Author : Julian Miles, Staff Writer

The mists swirl about our feet and the cold blues of brushed steel surfaces surround us. There is distant hubbub, like a monster stirring in its lair – which is an accurate analogy.

The Major’s eyes open and focus on mine. She sits up: “War?”

“War.” I nod agreement and feel my tacticals run cold. From the glint in her eyes, she’s feeling it too.

They used to go to war with rules. Hundreds of them. Had whole committees of impartial referees to decide what you could and couldn’t do. It took centuries to shake that stupid, selfish habit. War should be terrifying. War should be abhorrent. War should be the final step in a long chain of failures to find a peaceful solution.

But when war becomes the only recourse, it should be done with unmitigated savagery, surgical precision and no restraints. Because when a war is fought, you are trying to make it the last one. You are praying that your descendants never have to go through what you’re going through. No man or woman should have to take weapons in hand to do mortal combat in the pursuit of peace, simply because other people failed to find another way. Naturally, every entity/nation has cadres that are always prepared, but they are just that: an elite few, separate from a society they cannot fit into and could not understand.

When the fighting starts, you make it brutal, you make it atrocious. So that when non-cadre look upon the remains, they are resolved to never permit it again. If you have done your job properly, the losing side will never resurge – because there is no losing side. The only memorial will be the cluster of silo graves that stand in mute testimony to another utter failure of civilisation.

Territories will be realigned. Populations will be transferred. Peace will resume in the appalled aftermath, reminded once again of the necessity for sanity to endure.

I pick up my rifle after sliding both machetes into their scabbards. Checking my charge levels, I exit the tent and go to join my unit. After the warbotics finish their tasks, we must be ready to carry the battle into the enemy before they can recover.

Our cadre will have engaged theirs as ruination fell from the skies. We got the drop on them, so they will fight like the damned. Maintaining the layered pressure of attack is the only element of strategic mastery that counts: the real-time accumulation and analysis of countless tactical outcomes to guide this implacable, nation-crushing offensive.

They call us Terminators – an ironic reference to legendary monsters that sought to overthrow mankind. We are what dead cadre members become: cybernetic agents of slaughter, cryohibernated in the hope that we will never be needed again.

This is only the third time I have been awakened in five hundred years. Mankind is – finally – getting better at peace.

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