Simon watched as the room filled with nearly every single person available. The feeling, within that space, was one of grief and sorrow. He’d heard the stories, the losses, despite their supposed technical advantage. The enemy was simply far too aggressive, adaptable, which meant for all their bravado, numbers and armour, they didn't stand a chance.
He noticed the room falling into silence, every single person standing to attention, as the commandant arrived to take the stand. His face looked forlorn, despondent, the look of a broken man. Simon had never seen him look this way, in all their years serving together, but times changed, and people changed. Everyone sat, the various coughing breaking the silent for moments at a time.
The commander stood in front of them, just looking at the many faces, the memories, the moments that they’d all shared together. Of course, as Simon knew, most of those moments involved jamming a gun into a face and pulling the trigger but nevertheless, they’d all bonded. They all had each other’s back despite often wanting to knock each other out. Humanity, rats in a cage, seldom allowing themselves to think of a better day.
Opening a folder, on the stand, the commander pressed the com button and started to speak, “At zero-eight-zero-zero hours, yesterday, we received news that the last colony on this planet was decimated by the enemy. No survivors. Not one soul.” The commander looked down at the ground, fighting his emotion, knowing what he’d lost the day before. His family, everything he’d cared for, all gone. “In the next few hours we will have the fight of our lives unless, one person, takes part in an experimental mission. The volunteer will not be returning.”
Simon grasped the implications of what was being asked, instantly, as he glanced around the room. The commander continued speaking as Simon weighed his options and, without thinking or waiting for the details to be provided, he stood, “I accept the mission, Sir.” The entire room looked at him, in silence, as the commander stopped speaking. Normally, to interrupt a meeting in this fashion, would receive penalties but, in this case, he, as well as everyone else within the room, knew what the outcome would be.
The commander slowly closed his folder, throwing a side look to his immediate staff, then returning his view to Simon. “Son,” he said with respect in his voice, “If I could go on this mission I would but I'm not physically suitable. You have done your country a great service on this day and I salute you!” As soon as the words escaped from the commander’s mouth the entire room stood, saluted, then fell deafly silent once more.
Simon walked from the hall, slowly, dazed, thoughts trying to find him, but it was now too late. The freedom of his life, taken from him, by his actions, resonated within his mind. He walked along the corridor, the dark, green, rusting metal, seeming alien to him. His home for the last few years, a place that now felt cold.
He opened the door to the locker room, walked inside, to be greeted by a vacant space. No other soul, all probably in the food hall chatting about what had just happened. Simon sat on the end of the long wooden seat, resting his left shoulder against the cold wall, questioning his actions. The merits of doing such a thing, surely, to him, meant that his life was worth something. He wondered if everything he’d ever done, in his life, actually brought him to this moment. He searched within himself, for the reason as to why he’d done what he’d done, but couldn't magically find anything solid.
The door opened and in walked Bruce, his oldest friend. Simon looked up to the ceiling, for the briefest second, knowing that Bruce had an uncanny way of saying nothing, while saying everything. He was a man of little words. Instead of ‘hello’ you would always get a nod but when Bruce spoke, no matter the words, people listened. A thinker, the one that knew so much yet, as stated, said little. Simon smiled at Bruce, a lost smile, a sad smile, as Bruce sat across from him on the other long wooden seat.
Simon had seen violence, caused violence, yet deep within him rested an emotional person that simply wanted the violence to stop. Somehow. Someday. Simon looked at Bruce, reading his face, knowing that he might as well give in as Bruce could read him like a book. “I know. I know Bruce,” said Simon feeling a mixture of emotion, “Why did I do it? Truth be told I don’t know. I fight day in, day out, doing what’s right. I'm a good man. I respect everyone, within reason. I’d give anyone the world, if I could, yet who am I really? The life of one child. You can’t compare that to my own. I've no wife, no children, an empty heart. I've pushed everyone away Bruce. The big strong man hurting. Not able to let go of his Mother’s face, the love he’s lost. So damn me for wanting to do what’s right. The next time you see a child smile, think of me!”
The emotion, getting the better of him, escaped into the room. Simon knew that Bruce would never judge him, mock him, or run from emotion. This was not the person he was. Simon closed his eyes, not wanting to hurt any further, or to feel, as he hated that side of him with a passion. Bruce, concern written all over his face, leaned forward and said five words, “you’re doing the right thing.” Simon laughed through the emotion, knowing that, once again, Bruce was right. Simon held out his fist, to which Bruce fist bumped him back. The silly moments such as this, always made them smile.
Simon stood upright, the testing phase coming to an end. It had hurt, a few needles here and there causing issues, but so far everything had taken place without any issues. He’d never felt so strong, his body pulsing with whatever they’d done to him. It seemed odd, with all the tech around them, that it still came down to one man finishing the fight. The enemy could detect most of their advanced weaponry, which lead to bio-organic side arms being created. Virtual weapons made from bone. Gristle. Grown human parts made into something else. A near miracle found due to war, hunger, pain and suffering. He knew that this was the way of things, advancements mainly accelerated due to wars, for survival, which didn't make any of this any easier.
The scientist in front of Simon removed the last chest sensor, as he zipped up his flight suit. He’d never seen an outfit such as the one he was wearing, but appreciated the snug, elastic fit. The commander walked over to Simon, a proud look on his face, “You've been here a long time. Are you ready for this?”
“Are you sure? We could find ten other replacements? You’re an asset that we shouldn't lose!”
“Sir, it’s an honour and I’d rather do nothing else!”
Simon heard the words, the hubris in his voice, knowing very well that it was all fake. Inside, if it were not for the new experiences, the attention, as well as the ideal of a glorious ending, he knew that he’d fall to pieces. The mortality of things, the ending of moments, of life, all in front of him. It was too late anyway. Acceptance being the last moment of the rest of your life. He had, finally, accepted his role.
The hours moved past his eyes, the daze still holding him, as the many briefings escaped into the back of his mind. He knew what he had to do. Kill thousands of living, sentient beings in the blink of an eye. It didn't matter that they also had children, had families, as it simply arrived back to ‘us versus them’. The idiocy, the madness, the all-consuming political greed of all things. He’d laugh but that might have annoyed the person speaking in front of him. To him, or was it at him, he didn't really know any more.
Finally, his heart tamed by the boredom of the last hours of his life, Simon stood next to the small dart like craft. Bruce, by his side, the entire base personnel filling the hanger, he knew that he had to say something, anything, otherwise he might never be remembered. The guy that gave his life and said nothing before doing so. Simon looked at his hands, by his side, shaking ever so slightly. ‘To hell with it’, he thought as he stepped forward.
“I know that many of you don’t know me. You probably had no reason to do so. I'm the guy that you can depend on. Talk with. The one that’ll fix anything if he can. I'm the guy that will forget about himself to focus on whatever you need. Whatever you want. Today I'm going to be selfish. I'm going to leave here for one reason. We can all find something, or someone, even a place, to die for. I want to find a reason to live. I want to smile. I want us all to live, to find something, anything, anyone, to enjoy. To share. We’re human, we must feel. We must fight for something that’s more than what we are. Today I’m going to fight for every single child. Every single smile. When you wake tomorrow, I want you to say, ‘thank you’, not to me, not for this moment, but for having another day to make something work. Make things happen. Be more. Say more. Say less. Stand tall, don’t be afraid and most of all, you damn well love until your heart bleeds onto the floor. You never stop, you never give in, you always rise when you’re pushed to the ground and never, ever, let anyone take what you love from you. You fight them until you have no fight left and always, above all, live!”
Simon could see the emotion stir within the crowd, his own thoughts and feelings overcoming him. He stood tall, he felt the tears rise, the emotion overcome him, but he did not let them escape. This was a proud moment, a noble moment, albeit a moment of a fool’s errand. Simon turned to Bruce, hugged him, but couldn't bring himself to look at his face. He was leaving behind his best friend, his friends, for a purpose that still seemed vacant to him.
The craft hummed into life, the engines ready to reach the velocity that would tear through the air at an incredible speed. He wasn't ready, he never would be, but this was where he simply accepted the situation that he brought upon himself. Simon pressed the button and the view in front of him changed to canyons and rock. The next 45 seconds would be his last, within this craft, and then he had but moments before it all ended.
The craft hit the ground and skidded for over a mile, nearly to the heart of the enemy’s encampment. His brief was a simple one. Reach the very middle and complete the mission. The craft’s canopy split away, ejecting him onto his feet, to which he started to run as fast as he could. Augmented, improved, he should be able to keep ahead of them. Within seconds they were upon him, aware, agile, but thankfully that small second slower. Simon reached to his sides, grasping the two side-arms. Releasing them from their holsters, he brought them forward and fired at anyone, or anything, that would stop him. He watched as blood flew into the air, almost in slow motion, as his perception filtered the oncoming threats. He ran in a side to side motion, just in case of rear assailants, albeit unlikely.
The seconds moved away as he neared the middle of their land. Breathing heavily, cold lungs threatening to stop him, he started to regulate his breathing in order to calm himself. His optical enhancements signalled the very middle and, stopping, he removed two tripods from either side of his legs. Quickly, expertly, he placed a gun upon each tripod and changed the mode to sentry. Immediately the guns started to fire as the enemy charged his position. He had seconds before the sheer amount of numbers overwhelmed the guns, as well as him.
He reached back, removing the satchel, unzipping and then removing the contents. A simple square type object, nothing special, hardly deadly, but Simon knew what it could do. Twisting it around, the warning sticker facing upwards, he stood, looking into the eyes of the closest combatant to him. Simon smiled. Inside he felt the calm. Emotions sedated, flashes, images, throwing themselves into his mind, he recalled moments of his life. He desired so much, wanted so little from life, but it was okay. He felt nothing as the cold end seemingly circled, embracing his mind and last moments. He pressed the object to his chest and, upon detecting him, four metal spikes shot into his body. His lungs perforated, the spikes appearing through his back, Simon fell to his knees as, finally, they broke through. He closed his eyes, the pain almost unbearable, as his last thoughts were that he simply did not wish to die.
The energy welled within his body, as they scratched at his flesh, until the wave reached its peak and exploded. The shock wave reaching over 20 miles, destroying everything in its path. His life, his single, solitary, existence, gone within the brief moments of pain and agony. His sacrifice, his singular moment, ensuring that so many others lived another day.