Prototype Ten

In the last two decades of the twentieth century, a pair of events occurred that set the stage for an entirely new paradigm in military conflict. The United States of America, in slapping down Iraq's attempted takeover of neighboring Kuwait, demonstrated once and for all the superiority of its military technology, as well as its willingness to use it. When US built Patriot missiles intercepted and destroyed the pride of Iraq's offensive weaponry — its Russian-built SCUD missiles, the world received its first indication of the futility of attacking the US using traditional military means. Then, when the United States unleashed it's full non-nuclear arsenal, including stealth fighters and cruise missiles, during the devastating bombing of Baghdad and other Iraqi targets, following up with the ground campaign that relied heavily on fast moving and deadly accurate tanks and Apache attack helicopters, there could be no doubt as to which nation was the strongest military power on earth.

The only serious threat to the United States had been the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics — the USSR. The simultaneous collapse of its economy and political structure left no enemy capable of inflicting more than minor damage to the US in any sort of classic military confrontation, and after the first war in Iraq, it became abundantly clear to any who might consider such an attack that the consequences could be devastating to the attacker.

This did not leave the United States without enemies. It simply frustrated any desire to mount a military campaign against the US. To avoid the diplomatic and military repercussions of such attacks, her enemies turned to the time-honored resort of those without effective military resources: terrorism.

At first, most of these efforts were countered more or less effectively by redirecting the massive counter-espionage machinery the US had left over from the "Cold War". It was obvious to even the Intelligence community, however, that these efforts would eventually allow something to "slip through the cracks" as they had when the World Trade Center in New York was bombed in 1993, and again in 2001 when Islamic terrorists flew hijacked commercial airliners into the World Trade Center, finishing the job once and for all. Something also hit the Pentagon that day, but when people began to question the official report of another commercial airliner attack, attention was shifted elsewhere quickly.

The second Bush administration shifted public attention away from its failure to stop the terrorist attacks or to find the avowed perpetrator, Osama bin Laden, by once again kicking the crap out of Iraq. Not surprisingly, the subsequent occupation of Iraq by US troops became a terrorist training ground. Muslim extremists from all over the globe found their way to Iraq to learn how to kill Americans.

Gradually, FBI, CIA, and NSA teams, under the umbrella of 'Homeland Security', began to learn of terrorist teams filtering weapons and trained members into the US through various channels.

Counter-intelligence and anti-terrorist groups were able to ferret out and destroy or disperse many of the groups, but with each success, the terrorists got more cunning and harder to catch. When caught, they were becoming harder to kill or capture. Since advances in anti-personnel armaments were not as closely guarded as the secrets of weapons of mass destruction, and could be got on the black market for much less than say, Patriot missiles, terrorist bands shifted their focus from planting bombs to guerilla attacks on the populace.

In the first thirty years of the twenty-first century, more US citizens were killed by terrorists than in its four previous military campaigns combined: Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Iraq.

Once the stupidity and deception of the second Bush administration was revealed in terms that even die hard Neo-cons could not help but accept, a more reasonable, if only slightly less corrupt government was elected. In typical American fashion, the US set about trying to find a technological solution to the terrorist problem. Advances in intelligence and espionage techniques and equipment came so quickly that many gadgets were obsolete before they were put into use. Detection of weapons, chemicals and biological compounds got better, faster and more accurate. Growing hatred for the US and its wealth, however, made intelligence gathering outside the country increasingly an exercise in remote observation. While American agencies were very good at this, it meant that most detection efforts could not identify insurgents until they were already in the country. Then local police and FBI were brought in to try to flush them out.

The casualty rate among law enforcement officers skyrocketed, causing the government backed research organizations to focus significant portions of their effort on assault weapons and techniques.

Robots were of limited use, since, at the time, they were incapable of rapid, self-directed maneuvering or effective offensive action. Traditional military style assault weapons didn't sit well with local governments or neighbors of the local terrorist enclaves, since the damage they inflicted was hard to localize.

Ultimately, through a program funded by Homeland Security, a secret project was launched. Code named "Robbie", the stated goal of the program was to transform individuals into cybernetic organisms — Cyborgs. The idea was to keep the human capacity for judgment and intuitive response while greatly enhancing strength, speed, and sensory capabilities. A secondary goal was to greatly reduce the cyborg's vulnerability to physical attack, since they promised to be very expensive investments.

Initial efforts to couple a human brain with a robotic body were disappointing. Robot technology, particularly in the field of portable power, simply could not produce a mechanism that had the strength and speed required without exhausting any portable power source of practical size in a few minutes. Because of this, the experiment of mating mind with machine was never conducted.

The second phase attempted to enhance the human body by "rewiring" the nervous system and reinforcing sinews and muscle tissues with metallized elastomers. This had the side effect of "toughening" the body to the extent that an extremely sharp blade wielded with great force was needed to make more than a superficial cut in the flesh of the 'enhanced' body. Even bullets could not penetrate the toughened muscle tissues very far. A microprocessor was coupled to the subject's brain to provide control over the enhanced systems, while providing additional sensory input from a plethora of miniaturized sensors embedded at various locations on the body. Eyes were enhanced with microprocessor controlled optical sensors that could "see" the entire spectrum from deep infrared through ultraviolet and x-rays. Inner ears were replaced with sensors that, coupled with other sensors implanted about the body could "hear" anything from ultra-low frequency sound waves up through the high ultrasonic. When electronically configured in certain ways, the metallized fibers embedded throughout the body could form antennae capable of receiving or transmitting on a wide range of frequencies. These signals were fed through microprocessor filters directly to the auditory and optical nerves.

Mechanically, this new model showed much more promise than the completely artificial bodies of the first phase, since a relatively small power pack could give the subject two or three times the strength and speed of a reasonably strong man for several hours. A slightly larger one could keep him going for a couple of days. Even when the power pack ran low on power, a well trained person, could, theoretically, continue to operate relatively effectively, with slightly less strength until he could get a recharge. The problem was that the "prototypes" tended to fail dramatically as soon as the final connections were made between the electronic systems and the biological brain.

The first two prototypes went catatonic and were eventually euthanized, after being studied endlessly to determine the cause of the problem. From lessons thought to have been learned from these two, the procedures were changed slightly.

The next two went berserk and were destroyed after killing and/or maiming several lab personnel and destroying thousands of dollars worth of equipment. The next two were restrained before the final procedure, but when they regained consciousness, they strained so wildly against their restraints, and screamed incoherently so incessantly, that they were sedated almost immediately. Every subsequent attempt to revive them met with the same result. Tranquilizers didn't help. Only unconsciousness would stop their struggles. They, too, were 'put down' for their own good.

Number seven seemed calm enough and lucid enough that restraints were removed, whereupon she grabbed the nearest sharp object — a pen from a doctor's breast pocket — and drove its point through her brain. More procedural adjustments were made.

Numbers eight and nine, while minimally functional, seemed unable to take notice of anything around them for more than a few seconds at a time, as though enthralled with some activity outside the ken of those around them. They most closely resembled severely autistic children. Final adjustments were made to cause the implanted micro-circuitry to power up in stages.

Number ten, though slightly more responsive than eight and nine, also 'disappeared' into a mental fog, and all hope of making an effective weapon of him went out the window. Funds for the 'Super Soldier' program dried up and attention turned to remote controlled weapons platforms. Though these were not quite as effective as they hoped the cyborgs would be, with improved sensor arrays developed as part of the cyborg project and on-board artificial intelligence, the new models proved to be sufficient, and much less expensive to produce.

Then, Prototype Ten disappeared from the locked cell in which he was being kept.

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Ma/Fa / Science Fiction /