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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 32, Part 1

Major General Ras Qahira strode along the shifting sands of the Moroccan Front. A mortar landed a few meters from him and exploded, kicking up a huge cloud of dust and sand. Qahira ignored it.

"Yutas!" he called out.

A young Egyptian lieutenant came running as soon as the general had called.

"Yes, sir?"

Qahira fished into his pocket and pulled out a scanner. A few meters away an Algerian came charging forward and yelling, and was cut down instantly by a spray of AS gun fire. Qahira looked disinterestedly in that direction, then turned back to his junior officer.

"Lieutenant Yutas, I have here a captured scanner. A lot of the Allies use these."

"Yes, general, they do," agreed the lieutenant.

"I understand you were an electrical engineer when you were a civilian, and that you are now a mechanic."

In embarrassment Yutas suddenly clenched her fists to hide the oil stains on them.

"That's true, sir."

"How does a scanner determine what is a tank and what is not?"

Yutas thought for a moment. A round of Executioners sprayed by her head. She turned suddenly, but they were not intended for her. An explosion rocked the ground momentarily.

"Well, sir," she said, turning back to her commander, "It measures radiation. The fusion engine that a tank runs on isn't like the engine of any other machine, be it a plane, or a car, or a ship. In a way, every vehicle has it's own signature in the radiation it gives off. It's not dangerous to troops but it's detectable by scanner."

"Yes. Would there be any way to mask that radioactivity?"

"No, sir. But if you didn't want to be detected, you could always use tanks with internal combustion engines."

They both laughed heartily at that. A combustion engine that used up hundreds of gallons of fuel, as opposed to a fusion engine which ran for a month on a half liter of water. Nearby, a charging Allied tank exploded in flames. It was a Montgomery.

"Now supposing, lieutenant," Qahira continued, "A scanner picked up that Montgomery. Would it still consider it a tank, or would it know it was dead?"

"Well, sir, the radiation signature would be different. The scanner would consider it out of action and not show it at all."

Qahira nodded and looked at the scanner he held. As always, things were just about dead even. Neither side was gaining anything of consequence, but casualties were high.

"Is there any way to fake a tank's radiation signature?"

"Not really, sir, unless..."

"Unless what?" demanded Qahira.

"Well, sir, if you had a functional tank and you boosted it's radiation output, suppose by adjusting the type or amount of material fused, with a few modifications you could make a single tank look like a lot more."

"Like how many more?"

A grenade made a crater in the sand nearby.

"Ten, fifteen, maybe. Depends on the adjustments you make."

"Has it ever been done before?"

"Well, sir," said Yutas reluctantly, "It would be a very dangerous procedure, and no one's ever really done it. You don't know if you'll set off a chain reaction or..."

Qahira interrupted her saying, "Well, lieutenant, imshallah, we're going to be the first to do it. We've got to be playing mind games with the Alliance. They'll shrink from a battle with ten tanks when they'd go in blazing against one."

"Yes, sir," said Yutas glumly, and a leaper exploded into chunks of metal far above.

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