A Private’s story

Boom … Boom …

The dull sound of the plasma bomb impacts was resonating through the walls, each of them making the artificial light die several seconds before it could sorrowfully light up again, waiting for the next shock. The air was wet and a scent of dried blood was dominating in the room. The corpses, the beer bottles, the ammunition cases and the broken needles were the classical scenery of a bunker from the past century. I was secure, here. Several hours ago, troops from the revolt of the industrial party had done their shit, a raid in the metal mines. They had taken all the workers out to execute them one by one with shotguns, as if they were nothing more than mutts, while the women were raped and disemboweled.

They would not come back before the next day.

As for me, I was hurt, a tourniquet pressing on my leg. A smoke between two fingers, the assault by the revolted was still passing before my eyes.

They were well-prepared. Our regiment had to get to the special construction site of the Emperor for a basic surveillance mission. The only problem was the swamp section we had to pass, ten miles away from our objective. That’s where they attacked. The night was growing late already and we had to activate our ion lights to detect each others. Suddenly an electromagnetic wave travelled through our equipment and turned off both lights and communications with the imperial guard. My men were falling one by one under the fire coming from behind big trees. The most unbearable was the cracking sound if the bones under the plasma impacts and the screams of the men, muffled by their helmets. I couldn’t do anything; the few desperate shots I fired only met bark. Helpless, I didn’t have any other solution: I had to run, fast and far, the farthest possible from this place where death had decided to strike. Without a glance back, I took the direction opposite to the hail of bullets, following only my instinct, hearing only the fear thundering in my mind. It felt like I was running for hours, and suddenly I felt a strong heat in my leg, an unbearable pain passed through my body, time stopped for an instant and I collapsed on the floor, face in the mud. A laser shot had gotten through my leg. There were tears in my eyes but I had to move; I crawled in the dark water, laboriously looking for a sign of life.

After half an hour, here I was. The bunker was the outpost of a former expansionist colony that wanted to drain the swamp.

I would pass the night here.

 

The next day, there was no ray of light, only the artificial light emitted by the solar satellites on this contaminated planet. Out there, it was only the desert. The whole planet had been turned into a vast battlefield.

It was three years ago. The Intergalactic Mining Stations’ Organization was beginning to set up in the region. My homeland, the Emperor’s third colony, was rich with raw materials and very productive crystal mines. The Organization was wealthy and the vivid cities of the mining industry were increasing vastly. This prosperity was attractive to lots of workers, coming from the entire known universe. But this utopist vision was only a mask hiding the poverty of mines and its ruthless law. Internal revolts happened, revolted minors cutting the access to the mines and stopping the crystal extraction. The IMSO stepped in forcefully, arresting a thousand of them, cutting the off from any familial or social life; they were teleported as forced workers on colonization vessels. The Emperor reacted violently against the company, wanting the immediate cancellation of the sanction. No answer came from the IMSO. The public opinion, shocked by its behavior, asked for the removal of all the factories. Several mining centers were vandalized and a civil war broke out between the population and the army of the intergalactic industrial group. The Organization couldn’t let all these plants between the population’s hands and decided to react against these riots. One month later, about fifty war vessels attacked the planet to make this thriving environment an industrial territory, totally managed by the IMCO.

I decided to sign up in the Emperor’s army to defend my homeland.

At the moment, I had to get out of there. There was a smell of death that just made me restless. I got through the corpses, looking for something useful. Some plasma bowls, food supplements, paper sheets. The rest was family pictures, useless trinkets. And during wartime, money wasn’t really the priority. I finally set fire to the blockhouse, to avoid the infection of this already polluted place.

The weather was pleasant this morning. The fire heated up my face, but I couldn’t linger here too long, with my broken radio and without knowing where I was.

The Emperor needed me to win this war.

The bunker was five miles away from the swamp and was used as an observation post by a little city just behind. Well, when there still was a city. It wasn’t the case anymore. Inhabitants had given way to specters in the empty houses. Burnt skyscrapers were black, windows exploded and concrete walls cracked.

A thick cloud of vaporized metal was floating in the air, barely letting pass any ray of light. I wandered in the streets, staring into each building, looking for information, supplies, ammunitions and, I was still hoping, someone surviving.

There was no grass, no tree, no flower, only several brambles and weeds fighting to live. The more I was going forward, the more I was desperate of finding anyone in this dead place. The shooting pain in my leg was torturing. Exhausted, I sat a moment on the rest of stairs, took a moist smoke from my jacket and lit it. Took a drag on it. The idea that this pleasure was consuming me wasn’t bothering. After all, this death may be more pleasant to me than a laser shot. I closed my eyes.

Everything seemed soft and voluptuous. Each wave of smoke penetrating my lungs was flying and swirling, dancing gracefully with the music faintly coming to my ears. Was I dreaming? It was this good old Wagner and his Walkyries who were transporting me now. The music was becoming urgent: the brass growled, the timbales exploded, hails of bullets echoing to screams and rolling drums, all that formed something fantastic and almost supernatural. Men were screaming and dying several feet away from me, but I was feeling good. Music was growing louder, and it was now the turn for flash grenades and other paralyzing instruments to join. I couldn’t see anything, only this whirling smoke. Then, little by little, screams and shots went less intense; the music became a whisper, giving gently way to the mechanical sound of a tank’s track, a chorus that was given rhythm by sounds more resonating, deeper. It was getting closer. Steps. Someone. There!

It made my blood boil, but suddenly, I had a laser rifle against the temps, and a sadistic smiling mug in front of me.

I couldn’t do anything. No move, no scream. I was just there, paralyzed.

“Come over guys, there’s a living thingy here!”

It went crazy in the stairs, the disorganized and harsh steps mixing with the laughs and questions of the men. They were around ten, very young for the most, but they had peak equipment; beautiful little toys in kid’s arms. Kids playing war.

One of them stepped forward, seemingly the oldest, he was probably not above eighteen. He was wearing an old cap with holes in it and his eyes were hidden behind sunglasses from old times. The bottom of his face was covered by a gas mask which straps let glimpses his cheeks, dirty and badly shaved. He was wearing a long black coat and brown loose pants.

In his hand was resting a classical laser assault rifle. His belt supported plasma grenades and a leather sheath showing the shape of a dagger.

“’You sleepin’?”

I shook my head nervously.

“Well, you’re gonna nicely tell us what you’re doin’ here.”

I told them everything they wanted to know, mechanically, without forgetting a single detail. With the stress, the pain in my leg suddenly came back and I barely could hold back a scream. They laughed at me.

“Okay, cripple, that’s a nice story ya’re tellin’ us, but I really like when there’s an end …”

The teenager took out of his pocket dark gloves, a quiet smile on his face; he wore them while looking at me with an amuser gaze. Then, tenderly, he opened his coat to bring something out, seemingly precious. A gun. It was a middle-sized gun, still working with powder and a firing pin. He wanted to finish me with that? Like a mutt? Questions were ruching in my mind.

“See, pal, as you’re part of the Emperor’s army -which is, I admit, quite correct-, hurt, and almost our age, I’ll be nice to you. I’ll offer you a game. You like games, bud’?”

I couldn’t even answer that he went on.

“Look. There’ll be four bullets in this cartridge. Four bullets, eight places. I’ll put them in, and you’ll tell me if I should turn, or not, the roulette. And once your prayers are done, I’ll pull the trigger. It’s like the Russian roulette, simply in a faster version. Less trying, and more chances to explode you head. If you win, we’ll take you with us. If you lose … You know what’s next, pal.”

He inserted one by one the bullets which obediently slided in their nests, and closed abruptly the cartridge. He turned the roulette with a weary hand, the clinking resonating in my head.

“Do I turn it? Or not?”

Without thinking, I shook my head. The anxiety was burning in me, I was shivering, but I looked at the man pointing the gun at me right in the eyes. Why turn your back to the specter of death when his scythe would catch up to you anyway?

My executor shrugged nonchalantly.

“Okay.”

“Tic.” Concluded the firing pin.