Author's Note: This is a 1984 fan fiction I started working on a little while ago. I figured I'd post it, and if it gets any traction, I'll write the rest. My intention with this project was to flesh out the world of Orwell's book by exploring other parts of the setting; I also try to develop the ideas of thoughtcrime, doublethink, etc beyond the confines of a 300-page novel. In terms of canon, I mix and match the book and the 1984 adaptation, leaning more heavily towards the adaptation in terms of aesthetics. I hope you enjoy!

January 3, 1991

The Mesopotamian Sector

Looking east from Basra, the horizon is dark with smoke. Oil fields are burning out there. For now they remain under enemy control, but the Eurasian high command must not expect that to remain the case for much longer—they've gone and torched their wells so that the advancing Oceanians can't have them.

Captain Jim Anders has been through the Mesopotamian Sector two times already, and he's never seen anything like this. They didn't do it late last year in Kuwait, when the Eurasians left behind seventy-six functioning wells, and they certainly didn't do it in the 1988 campaign, when they ceded the exact same facilities that they're now destroying. Something has changed.

Anders watches the conflagration from the top of what used to be a house. Its roof is gone, as are most of the second-storey walls, but there's still a floor from which he can look across the river. Sounds of hurried voices and truck engines emanate from the surrounding streets; his troops are going block by block, making sure that no Eurasians have stayed behind to cause mischief. A few hundred meters away, on the tallest building still left in this city, flies the newly raised flag of Oceania—black background, fat crimson V, hands clasped above the word "INGSOC"—and down in one of the streets Anders can make out a Minitrue photographer snapping a picture of it.

He hears footsteps on the stairway behind him. He turns to see his executive officer, First Lieutenant Franco, climbing up onto the second storey with a rifle slung over his shoulder. Franco is quite tall; his black tunic fits him poorly, though the belt and trousers are better tailored. His helmet still has a dent in it from a recent encounter with shrapnel. He's blond and square-jawed, like he just walked off a poster.

Anders smiles. "What news, comrade?"

"Spoils of war, sir," he says, reaching out with a fistful of small, dark, oblong fruit. Anders picks one up and scrutinizes it.

"Dates!" He throws it in his mouth. The taste is sweet but mellow, far better than the saccharine tablets that occasionally make their way through the supply lines, and he spits out the pit. "Doubleplusgood, comrade. I haven't had any since the last time we were in Basra."

"We found them in the Eurasian commissary. There's still that plantation just outside town, so dates were the one thing they had plenty of."

Anders grabs another, bites a little too enthusiastically, nearly breaks a tooth. He winces. "Collect as many of these as you can, and put them under guard. But I'm sure you have more than fruit to talk about. What of the city?"

"Our quarter is quiet, for now, but apparently there's some combat in B Company's sector, and it might spill over into ours."

"No, natives. Religious fanatics and separatists with stolen guns, best anyone can tell."

The Arabs aren't supposed to be armed. If they had been armed, the Oceanians wouldn't have been able to take the entire city of Basra with just four companies and six hundred men. This is a doubleplusungood development, and it must be nipped in the bud, lest the entire security of the offensive be jeopardized.

"You know what to do. Kill anyone with a weapon, search the houses, round up and shoot whoever gets out of line."

"Right, sir, it'll be done speedwise." Franco looks towards the black horizon, far away. The smoke seems to have grown thicker even during the course of this conversation. It looms like an advancing storm, though where stormclouds have definite texture and depth to them, this haze appears hazy, flat, unreal. "What's going on over there?"

"They torched the wells."
"They're doing what, now?"

"It's as I said, comrade—they intend to deny us use of the oil fields."

Franco takes off his dented helmet and scratches his head. "But… aren't they coming back?"

"Evidently not."

One of the unspoken rules of this war, which has been raging for forty, fifty years—who really knows how long?—is that each side leaves key infrastructure intact. This is for entirely self-serving reasons. While homes, lesser factories, and native populations are easily replaceable, and thus fair game for obliteration, certain structures—docks, uranium mines, in this case oil rigs—would be all but useless if they had to be rebuilt every time they changed hands. No sense in wrecking the wells east of Basra if you'll recapture them by this time next year. Oceania follows this rule, Eastasia follows it, and Eurasia did, until now.

Franco is about to say something, but he doesn't get the chance to. Gunfire erupts in the street below them. Someone is shouting in Arabic and spraying bullets on full auto. Acting on instinct, Anders drops to the ground and draws his sidearm, and Franco is not far behind—he goes up behind a wall and angles his rifle into the street.

"See anything?" Anders asks. He's not going to put his head over the edge just yet. He didn't survive two decades in the service by risking his own skin, and he still has a cushy Party desk job to look forward to.

"Maybe half a dozen Arabs holed up at the end of the street, behind a wrecked truck." Franco shoulders his rifle and pops off a shot. "I think I got one."

"And how many of our own?"

A bullet zips past Franco's head, neatly endorsing Anders' decision to stay behind cover. "About a dozen, sir. We're going to win."

The firefight continues. Judging by pitch and tempo, the rebels have at least two submachine guns, stolen from one side or the other. The return fire, however, is tighter and more disciplined, and after a few seconds the skirmish concludes with a scream of agony, then a final gunshot, then silence.

Only now does Anders chance a look over the side of the building. He sees a squad of Oceanian troops—black-uniformed, grey-helmeted, varying in skin tone from pale to dark brown—advancing towards the ruined truck Franco mentioned, where swarthy, ragged corpses lie beside their weapons. The living soldiers make only a token effort to loot the bodies; it goes without saying that the Arabs are poor, poorer than the proles, though now that they've acquired weapons for themselves the old assumptions might not hold up.

"Sergeant!" Anders calls out from the second storey. The squad's leader, a fresh-faced young man whom the captain recognizes but does not remember by name, turns to face him and gives a salute—two fists crossed overhead in the shape of a V.

"Sir! We have lost none of our own men! This is a doubleplusgood victory for Big Brother!"

"Yes indeed, comrade! Can you tell whose weapons they were using?"

The sergeant picks up a submachine gun off the ground, and turns it over in his hands. "It's not ours! Looks to be of Eurasian make, though I couldn't tell you much more about it."

"Thank you, sergeant. Carry on!" Anders dismisses him with a wave, then turns back to Franco. They are both standing tall by the edge of the building; the danger has passed. "Well, comrade? What do you make of this?"

"Just like the perfidious Eurasians to arm separatists and religious extremists," Franco says.

Actually, it's not like them at all. This is another of the war's unspoken rules: in all the far-flung battlefields, from the Sahara to the Malabar Coast to countless Pacific islands, no side may arm the locals. The sweeping offensives of each campaigning season depend on the helplessness of the vast populations caught in the crossfire. They are slaves, good for running the Equatorial Front's plantations and factories and mines, and to equip them with weapons would make a thorn in your own side as well as your foe's.

Thus, under ordinary circumstances, he would assume that the rebels had acquired their arms by blind luck. This is war, after all, and oversights happen. But with oil fields burning in the east, Anders does not believe that. The Eurasians are changing the rules; they're behaving as if they are leaving Mesopotamia permanently, and their only concern is making life difficult for the advancing Oceanians.

He ponders this for a short while. Sometimes, he wonders if he's too perceptive for his own good—high-level views of the war are for the Inner Party command staff, not Outer Party officers like him. He'll disappear one of these days, if he keeps this up.

Suddenly there's an explosion down in the street, by the truck. The sergeant and his entire squad disappear in a cloud of dust. A pressure wave washes through the air. Up on the ruined house, Anders hears shrapnel whistling and ducks instinctively, though one fragment catches him in the cheek.

"My legs! Oh God, my legs!" shouts a soldier. His appeal to God is thoughtcrime, but Anders has his own problems, and barely notices.

More voices shout. They're other Oceanian soldiers, rushing to the site of the blast.

Anders, pressed to the ground, coughs and pushes himself up into a crouch. He pulls the fragment out of his cheek. It's not metal—it's somebody's tooth. What are the odds?

"Franco?" Anders coughs again. There's an awful lot of smoke and atomized plaster in the air. He can hardly see. "Lieutenant? Where have you gone off to?"

Franco is slumped against the remnants of an interior wall. His left eye is a jagged hole, out of which pours a thick stream of blood. It was more than a flying tooth that got him.

Anders looks back over the side, and there's no trace of the sergeant. Most of his squad has been dismembered and mutilated. One man clutches the bleeding stumps of his legs, another feels around where his jaw used to be. The rebels rigged up a powerful bomb; they must have hidden it within the truck, attached a timer or a tripwire so that it went off when the Oceanians were close by. They're clever bastards.

Anders stands up, dusts himself off, and thanks Big Brother he's still alive.