Plato's Lie: Prologue
Posted By: Imperator John<firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: 1 October 2009, 3:12 am
"You had good reason, he said, to be ashamed of the lie which you were going to tell."
"True, I replied, but there is more coming: I have only told you half."
The Republic, Book 3
Location: Galloway Outpost; Planet: Galloway
Galactic Location: Scutum-Crux Arm
"You picked a hell of a place to die, Marine," He told himself.
This planet had no economic value, no strategic value, and certainly no worth. The outpost, with its basic concrete walls, was just a slipshod fortress on a barren planet surrounded by dirt and frost. Life was an alien term here: Nothing grew on this planet, nothing even inhabited it. As far as the UNSC was concerned, this was a world meant to serve as a congressman's retirement gift: His own little piece of rock to claim as his legacy. Yet here they were, protecting it. Every Marine in every platoon that came to defend this spot ended up missing in action-a polite way of saying they were dead...gone to the halls of Montezuma. Semper fi, Marine.
As he walked through the halls of this death trap, every boy stopped to salute him. "Ready at your post, Marine?" He would ask; pretending that it mattered. They were little more than cannon fodder, meant to keep the galactic wheels churning. No, not even that: They were expendable in the most inhumane sense of the word, and none would mark the events here. As he contemplated the idea of cannon fodder, he found himself realizing that even cannon fodder was entitled to a last meal before it was tossed to the dogs of war. He and the men around him were just like the combat robots sent into minimum-priority operations. Easily broken, easily replaced, and little more than trigger fingers with legs.
"Sir, yes, sir!" They would scream back, still foolish enough to believe that enthusiasm counted for something. Even on this hellish rock, they had been too well programmed to have anything other than absolute devotion to the task at hand. Poor speckers.
And he would just grunt lines like, "Carry on, Marine," and salute, then move on knowing that nothing any of them did mattered. These boys were dead. Fresh out of basic, loyal to their last breath, and served up to die. He could not save them any more than he could save himself. They were all simply walking dead, automatons made to serve the UNSC's machinations. In a few days, the next patrol would come picking through for survivors and find the base utterly abandoned. The Corps would list them all as missing in action, some officer would say, "Damn, another platoon?" and send for another forty-two men to replace the garrison lost.
Legend had it that space monsters prowled the surface of Galloway. Most of the boys believed it was space aliens attacking the fort. Facing their deaths, these boys turned back the clock to the days when authors wrote books about alien armies and fleets of inhuman invaders were portrayed on movie screens. But they were wrong. Once humanity entered space, it had discovered that we were almost alone in the galaxy. The only thing man had to fear was man himself.
Up ahead, a couple of the Marines knelt in the shadow of a doorway and prayed. Letting his eyes linger on their bowed heads, the man simply stood there, muttering to himself as they said the Lord's Prayer. "You do that," He mumbled, "You pray. Why not?" Once the guns are loaded and the troops in place, God and chance are all you had left.
An old saying, but one that had not become any less true over the centuries. That, however, didn't even phase him. He had stopped caring about what would happen to his men. He did not even care about what happened to himself. He had the urge to survive, but that was just instinct. An instinct that he, himself, had become more and more disassociated from with the passage of time. He had long ago lost the drive to question what happened, but instead had learned to accept it and continue to move on, to advance until he broke down. Then he would be replaced, just like the rifle he carried, like the circuitry in his helmet. He was easily replaced, his equipment worth more to the UNSC than his life. Why should he care, if nobody else did?
That was because of the lie. Plato's lie seems innocent, but it leaves you alienated from everything.