Like a lot of great short science-fiction stories, Discards is born out of a desire to understand a technological question on a human level. In this case, it is exploring the worth — and worthlessness — of new military inventions. What will the aftermath of a future war in Europe fought with game-changing weapons look like? What will happen to the machines and humans caught up in the chaos and destruction? You can read the full story at West Point’s Modern War Institute.
Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap.
“You hear that?”
Banging like a hammer on a nail. Then three more precise taps. Faster this time.
“Kick the ball again, at that one container, Wiz, just like you did,” said Lieutenant Evelyn Guerrero.
Tap. Tap. Tap.
The Army lieutenant nodded her helmet at the rows of dark green Conex shipping containers lined up next to the burned-out town’s soccer stadium. A banner for the Finnish national team – 2026 World Cup finalists — somehow had survived the past six months of fighting but fluttered limply in the wind like a dirty bandage. The intel brief Guerrero downloaded on arriving at the depot site earlier that day indicated a dozen or so kids lived around the stadium, but the orphans hadn’t shown their faces.
Wisnowski dribbled the sagging orange ball back about ten paces, then he kicked it hard against the side of the container again. The impact left a faint smudge of chocolate-colored mud, joining dozens more on the matte olive paint. The ball flopped back onto the grass, air wheezing out of the bullet holes that robbed it of its bounce months ago.
Wisnowski shrugged. “Ma’am?”
“Take off your helmet, Private. It’s just us.”
“LT, that wise? Gonna be dark soon and milfeed said some Russian gnats around. I like my lungs just the way they are. No cheeseburger milkshake for me.”
“That’s why I started smoking, Wiz. Gnats can’t see through it,” Guerrero said. She wagged the unlit cigarette in the corner of her mouth. It was an unfiltered Chinese cigarette from a carton she’d found in a disabled Russian Armata tank back in the town square. That tank had the telltale snakebite impact holes from the double-barreled Derringer rail guns her unit towed behind its Strykers. It was a mess inside, but the smokes were somehow untouched. “Trust me, Wiz.”