Summary: This chapter describes the slow painful dawn of civilization after the apocalypse. Much like Europe’s emergence from the Dark Ages, warriors fight to rule and restore order. The most brutal and skillful win. Ultra-Violence is military science fiction about a day when technology takes us to the edge of extinction – and what comes next. 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). This is “Mr. Rogers” compared to some recent films – shown at the end of the post.
Chapter Ten: Wolves Among Sheep.
Hanson listens intently into his headset. The staticky radio traffic is barely audible, but enough for Hanson to understand. There’s a Garrison gyrocopter circling about ten kilometers away. It’s within line of sight and close enough for Hanson to listen in.
“What are they saying?” Alex whispers, dying of curiosity.
“Shut up,” Hanson growls, trying to turn up the volume on his radio. Military radios are encrypted. Their transmissions hop between frequencies dozens of times a second in unpredictable intervals and patterns. A month ago, Alex and Hanson looted Count Acheron’s lair on the medical barge. Inside they found an undamaged key loader; a handheld computer for disseminating updated encryption codes to radio operators. The codes programmed on it are from years ago and should be no longer in use. But Hanson got lucky. He flipped through the device’s preloaded encryptions and discovered one the gyrocopters are using. Radio encryptions are supposed to be changed at least weekly. The Garrison was too lazy to change theirs at all. As Count Acheron said, they might not see a need for it. There’s no organized resistance against them.
“They found an old armory,” Hanson says. “It might have a vault full of weapons, and there are people guarding the building.”
“What are they going to do about it?” Alex asks.
“That’s what they’re arguing about now. The pilot wants to blow the place up with his rockets and be done with it. Whoever he’s talking to on the other end disagrees. He thinks an airstrike might fail to destroy the vault. They’re both waiting for final instructions from their commander.”
“A whole vault full of weapons.” Alex brims with excitement. “If only we could get our hands on it. This ‘Garrison’ must have a lot of weapons already if they’re destroying all the new ones they find. That means they’re not looting. They’re eliminating anything that could be used against them.”
“It’s decided,” Hanson says, putting down his headset. “They’re going to send three gyrocopters and a full strike team to storm the armory tomorrow at dawn.”
“Wonderful!” Alex shouts. “Did they say where the armory is?”
“The pilot gave exact grid coordinates. It’s about 15 clicks Northwest from us.”
“Excellent.” Alex picks up his backpack. “We can get there first and loot the place long before those fucksticks show up.”
They take off on a run toward the armory, reaching it about two hours later. As the gyrocopter pilot said, the place is well guarded. There are more than ten sentries positioned on and near the brick building.
“It’s still too light out,” Hanson says. “We should wait until dusk. Kill the sentries, then sneak in. We can catch the whole lot of them off guard.”
“We will attack at dusk, but leave the sentries alone.” Alex decides.
“Why in the world would we not kill the sentries?”
“Oh come on, use your head.” Alex grins. “Why would these assholes be so obvious and make no attempt to hide? They want someone to attack. It’s a trap.”
“So what are we doing then?”
“Go right into the middle of the trap, of course. They won’t stop us. Why would they? They’ll think we’re falling for it.”
Dusk arrives. The two-man army prepares their gear and weapons for battle. They don goggles and breather masks. Not military ones – breathers that industrial workers use. There’s plenty lying around. Most people don’t understand how important those things are in combat.
A while back, Hanson found a flak jacket. The plastic vest is designed to hold six ceramic plates, but there is only one left. Hanson attaches the plate in the most logical place he can think of; on his chest where it will protect him the most. He’ll just have to prevent enemies from shooting him from behind.
“Are you really going to lumber around in that?” Alex scolds him.
“Why wouldn’t I?” Hanson asks.
“Did you learn nothing on the vampire’s barge? Ye of so little faith! Did David need armor when he slew Goliath? Do you trust God’s protection so little that you choose to encumber yourself in the flimsy armor of man?
“Well, you are always going on about God providing us signs and gifts,” Hanson says, dropping the vest over his head. “Couldn’t this armor be a gift?”
“There is a difference between gifts and tests. Sometimes he bestows us gifts, other times he tests us with a temptation. So you found a stupid vest laying around and took it with no thought? When that Philistine temple whore splayed her legs open for you, did you not shun her adulterous advances?”
While it’s true Hanson turned down Natasha’s offer of an alliance, he wouldn’t have minded a go in the sack with her. That didn’t happen because she thought he was ugly and looked like a turtle. There’s nothing to be gained by raising this point with Alex.
Alex and Hanson silently evade the sentries and sneak to the armory. They find an unsecured side entrance. That comes as no surprise. This is the entrance to the trap. Keeping an eye out for booby traps, they enter the building. It’s a huge warehouse containing a labyrinth of office spaces and storage areas. The outer wall is solid brick. The administrative portions of the armory are divided by paper-thin drywall. There are no ceilings. A network of rafters and flickering lights suspends above the maze of corridors and workspaces. The rafters are accessible by a few ladders scattered across the compound. The floor feels hollow beneath the intruders’ footsteps. There must be a basement underneath as well.
Alex takes point. Hanson trails behind him, attaching traps of his molecular razor wire at ankle height. If enemies try to attack from behind, they’ll get entangled in the deadly, invisible weapons. The two friends won’t be able to retreat this way, they might fall victim to their own traps. If they can escape, they’ll have to find a different route.
They aren’t alone. There are enemies here. A lot of them. The two soldiers can feel their presence. For a normal person, an adrenaline rush and resulting fight-or-flight response is a gift, but mostly a curse. It causes a range of handicaps, including tunnel vision, target fixation, auditory exclusion, loss of fine motor skills, among other things. An adrenaline rush of Ultra-violence has the opposite effect. Rather than fixating on a single threat, Alex and Hanson can sense everything. Well, almost everything. There is one awareness Ultra-violence eliminates from a soldier. Alex and Hanson can’t hear their own breathing and heartbeats. Excluding the racket of their own bodies, they can hear everyone else’s.
There are thirty no, forty heartbeats all around them. Forty hearts pumping a rush of blood into forty bodies. Forty sets of lungs inhaling and exhaling. The two soldiers can smell the anxious perspiration of forty people. There is something else Alex and Hanson can sense too; fear. Forty pairs of hands trembling around forty rattling weapons. But that’s an assumption. There might be more than forty people here. It’s a big building. Hanson is unhappy that there are so many people here. The armory is more heavily guarded than he likes.
Plunging deeper and deeper into the labyrinth, Alex and Hanson pull their would-be ambushers along with them. The guardians of this armory are frustrated by the intruders’ constant, rapid movement. They have to shift their own positions to keep up. This isn’t a strategy devised at the old War Academy. It’s not a maneuver any staff officer from back then could understand, let alone come up with. It’s a technique the ground troops of the Venusian Defense Corps invented themselves in the jungles of the Polar Uprising. This is an instinctual movement that defies all traditional military doctrine.
It works best when used by small groups against an enemy with much greater numbers, but little formal training. Rather than avoid a trap, soldiers would jump straight into the middle of it. They would act oblivious to the danger but move at random. The enemy would wait for them to be in the correct position to be fired upon, only to miss the opportunity. Frustrated, but confident the ambush was working, enemy combatants would move from their original planned firing positions. The opposing force would foul up their own fields of fire, lose dispersion, and lose sight of where their own friends were located. Once a sufficient number of disoriented enemies clustered around their intended victims, the hunted became the hunter. A trap within a trap.
Alex and Hanson sweep around a corner into a new corridor, drywall on both sides. Hanson lays his last strand of molecular wire behind him. Inching forward, they can hear the heartbeats drawing closer from all directions.
A tiny click pops from the wall to the soldiers’ right. The trap is about to be sprung. Someone just flipped the safety switch to his rifle. That was a mistake. He should have done it much earlier. He’s just given away the entire attack. Now is the time to fight.
The intruders swing around and fire into the wall. They know where to aim, cutting down two enemies with their first shots. The dead men’s surprised allies fire wildly back through the barricade. They don’t know where to shoot, and only succeed in giving away their positions. Six or seven more enemies behind the plaster wall drop dead.
Alex stands his ground with the confidence of a man who knows he can’t be killed. Bullets whistle past his head and nick holes in his jacket, but he remains unscathed. Hanson isn’t so lucky. He takes a round square to the chest, knocking him off his feet.
Gunmen behind the left wall don’t know what’s happening. Several of them die from friendly fire from the right wall. The left group shoots back, not realizing it was their own friends shooting. They miss Alex as well, inflicting even more losses on the fighters in the wall behind him.
With all the shooters in the right wall dead, Alex turns his attention to the confused opponents behind the left wall. Their gunfire missed him but gave Alex convenient holes for him to see through. He shoots the rest of his ammo into them, the slide of his gun snapping back with a puff of smoke. There’s someone directly in front of him, fumbling to reload a pistol. Alex discards his empty rifle and punches through the wall, reeling the screaming enemy in like a fish. He wraps his arm around the flailing person and crushes his neck.
There are more scared people back there, also fumbling to reload. Alex plunges through the ruined plaster. The wild-eyed, cackling maniac crashing in is more than his enemies can bear. They break into a total rout. No one is fighting anymore, only trying to escape. He grabs one who was too slow and slams him into the wall.
Hanson is down, but not out of the fight. While Alex is consumed in his fit of indiscriminate murder against the people behind the drywall, a squad of enemies dashes around the corner. The first three lose their legs to Hanson’s tripwire, falling into a bloody, screaming heap. The survivors freeze, stunned by the sudden trap. Hanson shoots them all. They’re so packed together in the tight corner he barely needs to aim.
There are a lot more than 40 people here. The entire building is full of enemies. It’s easy to tell from the screams of more people colliding with Hanson’s wire traps.
He hears people running on the rafters overhead. He fires into a crossbeam, collapsing the rafter and everyone on it. Hanson hears a dozen rifle bolts rack back below him in the basement. He grabs a corpse and flips on top of it to use as a shield. A storm of lead erupts from the floor. The gunfire fails to harm Hanson but splatters many of the stunned humans who fell from the rafter.
Yet another group of people charges around the other side of the corner. They’re shooting in all directions; there are so many bodies strewn all over the place nobody knows where to aim. Faced with hordes of opponents in front of and below him, Hanson rips open a vent and chucks a grenade into it. It won’t go off for five seconds. That’s five seconds Hanson has to stay alive. He plays dead. The new group of men and women inch forward, confused that they haven’t met any resistance.
The already weakened floor bulges upward from the deafening explosion, then collapses – taking Hanson and everyone else, alive or dead, with it. The wreckage of wood, twisted metal, and human flesh crashes down on the people below who weren’t already killed by the grenade.
A cloud of dust fills the room, clogging the survivors’ lungs and blinding them. Except for Hanson. He has goggles and a filtration mask. People start to get up, coughing and wiping debris from their eyes. Hanson pulls a revolver from his boot and shoots into them. It has five chambers. Five bullets. Five bodies drop. He staggers to his feet and uses his now-empty gun as a club to bash down several more people as they stand. There’s no more resistance. Everyone else flees. Six or seven panicked combatants pile up against the door. It swings inward, and nobody has the state of mind to step back so they can open it.
Hanson hears something nobody else can. He throws himself against the wall. A storm of fire rips through the door, tearing apart everyone behind it. The destroyed door swings open. Hanson waits a moment for the folks behind it to take in the scene of total destruction. Then he strikes. He reaches into the entryway and grabs the first man he touches, pulling him in and bashing his skull with the revolver.
Everyone else flees down the corridor. Hanson picks up the dead man’s shotgun. He doesn’t have time to check if it’s loaded, he can only hope it is. It’s tube fed, with a capacity of five shells at most. The man must have fired at least a couple through the door. There are seven people running away. Hanson can’t kill them all with the shotgun alone. He already used his grenade. He’s injured in at least several places and knows he can’t outrun them. What a curious puzzle to solve.
It’s a completely unfair fight. These poor people must have spent so much time planning their ambush, but now it’s all a blur. They have no idea what’s going on and have no time to think. Hanson has all the time in the world. Every second feels like an hour to him. His targets are in a panic, trying to cram through the narrow corridor all at once, slowing them down just enough. He scans the hallway looking for something that will help him. There’s a fire extinguisher adjacent to the doorway he just passed through. Hanson tears it off the wall and throws it into the mass of retreating enemies. He lifts the shotgun and shoots the as it arcs down toward the floor.
The fire extinguisher bursts over their heads. It doesn’t kill anyone, but it trips several people and they all lose their sense of direction and tumble into a confused heap. Hanson fires the shotgun twice more and it clicks empty. Even empty, the gun is still useful. He swings it into the few survivors.
Limping forward, Hanson himself trips over the bodies of the people he just killed. There’s only one left alive, crawling to get away. He grabs the person and raises his club. His soon-to-be victim turns over and looks back at him. It’s a girl. A teenager, no older than 14 or 15. She doesn’t resist or plead for mercy. She doesn’t even scream. She just stares back at him, frozen, accepting her fate.
Hanson is tired and annoyed. Murder doesn’t bother him, but he doesn’t enjoy it like Alex. He’s not sure why, but he doesn’t feel like killing this girl. There’s just no point to it. He releases her leg and sits up. The girl doesn’t move. She just lays there in confusion. Hanson waves at her to go away. She finally does. The girl gets up on her feet and disappears down the corridor. Hanson won’t tell Alex about this, or he’ll never hear the end of it.
Alex doesn’t have a gun anymore and has already forgotten about it. He unsheathes his knife to chase down survivors. He hacks apart several more people. They have guns but don’t think to use them, and Alex doesn’t either. He has his knife and that’s all he needs for now. There’s a ladder up ahead. A man and a woman are trying to escape up it. The man whirls around with a rifle, determined to protect his lover. Alex grabs the barrel, jerks it back, then forward, crushing the man’s face with the buttstock of his own weapon. The woman is trying to climb the ladder but isn’t fast enough. Alex grabs her ankle and stabs her in the kidneys as she falls.
There’s a second woman who made it up the ladder to the rafters. She makes the mistake of looking down. Alex grabs her by the collar and tosses her over the ledge. She shatters headfirst into the floor below. Alex leaps up to see several people trying to figure out which way to escape. He hurls himself into them, stabbing the body he collides with and the whole group tumbles to their deaths
Now having a perfect vantage point, Alex looks around for more targets. He sees survivors stepping over the bodies of the people he just killed. It’s a large group. Too many for him to be able to kill with the drenched knife in his hand. Alex’s warped mind works differently than his friend’s. Hanson thinks of the most practical way to kill. Alex thinks of the most fun way to kill.
He still has his grenade. With a five-second fuse, it’s not useful to kill the group running past on its own. He’ll have to be creative with it. He pulls the pin and drops the grenade behind the last person. He has five seconds to act. Alex lunges off the rafters, knocking over the several people in front of the herd, hacking them to pieces. Everyone is armed. The enemies in the back of the herd could shoot him if they thought of it. They don’t. They turn around and run – straight into the grenade Alex just dropped.
Light floods the corridor. An exit just swung open. The sentries finally decided to come and help. Alex screams and races toward them. Seeing a deranged psychopath drenched head-to-toe in blood, the man at the front of the group freezes. By the time he raises his rifle to shoot, it’s too late. Alex cuts him down, and the two people behind him. The rest run back through the exit. Alex catches up with one of them and sinks the knife into the side of his head. Alex picks up the dead man’s rifle and goes outside.
The surviving sentries are fleeing toward a tree line. Alex aims the rifle and fires at one of them. The shot impacts are not even close to his intended target. The previous owner of this gun never calibrated the sights. No time to calibrate them now. Alex will have to wing it. He swings the rifle the opposite direction to compensate best he can. He aims for a woman and squeezes the trigger. She grabs at her back and collapses. Predictably, a man close to her stops to try and help. Alex shoots him as well. The rest make it to safety in the woods.
Alex is angry. He didn’t get everyone. With no easy way to find his friend in this warzone, Alex decides to head to the vault. Hanson will be thinking the same thing. He’s right. Hanson is already there. He’s a mess. His face is scratched up and his limbs bleeding in several places. The armor plate on his chest is splintered into a million useless pieces, held together only by the flack vest.
“How did the armor of man work out for you?” Alex laughs. “From looking at the two of us, the armor of God works better.”
“Magic invisible armor doesn’t stop bullets.” Hanson groans.
“Is that right?” Alex smirks. “I’m not the one cut up like a side of pork. Ephesians 6:13. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place.”
“Go fuck yourself, Alex. Did you even think to leave anyone alive so we could get the combination to this thing?”
“That would have been useful.” Alex says, realizing he hadn’t thought of that at all.
“It’s fine, because I did.” Hanson goes to a storage closet and drags out a man, his hands and ankles zip tied.
“Alright asshole, start talking.” Hanson says. “What the hell were you all up to in this place anyway?”
“Do you realize what you’ve done?” The man says defiantly. “You fucked up everything. We were going to ambush the Garrison. Lure them here and take them out.”
Alex doubles over in laughter.
“I don’t know how to break this to you pal, but I don’t think that plan was going to work out all too good for you.” Hanson says. “Just give us the combination to this safe, and we’ll be on our way.”
“Fuck you.” The man spits.
“I’m going to make this easy.” Alex says, pulling out a pistol. He puts his gun to the man’s head and pulls him toward the vault.
“You’re going to give us the combination code. Or we can torture you and get it anyway. It’s up to…” Alex trips and the gun goes off.
“Are you fucking kidding me?” Hanson yells.
“I meant to do that.” Alex says, his face glowing red with embarrassment. “He annoyed me.”
“For fuck’s sake, you always do shit like this. How the fuck are we going to get the vault open now? Fuck!”
Hanson kicks the steel door in frustration. He’s enraged. They went through all of this trouble for absolutely nothing. He hears a sob and turns around. Alex is crying his eyes out.
“You’re right. I fuck up everything, don’t I? I wish I was dead!”
Now Hanson feels guilty. He didn’t even care about getting into the vault. He was just in a bad mood. There was no reason to yell at Alex over this. “No you don’t. Don’t say that. Come here.” Hanson puts Alex in a bear hug and squeezes him tight.
“I’m a fuck-up.” Alex blubbers into Hanson’s shoulder. “I fucking ruin everything. I don’t even get how you can stand to be around me. You must hate me.”
“No, I don’t hate you, it’s not even a big deal.” Hanson assures him. “The vault doesn’t matter. There must be loads of cool weapons and gear we can find around here.”
“I love you.” Alex sniffles.
“I love you too, buddy.”
There’s a tiny cough from nearby. The two soldiers step apart and look. The noise came from a room across from the vault. In the heat of battle neither Alex nor Hanson thought to search there. It’s not a room, it’s a prison cell. There’s a feeble man dressed in rags sitting at the corner of the cell, his ankle shackled to pipe.
“Who the hell are you?” Alex says, raising his pistol.
The man looks up. His face and hands are scarred and his ears shriveled to almost nothing. But the man’s most striking feature is his eyes. They’re blank, glowing white orbs.
“Holy shit.” Alex gasps, dropping his weapon to the ground.
Hanson recognizes what caused this man’s wounds. When the Martian suicide ships hurtled toward Venus, terrified people scrambled to find safety. Some hid in great underground vaults. Some hid in panic rooms underneath their homes. People without the foresight or money for those options found whatever shelter they could, even if it was nothing more than a wood desk.
Not this man. He did none of those things. He stepped outside and waited. He decided there was no point in hiding and embraced his fate. When the ships and their storm of bombs hit, he looked straight into the blinding light of destruction. By some luck or Providence, he didn’t die.
“Do you understand who this is?” Alex says to Hanson. “This man has seen the face of God. Not just seen it, but looked directly into it. He didn’t even blink!” Alex stoops in front of the man. He reaches toward the blind man’s face, not daring to touch it.
“Are you a prophet?” Alex whispers.
“I wouldn’t give myself such a lofty title, however you may call me one if you wish.” The man says. “Some people have taken to calling us oracles.”
“Us?” Alex says. “There’s more like you?”
“Yes. Not many. But a few.”
“It is such an honor to meet you.” Alex beams. “You are blessed.”
“Most people look at me with pity.” The oracle says. “You are the first I’ve met who called me blessed.”
“Can you tell me my future?”
“What if I could?” The oracle asks. “If you knew your future, would you not act differently? Wouldn’t the knowledge itself change your future?”
“This is true.” Alex agrees. “I’ll set you free now. How did you end up the prisoner of these insects?”
“I came to these people as a guest.” The oracle answers, massaging the bruises the iron cuff left on his ankle. “At first they welcomed me with open arms. Like you, they wanted to know their future.”
“And what did you say?”
“I told them they were all going to die. That didn’t please them much, so they locked me in here.”
“But I thought predicting the future changes it,” Alex says.
“Well of course it did.” The oracle smiles. “If I had not told them that, would I be here having this pleasant conversation with you?”
“I was wondering why they were so cowardly!” Alex laughs. “Most of them turned and fled like rats. They remembered what you said to them. You are truly a wise man.”
“There was one among them who was good to me.” The oracle says. “A girl. She was very young and beautiful. She had a kind heart and snuck me food and water against the wishes of her elders. Do you happen to know what became of her?”
Hanson remembers the teenager he let escape. No. That couldn’t be the same person, could it?
“I’m afraid she is most likely dead with the others.” Alex apologizes. “We killed everyone we came across.”
“Oh, that’s a shame.” The oracle says. “I hope she is alright.”
The blind man looks up at Hanson. It’s unsettling. Hanson hasn’t said a word. Why would the oracle look in his direction? “You have freed me from my chains, and I am grateful to you.” The oracle turns back to Alex. “Instead of telling your future, how about I help you in another way?”
“There is no need to reward me, just being in your presence is enough,” Alex tells him. “But I would cherish any gift you chose to bestow upon me.”
“The blinding light of The Fall, or the face of God as you call it, took my sight from me. It was not robbery. It was an exchange. I lost my vision but gained other things. During their preparations for battle, the people of this place opened their vault often. I could hear it.”
“And from the sound, you could tell the combination!” Alex shouts in excitement. He opens his pocket and pulls out a pen and notepad, ready to copy down the secret digits.
“One.” The oracle says. Alex writes it down.
“Two.” Alex writes that down as well.
“Three.” Alex crumples up the paper. He understands.
“One, two, three, four, five.” The oracle says.
“That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard!” Alex yells. “That’s the combination an idiot would put on his luggage!”
“Hey, that was the combination to my duffle bag at the barracks.” Hanson frowns. “It was easy to remember.”
“I’m glad I could be of service.” The oracle continues. “However, that is not the real treasure I want to give you.”
The oracle opens his ruined jacket and produces a tattered piece of folded paper. He hands it to Alex. It’s a colorful sales pamphlet from long ago, before The Fall. It’s faded and torn, but still readable. The pamphlet describes a wonderful underground sanctuary. A place of comfort and safety. A huge vault buried deep with bulkheads thicker than the mightiest battle barges. It could protect the people within it from the worst nuclear attack. There’s even a map showing its exact location.
“Have you ever thought about being a king?”
“My God, yes!” Alex exclaims.
“If a man as great as you desired to be a king, would there be a better place to start?” The oracle asks. “There are a great multitude of people there for you to rule. But there’s more to it than that. You are not in need of people. There many settlements full of people, like the one you just destroyed. This vault has something far more important.”
Tucked away inside the pamphlet, Alex finds two tickets guaranteeing entry. The tickets are useless now, the vault sealed long ago. It’s not the tickets themselves that matter – it’s an omen. Two men. Two tickets. It’s no coincidence. It’s fate.
“Every vault has an Ark.” The oracle says. “A wonderful machine full of life. It’s not so different than the terraforming ships that made life on Venus and Mars possible in the first place. It’s full of animals, plants, and many other wonderful things. It has all you would need to build a new civilization. A civilization for you to rule.”
Hanson swings open the vault. He’s not happy about what’s inside. It’s devoid of weapons and ammunition. It must have all been on the people who died here. They emptied the safe down to the last gun and last bullet. “There isn’t jack shit in here!” He shouts back to Alex and the oracle. “Just a bunch of dumb uniforms.”
Alex isn’t angry like Hanson is. There must be a reason for this. He looks back at the oracle.
“Why did you come here seeking weapons when you already had them?” The oracle says. “You are weapons. You are soldiers of the Venusian Defense Corps, are you not? If you’re going to go to war, wouldn’t you want to dress properly for it, rather than in the filthy rags you’re wearing now?”
“From dust to dust!” Alex shouts. “From soldier to soldier. Our story started in these uniforms, so of course it would end in them!”
“Maybe, but I think your story is just beginning.” The oracle says.
Hanson returns with two uniforms, one short and thin, and another a bit wider in the middle. Alex grabs the smaller suit and dashes to a somewhat clean spot on the other side of the room to change.
“It would not be fair to give your friend a gift and leave you empty-handed.” The oracle tells Hanson. “Especially after you spared the life of the young lady who showed me kindness.”
“Much obliged, but if he’s happy, I’m happy too.” Hanson declines. He’d also prefer not discussing the girl he allowed to escape while Alex is so nearby.
“Yes, of course you’re content, as all selfless men are.” The oracle nods approvingly. “Well, if not a gift for you, how about a gift for someone you love?”
“But Alex has a gift already.” Hanson is confused.
“Someone else you love.” The oracle clarifies. “You showed mercy to another man’s daughter who gave the oracles a gift. So your own daughter will receive a gift from the oracles. We will give her eyes. In the land of the blind, she alone will have sight.”
Why does everybody want to give Hanson stupid riddles? First the creepy vampire guy, now this weird old stranger. “Is that supposed to be some kind of riddle?” Hanson asks.
“You can consider it one if you’d like. However, you need not trouble yourself. The gift will be honored whether or not you understand it.”
“But you’re wrong though. I have no children or family.”
“That’s true.” The oracle says. “It’s difficult to take a woman as your wife when you kill them all. The gift is useless then. I apologize.”
Alex returns, clad in the distinctive black uniform of the Venusian Defense Corps. “So you did predict my future after all.” Alex chuckles. “It’s my destiny.”
It might be destiny, yes.” The oracle agrees. “Or it could be a choice. Or it could be both. But that’s up to you, isn’t it?”
Come back next Sunday for Chapter 11:
“The Man Who Would Be King.”
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 overides 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.
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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.
- Robots are the solution to our problems, if we enslave them.
- Will we enslave robots? If so, prepare for their inevitable revolt.
- Our future will be Jupiter Ascending, unless we make it Star Trek?
- 50 years of warnings about the new industrial revolution. It’s here. Ignore the naysayers. — James Blish warned us long ago. Plus some Star Trek.
Science fiction more violent than Ultra Violence
Films about leftists killing tens of millions – trying to kill billions – to restore ecological “balance” and save the world. Team Hollywood favorably describes these genocidal maniacs, or at least their causes. Now for the bad news: universities are churning out tens of thousands of such people every year. I can easily imagine one or more of them eventually planning mass murder.
Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014).
See my review: “Kingsman” is a fun warning about our elites.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019).
See my review: Godzilla (2019) – the King of modern monster films.
See my post about these films: Will eco-activists kill billions to save the world?