It wasn’t easy, winning the war. Seventeen lightyears beyond the furthest systems, with not a supply base or orbital station within hailing distance, the fight had been brutal and it had been to the death for most of the men in Seth’s company. Losing them had hurt more.
The inner-folk, who had never known life outside of a gravity well, questioned the need for a navy or a weapon when words could solve all of humanities problems. If only those they shared the Universe with spoke a common tongue. Maybe then women and men like Seth would not be needed. Not have to be born in a creche, trained to kill and fight and kill again until their dreams were little more than field manuals and vr-sims.
“You need to keep still,” Melillia said.
Seth shifted uncomfortably under her gaze. She was changing the bandage across his chest, wiping away the last of the bio-foam that had stopped most of the internal bleeding. The medics he’d had experiences with before had been less gentle.
“Do you remember me?” she said.
“Mel-488,” Seth said. “You were one of the early vats. Before they got the training right.”
“I think you mean conditioning.”
“I serve with honour. You deserted.”
“Served,” she corrected.
Seth tried to rise again, but once more Melillia kept him in place with just a single hand. The early soldiers had been much more experimental, pushed far beyond what was possible before later birthing groups refined the formula, at the expense of the raw physical attributes. In other words, she could crush him if she so chose. The physical restraint hurt less than the implications of her words though.
“I will fight,” he said, against her smile.
“Not with your squad you won’t. They build you tough, but you’re still disposable. That leg will heal no doubt, but you’re down an eye. Tell me, how useful is a trooper sans depth-perception?”
His stony silence was the only reply.
“No, they’ll recycle you. Or put you out of your misery.”
“I’ve had better bedside care from an E4.”
“Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t feel anything for you. It’s just that my vat, we were bred not to feel anything at all.”
“Is that why you defected?” Seth asked.
Now it was her chance to remain silent. Melillia picked up Seth’s uniform jacket, running a finger across the small bars that denoted each campaign he had fought in.
“What does the brass say? Of me and my kin.”
“Officially? Your vat was tainted. The training didn’t hold.”
“And the scuttlebutt?”
Seth looked uncomfortable sharing battalion secrets with an outsider, even if the subject of said rumours was the one asking.
“That you were good. Too good. You never hesitated, never faltered.” For a soldier he looked distressed. “You never stopped. They say you killed every man, woman and child in Marene.”
“And when they tried to stop you, you turned your guns on your commanders and fled. You’re fugitives now. Living as traitors in the border between Us and Them.”
“Tell me soldier, do I scare you?”
“A marine feels no fear,” Seth replied robotically.
Prompt originally posted by Gravitiaxis on reddit and received 2 upvotes.