He returned late, as usual. I took his strained, ashen face in my hands and waited for his eyes to return to seeing, to surprised recognition of his home, his other life. His eyes flit around the room, and I tell him softly that the children are asleep already. He washes his hands scrupulously as if to cleanse himself from the world outside, then tiptoes to each bedroom to watch the children sleep.
I bring him tea, and some fruit salad. He runs his fingers through my hair, and then the smile returns, at least a little. “I know,” I say. I know that since that week two years ago when they took out Brussels, Lyon, Lille, Milan, Birmingham, Manchester, Houston and San Francisco, the weight of the solution has been on his shoulders. As the Presidents and Prime Ministers said, “There will be an end to these monstrous crimes”. This time they meant it.
* * * * * *
My gamer’s thumbs were fast and accurate, as were those of all I trained. Striking half-identified enemies remotely, we’d served policies in turn aggressive, passive and incoherent. Occasional tactical success in a strategic vacuum.
Since the start of the ‘Blow against the West’ on 12th April 2032, the game has changed. Our strategy is now clear – this will end. No hesitations, no hand-wringing about collateral damage or the human rights of those who would hurt us. Intelligence will be followed ruthlessly, till those who would harm us and all who support or condone them are removed.
The conference convenes. I know some are gunning for me, expecting more delays. But this time we are ready.
I demonstrate how our new generation of Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (LAWS) link directly to our listening systems. How they detect patterns in all the communications networks, link them to suspects, identify locations and launch strikes within seconds.
I show how in the war zones they sift intelligence from satellites and from ground and air observation in the field, to launch strikes without the need for time-consuming human intervention. The new hunter drones will pursue and coordinate with each other until the quarry is destroyed.
After reassurances about measures to avoid firing on our own people or our allies, I am applauded by presidents, foreign ministers and intelligence and military chiefs from their safe havens. They give me the go-ahead to deploy. We will win this, with minimal boots on the ground on foreign soil.
By 10 a.m. the operation is underway. It will run itself, and we will monitor the impacts. By tea-time our enemies are reeling and in confusion. In cities, towns, villages, refugee camps, holy places and desert hideouts across the region they are under fire. This will continue day and night, without ceasing. The flames smoke out more targets, their frantic calls identifying them in their panic. By the end of the day too our first urban surgical strike in Europe has found its target.
* * * * * * *
He is home early, and looks changed. He brings flowers and wine, sweets and toys for the children. They hug him, and tug him with urgent calls of “Daddy, Daddy!” to show him their latest game. Then we sit altogether as a family and eat.
“To us,” he toasts, and we all smile. And I smile too with secret pride. He will never tell me the details, but I know he is the man who sends vengeance and justice from the skies to protect all our families, just as he does his own.