In retrospect
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Excerpts from executive historian Zachary Tillman's gathered testimonials to be compiled in an appeal to the Ethics Committee after successful O5 council decision 16-73 'Operation 2':

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"The smoke in there, my god. Even thinking about it makes my eyes water. Books burning everywhere, and I mean everywhere. You should've seen the artillery. Those pulse cannons - goddamn, just pounding and pounding and pounding away into shelves and goliaths and science ships. We flooded the place, waves and waves of flesh and guns pouring in every which way. I mean, within the hour we had reduced the place to a field of rubble and corpses and - other things. I don't even know how they got the tanks and the jets in there - but fuck, I'm not R&D, you'd have to ask them about that. They were there, and it was - did you ever see the Terminator? There were just these mounds of bodies that built up, after a month and then two months, and after a while you could feel bones crunching underneath your feet."

-Captain Takamura, 5th UD, company C

"I saw something once. It was an offensive on the Natural Sciences quarter - we were with this group of gooks in that flame-retardant getup - what? Oh - that was what we called them, those pyromaniacs the council let in after the alliance got finalized. There was this kid, not even thirty, he was on his knees with these scrolls and this huge, gilded book, and he was just sitting there with this… this empty look on his face. I've never forgotten it. I put a bullet in his head. Then they cooked everything."

-MTF Commander Cassandra Littleton, Omicron-3

"I think things started to go really south in the seventh or eighth month. 2000's mods had done their work - but it didn't really matter when they could kill us faster than we were born. Eventually, stats kicked in. The fronts moved back, forth, back and back some more, and then the brass had had enough. Targeted nukes, esoteric shit - more esoteric, anyway. People talk about the Hand like it's this gang of asshole hippies - save the anoms, live naturally and all that crap. What we saw, what pounded us into the Earth - that was a fucking monster, beyond human comprehension and certainly any ideology we could whip up. They're the holy spirit that completes our trinity, and more besides."

-Major Larson, Armored Infantry Division Beta, combat medic

"What I hated most was the light. The library had a steady supply of it from god knows where, but all that ash and blood must've started brewing in the atmosphere or something after the first wave hit. Soon, there was nothing but this reddish-black haze that blanketed us. You tasted fresh air every once in a while, when you died, but then you were back, and there it was. That, and watching your brothers in arms get mauled and crushed and shredded hundreds of times over, began to have a semi-serious effect on troop morale. People from my platoon started breaking down and crying the second they popped back out; without anyone else to operate my platform with, it just stood there, a silent, perforated gun barrel."

-Artillery officer Mattock, column 183E

"I talked to some blokes over in Vanguard after, and from what I can tell even they were better off than we were. Have you ever tried flying in blizzard? I have, and it's a class-A clusterfuck. Flying in those conditions was like doing a loop-de-loop in a blizzard buffeted by a hurricane while getting earfucked by a family of maggots that were whipped into your cockpit by an F4 tornado. And that was in the quieter zones; doing a bombing run in contested territory had my bird literally implode. How they pumped out the fuckers so fast is beyond me, but I can tell you it wasn't nearly quick enough."

-Coalition airman O'Malley

"I'd felt the roar of the Banshee before, felt it rattle my teeth and chill my bones. I'd seen men shoot themselves rather than die at the hands of a UHEC - before I got my hands on one. So when they told us to stampede the fucking thing, we intended to give them a show. Imagine cocaine, but about three thousand times more intense: that's what being in a pack of charging mecha felt like. The lot of us rammed into its leg at full speed, tearing through flesh like we were digging some kind of fucked up oil well. When we broke through to the shin, and it fell from the sky, the impact shattered my jawbone. The corpse had to be the width of a big lake, and just as long if not longer. That was the most exhilarating moment of my career - I mean, there were cheers, real cheering broke out, like I hadn't heard in weeks. Then our seismic monitors picked up three more on the approach, and everything seemed to stop."

-Ultra-Heavy Engagement Chassis (UHEC/'Orange suit') operator Kimble Thurby, Super-Heavy+ battalion 2.

"The Coalition pulled out a year later. Something about 'reallocating resources to more pressing operations' and then they just left. No more death squads, although the damage was done, or so they thought. We lost so much ground after that - so much that I doubt gaining it ever mattered in the first place. Fine hasn't talked about it to us since, unless O5 knows something I don't. Army groups began to falter and then collapse entirely, leaving thousands of good men and women fighting to the last breath in makeshift enclaves. We tried everything, every last bit of paratech at our disposal. We threw everything we had, all of our might and magic, against a fucking library - and by the end it had exhausted us. It's a different kind of war down there, a different battlefield that operates contrary to everything you or I understand about state-sanctioned death."

-Supreme commander of Operation 1 ('Wanderer's Library incursion') MTF Commander Lionel Heydrich, Zeta-7

"It was a fucking meat grinder."

-Alto Clef

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Excerpt from transcript of ethics committee remote meeting 16-3:

All in favor of appeal:
8 aye
All in favor of decision/original
4 aye
Abstain
1
motion passes
sub-proposals?
5…4…3..
1 request received
Waiting…
sub-proposal 1: a class-c and some leave for the boy, I think
All in favor of sub-proposal
13 aye
motion passes

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