Carlos lives in a society run by Mind, an all-seeing mental presence. It is a perfect society, where people do not have to worry about clothes, money, property or voting for their leaders...
Carlos loses faith in the society and before long the dreaded Purple Brigade want his head. Semi-closed.
In war, we all have a thing to keep us sane.
For me, it's showering. For most of the men, showering is a pointless endeavour. On the meagre water rations, it's impossible to wash out all of the dust. It seeps into your skin like a leech and it doesn't let go.
I like showering because it reminds me of rain. Whilst other prisoner-soldiers read books approved by Mind and watch films educating us on how Mind has helped us all become better people...I shower.
I was sentenced to twenty years on this asteroid on the outer edge of our Oort cloud. No, the term "asteroid" may conjure up a rock of a large size. I am stationed on a boulder...a stone...a pebble. We are as far away from the last colony of mankind as is possible. Any further and we will be out there in the cold, dark, abyss where The Horde come from.
Why was I sentenced to twenty years on the pebble? Because I refused an offer to join The Purple Brigade. For many, it's an honour but I have never wanted to fight. So, for refusing to join Mind's personal peacekeepers...I was sent out to wage war.
My thoughts are interrupted by a knock on the shower door.
"Yes?" I ask, with a barely audible sigh.
"Sorry to interrupt you, Captain.." Jett begins. After twenty years hearing them, I know everybody's voice as well as I know my own. "But Sergeant Rayjak thought that you might want a coffee."
I think of the coffees concocted in the canteen, made out of the dust of this pebble. They taste like mud. They taste worse than mud. They taste like-
"I'd love one. Thank you, Trooper." I say. "Give me a moment, will you?"
I walk to the balcony of the large, steel building where the regiment resides. Jett joins me.
"Two days, Captain!" He says, barely containing his enthusiasm.
I nod slowly, sipping my coffee. "Indeed. Somehow, I doubt The Horde will let us leave quietly."
The Horde are on this pebble with us. Excuse the pun, but they're a stone's throw away from us. Jett stiffens slightly, and goes quiet.
"Don't worry, Jett. You'll either live and make it home, or you won't be around to know the difference."
Jett looks at me with fear in his eyes before excusing himself and leaving. Even after twenty years, I lack the ability to say the right thing at the right time.
As Jett walks in to the building, Sabiru walks out to join me.
"Captain Victor, sir." He says, and salutes. I wave my hand at him.
"Sabiru...I keep telling you to call me Carlos."
"And I will, Captain Victor. I will call you Carlos in two days if we're out of the military." Sabiru continues. I smile grimly.
"You said if, Sabiru. I assume that means you have bad news?"
"Yes, Captain Victor. I was in enemy territory earlier and I saw something." He paused.
"Don't keep me in suspense. Carry on." I reply after a little while. He sighs and looks out into the stars.
"We're not going to get home, Carlos." He says simply.
The meeting begins. Rayjak and Sabiru are at my side as I address my fellow officers.
"There's some sort of pod on the other side of this peb- this asteroid." I begin. "We don't know what it is but The Horde are guarding it so Command assume it's important."
I hear the officers attempt to stop themselves crying out as I continue.
"Command wants us to take and hold the Pod until we are relieved."
One of the younger officers, Nathaniel speaks. "How...How many? Of The Horde, I mean."
Sabiru looks him directly in the eye. "I counted Eighty."
The officers breathe a sigh of relief. "Not many then." One says.
I shake my head. "Eighty well-armed, well dug in, enemy shock troops. The best The Horde can offer is defending that pod."
The room goes silent and I begin to leave.
"We'll attack in three hours, ready your men."