The world, through natural eyes, was a strange place to me by this point. Scanning around me, the swarm of soldiers in their pure white combat armor mixed with the whiteout conditions made everything quite nearly impossible for me to see, much different from when my vision was enhanced through the contacts. I reached the armory and stepped inside.
“Hey Bill,” I said through chattering teeth. I had forgotten just how cold Alaska truly was.
“I see you’re here for your gear, correct? We should be mobilizing soon, within the hour I think, orders of General Burdock. You should get yourself combat ready as soon as possible,” replied Bill in his deep, gruff voice. Bill stood at least a head over me. He was older as well, serving from the ages of 16 to 42 in the army. Now approaching 55, he was hardly a man fit for combat, so he served as weapons expert and manager at the armory. The military was harder on a man than before, taking a drastic toll on the body due to all the enhancements, vigorous training and harsh weaponry. He had a full head of black hair with grey streaks shooting through it and a rough looking beard that seemed an extension of his hair that simply decided to grow on his face instead. His eyes were drooping and tired looking, his eyelids falling lazily over the constantly bloodshot eyes. They were such a dark brown they nearly appeared black. He was battle scarred and a master with nearly every firearm you could bring him. The worst scar was a gruesome stab wound to the neck where the blade had been jerked to the side. Despite all odds, he survived the mauling, but only barely.
“I thought Corporal Stein was in command of our regiment?” I questioned. Although dwarfed by Bill, I was really on the short side of average. My hair had grown from the fresh shave military issue it was when I got to the battlefront to a swooping whirlwind of blonde, which hung nearly to my shoulders. It wasn’t unkempt, however, as one might expect with a soldier. It stayed straight and tidy, partially due to the natural way it grew and partially due to the frigid cold and extreme dryness of the climate. It was too cold for much humidity. I was not particularly muscular, looking much less so than the average super soldier you might encounter, but I was definitely strong for my size. Strong enough, anyway, to fight in roughly two hundred pounds of equipment, although the chip’s muscle enhancement could be a major help. I preferred to keep my face clean-shaven.
“No, he got transferred to a black ops assignment. Working with the real cutting edge of both tech and troops, you know?” Replied Bill. “Burdock took over the position in his absence. They believe him more qualified for the job anyway, which he really is, and he likes working with us grunt troops. After all, we’re the ones who do the real work without crying about who’s technology is better, am I right?” With that he heartily slapped me on the back, nearly propelling me into the floor. “Oh, right, no suit. Sorry buddy, I forget how scrawny you are without it sometimes,” he kidded.
“Yeah, yeah I know, just hand over my stuff and I’ll be on my merry way,” I said, annoyance only feigned in my tone. Bill handed over the chip and the contacts and after a brief salute we bid each other farewell. When I arrived at the equipment bay, I placed in the chip and felt the effects course through my entire body as a wave of golden glow pulsated across every nerve in my body, shining through the flesh. I could feel the cold ebbing out of my body as a comforting warm replaced it. My muscles tightened to their normal strength. I removed my coat and walked towards the uniform waiting in a locker nobody had touched yet. The men around him dressed for battle, some with smiles on their faces singing songs of victory and inspiring tunes with their buddies, some with panic in their eyes as they solemnly dawned their clothing, wondering if it would be their final time dressing up for the fight, and a small margin bowed their heads in prayer or kissed crucifix necklaces as they rapidly muttered to God under their breath. The small mirror in the locker reflected an image I did not often see – my own self. At first glance I admired what I saw: Broad shoulders, fairly muscular arms and chest, bright blue eyes, and all topped off by a great head of hair. It had been a fair amount of time since I had seen a mirror without my chip or contacts in. Then, however, I began to notice things that were most displeasing. For one thing, the lack of proper bathing while in combat had left me with quite a bit of acne for a seventeen year old. The other men in the room were mostly full adults, as they had only recently re-lowered the recruiting age from 18 to 16, as it had been when Bill enlisted. Another recent fault was the way my eyes were now sunken into my skull more than before. This combined with the paleness and the acne made me regret my previous good feelings about my appearance. Fifteen minutes to go time, repeat, fifteen minutes, warned my squad commander. The notice issued through the radio function of the chips almost surprised me after my posing session in the mirror. I had to hurry up.
I slipped on the first layer of his three layer combat gear. The first was a full body Kevlar suit with insulation on the inner side. This had a large opening down the front, so as to allow you to step in and pull the sleeves on over your shoulders. The result was rather like a black turtleneck jump suit. The second layer was a thick vest of scaled armor, comprised of a material derived from spider’s webbing which is proportionately stronger than steel. The scales covered every inch of the thing, brown scales of the spider web material providing superb protection to the wearer. The final layer was a host of advanced, condensed carbon fiber plating which covered nearly every inch of the body. This layer was strapped on piece-by-piece, taking by far the longest to apply of all. It was well worth it though, as tests with the armor when fired upon at point blank range had shown only minute tolls taken on the surface. Flakes and chips burst off but the flesh placed behind it went completely unscathed by small arms fire until fired upon eight times in the same spot. The wearer is as a tank, nearly impossible to harm. This was only given to the front line troops. A lighter version was adapted for black ops units, and the first two layers are the standard issue of all units that aren’t direct spearhead troops. The outermost layer was, for the units of Frost Company, pure white, to blend with the snow. After I was suited up, I got my contacts out from my pocket. Although I have 20/20 vision, these contacts were essential to surviving in 2053 warfare. As I placed them in, I closed my eyes, allowing the changes to be made as the same familiar biting sensation dug into the entire surface of my eyeballs. The pain was but momentary, and the benefits became apparent and all too worth it when I opened my eyes to the new world that presented itself to me. The contacts faded all unnecessary material to black. This included the falling snow, the ground, and most of the terrain around me. What was left was an outline of what was once there. Objects potentially used for cover were lightly shaded blue. My own body glowed a bright gold, signifying something deemed “high importance.” Friendlies were a deep shining blue, and enemies ranged from brown to red based on threat level. All the men I have encountered thus far have been a reddish brown, the only deep reds I saw were the bullets tracing towards me and the live explosives being hurled in my direction. I grabbed a large, full metal assault rifle from the locker and closed it. I was about to leave when something in my gut instructed him otherwise. I opened it back up and saw my helmet sitting on the floor of the locker. I picked it up and had it ready to go on my head when I spotted two bandanas lying beneath the spot where the helmet had been. A smile crept across my face as an idea formulated in my mind. One was black and the other was red, two of my favorite colors. How could an opportunity this perfect be missed? I placed the helmet on a hook in the locker and instead tied the black bandana around the top of my right arm, and the red one folded up around my head. I looked back into the mirror and was pleased with what I saw. The sunken eyes and paler complexion had enhanced my intimidation in a way, and the bandanas had given me that rogue look I had always admired in some of the other men who fought without helmets. I had promised my mother at home that I would always wear full gear into battle, but then again, I had also promised her I would keep my hair short, wouldn’t take up smoking and wouldn’t adopt the foul language most soldiers did, all three of which I had fallen short of completing over my time here on the front. I shut the locker and headed out of the army to meet my squad mates and be briefed on the operation they were about to undertake, lighting up a cigarette on my way. Although I was underage, nobody said anything because life was immensely stressful on a soldier, especially one as young as I am, and any way they could cope with it was accepted. The smoke felt good entering my lungs as it helped push back the cold that seemed to pierce into my heart; however this troubled me little, as the chip helped pain and cold tolerance alike. I arrived at the gates of the camp to find my squad waiting for deployment.
“Alright, are we all clear on the plan then?” Announced the squad leader, Sergeant Cook. He too was wearing no helmet, although most of the men in the squad had made no modifications to their gear. Cook, however, chose to do what he wanted. He had removed his left shoulder plating and many pieces from the legs and forearms. What was left was a patchwork collection of battered, pockmarked armor, which in many places let the vest of scales underneath show through. As a result, they had his second layer vest dyed white to match his outer plating. Being the rebel he was, he had decided to spray paint a big black bull’s eye on the front and back of his torso. He thought it funny to watch the enemies fail to kill the man that was literally a “moving target.” His skin was dark and he was around the same height as me but definitely more built. His facial hair seemed always to be a short scruff although he was never seen shaving, and he wore his hair in a short mohawk, buzzing the rest of it all the way off. His preferred combat headgear was aviator sunglasses and he always got his hands on a cigar before going into the fight. The sole reason his ridiculous behavior was tolerated was because of his extreme ability in combat. He had more kills than any of the men in the base; including the commanding officers (he even kept a tally on one of the few remaining pieces of plate armor). The only reason he wasn’t promoted or transferred to black ops was simply because nobody else would have him due to his sheer defiance of regulations. He preferred it this way however, as he enjoyed being just another one of the boys fighting for their lives in the baron Alaskan front.
“Ah, I see you decided to join us, Mills. So nice of you to try to dress like me, too!” He addressed me in a mocking tone which was met by low laughter from the men, even a few chuckles from some of the petrified new recruits. “Alright since pretty boy over there wasn’t here, I’ll go over the general idea once more,” said Cook in his usual sardonic manner. “Fourth Squad encountered some Russians while on border watch, said this wave’s packin’ some serious heat. They’re pinned down and can’t get themselves out of it. Apparently the Russians have some pretty tough tech of their own, and they plan on using it to tear you all apart. We’re moving in with Alpine company to help reinforce the Fourth. The more we sit around here, the more of them are being picked off because apparently they don’t know how to defend themselves, so if everybody’s all done playing dress up it’s time to get rolling.” Cook picked up his gun, slammed in a magazine and chambered in a round. “Let’s move,” he said as a malicious smile played across his face.