The smell of burning diesel filled Taylor’s nostrils. He should have been worrying about the Taliban fighters, but he wasn’t. He was only concerned with what his fellow soldiers thought of him. A coward is more hated than a murderer.
Taylor spun, his carbine hunting instinctively for a target.
“Sergeant Taylor, drop your weapon!”
It was that voice. The voice of The Perfect Soldier. Sergeant First Class Beaumont. Taylor couldn’t see Beaumont. Maybe Beaumont was the coward.
Just to test: “Show yourself!”, shouted Taylor. It was a chance to defy authority, if only for a moment. It was a reasonable request afterall.
Beaumont emerged from behind the first smouldering HMMMWV, his uniform still perfect, his weapon surely immaculately maintained, his skill at killing another man with the rifle assuredly honed to inhuman perfection. The Golden Boy walked toward Taylor. The Army loved the Golden Boy, with his insanely fast promotions, his perfect haircut, his digital-camo picket fence.
“Drop the rifle, Sergeant Taylor. You’re under arrest”, said Beaumont.
“Under arrest? What d’ ya mean?”
” I saw you. You ran. You didn’t fight. Cook there fought. And died. You ran and lived. Drop the weapon, for the last time, drop it.” Beaumont seemed to focus in on the front sight of the M4.