of troops, so the fighting dissolved into armies smashing each other ceaselessly in the cities while small squads attempted to infiltrate through to the support echelons. Air Power was rendered effectively irrelevant due to both sides' massive anti-air stockpiles and the plentiful installations that were built by the original two Sovereigns. Pilots had their hands shaken, were given a gun and sent to the front.

Millions upon millions, and eventually even billions of shells were fired in the desperate border struggle. Cities which had stood for hundreds of years crumbled finally from the death throes of an Empire that had, for a brief instant stood alone as master of all it surveyed. Casualties stacked up as if in some sick game; civilians and soldiers alike died in the millions from fire and metal. The frontlines moved neither way; instead cities became rubble, then twisted caricatures of mountains, and eventually into nothing more than a slight mound of stone dust mixed with bits of metal here and there. It was amongst this apocalyptic, almost lunar landscape that the constantly dwindling forces of both the Empire and the Southern Rim fought without quarter. Tanks, the only possible salvation in the war, were rendered impotent by the dust in the air that would choke a man as easily as it clogged engines beyond repair. It was estimated in this stalemate that at least 50,000 people were dying daily in the carnage. Ecological damage was unprecedented amongst the Amazon rainforest, causing soot and ash to rise and cover nearly the whole continent in a plume of darkness.

To the North, the Caribbean erupted in violence as cells supported by the Holy American Empire erupted in open rebellion. Supplies desperately needed for the war effort slowed down by a noticeable percentage, and ever so slowly did the front line begin to shift against the Separatists. Days later, a similar uprising took place within Santiago and its' outskirts within the Loyalist territory. The frontlines reversed their flow and began sliding across the wastelands once more towards untouched Imperial cities, and beyond them the ultimate prize; Foundation.

It was at this point that the consolidated fleets of both met on the Pacific side of Imperial Center. Both were nearly matched in composition and size, both crewed by the finest sailors ever seen and equipped with technology unmatched in the naval realm. And yet, only one fleet could emerge from the conflict. The massive fleet battle spanned dozens of square miles. Both fleets sought each other out with a passion unrivaled amongst the world. Commanders on both sides weeped at the carnage they wrought with each missile fired, each aircraft launched. Hundreds of lives were extinguished on both sides without a second thought. UCAV craft from both sides were firing dozens of missiles and served as an integral defense mechanism by frying incoming ordinance with their microwave generators. But for every missile shot down, half a dozen took their place. First all the aircraft were clawed from the sky to break amongst the waves below. Then the mighty leviathans of both fleets, the Sovereign class Dreadnaughts dueled with their massive railguns blowing chunks off of each other with every impact. The ships were so evenly matched that eventually on both sides the hulks foundered and sunk to the depths. With the flagships of both fleets gone, chaos reigned supreme. Thousands of missiles streaked back and forth, downing such legendary ships as Honor and Duty, Brazil, and Holy Testament without a second thought. Surviving sailors remarked bitterly on the ironic sinking of the Triumphant New World. The furnace roared ever hotter when submarines on both sides played their hands and launched missiles; the micro-fusion warheads rending metal impotent before their fury. After a whole tortuous day of conflict in which there could be no retreat, no surrender, it was shown that both sides had died almost to a man. The only surviving ships were the Southern Rim's Imperial Revenant IV, and the Empire's United America. The two ships met at last on an abandoned island just over the horizon from Imperial Center. Their crews had once been fleet-mates and the attitude showed as they met and together wept for their world gone mad.

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  • 2 weeks later...

OOC: Just a tidbit between this and the next part; which is mostly written. I'll continue to massacre my way through obscure characters.
[center]Interlude[/center]
Lord Commander Ventris had not fought his way across two continents to die in a rebellion, however proper the reasons may be. However appealing the ideology of the rebels, the Astartes' loyalty was not to a cause but to a person, and that man had long since vanished into the wilderness. Like many other of the Empire's, or perhaps more appropriately Emperor's Children, the Commander had struck out on his own in the face of the coming storm. All of that had not helped him, he was still stuck in a godforsaken trench within a city erased from the map. He had been stealing supplies from both sides when a major offensive ramped up, and now the entire mess was actively gunning for him.

The house he was in began to crumble under the massive bombardment; shells that could have been peacefully consigned to storage instead exacting their terrible havoc, tearing open mother earth and leaving it bare. Accuracy was not important; what mattered was completely obliterating the town for both sides, albeit for opposing reasons. It was this no-name town bestriding the wilderness that would claim the lives of tens of thousands of Imperials. The mighty Amazon River wept bitter tears of blood for her fallen children that day.

Ventris flinched instinctively as an explosion blossomed mere feet from his hunched form. Shrapnel pinged harmlessly off of hardened battle-steel; nothing short of direct hits would bring down the veteran soldier. He slid his ancient bolter over the parapet of the windowsill and fired off a few blind shots at the encroaching battle. Heavy fighting between the two forces had erupted scarcely a football field away, where the Rebels had begun a final assault to drive the loyalist forces from the city proper. Both sides had poured hundreds of thousands of soldiers into the conflict for no discernible profit in a town who's only importance was a port on the Amazon from which invasions of more crucial targets could be launched.

A gurgled cry of pain greeted Ventris' ears as at least one round found a target. He took a moment to shake his head in bitter sorrow when he realized it didn't matter which side he had shot at. Both would kill him on sight, and the two dozen rounds he had left would do nothing to dissuade them. An intensified artillery salvo only seemed to confirm his internal monologue, especially when one of the shells landed almost directly atop his huddled form, sending him sprawling into the dust.

Darkness.

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OOC: The second part of the story; when all of this is over I may come back to this point in time and elaborate on what has been painted here in broad strokes.

[center]Lose the Least[/center]

The military professionals of both the Rim and the Empire were sent into the maelstrom of conflict over and over again, where attrition would wear down their numbers to the point of impotency. In their place stepped fervent political officials, armchair generals, the incompetents, and all manner of those who should never be entrusted to lead others. For every competent pre-war general there were a dozen leaders who thought nothing of thousands of casualties on a daily basis. Industry on both sides stretched every sinew to arm millions practically overnight, and that sudden strain showed on the finished products; roughness and substitute materials marred creations which would have once been impeccable Imperial worksmanship.

Ancient designs of weapons were dusted off and pushed to the assembly line for the ease of mass production. The ancient Hammerburst design, over 60 years old saw its' legacy renewed millions of times over on both sides of the conflict, as did numerous designs procured from allies over the years. It was common to see all manner of weapons rebored and reworked in order to facilitate a single universal ammo type. Every single facet of society from Mexico to Argentina twisted about itself in an effort to win the war. And for a time the furnace roared hotter and hotter as a nation divided cut itself to pieces. Not even the oceans of blood spilled could still the terrible fires borne out of uncompromising hatred.

Full-out convential warfare was accomplishing nothing for either side. However, the Rim had the singular benefit of popular support that, all things equal would allow them to outlast the Loyalist Empire. Months wore on into years and a steady stream of deaths served only to enforce the status quo. Industrial output of both factions reached their peak, and began a slow decline as factory workers quit to join the army, committed suicide, or became so disenchanted with their government as to affect their work performance. In those dark days a sense of hysteria hung over the entire continent.

They say that love is God's best creation. Civilization, on the other hand is the single most successful work of the Devil.

Those hateful old men in the Imperial Senate were losing, and they knew it. Cities across the breadth of the Loyalist zone were facing open rebellion by mobs of citizens sympathetic to the Rim's viewpoint. Such a state of affairs meant that the advantages in manpower and industry the larger, more populated rump Empire became if anything hindrances to the war effort. Productivity numbers wavered, and began a slow decline which increased ever so slightly with every riot, every draft protest. Such problems were hardly seen in the Rim, where the people were united in the righteous fury of a people who finally choose to push back.

In the battle for supremacy of a nation's body, mind, and soul there exists no internal mechanism for surrender. That combined with both sides' mutual distrust of foreign intervention in what was strictly an Imperial affair meant that the conflict could be expressed by a simple function; as time increases linearly, desperation increases exponentially limited solely at the point where most tales inevitably end; the utter erosion of morals and subsequent atrocities that decay allows. It was unsurprising that violent crimes on both sides dramatically rose during the war-years, especially with traumatized veterans coming home and being faced with broken families. Both the Empire and the Rim faced slippage as a society into depravity that would, in the fullness of time prove to be the simultaneous end of the war and the elimination of over 90% of the population.

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  • 3 weeks later...

[center]Interlude[/center]

Lord Commander Ventris woke to find himself in a sitting position. The ceiling of the house had finally given way beneath the pounding, and fading rays of dusk greeted his vision. Immediately a pounding migraine decided to let the soldier know that he didn't get out of his predicament scot-free. Supersoldier though he was, Uriel was but human. His right hand felt the area around him before gaining purchase on a jutting object. Ventris gritted his teeth and with a fearsome effort pulled on the piece of rebar. Cables of muscle stood out immediately from his neck from the strain. It gave way slowly but surely until with a bone wrenching shriek a six foot section and sizeable chunk of concrete ripped out from the wall. With this impromptu cane, Uriel managed to pull himself to a standing position. Around him, utter silence smothered a landscape that had just previously played host to violence on a massive scale. It was clear that there were no survivors of the titanic conflict.

“Awake now, are we?” The deep voice was startling enough to make even someone as damaged as Uriel jump away in an instant. He hissed in anguish as strained tendons stretched just shy of parting altogether. Slowly, a figure as massive as himself emerged from beneath a carefully constructed pile of rubble. Into the dim light strode a man who answered to none beside the Emperor; and without a rightful heir to the throne, he was free to do as he wished. Lord Azrael, however, was not only the first and best of the Astartes, by birth he was Uriel’s twin.

“What are you doing here, brother?” Uriel grumbled through gritted teeth. He walked slowly about his counterpart, testing muscles that were loosening up by the second thanks to a healthy dose of adrenaline which coursed through his veins. The piece of rebar felt lighter, more easy to maneuver now that his enhanced form effectively blocked out the pain receptors that inhibited him so.

Naturally, Uriel would never admit it was related to the sheer terror he felt in the presence of the other. Azrael was named as such for a reason.

The elder Astartes showed no signs of internal conflict which so plagued Uriel, though his heart cried out at the way his brother was limping. Azrael sternly suppressed those feelings; he had a job to do. “You have been a nuisance of the Empire for too long, brother. Come with me of your own accord or face summary execution for betrayal of the order.” He swung a wicked rifle emblazoned with bloody snowflakes from the sling on his back. Pressing a recessed button caused a foot and a half of wicked steel to stab forward smoothly from its’ recess beneath the barrel of the gun. The barest hint of hundreds of tally-marks showed just how successful its’ owner had been in carrying out the will of the Emperor.

“I don’t think so, Your Grace.” Uriel smiled tightly, using his brother’s formal title. “If anyone has betrayed something, those hateful old men in Foundation are the ones. Or would you call assassinating,” at that word Azrael flinched, “a reigning Emperor mere business?” It was clear that Uriel’s words were affecting his brother. “There’s another way. Just go.” He stepped towards the man who was once his comrade-in-arms. Three steps away, then two. “Just go.” Uriel stretched out his hand and placed it on the back of Azrael’s neck. After a moment of hesitation, the assassin did the same. They touched foreheads then, and flashes of memory came back to Uriel from the time before there was a war; The taste of ice-cream, the feel of cotton candy, playing in the snow with other children. Memories that were thought forever lost came back in a dizzying rush. He saw himself and his brother fighting as little kids. [i]‘My name is Horus… and yours is Set.[/i]’ The thought came unbidden, but immediately Uriel knew it was true.

“It’s enough.” Thoughts of starting school arose in his mind. That long-ago time in the Republic of Daorim, where he was but a child of 9 at the most. That innocent little world was so far removed from the living hell of the Holy American Empire as to bring a wave of depression over the soldier. The next memories were those of death; fires torched his home and killed his parents during the first revolutions to sweep the young country. President-turned-Imperator Holihan had visited him in the orphanage and given him the opportunity to serve his country. Pride swelled in Uriel’s chest: tears welled up behind closed eyes. That road had been the right one to take and even then, he thought, there could be no other.

“There is no other way.” Azrael’s voice was flat and cold. A foot of steel erupted from Uriel’s armored back. One moment he was remembering the past and the next he was falling, falling. There was no pain for even at this late date, Azrael had lovingly parted his brother’s spinal column with the same blow that ruptured his heart. After what seemed like hours, Uriel felt his brother’s hand catch him. They both went down to one knee. The numbness he felt gave way slowly but surely to the gnawing cold of death. He gazed upward through his darkening vision as his brother’s granite face finally cracked. Tears streamed down onto Uriel’s face. Ever so slowly, his hand rose upward and came to rest caressing his brother’s cheek.

His last words were to his friend, his brother, his killer; “It’s enough.” Finally his vision clouded over completely and the light behind Uriel’s glowing blue eyes faded to the dull flint of the dearly departed. Azrael sobbed silently as his brother’s hand lost its’ strength at last and fell softly to rest on the floor beside Uriel’s body. The final two words rang softly in Azrael’s head. He laid Uriel’s head on the ground with heartbreaking gentleness, and pulled the rifle from its’ position lodged within his brother’s chest. Blood flowed freely with the removal of the bayonet, staining his dull green armor a sickening crimson.

“There is no other way, Horus.” Azrael said thickly. He had always been the stronger of the two brothers because his memories had remained of his life as Set. That overwhelmingly lovely memory of a better time was what had driven him time and again to better the lives of the citizens he protected. Living with that sense of loss had made him a tough man, but nothing could prepare him for the yawning abyss of sorrow that greeted Azrael. His country, his Emperor, and even his brother had been taken from him. The tears flowed freely as Lord Azrael lined the barrel of his rifle up beneath his chin. “Forgive me please. It was quicker this way.”

A single shot rang out in the dilapidated house. The final futile rays of the setting sun gave way to the coming night as a heavy thump echoed in the deafening silence. Darkness grew to surround everything.

All was still. The Dust Settled.

---

OOC: A bit left, but I'd like to know what everyone thinks.

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