Savant James Follett ©2008
`What the true time-telling savant does is something so fundamentally different, it's almost too terrifying to contemplate. They actually feel and understand the flow of time and the awesomeness of space. It's as if they have their finger on the pulse of the universe itself. Time is the one link we have with the Creation. Perhaps they are the chosen ones -- the wise ones who will lead us to an understanding of the beginning of time and the Universe... and beyond.'
`Heed those with troubled minds for they have strange wisdoms.'
6th Century BC Assyrian wall inscription at Nineveh, near Mosul, Northern Iraq
`If I survive, I win.'
1 Southern Iraq
0040 hours. Sunday, 24th February 1991
The Iraqi tank refused to die.
The first 120-millimetre HEAT (High Explosive Anti-Tank) round from the Desert Rats' Challenger battle tank should have been enough to send the T-55's turret spinning into the air like a tossed coin. But the second round produced the same effect as the first: a blinding sheet of flame that temporarily fogged driver Corporal Alan Dearborn's IR optics. His nightsights cleared to show the Iraqi medium-weight tank spurting away from the engagement at a steady twenty miles an hour when it should have been a blazing funeral pyre for its four-man crew. From the way that it was weaving it was obvious that the driver still had perfect control. The infrared bloom that marked the tank's exhaust was a steady heat cloud in the Challenger's nightsights.
Jesus Christ! A direct hit from a one-twenty HEAT and it looked undamaged!
Alan's driver's position in the Challenger was low down in the forward hull. Behind him in the cramped turret was his tank commander, Captain Jack Roper -- his eyes glued to the commander's passive infrared optics. With him was gunner Harry Williams, and loader Mike Scott. Their headsets and the sustained roar of the Challenger's Perkins Condor 1200 horsepower turbocharged diesel in the after hull meant that the four-man crew was cocooned from the hellish uproar of the decisive battle for Kuwait that was raging around them.
There was no need for Jack Roper to tell Alan Dearborn to keep after the fleeing T-55. It had to be destroyed in the 1st Armoured Division's initial thrust into Iraq otherwise it could wreak havoc with the huge fleet of fuel trucks and support vehicles trailing the armoured division. Every Iraqi armoured vehicle capable of firing as much as a machine-gun, and every gun emplacement, had to be destroyed, and was being destroyed with systematic, deadly precision with exception of one obsolete and hopelessly out-gunned T-55 with a charmed life.
A salvo of MLRS rockets blazed light trails across the sky like a meteor swarm as they roared towards the Iraqi positions, each missile scattering over 600 bomblets across an area the size of a football pitch. Then another salvo was fired and yet another. The missile tracks of heat and molten light burned across Alan's sights, costing him visual loss of his quarry. It should have been a momentary loss, no more than half a second, but when the passive IR imaging sights recovered the tank had vanished.
Alan flipped down the virtual reality visor that was fitted to his headset. Suddenly he had a view of the muddy battleground as though he were perched on top of the tank. A circle of miniature multi-spectrum closed circuit TV cameras in an armoured pod above the turret conveyed stereo images of the outside world to two tiny high definition LCD screens in front of his eyes. If he looked ahead, he received an image of the view forward. Similarly, turning his head from left or right switched in different cameras and changed the views accordingly.
The experimental device worked like a dream, providing him with all round vision -- something that no tank driver had had since the first clumsy Little Willies had advanced across the battlefields of the Somme in 1916. Jack Roper's tank was the only one fitted with the device. The Ministry of Defence Procurement Executive wanted an evaluation. The understanding was that Alan didn't have to use the equipment if he didn't want to. But at that moment he was glad of it because the moment he flipped the virtual world visor down, the LCD screens gave him a sharp colour-corrected image of the T-55's turret, close to the desert floor and moving fast. The Iraqi tank had dropped into a depression at the exact moment that Alan had lost visual contact. Just the vague outline of the turret was enough for the visor's target recognition system to flash
T-55 MBT -- PROBABILITY 90%
on the right hand side of the screen.
There was a curious white marking on the turret that was lost to sight before Alan had a chance to identify it. It certainly wasn't a unit marking. It needed stupidity on a degree that was clean off the scale to paint conspicious white markings on a tank.
Jack Roper spotted the tank at the same time. Alan heard his commands to Harry and Mike as the Challenger closed on its quarry. Then his commander was talking to him. `Driver! That VW gizmo's got a recording facility hasn't it?' `Yes, sir.' `Switch it on. If we have got a batch of faulty charges, then we're going to need some hard evidence.' Alan blinked three times in rapid succession. Low energy lasers detected his eye movements and switched on the virtual world's video recorder.
VT REC ON
appeared at the top of the LCD display. The dapper little civilian boffin at Riyadh who had briefed Alan on the virtual world device had explained that it represented the beginning of the new `Looks that Kill' technology that would eventually lead to the two-man stealth tank.
`Video rolling, sir!' Alan yelled, hauling on the handlebar- like tiller grips to send the Challenger slewing after its victim.
The T-55 was running out of the depression. Its squat hull was rising from the desert like an iron phoenix.
`Range five-five-zero!' Harry Williams' voice called out. Alan saw the strange white markings on the rear of Iraqi turret more clearly. A reversed swastika. What the hell could that mean?
`Load HEAT!' Jack Roper's voice crackled in the crew's headsets, but the loader had anticipated the order and had slammed another yellow-nosed shell into the tank's breech. The gyro-stabilized gun kept the doomed Iraqi tank dead centred. The weaving wouldn't do it any good. Not with the Challenger's laser sights locked onto it, waiting to fire a shell with a muzzle velocity of 2000-metres per second.
`HEAT loaded... Now!'
A flash of light. The Challenger shook from the recoil and the deadly armour-piercing shell screamed from the rifled barrel and into the night. The protective sabots fell away from the shell leaving the dart-like core missile arrowing towards its target. Nothing could resist the terrifying force of a spinning HEAT shell.
Even if the point charge didn't penetrate enemy armour, the pulverizing impact of a direct hit was enough to punch a shockwave through a hull or turret and shatter the armour on the inside of the tank, creating a blizzard of ricocheting shrapnel in the target's confined interior that destroyed everything inside. Behind the advancing tanks and mobile guns of the 7th Armoured Brigade were dozens of burning Iraqi tanks -- their crews killed by their own armour and the deadly, unremitting firepower of the advancing Challengers.
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