“As part of our basic training we were given rifle drill. The human-shaped targets we had on the range were meant to break the reservations most recruits had about shooting at people, and over time these disappeared – we aimed and fired without a thought.
In practice the battles we fought were much different. We rarely used the XR-9s we carried in our vehicles, though they gave us much-needed authority over civilians in occupied zones. Our robots dealt with hostiles, and most firefights took place at long range. We came to know the enemy not as soldiers like ourselves, but as the charred remains of men entombed in gutted vehicles. Some of us were thoroughly sickened, but I far preferred them dead.
My attitudes changed late in the day, when one of our Scarabs knocked out an enemy MBT. Three of its four crew got out before its ammunition blew, only to be halted by the Scarab’s paired flechette rifles. As they trudged towards our convoy, bloody and demoralised, it seemed that men like them – and me – were mere slaves to our war machines…”