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Hi, I'm horror and science fiction author Steve Kozeniewski (pronounced: "causin' ooze key.") Welcome to my blog! You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon. You can e-mail me here, join my mailing list here, or request an e-autograph here. Free on this site you can listen to me recite one of my own short works, "The Thing Under the Bed."

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 14

Jacques yelled out in exhilaration. He hadn't enjoyed himself this much since his first...euphemism for sex.

"This is better than the simulations!" said Jacques' driver, Pierre.

"A million times better," agreed Jacques.

Major Jacques de Ris had spent the first decade of his time in the military as a tank gunner. He was one of the best in the French army. That was probably why he had been transferred to a new division, which required amazing skills.

At the time, leapers had been a new invention that no one had ever heard of. They had looked like some crazed mechanist had grafted a tank and a fighter together. The leaper would, as it's name suggested, leap into the air from the force of two jet engines, then come crashing to the ground where it could fire like a tank, then leap away again.

It was better than a tank in that it could get from position to position instantaneously. Since it spent little time in any one place, it was almost invulnerable to ground fire. It was better than an airplane in that it could cause some real and specific damage to ground troops, rather than uncertain strafing runs or overly-destructive bombing runs.

It wasn't a perfect invention by any means. It's driver had to be a mathematical genius, a man who could balance amount of fuel, amount of thrust, distance, weight, height, ratios of any one thing to another, and also compensate for reality. It meant that only the best of the best of the most brilliant men could be a leaper driver. The same was true for the gunner, who had to have split second instincts and be able to wreak maximum damage in minimum time. And they had to work together as a perfect, cohesive unit.

Plus, the machine itself was a walking (or leaping, actually) deathtrap. A common French military saying was, "I'd rather be handed a grenade with no pin than a promotion to leapers."

Jacques, however, loved being a leaper gunner. He loved the idea of being on the cutting edge of technology. He loved the idea of being in an elite group. How many leaper gunners were there in France? A few dozen? And France had a large army. He was that kind of a person.

De Ris thought himself to be rather handsome, suave, and sophisticated. In fact, only the former was true. He had rakish good looks, and so was often popular with the fairer sex. He was, in fact, rather crass and rude. He was arrogant and reckless, which made him a perfect leaper gunner.

Jacques and Pierre had trained in a Copperhead Mark V leaper. Then they had been told about the new, less dangerous, better handling leaper, the Adder Mark II. They'd run a few simulations, and, sure, it handled better than their old bucket of bolts, but what could a simulation really tell you about anything?

When they had seen it, they had been more convinced. It didn't look like a hybrid freak like their old one. This thing was streamlined. It was modeled after a frog or a bird or something, and it looked really nice.

It handled like a wet dream.

"Pow, pow, pow!" said Jacques as he fired, feeling giddy like a child.

The tank exploded. It was a remote controlled tank, an obsolete one that the French army only ever used for target practice anymore. It was better than shooting at cardboard models, but every soldiers with two neurons knew fighting a real tank would be tenfold as hard.

The leaper flew into the air again.

"This is fantastic! We've gotten only," Jacques checked his screens briefly, "Only seven per cent damage. Fantastic!"

With a crew of only two, some of the more mundane responsibilities fell to the gunner, who was not constantly in work like the driver was. The driver had to calculate every second they were on the battlefield, but the gunner only had a function when they were on the ground. So in the air he could monitor things like radar or per cent battle damage.

The Adder II came down on top of one of the clattering old tanks. It was crushed like a bug. That was another advantage a leaper had, if the driver could calculate things that precisely.

Jacques de Ris fired wildly. Every shot hit a mark, and a couple of tanks exploded. The gun suddenly went limp in his hands, and every screen and light in the leaper went out.

"Shit!" yelled Jacques, "It can't be over already!"

Pierre the driver groaned softly. His whole body relaxed, and he slipped out of his chair to the ground. There were a lot of unwanted physiological effects caused by working your mind so hard. Pierre was exhausted.

The door to the leaper opened and shadowy figures came into view.

"Good job you two," said the colonel, "You blew away every tank within a kilometer of your starting point. A few of them were crushed."

The driver groaned acknowledgment of this acknowledgment.

"You know, it won't be long until you two are doing this on a real battlefield."

The two Frenchmen nodded grimly.

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