The General paced across his metal catwalk, looking at the masses assembled in front of him. He wasn't sure he liked that everyone he looked at was wearing the same light grey uniform. It made them all look so... well, uniform. That was the point of the outfit. It was in the name.
Still. Most of these men wouldn't survive long enough to assemble again. Most of their killers wouldn't bother remembering their faces. The general wished that they would be allowed, just for what might be the last few moments they had to live, to distinguish themselves.
Eventually each man in this room would fall. Eventually there would be too many funerals.
Not today, though. Today, they were all still breathing. Today they had to be excited, be prepared for whatever the world would throw at them tomorrow. They had to be ready.
That was why the General was here. He had to get them excited to die. It was speech time. The lights in the barracks were dimmed as a spotlight picked him out, twenty feet above the mob.
"Remember, men," he began, "why you are here. You are the floodgates. You are the front lines, protecting everything we hold dear from the enemy." He started speeches well. Praise them, make them giants in their own heads. They needed to believe in themselves, so as to be able to deal with what was to come.
"You notice I call them the enemy. I do not call them human, I do not say they are people. Our enemies are not people. They are filth. Vermin. They are the scrapings from the bottom of your shoes. These rats stand to undermine everything humanity has strived for over the past fifty years. They stand to destroy every advancement we have made, every achievement we have reached. They have decided to oppose our government, so we, the government, must decide to oppose them.
"These rats will try to shake you from your path. They will plead with you, they will call down the wrath of their God on you. Do not falter. Their cries are meaningless, their God is dead. These people will tell you they forgive you, that their God knows you know not what you do. Do not be shaken. You require no forgiveness, most certainly none they can offer.
"Men, we are fighting a war. It is a subversive war, a culture war, but at the same time a war all too deadly. No one will sleep safely until we have stamped out this threat. No one can reclaim their lives until we eradicate the vermin.
"Go now, men, knowing that your country has put its full faith in you to carry out your mission. You have all been trained for this, you all are ready to take up arms in the defense of your homes and family.
"Go now with courage, men, and fight."
The men cheered, a grey ocean slowly waving as the noise bounced off the barrack walls. Then the moment was over. The lights returned to normal, the men filed out, the General sat down.
And as the first shots rang out, he shook his head. There would always be too many funerals.
An America Story