“If you wanted me dead, you should have dropped me naked,” a simple fact I spit in the face of an indignant Patriarch of the Plant Life Research Division. More unhappy to be here than concerned with the fate of an accused murderer, his suggestion to remove the “smirk” off my face is his own way of showing it. He doesn’t bother me, in fact most of the room doesn’t; the Wise Men purposely stuffed the East Wing with civilians whose opinions, by default, doesn’t matter frankly.
It is still a strange sight to see none of my brothers and sisters in Noah moving about carrying on their regular duties for the glory of man. This skeleton crew of volunteers and the unlucky are so tense and clueless, fumbling about with no aim and purpose, half wondering the difference between their left shoe from their right. Most look pissed, whether at me or at their petty misfortunes, while others attempt to not trip over themselves and each other avoiding the Samsons, who now make up a startling amount of foot traffic especially in the eyes of the nonmilitary personnel. Fear, not damnation, is the name of the game. Some save that fear for me, not the man, but the David in Goliath armor. They hide behind smiles, keeping their anxiety at a surface level, well masked by the pointless insults and comments on my morality.
But they are not Noah; and no man, woman, or even new blood from the academy could wear Goliath’s armor and have the insignia of a David carved into his breastplate with his name gleaming in the blood sliver, without a hint of a shameless pride. I was two tons of manmade evil, or justice depending on which end of the barrel you stand. Since the formation of our war department the concept of Davids has always been there, only made obsolete by the need for Samsons. In truth, we had no idea what we would face when the Wise Men and all breathing Patriarchs at that time decided to return to Earth. Noah, the closest thing we have to a department of war, was original a self-defense force in case of dire emergencies or merely the need for a human footprint on foreign soil, so naturally the idea of pure-blood men and women trained for combat was on the table from the beginning. In fact each Patriarch currently working as officers in Noah would have been the equivalent of a small counties special forces if the need were to arise.
However, what we thought The Scientist may have left behind gave little pause to seriously pursue said option besides token readiness. Subsequently Noah evolved to become research, development, and planning and little else… until we discovered the Earth was teeming with sentient life – a beyond worst case scenario for Noah… and all of mankind. In which case a simple self-defense force – no matter how well-trained and equipped – risked unnecessary casualties; a single death would be the equivalent to 100,000 of theirs. From that crisis came the Samson’s: sixty percent man, forty percent other. To many, the overwhelming advantage of a clone army composed of genetically altered super soldiers placed the need for human-beings to step down from the stars and wage their own wars unnecessary and worse unpractical.
To draw contrast, all decisions regarding the war are made unilaterally by Noah. Any debates regarding the war are made internally inside the umbrella of Noah. Even a new blood on his first assignment has more to say in what gets researched, where the next hot zone will be, and how many resources will be needed, than a Wise Man. At most, the Wise Men rein in Noah by setting budget, though even the budget can be called into question by referendum. However, Davids, though considered a part of the military complex have been under debate since the first Patriarch expressed desire to step foot on Earth clad in whatever protective armor he managed to weld together and two Goliath Slayers in each hand. To become a David is beyond the boundaries of physical training or military discipline often given to elite Special Forces in the past. Extensive psyche evaluation followed by a private hearing before the Wise Men, among other test, restrict the pool of Davids to only a select few Noah who feel obligated to subject themselves to the opinions of others. The only other shortcut was self-promotion by becoming a General – a pain in the ass by itself.
No, for me the honor was out of reach; my only serious attempt at moving toward that rank has been my practice rounds with a personally decommissioned Goliath Slayer. To be an actual David – all prevailing circumstances considered – was a cause for celebration, if only privately behind my grim mask. Again, they chose the wrong punishment for a true Noah– I plan on enjoying this thoroughly.
“Well, well, Commander Matchworth; no, David Matchworth is it now?” speaks a man approaching 323 by my last count as he materializes himself next to me, matching our pace stride for stride.
“Gecko, you’re my pilot? Go figure.”
“They had to make sure they’d found someone willing to tip the plane over in case you suffer from cold feet.”
My senior takes this opportunity to pat my left cheek three times; bold move, considering I’m the man with the flamethrower.
“My, my, is that the same look you gave Steward before the ‘you know’…”
“No.” I flash my pearly whites, which he can’t see, as I say this, “I was much more relaxed.”
“Oh my, no regrets huh?”
“Not few you can have, especially in Goliath armor.”
We both exchange shark-like grins.
“Well you’d be the first to die in one.” Gecko shakes his head, “I’d rather drop you naked.”
I take a second to laugh out loud; the Samsons were undisturbed so I laugh even louder and harder until I remember Mr. Gecko unimpressed, impassionate face staring at the spectacle that is David Matchworth newly minted warrior of mankind.
“You must excuse me,” I chuckle, “my senses are starting to take their leave.”
Sighing Commander Gecko pushes on past me, like a bored cat leaving behind a new toy. I’m glad his company will be saved for the drop; the safety on my Type-52 Industrial Incinerator may be disengaged by then.
A slight rap on my left shoulder pad signals the need for the oxygen masked to be engaged. An unnecessary precaution, but I’ve heard enough hanger bay horror stories – some of which are well documented – that I don’t hesitate to do myself the favor when reminded. Hanger B-7 is one of 4 sets of hangers converted into force projection platforms, and doubles as an R/D lab on the weekends. In here, my fellow Noah are busy at work, too busy winning a war to be concerned with the fate of a disgraced Patriarch. To them, I’m just another David, which works out for me.
“David Matchworth, right this way.” My escorts tug my arm in the desired direction; I was wondering unintentionally, too caught up in the sounds and memories to remember that I’m an enemy of mankind. The little boy in me cranes his neck to see his squadron, the 122nd. I shake his heart still. First, my unit has always been deployed in Hanger B-2 or B-5. Secondly, the Wise Men are far too paranoid of the rippling effects of my sins to let a man so heavy-laden with his crimes anywhere near his own men. And third, they aren’t my men. A desk jockey is no more a commander than a squire a knight. An attachment to a Samson unit is an exercise in vanity. Seeing them would just remind me of what I’m not … a soldier. And if you look past the bravado and honor of merely holding the title of David…solely wearing the armor doesn’t “make” you one. But why am I torturing myself?
Nonetheless … the alien nature of this old world I’ve always been a part of is starting to encompass me. As a soldier, not an officer, I find a new sense of nervousness that I haven’t felt since I first started as a new blood. I hid it better under arrogance and bravado in those days; I can’t help but laugh with myself at that. For example, the first time seeing a Samson: 9 feet tall, 400 pounds of muscle, and eyes capable of seeing your every detail, access your worth, and grunt it back before you have time to automatically blink… I couldn’t imagine not taking note of them when I was a new blood, a mere volunteer to the cause, like I do now. Yet, the most startling thing about them– what draws you away from the elegant dove-like design of the drop ships, or the massive scale of the hanger itself– is how human they look. Not a mask, or a few common features, but common an ancestry that if one didn’t know better, may have stretched millions of years. Something beyond looking past what is obviously not human, and more like staring into the mirror called a distant cousin, who is 9 feet tall and built like a semi-truck. It’s not hard to believe that the Samsons are only 60% human on average.
No, the curiosity stems from the small scientist in me, wondering how far away from humanity can we go before crossing the threshold that divides “enhanced” human and walking monstrosity. It is their undeniable humanity, despite being physically un-human in every proportion, which makes their alertness; and the undeniable feeling that they will kill, and worse, prepared to be killed, much more subduing.
So of course, if my memory served me right, I wanted to have a conversation with one at the first opportunity. I planned a thirty minute interview, badgering my superiors for the opportunity of a lifetime. It didn’t last five seconds. Children in the academy often pass rumors of Samsons being mere brutes incapable of even speech. This assumption, which is held by even some Patriarchs (A minority, a minuscule minority, I assure you, less all of humanity be shamed!), is due to the heavy use of nonverbal communication and natural assumptions we humans, who use our brains to do much of the hard work, make of the more physically endowed. A Samson’s voice, which I quickly learned, was deeper than anything a human voice-box could possibly produce casually. But it also possessed another quality: a sound that went completely unnoticed by the human ear, but felt in the nerves. That is what ended the interview – which started with me fidgeting like an 8-year-old visiting the dentist, and ended with me running at full speed to the safety of my bed and blankets. Dubbed the ‘predator frequency,’ our ears pick up some sounds, though they can’t technically be heard, and will register in our minds as the personification of fear. Since hairless chimps spent a good part of their time being on the lower end of the food chain … we’ll needless to say it took much discipline and frequent trips to the bathroom to avoid treating an ARK ship like the hot plains of Africa.
A second tap on my right shoulder pad; the Michaels are ready for me. I turn around, almost with some hopes to burn a good picture into my memory. Only a squad of Samsons with guns at the ready met my longing gaze; I flush in my stupidity and embarrassment.
“I’m not going back; I shouldn’t look like I want to.”
Not the best self advice, but it must suffice. My home. I take a single step towards the Michael, originally a line of civilian vessels designed for scuttling between places of interest. Not truly fitted for long term space travel, but at the very least it can go in and out of a planet’s atmosphere with repairable wear and tear. They weren’t called Michaels until we turned them into scorch earth military aircraft. Though the outside looks as friendly and weapon-free as you would expect of a civilian vessel, it is only for the sake of practicality that its array of weapon systems aren’t hanging out every wing and free space. Trust me, nothing says “kaboom!” like a bunch of missiles and MM cannons being exposed to dropping in and out of the atmosphere where metals easily reach temperatures that could make the Atlantic Ocean sizzle. Like a dove folding her wings, her true size isn’t truly understood until it’s ready to fly. Troops, like me, are loaded in from the sides, while munitions, supplies, and drones are loaded in and simply dropped from the back.
I take another step. The deck looks inviting. Step. I know how many Samsons I’ve watched climb in without hesitation. Step. And the few that don’t return. Step. Made for war, not made for war. Step. Born to die, groomed to live. Step. I could just disengage the safety and … Step. I shot a man, this is what I deserve. Step. He deserved it, I’m a hero! Step. The fools. Step. I am better than this. Step.
I hold out a hand to the side of the door: the armor that turns my merger-sized fist into something capable of delivering 20-50 tons of force when wielded by even a moderately fit Patriarch looks otherworldly to me. I was prepared to die, prepared to be stripped of all freedom and privilege. But was I prepared for Earth? I let out a howl: am I ready? I grunt and scream: am I ready? The sound of the Samson’s terrors, priming for action, send chills down my spine, not of fear, but giddy.
“I AM THE REAPERMAN!!!” Laughter possesses my body and I can’t control the otherworldly howls.
“I mock you all! Justice, man, demon, I reap you all!”
Is this insanity or awakening? True acceptance: No regrets, no hesitation. Pull the trigger. For what is holy, for what is human. But the blood…so much blood! Can’t hide . No need to hide! Wrong isn’t so easy … Why was this so easy?
I stepped into the Michael, a warning shot was fired, my eardrums did pop, but that wasn’t what made me go.
“It was so easy …”