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A Job
His life is his job. His job is taking lives. He’s good at what he does. Read the story below, on Kindle (, or PDF ( I wasn’t always good at my job. Hell, I haven’t always done it. There was a time — a few decades or lifetimes ago — when I didn’t even know I could be good at it. I enlisted, like so many of my friends, because I needed to. I would have been drafted eventually, and I wanted to do something to help. All those people suffering needed someone to do some good. All these years later I’m not sure it was good we did. Hell, I’m not sure what good is anymore. “Flank right!” “But sir, they’re already flanking us on the left.” “That’s why you’re getting your ass in gear and going to the right, soldier.” “Sir, yes, sir!” It seems that every generation has a defining moment. For my parents’ generation it was the Four-Hour War. India struck first with a missile that hit Beijing. China struck back. India fired again. When all the dozens of nukes were fired, the ones that hit took a billion lives in an instant and another half billion died of radiation poisoning. My dad still talks about where he was that day. My mom doesn’t talk about it, not unless she’s been drinking. “Sir, they’ve overrun our position on the left.” “You mean our former position?” “Sir, yes, sir.” “Any new intel?” “Yes, sir. They’re on foot. Their mechanized units can’t handle the terrain.” “Damn Sherpas can barely handle the terrain.” I was born into a world that avoided nukes, hated nukes, destroyed nukes at all costs. It was taught to me with my letters and numbers in school that nukes were evil. The radiation shield Japan put up to contain the fallout was the shining example of how evil nukes were. Around the time I was ten the scattered, rural survivors of the Four-Hour War got together and created a new government that rejected everything that had caused the war to begin with. They signed a treaty, had democratic elections, and set out to show the world how to recover from the apocalypse. I remember the naive hope we all had. “Sitrep” “Sir, they found the surprise we left.” “Casualties?” “Unconfirmed, but it looks like a dozen troops were hit, sir.” “How much?” “Sir?” “Time. How much time did that buy us?” “I give us an extra ten minutes to exfil, sir.” “Copy that.” Then they tore it all apart. It depends on who you ask, some say it was the African Union that struck the first blow. Others say it was when Russia allied themselves with the Arab-Persian Empire. Some think that the North American Alliance could have stopped it by intervening. I don’t really give a damn. It started and then it got ugly. Diplomacy failed. Negotiators were shot at the table. All pretty bad stuff, to be sure, but when the Indo-Sino regime started using gene-bombs against the Russians I had to do something. I had to enlist. “Move, you lazy sonsabitches! We’ve got ten minutes and two clicks to the LZ. Ain’t none of you want to stick behind and let them figure out how your genes are put together.” “Sir, we have reports of mechanized units closing in on the LZ.” “ETA?” “Eight minutes.” “Damn.” “Sir?” “Did I stutter? Move OUT!” Anyone who’s been through the least bit of school knows about how crappy humans can be. Enslaving races is awful. Killing races is worse. But at least in the past our ancestors had to look in the eyes of the races they hated. They had to round them up into camps or seek them out with troops. There was a chance, no matter how small, that in that moment of contact some inkling of humanity would shine through and stop the atrocities. It happened a few times, for a few people, and the rest of the world, eventually, called for an end to the genocide. But G-bombs take away even the last shred of human connection required. The Indo-Sino regime targeted the Russian genetic markers with their bombs. Genocide had never been so easy or impersonal. I had to fight it. “Sir, exfil won’t land until the mech-units are neutralized.” “The hell?” “Sir, there are three units coming in from the south.” “Get Palma up here.” “Yes, sir.” So I joined the military. And I was good at it. I still am. For whatever reason — God or genetics or willpower — I excelled at everything they asked of me in basic training. I mastered the railguns, I was the top of my class in hand-to-hand combat, I applied strategy and tactics in new ways, I led men and women with purpose, and I qualified for the most elite combat unit in the South American military. They sent me to the capital at Brasilia for advanced training from the best soldiers in the most powerful army in the world. Even there I was the best. I could out think and out fight anyone they threw at me. I felt invincible. But that’s what twenty year old kids are supposed to think, right? “Palma, can you take out those mechs?” “I think so, sir.” “I don’t need a philosopher right now, Lieutenant. What do you got for me?” “Sir, their armor’s too thick, but if we hit the ground in front of ‘em we should be able to neutralize ‘em. For a while, at least.” “Marbles on a floor.” “Sir?” “Nothing, Lieutenant. Proceed.” “Sir.” Before I got into the field, though, the brass made a decision. They’d seen too many people die from the G-bombs to risk undefended troops on the ground. Missile interceptors only helped to disburse the active chemo-viral agents. No armor could defend against breathing and no filter could last for the entire war. Once a place was G-bombed it would take decades for the viral casing to degrade to the point where the genetic change agents within would dissolve under decontaminants. There was no way to fight a war with all that gear on all the time. So they chose me, and a few others like me, for modification. “The mechs are down, sir. They can still fire, but they can’t aim without their legs under ‘em.” “Time until they right themselves?” “We blew up the ground pretty bad, there’s not much for them to stand on.” “Thanks for the description, soldier. Care to answer my question?” “Sir, yes, sir. I give us five minutes, sir.” “Signal for exfil. We won’t get a second chance at this.” For a long time geemos had been doing their thing. They’d become a fringe culture in most places. Some — like Scotland — had outlawed geemos, but most places tolerated them since they became sterile after the procedure. It was the evolution of tattoos. People gave themselves purple skin or glowing eyes or striped fur or tails. Some gave themselves unchecked HGH production, but those ones usually died within a few years due to the strain on the body. Most people either tweaked what was wrong — getting rid of diabetes or cancer — or they made cosmetic modifications. Probably ninety percent of the geemos on earth were indistinguishable from the rest of humanity. They freed themselves of disease gave themselves straighter teeth or bigger breasts or smaller waists or stronger arms. “Sir, where’s Palma?” “Damn!” “Where are you going, sir?” “Get back to base.” “Sir, you’ve only got a minute until the mechs are back up.” “You have your orders, soldier.” “Sir?” “And it’s your turn to buy drinks tonight.” “Yes, sir.” But the brass wanted me to become resistant to the G-bomb. It worked. I’m immune. So is my company. We are the first group of geemos to serve in the South American military. So I guess we’ll always have that. I am Major Artur Paniagua and I led Gee Company in World War Three.
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