Drekal III: Conscripts

By Dale Hargrave


I can feel their eyes on me as I march alone along the parade ground. At first I thought they were admiring my perfect regime. Then the jeers started and I knew they didn’t understand.

Time away from the battlefield for those of us trained on Lintol I meant physical drills, mental exercises and psychological fortitude training. We did relax, in the canteen and the hour at the end of the day we kept for ourselves. We’re not the robots that the others assume.

I turn on the spot, slam my foot into the ground and salute smartly. This is done as if my superior still stood before me, as if the particle beam hadn’t killed him a year earlier. Once there had been a platoon of us, six months later a squad, after another year a team and now just me.

The salute to my absent superior brought more jeers from the soldiers behind, no, “soldiers” wasn’t the right term. They hadn’t trained for years or endured even a week of war to earn the name. They were conscripts; naive and soon to die.

Earth didn’t train those coming to Drekal III, they saw no point. The deep soggy soil of the planet had resulted in trench warfare. The fighting vehicles of both sides were unable to traverse the quagmire. The result, static lines stretching across every continent.

In the beginning orbital landings, behind enemy lines, had provided decisive moves for both sides. But the increasing number of anti-air and anti-orbit platforms erected behind the trenches had removed the tactic from the war. All that remained is attrition, or a withdrawal from the planet.

I walk alone from the training ground, the last of my platoon, the last of my kind on this planet. I had never expected to be left alone.

A group of the conscripts follow laughing. I finally snap and turn on them. There were only four.

‘What you going to do toy soldier,’ the largest laughed.

I ignore the jibe.

They were unprepared for what came next. I strike the one on the far left before they can react. A cupped hand at the side of the head. At minimum I’ve ruptured his eardrum. The man topples to the ground.

I keep the next man between me and the other two. The conscript’s untrained punch struck my blocking forearm and my fist found his jugular artery. The blood temporarily stuttered, the man staggered and then collapsed unconscious.

The talkative one advanced next, arms up like a boxer.

I notice the fourth behind him waver. He’d recognised the fight for a one-sided bloodbath. This is the kind of conscript that might survive. The kind who knows when to run and hide. He did just that.

The large man continued to advance. He had strength on his side, that’s why I’d left him till now, until the odds had been reduced and I could concentrate on him.

He jabs at me.

I dip beneath his thrown fist and knee his kidney. He grunts in pain, but doesn’t topple. Without a friend to distract me his momentary weakness is all I require. I hastily cup my hand and strike one side of his head and then the next. Just like the first conscript he falls in a heap.

I survey the fallen men and I’m satisfied. The damage I’d caused wouldn’t prevent them reaching the line, or dying with the millions of other conscripts on this planet.

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