Author: John Chadwick

The seats of the auditorium were behind plexiglass material reinforced with a metal honeycomb structure. While she should have felt like she was an animal in a wildlife park expected to perform, the truth was, all of the eyes in the room were fixated on the armor she was wearing. She was simply a mannequin chosen for displaying it.

It was much lighter than the traditional plate carriers currently issued to soldiers, and she often wondered what material it was made of – some sort of advanced alloy, she concluded. Lieutenant Martinez had been briefed about the unit and the demonstration she was to participate in, but barely knew anything else about it – the type of discretion she was familiar with when it came to top secret projects.

From a side entrance, the colonel facilitating the demonstration and another man carrying a tablet device entered side by side.

The colonel then addressed the audience.

“We’ve scheduled the combat mobility and ergonomics demonstration for later this week. Today, we’re debuting the defensive capabilities of the unit. We’ll begin with melee strikes, then concussive force, and finally, ballistic countermeasures.”

He stepped off to the side next to the engineer and gave a nod. The man straightened his glasses then tapped the screen of his tablet.

Martinez felt the unit energize. It gave off a dull hum which then faded below an audible level. Though she thought it could be adrenaline, she also could’ve sworn that she now felt lighter – as if the pull of the Earth’s gravity had lessened upon her.

Thoughts started pounding in her head.

“What exactly is this thing?”

“Who really made it?”

Right on schedule, her “assistant” entered the auditorium and stepped beside her. He was a beast of a Marine, and she imagined right away the thought of him effortlessly ending an enemy combatant’s life with his bare hands. He held a collapsible baton in his right hand, and had a large machete sheathed on his back.

She braced her feet as firmly as she could on the floor and threw her arms out to the sides, allowing her assailant a clear strike. He did so promptly, and violently.

He held nothing back. Each blow from the baton seemed to make impact with an invisible force just millimeters from the surface of the armor, just to be rebounded with an equally matched intensity. Her chest, her back, her sides – he switched his attacks with the same result.

Watching forward, the Colonel inquired, “Have we ever had it operating this long?”

The engineer shook his head. “We were cautious…it’s possible the energy signature could be detected.”

In a fluid motion, the Marine threw the baton to the floor and drew his machete, chopping fiercely in hopes to inflict any damage.

Nothing – she barely flinched. The Marine ceased his assault and backed up, blade in hand, panting and sweating as if his partner had been sparring back just as brutally. He nodded to her.

Just at that moment, several muffled blasts could be heard as the rumbling made its way through the mountain facility. The room shook for a moment and the lights flickered as the auxiliary power took over.

“What’s going on?” “I haven’t given the order for the next exercise yet!”, the Colonel barked.

His eyes locked with the Lieutenant’s. She was frozen in place, still standing in the center of the floor as the light of red emergency beacons danced around the room.

He looked over at the engineer – the pigment seemed to have bled away from his skin.

“Sir, they’ve come back for it.”