“So what is it?” I asked Steven, as he stood there with his arms wide and grinning like an idiot, like he was P. T. Barnum or something. Steven and I have worked at Oberon Tec. for almost five years. To be fair, I don’t really know they guy. We say hi from time to time and share what projects we’re up to. He caught me just as I was heading home and managed to drag me into his lab and literally unveiled his pet project to me by pulling a big tarp away.
In the middle of his lab stood a titanium body cage, with a full-grown Utahraptor strapped into it. It was just like the ones they make for WWC: Brawl on TV. You know the type: big purple feathers; large claws, with one giant one on its feet that could go through flesh as if it was paper; angry eyes with slit pupils darting around and looking all over the room for a fresh kill. It even has the Upstart Inc. logo imprinted into its colours, so you wouldn’t forget who made this deadly creature. This was a top-of-the-line revival clone. So earlier, when I asked what it was, I got that it was a genetically engineered dinosaur. But the part I didn’t understand was why there was all this gear bolted on to its back and head; the visor on its eye; something I assumed was a rocket launcher of some kind stuck on its back; submachine guns attached to its claws – all these knicknacks that seemed kind of redundant considering its reputation.
“Its my prototype,” Steve said. “The latest in military combat weaponry. The past and the present combined to become the soldier of the future. Introducing: Rocket Raptor!”
“Ah. A weaponized dinosaur?”
“Yeah, kind of an expensive gimmick,” he chuckled. For four million bucks a pop, not counting the added hardware and firepower, he wasn’t kidding. “But the suits from marketing will eat it up. It’s the ultimate killer: teeth, claws, rockets and guns. I can already see the orders rolling in.
“So what does all this stuff do?” I asked. “I mean, how does it work? Thermal lock?”
“Its targeting system is based on sight. If the raptor wants to kill a target, the visor will register the motions of its eye and lock on. Then the missiles will shoot it down. Guns for suppressing fire, then claws and teeth to finish the job.”
“Is there a program that lets you control it?” I asked.
“That’s the beauty. We let it build up an appetite before we let it loose. We use its own hunting instinct to find and eliminate targets.”
“When do you have your presentation?”
“Saturday, next week. Dropping it right into the hot zone,” he said, giddy as a kid the week before Christmas.
“Aren’t drones easier to use?” I asked.
“Not really. A drone needs a controller to guide it and identify the enemy for it. But if you drop a hungry raptor with an arsenal of target seeking missiles near an enemy base, it won’t stop until every SOB in the area is dead.”
“But how do you retrieve it? If it’s hungry, won’t its handlers get blasted too? And—”
“Look, just come to the presentation. We’re sending it into Pakistan. All the bigwigs from the Pentagon will be there.”
“Erm, I’ll try. But my department is in the middle of the getting a new satellite targeting system up and running,” I lied. In reality I had no intention of spending my Saturday watching a feed of people being ripped to shreds. Luckily, he bought it.
“Ok, that’s fine. I’ll keep you posted on how it goes.”
“You do that,” I said, hurrying out of the lab. The Utahraptor’s hungry eyes followed me with every step. Poor, creepy-as-hell animal.
A month passed before I ran into Steven again in the elevator. He’d grown stubble and had circles under his eyes. He said nothing the entire way up. Guess it was up to me to ask.
“How did the prototype do?”
“Bad. Project’s been scrapped and my entire department has been decommissioned and repurposed. I’m down at R&D for law enforcement.”
“What happened? Did the system not work?”
“It worked too well,” he sighed. “Turns out that if a rocket blows a Utahraptor’s food to bits before it gets a chance to hunt and eat it, it eventually stops trying to hunt.”
“Jeez,” I muttered. “So it starved?”
“No, but we needed to feed it. Which ended up reducing its killer instinct even more. It ended up waiting all day to be fed. No hunting instinct, no targeting system. All we were left with was a fat raptor. It gained nearly fifty pounds in four days. Four days! Could barely walk anymore.”
“Fat raptor,” I muttered. “So, what’s next? Any new projects?”
Steven suddenly cheered up. I think I must have been the first to ask him. “Oh, it’s a new thing. Very hush hush right now, so I can’t talk about it. But it’ll blow them all away. I guarantee it.”
When we arrived at our floor, Kathy from the front desk frantically rushed toward us. She had that look in her eyes that screamed I just got saddled with something I’m not qualified to handle. You know the look.
“Steven, did you order a sabre-toothed cat from Upstart Inc.? It’s in the lobby, trying to claw through the box.”
“The smilodon? Yeah, I called for that. Tell the delivery team to bring it to my lab,” he said, suddenly calling out “Minions! To me!”
He rushed off and then looked back at me, giving a thumbs up. Three interns followed him, one of them carrying a helmet and the other two holding flamethrowers.