Summary: We are expanding our content. This is a military science fiction novel about a day when technology mutates war into a new form. As usual with war, the new form repeats dark aspects of the past. Although set in the future, the progress of biomedicine might make it real in our lifetimes. File these weekly chapters as “terrifying dreams.”
This contains strong language, words even children commonly hear today. See the rest of the story!
- The sins of our fathers.
- A Boy Meets a Girl.
- The Lost Generation.
- Let’s Do Something Fun.
- The Meek Shall Inherit the World.
- A Sign from God.
- The Siren’s Offer.
- The Riddle.
- Wolves Among Sheep.
- The Man Who Would Be King.
- The Angel and the Badman.
- Goliath’s Revenge.
- The Head of Every Man.
- In the Land of the Blind.
For 200 thousand years, men gazed up at the stars with awe and wonder. They fancied the night’s sky above as a realm of Gods. Over the millennia, mystique gave way to science. In 1957 mankind launched Sputnik I, signaling the dawn of the Space Age. Ten years later, great terraformer ships took humanity on its first steps into the universe.
To avoid conflict and mutual destruction, the superpowers of Terra followed separate paths. The West took Venus and the East took Mars, giving birth to a tri-planetary civilization. Terrans grew tired of their hellish lives in overcrowded, crime-ridden hive cities. They flooded to the other two planets, building powerful nations in their own right.
The oligarchs of Terra began to fear their own colonies, but tolerated them. There was nowhere else for mankind’s endlessly multiplying population to go.
Men were not ready for Godhood. They remained selfish and arrogant. Their greatest achievement was a colossus with feet of clay. The arms race on Terra escalated. Two armadas of a thousand silver warships maintained constant watch in orbit, ready to tear each other apart at the slightest provocation. Terra’s nuclear self-destruction seemed inevitable, so the overlords of Mars and Venus alike prepared themselves for the war that would follow. Terrans feared each other, but Martians and Venusians feared each other more. Men occupied three planets, and only one could survive.
Both Mars and Venus built larger battle barges. They built more destructive bombs and faster torpedoes. They saturated their orbits with deeper minefields and more powerful defense batteries. The Martians even armored their moon of Phobos, turning it into a seemingly indestructible fortress.
The Soviet-Chinese overlords of Mars believed they had the upper hand. They commanded the larger space fleet. They controlled a more advantageous position in the gravity well of the Sun. They had the near-impregnable battle station of Phobos. But in the Year 2000, it was the Venusians who discovered that both sides were overlooking the deadliest weapon of all: men themselves.
Chapter one: The Sins of Our Fathers
Eric Stromm, defense minister of Venus, looks around the room at the men of his inner circle. They’re sitting around a great oaken table imported at vast expense from Terra. Everything at Stromm’s country estate is imported down to the cornerstone. The table is not round; that would imply equality. It stretches across the plush carpet of the dining room, with Stromm at its head. To sit close to him is an honor that requires sacrifice. To be in this room at all requires sacrifice. This is a group of men more powerful than the defense committee, or even the senate. This is Stromm’s inner circle; his kitchen cabinet.
That’s why some members of the planetary defense committee are here, and others are not. Those absent are men Stromm doesn’t trust but tolerates in public. In private he searches for an excuse to exorcise them from his machine, disappeared into a penal colony.
Besides the committee members, there are men from many walks of life. Some Anglo-Protestant, some German Catholic. Such divisions end at Stromm’s door. His demands are only usefulness and above all, loyalty. Some of these men are princes, but most were born paupers. Stromm himself started near the bottom and clawed his way to the top, leaving a trail of bodies behind him. He values men with the same mentality, provided their ambition doesn’t override their allegiance to him.
A Chinaman and an African sit closest to Stromm. The Chinaman on his right, the African at his left. Colored men holding such positions of power is near unheard of in Venusian society. Outside these walls, it would be a scandal. Stromm has no concern for such conventions. Here, he is king. As king, he cares not what color his vassals are, only that they are useful.
Stromm’s estate is an exclusive den of fine wine, pharmaceuticals and beautiful women of questionable age. It’s a rite of passage he requires of all his advisors. Hedonistic pleasure is a reward in of itself, but also a mutually shared guilt that ensures continued loyalty.
The party comes later. Business first. Stromm has a problem. That’s why everyone is here today. “Joseph, share with the group what you told me.” Stromm tells the Chinaman. Joseph’s parents, like many families of Asian descent, believed giving him a Christian name would make his life easier. They were wrong. Joseph ended up in the dangerous and back-breaking profession of the rail-line work like the rest of his peers. To his good fortune, he ran into Stromm. He had a skill Stromm valued.
Untermensch at the absolute bottom of Venusian society are ripe targets for communist agitators. Riotous movements in the community Joseph grew up in are difficult to detect in time. After generations of living in tight proximity and interbreeding, rail workers speak a mishmash of Cantonese, English, Gaelic, German and Spanish that is incomprehensible to their rulers.
Language barriers are a problem inherent to stratified societies, and difficult to eliminate. The Education Ministry tried to stamp out this bastardized language, but rail worker children rarely stay in school for long. Most of the workers can speak or at least understand proper English, but babble amongst themselves in their preferred gibberish. They can’t be punished if they can’t be understood.
As an ambitious young security contractor, a rail company hired him to protect a boxcar of scabs. There had been a previous boxcar. The striking workers didn’t like that too much. They overpowered the guards and set the boxcar on fire, scabs still inside. To succeed where his predecessor failed, Stromm needed to break the language barrier. He needed a foreman who could be trusted, and he needed one in a hurry. That foreman happened to be Joseph. They’ve stuck together ever since.
Now Joseph is the de facto head of Venus’s intelligence apparatus. He’s learned many things over the years, but the talent Stromm originally hired him for is still useful. The Chinese and Soviet overlords of Mars squabbled over choosing an official language before, ironically, settling on English. But Cantonese remains widely spoken on the Red Planet. Joseph’s mastery of multiple languages gives him a valuable insight most intelligence analysts lack: fine intricacies of an informant’s testimony are lost when translated.
He maintains a separate department for every relevant language. Joseph insists that every scrap of intelligence, no matter how small, be analyzed and reviewed by multiple levels of specialists who understand the language. Translation only occurs in the final report. Any supervisor who cuts corners risks Joseph’s wrath.
“I’ve received reports that the Martians are trying to create a race of super soldiers.” Joseph says. “They’re combining human and gorilla DNA. A human-gorilla hybrid would have the strength of ten men, enough intelligence to perform simple combat roles, and would be completely obedient.”
“How far along are they?” Stromm asks.
“Apparently, they’re close to succeeding. They fertilized viable zygotes and implanted them in female gorillas. It didn’t work. The embryos all died. Then they tried human females. That was even more disastrous. The current batch is in artificial growth chambers. The project manager seems to be confident this will work, otherwise he wouldn’t be gloating about it so much to his superiors.”
“Communist gorillas, eh?” Stromm ponders. “Guerillas. Communist gorillas. Literally.”
“We have to maintain the utmost secrecy in this matter, so they don’t catch on that we know,” Joseph says.
“Are you kidding me? There are literally communist gorillas running around, and you want to keep it a secret? Fuck that. We couldn’t have made up better propaganda than this. We’re telling everyone!”
“That’ll compromise my informants.” Joseph objects.
“Oh whatever, informants can be replaced,” Stromm says. The defense minister pounds the table. “This makes me so mad!”
“Why?” Joseph asks. “Because the Martians are creating gorilla-human abominations?”
“No, because I didn’t think of it first! Propaganda is an ancillary issue. The whole situation is unacceptable. If Mars has super soldiers, we must have super soldiers too. I need ideas.”
“I have a proposal.” Someone says.
“Yes, Kurt.” Stromm waves to him. “I thought you might. Let’s hear it.”
The man stands up. He’s one of the Germans. Kurt Schiefer. He has served as Stromm’s top scientist for the last five years with no sign of slowing down. Schiefer rarely provides any practical information for immediate use, that’s not his job. His focus is on the extreme fringes of science. Schiefer obsesses with the strengths and weaknesses of the human body for military applications. Schiefer has published papers that include topics such as cryostasis for long space voyages and telepathy between twins for instantaneous communication across any distance.
Unlike the other men here, Schiefer is a permanent guest at Stromm’s estate. No one can be sure if he stays voluntarily, or as a prisoner. The latter seems more likely. The reasons for Schiefer’s captivity are the topic of much lurid speculation.
Little is known about Schiefer, and there are many rumors about him. Most likely childish hearsay, but they persist. According to one rumor, Schiefer is a direct descendant of Josef Mengele, the “Angel of Death.” A notorious SS officer and doctor at the Auschwitz concentration camp during the Second World War.
There is a darker, even more bizarre rumor: Schiefer isn’t a descendant of Mengele. He is Mengele. The Nazi scientist conducted ghastly experiments on thousands of people, many of them children. If the story is to be believed, during one of these experiments Mengele discovered a way to indefinitely extend his lifespan. He shared it with no one. Maybe his records were lost, or he was forced to destroy them. Or maybe the Angel of Death preferred to keep the secret of immortality to himself.
Mengele escaped into hiding before Soviet soldiers liberated the camp. Several years later the Ratline, an “underground railroad” for Nazi war criminals, helped him escape to Brazil. During his exile, Mengele changed his name several times to evade Mossad assassins. He suffered a stroke while swimming and drowned in 1979. Or did he? Rumor has it he faked his death and continues to walk among the living, changing his name periodically as he did in Brazil.
If Schiefer is Mengele, his continued loyalty as Stromm’s slave makes sense. Stromm would not even need to threaten him. The scientist’s master could make him suffer if he desired to, but such a task is better left to men who would enjoy it. The Mossad believes Mengele escaped retribution by dying on them; they would be delighted to learn he still draws breath. If Schiefer can’t be killed, his enemies are imaginative enough to find alternative punishments.
This raises an even more interesting question. If Schiefer is immortal, is Stromm immortal as well? Slaves of the ancient pharaohs were buried alive with their masters in the pyramids. Stromm isn’t a pharaoh and he doesn’t have a pyramid, but he might have made other arrangements to bring his slave with him to the afterlife. If his master’s death will earn Schiefer an involuntary pilgrimage to Jerusalem, that would be a worthwhile incentive to keep Stromm alive.
Schiefer has something very special to share today. Something that will impress everyone. It might even please Stromm enough to treat him a little less like dog shit stuck to his shoe. “The Martians are looking for super soldiers in the wrong place,” Schiefer says. “They’re trying to create a new species at great expense when we already have a species numbering in the billions perfectly suited for war.”
“Cockroaches?” Stromm guesses.
“No! Not cockroaches. Men! Sure, men aren’t as strong as gorillas. But much smarter and can be just as deadly. The problem is that the vast majority of men are unsuited for warfare, until now. I have discovered a solution. Consider your chief of security.” Schiefer points to Booker, the African to Stromm’s left. A wiry Sudanese tribesman, Booker doesn’t remember his actual name. He was too young to remember it when Baggara militia abducted him into the Arab slave trade. Booker spent his youth as an involuntary worker in a salt mine. An encounter with a sloppy guard allowed Booker to escape, but that alone wasn’t enough. He survived a long trek through the Sahara to reach freedom.
Now a free man, but illiterate and lacking any useful skill besides swinging a pickaxe, Booker decided to try his hand at soldiering. That proved to be a trade he was exceedingly good at. Booker found employment as a soldier under the French Empire, back when there was such a thing. He learned many things under their tutelage. He learned how to fire a rifle. He learned military drill and tactics. He learned to speak French fluently and could even read a little. When the colonialists abandoned Algeria, they assembled their auxiliary troops on the dock. Each auxiliary was thanked for his service, disarmed, and left to die. Most of them did die. But not Booker. He was a little too stubborn for that just yet.
A newly appointed minister holds the privilege of choosing his own security detail. To lead such an elite unit is a huge honor for any officer. Venus has no shortage of officers. Every rich military family sends their sons to the War Academy. Students of the academy learn the maximum effective range of torpedoes in the gravity well of Jupiter. They analyze ancient battles. They write long dissertations on the advantages of the pike versus the gladius. They recite from memory the required trajectories for landing craft in an orbital invasion.
Booker doesn’t know any of those things. He hasn’t even served in the Venusian military. But Stromm believes that a true understanding of military affairs at even the highest levels requires practical experience. None of the officers at the War Academy have killed twenty men with their bare hands. That’s why Booker is here, and those officers are not.
Last week a commodore, eager to be noticed among hundreds of colonels, sent Stromm’s office a paper proposing a new field kit. The kit would have a rifle, ammunition, water, rations, flares, a trench shovel, and ceramic armor covering the soldier head to toe. With this kit, the soldier could last a week without resupply and would be prepared for any combat situation.
Stromm asked Booker what he thought. Booker said he would dislike walking around with that much on his back. He would keep the rifle and the water but throw away almost everything else at the first opportunity. Most of the equipment listed isn’t needed often and could be spread out across the platoon. Soldiers shouldn’t have to carry that much ammunition and food – they should be getting resupplied regularly. Armor is nice but fatigues the soldier and it’s better to not get hit in the first place.
That was enough for Stromm. He discarded the report and paid it no further thought. The poor commodore will be waiting breathlessly at least another month for an answer. Then he will realize no answer is coming. Stromm doesn’t know the commodore, but he hates him. Stromm hates everyone like him. Stromm hates that he has been cursed with a peacetime military. He’s tried in vain to build a proper fighting force and is no closer now than he was five years ago. He wishes he could have an army full of men like Booker. But the only way to create new Bookers is to fight a war, and there are no wars to be fought.
“Let’s use our friend Booker here as an example.” Schiefer starts.
“I don’t remember being your friend,” Booker says.
“Tell me about that platoon of Berbers you ran into back in Algeria.” Schiefer continues, ignoring Booker’s comment.
“Well, they’re dead.” Laughter breaks out around the table. Schiefer scowls.
“Can you be a little more specific than that? Describe what happened.”
“It’s a bit of a blur.” Booker shrugs. “They screamed a lot.”
“Exactly!” Schiefer says. “You are a minority.”
“Because I’m black?”
“No God damn it, because you are willing to kill. By any means necessary. You’ll gouge a man’s eyes out. There is nothing you aren’t willing to do to win. Most men won’t. They’ll die first. 90% of men on the battlefield won’t participate in the killing. During the D-Day invasion, most of the soldiers sat on the beach and ate artillery fire. They wouldn’t move. They didn’t even shoot back. The Wehrmacht did a little better through extensive training but encountered the same problem with their own troops.”
“And you would know all about that, huh?” Booker says.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about. This isn’t the time for jokes. But anyway, this is the problem we’re facing. The churchmen say that man is inherently evil. That’s simply not true. Man is inherently good. Man killing man goes against every instinct, and most simply won’t do it no matter how much training they receive.”
“That’s rich coming from a Nazi.” Booker again.
“Mr. Stromm.” Schiefer fumes, his face red with rage. “Can you please tell your – your – man, to take this seriously?”
“Be nice, Booker.” Stromm says.
“As I was saying, this is the wall every army hits. You can teach him to resist instinct, but you can’t completely eliminate it. Until now.” At last he has everyone’s attention.
“I call it Ultra Violence.” Schiefer puffs his chest. “There is no such thing as a soul. A man is just a jumble of neurons in a shell of flesh and blood. I can re-program those neurons. I can reconfigure the whole sympathetic nervous system. Not only can I eliminate the negative reaction to killing, but I can also replace it with a positive one. One soldier programmed with Ultra Violence will be able to kill a hundred without it.” I can go even further than that. I can remove sources of positive stimulation. These soldiers won’t be distracted by women, drink or anything else. Killing will be the only thing they enjoy.”
“How long does it take to brainwash a soldier with this Ultra Violence?” Stromm asks.
“When can you be ready to implement it?”
“Immediately.” Schiefer grins.
“The timing of this breakthrough is excellent,” Joseph says. “It’s fine we have a navy, but I don’t care what anyone says: if there’s a ground war, volunteers and reservists won’t be enough. The Martians have done us a huge favor. Mr. Stromm is right. We shouldn’t keep the gorilla soldiers a secret. They are the justification we need to mobilize a proper standing army of our own.”
“Dr. Schiefer, I will give you a proper training facility, staff, and ten thousand recruits.” Stromm declares. “If your ‘Ultra Violence’ works, I’ll give you a million more.”
“There is one obstacle,” Schiefer says. “The enlistment age is 21. That’ll work, but it’s not preferable. The younger the recruits are, the better. Younger minds are easier to mold.”
“If you can vote at 18, you can fight.” Stromm shrugs. “I don’t think that idea will meet much resistance.”
“Also, we can allow enlistment at 17 with parental approval or if they’re emancipated,” Booker suggests. “Bar them from combat duties, but that won’t matter. The training is the only thing we’re concerned with at first. Then when there’s a war we can waive the parental approval entirely and draft them all at 17.”
“Brilliant!” Stromm claps his hands. “I hadn’t even thought of that.”
“With the first few hundred or so recruits I test this on, I won’t be sure I’m successful unless they kill someone,” Schiefer says. “Not a paper target, or a simulation. An actual, living person.”
“Oh, there’s plenty of political prisoners at the penal colonies.” Stromm scoffs. “Use as many as you need. They won’t be missed.” The defense minister rises to his feet. “We can work out the details later. I have coke that isn’t going to snort itself and girls that aren’t going to fuck themselves. Or well, I guess they can. If that’s what you’re into.”
Everyone gets up to leave. Schiefer is brimming with excitement. He can tell he’s pleased Stromm. He’s so proud. “Doctor, you’ve outdone yourself,” Stromm says. “I congratulate you. Great things will come of this.”
“Thank you, Mr. Stromm.” Schiefer beams. “It is an honor to be in your service.”
If it works, Ultra Violence will be an unstoppable weapon. Stromm’s new army – no, not an “army.” That sounds too aggressive. His defense corps will be almost invincible. He’ll be able to burn worlds pole-to-pole with it.
The doctor has done well. Too well. Unfortunately, that makes him a liability. Ultra Violence cannot be allowed to fall into the hands of any other faction, friend or foe. Everyone will know about Ultra Violence, but they must not know how it’s done. Stromm can compartmentalize the training process into enough pieces so that no one technician will be able to replicate it on his own. Except for Schiefer. He has the whole thing in his head. That makes him a loose end. Once the process is tested and the necessary training facilities built, Schiefer will have outlived his usefulness.
Stromm is confident he can conceal Ultra Violence from the Terran and Martian intelligence agencies. Except for the Mossad. Not them. The bastards saturated three planets with their spies. If anyone gets their hands on Ultra Violence, it’ll be Zionists. How can Stromm prevent this?
Why prevent it at all? He’ll kill two birds with one stone. Stromm has wanted to establish a relationship with the Israelis for years. That’s not an easy goal. Being perceived as a Jew lover would be political suicide, even for Stromm. But now he has the perfect opportunity. He’ll give them the Ultra Violence. Israel is a small nation surrounded by enemies. They can be trusted not to share the secret.
He can give the Zionists something else they want too. He’ll gather up as many Jews as he can onto a reservation. No one will oppose that. On paper it’ll be a ghetto. In reality, it will be a sanctuary. A second Jerusalem. Just in case Terra decides to incinerate itself tomorrow. If their homeworld is destroyed, G-d’s chosen people must survive. In return, the Israelis will share intelligence with him. Not Venus, not the Terran authorities over Venus. Just Stromm.
Schiefer will have one last purpose after all. Stromm will hand him over to the Jews as a gift. It will be made to look like Schiefer defected with his military secrets. Stromm will have his scapegoat, and the Jews will have the Nazi who has eluded them for so long. Everyone wins, except for Schiefer of course.
The fucker can scream all he wants about Ultra Violence as the Mossad are pulling out his fingernails. They’ll already have it. Ultra Violence won’t be the reason they’re torturing him. They’ll want an explanation for how he ages so slowly. They’ll tell him the pain will stop when he reveals his secret. Too bad the “Angel of Death” doesn’t know. Stromm wonders how long it’ll take Schiefer’s interrogators to believe him.
Come back next Sunday for Chapter 2: “Landfall.”
A chapter will be posted every Sunday.
Critiques welcomed, but will be moderated.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, events, and incidents are either works of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Copyright © 2019. All Rights Reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or used in any matter without permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review. This copyright overrides this website’s Creative Commons license.
About the author
Ian Michael served 5 years in the US Marine Corps. He did two tours patrolling in Helmand Province (Afghanistan) and one in Kuwait. He is now a Staff Sergeant in the US Army Reserve. He lives in Iowa.
Some of his other articles.
- Generals read “Ender’s Game” and see their vision of the future Marine Corps.
- Pain and misery builds discipline! Or so we’re told.
- The Atheist Conservative shows why secular conservatism continues to be an irrelevant and impotent force in American politics.
- Alita, the Battle Angel, fights her feminist critics.
- Plato and Diogenes warn us about hubris – Here is a fun short story, historical fiction about one of the clashes between two of the larger-than-life people of the ancient world.
For More Information
Ideas! For some shopping ideas, see my recommended books and films at Amazon.
Fiction echos reality. See Chet Richards’ (Colonel, USAF, retired) post about this novel, about how it illustrates many of John Boyd’s ideas in action.
Biotech that might make this story real: Potentially horrific effects of drugs and machines making people smarter & stronger.
- Not fiction: Potentially horrific effects of drugs and machines making people smarter & stronger.
- Generals read “Ender’s Game” and see their vision of the future Marine Corps. – By Ian Michael.
- Are our wars driving us mad? — About Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers.
- Are our film heroes leading us to the future, or signaling despair? — About Heinlein’s Space Patrol.
- So many of our hit films show dystopias. This shows how we’ve changed.
- How does The Hunger Games compare to other classic stories of children fighting children? – About Star Trek and Heinein’s Tunnel in the Sky.
Classics of Military science fiction
These are what might be considered classics of the first and second waves of military science fiction.
Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein (1959).
Hammer’s Slammers by David Drake (1979).