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The Gun Overheats

by Jonathan Wood

It's Friday, and something's gone awry again, preventing you from seeing the cool story Mr. Lundberg has prepared for you. Please bear with us while we attempt to exorcise whatever computerological demons are afflicting us on a weekly basis.

Day 1724

The Gun overheats in the sun. Not fired once and still it overheats.
Beyond the city, the salt plains shimmer.
Maintenance comes and re-wires the coolant systems. Bart pisses himself when the plasma system creaks and they all run screaming. It's been doing that since the third summer of the siege.

Day 1745

“They're not coming,” Bart says.
We do this about once a month. “If They weren't coming, we wouldn't be here,” I say. I go through the motions. There's piss all else to do.

Day 1756

Battery 87 explodes today. I think this is it; it's on at last. I jump into the seat, start the engines. Then we get the stand down order. Just a malfunction. Coolant failure.

Day 1764

Water rations cut again. Bart's pissed. He says we're the military. We should get concessions. I pray They come today, that They end this siege.
But They don't come.

Day 1787

Officer inspection today. Bart gets it for the state of his uniform. I've been warning him for two weeks. Water rations aren't treating him well. It's tough for those with kids in the city. I get that. But we've still got to show we're better than Them.

Day 1796

“They're not coming.”
“If They weren't coming, we wouldn't be here.”
“You're not listening to me!” Bart is close enough for me to smell his breath, sour and thick. “I mean, have you ever even seen Them? All I ever see through this scope is dust, and dirt, and salt. All I ever see is the barrel of this gun pointing at empty ground. I never even targeted a bird. Because They ain't coming!”

Day 1797

Bart's not here today.

Day 1798

I hear in the barracks--Bart's been caught trying to cut the cooling systems. Bart's working for Them, officer's say. Bart's to be shot at noon.
I sit by the Gun and strain my ears. I think I hear the first shots I've heard this whole war.

Day 1799

Bart was right. They're not coming.
It's hot today. I'm overheating. I unbutton my shirt. I look through the scopes. I see the dirt, see the dust, see the salt. And then I see a bird, its wing broken, scuffing on the floor.
I keep the sights on that bird, lying there, waiting to die. I open fire.

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