Napoleon Bonaparte: Total WarMature

I crouch down behind the half-destroyed wall. The enemy are milling around the buildings and coming through the streets, and one is coming straight into the square. he's coming in from the north-west so I move to behind the fountain. I switch guns, too: from the pistol I'd been holding for the last bit to the machine gun.

Somewhere behind me is my fellow-soldier. We both wait in our places for these enemy to walk straight into our trap...

Something flickers on the screen. I stare at it. How can it be? We're being attacked from behind! I stand up and sit down again. My whole plan has failed!

Or has it?

One of my comrades is shot. The report comes up on the screen. The main bulk of the enemy is still coming towards the square, but two or three stray soldiers have gone round the back.

I get up again. If I moved two of my soldiers to slightly different places I could save them, and they could take part in the ambush. I'm about to run back to the closest fellow-soldier, but I realise that the time for the final shootout is upon us, and I must order the attack or die - 


"Holy -"

The controller flies up into the air. My character is shot, the screen turning red. The plasma screen turns dark as the game tells me it's over.

One mistake, and I - or rather, my character - died.

I turn round, fuming. This had better be worth it. "What?"

"Dinner's ready," says Professor Feldman. He even takes the liberty to poke his head in the doorway of my room - which I hate, but I don't tell him.

"I'm not hungry."

"Napoleon, dinner's ready."

That's another irritating habit the Prof. Feldman has - if you refuse or reject a request of his, he repeats it, in a firmer, slower tone.

"I've heard. I'm not hungry."

"Napoleon," the professor repeats, "dinner is -"

"Damn it!" I cry. "I know! Let me just play one more game."

"Napoleon, don't swear," says the professor. "Besides, you've finished your game."

"Well, now I have..."

"Napoleon, it's not optional," says the professor. "Come down now. Everyone else is probably starting to eat now."

It just doesn't seem worth arguing with him. "All right, coming in a second." It's so great how a second can turn into another battle.

"No, now."

To hell with Professor Feldman. I get up and storm out and down the steps. The professor follows me at a distance. I make my way to the dining-hall, which is full with my fellow clones, all eating and chatting round this huge table full of food of all kinds.

Well, I already said I wasn't hungry, didn't I? I sit down and heap a little salad onto my plate, and then stare into space.

I don't really like the other clones. Salvador's the most annoying, closely followed by Pablo. I suppose I don't like the artists, because Wolfy annoys me too, but that's because he's weird, not because he's loud, like the other two. Richard's just socially redundant, and Julius is pretty unfriendly, too. Will's a nut to say the least, and the two Maries sitting at the table - well, they're girls, and I'm not good with girls.

I sometimes think it strange that though we've all grown up together, it's only really me that doesn't really fit in with the others. I mean, the girls can talk to each other, and I see Marie (Curie) pretty often with Wolfy, and Marie (Antoinette) with Salvador and Pablo and all those people. Yes: Antoinette's never alone, it's like she can't physically stomach the idea of being without people. She's always giggling and chatting annoys me so much, for reasons I can't quite verbalise.

I poke at the salad. Richard and Julius and sometimes even Leo are their own little group, though Leo sometimes hangs out with Martin and Muhammad. Yes...Martin and Muhammad are inseparable. Sometimes Gandhi joins them, but he's often in the massive social monopoly that is Antoinette's group.

Antoinette lets out a particularly irritating giggle at this point that startles me out of my train of thought. I begin to wish that someone would just behead her again.

Well, I'm not completely alone, actually. There's Adolf. I see him a lot less than I see the others, but since I spend most of my time avoiding the others it isn't saying much. I don't know why they don't call Hitler down to dinner, because he often comes in late or not at all. And even then, he sits well away from everyone else, like we're all carriers of some highly contagious disease.

It's this kind of thing I notice as I eat my salad, and then pick and choose the rest of my meal. I eat two small steaks and several potatoes, but I'm done in five minutes, drumming my fingers against the table. I can count the wasted time.

Rule number one for social situations: Don't speak unless you're spoken to first.

Rule number two: Avoid eye contact, especially with certain people.

Rule number three: Leave as soon as possible, and go straight to your room.

That way they can't come and give you trouble.

The End

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