Author : Steve Hall

The spectators watched raptly as the assault team crept through the artificial cityscape. Their experience was obvious – steady, even steps, eyes and weapons constantly scanning a full hemisphere of potential threats.

The point man held up a closed fist, and the entire squad froze in place, momentarily focused on his lithe form. After a second, he turned slightly, tapped his nose, and pointed to the center of the road. Fist still in the air, he tapped an ear, held up two fingers, and pointed to one of the small concrete buildings.

One of the spectators turned and whispered to their neighbor.

“He caught the mine in the road and the ambushers in the blind. Not bad, George”

The soldiers split around the mine, three taking the left side, three taking the right, while the last fire team went in the rear of the indicated building. They emerged noiselessly from the front a moment later, as the spectators’ displays changed to indicate the quietly eliminated threat.

The neighbor turned to his companion.

“General, they could do this all day, so we’re going to give them a little surprise, see them a little more dynamically.”

Gunfire erupted from the target building ahead, sweeping across the team and knocking one man down with a simulated leg wound. The team medic grabbed him and pulled him into a sheltered corner, returning fire and dressing the wound at the same time. A mass of fire erupted from the team, efficiently recording kill after kill on the displays until finally the scene fell silent and still.

The team reassembled next to the target, the injured man supporting himself on a packable crutch while his weapon continued to protect the rear of the group. Most of the team burst into the building to finish the operation, leaving a fire team outside for security.

“General, look up on the hill.”

Two kilometers away from the artificial town, well out of small arms range, a helicopter shell rose on a hydraulic lift. Simulated rotor noise swept across the field of engagement, followed by the bark of heavy weapons fire. Seconds later, another such emplacement blossomed from another hill behind the team, capturing them in a crossfire.

“George, it’s not a great demonstration if your guys get killed.”

“General, just watch.”

One of the soldiers on the security detail stepped partially out of his sheltered position, an impossibly massive weapon in his arms. A solid stream of heavy tracers briefly connected the soldier to the helicopter before it erupted in flames. Seconds later the other helicopter fell silent as well, torn apart by the same withering hail of fire.

“All right George, I’ve seen enough. Let’s look at the close-ups.”

The General picked up a helmet from the display table, modified to accommodate the point man’s bat-like ears.

“How long does it take?”

“Six months for the mods, anywhere from six months to two years to become fully operational”

“And how long until they catch up?”

“We think five years for the Russians, perhaps four for the Chinese. They don’t have some of the considerations that we do, so it could be sooner.”

The General stared at the close-up videos, a medic administering first aid with two extra eyes and two extra hands while still maintaining fire on the enemy, a machinegunner toting a fifty-cal in two huge arms while a massive tail turns him into his own tripod. Inhuman, perhaps, but American. And effective.

“George. Start production.”

“Yes ma’am.”


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