8/14/10

Tin Soldier

'What is it that you contain? The dead. Time. Light patterns of millennia opening in your gut. Every minute, in each of you, a few million potassium atoms succumb to radioactive decay. The energy that powers these tiny atomic events has been locked inside potassium atoms ever since a star-sized bomb exploded nothing into being. Potassium, like uranium and radium, is a long-lived radioactive nuclear waste of the supernova bang that accounts for you.


Your first parent was a star."
~ Jeanette Winterson

 ***

- Tin Soldier-
© paul koh. All rights reserved.


A designated waste area for military manoeuvre. The sun blazed the orange ground to an incredible hardness. The rain took its turn, melting the hardness down into soggy mud. Mosquitoes, wild with anticipation, infested this wasteland when the soldiers were unaware, fast asleep in their tiredness. At night when the mosquitoes feasted, wild diabolical creatures appeared and preyed upon their unconscious world. Soldiers were no longer waking up; it was easier to sink inside their impenetrable armour, inside the darkness. At least, it was warmer there. They have spent almost 40 days in this wasteland and their time was almost up. This was where they were supposed to find God… 


            "A solitary soldier stood on the orange mud in sector 12. Soldiers were genetically engineered androids, frontline troops and very expendable. They were there to make up the numbers. They did not need a reason to live. In sector 12, only one soldier stood on the orange surface. He had sunk deep into the dark void like the rest of them but there was something that nudged him, a spark that rekindled a memory. He held out his hand towards the little light. It swayed in the still air and dropped gently onto his palm. It was a snowflake.


The heat dissipated. The soldier stirred and struggled to his feet. He removed all his armour, and arose from the thick orange ground on the last day of the mission. He forced open his own tightly clenched his fist, and there it was – the snowflake still intact in his palm. There were no soldiers to be seen anywhere. The air was heavy, like quick sand, but he felt better, much better without all the amouring, without the wiring. He released the snowflake. He had only to follow the snowflake. He would find God.  He was not supposed to be there. S19876 was not supposed to be there.


***

            Commander 'Archangel' Low came out of the tranquillizer chute into the main control site. The computer's voice resonated inside the chamber:
            "Good morning, Commander. Year 2145, third day of September, 1800 hours. Time of sleep during journey, 36 hours.  Time of waking process, 68 minutes. Time..."
            "Thank you S1. Get me S19876 and quickly. I need to expedite proceedings -"
            "I am afraid that will not be possible, Commander. S19876 has abandoned the space craft. He said he has gone to look for God. It seemed he wanted to 'take care' of you for a change."
            "What the hell?  I'll recall this product and I will personally rewire his 4 gigabytes standard-issued brain. It's impossible that he's already malfunctioning -not when he's guaranteed to me for the next two years." 


            Archangel Low fumed bitterly at the product he received from base control but the sight of his suit distracted him momentarily and filled him with a sense of pride. It was decorated with rows and rows of medals - Red for best Reconnaissance unit, Purple for best Assault unit, Green for best Sabotage unit, and Gold for best 2nd Elite Commander. He had done well for himself. He had destroyed many of his enemies to get this far, and he was too near the top to afford any miscalculations. He had promised his wife and his five-year old son that this would be his last expedition. This mission would earn him a double promotion, that is, if he succeeded...

            "That damned tin-head! What happened to the good old-fashioned soldier? What does he think he is anyway?!" Archangel Low cursed again. He was sure S19876 would give him trouble or worse, ruin his reputation and his chance at getting the promotion. His lips curled at the thought of his rival, 3rd Elite Commander Gabriel taking his place as the new Base Commandant! No! He did not come this far to lose out now. Then something caught his eye, and for the first time in his life, he was paralyzed with fear…





***


His body had been cut open and sewn back. His skin had become a pale yellow, losing all its colour of health. Deep wide scars lined his body from his shoulder blades down to his chest, across his stomach and down again past his pelvis to his thighs. His yellowish fingers traced the scars upwards to the sides of his face, and upwards to his head. "WHAT IN THE NAME OF GOD!  My head has been cut open!"


    "Who did this to me?!" His voice roared in anguish and fear as he turned towards the computer, "Who cut up my body? Who did this to me?"
    "It's S19876, Commander. He said he wanted to exchange places with you. He said it was his time to take care of you, sir."
    "How could you LET THIS HAPPEN??!! Who is this S19876? Damn it! It must be Gabriel! He must have planned this all along, sabotaging me from Earth Command by sending me this soldier."
    "No Sir. S19876 was not sent by Commander Gabriel. S19876 is your soldier. You cut him up and rewired him yourself. "
    "NO! That is not possible. My soldiers are not programmed to disobey me. There must be some kind of mistake - I have to find S19876. I need to know what he did to me. Nobody will take what is rightfully mine. I have too much to lose."



Archangel Low chose his course of action, programmed the Search shuttle and manoeuvred the craft across the orange sands of sector 12. Orange particles floated up and down, one on the other in a continuous flow of circular motion, forming swarms of sand holes that enveloped each other. Archangel Low shook his head and wondered how he got into this mess, 100 light years away from Earth. He remembered the reports from the Scouts Squadron, that they had seen God in sector 12. When the top officers at Earth Command believed the reports, Archangel Low immediately volunteered for this important mission. After all, it was he who planted the reports. Gabriel was the favourite to become the next Elite Commander by virtue of his family background while he had worked all the way up. He was never to stand idly and watched all his efforts gone to waste. He remembered his promise to his wife and his son, but pushed it aside. A deep dark fear was opening up like a black hole in his heart.


The Search Shuttle sped past a pyramid, a sphere, when there it was just as he himself had described it - the rock on which the stairs led to God. But a solitary soldier was already there. Archangel Low finally recognized the soldier - it was S19876. S19876 was the scout he cut up to make the false report. S19876 was the one he transformed into an android soldier.

The soldier inserted the key which he had stolen from Archangel Low, into the slit on his left thigh. He turned the key, removed it and allowed the mechanism to click into motion. Trot... trot... clang... clang, the pair of boots began to march in a pre-established rhythm. Right turn, left turn, up-down, up-down, S19876 began to climb the stairs that led to God.

    "S19876! COME BACK this minute, or I'll have you dismembered, part by part!"
    "SCREW YOU!" S19876 replied with a grin on his face. Taken aback, Commander Archangel Low activated the remote control, stared at the red button, but hesitated. The word "EXTERMINATE" stared back. He punched the numbers 1-9 -8 -7-6. "One last chance, soldier - RETURN TO SHIP!"
    Up-down,
    face right,
    face left,
    the soldier continued climbing the stairs. He was oblivious to the threats Archangel Low was babbling in his offbeat voice. 
    Clenching his fist in disbelief, his anger rising to his head, he slammed at the  red button and –

SPLAT!
"---_-COMMANDER LOW! --__---"

The computer echoed repeatedly:

"MALFUNCTION;
MALFUNCTION!
MAL-FUNCTION?"

The bald head of the Commander ruptured, his eyes popped out amidst a bundle of multicoloured wires, loose circuitry and bad connections.
     "Hahahahaha  HAHAHAHA HAHahaaahha!"
Th e soldier laughed uncontrollably as he reached the top of the stairs. His mechanical smile took almost human form as he laughed from one steel ear to another, and he laughed so hard that he mistimed his next step.

    "Oops!"

Losing his balance, S19876 fell from the rock, crashing headlong towards the orange sand. There was a pec uliar grin on his face before the orange earth came up to meet him.

    ShouuuuuuSPLLLAAATTT!

His body plummeted against the bottom of the rock and splattered all over the hard orange ground. The mechanism stopped, but blood - fresh, red blood squirted out of his body.

     Darkness.


***


"What is it that you contain? The dead. Time. 
Light patterns of millennia opening in your gut. 
Every minute, in each of you, 
a few million potassium atoms succumb to radioactive decay. 
The energy that powers these tiny atomic events 
has been locked inside potassium atoms ever since 
a star-sized bomb exploded nothing into being. 
Potassium, like uranium and radium, 
is a long-lived radioactive nuclear waste 
of the supernova bang that accounts for you.

Your first parent was a star."
~ Jeanette Winterson





;)
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