Jan 3
The soldier’s story
Entertained me for a time

I wake to the soldier’s pleasant drawl trying to tell the giant next to him his story. Luckily the giant is listening, because I doubt he understands. (I really like to watch people miscommunicate.)

“ . . . all started when I was called to be the special conditions officer for the outer space mission. I am a general specialized in naval warfare and less-than-ideal situations like when all the soldiers have to use oxygen tanks and space suits or when you have to fight in asteroid belts. 

“They found my specialization and age essential in the mission to search the sector beyond known space. They didn’t know what to expect. Maybe an intergalactic war, or maybe a state-of-the-art science project. Luckily the scientists and the equipment necess-ary for the trip took space on just one of our ships. That meant our first priority was safety. 

“While traveling to our chosen sector, we found an alien-riddled planet en route. I took charge of the ground crew. I checked atmo-spheric pressures, oxygen level, etcetera and found it only slightly toxic. The men just had to filter their air. It gave us an advantage because we didn’t have to cover our eyes or ears, just the mouth and nose. We didn’t have to carry anything heavy, just a filter. 

“I gave them the proper mask to wear and then we went down. Then I saw the way the aliens fought. They were never within eyesight really of their comrades. They must have been using some advanced communications technology to coordinate their guerrilla tactics. 

“We were trying new technology too though, because we never had war since before the inception of the database. Our mission was so varied and particular that we decided to equip all the soldiers with it. The masks for sure proved extra useful as HUDs. We then too, had an advanced form of communication on our hands. So I saw every detail as air forces were destroyed and my men died on land. 

“Their guns were fascinating too. When one of my men was hit, a part of them would just disappear. Not as whole as a limb or an appendage, but it looked surgically removed. A rib there, half a face, a kneecap. Then they would start bleeding, like from a deep, clean cut to the bone. These wounds were foreign to me, but I hadn’t really seen any of the kind from bullets either except from the database.

“We had some pretty heavy artillery. At first we were using magnet guns. You know, normal bullets: a burst from kilometers away, have the bullets hit within an inch of each other. Just like the orbitals, but not as shiny. When the lizards started showing up, we brought out the industrial lasers and missile launchers. I saw many of the lizards get as orange as that one’s shoulders.”

The soldier points at the scales of a lizard on the other side of the anteroom. His audience peers confused in that direction moment-arily. General Jess thinks the giant found the remark offensive.

“Just saying, tiger!” he defends.

“Eventually I found their landing craft. I killed the lizards in there; it wasn’t easy, none of it was, but I made it happen. There was the issue of firing large ammunition in an enclosed space. And then there was the other of knowing how the thing worked. The giant door had to be pried open. The buttons felt like they put the ship in emergency mode. They cranked and crackled.

“That was just to get in the cockpit. Then in the cockpit there were just three buttons. I mean three buttons! What do you do with them? I cranked the first one in and then it started for the atmo-sphere. I thought to myself if I had advanced programs what three most basic buttons would I have? First one would have to be return to ship. Second would be to home, meaning the alien planet. And the third would be manual drive. That’s if the creators had any sense.

“So I pressed the third one and the ship crumpled to a stop. I start-ed waving and that did something, I touched the panel next to the buttons and that did something else. I had a quick learning curve because other ships were beginning to approach and investigate. So I found that my hand could demonstrate what I wanted the ship to do, so I threw my hand forward. I took off, but I was also fast approaching the wreckage.

“I maneuvered through the shards of metal. Two ships took after me shooting. I was losing most of their shots in the debris. I mo-tioned my hand to return and I pulsated my index finger, hoping it would understand that I wanted to shoot. Those two disappeared as fast as a popped bubble, but then a hundred more had me covered, and they were avoiding the trajectory of my shots, so I couldn’t get any of them.

“So I tried the first button again, hoping it would just get me away. Instead it got me surrounded and brought right into the ship. The hangar was filled with many different ships, but I knew if I got out quickly and ran for one, I could fly another out of there. I could use the database in my mask to plot a course back to Earth, I could survive.

“They came into the ship before I could blink. I didn’t think to pull out my guns, I was going to run. I fought back, but they hit me good. When I gave up they took me away. I was put in that floating container you saw me in. It kept me from doing anything. A jail, I could get out of. In that there was no escape. And I was forced to go wherever they wanted me to go.
    
“When I saw cousin Jess over here, I had no idea what to expect. All I knew is that the last aliens tried so hard to catch me, they weren’t about to throw me away. I was being put somewhere more deadly, I thought. I assumed . . . I was ready for a fight. I want to fight through this, it’s in my blood. I’d do it alone and die trying, that’s how pumped I am.”