There were a dozen tents in an open field. Sergeant Tare Radost decided this is where he would be, so there they were. Around him was a portable fence and twenty-five men doing their national duty. Ditches were being dug, wires strung, rifles cleaned.
Private Leo Baldwin was worried. Boot camp had been rough, and now here he is, digging a ditch, waiting.
“Cory,” he said, “I don’t know about this mission. You said we’re going to the center of the village?”
Corporal Cordura Abocado had been assigned to Radost for six months. He told his wife that it felt like six years.
Abocado intoned the Army line: “We have to deliver a message to the tribal chief, and we have to make a showing of it.”
“So, the Sergeant thinks that we have to put on this act of bravery to keep our credibility here? “
“That’s not how to look at it.”
How should this be looked at, Abocado thought to himself. I report to a crazy damn bastard who doesn’t give a shit if he lives or dies.
When we were young, you slapped me away with your easy words.
Now I see you on the street every morning and cannot approach you.
The sharp ice you wear on your lips make me afraid.
I dream of you every night, lovers in a garden, children playing,
growing old together.
I wake from you every morning, trembling.
Her warm eyes embrace
our children’s smiles and my soul
We sit by the fire
A story told to
little ones in the playground
Laughs, shout, tell me more!
You can elike me
but you won’t feel my warm heart
Touchscreen has no soul
Silence had fallen. The trees were bare, and there was no rustling in the wind. Low, dark, empty clouds could be seen moving beyond the treeline in the fading light. High clouds covered the sky. He was soaked from the storm. The cold gripped him, pushed him, admonished him. Mountains all around, the lake behind, every direction looked the same. With luck, the stars would be a guide tonight, the Milky Way pointing.
Johannes started shaking, first from cold, then from fear. Control, control, he thought. Decisions had to be made, one step, then another. Remember your father’s fireplace, he thought, remember the family hearth. Control your fear, choose your destiny, survive one minute, one hour, one day, each one different.
Just as the sun disappeared, the clouds above him started to part.
Choose your destiny, he thought, but the clouds had their own.
Lead raining from the front,
He runs with his brothers firing,
Shocks rise through him,
Men fall around him,
Target, approach, battle, victory,
It was another day.
At night he thinks of his loss of her, his old home, his old life,
He does not want to return there,
He is home here,
Does he have what it takes to return?
“Your destiny, please.”
The synthetic voice, female to most who hear it, had been asking this question for hundreds of years.
The voice had been programmed to wait 10 seconds before asking again. Most who hear the voice respond quickly, as each person has had a lifetime to think about their answer.
Only a few choices are available, on this planet that the off-world colonists call the Pale Brown Dot. Earth had been off-limits to the colonists for 1,500 years, when the seas turned fetid, the land was covered in filth, and the air became misnamed.
Those remaining on the planet found, within the shrinking Survival Zone, that recycling was the only option.
“Dr. Green, your destiny, please.”