A War of Things To Come
The Lieutenant recalled getting chewed out by his superior. He recalled taking it up the ass from that overrated armchair officer who hadn't seen combat for decades before the Lieutenant was even born. He had been shouted at for not being as reckless and careless with his soldiers as the officer preferred. The superior preferred speed to finesse and precision, which could be understandable in some cases, save the fact it often resulted in friendly fire and an increase in collateral. Both were things the Lieutenant had good reason to avoid. Unlike his superior, the Lieutenant could see what everyone around him could become, the literal sense. He didn't know why, and in time, didn't care. In this war, it made every death carry an added weight. Not only was the person killed, but all they could ever be forever ceased to exist as well. It seemed to be true, no matter how much he tried to avert all the cases he had seen before. Seeing so much death had hardened him, but he was still too attached to some people.
He looked out over his squad. They were small, but the Lieutenant could see what they would become after the war. They were his family, and they had entrusted their lives to him. It pained him to have to sacrifice one to save the rest. He could see Higgins, their medic, becoming a doctor renowned for developing new types of surgery. He could see Kitano, their marksman, becoming a successful banker after the war. He could see Perez, their heavy weapons specialist, becoming a policeman who helped bring order to his rough hometown. He could even see Jackson, his NCO, becoming a decorated officer in time, and a far better one than the fat ass in the armchair.
Ahead of him, he saw their objective. Looking through binoculars, he could see the village where the enemy had holed up. They had taken the civilians hostage, and were using them as shields in desperation. His superior wanted him to retake the village as soon as possible, not bothering with any 'collateral.' To the armchair officer, enemy body count mattered more than doing the job right. He was not as fortunate to have his abilities come with a range limit. If he could see someone, he could see their future. As he could see what the young children and people of the village would grow up into, the Lieutenant instinctively decided to screw their orders. Most of the enemy's troops, however, would instead all have ended up dead in some desperate atrocity. If not here, then they'd repeat it elsewhere.
Retaking the town from them was going to be the top priority, but he knew the rest of his side had sealed off all possible escape routes. The enemy would get it no matter where they went. But, he knew there was always the risk the civilians could be killed. If not by the desperate enemy, then they could become collateral to his own side. Given how small the village was, artillery and armor support were out. He was going to have to retake this up town up by getting close and personal.
He ordered Perez to set off some smoke grenades to cover their advance. They'd move down the hillside directly above the village. He'd have Kitano pick off any of the enemies that didn't take cover. Also, if any tried to execute civilians, they were to be taken out immediately. Perez, Jackson, and himself would lead the advance, using carbines and shotguns to get up close with the enemy. Higgins would patch up any civilians who needed medical attention along the way. They took care with each of their shots, ensuring the bullets only went into the bad guys.
It was an automatic and systematic process by now. They swept through the village, house by house, securing each and every room. The enemy had been caught off guard, and luckily the rest of the squad was able to advance without significant casualties of their own. Perez caught a ricochet in the shoulder, Jackson got grazed a few times, and the Lieutenant himself also got a blast of shrapnel to the face. Overall, he knew he seemed to be very lucky.
It was the last house where that streak of luck crashed and burned. The remaining enemy soldiers had barricaded themselves inside with their hostages. The enemy's desperation had turned into a mad, almost suicidal urge. An enemy leader shouted from a window, hiding behind a pregnant woman. His interpreter told him the enemy was making demands. They demanded that they stand down and allow them to pass with their hostages. While open to letting them surrender or even retreat, he didn't want to leave the enemies with a bunch of innocents to vent their frustrations on. Since this was rapidly becoming a hostage situation, the Lieutenant figured buying time may be a good plan. He restrained Kitano from shooting the enemy leader, at least until their was a clear shot and a plan. His rifle was certainly powerful enough to shoot through more than one person.
He tried to stall the leader, and bargain for the remaining hostages. As the time drew on, the Lieutenant knew he had to resolve this fast. Otherwise, his armchair superior would order some other squad to just flatten the whole house with a tank, air strike, or artillery. He became desperate. His squad became fatigued. The care and precision they had used early in the day was weakening as they became more tired and fatigued. He looked into a shard from a broken mirror, seeing how fatigued he looked. The Lieutenant came up with a desperate plan of his own. Quickly explaining it to the relevant members of his squad, he put it into motion.
He walked unarmed in front of the house. He offered himself as a hostage in exchange for all of the civilians inside. The enemy leader mocked him from behind the terrified woman, and asked if he was mad. Looking up, he replied he was. The only condition was that all civilians had to be released. He managed to convince the enemy that he was a much more valuable hostage than some hapless villagers caught in the crossfire. The enemy leader laughed, and accepted his proposal.
The civilians were released, and the Lieutenant could see Higgins immediately get to work healing their wounds. The pregnant woman from before thanked him as the enemy vanished into the house. He was patted down, his gear was taken as trophies by the enemy soldiers, and he was brought before the enemy leader. The enemy leader brought him to an upstairs window, and hid behind him as he issued new demands. It was then Kitano took the shot, and blasted both Lieutenant and the enemy leader, killing both at once. The squad then began to ruthlessly assault the house, finishing the enemy before they could realize what had happened. The last image on the Lieutenant's mind was not Kitano pulling the trigger. Instead, it was what he saw in that broken mirror. He could see one day, he himself would end up like the armchair officer. Deciding to become a martyr, he offered himself as a hostage. When comparing the futures of his squad, a leader must always be prepared to add himself to the list.