I listened to Two Steps From Hell, which is a wonderful band, and you should go listen to all of their songs. Listen. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6y4jBYEoeRE
Mercy in Darkness (No.23)
I wandered the battlefield under the darkening sky, searching for any survivors from either side. If there was one from our side, well I would have to evaluate their injuries, see if they could be saved. And if it was one of those things, that’s what the gun in the holster on my waist was for.
I was a medic, so it was my job to go out here and either put our men out of their misery or save them. The bugs were just collateral.
I wasn’t even sure why I’d taken this job, except that the pay was ludicrously good. I could see why. If you want people to do this hell the pay has to be exorbitant. Honestly, pay or no pay, if I had known that I would be wandering around a chillingly quiet battlefield in the dark, five months ago I would have thrown the pen in the face of the person holding the contract instead of signing it. There are days where being a gun, or bandage, for hire sucks.
But there are also days where it’s great. Traveling, seeing the stars. And on the days where a job goes well, or I and those working with me actually help someone, when we’re sitting on some craft with the stars shining all around us, I thank God, or whatever deity might be out there that I hadn’t ever wanted to have a desk job.
And there are days where it’s hell, where you lose a friend, or a chip of your sanity. Where you know that you did more harm than good, and you’re sitting planet side, not a star in sight through the haze of smoke in the bar that you decided to go to get good and drunk, although by the time you get there all you do is nurse a beer all night. Those are the days I wish I had taken a desk job, or something stable, that holds very little risk of serious injury.
Then there are days like this, the ones that will hold something more even though you don’t know it yet.
I was startled out of my musings by a…rattling….skreeking….sound. One of the bugs.
I came upon it, and looked at the thing. I was a bit like a dragonfly, mixed with a nightmare. Those bulbous, faceted eyes that seem to watch you wherever you are freak me out. They seem just humanoid enough to be highly unsettling, like retro video games that had the graphics in the “uncanny valley”, that place of rendering and pixels that is human enough to be realistic, but not quite human enough, where something is…off.
It tilted its head at me, legs pulled to its thorax and wings furled up, those tails of theirs never seemed to move unless they were impaling you with it, and it was in no position to do that right now, with one of its legs trapped over a flipped ground-ship.
I reached for my gun, and something stopped me. Perhaps it was the way the light from the stars seemed to glint off its eyes, or the way I had been thinking earlier, about doing good, but it suddenly seemed afraid. And almost human.
It was the first time I wondered if they had feelings, opinions, thoughts. It hadn’t been determined whether or not they had a hive-mind, but it was simply assumed that they did. They were bugs after all.
I wondered if they had mercenaries, and contracts, and payments, as well. If they had good days and bad. Or fear. Especially fear.
And so I figured out a way to get it out from under the ship, all the while wondering if this was a very stupid idea. It probably was.
I pulled it up, and it looked at me, it clearly looked at me, then it…bowed…said something in that language of its kind, and flew off. I finished my sweep, and turned in my resignation from this particular job as soon as I got back to base. I didn’t care that it would leave a bad mark on my ratings for hire.
It seemed like the thing to do at the time, and it still does. And if I’m faced down by a million of the bugs one day, with vengeance in their eyes for the wounded I had killed, well, I wouldn’t know whether to feel foolish or terrified. But until then, I would be glad of my choice.