Author : David Burkhart

“Jones! I want your squad to patrol to the far end of sector 6. Don’t engage the enemy unless attacked. We just want to know what’s out there. And take the Roland with you. I know Roland’s new and you haven’t been briefed on all of his capabilities but he will be just fine on the patrol.” barked the commander.

Hours later, deep in enemy territory, the squad rested overlooking a wide valley. Everything they could see was automatically transmitted back to the command center through their combat-vids. The squad was quietly talking and eating combat rations when suddenly Roland raised his hand and clicked the safety on his machine gun off. Immediately the whole squad quietly dove for cover and then froze.

“What is it?” asked Jones.

“Enemy in the brush below us, coming towards us” answered Roland.

“How many?” asked Jones.

“Many, perhaps forty” answered Roland.

“Crap!! Ok guys, move back up into the tree line just under that ridge and then we’ll work our way back from there. Maybe they won’t see us.” whispered Jones.

Stealthily, the squad moved towards the tree line with Roland covering the rear. They were almost to the tree line when the enemy opened up with their weapons. Roland turned and returned fire with his machine gun. Through a seemingly solid wall of bullets flying their way, the rest of the squad dashed to the trees. Through the raging battle, Roland picked off several of the enemy with his deadly accurate machine gun. Suddenly a rifle-propelled grenade hit Roland right square in the face and blew Roland’s head clean off. Roland was punched backward into a sitting position on the ground. Roland’s machine gun went silent. All guns went silent.

“Roland’s dead!! Retreat through the trees. Run!!” yelled Jones to the rest of his squad.

“Stop!! Hold your position!! Wait for the Roland!!” ordered the commander over the combat-auds as he monitored the battle through the combat-vids.

“Sir, Roland’s dead!! They blew his friggin’ head off!! We got to get out of here!!” begged Jones.

“Negative!! Hold your position!! Wait for the Roland!! That’s an order!!” ordered the commander.

The squad watched desperately as the enemy slowly advanced across the field. A headless Roland sat there unmoving as the enemy approached him. Suddenly Roland stood up and started firing with machine guns in each hand. The startled enemy had no chance to escape Roland’s withering gun fire. In a few minutes the enemy was completely eliminated.

“Ok. Get back to base now. As you saw, Roland doesn’t need a head. The head is just for our benefit so we don’t feel uncomfortable around him. The only thing Roland can’t do now is talk so watch for his hand signals.” said the commander.

“You saved our butts out there. We would never have made it without you.” thanked Jones after Roland was fitted with a new head back at camp. “But how can you tell us from the enemy out there? How do you know who to kill?”

“Roland only kills the enemy.” replied Roland after a second’s thought.

“Yes, but how do you know who the enemy is?” persisted Jones.

“The enemy is those I have killed” replied Roland with a deep rumbling laugh as he walked away.

Oh great, thought Jones, a killer android with a sense of humor.

(Inspired by the song “Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner” by the late, great, fantastic Warren Zevon)

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