We hide in craters or behind rocks as the enemy opens fire.
Bright red flashes whizz past us, sometimes burning pockmarks into the ground. We're pinned down. Myself, Jett and another young Trooper named Hardy.
"Captain?" Hardy turns to me with fear in his eyes. "We're gonna die, aren't we?"
I can't look at his face, he is far too young to be out here. After twenty years of fighting, some Troopers still maintain the child-like innocence they had when they were sent here.
"I don't know, Trooper." I mumble quietly. A few rocks behind us, Rayjak opens fire. I realise that it's now or never.
"Come on, move! Move!" I yell. Jett follows me out of cover but Hardy hesitates. The few seconds of hesitation is enough, as he is mowed down by enemy fire as Jett and I make it to the next rock.
"Wh-What now?" Jett asks, his face pale. I take a large gulp of rubbery air from the artificial atmosphere surrounding the pebble.
"We need to provide covering fire." I say finally. "Rayjak and Sabiru's squads will need some help to get up here."
"Yes, Captain." Jett says. We lift our rifles over the rock whilst trying to protect as much of ourselves as possible. We fire blindly in the enemy's general direction. An enemy machine gun splutters to life and we are forced back behind the rock. I consider why we are fighting here....because Mind has told us to. For many, this would be a good enough reason.
As the enemy fire is directed elsewhere, I roll out of cover and spray fire across the enemy positions.
For many, Mind is something that is bigger than themselves...
Narrowly escaping the enemy's ammunition that is being spent on me, I draw out my knife and dive into the nearest trench.
Something that they value higher than they value their own life...
I slice the throat of the first Horde member I see. Feeling a singe in my arm, I realise that another of the enemy has opened fire on me. I return the fire as Jett leaps into the trench with me.
"Are we clear?" Jett asks.
I shrug. " As clear as we're going to be."
We rush behind some crates whilst the Horde threaten to overwhelm us.
"There are too many of them!" Jett looks on the verge of panicking.
I look behind us quickly. The trench is empty on one side, yet overflowing on the other. The Horde have never been renowned for tactical logic...they are disease-ridden barbarians after all.
"No, we can hold this providing they don't come at us from both sides." I say, checking my rifle. Plenty of ammo. We just have to wait until Rayjak or Sabiru's squads get here and we can still get out alive.
I curse Mind silently. This wasn't necessary. Why couldn't Mind just let us live? Just let us go home?
One of The Horde makes it closer than I would have liked and his head explodes in a shower of gore.
But he's not the only one who has advanced down the trench. I spend two clips painting the trench walls red.
"Come on, SOMEONE!" I yell as I keep the enemy at bay. As if responding to my yell, Rayjak's squad leaps in ready for the close combat.
In less than sixty seconds of bloody hand-to-hand combat, the only living things in the trench belonged to Mind's Prison-Army 33rd Regiment.
Rayjak, who had a knife sticking out his shoulder, towered over me. I've always thought of Sergeant Rayjak as a friendly giant. He's almost seven feet tall, but he doesn't throw his weight around. He's much older than me but he has never questioned my authority and he is the most respected person in the regiment.
"Have you seen Sergeant Sabiru?" I asked as he approached. He shook his head.
"I heard most of his squad got taken out by enemy fire on the way here, but I don't know for sure what happened to him."
Sabiru was too smart to die like that, we both knew...hoped.
"Where now, Captain?" He makes sure that all the men listening know who is in charge.
"Well, the enemy came from that direction." I gesture to where the fighting had been moments before. "So, we can expect to find whatever we're looking for down there."
Rayjak salutes me and we head down the trench. As we hastily move along, we discover Horde Sentries with blood pouring out wounds in their neck. After coming across several of these corpses, the Sergeant and I exchange glances. "Looks like Sergeant Sabiru has already been here." Sergeant Rayjak comments.
I nod my head in agreement and we keep moving. Jett joins my side as we turn corner after corner. One Horde Member is still alive, barely. He leans limply against the trench wall, a pistol in his hand. Mustering the last reserves of his strength, he lifts it as we approach, firing a single round into the chest of Trooper Jett.
Jett falls into my arms. He tries to speak but his mouth erupts in a volcano of blood. He clutches my sleeve and looks at me...his eyes glaze over and his head falls back.
Trooper Jett should never have been here. Trooper Jett was as innocent as anyone could be in war. If Mind was all powerful, Mind would have stopped Jett from dying. Stopped him from ever being sent here in the first place.
A single tear rolls down my cheek and I put a round through the visor of the dying Horde member.
"Captain..." Sergeant Rayjak begins.
"Shut up. We have to keep moving." I say, my voice quavering.
You heard about it sometimes. Madmen losing their faith in Mind. You'd feel sorry for them, but not sorry enough to actually ever think about it much. They were rare. Born with a mental defect that prevents them from seeing the perfect society as it is, someone had once said. Had any of us ever seen any evidence that Mind even existed? No.
I had just lost my faith in Mind.
With very little resistance, we catch up with Sabiru. Or rather, Sabiru waits for us. His entire squad died, but not him.
We find the pod and I open it cautiously.
There's a girl inside.