By: James Rumpel
Three years into the Tech-wars, the name became a misnomer. By that time, both sides had developed assorted rays, beams, and signals that disabled the automated weaponry. What had once been a clean, almost antiseptic, war devolved into the blood and gore of face-to-face combat. One could have hoped that by returning the confrontation to its ugly, vial basics it would have convinced both sides to end the hostilities. It did not.
The twelve members of Infantry Team 5C waited in the briefing tent. The charge to overtake Blood Hill would continue today. What role would they play in the assault?
Infantry Team 5C was not unfamiliar with combat. Almost every member of the troop was a grizzled veteran of multiple military encounters. Private Abel Johanson was the only member of the group without experience on the battlefield. He sat, vigorously tapping his right foot.
"You look as white as a spectral apparition," observed Lieutenant Marcus Macagee, as he slapped Abel on the shoulder.
Abel stared at the officer, confused. He liked Macagee, even if the Lieutenant had an annoying habit of constantly showing off his extensive vocabulary.
"A ghost," laughed Macagee. "Don't be trepidatious. Everything will be copasetic." He whacked Abel across the back one more time. Even after nearly a month as a member of 5C, Abel found that grin to be disturbing. Macagee's artificial, metal jaw just didn't look right.
Abel looked at the rest of his teammates. All of them had been injured in battle on multiple occasions. He was the only member of the squad who did not have multiple limbs and body parts that had been replaced by bionic substitutes. Attack technology may have been rendered moot in this war, but the medical advances which allowed soldiers to return to the battlefield had flourished. The nanotechnology employed by the artificial replacements allowed them to be stronger and better than the originals.
The young private was about to attempt to defend his nervous state when General Holt entered the tent. The dozen members of 5C immediately stopped all conversation and stood at attention. An assortment of twelve different metal, flesh and plastic arms snapped into salutes.
"At ease, gentlemen," she proclaimed. "Let's get right to the point. We need to take Blood Hill. Gaining control of that position is imperative to our battle plan. Our previous two attempts to reach the summit and take out the weapon turret have failed. We are going to take a different tact today. Infantry Team 5C will be crucial to this plan."
"We will do whatever it takes, General," said Major Hughsnet, the leader of the team.
"Yes, you will," answered the General. "We will, once again, send a force directly at the target to occupy a majority of their troops. Under their cover, your team will make an assault on a side path. Your goal will be to throw low-tech grenades into the turret."
Private Sam Keefner let out a brief chuckle. "As long as it isn't little Johanson doing the throwing." He flexed his oversized titanium right arm and held it next to Abel's much smaller human arm to emphasize his point. Keefner's arm had a large flag engraved on it. It was not the most impressive tattoo that Keefner supported. A rendering of a large python wound its way around the Private's left leg.
"Yeah, he throws like a gi . . ." began Private Tony Sarducci. He stopped when he noticed the grim look on the General's face, as well as her massive artificial arms. ". . . like a child," he concluded.
"It just so happens," continued the General, "that Johanson will be the final attacker and it may well be up to him to complete the mission. Do any of you have a problem with that?"
The twelve soldiers shook their heads in unison.
"You must remember, you are a team. Each of you is an important piece of the whole. This mission, like everything we do, will only be successful if you work as a team. Do I make myself clear?"
Again, the soldiers responded as one.
"Okay," concluded the General. She motioned toward an officer waiting by the entrance. "Captain Powell will take you to the launch point and assign your order of attack. We begin the assault in fifteen minutes. Good luck."
The members of 5C stood at full attention and returned the salute. They waited for General Holt to leave before shuffling towards the door and the waiting Captain.
"Well, this should be mirthful," said Macagee.
The Captain led the group to a position behind a lifeless tank, its engine and weaponry made useless by an anti-energy field emanating from the turret on the top of Blood Hill.
"The main defenses of the enemy will be directed towards the frontal assault. That doesn't mean they won't have forces guarding all paths to the top. You are not going to get a free pass. You will face difficult opposition."
"We are well aware of that," said Major Hughsnet.
"Good," continued Captain Howell. "We will use assault strategy 3. You should all know how it works. One at a time, each of you will make your attempt to reach the summit. You will go as far as you can and do whatever it takes to reach the goal. When you fall, the next soldier will begin their ascent. Whoever reaches a point from which they can throw their supply of grenades into the turret will do so. Remember it is extremely important that you make your individual assaults as a team."
He then assigned the order of attack. Keefner would be first and Sarducci would follow. Eventually, all twelve team members were assigned their spot in the order. Major Hughsnet would be second to last and Abel would be the final soldier to go.
Before Keefner made his run, the Major called his group together. He looked into each of their eyes and Abel looked closely at his. The private had never noticed that his leader's eyes were two completely different colors.
"If we are to succeed, each of us has to be his part. You know the motto. It means as much in this mission as in any other we have undertaken. Together now."
As one, they recited the oath.
"One in all. All in one."
Hughsnet gave Keefner a short nod and motioned the private to begin.
Keefer smiled and announced, "Here goes nothing." He stepped out of the cover provided by the tank and charged up the hill. Abel could not see what happened, but he heard the gunshots, the explosions, and the scream.
The sounds faded after a short time. Hughsnet looked to Sarducci who shrugged and moved to begin his attack.
One by one, the soldiers made their pushes up the hill. Each attack lasted longer, but they all ended in silence. Abel marveled at the bravery of his comrades. He prayed that he would show a fraction of their valor.
Soon, only Hughsnet and Abel remained. When the sound of weapon fire from the prior attack ceased, the Major looked at Abel. "You can do this. We're all there to help. I have faith in you." Before Abel could reply, Hughsnet stood and ran toward the hill.
Abel had hoped he would hear shouts of joy when his leader secured the hill. No such victorious cries came. Instead, after a long wait, the noises faded. It was Abel's turn.
A primal scream bursts from his throat as he sprinted up the dirt path. He had sped past the limbless torso of Private Keefner when he heard the first shots from the turret. Puffs of dirt exploded at his feet. Bullets whizzed past his ears.
He was nearly past Sarducci's body when a bullet struck him in the left leg. The sophisticated projectile exploded upon contact. Pain shot through his entire being, but only for a moment. Almost instantly, the medical pack attached to his lower back began pumping adrenaline and morphine into his body. The drugs allowed him to continue to function. He knew what he had to do.
Abel crawled as best he could towards Sarducci. As he did so, Sarducci's left leg detached from the fallen soldier's body. The nanotechnology within the metal leg allowed it to slowly slither in Abel's direction. When Abel was finally close enough to reach the detached leg, he slid it against the bloody stump where his leg had been. The nanos instantly fused the artificial leg to Abel. The bleeding stopped. The process was, assuredly, very painful, though the drugs coursing through the private's body made it bearable. Nerve endings fused and before long Abel had a working left leg.
Abel continued his attack. Twice more he was struck down. Losing his left arm and his right leg. Both times he obtained the necessary parts from fallen comrades. To his surprise, he recognized the tattoo painted on the leg he received. It was Keefner's. The leg was making, at least, its second transfer of the raid.
Somehow, Abel found himself near the top of the hill. He knew that if he could get within twenty meters, he would have a chance of successfully throwing his grenades. He was tempted to try a throw from twice that distance but knew he couldn't make such a toss.
For the fourth time, he was struck by enemy gunfire. He fell to the ground glancing at his twisted and useless right arm as he did so. The pain from this injury was much worse than the previous ones. His medical pack was running out of drugs.
He couldn't continue. Even if he did, he had no way of getting the grenades to their target. He closed his eyes, wishing for death to take him.
"One in all. All in one."
Abel forced his eyes open and saw Major Hughsnet crawling towards him. The Major had no legs but was dragging himself forward with his two massive mechanical arms. Abel moved to meet him.
The major's right arm automatically detached from his shoulder. With a stern look on his face, Hughsnet used his remaining arm to offer the newly removed limb to Abel. "You can do it."
Abel fought through the pain and took the offered arm, placing it against his shoulder. The nanos again did their job. Soon, a functioning, powerful arm was safely attached. He turned to thank his leader but Hughsnet was no longer conscious.
Abel grabbed a half dozen old-fashioned grenades from his pack. Gunfire erupted from the turret, but Abel did not flinch. He stood and threw the primitive grenades, two at a time, toward the enemy stronghold. His mechanical arm allowed his toss to cover the distance with ease. One of his first throws found its mark, bouncing through an opening in the top of the turret. The following explosion was not as loud as he had expected. The cement walls of the building absorbed most of the sound. Abel threw the remainder of his grenades. Three more found their target. The turret fell into deathly silence. The mission was complete.
Abel Johanson tried not to smile as he stood at full attention waiting for the General to pin a medal to his chest. He grimaced, ever so slightly, when the general accidentally stuck him with the pin.
The general moved on to award medals to the other surviving members of Team 5C. Abel glanced in their direction. Five other members of the team had not been lost in the raid. The last to receive accommodation was Macagee who proudly proclaimed, "I continue to pledge my fidelity and allegiance." Abel thought that Macagee's smile no longer looked so strange.
When the ceremony ended, Hughnet turned to shake Abel's hand, which had once been his. "You did a great job, Private Johanson. One in all. All in one."
Abel nodded, marveling at how true that motto was.