Salt the earth...
The ship sits in orbit, routinely scanning the surface of Alphia. "The Wealth and Progress landed with the invasion force." Fraeia stays silent, still fighting the tears. "What should we do?" I ask, turning to them with wide eyes. "This dream," they say, "the human you're after? What is so important about him?" I open my mouth to speak, the memory stirring. When I remember the thought grave, I stutter. "I- I don't know." "What happened?" "After I saw his face, I found myself in a thought grave." That got their attention. Fraeia's head perks up. "There's a thought grave on Alphia. Where did they land?" They walk over to see and their eyes go wide. "Have you ever been in a warzone before?" It suddenly gets hard to swallow as I shake my head. "I've never fired a weapon at someone, well other than you." "I'm thankful," Fraeia replies. "I make medicine. I help people. I don't belong in a warzone." My heart races as I speak. I'm panicking again. "I'm afraid you don't have a choice. Either your vendetta ends here, or we land." "I guess we will land then…" Entering the atmosphere proved more turbulent than I'd like. Clouds gather over the battle on the surface and it makes landing hard. We see the cannons firing at dhitol ships in orbit. I notice the occasional flash of explosions on the ground as we descend. How ironic, an all-out assault on a planet called mercy. When I see it I take a sharp breath. I see green, endless green surrounding mountains that stretch for miles. The green isn't what catches me off guard, It's the red. This is the spotted forest from the dreams. I see circular patches of red scattered across fields and dense forests. The leaves, the alien grass, bushes, and flowers, all flora in the circles were changing as if someone painted them strawberry red...
Few who engage the Eden planetside live to tell the tale. Their armor is impenetrable, allowing their soldiers to push enemy lines in a fearless display of power. The eden couldn't care less. Dhitol knew this and found the only solution to be an experimental projectile, a tiny bullet with antimatter suspended within it. The facilities required just to isolate enough antimatter particles for a single round would bankrupt most. It was here on a planet called mercy where Dhitol learned why so few have survived a ground assault against the eden. The eden would rather make a planet barren than let their enemies use it against them. They would rather make it impossible for life to thrive.
When an Eden soldier falls In battle, it will trigger a devastating reaction. Their bodies start to release massive doses of radiation. This isn't just any radiation, it's neutron radiation which has the potential to make everything it interacts with radioactive as well. At the center of every patch of red is a body, or perhaps many bodies. Only one will be an eden. The red color isn't always present. It depends on the environment the eden dies in. The color change is like the scream before death. The flora caught in the area of effect is burning alive, enraptured in a cold, invisible, flame. The color shift can be used to trace how the radiation travels. One best pray the wind is on their side. The wind can carry radioactive particles, and explosions around the area of effect only serve to make the spread worse. When killed in an active warzone, it makes for the perfect weapon.
When we finally land, it's several kilometers from where we need to be. The thought grave is deep in the mountains, and here we are on a grassy hill. We could have tried to get closer, but the risk is too high. Any closer and the Dhitol would fire on us. It was best to land somewhere under eden's control. When we exit the ship, it became clear that control would be a poor choice of words. The tall grass around us is green but staining the hillside are patches of red. I see eden bodies, their arms crossing their chests at the center of each red circle. Eden chroniclers draped in black garb reminiscent of a funeral, walk up and down the hill inspecting the bodies and giving blessings of departure. Fraeia's helmet can't hide their pain. I can hear how hard the tears fall over the comms every time they speak. Through shallow breathing, they say "Avoid the red. No feat of human engineering can handle this much radiation. Mind the wind too." I nod in reply. The sight leaves me shaken in a way I can't quite describe. Despite the bodies, the hillside is still and serene. The wind picks up and I hear a tap on my helmet. I look up and hear another as a drop of rain hits my visor. As the rain falls, my mind drifts to earth for the first time in years. Is this what rain looked like on Old Blue? Even if it wasn't, why did we settle for a planet covered in rust when worlds this lush and beautiful exist? I take a long hard look at the world around me. Fraeia indulges me, taking in the sight themselves. It wouldn't be like this for much longer, after all.
I'm not sure if the condition is a product of eden anatomy, or possibly a deadman switch in their armor. If the armor detects that the wearer is dead, it may trigger the reaction. Perhaps there is exotic matter stored inside, only released if the armor is penetrated. Why the eden would do this is plain to see. Their bodies are unnaturally resistant to radiation. Perhaps it's a way to ensure their technology never falls into enemy hands. Even if there wasn't a clear and logical reason, their culture demands it. The eden do not retreat. They refuse to give ground. Even still, you can't win every battle. When someone seeks to take what is theirs, and succeeds, they make such ground worthless as a response.
Eden chroniclers are high ranking members of the eden military. They are functionally an army but only a single soldier. Their arsenal is second to none, and they happen to be the only Lebhan able to approach a soldier who died in battle. It is said that the chroniclers determine who gets to ascend, and they do so by picking from the dead. How they do is a mystery, though the eden are known to have the means of bringing back fallen soldiers if their injuries are light enough to do so. I can't imagine they'd find many who'd fit the bill on Alphia. Antimatter rounds don't tear through you, they open you up. The wounds left behind are massive, and that's nothing compared to the damage dealt to the body that's left behind.
A once Green and Pleasent land
Worlds that suffer an eden defeat are forever changed. The eden prefer the void when it comes to living their lives. They have little need for lush worlds full of life. If the eden lose a battle, that means they've lost significant numbers. When such large amounts of radiation tear at the environment, carried on the wind and in the rain to every corner of the planet, the world can't keep up. Its almost a chain reaction. The radiation makes everything it touches radioactive. On a long enough timeline, the world just dies. I always knew the eden weren't angels. They've been kind to us humans, but they have more than a few black marks on their record. This was the first time I truly saw what they were capable of. I guess every species has its demons.