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Carbon Neutrality

 The jumbo jet painted with the imperial seal of the united states bounced and screeched as its rubber wheels hit the runway. The massive plane's roaring engines died down to a gentle growl as it slowed to a stop. A staircase was quickly raised to the door, and a crowd of reporters and dignitaries waited with bated breath. A marine in full dress regalia opened the door, stood at attention, and outstepped the Secretary of Defense Blake Chesterfield. A tall man with slick-backed grey hair and a suntanned face. Blake's eyes were covered with dark aviator glasses, and he flashed the cameras a pearly white grin. 

As the dignitary descended the staircase, cameras flashed, and reporters clamored for his attention. Military police parted the Brooks Brothers-clad mob. A marine opened the back door to an idling armored Humvee. Before getting in, Blake turned to the crowd and shouted, "All your questions will be answered at the press conference. And I'm told there will even be shrimp." He quipped

While Mr. Chesterfield was receiving his rapturous welcome at the airfield, Shari was clenching her six-year-old daughter maria's hand as they made their way with a miles-long column of refugees carrying the remnants of their lives on their backs, streaming away from the smoldering capital while jets screamed across the sky dropping their bombs before disappearing into the horizon.

Shari wasn't heading anywhere in particular, just escaping. Sometimes armored columns roared past, and they had to jump out of the way into the muddy sewage-filled banks as fluttering American flags and masked men gripping machine guns sped past.

There is no position in the world more helpless than that of a refugee. Soldiers, bandits, even the elements Shari and her daughter were at their mercy, but for now, the crowds made her feel somewhat safe. She hoped it would help curb the more violent impulses chaos engenders in the human heart. Even in the warzone where shells and bombs could fall at any moment, Shari was worried about the prospect of tomorrow. From the moment they fled, there was no more certainty in their lives. They were marching on into an abyss. 

Shari felt Maria's little hand tugging hers. "Momma, look at the birds!"

Shari looked up and saw a silent swarm filling the sky. "There's so many of them!" Maria said gleefully. 

Shari didn't know what was gathering above them, but she knew they weren't birds. "Come on. We have to go." She scooped her daughter up and started running as fast as she could. In an instant, the relatively orderly refugee column became a stampede. 

The people running past Shari bumped into her, and she almost lost her grip on Maira. She stopped to regain her footing and clutched her daughter close to her chest before moving again. Hundreds of these objects hovered silently in the sky for a moment as if surveying the land. Suddenly one broke off from the swarm and dived into the middle of the panicked crowd. There was a flash and a shower of metal. Shari and Maria were drenched in a mist of blood and shredded flesh. 

The others started to follow, and soon they descended on the refugees like rain. They were out in the open there was nowhere to take cover, so Shari just ran as fast as she could while Maria screamed in terror and all around, more and more bodies disappeared into plumes of blood and glimmering steel. 

While Shari and Maira were trying to escape the storm of AI-driven kamikazes, Defense secretary Chesterfield proudly displayed the new weapon at a news conference just a few miles away. The machines themselves were "anti-personnel" weapons and only need be large enough to dismember a human body. Chesterfield held one up for the room of journalists to see. "This new weapons system will ensure our counter-insurgency operations have a limited carbon footprint. They are 100% solar-powered, and once launched, they require no maintenance or human operators. They are completely autonomous, and I am proud to say they are composed of mostly recycled materials!"

The frenzied reporters clamored for the Secretary's attention. "Yes, you," He acknowledged one in the front row, an attractive blonde with pouting red lips, an oval face, and sparkling emerald eyes. Not to mention a skirt that stopped well above the knees. 

"Carmen Drake, from Just the Facts, You said this weapon is autonomous. Can you tell us a little bit more about that? Thank you."

Chesterfield smiled, "sure thing, Miss Drake. Once deployed, this unit can hover over a battlefield for as long as the sun is shining. When it finds an enemy combatant, it can engage without human input. And it's size makes it perfect for counter-terror operations. It can go through a window up a stairwell and into a single room, keeping collateral damage to a minimum."

The reporter's hands shot up again. Chesterfield picked another one out. A man with broad shoulders and a chiseled jaw stood up and buttoned his jacket. "John Rogers No holes Barred News, What other ways can this new system limit the carbon footprint of military operations?"

"I'm glad you asked that. In past similar conflicts, we had to ferry marines and other combat personnel around in helicopters and provide fuel-intensive air support to ground troops. These multipurpose units make all of these aspects of the modern battlefield a thing of the past. Thanks to these innovations, the United States military can now conduct operations more efficiently, humanely, and above all with carbon neutrality!" 


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