Mohsin Mohammad writes about a dystopian future in this sci-fi piece
By the year 2245 spot wars had consumed the world. The dreaded third world war never came, but in its place roamed countless other conflicts. With battles raging unchecked, the United Nations dissolved and re-formed into the Unified National Directorate. A global government was established and the old UN forces were re-tasked, their first mission was to kidnap children. From a hundred battlefronts, thousands of children were taken from the broken streets and kept safe. Trained and indoctrinated over ten years, they rose as the new Directorate Army; four hundred thousand men and women trained solely as assassins. Within six months, the various colonial dictators, radical leaders, inciters and the companies that fuelled them were put down like dogs. The UND assumed full global control and moved to bring the world back together. As peace began to settle, the Directorate Army was slowly dismantle. Soldiers that had known nothing but war and pain were executed so they would never become a threat to the new order. The year is now 2267 and the Directorate Army numbers only six hundred. Six hundred to police a globe still rebuilding from near extinction.
“I really hate this meeting room,” Kay sighed, playing with a lock of her red hair. “No windows, it’s too much like the old facilities.”
From across the grey plastic table, Biddy’s constant murmuring rose to an audible level: “Claustrophobia; present in fourteen percent of all DA trainees, limited to two percent by end of training period and expunged completely after first wave of decommissioning; agent KT5532 survived eight decommissioning cycles, you are not claustrophobic and therefore are rationally unable to ‘hate’ the lack of windows in this room.” His eyes re-focused onto his holo-gauntlet and he continued to murmur to himself, reading through the spectral data as it raced along his arm.
“Okay, Biddy’s right, as per bloody usual, I don’t hate this room.” Biddy nodded once and nearly cracked a smile. “It just makes me uncomfortable. Its’ places like this that squads get decommed in. End of the hall, no way to look in, kinda places.” She shifted in her chair, the empty pistol holster on her hip rubbing uncomfortably against her thigh.
“We aren’t getting decommed, Kay, so stow it.” Nhil said from behind her. Standing at a monstrous two and a half meters tall Nhil leaned against the wall rather than sitting, arms crossed over a well defined physique. Circular gaps showing through his shirt where his mechanical plug-ins were supposed to be. “I already feel naked without my limbs, I don’t need your grating on my nerves; Colonel Veers should be here in five minu-“
“Three point six seven”
“-tes and he’ll explain everything to us. He’ll also kill you, Biddy, if you interrupt him.”
“Unlikely, Sergeant. My neuroses not withstanding, I am of great value to this squad and our missions at large having maintained a 98% mission success rate. With fewer than one thousand units currently on the field the UND will not squander its few remaining resources. I am of too great a value to be decommissioned.”
Nhil rubbed the bridge of his nose, his shoulders hunching oddly with the motion, movements for extra limbs that weren’t there. “Okay he won’t kill you; but he may shut down your holo implants for the next seventy two hours.” Biddy’s hand shuddered, the scrawl of holographic lines spinning uncontrollably. He looked up with the closest thing to terror Nhil and Kay had ever seen on a Directorate Army soldier.
“Scuttlebutt says we’re supposed to have some hangers on for this one,” Kay chirped, “either of you hear anything?”
Biddy shook his head in his juddering sort of way, his breathing still heavy. Nhil shrugged “Dunno, my contacts in other squads haven’t mentioned anything about transfers or losses to any squads.”
Kay nodded, her fingers drumming on the table. “Could be from the non sanctioned O.T. group.”
Nhil’s fingers moved from his nose to his eyelids. “For the last time there is no O.T. section to the army, Kay.”
“N-Not completely ver-verifiable Sergeant,” Biddy replied, “current numbers sh-show one Directorate Army operative for every seven point eight, eight three hundred thousand remaining civilian humans. It is statistically impossible to fully police at such a ratio and current evidence suggests at least fourteen percent of all operations are not being carried out by categorized squads; the likelihood of the United National Directorate using a clandestine group to carry out operations that officially sanctioned squads cannot is not negligible.”
At those words, the door opened and a stout man in his mid-fifties entered the room. “How the hell you manage that with restricted access, I’ll never know Biddy!” Veers shouted. The man seemed to always be on the parade ground. Nhil snapped to attention and saluted. Kay straightened in her chair and nodded at Colonel Veers, eyes narrowed, hands beneath the desk.
Biddy, however, didn’t seem to notice or care much for the ranking commander being present and replied: “I hacked through the first three buffering walls and am currently mining into seventy five percent of all of the Directorate Army databases; the final thirty percent carry a shoot on sight order to any access of information without direct order from the governing body. Will take time to devel-“
“Shut up Biddy,” Veers sighed. “It’s too bad about my hearing condition, else I’d have to execute you myself for what I just didn’t hear.” Biddy didn’t seem to notice the Colonel’s response and just stared into his gauntlet.
Veers turned to Nhil. “Dust off’s in forty minutes. Just a standard breach and silence op this time. Some damn fool saying he’ll lead the masses to glorious freedom up in what used to be Norway. Some crap about voting rights.”
“Why send the whole squad for one target?” Kay chimed in. “Charlie and I could take care of this ourselves, just need a vantage point and two days.”
“He’s holed up in some old military complex underground, doesn’t leave the place. It’s connected directly to the regular water and electrical supplies so we can’t starve him out without doing the same to a third of the neighbouring township. Armed guards; Intel says thirty plus using solid slug throwers. Probably found a small munitions dump when he uncovered the complex.”
“We’ll assume fifty plus, sir. Full kit?” Nhil asked.
“Yup, Biddy gets to go all access on this one, too.”
“We’ll report to our arming station, sir.”
The corner of Veer’s lip twisted up into the closest approximation of a smile he ever gave. “Dismissed”
The three left the room, Kay steering Biddy so he didn’t bump into the door as he read the scrolling data of his holo-gauntlet. After a short elevator ride they arrived at their squad arming zone and barracks. The hangar sized room was where the squad spent most of their time, training or maintaining their kit. While the hangar was usually empty, except for themselves, there were several technicians checking over the weapons and equipment as the squad prepared to embark onto the helicopter on the landing pad outside.
Nhil smiled at the smell of lubricating oil and the faint copper of dried blood, Kay at the whiff of spent shell casings and Biddy at the ozone tang so many electronics and hologram emitters left in the air. The smells of a warfront welcoming them home.
They split up, Nhil going to his arming racks where four technicians stood waiting between him and his full complement of implants. Biddy switched his gauntlet display to the emitter by the computer stacks where yet another technician awaited him.
Kay practically ran in the other direction towards her cot. From beneath the blanket she pulled out her rail assault rifle. “Hello, Charlie. Sorry I had to leave you behind baby but I’ll make it up to you tonight, promise.” All smiles and with rifle in hand she walked to the weapon rack closest to the firing range. Their cots had been moved off of it so that the techs could test the magnetic calibration on Kay’s weapons.
“Ma’am, your weapons check out with the exceptions being the assault shotgun and the rail sniper rifle.” One of the faceless hands called as she approached.
“The twin’s okay?”
Kay pushed him aside as she grabbed the weapon harness off of a desk and started strapping it on. Her rifle on her back she moved to the weapon rack which held every ranged weapon from vintage crossbows to sub machine guns and a few tripod mounted Gatling guns. She moved down the fourteen meter rack and withdrew a matching set of pistols. “See, Charlie, our babies are okay. It’s just Samantha and Henry that are being a bit grouchy today.”
The tech shuffled nervously unsure how to react. “I’ll take care of them; you can help put the sergeant together.” Kay said waving a hand over her shoulder.
The technician walked the breadth of the hanger and got to Nhil to see him take off his shirt. His body was bulked out, muscles bulging at a size that simply didn’t look natural. But worse were the plug-ins. He was poch-marked with deep holes across his body and along his back and sides, each hole ringed in silver or copper. The holes bore deep, right down to the level of bone and sometimes deeper. Nhil winced as a pair of tails was plugged into the base of his spine. They jerked, spasming as they connected to his nerves and an orderly had to duck one of them. “Sorry,” Nhil said over his shoulder.
Plates of armour were plugged directly into his flesh alongside two extra arms on his shoulder blades, their elongated upper joints letting them hang and come up underneath his normal ones. He stood up, a faint whine of servos from his legs as they took the full weight of him. The various hands and orderlies stepped back as he stalked up past Biddy’s station and came up behind Kay. “Mind if I borrow the range?” He grunted.
She stepped aside, not even looking at him. She was cooing at an Uzi she called ‘Lizzy’. “Weapon check!” Nhil called out. Fifteen holographic targets took to the concrete urban-scape on the firing range. His robotic forearms opened and he grabbed a pair of pistols from them. The robotic hands digging into the meat of his thighs pulled out two shock mauls which each of his tails connected to. Finally the robotic fingers snapped together and went rigid along with their wrists. Monomolecular blades ejected from hidden seams along the point of his robotic elbows and his false arms darted back and caught each of the meter and a half long blades. “Range clear!” he shouted and leapt heavily into the concrete maze as the glowing orange holograms took up positions.
Biddy walked up to the weapons range and kicked his cot down from the wall it had been propped up against. Sitting down on the edge of it he activated the second holo-gauntlet along with a visor display and overrode the hologram’s programming, effectively taking control of them. “Think you’ll peg the Sarge on this one Biddy?” Kay called from atop a desk as she cleaned her sniper scope, watching as Nhil hunted down, fought and destroyed the holograms Biddy was directing.
“Not trying to injure agent OO5579, hard light constructs unable to cause significant harm even if I was; have to gauge lethality of our Sergeant without combat stimulants to get a proper reading on potential breakdown of nanotech connections.”
“Looks to me like he’s killed you seven times now.”
“Body count not relevant insomuch as killing potential of each wilfully fatal strike; assessment of accuracy, power, harmony of movement with synthetic limbs; vital to ensure mission success ratings.”
“Dress it up however you like Biddy, he’s beating you. Four men left; you shouldn’t bunch up in the same building.”
“Once again agent KT5532, this is not a competition; assessment of-“
“He’s wiping your chessboard clean”
Biddy’s eyes narrowed into his visor, instantly focused. On the field Nhil stamped his leg down on a twitching hard light hologram and felt the floor beneath him give way. His robotic arms and tails thrashed to find purchase on the nearby wall, and would have stopped his fall had one of the last four holograms not riddled it with kinetic laser shots. He fell through and landed heavily, his legs not able to take his fully armoured weight so suddenly. The remaining three holograms burst into the room wielding blades and hammers. On his feet Nhil would have been able to butcher them easily but prone… His tails lashed about as all four of his arms tried to get his armoured bulk up to a kneeling position. It would take three seconds, three seconds in a close quarters fight might as well have been three hours. His tails smashed one hologram aside and clipped the second. The third got through but rather than aiming for his head or his armoured torso, he stabbed at Nhil’s armpit.
The contact with the hard light blade instantly numbed his shoulder as an electric pulse deadened nerves to simulate the potential loss of a limb. Nhil collapsed to the floor again as the clipped hologram got back up and threw himself onto the mechanical tails. It was violently whipped back and forth before being smashed against the ground and winking out of existence, but it bought its compatriot the time it needed. Nhil felt a dull throb and then an expanding coldness on his back as the last hologram inside the room finished him before winking out.
Nhil activated the radio in his mechanical wrist. “You mentioned chess to him didn’t you, Kay?”
Nhil shook his head as the feeling returned to his right arms and propped himself up again.
“Better hurry boss, our ride’s here. Should I send for a crane?”
Nhil grunted and stood up. He walked out of the range and across the hangar putting his weapons back into his body and grumbled, “You’re both insane.”
Mohsin Mohammad is a philosophy student at the University of Toronto. He is a self-proclaimed near-fanatical devotee of “nerdom,” and has been writing creatively for several years.