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“Soldier 177-13-46A, casualty,” the scavenger called out to his squad foreman, reading from my dog tags. He rolled over my lifeless body, digging through my pockets for spare change, ammunition, anything. He didn’t find much. He pulled off my jacket, stuck together and stiff from blood that had gushed from a gaping chest wound not a day ago. All of my comrades were being similarly treated by an army of looters. Of course, they weren’t looters if the military itself was the one putting them up to it.

The scavenger reached down into the sharp glass sand and pulled out my partially buried sabre. It glimmered, pristine, in the red glare of the sun that had blinded my eyes while the cannons had deafened my ears. Dull sword, dud shots, jammed pistol. Scream, run, get shot, get gored. Feel cold. Hoof beats follow. A supposed success. He moved to my boots.

The measure of a soldier was how he kept his boots. That’s what my old man had told me. The scavenger ripped the well polished leather from my limp feet, the lustrous surface defaced by the crusted crimson and caked-on dust. He spat on them rubbing at the blood with his sleeve. Perhaps he would take the boots for himself. Spoils for living.

He moved up my legs, after flipping over my body again. In a war like this, modesty could not be spared, even for the fallen. Especially for the fallen. He worked at the rope tied tightly about my hips. He rolled up my left pant leg, the thin canvas ripping from the strain. He pulled a worn knife from a sheath on my calf, blade rusted and wood rotting. Sharp, oh so very sharp. Using it, he slashed through the makeshift rope belt, saving the scraps in case they could be unraveled for thread. The leather sheath on my calf once again caught his attention. It would earn him a reward, finding extra leather.

My trousers were pulled off, with great effort. The scavenger could not have been more than sixteen, and my large frame proved challenging. A tattoo was revealed on my upper thigh, kept cleanly and closely shaven. A map, so they said. A map to salvation. I had believed as such once upon a time. Of course, there was no salvation to be found, not for those like me. Salvation was found in a still beating heart, not in the whims of someone or something beyond. The scavenger regarded the tattoo with interest.

He looked from side to side, eyeing his foreman, before taking the knife upon my thigh, carefully carving the dermis and cutting free a scrap of skin. Again, he looked back and forth before pulling a book from the large pack on his back and pressing the flesh between the pages. No blood came forth.

The scavenger cut my tattered shirt from my chest, determining it too damaged for more than rags, or bandages. There, branded on my collarbone, was the insignia. Alathor feltatum. Of the Free People. He saw no need to cut free that mark, instead electing to remove the timepiece from my wrist. It was cracked and dirty, but functional. Beneath the band, and accompanied on the other wrist, were scars. Many lines wrapping around the wrist, an abrasion that had never been given the time to heal. Heavy chains, tight cuffs.

Finally, it was time for my head. The scavenger first cut free my hair, still using the knife from my calf. The long fibers would be used for stitches. The scavenger oriented himself behind my head, using his heel to open my mouth, bracing against it. He gripped the roof of my mouth with grime covered hands. The foot pulled back and kicked hard, ripping my jaw free.

“GAH!” the scavenger yelled. The skin about the first knuckle was torn, blood gushing over the green and brown crud. “Fucking bastard.” That earned a glob of spittle in my eyes.

Shaking off the injury, the scavenger got to work looking through my teeth. Pulling pliers from his belt, the scavenger ripped free all of them, putting the teeth with metal into one pouch at his hip and the ones without in another.

The man grimaced. He moved back to my abdomen, cutting free the last scrap of cloth that held my modesty. The scavenger sighed, beginning to gather the spoils of war and stash them in his pack.

The last thing to go were my dog tags. He gripped them and yanked forcefully, breaking the thin cord. The final piece of identity. All that remained was the insignia. And the scars. Of the Free People.

The scavenger moved on to another to begin the process anew. I lay there, mutilated, corpse enshrouded in cutting glass blown by harsh winds. Another came to me, followed by a cart and beast of burden. Piled high were the true spoils of war. My body was tossed among them. My body was crushed beneath a growing weight of failed orders and formations. The shaking of the cart combined with the immense mass upon me crushed my bones, fragmenting any of my form that remained.

The cart moved on, until it didn’t. Men climbed on top of their mountain of fallen comrades and began to push. The mound tumbled, and my body flopped comically amongst others, slamming onto large conveyor belts. Slowly they moved, and slowly forms rolled over one another in a awkward, limp dance of death. Surely some would find humor in the jerking, sliding motions.

As the conveyor moved, the beast roared. Crackling and screaming, begging for more. My corpse reached the climax of the journey before tumbling down, down, down into the raging inferno, the depths of hell itself. Oblivion. But the dead don’t mind.

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