It caught my eye as I huddled behind the twisted, smoking ruins of the bubble-fabís cannon blasted wall. While super-heated bolts of red and blue energy kicked dust and smoke from crumbling Plasticrete, or hummed with lethal finality into the inferior armour of my remaining platoon-mates, I could do little but stare at the egg sized, high gloss brown pseudo-sphere buried in Caesar Vís turquoise sands. Transfixed by the object and the itch of a memory it raised in the back of my skull, I leapt belly-first into the blue silica dust and wrapped it in my gloved hand. Although losing focus on the field of battle is ill-advised, my covetous act saved me from a misplaced salvo of diamond-hard fletchettes scattered over the platoon by an over-eager trio of Stinger Orbs allegedly lending us air support.
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Low on food, water, munitions and with our fleet of Armoured Personnel Carriers reduced to smouldering scrap piles by our Jenner foe, we trudged wearily across the cobalt blue deserts. Our enemy, better equipped and with biological advantages us mere natural born could never match, harried us repeatedly during our march to Camp Ares.
I believe, if memory serves, it was after our third subsequent skirmish with the genetically modified enemy I, a mere corporal, held highest rank amid the rag-tag group of survivors.
Although team work and training were the probable cause, I could not help but believe the familiar nut weighing heavy in my webbing to be the reason I numbered in ĎDí Platoonís surviving six members. Of course, this speculation was not mentioned to my superiors during the six hour debriefing in which I had to explain the loss of 36 fellow infantrymen.
After recounting the tale a roomful of disbelieving officers, I sought solace by scouring my sun-reddened skin in the sand-blast chamber of Aresí shower blocks. Once clean, I retrieved the object from my effects, found a quiet spot on the fortress edge and spent an age studying every inch of its tough, brown surface. Under the scorching glare of what, on a planet blessed with but a single moon, would be midnightís cool and comforting darkness, I found answers to the riddle in my palm.
Decades, maybe centuries before de-senescence technology had returned youth and vigour to my body, when the Jenners were not our enemy but simply a Ďnaturalí sub-culture keen on twisting their DNA to match their perfect self-image and long before humanity had resumed its favoured crusade of racial purity, I had amused myself with seeds similar to the one in my hand. As a child, young and innocent, I had spent hours baking hard their outer shells before stringing them through and smashing them delightedly against a childhood friendís own conker.
Under that burning sun, exhausted in both body and mind, I buried the symbol of better times beneath alien sands before nourishing it deeply with the water from my canteen. Although I am no green-fingered gardener and may be viewed as insane or imbecilic, I prayed to whatever gods served our forefathers that my horse chestnut would take and grow.
If my wish is to be granted, then I will find great pleasuring in knowing, finally, that not every emigrant from the Home World will spread a legacy of destruction, pain and terror in its wake.