War surroundes you on all sides. The bombs are dropping while you stand ready in your mech suit, ready to go out in a blaze of glory. Your commanding officer looks to you before you run out saying the words: “Don’t you get tired of being useless” Before being obliterated

You kind of forget you’re wearing a tonne of metal and composite armour. They seal you in before you set out, with a hiss and a whir as all the little screws are sealed into place until the only link between you and the world is a tube into your unmentionables and a needle in your arm. You sleep in the suit, piss in the suit, even rut in the suit.

In return it feeds you and protects you. When the gas fills the tunnels, so thick you can’t see your own gauntleted fist, the IR cuts through, the filters keep blowing cool air.

For some guys, drafted from whatever pinprick town they once called home, it’s a chance to fight. Given enough time, two things always happen, regular as clockwork.

First, they get a taste for it. I’ve seen a kid who had only known stirring a protein-vat before he got deployed turn into a crazed monster, the metal knuckles covered in flesh and bone. Nice kid. The voice in the back of your head, telling you this is wrong, goes away after a while. Pretty soon you hear other voices, telling you to go on, do it, smash him, destroy him.

Then comes round two. This is where most of us are now. You can’t fight like that forever. Not with the tic-bombs falling day and night. They’re like little rodents, shook from the heavens in their thousands by drone bombers, before burying into the ground. They’re nasty, tiny, silent; until you’re slumped against a wall, dozing (or trying to) and then boom. They tunnel into the tunnel and pop.

Stims, meth, speed. Pretty soon everyone’s IV is one long, continuous drip of the stuff. You wake and punch in a dose and the world gets crisp and sharp. When it’s over and you find a nice spot to crawl up in, you hit the shunt and go bye bye. You don’t need sedatives. Our bodies are so fried they shut down, first chance they get.

Six years now. I was supposed to be a reporter. “See the front, tell the folks back home.” After six months, I was the only guy left in my unit. The next CO didn’t care for press credentials or conscientious objections. I got an arm-cannon and my first taste of blood.

All of us are vets now. Veterans of a skirmish in a town-long-since-incinerated or a unit-slaughtered-like-lambs. I’ve made it through. Somehow. Pierce lost his arm on V-nought day; he had it replaced with another cannon. Alexia stopped her… she did what needed to be done.

But me?

It’s my seventh anniversary tomorrow in this hell hole. I’m practically a legend. I’m just a passenger now. I stopped hearing the voices a long time ago, back when I realised I’d become the voice, the little whisper saying this was wrong, the delayed reaction to another atrocity.

The flesh and the steel look at me sometimes, in the polished steel of a bulkhead or in a suitcam from a comrade. The metal eyes look at me and I can hear the words in my own head, waiting for me to subside, and leave only the machine.

“Don’t you get tired of being useless?”

Prompt originally posted by imonlyheretowrite on reddit and received 2 upvotes.

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