– by SN1P3R001
They promised me a place to live, food, and decent pay. They told me it would be a piece of cake. Walk off the ship, shoot a guy here, another there. Take lives. Kick ass. And if someone took my life, I’d just start over, another clone of a thousand. They promised me immortality. Some medical benefits they got around here. Well, it’s over now. I got my place to live, my food, my pay. I got my immortality. But I got more than that. They say war is Hell. I can tell you, Hell looks damn nice compared to what I went through. This is my story. A soldier’s story.
I was nineteen. Or that’s what they told me. I’d been stuck on this miserable planet my whole life. I lived off what I could find in the streets. Never knew my parents. My mother died when I was very young. My dad… I’m not sure what happened to him. Went off on a shuttle launch one day and never came back. I was left all alone. Forgotten.
Then CONCORD lifted the planetary prohibition. Then they came. There were businesspersons, miners, mercenaries, pirates, CEO’s. They all wanted one thing. Soldiers. Recruitment posters were slapped up on the side of every building, recruiters stood on shipping crates at nearly every street corner, offering benefits to all those souls who signed on with their corporation. I didn’t really understand it all at the time. I knew nothing of corporation life or why they wanted more soldiers. I figured they had enough already. For a time, I ignored most of them. They were in my way. I just wanted to go on with my life. Then I realized one day… I had no life.
After a few weeks, most of the recruiters had left. I knew, by now, one or two of the main ones left. I figured that the others had given up on this planet. The ones that were left appeared to be from rival corporations, each vying for control of several planets in the system. I decided, after a long sleepless night under a cold rainy sky, to sign on the dotted line. Become a soldier. I’ll never forget the face of the recruiter as I approached. He asked what a scrawny streetsucker like me wanted with his corporation. I told him, bluntly, that I wanted a life. If that meant fighting, then so be it. He handed me a sheet of paper and I stared at him dumbly. He showed me where to make my mark. I drew a shaky “x” on the line. He looked at me funny, then handed me a data chip and directed me to the spaceport.
A month later, I was trained. I had a gun, a uniform. I knew how to pull a trigger, pull a pin, drive a truck, take a life. Now I was sitting in the back of the transport with about twenty other soldiers, ready for deployment. The craft shook as it touched down. I could hear my squad leader barking orders. I blindly acknowledged him, committing my mission to memory. As the hatch opened, I followed my squad out of the ship. I hit the dirt running, following close behind the soldier in front of me. An explosion rocked the ground and I stumbled, but pushed forward until I was safe within a makeshift bunker. I huddled against the wall, squeezed between two other men. I looked around at the faces surrounding me. They were clean-shaven, hard, emotionless. Like mine. Our mission was to assault a mining facility just north of our position. The enemy was barraging the half kilometer of ground between here and there from orbit. After the explosions ceased, we knew we had fifteen minutes to reach the facility. That, we learned, was how long it took for the ships orbiting the planet to reload. Finally the noise outside subsided. And out we went.
It was a half click sprint for survival. I charged out of the bunker screaming with my squad. I didn’t have time to think. I let my instincts take over. I ducked and dove into crater after crater, taking cover wherever I could to avoid the small arms fire coming at me. I poked my head out from behind the ridge of the crater I was taking cover in, scanning the complex ahead of me, now just a hundred meters away. I looked over my shoulder for my squad leader. I shouted, asking for clearance to charge. He turned to look at me, a blank stare on his face, and fell forwards into the crater with me, blood squirting from a wound in his neck. I whipped around, looking for his killer. We were getting shredded. Of the ten men in my squad, I saw only four of us still alive. I pulled myself out of the crater and charged the complex in front of me. I yelled out in anger as I felt something tear into my arm, but whipped my rife around and watched as a guard dropped to his knees, dead. We succeeded in our mission and captured that mining facility. I killed 5 other men that day. I got promoted.
Two months later, I was standing in yet another bunker on another unknown planet. I looked around at my squad. The faces I know saw were no longer hard and emotionless. I saw no hard eyes, no excitement. I saw pain, fear. I saw tears of terror, tears of anger, tears of regret. I wondered what they saw in me. I had nothing to live for. I had no family to return to. I had no reason to be scared or angry or hurt. Today the mission was to raid a small town. We needed food and water badly. They were the priorities. Weapons and ammunition were second. No incoming fire this time. We marched out of the bunker and down the road. I told my squad to kill anything that moved. We were the top of the food chain here. Anything else took a back seat on survival. And besides, we didn’t know who the enemy was, where they had spies. I looked up at the sky, blood red as the sun rose over the horizon. It looked so familiar, yet so foreign. I sighed and continued my march until the skyline was broken by the buildings coming up out of the ground in front of us. As I walked down the street that ran through the center of the abandoned town, I realized why it looked so familiar. It was where I grew up. This was my home. I heard a noise behind me. I turned to see a man around my age pick himself up off the ground. He reached his hand out towards me. I pointed my rifle at him and put a few rounds through his head. I stared down at the ground where the blood pooled around him. It matched the color of the sky. I turned sharply and marched off down the street, calling for my team to search him.
The sun was going down now. We’d almost completed out search of the town. I banged on the door of a dwelling with the butt of my rifle. I head a faint noise inside. I barked at the occupant to open the door. I got no response, and I kicked the door in. I entered the dark building cautiously, and flicked on my flashlight. In the corner huddled a young woman and a child. I froze, paralyzed by a memory of my mother.
She was holding me close, looking up at a man in the doorway, terrified. And then he shot her. Her blood splattered on my face. I looked up at the man. I couldn’t speak, couldn’t scream. He aimed his pistol at me and pulled the trigger. Click. He muttered angrily, grabbed a handful of jewelry off the nightstand by the bed, and fled…
I snapped back into reality. I stared at this terrified woman and her child. I dropped to my knees and began to cry. I howled and wept until a member of my squad leaned in through the door. He asked me if I was alright. I nodded as I stood. I barked orders to the rest of my team to get back to camp. The soldier in the door looked at me, puzzled. I shoved him aside and joined the rest of my team in the street. I turned to the soldier in to door. “Shoot them,” I ordered. I closed my eyes and bowed my head, trying to block out the scream of terror that echoed through the empty town. The scream that was cut off by gunfire and choked with blood until the faint gurgling finally subsided. I rationalized the decision I’d made as I started down the road. They were better off dead. They both knew it. The look of terror on their faces was not from fear of death, I told myself, but fear of being left alive. I shook my head to clear my thoughts and continued the march down the road.
Four years later, our corporation shut down. They had no use for soldiers, so they gave me my pay, put me on a freighter, and shipped me off to a peaceful planet somewhere. And here I live. I’m still haunted by the choices I’ve made. Sometimes I cry myself to sleep at night, huddled in the corner of my room, head resting on my knees. Sometimes I walk down the street and I can smell the blood of the people I’ve murdered. Blood shed because of greed. Because some CEO decided he needed more ships, more guns, more ammunition. More weapons of war to destroy more lives. I wonder sometimes whether those CEO’s ever have shed the blood. I bet not. Not like I have. Not up close and personal. It’s one thing when you destroy a ship, turn it back into the scraps of metal from which it was born. But human life… That’s another thing entirely. I know for a fact none of the people in my town, the people I killed with my very own hands, I know none of them ever got a second chance like all those pilots in their shiny pods filled with goo or those rich businesspersons and pirates with their clones. Those from my poor town never had that luxury. They had one life. And I took them. It started with five. Five on the first day. Two on the next. By the time I was done, I’d taken over three hundred. In my head, three hundred people who worked hard to survive, who had purpose and meaning, were weighed against a billion worthless scrawny streetsuckers.
I ponder my promise of immortality as I put the pistol to my temple. I wonder if my clone will share all my memories or if those many lives I’ve ended will be forgotten…