In 2995, then Pvt. Anthony Azande was taking a class in demolitions. He entered a room and had a seat with a few other classmates. Others soon joined him. His instructor, Wayne, walked in last. Wayne had short, black hair and blue eyes.
“Welcome everyone,” Wayne said, “I hope you’ve been paying attention because today we’re going to diffuse a bomb. I’ll take you to the holosuite and run a simulation. Your job will be to find the bomb in building and diffuse it in the time allotted. The building and scenario is different for each person, so telling each other where the bomb is won’t help. We’ll be doing this in alphabetical order, so Anthony, you’re the first victim.”
Anthony stood and followed Wayne to the holosuite. The room was empty.
“Ready,” Wayne asked, “Use whatever you got to succeeded.”
A four-story building materialized.
“Go.” Wayne said.
Anthony ran towards the building, phasing his suit on.
Inside, Anthony immediately switched his visor to x-ray mode to see through objects. He noticed it looked like an office building, desks, partitions, and file cabinets were everywhere. There were dead and injured people lying around. One flashed the number four with his fingers and pointed to stairs going up, indicating where Anthony should go. When he got to the top he saw some partitions had been arranged in a barricade fashion. A gunshot rang out, hitting the floor near him and causing Anthony to take cover behind some desks. He thought about absorbing the shots, but couldn’t risk other people getting hurt.
“That’s far enough,” a man shouted, “You can’t stop me!”
“Hold on,” Anthony pleaded, “What’s your name, and what do you want?”
“Name’s Kaczynski,” he answered, “I was going for a promotion, but I get the feeling that’s not going to happen now, so I’ll just take this building.”
“Call me Anthony,” he said, “Listen; you don’t need to do this.”
“Yes I do,” Kaczynski replied, “Since I’m a nice guy and in such a good mood, I’ll give you a choice. To either side of me is a room. One room has a bunch of people in it. The other has one has a little girl. Both doors are sealed with a bomb that’ll blow this place sky-high, and you only have enough time to disarm one.”
Anthony looked and could see the rooms. With his visor, he was able to tell people where inside. Actually, he didn’t really need a special mode; the rooms were lined with frosted windows, allowing him to see everyone’s silhouette, “A little girl,” he said in disbelief, “How’d you get a little girl and who is she?
“I don’t know,” Kaczynski answered, “Bring your kid to work day I guess. You got five minutes.”
“Can we talk about this?” Anthony asked. His answer was the sound of a single gunshot. He quickly looked through the barricade with his visor and noticed a body no longer moving. His visor gave him some general readings on a person’s vitals; it had to be Kaczynski, he was dead.
Anthony got up and ran to the room with a lot of people. There was no way to open the door without setting off the bomb. He couldn’t just phase it in; the explosion would be enough to break the zero-space barrier and kill him. Using his visor, he could see the innards of the device; it was two bombs in one.
Anthony phased out an air cutter; a device that looked like a pen that lit up at one end, and created air pressure to cut. He used it to cut an opening in the shell and cut a wire to render the first bomb inert.
‘One down, one to go,’ Anthony thought. The next bomb was a little more complex. He had to use the air cutter to get to it. Once there, he phased out a soldering kit and a diffuser chip. The diffuser chip resembled a small computer chip. He had to unsolder a chip to solder the diffuser chip on.
Now the bomb was disarmed. Anthony kicked the door open and yelled, “Everyone, outside and to the front,” he said, “Help anyone who needs it.”
Anthony ran to the next bomb it was the same, but it had taken some time to diffuse it. He knew he didn’t have time so he phased it in and kicked the door open. Using the inertia from kicking the door to gain momentum, he quickly ran and jumped through a glass window.
As Anthony fell, he turned upright and landed as though he’d been beamed down. The simulation was over.
“You’re dead,” Wayne said, “Still, you managed to disarm one of the bombs, therefore you pass.”
Anthony didn’t say anything and held his head down as he left.
“It doesn’t matter if it was a simulation,” Wayne asked, “Does it?”
“You didn’t hesitate to phase that bomb in.” Wayne said.
“I wanted to win, sir.” Anthony replied.
“You won,” Wayne said, “I knew you could disarm it. You can disarm any bomb. That’s why I gave you this test. It wasn’t about disarming a bomb; it was about making a choice. You made a choice even I wasn’t expecting. You did win and saved a lot of lives at the cost of your own. I’m glad you’re on our side. Go ahead and get some R&R. See you tomorrow.”
Anthony stepped out and pepped up; realizing he’d finished the test and passed. Before, he felt like a failure, but Wayne had erased that. He and everyone else knew what he’d do in real life with confidence.
In the rec room, Anthony sat down and used a remote to turn on and switch the TV to an episode of his favorite show. During the show, he dozed off. Later, someone playing pool broke so hard that he woke up. He noticed one of his nodes flashing and phased out a message.
Right away Anthony could see it was top secret. He turned off the TV and headed out; it was more for assurance that nobody was looking. The message just had a place and time to meet. Anthony looked at the clock in his message reader. He only had a few minutes to get to his destination.
It was an office Anthony was supposed to go to. By the time he got there, a woman with red, shoulder-length hair and blue eyes was entering. There was no going back now; she saw him. He entered the office and stood at attention by her. It was dim. Sitting down were two men, obscured by the shadows.
“Introductions first,” the one behind a desk said, “From the location, you probably guessed that I’m General Coopermen. Kristy, meet Anthony. Anthony, Kristy. The gentleman sitting by my desk, from intel is Mr. Vega. He’ll tell you why you were brought here.”
“Serpenz,” Vega began, “I’m sure you’re both familiar with them, and if not, you will be.”
Anthony had only seen a Serpenz in pictures. They looked like a cross between frogs and alligators, humanoid and multicolored. A little bit bigger than a human and stronger.
“There are two factions,” Vega said, “One, the Gretites, want nothing to do with humans, going so far as to say we’ve invaded some of their territories, and they are threatening us with war if we don’t relinquish them right away.”
“We don’t want a war if it’s avoidable.” General (Gen.) Coopermen said.
“The other faction, the Frenix,” Vega continued, “Is much more open to us. We’ve been in contact with them, and they’re willing to deal with us, trade with us, and more importantly recognize our territory.”
“This next part is important,” Coopermen said, “So focus.”
“The Frenix,” Vega said, “Is willing to go war to seize power,” He then placed two photos of Serpenz on the desk in front of Anthony and Kristy, “This is where you two come in. The one with blue spots is the leader of the Gretites. His general is the one with the eyepatch. The Frenix have provided us with a shuttle and the location of a meeting that they set up with the Gretites under false pretense. You two are to go in and take these two out. Special suits have been made for this operation. They have holo-emitters on them, so you’ll look like Serpenz. Kristy, take the leader. Anthony, you got the general.”
“A lots riding on this,” Coopermen said, “Don’t let us down.”