Author : Catherine Preddle
â€œWhat the hell happened out there, Corporal?â€
â€œGeneralâ€¦ General Dalton, Sirâ€¦â€ The young soldier stammered in surprise and tried to sit up at the same time.
â€œEasy, son. Lie back down.â€ Christ, the General thought to himself, this boy was young enough to be his grandson. He shot a worried glance at the medical technician as the soldier collapsed, coughing and spluttering, back onto the narrow metal bed. Out of sight of the boy, the technician silently tapped his watch. The last thing they both wanted was for him to realize what was going on.
Once heâ€™d recovered, the soldier looked at the General expectantly, â€œWhere am I, Sir? Itâ€™s so cold in here. I canâ€™t even feel my legs.â€ Thatâ€™s because theyâ€™re not there anymore, the Dalton thought grimly.
â€œYouâ€™re back at the base, in,â€ he hesitated for a moment, searching for the right words, â€œin the medical unit. Now, what do you remember?â€
â€œIt â€¦ it was chaos, Sir. Intelligence was wrong about the firing range of the enemy laser cannons, very wrong. We didnâ€™t stand a chance, Sir.â€ The soldier convulsed into coughing again and closed his eyes, the effort of talking overwhelming him for a time.
â€œItâ€™s alright son, weâ€™re going to figure out what happened.â€ Somebodyâ€™s head was going to roll for this and the General was damn well sure it wasnâ€™t going to be his.
â€œAre my wife and daughter here yet, Sir?â€ Oh great, so the boy was old enough to have a family; Dalton made a mental note to have some kind of valour medal awarded to make sure they were taken care of. The tech was getting agitated now â€“ they must be running out of time.
â€œTheyâ€™ll be here soon. Do you want me to tell them anything in case â€¦ in case youâ€™re asleep when they arrive?â€ He made an attempt to sound breezy.
â€œJust that I love them and Iâ€™m going to be ok, I guess.â€
â€œSure, son.â€ Smiling reassuringly, the General patted him on the shoulder. God, he hated this part the most. â€œIâ€™ll tell them.â€
The boy visibly relaxed and sank further into the bed, shutting his eyes. Dalton continued to stare at him, a lump forming in his throat until the tech interrupted him.
â€œHeâ€™s gone, General. For good.â€ He snapped to attention; he had a job to do here. Bringing these kids back from the dead, even if it was for only three precious minutes, cost the military a fortune, had to be justified by a mountain of paperwork and required authorization at the highest level. But the mission had been sabotaged and he needed eye witness accounts.
â€œHow many more?â€
The technician gestured to the bank of morgue drawers behind him that stretched from floor to ceiling. â€œ43 corpses. 30, maybe 31, possible reanimations.â€
The General grimaced. It was going to be a long afternoon.