I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds. —Robert Oppenheimer, watching the first atom bomb test, July 16, 1945 There are staccato moments that are life changing, sometimes world changing—a single step taken, a yes, a no, a signature, a nod, the swift pull of a trigger. Lawrence McGraw’s life had been full of such moments. Now was to be another. His special troops were trained to complete their assignment in eight minutes. Not a minute more. Since beginning his mission, he’d focused on time. Success was a matter of discipline, training, and precision. All had been rehearsed—a hundred, no, a thousand times. Little Boy, the first atom bomb, took less than one minute from “Bombs away” on the Enola Gay to its detonation over Hiroshima. One minute to change the world. Link McGraw was going to do it in eight minutes, but it would be no less momentous. Colonel Lawrence “Link” McGraw crouched on a wooded hilltop, careful to remain unseen. Behind him, a purple hue still hung to the tops of the Hindu Kush Mountains as a setting sun buried itself. Below him, only a few flickering kerosene lamps still illuminated a dozen mud huts in a no-man’s-land village along the porous frontier between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Smoke drifting from the chimney of one of the houses creased the black night sky. A few derelict vehicles lay scattered about, mechanical vegetation in a barren terrain. The night was dark, overcast, moonless. He had chosen it that way. McGraw wiped sweat from his brow, streaking his camouflage paint. Thirty-six years old, he still fit the image of the steely-eyed, ramrod-straight, invincible soldier the army liked to portray on its recruiting posters. His forehead and cheeks were high, his nose prominent with just a hint of an aquiline bump, and his face was tanned and leathery but creased only at the corners of his eyes, which made his green-eyed gaze seem ever so more piercing. He felt anxious but not fearful, though he knew the next few minutes would be the turning point of his life. Fail here and he would die or, perhaps worse, return to that cold ten-by-ten-foot cage at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, where he had been imprisoned for nearly a year. Succeed and he would be well on the road to regaining his most prized position, his honor. But there was far more at stake in these moments. “We’ve got a chance here to change the nature of war,” his commander, General Mack Shell, had admonished him. “To change the way men have fought for millennia; to put an end to our young men fighting and dying in war after war.” Although his troops had come to kill, they had no concept of sin. McGraw’s soldiers sat still, shoulder to shoulder in the dark confines of an M113 armored personnel carrier, gazing vacantly dead ahead. The hot, dank air felt like a steam cooker, but there was no grumbling, not a sound, except for their steady, almost synchronizedbreathing. McGraw unlocked the rear hatch of the M113, and they quickly, silently deployed, gathering ghostlike around him, their faces swallowed in the darkness, all but the eerie glow of their eyes. He flashed four fingers on one hand and then four fingers on both hands, four and eight. Forty-eight was the signaled command. They obeyed immediately, readying their specially designed weapons just as he had trained them over the past several months. Forty-eight also stood for the unique genetic code that identified the special nature of these extraordinary troops that he was sending into battle for the first time. Read more. . .