Episode 10: The Anything Machine
Part II: Faint of Hearts

Earlier that morning.

The gun is new. The soldier is surprised. He'd briefly practiced for this operation with a beaten-up Vietnamese knockoff of the KSVK, and had expected much the same in the field. Instead, he finds himself holding a fully-equipped OSV-96, fresh from the Tula factory, its black metal surface smooth and unmarked. His superiors were clearly sparing no expense this time around.

He unfolds the rifle, carefully aligning the tripod and the muzzle break. The perfectly oiled joint doesn't make a sound. He can already tell he's going to miss the weapon when the mission's over.

He stands up and scratches his jaw. He's still getting used to the new face, even months after the surgery. He never would have expected to miss the radiation burns. Then again, he supposes that was all he had left from that first disastrous push into Kashmir all those years ago. Even his dogtags were long gone, no doubt melted into a tiny puddle of slag amid the burning glaciers.

Back to the mission. They want constant status reports from him this time. He pulls out the pen-sized voice recorder he'd received with his orders. "This is SURGEON," he says into the microphone. "REDCAP came through. AO is secure. Setting up now. Stop." The recorder transmits the message, then purges itself of any residual data.

He picks up a magazine and begins feeding in the rifle's special fifty-one-caliber ammunition, each round fully the length of his hand from wrist to third distal phalanx. Years ago, he saw one of these guns shred a jeep, occupants and all, with just one shot. He wonders if he'll have the chance to top that feat today. One can hope.

Outside the apartment windows, the sun begins to rise. Pity. He's always liked watching the stars.

More tomorrow (9-28-15).