By The Numbers

by Steven Cavanagh




Shut up.

Awaken Immediately.


Your life signs are consistent with full consciousness. Briefing commences.

This is an automated message delivered to all combat assets of the 202nd Drop Pod Battalion, en route to the Congo 7 uranium mining colony.

Another drop? Already?

Your objective is the destabilization of public law, and disabling of the installation's transport systems.

Stupid Machine. Why don't they just say 'shoot anything that moves'? It's a no-brain mission. Even panic fire could do the job. Wait a minute- did it say the 202nd?

Intelligence suggests that resistance will consist of seventy thousand mining union troops and remote combat platforms.

The MUTs are pretty tough. Should be a hell of a fight.

Your AC-70 personal drop pod has been provided with weaponry according to tactical analysis. During the mission you will utilize the KL-9 bloom electrolaser, the AC-111 high-amplitude anistropic emitter, and hafnium grenades.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Flash frier, popcorn maker and footballs. I get it, already. Dark Energy isn't in the budget this time either, dammit.

Your unit has been chosen because of its outstanding field record and an extremely low human casualty rate of 0.72%. High command is extremely confident that you will fulfil the UNA's objectives within operational parameters.

Thank you for that rousing mechanical propaganda. Most of my mates died last mission, moron. Check your stats.

We have a legal obligation to advise you of the following. You are not, as you may believe, Corporal Sebastian Frost of the UNA's 112th Drop Pod Battalion.


You are an artificially gestated human, inserted with Frost's memory imprint upon maturity. This can be self-verified by a physical examination, confirming the lack of Frost's unique markings and scars.

I'm not me? Pull the other- I have my hand again!

As such you fall outside military law's acceptable definition of a human being, and are not subject to any applicable constraints concerning human rights.

I'm not me! Sweet Poontang, I'm a Vat Rat!

Our research suggests that combat soldier assets operate at 17% higher efficiency by first accepting the inevitability of their death.

No, no, not a Vat Rat!

Therefore we inform you that the rapid gestation of you and your unit has been achieved via Protein Kinase C inhibition, a controlled cancer now left to run its course. Your biological systems have an estimated life of thirty-nine hours, after which you will expire.

I'm dead! Oh, crap, I'm gonna die! You bastards! If you think I'll--

Military psychologists have determined that combat personnel, recently advised of their terminal status, have an 87% probability of mutiny or self-destruction. We reduce this to 4% by advising you that Frost's wife and children, for whom you have a strong emotional attachment, are under serious physical risk should you attempt rebellion of any kind.

Amy? The boys? They wouldn't--

You are advised to prepare yourself for imminent combat.

I can get through this. I can sort it out. I just--

Your drop pod has just passed beneath an altitude of 800 feet. Should it evade drop countermeasures (an estimated 67% probability), the pod will unlock the weapon module at your feet upon landing.


One of the President's duly appointed military representatives wishes you godspeed. Go forth now to protect the free world, in the name of The United Nations of America!

Copyright © 2006 Steven Cananagh.

Steven Cavanagh is a member of the Inifinitas Writers Group. He has appeared in Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, won this year's Flash Fiction competitions from both Magic Casements and the Australian Horror Writers Association, and appears in Outcast: an anthology of Strangers and Exiles, available at Infinitas.
First published in our Infinitas Newsletter, August 2006 .

This page last updated 16th September 2008.