There weren’t many mirrors between the telepad and the barracks. Just plain concrete hallways, cold as ever, and the occasional window to the training grounds outside. But in every reflective surface 231 encountered, he did not see his own face. He saw a Goliath’s face, set into a frown, chin tilted toward the floor, eyes downcast. Guilty and ashamed. It looked like 223’s.
Command had met the remnants of Charlie Squad as soon as they reached the base on New Corinth. Men in Tower Officer uniforms had congratulated him on a job well done, and promptly handed him a special assignment. Called him a good soldier. They even applauded.
The thought of it turned his stomach. He felt trapped. He still remembered the horrible sensation of standing there, wanting to accept their praise. Any Goliath would kill for that kind of honor. And they did.
231 was their favorite because he had executed his brother.
He shook his head. He had to get that word out of his mind. Goliaths don’t have brothers.
“So, what is it now? Team 146?” A voice to his right.
231 looked to see three Goliaths staring him down from a side hallway. Three faces like his, but angry. In front was 234. 231 wanted to smile, but his heart dragged it from is face. “You made it back.” They must have been waiting for him, he realized.
“I did,” said 234.
After a few moments under their glares, 231 couldn’t face them. He stared at the wall across from him. “I’m not with them anymore,” he said, answering the question. “Command reassigned me.”
“Think they’ll give me a new job if I shoot Forty?” 234 spat. His team, 231 knew, was made up of clones whose numbers ended in 4. Bitterly, he thought of when 264 had died. A stupid mistake.
231 shook his head slowly. “You wanna kill me.”
“We’re gonna kill you,” said 244.
He heard them walk across the intersection of the halls. When he finally looked up, they were surrounding him. He met each of their eyes for a moment, then said quietly, “wait.”
234 scoffed. “Oh, okay. You’re scared-”
You’re about to put your squad in danger again, you idiot. 231 broke in, his voice even. “If you’re gonna do this, pick somebody. Just one of you.” He glanced up at 244. “If you all take your shot, you all get disposed of. Ain’t worth it.” He looked down at 234’s boots, and waited.
The hallway was silent. None of the clones moved.
Finally, 244 muttered a curse and walked away. 224 followed soon after. 234 left last, slowly.
For a long time, 231 leaned against the wall, numbly trying to settle on what to think. In the end, he set off toward his bunk, distantly grateful that another clone would not die because of him. It was not the sort of gratitude that gave him any sort of peace.