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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."

Monday, June 8, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 16

The new recruit was decked out in a uniform unlike any the other recruits had ever seen before. He smiled broadly, happy to have been distinguished enough from the other recruits to be chosen by the sergeant to wear the uniform.

Of course, he was swimming in it, but he could barely tell. (There's an old saying that there are only two uniform sizes in the army: too big and too small.) He was wearing a helmet that came down to his neck, but allowed his whole face to be free, and would have been except for the black goggles. He was wearing black jodhpurs into which was stuffed his fabric camouflage pants. His tunic was not, however, fabric. It was some kind of space-age plastic that was light as a feather and supposedly could deflect bullets with ease. A black belt topped it off. He wore no insignia of any kind, as it would endanger higher-ranking officers in combat, nor gloves, which would probably only hinder the hands in combat.

His mates were assembled in ranks in their old fabric uniforms. Many of them looked at him with envy. He smiled. It was then that the drill sergeant came in. He was holding an automatic weapon.

"Ladies and gentlemen," said the sergeant, "Take a look at wonderboy over there."

He pointed at the bedecked recruit. The recruits all turned their heads to look at him, though they had already been looking at him. The drill sergeant turned around and fired a full clip from his automatic weapon at the recruit. The entire congregation was so taken aback by this, everyone in the room found themselves holding their breath.

Including the recruit. He was not dead.

"The uniform your friend is wearing is bullet proof. Take a good look at the carapace and headgear. I just emptied an entire magazine into him, and the armor is barely dented. You can get up now, son."

The recruit got up off the floor, shaking violently. He checked himself for bullet holes, and, finding none, resumed normal breathing and life processes.

"Could you please place that helmet on the hook behind you and step out of the way, son?"

The recruit did as he was told, and the drill sergeant put down his automatic weapon. In it's place he held a regular, break-action, ten-gauge shotgun.


The sergeant fired one shot at the helmet. A huge hole (which was actually composed of many, many tiny holes) was in the helmet. The sergeant cracked the gun, removed the used cartridge, and threw it haphazardly on the ground.

"That armor is our latest military technological breakthrough. It's cheap, easy to make, lightweight, and completely bullet proof. A man wearing that armor could only be seriously harmed by being shot in the face, an unlikely happenstance in a real combat situation. It can, as you have just seen, be penetrated by shotgun shells.

"We assume that these new-issue body armor uniforms will soon be in major usage around the world. This is why the army will be switching from conventional weapons to shotguns, in order to be effective on the battlefield when combating an enemy wearing armor.

"Of course," he said, reaching down to pick up a third weapon, "You don't want to have to reload every time you fire. That would be damned stupid. So, I give you the automatic shotgun, or AS gun, for short. Kid, could you remove that helmet and put that tunic onto the hook?"

The recruit did as he was told. He wasn't watching what he was doing, though, he was looking at the AS gun the drill sergeant was holding. It looked similar enough to a regular Remington M-1100 single-barreled shotgun. There were a few minor differences, such as the large drum attached to it. The drum and handle seemed to give it a feeling of a tommy gun rather than a shotgun.

And it sure fired like a Thompson. The entire armor tunic was little more than strings of melted plastic when the sergeant was through firing.

"These are going to be standard issue in a few weeks. They're drum-fed, and each drum should last you a couple hours in battle, if you shoot conservatively. And, although shotgun shells are considerably more expensive to make than bullets, it would take so many bullets to get anything done on the battlefield the army would go broke. But, there are things more expensive and more effective than regular shells. I give you The Executioner."

The sergeant held up a black drum marked with a skull. The recruits hadn't really noticed that the regular shell drums had been white, or that the regular shells had been yellow. The sergeant threw the drum and the AS gun he was holding onto the floor.

"Executioner shells are universally marked with a white skull on black background. Remember that! A drum would do too much damage, so I'm going to demonstrate with a single shell. Recruit, could you please stick that dummy on the hook, and get the hell out of there!"

The recruit stuck a dummy full of sand onto the hook where he had hung his helmet and armor already. He ran back to stand in line with the other recruits behind the drill sergeant. While he was doing this, the sergeant had picked up his conventional shotgun and loaded a black Executioner shell into it. He pointed at the dummy and fired.

The entire room rocked from the explosion. Sand was everywhere. The sergeant broke his shotgun and removed the used shell. He placed the gun on the ground.

"Before going into combat you will typically receive ten drums of dumb-dumb shells, and one drum of Executioners. As you can see, Executioners are devastating explosive shells. Use them sparingly! They're damn expensive, ten times as expensive as regular shells, that's why you get one tenth as many. That's the end of this demonstration. Dismissed."

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