War

I

War.
It's been a part of human nature – for that matter, a part of nature in general – since before the dawn of civilisation, I know. But it had always just been us against ourselves. One country against another. One faction versus the next. We've learned about all of that since grade school.
But really, all that changed when they came.
The invasion occurred just a few months back.
One day, everything was fine, and then Australia reported that they were under attack.
These creatures came from the sky, from somewhere else, and wiped a whole city off the map in just a few hours. Then they left.
Nobody knew what had happened.
Then again, we still don't know what's happening. Not really.
We know that Australia's gone now. Or at least as good as gone. No-one there has attempted any form of contact with other countries, and all of our satellite feeds have been blocked.
We've seen what these things – these monsters – do, so we don't have much hope for the land down under not going under.
Besides, we have bigger worries now.
They've started to attack us.

II

I've never gone to war before.
When the last war came along, I was too young for a draft.
This time around, they lowered the legal age for a draft down to fifteen, but I'm nineteen now anyway.
Up until two days ago, I had never even been in combat.
I'm already on my way to my second drop.
With one run under my belt, I have more experience than anyone else shipping out with me today.
I just got lucky last time. It had nothing to do with skill.
This war's nothing like anything we've faced before.
We don't know what the enemy's capable of.
We don't even know what they want.
I've seen them fight, out on the battlefield. It's a scary sight.
All you see are their huge figures, towering over you by a good metre. I haven't seen what one actually looks like, though. I've only seen them in their armour. That's intimidating enough.
They use guns like we do. At least, similar to what we use. They seem to be more powerful, and they're definitely larger. I think their weapons are attached to their suits.
That's not even all – so I've heard.
Soldiers back at the base have told us stories over the last few weeks that we've been in training. From what I've heard, they have heavier weapons. More powerful. Light that melts anything it touches – plasma, maybe. Bullets that ignite into flames once they hit something. Cloaking.
Their regular bullets are bad enough. My partners lost his left arm from one the other day. I saw that first-hand. I saw a lot first-hand.
I know that war's always a nerve-wracking, frightening experience, but when anything could happen...I can't help but feel that makes it worse.
It doesn't help that we know that each one of us is expendable. The government's been sending troops out for months now. Over the past two months that this war's been in our country, the draft age has been lowered from 18 to its current age. Kids just starting high school have been appearing at the barracks.
Most of them don't come back after their first battle.
Like I said before, I'm on my way out for my second. I'm in the back of a converted military bus right now.
I've learned to avoid talking to the other soldiers, whether it's on the bus going to combat, or back at the base. Chances are likely that one of us won't be coming back. Or neither of us could.
I've also learned not to look out the windows. That just makes the anxiety worse, seeing all the bodies, the burnt buildings, and in the distance, the explosions. It only took me one day to learn that.
Now I just sit and stare at the floor, waiting for the bus to stop.
It does.
We're there.
The back of the bus drops open and we get up.

III

You don't have time to think. Once that back door drops, you run. Run for cover, run for the enemy, or if you want to risk it, run for your life.
It happens so fast, you couldn't think about what to do even if you tried.
Usually though – granted, I only have one previous experience to go by, and the hearsay from the base – there's little to no cover, and nowhere to go.
We ran for the enemy.
The air was already full of dirt and smoke, with the piercing noise of gunfire a steady part of the ambience.
This battle had been going on for a while. In fact, it was the same location I had fought in two days ago.
It was a desert. No plant life, and hot as hell. Dry heat.
Bodies littered the battlefield. We ran through the bodies.
The government had been sending troops in waves. Each platoon exits their bus and fights. After a previously-specified amount of time, the platoon retreats – at least, what's left of them – to the bus. As they leave, more troops arrive.
Within minutes, our wave had been largely reduced. The frontline was quickly mowed down, which resulted in the rest of us scattering.
Seeing people drop dead, only a few metres ahead, can make you more alert than any amount of coffee ever could.
This is only my second time in action, so I'm by no means an expert, but I'm using the same tactics as last time.
Then again, my 'tactic' involves running erratically, and shooting at the towering monsters in front of me.
The soldiers around me are doing pretty much the same thing. Until they get torn apart by the bullets ripping through the air.
It really is depressing. They're so young. This isn't America's Finest.
This is America's Last Stand.

IV

All around me, I hear shouts. Officers giving orders and privates calling for help, mainly. Some I can't even understand.
"Get down! Get down now!"
I'm running. Twenty soldiers are alongside me, all with their guns out, firing. They can't possibly be aiming, even though the enemy's relatively close.
As we continue charging down the battleground, the monsters in front of us begin to advance as well
They're a lot faster than us.
"Oh God, someone help me!"
Already, a good portion of the men who were with me have been shot down.
As soon as the aliens reach us, it gets worse.
We both have guns, but they have the upper hand in overall strength.
The guy next to me gets torn apart. I didn't even see what happened, except for a leg that flies past me.
"Fall back! Get the hell outta there!"
Training taught us not to retreat, but instinct taught us otherwise.
We turn and run. The aliens begin following us, cutting down one of us every now and then.
They're taller. They have longer legs. They're faster than us.
I turn to fire at them, and see someone else doing the same. They beat him to it, firing only a few rounds. They hit his shoulder. His arm is blown off instantly.
I turn back around and run faster.
Someone nearby me explodes. Literally.
I'm left with three other soldiers running beside me.
Everyone else will be replaced. That's how this war goes.
Again, I turn to open fire. Before I can, an alien takes a running leap at me, knocking me over.
A blink of an eye later, and it's standing over me, its weapon pointing at my face.
Everyone is eventually replaced. It's not a long-term commitment, this war.
I wonder who will replace me.