That's all he had to do. Push the red button with G and O on it. Cigarette smoke coiled around him like a wreath. Laurel, too. Push. That's all he had to do. He pushed it, smooth and red against his finger, with its white letters.
In the desert, a figure looked up at the passing hoverjets, swarming like black bees in the sky. Acrid smell of fumes sank towards the ground within hot air, the skies blurred with oily streams that followed the gleaming vehicles. The masked figure stared at the passing swarm, goggles glowing in the fading sunlight. He then looked towards the horizon, in the direction the swarm was headed. It was time.
Eyes snapped open, sunlight in them. Blinking behind lenses.
Underneath, landscape passing by rapidly, bleached white and dull brown sands and tufts of dark grasses. Flying. He was flying.
I am a soldier.
He realised. Thought. Both? How?
In his hands, the weight of something warm, heavy. A gun. The roar of an engine, a giant hum in the background and heat under clinging nylon. Where was he? He looked around. Cramped, hot, dark. The belly of a roaring bee. Around him, as he looked around, were people, looking around. Side by side, crammed together. Like fish?
People, helmeted and wrapped, encrusted in nylon and cloth and armour. Black and grey and gleaming. And goggled. They were looking around, as outside, land sped by through little windows. They were confused. I am confused, though he. Looking around. They were soldiers. Like him. Outside, the sun was lowering, smudged behind strangely hued clouds. The bee was tilting. The soldiers looked around. Blam! The chamber shook, and a suffering hiss filled the air.
Something opened, and sunlight flooded into the dim chamber, nearly blinding the. Soldiers? The soldier blinked, too much sunlight. Faded, but glaring all the same. A low female voice droned in the background out of somewhere. You have ten seconds to disembark vehicle.You have ten seconds to disembark vehicle.
Ten seconds to disembark vehicle. The engines roared, and metallic joints whined, pipes hissed. Get out. The soldiers scrambled to get out, complying wordlessly. You have ten seconds to disembark vehicle. The voice insisted. The soldier got off the seat and ran out of the vehicle on wobbly legs, stiff from a period of disuse. Heat blasted him, like jet exhaust, which floated all around. The clot of soldiers had scrambled out. Nine.ten. The ramp began to rise, and a soldier tumbled off it as it shut, and the vehicle was sealed. The jets glowed, and it rose into the air and pivoted away into the blaze of the sky.
The sky was swarming with hoverjets, shadows crawling across a desert. They were in a desert, glowing with the purplish glow of a setting sun filtered through clouds of unnatural form. A desert endless, the jets flew away in a roar of thousand lions, away towards the setting sun. And around him, a thousand soldiers in the desert, their goggles glowing a bright blue, each clutching their rifle like a baby, looking around in a daze.
A tiny voice crackled within the helmet, speaking into the soldier's ear. "Do not remove uniform or appliances. Do not remove your mask. Atmospheric radiation is high in the area. Do not."
The roar was gone, and they were alone in the desert. A vague curdling of fear, a startlingly strong yet familiar feeling of unease rocked the soldier's gut.
No. They weren't alone in this desert wasteland. A desert going slowly red as the star went lower, replaced with other more far away.
They weren't alone.
Towards the darkening horizon of the west, a monotonous grumble rose like a shimmering heatwave.
Why were their eyes glowing blue? The thousand soldiers with goggles like blue lamps.
From over the horizon came hulked shapes. Tanks, he knew. And beside them, soldiers. Another thousand. And in the marching lines the soldier dancing pinpoints of red light, like candleflames. Eyes, no, goggles. Goggles glowing red in vanishing solar illumination. Fluorescent lenses glowing red and blue on either side of the desert. A voice, no, a concept appeared in the soldier's mind. Kill red.
He thought it without thinking it. He knew, he must kill the opposition. He was a soldier. But they had no tanks. Was it unfair? There was no unfair, he was a soldier.
The soldier next to him flew back, and dark droplets splattered the lenses of his goggles. The air misted pink with sunlight catching crimson and sparkling like miniscule rubies that fluttered forth from the exploding head of the masked figure. Blue goggles shattered and slivers joined the pink mist-blue and pink, shining in the air. The soldier landed on the ground. Take cover and kill red stay low at all times crouch to make yourself a smaller target plant yourself on the ground firmly and fire while in a prone position to increase accuracy.
Thoughts. Out of nowhere.
Then it rained fire from the horizon of the west, drops of hot metal to tear away armour and flesh alike. Spitfire thunder accompanied the rain. It was wartime, and he was a soldier. He ran, and took cover, fired from a prone position and stayed crouched whenever he could. He companions did the same, breaking out of dazzled confusion to conform. He fought, despite a terrible infection of fear that spread from his gut out to all the extremities of his body, because he was, after all, a soldier. He had to.
But he couldn't get one question out of his mind.
Why was he fighting?
The soldier looked up out of a haze of dust, smoke, and blood that clung to both to make a wet and unhealthy fog that glowed scarlet in the dawn. His goggles were smeared almost to blindness. He wiped the layer of grime from the lenses with his gloved fingers, and hauled up his gun. It felt hot even beneath leather and nylon. The muzzle was freshly smoking. All around him, there were bodies. Corpses. Of soldiers, and more soldiers. Like an army of ants crushed under a sneaker shining with dark armour. A thought had come out of nowhere. Some had blue goggles, some had red. He had killed only red. He was still wondering, though.
Why was he here? Why had he fought?
The ground squelched under his boots. He looked down; the sandy soil was damp and violet. The earth was taking back the lifeblood of its children. It had spit them forth from its womb, they had destroyed each other, and now it drank them back in.
Looking at the wasteland, the desert of corpses, he felt a tingling of pain. Not physical. Sorrow? No, he couldn't think of mental pain, he shook his head. Why had he fought? He looked around. He realised very slowly, surveying the field of endless death, that he was the only one standing. Wartime was over, and he was the only one alive. Was he the only one alive? Silence. The sun crawled up from the horizon opposite the one from which red eyes and hot rain had come. And bombs that made his ears buzz. Red marked tanks lay smoking and wrecked, fuselage warped and drivers fried within their shells. Kill red they had, and gotten wiped out in the process.
Silence. Ssssss. Ssssss.
Just his mask, and his breath.
"Why?" he screamed to the field of corpses. Echoes bounced off armoured bodies and sank into damp sand. The soldier felt strange, for he hadn't spoken a word since he had exited the hoverjet one war ago? One war ago? Was that right? One night had passed. The war had begun in the evening of the previous day. And now it was dawn.
He stumbled and fell on his face heavily, because something had prodded the back of his neck. He scrambled up, and something slammed into his neck again, and stuck firmly.
"What is going on? You tell me right now."
The barrel of a machine gun. That was what was pushed against his neck. And a voice, muffled by breathing apparatus. He turned around slowly. A soldier, another soldier stood by him. The same as him, wrapped in black leather, nylon and metal armour. Only-red goggles blazed in the dawning daylight.
He wasn't the only survivor of the war.
He thought, and answered. "I don't know. I really don't."
Wait.he thought. Kill red? The soldier was pointing a gun at him, red too. And he wasn't killing red. Nor was the soldier killing blue. As if realising the same thing, or something similar, the red soldier lowered the rifle.
"You don't know either. Why we're here. Why we're fighting."
The blue soldier nodded. "Apparently no more than you."
Then, out of the brooding silence came the familiar sound of jets, and from the east, out of the flare of sunrise came a black speck upon the desert. It sped over the fields of death, shadow yawning across the dunes as it howled towards the two standing soldiers. It was a vehicle. A small, sleek groundjet, its hoverjets roaring and raising behind it a trail of dust. The groundjet stopped, afterburners dying down, and landing prods sinking into the damp sand, crushing punctured bodies as it did so. The soldiers heard their dead fellows crunch. Armour and bones breaking.
The jet's front windshield opened with a complacent whine, and a figure leapt out, turning to walk across to them. Like them, it was masked and goggled. But his lenses were plain mirrored tint, reflecting only what the eyes behind them saw, instead of the colour of sides. Ribbed black tubes wound out of the mask to disappear somewhere in the thick clothing that wrapped the figure, overcoat and cloak rippling in a warm irradiated breeze. Under the metallic snout that was its air filter, cheap necklaces shone hesitantly; crosses and stars hanging from chains.
"Live soldiers.", the figure rasped. "Of opposite sides."
"Queer," it hissed.
The figure began rummaging around the corpses, ripping off gas masks and guns to toss in a black plastic bag. The blue soldier spoke.
"Who the hell are you! Who the hell are you?"
The grotesque face, snouted and bug eyed, looked up. "Aborigine. Nomad. Dunestalker, they can call me. They do, sometimes. I am a scavenger. You kill, I sell. Soldiers fight, die for King and Country. They die, to conquer. Then I come when they're done, and I come, I see, I conquer. And you..you end up recycled or six feet under."
"You...dunestalker, you know why we're here? You know why we are fighting? For...for King and Country?"
The aborigine stared for a second at the blue soldier and then laughed out to the sky with a boundless energy that startled both blue and red. The laugh came out filtered through its snout, emerging as a series of strange, warped coughs.
The dunestalker finished laughing, and abruptly spoke.
"No. I don't know why you fight. If you want an answer, I suppose you could say for land. There are states on these continental lands, states with boundaries, and the cracks between are where we wander for cash, through radiation fogs. Ha! No King or Country here. States, city-states, and the people in the city states want more land, to make themselves bigger states, and maybe, one day, one day in the far, far future we'll have ourselves a country here. Some say this was a country once. Who knows? But if you want to real answer.don't ask me, soldier. I take the shit you leave. That's all. Why humans fight? That's philosophy, and the aborigine don't do philosophy! Got that?"
With that, the scavenger went back to his job of plucking junk from the war debris and bio-mechanical flotsam that the battle had left behind on the desert. The warm wind kept tugging persistently at his overcoat and plastic cloak.
The blue soldier felt something wet-a tear-roll down his cheek. He felt strange. Empty. Lost. He lifted his hand to wipe away the tear, and his fingers scraped metal and leather. He was masked. Anonymous. The tear tickled away like a sneaky ulcer.
The red soldier spoke this time. "What do we do? We...now what do we do? The war is over."
"This war is over. The states don't give up vying for land. Never."
"But now what?"
"You know something? Why'd you two talk so much? Huh? Maybe I should just kill the both of you. Right? Why the hell do you talk so much? What's wrong with you two? You're bloody soldiers! I should kill the both of you, just not because you got big guns."
The soldiers stepped back a pace, shocked. "Why don't you two kill each other, then? Something wrong with you? Talking so much." the dunestalker muttered incoherently under his breath.
"We-we don't want to..I think."
"You think? You sure you two are soldiers?"
"Yes." The soldiers replied in unison. The aborigine shook his head and tossed an oxygen tank into a small heap of bodies. "Well, if you think.if you don't wanna be killing each other, then you'd better get the hell of this desert before the tractors come in." The scavenger was suddenly calm again.
"Tractors?" said the blue soldier.
"Of course you don't know. Ha! Cleanups, RCBE's. Remote Controlled Battlefield Evacuators. They come in, big things, like tanks, and they sweep up all this crap off the sand. Including the living ones, like you. Only usually they don't talk so much. And usually there's only the live ones of one side left. Usually, they just lie down and go to sleep, and let the Live marked RCBE's shovel them up off the ground like the corpses you see all around. But quite obviously, you two are not usual. So get the hell out of here."
"The RCBE's will be here in about half an hour. You...red eyes, you belong to State S-9. Blue eyes, you're D-11 stock. Always thought D-11 would win this one, become D-12. Eleven sectors is more than nine, and more land means more soldiers, no matter S-9's tanks and all that techno-war shit. But now...this is some weirdness, even for aborigine. Two survivors, different sides. Never seen a draw...thought it wasn't possible, but you two've started thinking! Ha! Anyway...half an hour. Better get lost."
"How do we get out..please, we don't.."
"Shut up! Good. Now. I can give you two a lift to D-11. Their state line is just across the border of this warzone."
"I..thank..thank you? Thank you. So much." A tear rolled painfully down the other cheek. The red soldier spoke. "What about me? I'm...red."
"Red or blue, you two aren't going to be walking around scot free. You're soldiers! You belong on a warzone, and D-11 and S-9 are going to make sure their soldiers remain soldiers. You don't want to kill each other, your problem. You gotta lose those goggles if you want to walk free. Now..do you want a ride or not?"
"Yes. I think."
"Again. You think," the dunestalker shook his head vigorously. "Queer, like I said. Strange things are happening here. The states aren't going to like it one bit, so we'd better get moving, since I spy something right now to the west. Most like D-11 is already sending in their RCBE's. S-9 has one unclaimed sector between this warzone and themselves. This war was over that sector, I think. Usually the winner takes the loser's sectors, but this was an exception rule war. But the clouds spread, and we must move right now."
The soldiers, thinking all the while, agreed.
Surely enough, to the west, on the edge of the horizon where it was barely visible, there grew an expanding cloud of dust, and a faint rumble reverberated through the dunes. The RCBE's were coming. The dunestalker boarded his groundjet, and the two soldiers who had thought followed him quickly.
In a few seconds the jet was howling away over the endless stretch of death, and had disappeared beyond the far dunes of the warzone.
In a few dozen minutes they passed a sign saying "WARZONE B-28, Authorised for combat purposes for state governments only. DO NOT TRESPASS. CAUTION: High radiation area".
Said the monolithic neon blue signpost. Along the roads, blue flags fluttered, each with a white star in a circle emblazoned on it.
"D-11," said the dunestalker. "You can take off those masks now. We're out of the radiation zones. Only warzones are irradiated-the state governments bomb them with mininukes so that they're clear and no one interferes on them-warzones are neutral land, and kept only for wars. Radiation does the trick."
Once again, feeling terrified, blue soldier took off his mask, goggles and all. Air gushed against his skin, like cool water, drying his tears. He scrubbed them off with his fingers, feeling his young, smooth face. Red soldier took of the mask as well. Also young, she was a "Woman.?", said blue soldier. "Yes."
The blue soldier wondered why he had stated such an obvious fact, and why he had felt a somewhat familiar tinge of unease at seeing a woman behind.behind what? A soldier's mask? He shook his head and realised she was beautiful.
"Right. Now to D-11."
The walls of the state of eleven sectors and the blue flag of virility rose up from the horizon, looming above the barren wastes, crisscrossed with highways. Under arches they went, and the soldiers gazed at the cityscape as if for the first time in their lives. Cities had birthed them, monstrous and huge. No longer cities. Only states. There was a vague red mist everywhere. The dunestalker said "It's the blood of a thousand wars; blood of soldiers like you two embedded into the earth and carried in dust over states and warzones. And now it settles in the heat of cities. Some call it the Fog of War. The world is full of it." For whatever reason, the two soldiers were terrified at this, but found it an unlikely explanation.
Lights stretched up everywhere, groundjets and cars screamed past them. The roads were paved with neon; blazing tiles of light, constantly moving and glowing to form letters: images. ***LATEST NEWS: WAR (D-11 v. S-9) ENDS IN UNEXPLAINED DRAW>EQUAL DECEASED ON EITHER SIDE LEADS TO DEADLOCK. WAR ENDS IN DRAW>NO SURVIVORS?>>YET TO BE CONFIRMED.***
Letters and news scrolled under the wheels of cars, under the smoke of the aborigine's groundjet.
"Two soldiers who think. This is big. Too big for the aborigine. With two soldiers thinking, something could happen, and I don't want to screw that up. I'm going to take you to the Armourer. He knows all about the states. He'll tell you what to do in D-11. Yes, the Armourer will know."
The weak light bulb flickered once, twice, as a huge red steam fly swatted its dark wings against its hot surface, rebounded, and hit it again. Amano, the Armourer stood under the dim glow and gazed at the two soldiers almost lovingly, lean arms and bald head glistening with sweat and/or grease.
"The Armourer. Amano. One and the same. Amano will tell you what you need to know, and tell you what to do. I entrust you two soldiers to his care. The Dunestalker wishes you luck, as does the aborigine. If War went wrong..Ha! Perhaps one day..one day something will happen."
The aborigine disappeared into the storm outside the sliding door of the Armourer's garage.
The red soldier found a tear rolling down her cheek. She wiped it hastily off, and thought, thought so hard. Why? Why a tear? The blue soldier held her, and wondered why he was doing so. She felt comfort. The blue soldier felt strange, empty again. Because the dunestalker was returning to his radioactive dunes? He didn't know.
The Armourer grinned. Beneath his cracked lips, his teeth glowed a bright blue. Or the artificial fluorescent implants in his sockets, which once held teeth, glowed. One push of his left canine and the lights in his mouth would wink out. It was a convenient source of light during power failures. And a new style.
"Soldiers thinking," he laughed. And laughed again, mouth glowing. "What's next?"
The soldiers wondered.
"One from Esnine, one from Dee'éleven. My, my. This is the chance. This is it! The states will fall. The war system will collapse. You, my two loves, will teach the Boys Up There in the Towers of the State Governments, a lesson. A lesson that will go down in History! Won't that be something? We haven't had history in this Place for what? A century? More! These lands have forgotten everything but war. The War System will fall. You two will lead the way, my loves. Yes you will! My loves, I haven't forgotten! I haven't forgotten about history!" Click! A switch flicked in the gloom, and one of the walls glowed, alive with flickering projections from somewhere in the ceiling-huge images dancing like fireflies across the concrete.
A mushroom cloud blossoming, pictures of old yellow pages, writing, paintings of men on horses and more horses dead men, soldiers from across time united then a bald old man in a white wisp and spectacles, a man getting shot in a car, people, so many people thick swarming holding up signs, boards with writing, writing(peace), (no war), people milling about fields with animals and huts in the distance, a tower burning against the blue sky, and stop. Flick of a switch.
"Enough, my dears. I remember before this world, when there were lands with history. Now there is nothing but the war system. States in a nameless land, all fighting for sectors. In their allocated warzones. Maybe the world hasn't changed...but never mind that! The War System must go!" He whipped on a silk suit. "Sit! First, names. You are Jack, and you are Jill. Thy names, done! Now, let me tell you, Jack and Jill, about the war system."
"We remember things!" blurted out Jack, with a sob. "I remember..but so..so vague..feelings, I think. Emotions, res..res-ponses. Things. About being, what is it? Being. Being..not a soldier. Being."
"So many things," added Jill, and stroked Jack's arm. "We feel. We think. But we are..not meant to. Not meant to?"
"I tell you now, my loves. Oh yes, beauties. The thinking soldiers!", he beamed with a glowing smile. "The war system. In These Lands, there are thousands of sectors of land, and individual states fight for more and more sectors. More sectors is more land is maybe one day a country is one day more power is one day the ultimate dream! More power! To venture beyond the shores of this land without fear of being annihilated by whatever lies beyond the oceans. Maybe other countries? Ha! The country is nothing but a dream of the past now, my dears. So the states fight, once they were groups of people in secluded cities, with little secluded philosophies, religions(something again of the far away past, too far away to explain), ways of thought. They fought, they grew into bigger cities, states. Now a few sectors are left, and the states fight for them. On neutral land-the radioactive warzones. When two states want to fight, their governments teleconference on their beautiful Sonaro2800S/L screens and they decide a date and a warzone. And they have a war. Whoever wins, acquires the sectors of the losing state, and assimilates that state-victory is decided by the deceased-the side with any surviving soldiers wins. The rest, my loves, as you might have guessed, and have seen, die. States are named after an alpha bet. A letter soldiers of thought, in case you forgot. An alphabet and the number of sectors it has. D-11 equals the State D with eleven sectors." Anamo paused to take a breath, and his teeth flickered.
"Now all that brings us to the soldiers. Aye, you. Soldiers of the war system of the Battling States of This Place. Quite simply, soldiers are clones, batch produced in huge masses by the states in the throbbing forges, the genetic factories that pulsate underneath their Governing Towers. Ha! Clones, produced ready for combat, engineered and planted with highly advanced chips in their brains. Yes, their brains are seeded with little bits of metal that tell them what to do-like little antennae to pick up the instructions of Big Brother! Up in the Governing Towers. Basically, the soldiers nowadays are remote controlled by their respective governments. Little mini-sat computers embedded in their cloned brains," breath. "But, yes. As you can see, you are not clones. You, my lovely sweet dears, oh my dears I could just taste you so sweet you are my saviours oh yes the end of this era of warring factions you are. Are the older model soldiers, the southern states are a little backward in that way," he sighed in a somewhat pleasurable fashion. The soldiers gazed, terrified by his teeth and what they were hearing.
"They just began with the clones, you see. You belong to the last batch of the old model soldier-hand bred by parents, grown from spunk and egg. You, my lovely redeemers, are children born from wombs, grown up and taught as people. Randomised conscription into the state military. Lottery, and the two of you were taken into the military at prime age, probably a week or so ago. The government then wipes your memory, or most of it, the unnecessary fragments of life of history, and plants their highly advanced oh so highly advanced little chips in your brains to tell you what to do, see, to control your thoughts. You were trained in a week to be the perfect soldiers, my dears. Parts of your humanity linger, to pop up randomly, as you have so deftly observed. The rest is told through remote control and little chips to be nothing but soldier. One remote control command from the gov base, and you'll go inactive, go to sleep till the next war."
"That..that means they can shut us down anytime they want."
"Indeed, Jack, indeed. You've hit the nail but not on the head. You two..my loves," Amano grinned and hissed with a sharp intake of breath. "Are anomalies. You two are anomalies. Something that hasn't existed in the war system since its glorious inception, following the collapse of the paradise of civilisation that was, to those living in it, in the past, a hell. Now there's this to rival their hell, the real hell is here. Hahaha! Oh my, something went wrong, you see. The remote control towers were attacked during war D-11 v. S-9. Attacked by terrorists. Freedom fighters, rather. Yes, attacked in both states-a coordination both striking and quickly quenched by State Government guarding troops. There was a temporary shut down of the transmission towers. For a few seconds. That was all it took. The chips in your heads couldn't take the load-couldn't figure out what to do, so they screwed up. Shut down. Quirked up. Did something to stop you two, the sss sole survivors of the war, from killing each other like lovely soldiers should. In the meanwhile the insurrections in the Government Towers of D-11 and S-9 were quickly stopped, with a lot of bloodshed. And that was the end of the little mess up." He paused again, putting on leather gloves.
"Or so they think! The anomalies will become the saviours of this hellish time."
He tightened a shining bowtie. Gloves, suit, and white silk shirt.
"But why? We're just two..people."
"Why, my loves? Because you are not people! You are soldiers! Only someone like you, or you, can get into the State Towers of any state. Because you are registered soldiers property of the government with neat little electronic signatures in the chips within your little brains to tell the sensors guarding every door to every Government Tower in every State so. You can just walk in through the backdoor of the State Government, and sabotage! Ha! Every Government official has a chip in his brain, you see. The chips radiate little waves that set off little sensors. Similar to the soldier chips."
"How did the insurrection take place?"
"Suicide bombers flew in through the windows on jet gliders. All died, after all. So! Not to worry. You will be the saviours." His smile gleamed and glowed.
"I am Amano, I am rich, I have contacts, and I am The Armourer. I will tell you, my loves, what to do. I will give you the weapons. And I will lead forth the true insurrection, and free this land from the war system." Another switch flicked, and a wall opened up to glittering black steel. He picked up a heavy gun, wiping its muzzle clean with his gloved hands.
"My loves, it is time..as my dear friend the aborigine so tactfully puts it, for something to happen!"
Many days later.
The roads scrolled with neon scrollwork, streaming past wheels and jets, glowing sidewalks spattered with driving rain. The words lit up the city roads and pavements. News.
**UPDATE(6 /MONTH 4):WAR (D-11 v. S-9 II) IN PROGRESS FROM AM 1200 ON WARZONE B-28>NO ADVANTAGE DETECTED>>FURTHER INFORMATION PENDING**
State Government D-11 Remote Battle Command Transmission Tower.
He had already pushed the GO button. The war had begun, the soldiers enabled. The first batch of clone soldiers. The old models were still mixed up between them, but they'd discarded most of them. Quick mass slaughter. They were, after all, expensive to keep around. Too many mouths to feed, intravenous or not.
He took a deep drag on his cigarette, and enjoyed its wreath. Laurel. Loosened his tie and leaned back. The alarm went on.
Someone had infiltrated the tower complex.
He didn't fidget or panic . Security would take care of the rest. The soldiers: control was up to the control chamber below his room. All he had to do was push go. Now to wait.
But the sliding doors hissed, and two figures in overcoats and goggled masks walked in, looking like pig demons out of a porcine hell, biomechanical snouts rasping, and gloved hands clutching machine guns.
"How did you get in the tower?" he asked, gaping.
"It's time, Governor, to taste your own medicine." A male voice.
The Governor sweated, and the cigarette fell from his limp lips. The wreath above his head began to dissipate, leaving behind only the faint odour of burnt tobacco. Two muzzles stared him in the face.
"We've sealed off the entrances around your chamber. You're trapped, so don't waste your breath. It'll take a while to hack through. We'll be gone by then."
"Wha-what? Do you want?"
"Medicine, good governor, medicine. Only to deliver it, with no sugar, I'm afraid. I was once one of your soldiers."
The Governor's eyes widened, and his pants dampened as he felt something go below his gut. A reek wafted up to invade the tobacco smell. The Governor's lips were now grey and bloodless. "Us v. S-9, war I. No victories: draw." He murmured, almost inaudibly. But the figure with the snout heard it. "Correct," he whispered. "You almost made me forget what it was like to be human, Governor." He walked up to the wet panted man. "Almost."
"Now, to the medicine. I'm going to become the remote control now, Governor." He pushed the muzzle of the gun to the Governor's shining head. "Your remote control soldiers. They're killing red right now. Now, we want them to kill blue. Yes, kill each other. Let your little toys destroy themselves. We won't stop with this state, you know. Every Tower, every state, every army. One by one, every one of them. Now, we begin. Kill blue. Make it so."
"Oh.please..n-no. I.g." The muzzle pressed harder. He swallowed, and bent to the control panel. Buttons, glowing. GO. STOP. SD. One red, one green, one orange. The last one. Orange. SD. Self Destruct. He pushed the button. The figure holding the gun shivered imperceptibly. That could have been him on the battlefield. One push, and he'd be killing fellow soldiers. Blue. Screens blinked. Numbers flashed. Rapid losses of soldiers, deceased numbers increasing by the second. The Governor sweated.
"Now, S-9 wins." A female voice. The other figure.
"Yes, for now. Just for now, Jill. Then, we will spread victory. The Armourer awaits results. We will destroy the war system." The figure went over to stroke Jill's shoulder. The Governor gaped with white lips. The damp patch had grown. The figure turned back to the Governor.
"No, Jack. I'm afraid not." The female voice again. Jack turned around, only to see a handgun staring him in the face. Jill took off her mask. The Governor wheezed. She was startlingly beautiful, her hair black as darkest midnight, shimmering on her overcoat. The pistol pushed against Jack's head.
"Wh..what's this, Jill?"
"I..S-9. S-9 will rule this land. D-11 has fallen. As will all the states."
"N..no. This..but..you're n.."
"Yes, Jack. Yes I am. I am doing this. S-9 will win this war." A tear trickled down her cheek, another down the other cheek, to pool between her lips. Her eyes shone. "I'm sorry, Jack. I'm s-so sorry. I'm not--S-9 will win--doing this. I don't know wh--I can't help it. I didn't know, Jack. I really didn't. I didn't know I was..am.am still under S-9." The tears flowed freely. She held the gun firm to his head.
"Th-this was an infiltration, Jack. They wanted this. They've taken con--control...again. The terrorist insurrection..all..all planned. S-9 s-saw..all-plan..all a plan. I'm th--their tool. They..just waiting f--for the right..time to take ov-ver me again..oh, Jack no. I. I must kill you. I..kill..S-9." Her eyes glazed. A sob dissolved. "I must kill you, Jack. And the Governor." Trickle. The tears, unrelenting. "I must, for the victory of S-9 over D-11, take all, conversion to S-20."
A droplet hung from her chin, like a crystalline star edging over the smooth horizon. She cried, but showed no sign of it now. Except the tears.
"I'm sorr-for S-9." She moved her hand, fired. The Governor jerked in his chair as his chest spat red all over his starched white shirt. Before the second was up, and the smoke still hung in the air, another shot was fired.
Jack fell to the ground. His last thought was love. He had heard the word, coming from the lips of the Armourer. But now he felt, felt something that rememberance connected to the word love. He wondered what that meant before dying.
On 6/month 4 state S-9 became S-20. D-11 disappeared.
Back to square one.
"Life is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."
- William Shakespeare
Indrapramit Das is an 18 year old student from Kolkata, West Bengal, India. He is currently studying A levels in the Calcutta International School Society and hopes to continue his education abroad.
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