Summary: This chapter describes a dawn after the apocalypse. Horrific barbarism still rules as civilization begins to germinate. Ultra-Violence is military science fiction about a day when technology takes us to the brink of extinction – and what comes afterward. 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 Eight: The Siren’s Offer.
Alex rolls the crystal bauble around his palm. It’s a snow globe with a little Christian manger scene at the center. Baby Jesus sleeps in his crib, surrounded by his parents and the three wise men. Alex shakes the globe and a little blizzard of snowflakes blows up around the tiny people. Snow in Bethlehem doesn’t make sense, but it amuses Alex nonetheless. “Things are going well.” He says, gazing into his toy.
“We’re also starving.” Hanson points out.
“Yes, that could be an issue.” Alex concedes.
The world is recovering. The sun is brighter every day. Dormant seeds are sprouting to life in the harsh soil. There’s more wildlife than before. But it’s not happening fast enough. Alex and Hanson ran out of food four days ago. There’s a river downhill from camp. It has water, but that’s not what the men need. They need food, and the river is just as devoid of life as everything else. With that said, it’s still a useful place to go. Water attracts people. Unlike the river, people are useful for food.
Hanson opens his bag and pulls out the emergency rations; two protein bars. They were standard issue to soldiers in the Polar Uprising. Even in the direst situation, just one bar can sustain a soldier for 24 hours and give him a burst of strength and energy as well. Alex and Hanson saved these bars for only the worst-case situation, when everything else failed. They chomp down the bars and head down to the stream. If they find no food today, the ex-soldiers will die. Alex and Hanson split up so they can cover more ground. Hanson goes East and Alex goes West, sweeping down to the river to meet up at the middle.
Feeling better already from the protein bar, Hanson makes his way down the rocky embankment toward the rush of water in the trees ahead. The trees long since died, but their trunks provide cover. Not particularly good cover, but still better than nothing.
Hours go by and he’s found nothing. The sun, or at least what can be seen of the sun behind murky clouds of soot, is directly above his head. Half the day is already gone, with no luck so far.
He reaches a cliff overlooking the river. There’s someone at the center of the stream: a woman, and an extraordinarily beautiful one. Her sleek body shimmers as she enjoys her bath in the cool water. Besides her eyebrows and slick blonde mane, there isn’t a hair on her body. That’s not an easy task in the current of the world, or one most people would bother with. The woman’s clothes and gear are folded up in a neat little stack on the sand beside a plastic paddle boat.
It’s a shame Hanson will have to eat her. It’s that or die a slow death. The woman shouldn’t give him any trouble. She’s too far away from her weapons, and the other side of the river is lined with sharp rocks too steep for her to climb over. Bathing here in broad daylight with no way to escape was a bad decision.
Hanson’s ears prick up. There’s movement in the woods behind him. Three tensed bodies approaching, ready to pounce. Now he understands. The fair nymph is bait. Any traveler coming in this direction would see her. She’s probably used this trick before. None lived to tell the tale of the beautiful lady of the water.
Ultra-violence kicks in. The world slows down. Hanson assesses the situation. He’s outnumbered and has to strike before his enemies do. Hanson has a sawed-off shotgun with two barrels. Two shots, three enemies. He’ll have to prioritize who he kills first.
It’s a gamble, but he might have one advantage. If the attackers want his flesh, they’ll probably try to take him alive. Once captured, they’ll carve him up over the next few days, so he doesn’t spoil. They’ll feed him pieces of his own body to sustain him just a little longer. It’s a horrible practice, but nearly all cannibals do it. Alex and Hanson have never gone that far. Alex enjoys killing, but even he gains no satisfaction from inflicting that kind of torture on someone.
Hanson inches forward, pretending to be entranced by the woman and unaware of the ambush. They get closer. They’re almost on top of him now. Hanson raises his shotgun and spins around, left to right. The first man he sees has a revolver and a knife. He has to die. Hanson fires his first barrel and keeps turning. The movement throws off his aim, but his target is so close it doesn’t matter. In his peripheral vision, Hanson sees the first enemy jerk backward and collapse.
On to the second enemy. He has a bolt-action hunting rifle, not the ideal weapon for this. Hanson leaves him be for now, sidestepping to the right. The last man has a knife in one hand and a zip-tie in the other. Presumably, he was the one tasked with searching and binding the prisoner. Hanson fires his second barrel into him.
The rifleman takes a shot and misses. He backs up, shakily trying to chamber another round. Adrenaline isn’t doing him any favors right now. Hanson’s bludgeons him down with his shotgun. The first enemy is miraculously still alive. He staggers to his knees, revolver in hand. Hanson doesn’t have any shells left, but he has the gun itself. He throws it and catches the man in the forehead. He won’t be a problem anymore. The emptyhanded rifleman gets up and charges. He’s brave, if nothing else. Hanson steps aside and lets him run off the cliff.
A fourth man climbs up, just barely avoiding his friend careening headfirst past him. He was hidden away from Hanson’s sight to cut off escape and to protect the woman if needed. The new enemy pulls his gun from a shoulder holster. Hanson has no choice except lunge into him, taking them both over the edge. Hanson lands on top of his incapacitated opponent and catches the pistol as he rolls onto the sandy beach. The brave rifleman is lying dead a few steps away.
Hanson sees a second woman pop out of hiding. She’s an olive-skinned beauty just as gorgeous as her companion and is clothed and armed. The nude nymph has reached the edge of the water, her own weapon within arms-reach. Hanson isn’t sure he can kill both of them in time.
“Wait!” The nymph shouts. “Let’s talk.”
“Then both of you get where I can see you.” Hanson suspects a trick. “No funny business.”
“There won’t be, I promise.”
The second woman relents and steps toward the waterfront. The nymph leaves her gun in its place on her stack of clothes. She couldn’t get back to it in time now, so must have meant what she said. With a little more peace of mind, Hanson lowers his gun.
“He killed our lovers.” The olive-skinned woman objects.
“Let’s not delude ourselves, Veronica.” Her friend says.
“But I liked Jerome.” Veronica scowls.
“Yes, I know you liked Jerome. You’ve been making that perfectly obvious every night this week while I’m trying to sleep.” The nymph turns to Hanson. “I’m Natasha, and this is Veronica. What’s your name?”
“Hanson.” He answers with some reluctance.
“Yes, just Hanson.”
“Well Just Hanson, we have a little bit of a problem,” Natasha says, coming up to him. “Our men weren’t as useful as we thought they were, considering how easily you killed them all. That means we have some openings that are… vacant.” Natasha pushes her soft, wet body against Hanson’s chest, her fingertips grazing his sides. Her lips are inches from his. “Maybe we could work something out.”
It’s been ages since Hanson has been able to enjoy a woman. Even before The Fall, there was no time or opportunity to do so while he was caring for Alex. It’s a tempting offer, and one he might actually take if he were alone. “You seem like awful nice ladies,” Hanson says. “But you see, I have my friend with me, and he dislikes women.”
“Well good, you can have both of us then.” Natasha licks her lips. “There’s something else too. We’re headed somewhere. It’s a wonderful little sanctuary we can hole up in for years. We know where it is. It’s only a few days away. But we would be so lonely there by ourselves.”
“No, sorry. I can’t.”
Natasha’s coy smile turns to a scowl. She’s not used to being rejected. The nymph backs away in disgust. “So be it. Your loss.”
“I didn’t mean to offend.” Hanson apologizes. “I don’t got to be nowhere for a little while. Could keep you company for a bit if that makes you feel better.”
“With you? Ha!” Natasha sneers. “You look like a turtle.”
“A fast turtle.” Hanson mumbles sadly.
“What was that?”
She walks back toward her clothes. “Veronica dear, help me gather up the bodies.” Natasha says. “They’ll be good for something, at least.”
“I get half!” Hanson shouts after her.
“Fine.” She growls, sliding on her trousers. “You can take the two you killed up there.” Natasha and Veronica load the dead rifleman onto their paddleboat. The second man groans. He’s injured, but still alive. Bad luck for him. He wakes up to the women binding his wrists and legs together. Natasha tapes his mouth shut before he can scream.
Hanson gathers up his share of the bodies under some dead branches. They’ll still be there when he comes back with his companion. The women row their paddleboat into the current which, by sheer luck, flows the opposite direction from where Alex was going. He wouldn’t react to their wiles the same as Hanson did. He hurries to the agreed-upon rally point. “You find anything?” Hanson asks.
Alex raises a hand to silence him. “Listen.” Alex whispers.
The sound is faint at first, but Hanson recognizes it too. A gyrocopter roaring above the wasteland. The machine is conducting a familiar pattern. It’s searching for people.
“We haven’t run into one of those in a while, have we?” Alex says.
Come back next Sunday for Chapter 9: “The Riddle.“
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 holiday 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.
- Films show us how smart machines will reshape the world.
- Interstellar’s Quantum Love and Other Cosmic Horses#*t.
- Review of “The Matrix”: why there is no spoon.
- A philosopher explains “Arrival” and “Stranger in a Strange Land.”
- Films show us how smart machines will reshape the world. — I, Robot and Colossus – The Forbin Project.
- Blade Runner 2049: see the world through Hollywood eyes.
- “Passengers” – see it because the critics hate it.
A science fiction classic
Space Cadet (1948).
By Robert Heinlein
Heinlein’s stories of the “Space Patrol” are one of the great “what if” fictional histories. What if the US used its monopoly of nuclear weapons after WWII to create an organization to maintain world peace – by force? They could not prevent wars, but they could end them rapidly by punishing the aggressor.
He sketched its origin and evolution in “Solution Unsatisfactory” (Amazing Science Fiction, May 1941). The US government attempted to misuse its power, so they broke away to become an independent global force.
“The Long Watch” (American Legion Magazine, December 1949) describes a revolt inside the patrol by those with bigger dreams who would use its power more aggressively.
Space Cadet tells about the routine life of those in the Patrol – the recruitment, training, and deeds of those holding both the ultimate power over humanity and the supreme responsible for maintaining peace. From the publisher …
“Only the best and brightest – the strongest and the most courageous – ever manage to become Space Cadets. They go to the Space Academy and become part of the elite guard of the solar system, accepting missions others fear, taking risks no others dare, and upholding the peace of the solar system for the benefit of all. But before Matt Dodson can earn his rightful place in the ranks, his mettle is to be tested in the most severe and extraordinary ways–ways that change him forever, from the midwestern American boy into a man of the Solar Patrol.”