First: Don’t get to know the recruits. Don’t sigh out loud when they appear in the door to your office, all snap-handed salutes and eager faces. Don’t let your weariness show when they speak longingly of taking the battle to the Zeds. Don’t roll your eyes when they discuss their family, and the new-born baby sibling, and the bright-eyed girlfriend or boyfriend to whom they pledged their love.
Second: Don’t be truthful. Don’t tell them they won’t be heroes. Don’t tell them the East Coast is lost and D.C. went dark yesterday and the line is being moved back to the Mississippi. Don’t tell them the so-called ZFF, the Zed Fighting Force, conceptualized and named by some idiots in Congress (who were, if there is any justice in the world, eaten alive) accepts everyone who volunteers because cannon fodder is needed. Don’t tell them that the Zeds are unstoppable and that the chance of victory was never there in the first place and hope is a dirty word and that they will not even be remembered in the great cascade of death that is coming.
Third: Don’t think of how young the latest recruits are. Don’t think of how you are at most only two years older than nearly all of them. Don’t think of how you’ve heard through the grapevine that recruiters will be reassigned soon because recruitment alone isn’t filling the quotas and all the retired veterans have already been scooped up and coming next are press-gangs and roundups of people who can stand and hold a gun without falling down. Don’t think of what you did to get this position.
Fourth: Don’t remember the people you’ve processed. Don’t remember that an hour ago Liam More was one of those. Don’t remember how you two had met in AP English your final year of school. Don’t remember the stolen kisses behind the gym and breakfast in bed and shopping for furniture and how you begged yesterday (at supper at the table you picked up at that thrift store across from the bistro where he proposed) when he said he was joining up. Don’t remember screaming at him for one good reason why and him screaming back that it was either stand up and fight or lie down and die. Don’t remember your confusion and fear and the words you used to hurt each other and you calling Liam a fool and Liam calling you a coward. Don’t remember how coldly you read the form to him and how he didn’t meet your eyes as he signed. Don’t remember how he touched your fingers one last time as he handed back the pen.
Fifth: Do close the door to your office before you put your head on your desk and cry.