Two boys both just over 19 were wracking the field with machine gun fire. They kept count of the bodies they dropped in the dirt every time the trigger was pulled.
“Oh fuck to the right!” Yelled the boy feeding the belt of bullets into their chamber.
“Got it!” Yelled the lad swinging his gun to the right at a charging soldier as he leapt over a corpse he was caught in the gun’s sights and before the soldier even heard the burst he saw the fire bursting from the muzzle and felt the hot lead punching through his chest and exploding out of his back,
“Shit that was a close one!” The ammo feeder celebrated
His comrade breathed a sigh of relief “Yeah it was.”
“Alright, my turn to fire.”
“Charge!” Came the order and a quietly waiting row from the uniform heard would rush into the path of a machine gun’s bullets. None of them were phased by the clattering of the gun or the way its bullets cut away at the body like a sculptor does with stone.
In some ways, the combat fatigues obscured how uniform these men like combat dolls appeared. One would have to get close enough to see past the helmet and notice their identical cold blue eyes or peel back the camouflage to see the same body colored with the same flesh.
They were an industrially produced biological unit that was engineered to appear human and in many ways it came very close. They awoke in the world in the body of a full grown man, but with brains that hadn't developed past infancy.
Their neurology was augmented by computers that could issue commands through the neural network when prompted by simple auditory commands such as “Charge” or “Stop”. The neural computers were a relatively small tech investment when compared to the original plan to use machines. Flesh comes cheaper than alloys.
They were little more than chemical machines created to simulate the act of killing for new recruits who were virgins in the ways of death. They were little more than blow up dolls for war. Raw recruits got to see the blood pour from a freshly inflicted knife wound, they got to feel the warm crimson cover their hands and spill onto the ground.
They got to feel what it's like to pull a bayonet out of a rib cage and feel the blade ricochet off bone, they got the experience of hearing men bleat like sheep after a bullet cut through their spine leaving them to crawl through their own blood.
The machine gun let out one last burst before going silent. The moaning of mortally wounded clones strewn across the killing fields could be heard along with the steady tapping of the rain the cries of the dying drifted back to the waiting horde of fodder. The clones had no names but in at least one computer system they were associated with a file number. Clone 112029-78 (named for the date and sequential order he was created) was feeling experiencing fear. The brain stem that operated the bio-machine was developed enough to react to the stimuli from the sounds of the dying.
“You boys ready?!” A drill instructor called out after a moment.
“Yes, sir!” Was the enthusiastic reply
“Alright, here they come! Charge! Barked the sergeant
At this moment 112029-78’s brain function was overridden by the nanomachines welded to its nervous system, and its legs began to move and he found himself running into the artificial no man's land, but this time the gun did not fire.
“The guns jammed!” yelled one of the trainees.
“Stop!” Shouted the drill sergeant and all the clones simultaneously stopped where they were to await further instructions.
Fate intervened and at least for the moment, 112029-78 was spared from being gunned down. The day came to an end, and he was herded with the rest back into storage so they could be used tomorrow.
The storage facility was a large dark room with restraints built into the walls to hold all the clones in place. They were strapped in and the lights shut off. The impenetrable darkness engulfed the room and 112029-78 just stared into the black. The clones did not converse. They had nothing to say to each other.
One way or another each and every one of them would be slaughtered, and life would end and suddenly as it began, but it was of no matter. When you have no background, no experiences, no origin death gives you little to contemplate.
Darkness is timeless. On occasion, his eyes began to sting and 112029-78 remembered to blink. He could feel himself dissolving in its grip. His deprived senses slowly faded, and the line between existence and oblivion blurred for a moment. For the bewildered clone it almost a return to something more familiar.
The sound of heavy footsteps and shrill laughter awoke the lonely clone. The door opened, and the light from the hallway cut through the darkness. Drunken soldiers charged into the room and began unstrapping the clones and herding them outside.
The idling military trucks growled like metallic beasts. One soldier hung out of the driver’s side window and vomited before wiping his mouth an taking another drink. The clones were loaded up onto the flatbeds, and the trucks took off into the night.
The human-like livestock sat quietly. They had less of an understanding of what was happening to them then the terrified cattle filing into a slaughterhouse. Their bodies shivered in the cold autumn rain, and their teeth chattered, but their icy blue eyes remained as expressionless as ever.
The trucks arrived in front of a Victorian style mansion. It was officially the officers club turned into a frat house, and initiates were taking part in macabre hazing rituals. The mansion sat at the edge of al large field. The muzzles of automatic weapons flashed in the darkness, and the explosion of a hand grenade was followed by cheering.
The clones were ordered off the trucks.
The ground was slippery with blood. The mansion's walls vibrated with the sound of music that fueled the drunken aggression. Uncounsionse soldiers were strewn about the lawn, and stumbling officers made no attempt to exert any control. They indulged their most violent impulses with gory carnival games played with military hardware. Clones buried to their necks had their heads smashed like melons by sledgehammers, others were torn apart by high powered rifles in shooting gallery games, and others were used in a fireworks show where claymores and hand grenades were detonated creating explosions of blood and flesh.
112029-78 was brought into the field. His flesh was raised with goosebumps. The frigid cold gnawed at his face, and his bare feet sunk into the watery mud. The clone’s mind didn’t have the faculties to dwell on how similar this orgy of blood was to the official training exercises he was fortunate enough to miss out on that morning
“Alright, first one to land a hit wins!” shouted a dissolved looking officer.
The soldiers cheered again, and the games began.
“Charge!” Shouted the officer and the first wave of clones ran into the field.
The soldiers waited for them to get a little ways out before they started picking up hand grenades. It was hard to see in the dark and the icy rain running into their eyes didn’t help, so they took their time to line up their throws. After a few more seconds, they lobbed the grenades down the field like quarterbacks practicing before a game.
There was a heavy silence followed by scattered bursts and flashes that tore through the darkness and the soldiers erupted in applause.
“Alright count em up!” The drunken officer ordered.
A few soldiers ran into the field disappearing into the dark. There were a few bursts of gunfire before the emerged to announce the scoring.
“Mahoney won that round!” was the announcement.
The crowd cheered, and a soldier stepped out of the crowd to take a celebratory bow before being pelted by beer cans.
“Alright alright calm the fuck down!” The officer said with a grin. “Alright, Mahoney you Irish fuck you’re going to the next round!”
The next line of clones moved forward.
“Charge!” The officer shouted as he fired his service pistol in the air.
112029-78 was two rounds away from getting eviscerated by shrapnel. The average life expectancy for a military training biological unit was about 24 hours so either way his time was almost up.
Whether or not fate is predetermined or just the sum total of life’s chaos is beyond human comprehension, whatever it is it intervened on behalf of 112029-78 For a second time that day.He was pulled from the line by four soldiers. That was twice already today.
The leader of the trio was a Lieutenant with a round red face and squinty eyes. He was followed by a motley crew of troops of varying rank and one quiet man hidden behind a gas mask.
“Alright Alright hear me out.” Said the drunken lieutenant. “We can rig him with c4 and when the new guys come out of their barrack tomorrow will blow the motherfucker up and showered them with guts!” he announced triumphantly.
“Yes, sir!” replied an inebriated private who gave a solute with a beer in his hand and a grin on his face.
They found a Humvee.
Corporal, you drive I'm too fucked up,” Said the lieutenant.
“I don’t think Yates can even see straight sir.” giggled a trooper.
“Alright fuck it I got it,” said the lieutenant and they piled into the Humvee.
112029-78 found himself sitting between the silent soldier wearing the gas mask and Corporal Yates, who was resting his head on the window while his drool pooled on the floor.
“Alright we’re almost there right him.” the Luitenent ordered.
A soldier started wrapping wires around 112029-78 while another took the explosives out of a backpack.
“This is going to be hilarious.” the lieutenant chortled.
While they were rigging 112029-78 to explode like a human pinata the silent soldier threw off his gas mask.
112029-78 looked at him. they had the same glassy blue eyes and pale flesh, he was a clone.
“What the fuck?!” Barked the soldier holding the explosives.
The clone looked 112029-78 in the eyes before pulling a grenade from his jacket pocket and yanking out the pin.