The 1970s gave us the six-million-dollar man. Thirty years and quite a bit of inflation later we have the six-billion-dollar human: not a physical cyborg as such, instead an umbrella term for the latest developments in the growing field of technology for human enhancement.
Helping the blind to see again, being able to carry enormous loads without the prospect of backache and a prosthetic robotic hand that works (almost) like a real one were some of the ideas presented at a recent meeting of engineers, physicists, biologists and computer scientists organised by the American Association of Anatomists.
The Watney Slender Wasp was a fine mountain aeroplane. Far more manoeuvrable than its asymmetric silhouette suggested, it could be thrown around with ease. The tri-motor they were escorting, on the other hand, was a fat ugly beast of a bird. Reed kept glancing back to check it was still lumbering up behind them. “Kenan’s gap in thirty counts.” his navigator/ bombardier told him. Jayn looked nervous, it was her first combat mission.
As they approached the turn she began counting down. “Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one, now.” Reed banked hard right, flattened and throttled up for the climb. “Horse is still with us”, Jayn reassured him.
They joined the road at the head of the valley. It clung to the cliff face, curving away from them. “Horse here. We are heading for our drop.” the cargo plane announced.
“Affirmative Horse. We’re going to cause some chaos.”
They couldn’t see the target yet, but no doubt the target could hear them. “Guns live, rockets live, glide bomb ready.” Jayn pre-empted the command.
The valley straightened and ahead of them was the target. The convoy had positioned itself perfectly to be attacked. Most of the vehicles were still in a short covered section built to protect the road from the avalanches that swept down the gully above. Outside the tunnel two vehicles jostled for position, an armoured track and a soft-skin eight wheeler with anti air gun in its bed.
“Two and three with me, four, five, six around and take the rear. Let’s seal this at
each end.” The rear three planes peeled off. “You have the plane.” Reed told Jayn. He kept his hands close to the controls, ready to take them back, but he had to trust her.
They needed a long straight run in to line up the glide bomb, to set up the inertial guidance before it could be released. They would be approaching at an angle to the mouth of the tunnel, but a direct hit would still be effective. Only Reed’s plane carried the experimental weapon. Jayn could put it through a gap scarcely wider than its wings on the test range, how would she- and the bomb- fare under combat conditions?
Lights on the panel between them blinked on one by one. “Gyroscope to speed.” Jayn announced. “Ready.” She flipped the cover off the release button. “Gone.” Between the crew boom and engine boom locks released. The glide bomb’s own wings flexed against mounting poles and pushed it away from the plane. The inertial system compensated and the bomb wiggled as it found its new level.
Jayn banked toward the cliff wall and levelled out, two and three followed line astern. The plane nosed up slightly as she checked the targeting scope. A few more counts and the anti air gun would come to bear. Were they closing fast enough to cut them off?
“Rockets away.” Jayn announced. Four projectiles jumped from the wing to the right of the crew boom. They were little more than fireworks with shaped charges on the end, but placed correctly they could be devastating.
The plane dipped and Jayn let off a two count burst from the guns under their cabin. The bullets reached the eight wheeler ahead of the rockets, bouncing off the anti air’s armour and decapitating a loader. Gravity had taken hold of the rockets and brought their trajectory down toward the gun. Two shaped charges punched through the armour and destroyed the mechanism beyond. One lifted the gun off its mount and the last found an ammunition crate. The explosion split the eight wheeler, sending the rear bouncing down the mountain, and rocked the armoured track.
The plane pulled away, as four smoke trails passed below. The mouth of the tunnel lit up yellow as the projectiles found a fuel truck.
As Reed took back control, Jayn checked on the glide bomb’s trajectory. Two and three had pulled out of their bomb run to avoid its blast. The little grey glider sailed into the tunnel and was swallowed by the flames from the tanker. A shockwave shook the ground above the tunnel mouth and pushed flames and smoke up the road. The tunnel entrance collapsed.
At the far end of the tunnel anti air guns had been brought to bear. The convoy was longer than they had thought. Four, five and six had dropped their bombs and were coming back up the valley three abreast to deliver a volley of rockets and bullets.
Reed brought the plane around in time to see a ripple of explosions along the road. Both anti airs, a number of soft skins and another fuel tanker took hits. Infantry spilled out of carriers to find cover. Not a vehicle was undamaged. One eight wheeler had driven over the edge in the confusion and was sliding sideways down the cliff wall.
“Horse here. Drop done.” came the message over the radio. That had been the primary mission, the chance to carry out this hit and run was just an added benefit.
“Okay. Flight, form on me and let’s go home.”
I never bought anything from the snooker shop. Much as i want a bar billiards table i’ve never had the space or the money. Still, i’ve regularly windowshopped, something i can’t see happening at the costcutter that will replace it.
Technorati tag: moblog