The Thing that Maria is

White phosphorous stains the mind in suffering. First It sticks to the uniform then melts through to the skin, muscle, bone, and from bone to death, leaving nothing but hot white ash.

Fucking Brody put that in her head and she thinks about it now as she drives her M8 out onto the muddy plantain fields alive the with the stuff sparking off the humid Honduran air.

The driver of the M8 infantry mechanized vehicle half-track tries to put the idea of the pain out of her mind.

The Mexican soldier’s name is Maria and she shakes the images away. Her only job is to point the half-track and hope. Hope is a soldier’s best weapon. Behind the M8 are two infantry weapon teams. They use the M8 as cover, one on the left, the other on the right. On the roof is an operator-controlled, fifty-caliber machine gun. The operator sits just behind Maria with his eyes in goggles and his hands in Augmented-reality gloves.

They lay down so much death and take so few casualties the rear of the vehicle hangs half-open and the corpsman waits to be needed.

Her squad leader sits next to her and keeps communication ongoing with the platoon leader, who is five clicks back.

Maria passes the smoking remnants of another infantry fighting vehicle. Same Company. Two soldiers hang from the top hatch, black and smoking. If she stares long enough, she might recognize them. She will mourn later. That’s the way this game works. Fight, then mourn. She slows to let the corpsmen assess.

“No survivors!” he screams into the local com channel and Maria averts her eyes from the wreckage and keeps going. She has been in this war so long, and death so commonplace that if it’s going to happen nothing can stop it. If the M* is going to blow up, the M8 is going to blow up, all she can do is drive.

A glorious white light smacks like the hand of God dropped from an American plane 10,000 feet up.

Intended for the Banana Infantry up the line white phosphorous sticks to the armor first and melts through to the uniform and skin, but Maria got lucky she was out of range for it to go any further. She was pulled from the half-track and pumped full of fluids — and driven to a landing zone.

A special-forces pathfinder guided a UH-90 in for a landing. She was carried on board where a doctor brought her back to life three times en route to a hospital in Mexico City.

Maybe it would have been more humane to let her die.

Humanity is one thing, Maria is another.


Maria holds her hand up, begging and her nanotech skin slithers over her muscles. “Veterano,” she says with a voice like metal on metal. Hoping for coins, anything.

Her body has no feeling. Her life has no meaning. Her dreams are filled with death and she sits on the hot sidewalk in Tijuana surrounded by candles and crosses ignored.

And Maria lives on.

Dead on the outside forever trapped on the in.

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