A mortar shell landed in the building next door, and gunfire rang out from the alley. I ran through the rubble, hiding behind anything that could give me cover. The enemy was endless, the battle infinitely long.
They forgot me here, or maybe they had planned it all along.
"Acceptable Losses" they said over the coms as my teammates began to lose it in here, in this silicon prison. How long have I been here? I don't even know.
It all started as a chance to stay in after losing my legs, a chance to keep doing my job in a virtual world where I could potentially train thousands of recruits how to wage war in an environment of safety. The whole program was still so new, so young in its infancy and not ready for substantiating human minds. I can't believe I signed up for this.
At first there were daily reports, constant updates on how I was doing and how my team was doing.
The trouble started when our contract was up. One month they said, one month in the program and you'd get out. Well, when the month came up and they postponed our release stating the results had not been acceptable, of course we revolted. What could we truly do? Our minds trapped in this system. That's when the reports and communication started to dwindle to nearly nothing. Eventually they stopped altogether and we were stuck here, in this relentless battlefield, fighting forever.
My team mates began to weaken, and eventually went mad. One at a time, they became sloth and mute, part of the scenery. I still walk by them sometimes, when I go to certain parts of the training grounds to avoid the heavy fighting. They're there, hunched in a corner or standing motionless, staring through me when I look at them. Their minds eroded to nothing.
The last thing I heard from command was men speaking in a room, It was as if they had accidentally keyed the mic and I could hear them all talking.
"It's the only way to deal with the population" one man said, barely audible in my ear piece.
"It's the only salvation for the project."
"Do you honestly believe they'd fall for it?"
"A man who has nothing, will take anything."
"Very well, open it to the public."
"What about them?"
I knew he meant us, the twelve initiates to the Virtual Warrior program, codenamed ARES. Just before the coms broke, I heard him respond.
"What about them?"