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Bring Me The Head

Don Plattner is a former chemist who wrote jokes for The Onion's ClickHole website. This story was written to reflect how even in the future, the inhumanity inherent to war will find new ways to manifest. Follow him on Twitter @dehydrogenation.
"Bring me the severed head of a Corgolian, and I will provide nanobots that let you see the color purple." That's what our commander said the moment we reached the war-torn planet of Caratax, far from the galaxy we had called home.
This was shocking. Both for the brutality of the request, and the alluring prize he offered. Purple, real purple. How many Sethorians can say they have witnessed this spectrum of light? Not many, and certainly none who are low enough to be drafted into this righteous conflict.
At least we thought it was righteous. That's certainly what we'd been told, and our training had not hinted at the presence of primal cruelty. The boot camp had been intense but not cultish. Our upgraded neuro-programming had instilled a noble warrior's spirit with an emphasis on the nobility. We had learned to tell friend from foe, and knew not to shoot the former.
So it came as quite a jolt when the commander's offer was made. After all, we were supposed to be winning this war, and taking heads doesn't seem like the sort of thing the winning side does. But still, purple.
It's not that the commander's deal was first and foremost in our minds. We were more focused on staying alive the first time we set out on a patrol in the Hautau 2 Province. Ruins on a spectacular scale were spread out, evaporating the concept of orderly streets and roads. The city was one big jumble, as if two giant hands had smashed the infrastructure together with the goal of creating a single heaping mound.
I'll spare you the details, because they are violent and unextraordinary. Simply put, a Corgolian appeared amongst the ruins. He raised his gun. We had guns. He died. Then came afterwards, as we stared at his body.
"Purple, purple, purple," we whispered to each other, eyeing the corpse. He was dead after all, there was no changing that. And so we bargained against ourselves, weighing morality against prudence. And because when you bargain against yourself you always win, we decided to go forth with the act.
I carried the head back to the base. It was heavy. My comrades kept sneaking glimpses and our pace slowed every time they did. We all felt the weight of that head.
We presented it as a unit, having decided to share the shame as well as the prize. The commander did not disappoint. The nanobots were dispersed, and for the first time we saw that magnificent color. Purple! Gorgeous, wafting purple. Every free moment was spent drifting into the color, reveling in its austere beauty. It was all we could think about, a perfect drug of amnesia to forget the unspeakable deed.
Alas, the greatest purple on Caratax, the objects with the richest hues, sincerest beauty, and most delicate vibrancy, were the purple heads of the Corgolians.
The End
This story was first published on Monday, April 27th, 2020
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