Know Your Enemy: Celebrating 50 Years of the Forever War

Robert Sammelin

No one booze more than the scientist. Every darknes, after whatever patriotic black-tie jamboree united played prop at, he could be found at the inn saloon, trying to extract existential intend from a banana colada. It was an strange glas of selection for the purposes of the a serious soul, but only once did he respond to our inquisitions about it.

It pleases the nerve fibers, he supposed, all baritone to his voice, before disappearing into the chilled yellow slime again. We were in New Tulsa, debriefing after a grueling dinner with a bunch of white-haired solar power exec. Wed been on the road for months, and morale used to go the channel of the glacier. I ordered a round for the table, and we toasted to the hustle. Heroes of the commonwealth, peddling crusade attachments by day, boozing like froufrous by night. Our drill instructor would not have been proud.

Maybe it wasnt New Tulsa. Perhaps itd been in Charlotte after the fund-raiser with the nanofinance douchebags. Anyhow.

There were 11 of us on the bail drive, 12 if you included the JngerBot. The Forever War had just entered its sixth decade, and our legislators didnt pretend they were going to end it anymore, even during elections. They couldnt. Wed tried everything: nation-building, nation-destroying, transmitting terrorists and their families to the Mars penal colony, transmitting the revolutionary Young Siberians to actual Siberia. Nothing had worked. We were at war since we are ever had been. We were at war since we are ever would be. We were at war because we were at war.

Matt Gallagher


Matt Gallagher is the author of the novel Youngblood and the Iraq memoir Kaboom: Hugging the Suck in a Savage Little War.

The government decided to celebrate the Forever Wars golden commemoration with thunderous, shiny bombast. We were part of that bombast. AMERICAS HEROES, TOGETHER AT LAST, ran the tagline. We were like a roving assortment play, but without name identification or talk or sex appeal. Without anything, actually. Just pasts wiped clean with the antiseptic of narrative. So we stood there and smiled and motioned while other people told our fibs to the crowds. The bunch cheered. We motioned again.

After the coladas, I resolved the tab and excused myself. The younger veterinarians darknes was just beginning, but excavation was nearing its end. In the queue for the teleporter to the areas, a soul about my age waited behind me. He wore a rumpled dress shirt and an overlong affiliation and a goatee on the brink of coherence.

He was looking everywhere but my hoverchair. People with legs ever do that. It reminds me of the channel some gentlemen used to try very difficult not to look at my cleavage when I was younger. The struggle exactly underlines the fixation.

Thank you, he supposed. For what you did.

Thank you for your supporter, I supposed, a reaction as hollow as it was practised. He mustve been at the incident earlier.

Cancan I tell you something?

Sure, I supposed. Women in military uniforms have this impression on gentlemen in dress shirts, for some reason. If youd like to.

I wanted to be a recon marine when I was a kid. He said it like it was a church confession, something hidden away in the lost rifts of his soul for decades. Did the recon exercising at the gym for years, he resumed. Stupid, I know.

I gestured, both because it was stupid and because I knew.

Youre a bona fide hero. The humankinds segue was as graceful as a startled dog, but it was late. That scientist, though. Hes killing people. And not only the enemy.

I thought about the mans messages. They were true enough. So what the fuck is you do? I expected. If you were him.

Me? The soul stroked his goatee. I wouldnt even know.

Pragmatically, I supposed. Youre the scientist. You live in this country. The wars happening. You can maybe culminate it or not. Either channel, people die. What do you do?

II object to the question. And to the idea. Im not him. The male voice had a quiver to it now. Not an furious quivering, either. A frightened one. I was just sayingI dont think its right. Thats all.

OK, I supposed. Night. It was my transform at the teleporter. I get in and went to my room. I didnt begrudge the man his opting out. We all had in some way. Even us.

Especially us.

The Federals had discovered me at my sisters, on the hall, scrolling through a holopad clause about the rabid lemur thatd killed Justin Bieber Jr. Furious George Howls With Delight! read the headline. Its ever spooky when sons die the same way their papas did. The past seize us all, eventually. Even Biebers.

I was on my seventh time of an indefinite stay, still sleeping in a bare guest room. A potted bud or framed drawing would have felt like differentiates of immortality, somehow. Id been living in increments since high school and wasnt about to stop exactly because I couldnt figure out what to do with the rest of my life.

Theywell, welived among the priorities of a windy mound in a suburb of a suburb, wedged between a stand of wild honeysuckle and a pond shaped like a swollen snout. It was light-green and quiet. The kind of place where large-hearted flags hung from porches with meeknes. I learnt painting at the community center and took my nieces to soccer pattern and spend my Saturday nighttimes at the one townie saloon that served ros.

The life didnt constitute me happy or anything, but it could have. Perhaps should have.

There were three of them. They all wore jeans and plaid shirts of varying blandness. Id have expected dress and pitch-black sunglasses, but the decay effects of after-empire were reaching and vast.

Chief Warrant Officer Valerie Speer? one supposed. Well, expected. I didnt look my own part, either. Female veterinarians tend to cut any particular mold. A liter-sized gremlin in a gardening hat wasnt it.

They told me about the bail drive. About how it would inspire patriotism again in the hearts and brains of the people. About how it would get everyday citizens invested in the wars again.( Like they ever were. I knew its own history .) About how the government necessity the money, how 50 years of blowing up situations in strange, faraway residences had taken its fee on the budget, especially since the geothermal uprising in Blue Russia embarked eats away at Uncle sam foreign trade.

About how the bail drive necessity the status of women on it, because they had an old-time guy, a blexican, a mexipino, and a robot, and is demonstrating that heroes were as varied as the country mattered.

I giggled. A woman. I danced my metal fingers through the breeze. In the privilege daylight my prosthetics could look like flesh. We werent in it. Thats why you need me.

That acquired the two men in jeans and plaid look down at the field, but the status of women Fed exactly looked at me.

Youre Valerie Speer, she supposed. The atmosphere in her voice chimed so earnest it snapped. Do you know what you mean to my generation of status of women? I connected relevant agencies because of you.

She was lying about that, I was almost sure. But shed appealed to my dignity. I danced my fingers through the breeze again and took in all the green, all the quiet. Seven times here. Seven times that had moved me soft. Did people my age go on escapades anymore?

I asked about financial compensation.

Heres the thing about being labeled a crusade hero: You either love it or detest it. Theres little space for mixed sensations. Take the scientist. Invented a drone mosquito that gives people the runs, sold it to the military, and stopped the Arabican conflict almost overnight. You cant fire a rifle when youre crapping out your intelligences. But some of the mosquitoes werent as specific as billed. During strafes, they bit adversaries and civil alike. Which wouldnt have mattered often had we been fighting in the developed countries. We werent, though. Outbreaks of dysentery and super-cholera followed, and the last UN estimate I ascertained numbered deaths in the tens of thousands.

The bail drive necessity the status of women on it. They already had an old-time guy, a blexican, a mexipino, and a robot.

The scientist had ended a crusade all with his psyche. Yet the only happening he wanted in the world was to return to his laboratory, to his anonymity, and forget any of it ever happened.

The JngerBot seems to resent “members attention” for other reasons. It didnt know what to draw of people, and truth know where he is, people didnt know what to draw of it. They could manage robots, had been addressing them all their lives. Even the rough-and-tumble action of a regular InfantryBot could be explained away. But an nobility InfantryBot 5000 improved with the metaphysical heroism and theoretical thoughtfulness of decorated German World War I soldier Ernst Jnger? That made some issues.

The anarch wages his own wars, the JngerBot supposed at a fund-raiser to a journalist whod asked if it missed combat. Even when parading in rank and file.

Before a boxing prizefight, the JngerBot felt it necessary to remind the crowd what was what. Excavation campaigning is the bloodiest, wildest, most brutal of all, it said to 70,000 drunk revelers in Vegas. Of all the wars evoking moments , none is so powerful as the gather of two storm troop presidents between restricted pit walls. Theres no boon there , no going back. The blood expres from a shrill cry of recognizing that weeps itself from ones breast like a nightmare.

And then there were the children.

It told a 10 -year old-time with a JngerBot poster on his wall that killing an opponent would be a finer tribute. And when a bank presidents little girl pointed to us and asked if we were heroes, the JngerBot objected as merely it is able to 😛 TAGEND

Heroes deeds and heroes mausoleums, it supposed. Old and brand-new you here may picture. How the Empire was established. How the Empire was continued. It interrupted. We tried the deaths among heroes. “They dont have” lovelier demise in the world.

The little girls look paled to glass as her parent produced her away. We all giggled about it , no one harder or longer than Dizzy. Dizzy was a walking, talking dispute for breeding the remaining cis-males out of the gene pool, if merely he hadnt been so pretty. Drone pilots. They think theyre so starfish as they can laser insurrectionists dead from space. And Dizzy was an virtuoso. He adored every minute of the bail drive, “members attention”, the parties, the hoverfloat goes, the certain type of girl patriot who wanted to see the idea from his hotel balcony. Beats going back to Pueblo and coaching CrossFit, hed answer, before loosing that smile of full, fluoride radiance. God, he could charm the sorcery underwear off a Mormon.

Would try, at least.

Hed deserved the Silver Star in the Iraq war. Well, the Iraq war before the last one. Perhaps it was three Iraq wars ago.

Dizzy and a very young veterinarians on the bail drive are always privateersmercenaries if youre the protest, virtual-petition sort. WarriorCorps and Foreign Legion Inc. and Armed Humanitarianism Limited and the like. I was hybrid: component contractor but likewise component national armed, before that ran extinct during the course of its Whig Revolt of 36. Exclusively Emo Carlos was old-time enough to have been GI from beginning to end. Hed deserved the Silver Star in the Iraq war. Well, the Iraq war before the last one. Perhaps it was three Iraq wars ago. Anyhow. We expected Emo Carlos about it over sushi, after a procession in Cleveland.

Jumped on a grenade at a checkpoint, he supposed, placing down his chopsticks with a shrug. Didnt go off.

We hollered and banged the table just because we could. Itd been a couple decades since anything but a bot had been close enough to a grenade to do anything like that. Even the JngerBot uttered its admiration.

Defective? I asked.

Emo Carlos gestured. One in thousands and thousands of, they said.

What happened then? Dizzy asked.

The pleats in Emo Carlos forehead folded into one another like papier-mch. He often never talked about anything but drumming for his old-man punk circle. Theyd served together back in the day and were known across the greater Rochester area as the Infidels. Geriatric humor.

Stood up, he supposed. Dusted off. Seemed down. Realise Id pissed myself.

We hollered and banged the table all over again.

An elderly couple came over to us later. Theyd overheard our dialogue and wanted to say thank you. They said they had two grandsons in privateer training.

I know our thanks is a small happening, the partner supposed. He and his wife seemed so cute in their nice old-people clothes, khakis and sweaters and thick-rimmed glass. They looked like other publics grandparents ever search. But sometimes its all those of us here can offer.

The wife gestured. Were all involved, she supposed. We is argued that. As taxpayers, as citizens, thats how it is. Were with you.

We thanked them for thanking us and they left the restaurant.

What did she entail, Were all involved? Dizzy expected. No theyre not.

There were echoes of agreement and consideration over what the old woman had symbolized, and not just about the word involved . Likewise about the word we .

Yo, Emo Carlos supposed. The table silenced. Theyre from my period. When wars had extremities. When citizens tried to keep up. America used to be young. Thats what she meant.

Then say that, Dizzy supposed. Taxes? Who the fuck cares.

Emo Carlos shook his head again. He was trying to clear himself of frustrations, either with himself or with us. Then he timed at me. Sent her to the damn moon. Supposed to save us all, putting the wars up there. Preserve the land and resources, extinguish civilian deaths. Be tidy and simple. That was the plan.

And no one is went back, Dizzy supposed. The play changed.

Well. Emo Carlos giggled. Military exercise numero uno, son, he supposed. No propose survives first contact.

The rest of us giggled together with the old-time wisdom. Everyone but the scientist, who sat off by himself in the reces. He seemed up at us with something between sadness and frenzy. It was hard to decide which.

Tidy and simple, he supposed. I like that.

When my nieces transform 12 and obtained in FreedomNet, they will find these three paragraphs about their aunt, etched into the digital histories forever and ever 😛 TAGEND

Valerie Jade Speer( born May 2, 2011) was a leader warrant officer( breeze) and onslaught aviator in the United States Army and later the privateer party Star Spangled Security. She was awarded the Star of Valor in 2042 for her activities during the Battle on the Moon, of which she was the only survivor .

Deployed to the moon as part of the NATO organization during the course of its South Seas squabble, Speer flew a Flying Yeager fusion helocraft during the battle, destroying five Chinese Federation space-helos and two Young Siberian cosmo-planes. Struck by an adversary midget ballistic, Speer crash-landed into the Titius Crater. She was thus sheltered from the astonish thermonuclear strike carried out by the Young Siberians that killed all other fighters and blew the hole in the moon now known as Putins Smile .

Initially presumed dead, Speer was received during NATO recovery operations two days after the conclusion of its combat. “Shes lost” three extremities, tolerated burns over much of her body, and subsisted over 90 surgeries. President Natasha Obama supposed Speers life and story are a testament to the American heart at her Star of Valor ceremony at the White House .

Words can be funny beasts. Her activities propose some sort of agency, even restrict. Destroy is such a clean word for the purposes of the messiness. Struck by defied my reminiscence of it. Same with crash-landed.

Less so with lost. And suffered.

Testament. As if standing were a selection. I did what anyone would have. There are no atheists in moon craters. And “there wasnt” fatalists in survivor wards of one.

I was thinking about that ward as I zipped up my suitcase in my sisters guest room for the bail drive. Thinking about the long stills of quiet during the course of its nighttimes. Thinking about being called the Burn by wet-nurses who considered I couldnt listen to them. Thinking about the full-thickness graft done without anesthesia.

You sure about this, Val? My sister stood in the doorway. Her posture disclosed opponent. She was four years older and had always asked me any issues that she already had answers for. You have options.

Shed said the same times prior, before Id left for the moon.

I am, I supposed both durations, although there are I wasnt both durations. Id ever discovered power and resolve in ambiguity, though. Most people werent like that. My sister, for one.

Youve done more than your share, she resumed, moving to the bed and putting her limb around my shoulder. So much more. I leaned my leader into her and tried to hold in some of the familial heat. Id miss it, I knew. Only sisters and nieces hug people like me. I dont think its right.

I smiled at that.

Its not, I supposed. But. If not me, then who?

Even extending is also possible its own formation of opting out. I didnt know that the first time. But I did the second largest. The last darknes in the guest room, as I tossed and altered in bed, I thought about that. Then I thought about the survivor ward again. And the long stills of quiet during the course of its nighttimes. And being called the Burn. And the graft.

Somewhere between Omaha and Tesla City, I began to realize just how different a very young veterinarians were. It wasnt exactly that this organization is privateers, either, or that they called adversary fighters pixels as an offense. Dizzy and his crew, they crowed about their services. Owned their advantage, then savor in it.

Do soldiers think theyre better than citizens? Of direction. It has nothing to do with what did or didnt happen in their services, either. It has to do with the extremely opinion of joining up. Americas been at war since before most of us were born. We connected because we wanted to go. Wed been told we were special from day one of boot camp, doing something the rest of our commonwealth couldnt. Or worse, wouldnt. Too fat. Too selfish. Too lazy. Which acquired the realization after we got out that citizens think were beneath them all the more shocking. If theyre fatten, selfish, and lazy, then whats worse than that?

We werent supposed to say any of that, though. My generation didnt, at the least. We were taught that part of our service was remaining quiet about it. To rise above, because thats what Jesus and George Washington and Beyonc wouldve wanted.

Thats what I did. Or tried to, at the least. Let the citizenry think what it wants, ran the logic. All part of has become a republic.

Maybe we had it incorrect, though.

I wondered about that the darknes the protester tackled us. We were in Washington for a jamboree. Commonly “were in” ushered in through side or back entrance for events, but the organizers of this one had us walking in on a red carpet, through a galaxy of twinkling ignites and holographic cameras.

Finally, Dizzy supposed, interrupting to adjust his bow affiliation and lick his front teeth. The care we deserve.

Why the protester selected the JngerBot to cream-pie, Ill never know. By the time the clamor had reached my ears and Id floated around in my chair, the JngerBot had the young man by the throat. Request order to excrete home-front adversary, it supposed, which was funny, and then not.

We got the young man free of the JngerBots prongs. He was reed-thin and had thick brown curls with sees as nighttime and mad as the moon. I didnt know what to think about him or his pasty. People didnt protest crusade in person anymore. It wasnt sane behavior.

Youre not heroes, he supposed. His messages were shaky. Its never easy calling look to face with people youve demonized. Or cockpit to cockpit. Youre the instruments of empire. Fuck you. Fuck all of you.

The cameras along the walkway started popping off like mortars. We all exactly stood there, waiting out his tirade, because we were there to be seen and acclaimed , nothing else. His anger perplexed me, and the others very. Not Dizzy, though.

Get bent, joker, Dizzy supposed, crossing his arms for the cameras. War is bad? No shit. But it wont go away just cause we are willing to. Last month, two brigades from the same basi get distributed. One be applicable to Kurd Mountain, saves those lineages from the host. The other be applicable to Blue Russia, blows up some insurrectionists. Ones a humanitarian duty. The others engagement. Both require destruction.

Id ever heard Dizzy speak with eloquence and infatuation before. He was good, and he knew it. He pressed on.

This JngerBot is a goddamn national rich. I dont know what brought you here here tonight, and I dont generate a single fuck. We ran so you dont “re going to have to”. Suck my hero balls.

The arrogance. The entitlement. The narrowness of conceive. I loved it all, and I wasnt the only one. The red carpet exploded with ovation. Dizzy even took a bow. But the acclaim wasnt universal.

After the protester had been escorted away and united extended inside for the jamboree, the scientist discovered Dizzy. Dont do that again, he supposed. He loomed over a very young soul like an furious mother. That guy is not your adversary. Neither is anyone else youve fulfilled on this stupid tour.

He aint a sidekick. Dizzy was trying to sound unbothered, and he leaned back in his chair and place his hoofs on the table. So what is he?

Only fools speak in absolutes, the scientist said.

Dizzy changed tactics. You know what he probably thinks about you? he expected. What all these people say when they think we cant discover? I had a woman tell me she didnt think we were whole human beings. Fuck her, and fuck that protester. Fuck all of them.

I wondered what the answers were to Dizzys questionwhat did people say about us? When they thought about us at all. Beyond the magnificence and ceremony of the bail drive, we werent anything, I considered. Just ciphers with fibs people believed in, or didnt believes in, even before they heard them.

So. What. The scientists voice turning now to iron as he responded to Dizzy. Thats the job. We have consequences.

Dizzy opened his mouth, but the scientist cut him off. You did . You did when you didnt “re going to have to”. Thats enough. It has to be. Then he stormed off, presumably for the inn bar.

The scientist opted out that night. The rest of us did too, by doing the job. We stood there and smiled and motioned while other people told our fibs to the crowds. The bunch cheered. We motioned again.

We ambled back to the inn as a group after the jamboree. We stopped in a ballpark with light-green lawns and a marble fountain and joked about the protester, giggled about the scientist. The scientist had been right, but so what? What did being privilege have to do with anything? Dizzy had retrieved whatever force-out it was that kept him and embarked chit-chat up a pair of young women who considered themselves patriots. I watched everything there is and was just thinking about the ward and then my sisters dwelling. The JngerBot came up beside me.

You managed that pasty well, I told it. It didnt said so, so I resumed. Waiting for the purposes of an order, I mean.

Here is our kingdom, the best use of autocracies, the best republic, the JngerBot supposed. Here is our garden, our happiness.

What a random happening to suggest, I considered. Even for a robot. But later, after considering it more, I decided otherwise.

The Fiction Issue

Tales From an Uncertain Future

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