I made for the armory to pick up a weapon, as I lost my rifle in the last mission. When I got there, Bill was waiting, vestiges of our training session still covering his body. Bill didn’t have a chip like the rest of us, as he no longer fought. His body recovered at the normal rate, which meant he would be pretty badly messed up from our fight for quite a while. The fact that he put himself through that for my well being actually meant a lot.
“Looking good,” I said casually as I approached the armory. The front side of the building was open with a counter from the ground to waist height. Bill and the other workers usually tended behind the counter to weapons, repairing and tinkering with them between visits from the other soldiers. Bill gave me a grin full of crooked teeth.
“Nice hair, Nancy.” He was just jealous of my hair, or so I liked to think. “I got something for you.”
“Oh how I do love gifts!” We really were quite sarcastic at times. “Is it a pony? I hope it’s a pony.” This last comment of mine was met with a few odd looks from the other soldiers who overheard. I addressed them casually. “Hey, how’s it going?”
“Alright, get inside or else it’s going in the furnace,” said Bill. I smiled and entered through the side door. The armory was much hotter inside than one might think an open faced building would be. “I’ve been playing around with the design for our standard rifle. I’ve been looking for a way to use the chips for an offensive purpose. You know, channel their capabilities for destructive uses as opposed to their current constructive ones. Well check this out.” As he finished, he snatched a rifle from a row of seemingly identical copies. In fact, their seemed nothing special about the rifle at all, except a set of small black teeth on the grip.
“It stabs me while I shoot…?” I couldn’t think of how this would help me in battle.
“If you’d try it, you’d see it does a whole lot more than that,” Bill said, his voice full of longing for me to test this new creation of his. I reluctantly took the gun from him by the foregrip, careful to avoid the teeth until I was ready to use it. I stepped up to the firing range behind the weapons racks and drew a magazine from the wall. I slid the magazine in smoothly; I really loved how nice the action on new guns was. Examining the teeth, I decided it was time to man up and try it. What’s the worst that could happen? I pulled up a section of my glove, revealing bare skin on my palm. I stole another glance at Bill’s anxious face and took the grip with confidence in his work. Immediately I felt the effects of his tinkering. A red pulse flashed across my vision. All targets glowed red as usual, only this time, something felt different. I could actually feel the rifle pulling itself towards the targets, as if eager to show me what it could do. I could see Bill smiling out of the corner of my eye. I decided to stop fighting the rifle’s pull, to will it to do what it pleased.
All at once, the rifle took command of my arms and centered itself on the first target. I felt an itching in my trigger finger, the gun asking me to pull the trigger. I wanted to do it; I wanted to unleash the fury of this new found tool, so I gave in. The rifle squeezed my finger the second before I could do so myself. Instantly it drilled the target, square in the center with three rapid shots, and then moved itself to the next. I felt the same itching in my finger, a desire, a hunger to kill all red in sight. The targets blazed scarlet in front of my eyes, and all at once I was a hunter of red. I let the rifle command me, allowing it to fulfill a long awaited frenzy of bullets, demolishing any and all targets in sight. I drilled through every target in the range, shooting one after another, feeling better with each round I put through the paper. The gun centered itself on the last target and took out the entire center of the bulls-eye. The rifle then tugged again, this time swinging me completely around and turning the barrel on Bill. I felt my finger itch; the gun was hungry for blue.
“Woah, woah, easy now! You’ll get your chance to use that thing on a real person, just not on me.” Bill pushed the barrel down and immediately I felt guilty. Had I really just contemplated shooting Bill? I uncurled my grip on the gun and the spikes came out of my hand. Surprisingly, they drew no blood. My finger still itched.
“Bill, you’re a genius. How did you come up with this?” I looked with admiration at the man I’d just sighted in on.
“He didn’t,” stated a voice that I didn’t really recognize. A short, brown haired man stepped out from behind one of the gun racks. He was a little shorter than me, with hair buzzed short and protruding cheek bones and a cleft chin to match. His cheeks were rosy and his eyes were bright green like glowing emeralds. The inventor spoke again.
“I’m Jared Kelly, your new squad leader.” He said this like it was casual news. Was I really being transferred away from Cook?
“Bill,” I began, “what does he mean?”
Bill smiled at me, his face hefty and gentle. “Didn’t Cook tell you? You’ve been promoted to Black Ops, boy.” This was unreal. I’ve served my whole military career, not that it was a particularly long one, at operation Jack Frost. I didn’t even know how to feel about this promotion.
“What can I say?” I felt dumb asking the question. “This is such an honor, what did I do to deserve it?”
“Bill said you would be a fine candidate. Your age was a factor in our decision making, however we heard of your bravery and stealth abilities after what happened to Alpine company, and Bill assured us of your combat abilities, both ranged and close quarters.” Bill broke into another smile. “You will leave tonight to head to basic training, if you have no further business here. Now, if you’ll excuse me, gentlemen, I must be off to tell the other new initiates.” And with that, my life in the special forces began.
I was packing up all my stuff from my sleeper pod, not that I had a lot of stuff. I packed a duffel bag full of a few outfits of worn white cargo pants, a few thermal shirts, a picture of my mom, my wallet, an carton of cigarettes and my knife. I was wearing my finest cargo pants and a gray sweat shirt that said ‘state champs ’98!’ on it. Champions of what, I had no idea. I took it with me from home when I first arrived here, feeling that the only protection from cold I would need would be a sweat shirt after my cold tolerance was enhanced. I zipped up the bag and said my final goodbyes to the sleeper pod that had housed me since I first got here. It was funny seeing the little gray egg-shaped bed I had spent so much time in, now vacant. It appeared no different from the others, however, it had a sense of home that I knew I would miss; the feeling in my heart was close to pity, yet I couldn’t place if it was for the pod or for me, for both were now parting ways from each other. It felt like home and looked sad and empty without my stuff in it. I got way too sentimental about simple things.
I trudged off through the gates of the base camp for operation Jack Frost, leaving for the last time, heading towards sergeant Kelly’s truck and a new way of life. All the snowy white tents blew in the wind, men in cargo pants and thermal shirts just like mine bustling about, unaware of the vacancy of a seventeen year old kid making his way towards bigger and better things. I looked one last time towards my home for the last two years. Little did I know, this would be but the first in a long series of tough goodbyes I would have to make.
The next eight months were a rigorous training program. They made me turn in my chip and contacts and train in my raw form, working every muscle more intensely than ever before. I was doing things I never knew I could before. They had me running and hurtling obstacles with weights strapped to me, slowly increasing the weight as I went on. There were climbing walls that shook violently when you climbed and had obstacles that dropped down from above, making the climb more extreme. There were scenarios where they would let out trained dogs and have me escape and carry out a dummy body in full armor. They basically had me run every sort of work out they could think up, climb and jump my way over obstacles, and learn to shoot while moving with expert precision. By the end I was a mobile, quick fighting machine and I felt unstoppable. I couldn’t wait until they let me use my chip again. There was no way anything would stand in my way then. After the training was over, I was told I would have a few months off to go back home.
This seemed crazier than any training exercise they had me go through.
I once again packed my bags and headed out the front doors of the large black training complex, leaving the building for home.
Home hardly seemed a tangible thing anymore. It felt as if a different life, someone I once was who died and gave way to the new Carson, the super soldier. They had me flying home on a single
engine plane and we landed after a turbulent, stomach turning flight. Despite all my training, I still wasn’t invincible to motion sickness. The first steps from the truck that took me home seemed
like a dream.
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