I stare over the tank turret at the ruins of the city.
A few buildings still smoker days after the air raid and the neutron bomb.
If anything is a live we canít see it from this distance. If we do, we call for an air strike like weíve been contracted to do.
Search and destroy with an emphasis on the latter.
Conventional soldiers have to consider civilians, we donít.
This is the reason the government hires us to do what the government canít.
And we do it very well.
We stopped thinking of people as people a long time ago.
This is a slaughter house, and anyone we see if fair game.
After all, look what they did to us back home.
I figure if we let one live that might be the one who gets to do it to us again.
So we kill everything that moves until it stops and then move on.
Itís hard work hacking at the intestines of a beast that refuses to die.
And itís hard keeping track of where we are.
I keep asking my aide the name of this town or that and he mumbles and answer I check against the map.
His face mirrors mine in that it has become vivid red from the sun and still look too greasy from palms full of sun block.
The sun has become as potent an opponent as our human enemy, and as we turn pasture into desert, the sun grows even more potent.
The ďhot war,Ē of course, is long over, and much of our work comes from the fact that the government miscalculated the original attack, when like the big bad wolf it huffed and puffed and presumed it could blow this house down not realizing that some of the occupants had built their houses out of brick.
Now the survivors scrambled through the rubble like rats, needing my kind to root them out.
Not all is desert yet.
Spurts of grass still cling to the ruins rising up as if with a will of their own.
Most of the cities like this no longer support the kind of life we have been hired to kill.
This works for us since even our toughest enemy need to eat and canít eat dust, so we turn as much as possible into dust just to starve them out.
Sometimes when we come to a place as empty as this place is, an odd feeling comes over me.
I think I hear the scream of ghosts as the wind whips up through the empty streets.
In my head I see the faces of the terrorized population running in every direction to escape the fiery death coming down on them from above.
What keeps me from pity is the conflicting image of our people running in our cities in just the same way, covered in flame or in human dust.
Who cares if our greed caused their attack once the blood starts flowing.
It is us or them Ė maybe neither in the end.
Their revolt against our greed dies with the slaughter.
Mass graves mask all motives when you push dirt over their faces.
I ask my aide as to how many living shapes our aircraft spotted in this area. He canít say exactly since they travel in groups so small we never know if the three we see here and there are the same three in two places or two groups of three.
No one really knows how many there are until we count the dead.
Even then, I know weíre going to need to drop in more men to trap these rats.
At look at my aide.
He looks young Ė and scared.
I ask him where heís from.
He says Frisco.
A sour point.
Frisco, we both know, was the first to go.
We move on.