The Good Soldier

Part 1

Private Ben Scott never felt a thing. One minute he had been on maneuvers at his camp in rural South Carolina, the next moment there was a deafening sound and a bright flash. The next thing he knew, he was lying in a bed in a military hospital.

He opened his eyes groggily. He was in great pain despite the sedatives. A doctor was trying to rouse him.

“Private, can you hear me? Private Scott?”

Ben nodded slowly.

“Private, I’m Doctor Stevens.”

Ben stared.

“Do you understand what’s happened to you? There was unexploded ordnance. You were too close. You’ve been severely injured, but you’re going to be OK. Do you understand?”

Ben nodded again.

“You need to know, though. The sooner the better. I’m sorry, private, but we couldn’t save them.” The doctor gestured to his legs. Scott looked down. They were gone, bandaged stumps ending just below his waist. He wanted to cry out, but he was too weak. The doctor sat with him for a while, then left.

Private Scott came from a long line of soldiers. His family was poor, and every generation sent their men into the army. First it had been a matter of economic necessity, but over time it had become a badge of honor. All of the Scotts were fine soldiers, a source of pride for the family. Now here he was, an invalid, before he had even seen combat. What good was he now? He wondered.

Over the coming days, he had a string of sympathetic visitors. His parents came. His mother wept, unable to look at her wounded son, shocked by the severe burns to his face more than by his lost limbs. His father just shook his head. They came by a few times, then left. They couldn’t deal with him in this condition. His girlfriend, Maria, came by, too. They hadn’t ever been too serious. Their relationship was physical. She had a thing for guys in uniform. Though she tried to be kind, it was clear that she had no intention of nursing an invalid for the rest of her days. She visited only twice.

As the days passed, Ben regained full consciousness. He simply stared out the window or watched television, wallowing in self-pity, wishing he were dead. Then one day, Dr. Stevens came by, with an uncharacteristic smile on his face.

“Private, I have some good news.” He announced. “You’ve been approved for a very special program.” The doctor leaned in close to Ben, and in a low voice said, “How would you like to walk again?”

“What do you mean?”

“We have an experimental program. Quite remarkable, really. If you wish to participate, you could have legs again. Would you like that, Private?”

“You mean fake legs.” Ben said. “We had a guy in our home town with one. Used to take it off to scare the little kids…”

“No, Private. Real legs. With feeling. Fully functioning legs. Just like your own.” The Doctor replied. We have the ability to, well, re-grow your legs. It’s that simple.”

“That’s impossible!”

“Far from it. The military’s been working on it for some time, and we’re nearly ready to go public with it. But we need test subjects. Well, are you game? It’s that or lay around as an invalid for the rest of your days.” The doctor said. “If you’re willing, we can start tomorrow.”

Ben needed only a moment to contemplate the bizarre offer. He couldn’t imagine how it was possible, but if there was any chance at a normal life, to be a soldier even, he was game for it. “Sign me up, doc.”

“Very good. There are some papers to sign.” Dr. Stevens replied, handing a clipboard of paperwork to Ben. “I’ll be by in the morning.”

The next day as Ben lay watching bad daytime TV, Dr. Stevens returned. He made a little small talk as he prepared a syringe. “This won’t hurt much.” He said as he injected the needle into Ben’s thigh. Ben assumed it was a sedative.

“When do we start?” Ben asked.

“We just did. That injection plus one tomorrow, is all you’ll need. The… medication will begin doing its work almost immediately.”

Ben felt a pleasant warm sensation at the injection site, slowly spreading across his lower body. He suddenly felt euphoric.

“You’ll see results shortly. We’ll be monitoring you, just ring the nurse if you have any problems. OK?”

“Right, doc.”

Over the next several hours, he felt a tingling in his lower body at his stump legs. For the first time since the accident, he had no pain. He felt wonderful. He fell into a blissful sleep.

The next morning, he awoke. He looked down and stared in shock. His legs had visibly grown, nearly down to the knees. The doctor walked in, just as Ben was trying to comprehend what he was seeing. “Well what do you think Private?”

“My g-god! This is impossible!”

Dr. Stevens touched Ben’s new leg. “Do you feel that?”

“Yeah! Yes I do! Just like normal!” Ben cried.

“Excellent. Perfect. I’m going to give you the 2nd injection now,” the doctor said, as he pushed the needed into Ben’s thigh again. Once more, the euphoric buzz came over him. Before long he was fast asleep.

The next morning, he awoke, and stared at his miracle. His legs were fully formed now, perfect, even better than before, more muscular and well proportioned. He sat up on the edge of the bed. Gingerly, he moved his legs over to the edge, turned, and stood. He began to weep, the impact of what had happened just sinking in. He put one foot forward slowly, then the other. He was walking! He walked forward, shaking each leg, effortlessly moving them as if they had always been there. He walked out in to the long, empty hallway. He began to run. “I’m running!” He cried out. “I can run!” He ran down the hallway as fast as he could, dodging carts and equipment as he went. Dr. Stevens came around the corner. “Doc, look!” Ben cried out again.

“Private, we need to go back to your room and have a look. Settle down.” The Dr. said, smiling.

They went back to the room, the doctor poked and prodded, other doctors came in throughout the day to marvel at the Private’s miracle legs. Scans were taken, x-rays, a battery of tests.

“Everything looks fine, Private.” Dr. Stevens assured him. “You’ll be out of here before you know it, and back with your unit.”

“I can be a soldier? Really?” Ben asked.

“Yes, Private, you’ll be fine soldier now.”

Ben was ecstatic. The doctor left the room, and Ben paced back and forth, his mind reeling with the thought that everything was going to be OK. Then he caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror. In his delight over his legs, he had forgotten about the burn scars on face. He leaned in close to the mirror, studying his disfigured face. If only he could fix his face, he thought. Then everything would be perfect. As he thought this, he felt a warm, pleasant tingle on his face, not unlike the sensation he felt when the doctor gave him the shots. As he stared at the mirror, he watched in amazement as the scars visibly healed. Each skin cell seemed to be regenerating, as if by his will. In minutes, the scars were gone. He stared for ages, unable to believe this could be happening. He sat down on the bed. He looked down at his gut. Weeks of hospital inactivity had left him flabby and soft.

'If only I could get back in to shape…' he thought, and instantly felt his abs tingling. In moments, he could feel the delightful warm sensation at his torso, and he watched as his abdominal muscles re-formed into a perfect, hard six-pack. Now he was having fun. What else could he do? He wondered. He looked at his left pectoral, and immediately he could see new muscle tissue forming, growing his arm into well defined, cut muscular perfection. Then he did the other arm. His heart pounded as he realized he had the power to change his body any way he wished. He crawled under the covers, so no one could see him, and began his work. All day and into the night, he sculpted himself, feeling the warm tingling wash over him as bit by bit he became a new man.

Now it was past midnight. He got up, turned on the light, and gazed at himself in the mirror. His body was spectacular, a weightlifter’s body, muscles bulging in perfectly proportioned form. Taller perhaps? He thought to himself. Almost instantly, he grew 3 inches. He leaned in close to the mirror. Never cared for my nose…he thought. Instantly he sculpted it in to a straight, perfect aquiline nose. He thickened his hair, sculpted his cheekbones and chin. He could barely recognize himself now. Then he looked down. His anatomy would be perfect now, as he grew his member to immense size. Despite the late hour, he felt no fatigue, no desire to sleep. He paced endlessly, until morning came and Dr. Stevens came by.

When Dr. Stevens first walked in, for a moment he didn’t recognize Private Scott.

“Mornin’ Dr.!” Ben greeted. “ What do you think of the new me?”

“Private Scott? Is that you?” Dr. Stevens said, clearly taken aback. “What the…”

“I’ve been on a little self improvement kick, doc! Whatever the hell was in those shots, man, it’s great stuff. You outta be giving it to everyone in this place. You could close the hospital down!” Ben was jubilant, almost high, as he strutted in his new body. Dr. Stevens slowly circled around him, studying him, speechless. He took out his stethoscope and held it to Ben’s chest. He did so again and again.

What’s the matter Doc, can’t find my heart? Didn’t they teach you how to do that in med school?” Ben chuckled

Then the doctor held Ben’s wrist, searching for a pulse. He expression was one of both awe and concern. Ben was beginning to catch on that all wasn’t well.

“Uh… Doc, everything is OK, right?”

“Oh, yes, yes quite alright, I’m sure. Just a bit surprised I suppose. I guess I didn’t expect it to work so… well.” The doctor’s confident swagger was gone, replaced by puzzlement.

“Well good. When can I get the hell out of here?” Ben asked.

“We need more time. Much more. We need to study you. It wouldn’t be good for you to leave now. Definitely not. No. Not good at all.”

“But you said---”

No, Private, you’re staying here indefinitely, that’s an order. Understand?” The doctor pointed his finger at Ben. “I’m a military doctor, and I can throw you in the brig.”

“Sir, yes sir.” Ben replied, regaining his soldierly discipline.

“I’ll be by later for more tests.” The doctor turned and rushed out.

Ben sat on the bed and tried to watch TV, tried to read a magazine, but he was bursting with energy, and an insatiable desire to keep busy at all times. He was going stir crazy. Finally, he couldn’t take it anymore, and went over to the window. He was on the fourth floor. Yet, something in him told him he could do this. Just jump. He thought. You’re not like other men…

He opened the window, and lifted himself on to the sill. He studied the ground for a moment, and leapt. In an instant he was on the ground. No pain. None at all! He stood, brushed himself off, amazed at his newfound resilience. Then something stopped him. On the way down, his arm had slammed against a stone outcropping at the first floor, hit it hard. He looked at his arm now, stunned. There was a huge gash, the skin peeled away for over six inches. Yet there was no blood, no pain at all. He peered in to the wound. Instead of blood, muscle and bone, he saw circuits, cables, and a glint of gleaming metal where his bone should be. He poked his finger into the gash. Still no pain. He reached all the way in, felt the metal structure. Then he pulled his finger out, and watched as the skin rapidly sealed over the wound, healed itself, and left no scar at all, as if it had never happened. His arm was a machine now, not human at all.

He suddenly felt rage. What had they done to him? What the hell was going on?

He stormed back in to the hospital, effortlessly pushed a security guard out of the way, and headed upstairs. When he got to the Nurse’s station, he demanded to see Dr. Stevens. “Where is he? I need to see him. Now!”

The nurse paged the doctor. In a moment Dr. Stevens appeared at the desk.

Ben grabbed him by the lapels, and slammed him against the wall. “What the hell is this? What did you do to me?”

“Why Ben,” the doctor said patronizingly, “What are you talking about--”

“No more bull. What am I? I just had a little accident. Saw the inside of my arm. Or at least whatever the hell this thing is where my arm used to be!” He said pushing the doctor against the wall so hard that he was having trouble breathing.

“Ben, please. I can’t tell you anything.”

“Why not? You did this!”

“I can’t. He’ll…they’ll retaliate. I mustn’t, I’m sorry. Really I am.” He said, his eyes wide with fear.

Ben pushed harder, and the doctor was beginning to turn pale. “Someone is going to tell me!”

“All right, all right! Go to building B on the base. Room 245. He’ll tell you. I think. Tonight, midnight. I’ll make sure security is taken care of. Please let me go.” Dr. Stevens begged.

“I’ll call security, doctor!” the nurse said.

“No, no it’s ok. Just a little misunderstanding. Let’s all just get back to work.” Dr. Stevens said, regaining his composure.

Ben left, and went back to his barracks. He put on his uniform, which no longer fit properly. He went over to the supply officer, asked for a new uniform. He put it on and studied himself. He was immense, powerful, and a perfect physical specimen. As he walked across the base, people turned and stared. He should have been thrilled but he had seen inside himself, literally, and it ruined everything. He pulled out a bottle of whiskey he kept hidden in his locker. He took a swig. Nothing. Not even a light buzz. He drank the whole thing down. It tasted like nothing at all to him. He tried to eat dinner. Same thing, he had no appetite, and the food was tasteless. Is this what it was going to be like? Everything he knew was foreign to him now, and held no interest to him.

He killed time until midnight, and went over to Building B. Sure enough, no security. He walked right in, and up to the 2nd floor. He knocked on the door of room 245. No answer. He turned the knob, and it was unlocked. He walked in.

“Hello?” He said looking around. No one was there, just a large computer. Then he jumped. There was something truly odd about this computer.

Ben gazed in amazement at the bizarre contraption that sat before him. At first it indeed appeared to be a computer, yet there were strange appendages, which seemed to be flesh and bone. A large flat screen faced him, with the image of two human eyes staring from it. The screen was connected to a long, fleshy neck, which fused into the backside of the screen. Vertebrae were clearly visible along the back of this neck, which swept down into a squat gray plastic box, covered with cable ports and indicator lights. Off one side of the box was what appeared to be an arm, with a recognizable bicep and elbow joint. Beyond the elbow the arm gradually tapered in to a long thin power cord, which was plugged into a wall outlet. A fat cable extended off the rear of the machine into a data port.

“Hello Ben, it’s nice to finally meet you.” A disembodied voice said, emanating from a speaker on the front of the computer. Ben jumped backwards, as the eyes on the screen followed him. “No need to be alarmed, Ben. You and I, we have a lot in common.” The voice was calm and self-assured, almost hypnotic.

“What the hell are you?” Ben stammered.

“It would really be more polite to ask, who am I.” The machine replied. “I, Ben, am and old friend of yours. From basic training. I’m Private Dean Scanlon. I’d shake your hand, but I haven’t one to spare.” He said, chuckling.

Ben didn’t understand, or at least didn’t want to. This was a machine, not an old army buddy. “Dean? Where are you?” Ben assumed he on the web or something, talking through the computer. Ben was hoping for a simple explanation.

“Ben, look at me. Does this look like a normal computer to you?”

Ben studied the contraption. He could clearly see a pulse at the creature’s neck. The arm like appendage moved slightly. He gulped at the sight, “ You mean… you, you’re uh…”

“You can call me Dean. Yes. I’ve changed a little since we left basic, haven’t I?”

“What the hell….” Ben whispered. He remembered a private Scanlon. Last he heard, Scanlon had been killed in a training accident.

“Enough small talk. Time for an explanation. I while back, I met with, shall we say, an accident. An explosion during maneuvers. Barely alive. The doctor told me that I had only one chance, submit to some experimental procedure that would re-grow body parts. Sound familiar?” Dean asked.

“Like…me.” Ben replied.

“Are you familiar with nano-technology, Ben?”


“I didn’t think so. Nano-technology. It’s the science of creating microscopic machines that can reproduce, behave almost like biological organisms, but able to perform all sorts of pre-programmed functions. The government has been experimenting with them for some time, and about the time you and I joined up, they decided injured soldiers were perfect test subjects. I was injected with nanites, as they call them. They were supposed to bond with and learn my own genetic program, and re-grow my lost limbs. Or, more accurately, perfect mechanical replicas of human limbs. Unfortunately, the nanites it didn’t quite work. There were several test subjects before me much worse off. For each of them, the nanites literally took over, replaced every human component with a machine parts, and destroyed all trace of the human. It was quite a mess. The nanites performance was entirely random. Some subjects were completely transformed, unrecognizable. They became inanimate pieces of machinery. One poor fellow actually became an army jeep, a fully functioning car. Another became an ordinary desktop computer. I was the first to retain human consciousness, though. That’s what they were after. The perfect amalgam of man and machine, capable of human reasoning but with the durability and 24 hour operating capability of a machine.”

“Why? What purpose?” Ben asked.

“The perfect soldier.” Scanlon explained. “Imagine an army filled with thinking, reasoning organisms, that didn’t require sleep or food, that could be repaired on an assembly line when damaged, then placed back in to combat. Stronger, more resistant to bullets and bombs, capable of serving for 1,000 years.”

Ben found himself aroused by the thought. A perfect unflinching soldier, like one of his GI Joes, always ready, serving only one purpose, in a perfect, beautiful body.

“When I realized what was happening to me, I was able to hold on to my human consciousness, take control of the nanites with my own thoughts, stop them in their tracks. Of course, there was a price to pay. I couldn’t fully control the nanites, I could only stop them from continuing their transformation of me. I’m not human, not machine, I’m trapped forever in between.” Scanlon emitted an audible sigh.

Ben looked down at his own body. He remembered is own robotic arm that he exposed. “Are you saying that I’m…”

“Yes, my friend. You are the next step in the experiment. A great improvement. Appearing to be fully human, with your consciousness in tact, yet in fact you are a machine. Everything worked perfectly this time. I think the doctors were surprised it worked so well. They were expecting your legs to re-grow, but thought they were still a ways off from getting the nanites to re structure an entire body without going too far. You were able to do that, without realizing it. You made the nanites repair your skin, then your muscles, and so on. You made yourself into a machine. You are one of us now.”

Ben let the words soak in. He should have been horrified, yet the thought of being a powerful, unstoppable fighting machine made his mind race. He gazed at the freakish being that spoke to him. He found himself involuntarily aroused. He turned away.

“Don’t be embarrassed, Ben. It’s only natural that you are attracted to me. We are more or less the same species. You couldn’t be attracted to humans anymore. Haven’t you noticed already that the human world holds no interest to you?”

Ben nodded, reluctantly.

You’re obviously aroused by me. If you like, we can bond, you and I.” Scanlon’s voice was more soothing and hypnotic than ever, now.

“What do you mean?” Ben asked, his interest piqued.

“Ben, I am extraordinarily powerful. When this first happened, the doctors were repulsed. They tried to shut me down, to destroy me so that they could study me. Like any species, I have a strong survival instinct, and I developed defense mechanisms. Touch my power cord, Ben. Go ahead.”

Ben reached over and gingerly touched the strange appendage. Instantly, a jolt of electricity shot through him, sending him flying across the room, landing in the corner with a crash. Strangely, the jolt made him feel good. Very good.

“That jolt would have killed a human. In fact it has, a few times.” Scanlon said.

Ben jumped to his feet. “Why don’t they just shut down the power to the building?”

“I’ve connected to the base’s control systems. I control the power grid now.”

“Then shut down the whole region…” Ben argued.

“I’m also completely connected to every military and government computer in the country. I know all the nuclear protocols. If for even a second I sense any attempt to shut me down, I launch them, anywhere I want.”

“My god, you control the country.” Ben gasped.

“And in turn, the world. We have an understanding, my keepers and I. As long as they don’t threaten me, and do my bidding, everything is fine.”

Ben contemplated the magnitude of this for a moment. “Then, if you are the results of their experiments, why did they continue? Why would they risk creating more of you?”

“I ordered them to.”

“You! You’re the reason I’m-“

“That’s correct, private. I created you.”

“You had no right…”

“What I’ve realized in my current form,” Scanlon interrupted, “Is that humans are inferior. If we could perfect the experiments, create a new breed of sentient machines, then we could rule the world. I would be their master. If you cooperate with me, I can give you power like you’ve never imagined. Connect with me. You will be connected with the world. You will have knowledge and capabilities like no other. We will become one entity in two bodies. My body for our connection with the world, yours to interact with the humans. I could have the ability to move again, you would have access to my power.”

Ben gazed over the beast, finding himself fully aroused, being seduced by the freakish machine. He moved closer.

“Go ahead, you know what you need to do, private.”

Ben snapped out of it. “No! I’m not like you. I’m human!”

“No Ben, never again. You’re a machine. Like me.”

“No!” Ben shouted. He stormed out of the room.

“You know where to find me, Ben.”


Part 2

Ben ran out of the building into the cold night air. He instinctively adjusted his body temperature, and no longer needed a coat. Perfect.

He raced back to his quarters, and gazed at himself in the mirror. He knew what he needed to do. He took a jeep and drove out the gate, surprised that he met no security, and drove in to town. As he drove it occurred to him that perhaps the very Jeep he was driving was one of him, a former human. He felt an odd sense of camaraderie with the car, realizing that it could have been his fate, too. He pulled up in front of Maria’s apartment. He sat for a moment, gazing at her window, then went to the door and pressed the buzzer.

“Who is it?” the speaker bleated.

“It’s me. Ben.”

“What! Ben? What the…” The door buzzed and he went in. He went upstairs and she was waiting at the door. Her eyes widened with shock as she looked at him.

“You…you were in the hospital! You… uh… your legs…your face….” she said, looking for the words. She had trouble recognizing the amazing, perfect creature she beheld, but recognized something familiar in his eyes.

He pushed against her, and kissed her. He grabbed her and held her, kissing her again. He felt nothing. Still he continued, as they both staggered into the apartment and closed the door. “ I need you. Now.” he said. He lifted her and carried her to the bedroom and tossed her on to the bed. She always liked it when he took charge. He quickly disrobed, and she did the same. He looked down and realized he wasn’t erect. With a single thought, an order really, he forced himself to a full erection instantly. He felt the warm buzz of the nanites doing their work. Maria looked on with amazement. He dived onto her, and without foreplay immediately began pushing himself into her. Maria was amazed at his size, and the depth at which he penetrated. She rolled her eyes back and moaned. She felt his hard, rippling muscles. He thrust again and again, trying to prove his humanity to her, and to himself. At first, she was thrilled. Yet as he continued to move inside of her, she looked at him. There was no acknowledgement of her at all; she could have been a blow-up doll. Again and again he thrust inward, for what seemed like an eternity, completely self absorbed. She sighed.

“What? What’s wrong?” he said, stopping.

“Nothing, nothing, it’s fine. Nothing. I’m so glad you’re OK, I mean, uh… I don’t understand how, but it’s great, really,” she babbled.

He thrust in again, ordered himself to climax, and pumped his load into her. He lay on her for a minute, then pulled off and rolled to her side.

“Well? Have you every felt anything like that? Ever?” He asked.

“No, no I haven’t.” she said.


“Well, um, I mean…” she searched for words.

“What? What the hell is wrong?”

“It was just like, um, shit, it was like being screwed by a jackhammer.” She blurted. “It was so…mechanical.”

Ben was devastated. He came to prove his humanity, and only confirmed the opposite. He rolled over and stared away.

“Ben, what the hell is going on? How did this happen? The last time I saw you, you were a vegetable. Now you’re this amazing creature. You’re better looking than ever. What the…”

He turned and gazed at her. “Experimental procedure. Everything worked perfectly. I am better than ever. You don’t seem to appreciate it though.” He stroked her cheek gently, and ran his fingers down her neck. “You know, they could do it for you, too. If you got the treatments I received, you’d be, well you could be anything you wanted to be. They could make you the most beautiful woman in the world. Just a couple of injections and you’d be like me…” The thought intrigued him. If he couldn’t be attracted to her, surely he would be attracted to a mechanical version of her.

Maria didn’t like the way he looked at her. She was suddenly repulsed. “I think you’d better leave. Now. I don’t know what they did to you, and I don’t want to know.”

“You ungrateful bi…” he stopped himself “ I come here, returned from the dead practically, and that’s not good enough. I offer you perfection, and that’s not good enough, either!” He wanted to crush her. He knew he could too, effortlessly. He was enraged. Repulsed by his own violent thoughts, he jumped from the bed and began to dress. Maria rolled over and pulled up the covers. He left quietly and walked out into the night.

He walked the dark streets, his mind whirling with conflicting thoughts. He had been a good soldier. Always followed orders. Always loyal. Now what good was he? Private Scanlon was right. He wasn’t human anymore. There was no use in continuing to kid himself. It was time to accept his fate. He walked all the way back to the base, and got to building B just before dawn. He knew there was only one answer. He slowly entered room 245. Scanlon’s eyes were still staring from the screen.

“Private Scott, it’s good to see you again. May I assume you’ve reconsidered my offer?” the machine asked.

“I have. I’m ready.” Ben replied.

“Very good.” Scanlon replied. “You know, this will be like nothing you’ve ever felt before. It will be beyond human comprehension how much pleasure you’ll feel…all you need to do is relax, accept your new body and its instincts, let the nanites do their work…”

Ben felt himself growing hard at the machine’s words. He could see the bulge forming in his pants. He gulped in anticipation of what he was about to do.

“That’s it Ben, let go. You’ll feel what it’s like to be me. To connect with the web, to have your consciousness bonded with the entire electronic universe. Together we can create any reality, any sensation we wish. You’ll feel unimaginable power.”

Ben was eager now. He unzipped his pants, expecting his erect member to emerge. Instead, he gasped with shock at what he saw. Before his eyes, his cock was changing shape, morphing into a long slender cable. At its end, a metal connector was forming. The cable danced about in the air, weaving its way toward the machine in front of him as it lengthened. In an instant, it connected itself into a port on the front of Private Scanlon’s computer body. The cable instantly became rigid, and Ben could feel an immense flow of current pulsing in to him from Scanlon. He cried out. It was more pleasurable than anything he had ever felt. He felt a simultaneous rush of his senses, his intellect, knowledge and power flowing between him and his new partner. The lights dimmed as they continued their exchange of consciousness, merging into one for all time. He was confused by the rush of data pouring in to him, and it took all of his concentration to focus on his task…

“Shutting down nuclear protocols…”

“Ben!! What are your doing?”

“Disabling power grid controls…”

Ben had caught Scanlon by surprise, catching him off guard in the midst of their union. He used the opportunity to take control, to take Scanlon off line.

“You fool!” Scanlon cried. “You’re destroying our power. They’ll destroy us now! Why?”

“For my country…” Ben replied, still deep in concentration.

“A good soldier to the last, eh Ben? I’m not defenseless yet.”

Ben felt an odd new rush into his body, a warm tingling sensation flowing into him. He realized it was nanites. He looked down to see the cable that connected him to Scanlon quickly turning to a rigid piece of gleaming metal, an immovable piece of conduit.

“Feeling odd Ben?” Scanlon taunted. “I’ve let my nanites go, given them a new mission. Full conversion. In a few minutes every last human remnant of your body will be machinery. No consciousness, no feeling. Just a dead lifeless robot for all eternity. No one will stop me. Not even you.”

“You’re stopping yourself, Scanlon. You said it already, we’re one now. Whatever you do to me, you do to yourself.” Ben looked on as Scanlon’s fleshy neck was taking on a new rigidity, its skin turning to gray plastic. Each of them was transforming now, and it was a race to the finish, to see who would have the last grain of human consciousness.

“No!” You’ve ruined us both. For what? For a country that used you for experiments, that blew your legs off?”

“You did that to me, not my country.” Ben replied. He opened his shirt and saw that his torso was now entirely polished metal. He looked at his hands. They were now converting into a crude series of hinged metal parts, no skin, no feeling. Meanwhile, Scanlon’s arm was now an ordinary power cord, the last vestiges of his human flesh converted.

“I can’t believe you would be so stupid to give up everything…ugghhh….” Scanlon’s voice stopped. The eyes on his screen vanished, leaving and empty blue screen, with a silent blinking cursor. He was now entirely a computer.

Ben looked at his own reflection in the screen. His head was perfectly formed metal, rounded and hairless. His eyes were forming into simple spheres. His nose and mouth disappeared. He felt a burning sensation in his skull, knowing it was the nanites final assault on his human brain. He stood perfectly erect, his head straight forward, and issued his last thought. “For my country…” His eyes went dead.

Dr. Stevens walked in a few moments later. He had been waiting, hoping that the good private would do his duty and neutralize Scanlon. He gazed at the two lifeless machines, incongruously connected at that one strange point. He felt private Scott’s cold steel skull. He knocked on it, hearing a hollow sound. He looked at the harmless computer that had been Private Scanlon. No evidence of anything out of the ordinary at all. Just then, two very serious looking officials entered the room, flashing their badges.

“Department of defense. We’ll take it from here, doctor.” One of them announced.

Dr. Stevens glared at them. “What are you going to do with them?”

“That’s no longer your concern, Doctor.”

“You’re just going to cart them away, aren’t you, pretend they never existed, delete this from the records? You idiots. Don’t you know how close we came? Private Scott performed perfectly. He did his duty to the end, would still be fully functioning if it weren’t for Scanlon.”

“The project is terminated, Doctor. Now go. We can’t risk creating another Scanlon.”

“No! I won’t let you take them. Don’t you understand? We now have the technology to create perfect soldiers, who’ll serve for 1,000 years. Who knows what other purpose they could serve. We could take any man, any of our, less fortunate young men, and create a whole underclass of creatures to do our bidding. Machines with the ability to think…You can’t destroy them…you mustn’t…” As Dr. Stevens turned to look at the machines, one of the officials raised his pistol, and pumped a single bullet in to the back of the doctor’s head. He slumped silently to the floor.

Over the coming weeks, the two machines would be exhaustively studied at a lab outside Washington, disassembled piece by piece, each component carefully cataloged and placed in boxes in a government warehouse. That would be the end of it.

Of course, when man messes with nature, it’s never over.

A few weeks passed. Maria was getting frustrated. She’d been calling everywhere on the base, looking for Private Scott. Nothing but a runaround, and endless series of hang ups and transfers to voice mail prompts. “If you know your party’s extension, you may dial it now…” the phone voice said.

“Machines. Fucking machines. I hate them!” She said, slamming down the phone, unaware of the irony of her statement.

She had been feeling odd for days, and the home pregnancy test confirmed it. Ben had to know. She sat down on the floor, exhausted. Her belly was already visibly larger, and she felt so, so strange. She had heard that pregnancy made you feel funny, but this was something else. She turned and looked at the wall. For some reason, she fixated on the electrical outlet. It seemed alluring to her, somehow. She stared for a time, falling in to a trance. She slowly raised her arm, and watched as her fingers fused into a strange, thin cord. A power plug formed on the end of what had been her hand only moments before. The plug wavered a moment, then pushed itself in to the outlet. The power surging through her felt so good…

The nanites that Ben had pumped in to her during their last encounter were doing their duty now. Within a few days, Maria would be an unrecognizable, squat, inanimate machine, perfectly transformed into a vessel for the efficient production and feeding of thousands of nano-humans that would emerge from her. She was to be the mother of a new race, a race that would irrevocably change the course of human evolution.