Author : John Logan

Drill Sergeant Harvey K. Buicks watched the line of soldiers as they stood taut and strong. Their backs concave, chests out, muscles rippling. He turned to a small man in a white lab coat who twitched nervously next to him.

“Things were good until about a week ago. I hope you can sort this mess out,” said Buicks.

“Can you tell me exactly how the… uhm… anomaly manifested itself?” said white lab coat. His plastic pen paused over a tiny PDA, the fingers itching to write.

Buicks scowled. “What? Speak plainly man.”

“What happened to make you call us?”

“I’ll show you,” said Buicks and walked over to one of the soldiers. A black balaclava under a helmet of dark alloy covered the soldier’s head. His features were hidden except for two glittering green eyes that stared ahead.

“Soldier,” barked Buicks in his best drill voice. “Shoot this man.” His index finger swept upwards to point at white lab coat.

“Drill Sergeant Buicks!” gasped white lab coat and staggered backwards looking for an escape route.

Buicks face was grim and emotionless, like oven-baked granite. The soldier raised his rifle and fired. The white lab coat was pelted with circles of blue dye as he turned to flee. He staggered only a few paces then came to an abrupt halt.

“Paint,” said Buicks.

White lab coat sighed with relief and then his face turned red with embarrassment. “Was that really necessary?” he squeaked.

Without answering, Buicks handed the same soldier his own pistol. “Fully loaded with live ammo,” he said to the soldier. “Now, kill him.”

The soldier raised the pistol. White lab coat cringed, shielding his face with both arms. The soldier trembled for a second and then at lightning speed turned the gun on himself and fired. His head was driven back by the impact and he crumpled to the ground, a dark stain of blood pooling on the tarmac.

“They’re all like that,” said Buicks as he bent to retrieve the pistol. “The new ones that came in on this batch are all affected the same way.”

White lab coat frowned and stepped cautiously forward. “Curious,” he said and began to flip through his PDA.

“Can you fix it?” said Buicks as he shot a look of utter disgust at the line of helmeted men. “A soldier’s no good if he can’t kill on command. By god I’d rather have the real flesh than these synthetics.”

A few moments passed in which Buicks growled and paced like a caged lion. Then quite suddenly white lab coat spoke, “I have it,” he said. “Looks like a decimal calculation went wrong in the survival programming.”

“And you can fix it, right?” said Buicks.

“Easily,” said white lab coat and tapped the PDA with his pen. “There it’s done. The relay net is already updating the numerical data.” He lifted his gaze to the line of soldiers and spoke, “State version number.”

“Version 5.10,” they said in unison, their voices sounding like a hollow recording.

White lab coat grinned, pleased with how swiftly he had handled the problem. “Now, Drill Sergeant Buicks, is there anything else I can assist you with?”

“Yes,” said Buicks and handed his pistol to the nearest soldier. “Kill this man.”

A red mist sprayed the air as the bullet pierced white lab coat’s skull.


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