“The Operators” (~500 words)

This is just something I tossed off for fun in reference to kids who think video games or airsoft is analogous to the real military.

Al Taqqadum was sunny that day. That might not sound surprising to you, but it was a refreshing change from the three-day sandstorm we just experienced. The sand got into everything. Our clothes, our hair, orifices we didn’t know we had. My M4 had sand in cracks Colt didn’t know they designed into the damned thing. I just finished cleaning it for the third time and cursed my luck for the fourth time – more sand. Oh well, too late now. We had a patrol to get to and I still needed to go over my truck.

My PMCS was interrupted by a commotion behind me. My fellow soldiers had stopped what they were doing and a veritable din of awe-inspired muttering arose. I turned to see what the big deal was.

There they were, strutting down the dirt path that passed for a road, heads held high. Their steely eyes passed over us as if we weren’t there. It was a fitting tribute, honestly. Compared to them, we were ants.

I had heard of these people before – the ones we just called “Them” or, when we were being really specific, “The Operators”. Today was the first day I spotted one, let alone an entire squad of them. They were easy to pick out. Their gear was immaculate. None of that military-issue stuff. No, this came from a catalog – or maybe a sporting goods store. Their headsets blended in with their forest-green camo paint. An odd choice for the desert, but who was I to argue with professionals?

One of them stopped and looked at me as they passed. Oh shit, I thought, he caught me staring.

He brushed a speck of dust from his weapon and looked me up and down.

“Teh fuk r u lookin at, n00b?” He demanded, his jowls flapping majestically around the words.

“N-n-nothing, sir.” I sputtered.

“Fucking faggit. Wat do u mean, nothing? That’s not what ur mom said last nite, lol, fag!”

“Of course, sir.”

He spat on my face. I didn’t move or flinch – I didn’t want him to have any confirmation that I was the worthless soldier he suspected. It ran down my cheek. I could smell Mountain Dew and morning breath. The smell of death.

Without another word, he turned to catch up with his squad. Fortunately for him they had become winded from the walk and were taking a breather a few feet away.

“Lulz, u rekt that fag!” One of them wheezed.

“Fuckin ezmode newbs.” Another echoed, both of his chins bouncing in agreement.

My squad leader ordered us to mount up. I jumped in the turret of my truck and prepared for another grueling day on patrol. But this day, I knew, things would be different. There was a new spring in my step. I could do it, I thought. I really could.

I wish I could find those airsoft warriors and their Call of Duty squadmates and thank them for the confidence they gave me. Just witnessing their majesty was enough to give me the morale boost I needed to survive that war.

But such is not my fate. I don’t deserve to see such prime examples of the human ideal. I didn’t deserve it that day, either, but I was blessed nonetheless.

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