In a futuristic utopian society where all militarism has been made illegal and punishable by death, non-citizen soldiers are recreated from wars of the distant past to serve again as elite warriors in the most lethal military ever known, to live and die for the Collective and its mysterious creators, beings of higher consciousness known as the Fathers.

To live again… could anything else matter?

David has been called upon to serve once more in the most powerful military ever known to humankind. Thrust into a new existence where soldiers are recreated from wars of the distant past; he must now come to terms with his role in the Treaty Defense Force, the most lethal army ever created as an instrument of war. For better or worse, his life and his destiny now belong to the Collective and the elite military force they control… known throughout the Universe as the Immortals.

Controlled by a privileged and influential class of noble citizens and under the watchful eye of the Fathers, the Treaty Defense Force must safeguard the Collective, ensuring continued peace for all humanity. The Citizen’s Militia, a rival military force whose eccentric leader aims to restore humanity to a time before the influence of the Fathers, now threatens peace throughout the Universe.

Enduring the unimaginable and forced to do the unthinkable as a member of the fanatical Immortal Army, David must discover his true purpose. Is he the hope of all humanity, or as a sadistic soldier on the wrong side of history?


Excerpt from Citizens and Soldiers © Copyright 2023 Joshua Smith

Swarms of black-winged creatures poured from the trees as the roar of massive aircraft engines thundered overhead. The enormous transport vessels cast immense shadows over the ground below, creating the illusion of dark clouds soaring quickly over the lush green terrain.

The vast fleet of Armada cruisers was spread out in a tactical combat formation as it rapidly approached the city of Najai. Each of their mammoth turbine afterburners threw up huge clouds of dust as the attack force soared just above the thick, forested landscape.

“Two minutes out from phase line one!” a voice echoed throughout the inner hull of one of the cruisers, the drop officer's voice barely audible through the deafening sound of hydrogen engines in full throttle.

The long rows of helmeted troopers instinctively responded to the drop officer’s cue with rehearsed precision, each looking left and right through their tinted face shields, and each raising two fingers in unison. Their voices echoed out the words as one, “Two… minutes!”

A soft red glow illuminated the inner hull where David sat cramped between other TDF soldiers. He shifted his body, adjusting the heavy, cumbersome gear that irritatingly piled over him and the other troopers. It was an uncomfortable aspect of the combat drop they had all tolerated since first clambering into the vessel back at the Armada assembly area.

It had been a long day since the expeditionary force first arrived near the outer ring of Ao Midori, a day filled with countless equipment checks, mission briefs, and combat rehearsals, a day now made even longer as they traveled in route to the designated combat objective.

David’s mind replayed the jest he'd first heard in the Northern Wilderness, words occasionally shared as an explanation for their often, harsh conditions and training.

It's to teach us to hate, he reminded himselfIt's all just to teach us to hate.

He reached up to the side of his black TDF helmet, manually activating the data display key with a touch of his gloved hand. He focused on the digital map that appeared on the inside of his tactical face shield, quickly pinpointing the precise location of their sortie relative to the rapidly approaching target.

He quickly toggled through the map display, reviewing each of the detailed images that he had already memorized through A-com sessions during hypernatic travel. He recalled the various lessons he’d received covering the planet's ecology, the political climate, and the rationale for the Treaty Defense Force to now intervene militarily.

“Stand… Up!” the drop officer’s amplified voice reverberated throughout the inside of the vessel.

The troopers echoed the command, simultaneously rising to their feet as one. The seats quickly collapsed into the walls, making space for the standing troopers who filled the aircraft's inner hull. Thousands of soldiers now faced the direction of travel, standing in long rows as the Armada transport ship vibrated through the low-level atmospheric turbulence.

Hook… up!” the drop officer's digital voice echoed again throughout the hull.

Each trooper reached above their head, grasping the locking hook that dangled from the static rail running the entire length of the hull. Hastily, they each retracted and connected the hook to a clasp hanging neatly over their shoulders, securing themselves to the heavy steel rail above.

“Check… equipment!” the drop officer ordered.

The long line of black TDF helmets turned as each trooper looked over their shoulder, echoing the command as one.

David went through each of the checks in his mind, Helmet secure, airlock in place, face shield sealed tightly…

His eyes shifted down to his torso, tugging at the buckles that connected the harness to his core-armored vest, his mind continuing the instinctive checks, No frays, no burs, no loose straps… nothing sharp, no twists in the harness.

He pulled hard onto the steel cable, bending his knees and allowing himself to hang freely to confirm its strength and security.

Drop-line secure…I'm good to go, he assured himself.

“One… minute!” The drop officer announced.

Thousands of troopers turned their heads as one, each looking over their right shoulder, simultaneously signaling the event with a single raised index finger as they sounded off loudly together, “One… minute!”

David looked down at the floor of the aircraft, attempting to slow his breathing through a deliberately long exhale, preparing himself for the impending drop. A familiar pounding in his chest returned, his mind now alert, anticipating the moment that would soon be upon him.

“Thirty… seconds!” the drop officer shouted.

The long rows of troopers each held up their right hand, touching their index finger to their thumb, forming a circle to signal the imminent drop ahead.

The vessel began its rapid deceleration to drop speed, forcing rows of troopers to lean forward involuntarily as the aircraft slowed. David gripped the cable tightly as the aircraft shuddered through the turbulence. His leg muscles flexed, struggling to remain standing as the increased gravity caused the full weight of his equipment to pull down on him. His eyes clenched tightly; his expression of uncertainty concealed behind the dark-tinted visor of his TDF helmet.

The drop officer gave the final command, “Prepare to hang!”

A blinding light cracked through the center of the aircraft’s floor as it slowly opened beneath them, emitting a high-pitched whistle of air. The sound quickly increased in volume as the opening expanded, becoming a roaring wind that violently rushed in from below, drowning out the rumble of the ship's afterburners.

The edges of the floor panel opened sideways under his feet, leaving him and the others to hang freely from the cable connection above.

David’s head tilted forward, staring down through the bright opening as it expanded, the blurring shades of green and brown quickly passing by underneath.

The soft red glow of the inner hull lights flashed to green, signaling that the drops had begun.

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