Flash Fiction: “Nothing Else to Consider”

I wrote this story for a specific submissions call that went out more than a year ago. The publisher was looking for science fiction that examned the implications of new, real technology. Unfortunately, something happened with the publisher and the call was cancelled. So I’d like to share the story with you here.

This story is based on the attention helmet, first detailed by Sally Adee in The New Scientist in 2012 and later described by Yuval Noah Harari in his book Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow. I was inspired to write it after hearing Harari’s interpretation on brain stimulation and augmentation. What would the risks be of having too rigid a focus?, I wondered. Military applications seemed the obvious place where such risk would be most prevalent. The U.S. military has since expanded research into brain stimulation technology, as noted by The Guardian, in 2016.

“Nothing Else to Consider” – by JM Williams

SO1 John Perry watched as the SEAL assault teams neared the cabin. It was the largest of the three buildings in the jungle camp. He heard a voice buzzing in his ear piece.

“Bravo in place. Perimeter clear.”

A brief silence, then another voice.

“Alpha in place. Ready to breach.”

Perry tucked the butt of his sniper rifle into his shoulder. His spotter was crouched beside him with an M4 at the ready. A flock of birds raised a ruckus up in the trees, and the whitewater tumbling of a nearby stream shook Perry’s nerves.

A thousand voices argued in his head. What if one of the hostages was killed? One of the SEALs?

He flipped the activation switch on his attention helmet and the voices were silenced. There was only a sensation of static and absolute focus.

Glancing through his scope, Perry could only see the objective. There was nothing else to consider. He spotted a figure approach one of the cabin’s windows. The man held an assault rifle.

“Overwatch in place,” Perry said through his throat microphone. “Eyes on one tango. South side of the target building.”

“We go on you, overwatch,” the Alpha team leader said.

Perry concentrated on his target. He saw the man lean towards the window, saw the rise and fall of his chest as he puffed on a cigarette, which left curls of smoke hanging in the air. The man glanced out of a corner of the window. Perry did not give him a chance to react to what he had seen.

The four shooters of Alpha team rushed inside the eastern door. Perry could hear the echoes of submachine gun fire from inside the cabin.  He saw another figure in the window. A raised AK-47. A single shot. Threat down.

After a few more hectic moments, a camo-clad SEAL emerged from the cabin, dragging a frightened figure by the arm. Perry lined up his scope. It was just a woman. A shadow moved near one of the adjacent buildings. The heavy thump of 7.62 rounds. Perry took aim and fired on the gunman.

An explosion shook the ground. Two SEALs lay in a heap near the third building. Smoke drifted thick into the air. Bravo Team opened fire. Another shadow. Perry pulled the trigger. Every tiny movement drew his eye. Perry saw it all.

After what seemed like several minutes—if not hours—the assault teams ceased firing. A figure rushed out of the third building towards Bravo Team Leader. Perry lined up the shot.

“Hold fire, overwatch!” a voice screamed over the radio. “You just shot a hostage!”

Deadly concern washed over Perry as he tore off his helmet. The sounds of nature and the voices of doubt came crashing back to him.

Even without the aid of the helmet, his focus was centered, like a laser sight, on the small lifeless body that now lay in the clearing.  There was nothing else to consider.

Perry fell to his knees and vomited.


As always, thanks for reading.


7 thoughts on “Flash Fiction: “Nothing Else to Consider”

  1. You show very clearly where this kind of technology’s flaws lie – we’ll always need that flicker of human thought and judgement to at least try to curb the worst mistakes in combat. Well doen

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks. I also think this might be trying to fix something that doesn’t need fixing. It’s important to have a wide view, a full situational awareness. Sometimes the sound of the birds might tell you something.


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