Summary: Ultra-Violence is a military science fiction novel about a day when technology mutates war into a dark new form. Although set in the future, biomedicine might make it real in our lifetimes. File these weekly chapters as “terrifying dreams.”
See the previous chapters of Ultra-Violence, tales from Venus.
- 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.
This contains violence and strong language (unfortunately, words even children commonly hear today).
Chapter Three: A Boy Meets a Girl.
Captain Briggs watches his picket line of soldiers herd refugees into the clearing ahead. He’s not foolish enough to wear his rank in a sniper-ridden jungle, but yes; the man who constantly complained about officers is now one himself. Briggs has a talent for small unit tactics and lived long enough to demonstrate it.
After Briggs’ daring raid on the gun platform six months ago at Landfall, his superiors suggested to the brigade commander that he be appointed as a platoon commander. The colonel replied, quote: “Even if we were the last two people alive in the solar system, I still wouldn’t put bars on that motherfucker’s collar.”
Two months later Briggs led his squad behind enemy lines to rescue the crew and passengers of a downed gyrocopter. One of those passengers happened to be a one-star general, who wasted no time giving Briggs a battlefield commission to the rank of captain. As the general put it, “In all my 25 years of service, Briggs might be the worst soldier I have ever met. But god damn, he knows his way around a fight.”
Despite his obscenity-ridden tirades about officers, Briggs didn’t object to a commission. There are three things he enjoys in life. One, bossing people around. Two, killing people. And three, getting paid. As a captain, Briggs gets more of all those things.
He received command of a newly formed air assault company, with autonomy to handpick some of his own men to go with him. Naturally, Briggs chose Alex and Hanson. He would have taken some of the other men from the raid too, but none of them were still alive by then.
This won’t last forever. He has no interest in pursuing a career in soldiering. Even if he did, Briggs is under no illusion that a foul-mouthed, insubordinate asshole like him is welcome in a peace-time army. The Defense Ministry will discharge him the moment the war ends, and not a second later. Briggs has his fun while he can.
Landfall cost the lives of more than a hundred thousand soldiers, and the Polar Uprising was far from over. It could not be over until all fifty million rebels were dead down to the last man, woman, and child. The campaign degenerated into a grueling war of attrition. The Venusian Defense Corps had the power of Ultra-violence, but the surviving insurgents had the experience of fighting soldiers with Ultra-violence.
Knowing that no help is coming and the Venusian government will not accept surrender, men of the South Pole vowed to fight to the end. Communist rebels broke up into small guerrilla units, relying on surprise and booby traps to bleed the invaders to death by a thousand cuts. Entrapping insurgent forces became a difficult and dangerous business. Almost every foot patrol suffered casualties, often inflicting none in return. The rebels lost their defense batteries during landfall, but still possessed enough handheld surface-to-air weapons to cause continuing grief for the gyrocopter fleet.
So the Venusian Defense Corps changed tactics too. Instead of playing a fruitless game of cat and mouse against the men of the uprising, they turned to an easier target: the families of the men. It’s hard to find small, mobile teams of guerrillas. It’s much easier to find their wives, children and elderly. This isn’t a new tactic. Empires of the past did the same thing. Exterminating defenseless people is as effective now as it was in previous centuries.
It’s raining. The cloud ceiling is high enough not to ground the gyrocopters, but the soggy mud is no less miserable to trudge through. There’s so much noise and smoke. Thatch shelters burn. They were camouflaged, but not well enough. Briggs found them anyway.
Soldiers stand watch over their captives at the center of a grassy clearing. More troopers patrol the perimeter to make sure no one escapes. Gyrocopters circle above, their searchlights piercing the murky mist at the jungle floor. The aircraft don’t need illumination, they have their infrared periscopes. The beams of light are for the benefit of the ground troops, and to terrorize the people they’re herding out of the trees.
Briggs is right in the middle of it all, admiring his latest catch. An old man and his wife, once prestigious socialites in a city long since destroyed, are bowing before him, trying to negotiate. Briggs is in a sloppy private’s uniform, but there’s no doubt he’s the one in charge. The lives of a hundred people are in his hands.
He smiles and takes the elderly couple under his arms, like a jovial candidate for mayor might.
“Today is your lucky day!” Briggs assures them. “You see, there’s this game. It’s a lottery, see, and all the companies enter it. This time my number came up. I have to let you all go.”
“Really, you’ll spare us?” The woman sobs in relief. “God bless your heart.”
“Nah, I’m just fucking with you.” Briggs laughs. “You’re all going to die.”
Hanson and another one of Briggs’ men shove the crying couple back into the crowd. Hanson is Briggs’s personal bodyguard. As Briggs said, the “turtle” is a lucky bastard, and there’s no safer place in the universe than behind him.
This is a large group of people to manage, but Briggs has it down to a science. His troops know what to do without being told. They herd their prisoners into a kneeling column stretching across the clearing. A line of troopers forms up beside the column. What comes next is obvious enough.
As one, the line of soldiers raise their weapons. Some of the people kneeling at the executioners’ feet cry. Some squeeze their children one last time, covering their faces and whispering calming words in these final moments. Some people stare up into the rifles in sullen defiance. The outcome will be the same for all of them.
Gyrocopters hover above the clearing like black angels of death, their pilots anonymous spectators behind tinted, rain-splattered domes. Their searchlights all come together as one over the huddled mass of humanity.
A hundred gloved fingers come down over a hundred triggers. A hundred shots go off as one. A hundred bodies slump to the wet grass.
The soldiers lower their weapons They’ve done this before. But this time something went wrong. Something different happened. It wasn’t a hundred shots. It wasn’t a hundred bodies. It was 99 shots, and 99 bodies.
The search lights flitter across the wake of toppled bodies. Then, one after the other, the searchlights gather at one place. There’s a single kneeling figure left. A girl with auburn brown hair and a flowery dress. There’s a soldier standing over her, rifle shaking in his hands.
It’s Alex. Whispers break out in the ranks. Briggs steps forward to see what’s going on. “Quit being a pussy and shoot already.” Someone mutters.
“Alex saved my ass at Landfall, so shut your fucking mouth before I shut it for you.” Briggs growls back at him.
Hanson knows what’s going on. Alex is doing that thinking thing again. Hanson warned him about that on Day One. It’s doing him no good, and it’s doing the girl no good either. Keeping her alive is cruel. It would have been better to kill her with the rest, rather than force her to sit amongst the bodies of everyone she’s ever loved.
Cruelty isn’t the reason he failed to pull the trigger. Alex has killed enemies before. He’s killed men and women before. He’s killed more of them than he can count. But he’s never killed a person before.
There could be any number of reasons she registered as a person in his brain. Maybe she reminds him of a girl he had a crush on before all this, before the Ultra-violence. Maybe it’s because she’s a couple years younger than him; the kind of girl he would date in school, if he went to school. Maybe she’s his “type,” the girl he might run into at a supermarket and wants to flirt with. Or maybe, there’s no particular reason at all.
This is easy to fix. Hanson un-holsters his pistol. The girl will be dead before she even hears him coming. Killing her won’t bother him. Hanson turned off his brain long ago when he was sweeping the slit trench.
Briggs stops him. “I know you guys are tight, but he’s got to do this one himself.” Briggs says.
Unable to help, all Hanson can do is watch. He hopes the girl will go quietly. There’s no reason to make this hard for herself. There are a hundred soldiers in this line, and another hundred in the trees beyond. She will not walk out of this place. This is the last day of her young life no matter what she does.
But the girl doesn’t go quietly. She’s a fighter, and keeps fighting to the end. She’s young and innocent but has the same survival instincts all women have. The girl in the flowery dress uses the only weapon she has. Herself.
“What’s your name?” She asks in a soft voice, almost a whisper.
“I’m Hannah. You don’t have to do this, Alex.”
No. You don’t learn their names. You don’t ever learn their names.
His finger finally starts to move, weighing down the trigger. Hannah can see it. This is over. But she is too determined to live, no matter how hopeless it is. That pretty girl with auburn hair abandons all sense of pride or dignity and fought to survive up to her last breath. Hannah gets on her knees and begs for mercy. She pleads with Alex to spare her. She cries. She’ll do whatever he wants. She’ll do anything. She keeps saying Alex’s name over and over.
There’s a single shot, and Hannah’s voice is suddenly silenced. She’s another crumpled body in the grass, her little flowery dress still fluttering in the wind. The gyrocopters continue their grim vigil above, their searchlights fixating on the dead girl’s body for a moment, then scatter off to the tree line. Their task is over. The firing line disperses, but Alex remains motionless, eyes fixed on the body at his feet.
Hanson approaches. He wishes there was something he could say. But he can’t think of anything that could possibly make this better.
“And I thought I was fucked up.” The mouthy soldier speaks up again. “Keeping her alive and toying with her like…”
Briggs swings his helmet into the soldier’s, knocking him senseless face-first into the mud. The captain doesn’t repeat himself.
He likes Alex, but Briggs is in command and cannot afford to make exceptions or give any one soldier special treatment. There are two hundred men just like Alex here. Any one of them could, and often do, crack. They all have the same problem. They’re going insane.
Briggs was a violent sociopath even before the Ultra-violence, but he’s 26 years old. He’s outside the optimal age group for Ultra-violence. He’s not a moral person, but understands what morality is. Briggs has clarity nearly no one else programmed with Ultra-violence does. Briggs knows just as well as Hanson what happened to Alex. Like Hanson, there’s nothing Briggs can do about it.
These boys are the firstborn of Ultra-violence, the most powerful psychological weapon ever created. Ultra-violence was untested, and no one involved, from its creator down to the lowest technicians, had any way of knowing the safety limits. They took the vulnerable minds of the boys and gave them the maximum possible dosage. The scientists knew there could be devastating consequences. They didn’t care.
Hanson can turn off his brain, not thinking about what he’s doing. Alex can’t. When he killed Hannah, Ultra-violence saturated his brain down to the last neuron. He felt the same pleasure, the excitement and sexual arousal he felt when he tore apart the people in the trench at Landfall, and a dozen times after. But this time, he also felt horror and grief. He knew he was doing something terrible against a human being he empathized with, and wanted more than anything not to.
Ultra-violence backfired into the boy’s mind and tore through it like a wrecking ball, destroying it beyond repair. Alex has no experience or context to protect him. Growing up, he hardly even saw a girl. He murdered a woman before he made love to one. Now he cannot distinguish sex from murder at all, and it horrifies him.
In a way, Hannah won. She had her revenge. She got inside his head and will stay there forever. Hannah died, and her suffering ended. Alex lives, and will suffer for the rest of his life. The day Alex killed Hannah was the day he completely lost his mind.
Hannah drove Alex mad.
Come back next Sunday for Chapter 4:
“The Lost Generation.“
A chapter will be posted every Sunday. Critiques are 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 build 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.
- 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? — Star Trek, and Heinlein’s Tunnel in the Sky.
- The Iraq War as a warning for America — The Foundation series.
- Ender’s Game: Playing at Shock and Awe. — About the film.
- No longer a danger, but a reality: bloodlust in our minds, an inevitable side-effect of a long war.
Classics of Military science fictiona
Here are examples of first class space opera, military science fiction division.
One of the first and still among the best space opera is Triplanetary by E. E. Smith – first in the Lensman series of novels. My favorite is book two, First Lensman. Smith is one of the few science fiction authors whose aliens are alien, not just exaggerated humans.
Men of War, edited by Jerry Pournelle. It is volume two of his excellent “There Will Be War” series. This is going out of print, fast. Many of these stories are too realistic for a generation that prefers pc fantasies.