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Maybe 20 or 30 years ago I read a short story recounting a futuristic raid (I suspect on another planet) on an enemy settlement by (I think) a handful of soldiers. I think that they more or less run through a forest or jungle, too quickly and expertly to be intercepted. I don't recall exactly what their mission is (possibly a specific assassination... not at all sure...), but they execute it with single-minded efficiency and return to base. I think that their losses are minimal, perhaps zero.

As far as I can remember, one of the story's main points is for readers to realise that these guys are enhanced in some way: biologically, chemically and/or cybernetically. I have a feeling that this kind of mission is nevertheless so physically taxing (on whatever proportion of their system is still human) that these soldiers cannot be deployed often.

I think that the story ends with them returning to what amounts to a kind of storage, to recuperate or recharge for next time. I think we are allowed to realise that these soldiers' conditioning is such that they have no concept of any other kind of human existence: their entire world is these occasional missions.

I have been searching for this story for a few years now. The author must have been well-known enough for the story to make it into a fairly high-profile anthology, but I now can't find it anywhere.

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  • If I didn't know better I'd swear it sounds like the move Soldier. Especially that recuperation bit. Dec 22 '15 at 15:02
  • @AthenaWidget That's a fair guess, and I wish it were that simple. Soldier might well have been inspired to some extent by the tale (or they might share a common forebear), but the story certainly predates the film by a fair old while. Dec 22 '15 at 15:18
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    I was wondering about that, evidently the script pre-dated the move by about 15 years, so... Dec 22 '15 at 15:46
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    Sounds familiar. I recall a story where it starts with soldiers in a mess hall getting drunk, then the call comes in and they are given a drug to sober them up instantly. During the mission they are drugged which makes their reactions super quick - essentially the world around them is in slow motion. My first thought was Arthur C Clark, but I can't find it at the moment. I can normally remember where I read most short stories, but this one is eluding me at the moment.
    – Eborbob
    Dec 22 '15 at 16:28
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    @Eborbob Thanks so much for continuing to check. This tiny, tiny matter is starting to drive me nuts! I am now wondering about just writing and publishing the story as I think remember it, purely in the hope of getting done for plagiarism. Mar 1 '16 at 11:29
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+50

Soldiers Running by Brian W. Aldiss (1960)

http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/title.cgi?410031

The soldiers are in a war which has dragged on for a long time. Various medications have been key to keeping the soldiers effective. If the soldiers had been getting drunk and are suddenly needed for a mission, there is a medication that will instantly sober them up.

The protagonist along with a small group of other soldiers have been selected to test a new combat drug, Fast-Plus. It is a sort of pep-pill that allow soldiers to move and react faster than ordinary human beings. They are given special firearms with hair-triggers suitable to fast reflexes. The pills are shaped like a boomerang and fit under the tongue until time comes to eat them.

The soldiers successfully perform a raid on an enemy building, but the drug has side effects. One soldier dies of a heart attack. Their sped-up reflexes and the sound of their firearms damage the other soldier's hearing.

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  • I believe Winchell Chung has the answer. I am awarding him the bounty. Mar 7 at 23:46

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