Author : Duncan Shields, Staff Writer

“Oh please let me die for you! Please!” said the gleeful soldier in front of me.

Soldier. I couldn’t believe we called them soldiers. I mean, she’d had the proper basic training and had passed all the physicals and all that but I don’t know why we even had physical tests for these bullet sponges.

“Not yet, Tara.” I said through my rad-suit’s throat mike. We were pinned down behind the wall next to the Tel-set’s compound, primitive kinetic missiles they called ‘bullets’ thudding into the red earth around us. It was red from the blood of all the soldiers I’d killed coming in this close during our invasion. Seeing it fantail up under that hail of bullets reminded me of Mars.

“Now?” she gasped with barely restrained giggles. She reminded me of my five year old child back home saying “Are we there yet?”

We’d taken the prisoners and rewired their minds. They didn’t have any hardtap backups or defenses. Still a hundred per cent biological. Easy. Like building a train set. We hooked up their follower centers to their pleasure centers to their religious awe centers to their love centers.

The result was that we ended up with human shields that were aching to die for us and followed our orders unquestioningly. Their eagerness was repulsive. I didn’t like it. By some cyclical reasoning, it was determined that making them love us made it morally alright to send them into certain death. It helped that they usually knew some of the enemy. It made it easier for them to get closer when we sent them, smiling and waving, back towards the compounds.

I could see the radiation poisoning starting to work on Tara. She wouldn’t have long without a suit. If I kept her here much longer, she wouldn’t be able to walk. Thin streams of blood trickled down from her eyes and nose to her smiling mouth. She absent-mindedly wiped it away like she was a tired child and didn’t want to go to bed.

“Okay, Tara. Now.” I said. She clapped and shrieked, bouncing. Her happiness was contagious. I smiled despite the gruesome look of her. “Turn around.” She squealed and turned her back to me. I keyed in the primer numbers to the explosives strapped to her back. The readout blinked up with three minutes to go.

“Okay Tara, you ready?” I asked. She wiggled like a puppy on Christmas morning.

“Yes boss, YES!” she yelled back.

“One….twooooo….” I held back. She was poised like a sprinter, shuddering and taut, waiting for me to say the magic final number. She was actually quite pretty despite the scars I could see on her scalp from the operations and the pale, pale dying skin of her.

“Three!” I shouted and slapped her on the ass.

She ran up over the hill, scrabbling in the bloody sand. The bullets stopped when they realized she was on their side. I heard her footsteps get softer in the distance amid the sounds of celebration. A loved one had returned to tell a great tale of survival.

I thumbed down my sun visor and locked my joints with heat-retardant foam. Her proximity timer counted down to zero. I chinned the trigger.

The world went white and then black.

The recon ship would dig me out of the sand when they saw the mushroom cloud.

Mission accomplished.

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