Ghost World by MarkHirst ()
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It's been nine years on this near dead planet; a mission that was supposed to investigate a break in communications, which quickly turned into the stuff of nightmares.
We were young kids, only a few years into our service with the marines. After years of surviving and become resigned to being stuck here for good, we've started raising families and have kids of own. The original team of soldiers is largely intact, forming a nucleus around which resourceful citizens and survivalists have built a network of communities. Across the dry and desert like countryside, fortified villages hold the line against the animated horrors that roam the land. Fuel dumps and protected fields provide the resources to feed our new civilisation, the stepping stones between the remote safety of the highlands, and the dangerous but irresistible prize of the cities with their supplies of technology, energy, and raw materials.
The cities are empty now, with the last animated remnants of their populations long dead from starvation. Only the wildlife of the planet provides the raw material on which the alien dust works its warped creations. Month by month, year-by-year, new and more distorted monsters are spawned to terrorise and eat the unwary, yet in that time, we have never encountered the nightmares we saw in the first days of our mission. Even so, the cities are places we visit only out of necessity. Sometimes we pickup a faint signal on shortwave, a beacon or even a human voice, a desperate plea for help. Most are dead by the time we reach them, and we suspect that the dead cities are not as empty as they seem, but we try each and every time to find them, in the hope that the next survivor is a doctor, an electrician or a space craft engineer.
This trip into the city is to find more pharmaceuticals for an expected series of births. Our old marines vehicles had given up years ago, broken by the first years of frantic fight and flight with sheared transmissions, cracked gearboxes and shattered axles. Now we travel in nimble Bobcats, appropriated from a National Guard depot along with a workshop and spares that'll keep us going for years. While two vehicles keep watch out in the open spaces of a nearby park, our group parks in the main shopping area as we scour a local department store for items of value.
The operation is well practiced, a routine that has kept us alive even in the direst situation. Try as we might, it seems that the civilians that cling to us cannot take to that discipline, and we wonder about our little children and whether they will have the skills to survive. We still cling to the hope that rescue might come here one day, but we hear the distant broadcasts from Candor some six light years away, and know there are problems there too. Ships have appeared in the sky since the Lazloi destroyed the horrors of Illaria starport and drove away our support ships, but they ignore our hails, no doubt warned off by the devastated world they see below them.
So we stick to our routines and watch our backs, trusting that our training and honour as soldiers will hold the light of human life high above the alien invaders, the monsters who tried to take this land.
-- Mission log of Lieutenant Ara Mercator, Recon Group
Bobcat Multi Mission Vehicle is an original model created in Hexagon 1.21, mapped in UV Mapper Pro and textured in Photoshop CS2. Figure is a Stephanie Petite 3, in my FAS-X helmet and armour outfit, also created in Hexagon.
Scene background is the Urban Sprawl 2 by Stonemason.
Rendered in Vue 6 Pro Studio using HDRI lighting.
Thanks for looking, comments always appreciated.