1. Prologue

The General lay back in his leather chair and sighed, stroking his greying moustache. It was something he always did when he was worried or angry, and right now, he was both. What utter imbeciles his staff were! What incompetent fools! Here they were, in the middle of the most furious war in centuries, and they couldn't produce a single thing to give them an edge. Their side was not doing well in this war, and the General wasn't prepared to lose. Fuming, he called to his personal assistant.

"Quinn!" The young man behind him stood to attention.

“Yes sir?”

The General eyed him critically. He had only been employing Quinn Parker for a few months, and already he’d proven himself to be more than up to the job. The General was a suspicious man, however, and he had his doubts about his new assistant. No matter. He did his job well, unlike the rest of his staff.

“Bring me Bates and Browning. Tell them I expect results, and if they don’t have anything, I am firing them.” Quinn nodded once, turned on his heel, and walked briskly out of the room. The General smiled with satisfaction. Yes. Quinn was certainly his best employee, despite his misgivings about him.

Quinn returned a few minutes later, followed by two nervous figures in long white lab coats. The General smirked. He detested the scientists, and giving them the sack would give him immense satisfaction.

“Bates and Browning, sir,” Quinn rapped out, and then went to stand next to the door, staring straight ahead. The General glared at the scientists, sizing them up like a shark sizing up its next meal.

“Well? What do you have to say for yourselves?”

Browning stepped forward. “Actually,” she said, nervousness making her voice higher than normal, “We have come up with something, but the idea is not fully developed.” That was unexpected.

“Out with it, then,” the General barked, slightly disappointed. Here Bates came in.

“We can breed identical soldiers.” His voice was tainted with a self-importance characteristic of the scientists. “We have done some tests using robots but we have decided that soldiers need human impulse in order to function well.”

“They will be obedient, but they also need to make informed decisions. Therefore, we have decided that they should be schooled. We suggest that from birth to five years of age, they attend infant school, and learn basics like language and maths. After that, they will go to a main school until they are sixteen. There they will continue to learn language, maths, science and other subjects, but also how to fight. Once they are sixteen they will join the army until they get too old, and are destroyed.”

“Sounds like this is a well thought out idea,” the General remarked. “Why did you not tell me about this sooner?” The two scientists had the good grace to look ashamed, but said nothing. The General suspected that they didn’t want to present him with a half-thought-out idea because of their concern for their stupid reputations.

Identical soldiers, eh? Who would have thought his scientists would come up with such an ingenious idea? Trying to hide a smile, the General nodded.

“You may begin production of these soldiers.”

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