A familiar flickering blue light stirred the groggy Carson into sub-consciousness.Could it really be time already? He thought. His first reaction was to question very loudly within his own thoughts. Is it time to mobilize? No answer met his mental question, as it usually did. Then he remembered why this was the case, and why he could feel the biting Alaska cold in his thighs. The previous night he had dropped off his activation chip and his contacts at the repair shop for an upgrade. He squeezed instinctively at the handles of the US army issue sleeper pod he was lying in and the cloaking turned off, materializing his own body and the rest of the pod for the outside world. Carson was a super soldier on a special military operation of dire importance, code named “Operation Jack Frost” because of the intense cold of the Alaskan front they defended. He sat up and felt the aches and pains of six months at war in this drastic combat, something he was not used to. He made to get up after turning off the flashing light inside his pod. It only flashes when enemies were approaching, but they weren’t scheduled for combat for another four days. As he thought to himself, he began to really feel the cold, so he picked up his pace to a trot as he made for the armory to get his chip and contacts.
The world, through natural eyes, was a strange place to him by this point. Scanning around him, the swarm of soldiers in their pure white combat armor mixed with the whiteout conditions made everything quite nearly impossible for him to see, much different from when his vision was enhanced through the contacts. He reached the armory and stepped inside.
“Hey Bill,” said Carson through chattering teeth. He 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 your self combat ready as soon as possible.” Replied Bill in his deep, gruff voice. Bill stood at least a head over Carson. 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. 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 drooping 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.
“I thought Corporal Stein was in command of our regiment?” Questioned Carson. Carson, although dwarfed by Bill, was really on the short side of average. His hair had grown from the fresh shave military issue it was when he got to the battlefront to a swooping whirlwind of blonde, which hung nearly to his 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. He was not particularly muscular, looking much less so than the average super soldier you might encounter, but he was definitely strong for his size. Strong enough, anyway, to fight in roughly two hundred pounds of equipment, although the chip’s muscle enhancement is a major help. He preferred to keep his 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 Carson on the back, nearly propelling him 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,” said Carson, annoyance only feigned in his tone. Bill handed over the chip and the contacts and after a brief salute the pair bid each other farewell. When he arrived at the equipment bay, Carson placed in his chip and felt the effects course through his entire body as a wave of golden glow pulsated across every nerve in his body, shining through the flesh. He could feel the cold ebbing out of his body as a comforting warm replaced it. His muscles tightened to their normal strength for him. He removed his 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 Carson did not often see - his own self. At first glance he admired what he 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 he had seen a mirror without his chip or contacts in. Then, however, he began to notice things that were most displeasing to him. For one thing, the lack of proper bathing while in combat had left him 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 his eyes were now sunken into his skull more than before. This combined with the paleness and the acne made him regret his previous good feelings about his appearance. Fifteen minutes to go time, repeat, fifteen minutes, warned Carson’s squad commander. The notice issued through the radio function of the chips almost surprised Carson after his posing session in the mirror. He had to hurry up.
He 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, which had been cut down from the neck to roughly the belly button level. Carson knew how to properly seal it, however. He aligned one flap of the opening over the other and passed his right hand smoothly over the surface. As he did so, he utilized one of the many great functions of the chip to manipulate the composing atoms of the Kevlar material, stripping them of their outer electrons and forcing them to bond together, then replacing them, all in an instant. The result was a smooth, undetectable seam where the opening was all the way up to his neckline. The second layer was more simple to apply. It was a thick vest of scaled armor, comprised of a material derived from spider’s webbing which is proportionately stronger than steel. It had a Kevlar base with steel threading interwoven into the fabric. The scales covered every inch of the thing, brown scales of the spider web material (named fleek) 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 in went completely unscathed by small arms fire until fired upon eight times in the same spot. Knives are ineffective unless through a direct stab to the neck. Slashes are useless. 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 is, for the units of Frost Company, pure white, to blend with the snow. After he was suited up, Carson got his contacts out from his pocket. Although he had 20/20 vision, these contacts were essential to surviving in 2053 warfare. As he placed them in, he closed his eyes, allowing the changes to be made as the same familiar biting sensation dug into the entire surface of his eyeballs. The pain was but momentary, and the benefits became apparent and all too worth it when he opened his eyes to the new world that presented itself to him. The contacts faded all unnecessary material to black. This included the falling snow, the ground, and most of the terrain around him. What was left was an outline of what was once there. Objects potentially used for cover were lightly shaded blue. His 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 he has encountered thus far have been a reddish brown, the only deep reds he saw were the bullets tracing towards him and the live explosives being hurled in his direction. He grabbed a large, full metal assault rifle from the locker and closed it. He was about to leave when something in his gut instructed him otherwise. He opened it back up and saw his helmet sitting on the floor of the locker. He picked it up and had it ready to go on his head when he spotted two bandanas laying beneath the spot where the helmet had been. A smile crept across his face as an idea formulated in his mind. One was black and the other was red, two of his favorite colors. How could an opportunity this perfect be missed? He placed the helmet on a hook in the locker and instead tied the black bandana around the top of his right arm, and the red one folded up around his head. He looked back into the mirror and was pleased with what he saw. The sunken eyes and paler complexion had enhanced his intimidation in a way, and the bandanas had given him that rogue look he had always admired in some of the other men who fought without helmets. He had promised his mother at home that he would always wear full gear into battle, but then again, he had also promised her he would keep his hair short, wouldn’t take up smoking and wouldn’t adopt the foul language most soldiers did, all three of which he had fallen short of completing over his time here on the front. He shut the locker and headed out of the army to meet his squad mates and be briefed on the operation they were about to undertake, lighting up a cigarette on his way. Although he was underage, nobody said anything because life was immensely stressful on a soldier, especially one as young as Carson was, and any way they could cope with it was accepted. The smoke felt good entering his lungs as it helped push back the cold that seemed to pierce into his heart; however this troubled him little, as the chip helped pain and cold tolerance alike. He arrived at the gates of the camp to find his 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 Carson 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 Carson in a mocking tone which was met by low laughter from the men, even a few chuckles from some of the newer 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.
Approaching the battleground, some of the newbies were obviously scared senseless. This would be a baptism of fire to remember. Carson saw on the horizon explosions going off, gunfire flying in every direction and men being hurtled into the air. Alpine Company was his our heels, but being the first to fight was never an easy task. Coming ever closer to the fight, Blue figures were suddenly struck in the head, keeled over and faded out to black all along the entrenched borders. A sinking sensation washed over Carson as he began seeing gleaming red figures storming the trenches - hundreds of them. Although he was one of one hundred and fifty men, the nerves still gripped his chest, tightening his insides and making a bead of sweat roll down his spine, instantly making him shiver throughout his entire body.
“Not good to be coked up before a fight, pretty boy,” teased Cook. “Control your twitches, it looks bad to the newbies.” This belittlement actually reassured Carson, and as he took his first steps onto the battlefield he was calm and collected. Another drag on his cigarette brought his nerves to steel as he sighted in on his first target.
He aligned the red dot sight on the top of his rifle to the neck of the gold tinged red figure. This was an officer he was about to drop. Breathe, aim, squeeze, he thought, remembering his training. With a smooth exhale his finger glided the trigger all the way back, releasing three rounds in rapid succession, streaking with intense speed to his target to deliver three fifty caliber blows directly on target. The man fell like a rock, although the color remained in his figure. He got back up, shook his head, and looked directly at where Carson stood.
“This can’t be good,” said Cook as the enemy officer brushed off the three rapid headshots. The figure raised a pistol, and with seemingly a point shot, hit one of the rookies directly in the throat. The loud crack came an instant after the round traced through him and his blood drenched the snow. He fell down, dead instantly as the blue faded out from his figure and he turned to black. Carson glanced back up as the officer lowered his pistol yet continued to stare into their squad. All of a sudden, an ear-splitting screech overwhelmed the radio signal of Carson’s chip and he fell to the floor, squirming about helplessly as the relentless assault on his ear drums continued to unceasingly pierce into the depths of his very brain. The men all around him screamed and tore their helmets off in an attempt to rid themselves of the audio assault. Two more rounds streaked through the air, one hitting one of the newly helmet less men’s head. The thing was destroyed by the gunshot, and the mutilated flesh that was once a human face lay helpless in the snow. The only way to assuage his ears seemed to be to remove the chip from his brain. Carson groped at the right side of his head searching for the small slot as the screech continued to sound. Men’s ears were bleeding as the overwhelmed radio signal continued in their ears, many being picked off like cattle by the Russian soldiers. Stealing a glance upward, Carson saw a group of roughly twenty brightly gleaming red figures moving in on them, guns trained on his comrades, lead by the same officer who initiated the attack. They opened fire with their guns, spraying Carson’ squad with bullets, taking out many men who had shed their helmets to try to rip out the chips. Carson felt blood streaming down from his ears as he ducked his head under his arms and hit the ground, still groping for the slot where he could rip out the chip. Bullets bounced from his armor as his fingers finally met a small metal slot and he felt the chip’s exterior. He ripped the thing from its place and the screech ceased at last. His ears were still ringing unbelievably, and the full effect of everything unleashed its toll on his natural body. The armor protecting him now felt as a whole other person sitting on top of him, his bleeding ears surged immense, paralyzing pain surged throughout his entire body as he curled into a fetal position and tucked his head into his arms. He felt each bullet deflecting off his armor as a knock-out punch against his bare skin. New waves of pain rolled over him with each impact. The world’s colors were back. All was snow blind white and crimson with streaks of pink. The color of men’s insides littered all around him as the ringing began to recede and screams now met his ears. Through all the suffering and chaotic gunfire, he heard one thing that rallied the near dead hopes pitifully lingering in his heart.
Through the carnage he made out screams of defiance, and some straight vulgarity, coming from none other than Cook. He had somehow managed to remove the chip before the rest of them and was now standing at the front of the pack, administering a thorough lead-cased beat down on the Russian assaulters. Wielding two assault rifles, one in either hand, cook was firing into the advancing enemies, pulling clean head shots as their bullets all whizzed just to the side of the man that was literally a “moving target.” He glanced behind him to his decimated squadron of men laying broken and battered, many dead, to find the seventeen year old kid in the red bandana raising his assault rifle to aid in his fight. He smiled and began shouting to the advancers again (mostly profane insults) as he dropped one weapon to drag Carson off to a large mound of snow to their left. The whirling snow created a white out as Carson’s vision began to fade in and out of focus and the world became less real by the minute. Amazingly, Cook had pinned down the entire squad of advancing Russians, fired eighteen rounds into the front their commanding officer, and pulled Carson out of the fight. They were all that remained of their squad, and everyone from Alpine Company had been wiped out. Carson and Cook regressed to a small cavern in the rocks to wait out the battle and call for backup. They made sure to warn the men of the audio attacks which had overcome their whole company. Cook tossed a blanket to Carson’s bloody form as he sat down with his own.
“It’ll get cold in here waiting for rescue, and you can forget about cuddling up to me for warmth,” said Cook with a deadpan face. “Get some rest. I’ll keep watch until they arrive.” Sleep seemed nowhere to be found as Carson tried to doze off in the corner. It would be hours until anyone could clear the area outside. The explosions seemed a trivial thing as exhaustion and loneliness set in on the seventeen year old boy. He decided against lighting up another cigarette. He missed his mother, and hardly thought she would approve.
“Good.There’s a reason I keep you around.You could be useful with some careful instruction.Remember that.”At Cook’s final words, the knife slacked slightly and Carson scrambled to the floor and caught his breath.“Now hurry up, we want to make it home before lunch.”Carson hadn’t even taken notice to the sun rolling up over the horizon, bringing a dull glow of what would normally be a glorious sunrise.The fighting had plagued the sky with haze and filth in much of the world.Beautiful sunny skylines weren’t something you saw anymore, not even in the remote wilderness of Alaska.The pair continued in their way to their base to recuperate and find out what became of their comrades.It wasn’t until almost noon that they arrived back at their encampment.
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