Summary: This chapter describes the first step to civilization after the apocalypse. Much like Europe’s emergence from the Dark Ages, warriors fight to rule. The most brutal and skillful win. Ultra-Violence is military science fiction about humanity using our miracle tech to destroy everything. 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 11: The Man Who Would Be King.
Hanson gazes at the massive steel doors jutting from the cliffside. It’s been seven years since The Fall. Two years since his friend Alex shared his plan to build a new world on the ashes of the old. A week since Alex announced it was time to act on his plan.
The steel doors shield an entryway into a huge underground vault. There are several dozen facilities like this one scattered across Venus. When the Martian suicide ships set the world ablaze, those shelters protected thousands of terrified people from the holocaust.
Shelters built near the great cities of Venus flooded with terrified people fleeing the impending destruction. Some paid for space underground. Others had not but showed up anyway. Private security teams guarding entry points were often unable or unwilling to stop the mobs of people seeking safety. As a result, nearly every one of those enclaves was overcrowded.
Building a kingdom with the survivors on the surface would take years. They’re scattered and don’t trust each other. There’s a much easier way. If he can capture a vault, Alex will be king of a thousand people.
There’s an even more powerful incentive. Each vault as an ark full of treasures essential for a new civilization. Seeds for all the necessary plant life. Specimens of a thousand animal species; three males and seven females of each. On top of that, there’s the genetic material for a million more, mostly insects and micro-organisms. With an ark, it’s possible to kickstart a self-sustaining ecosystem.
Alex chose this shelter for a special reason. It was built in relative secrecy, well beyond the outskirts of the closest population centers. Only paying customers knew of its existence. It shouldn’t be crowded or otherwise under desperate circumstances.
Hanson shakes his head. “This isn’t going to work.”
“Oh, of course it’s going to work.” Alex quips. “Don’t be a spoiled sport.”
“We don’t have any explosives. And even if we did, these fallout shelters are built to withstand a nuclear blast.”
“Really? Watch me.” Alex grins, pointing to a security camera up above. He jumps up and waves his arms. “Open sesame!” The ground rumbles underneath the men’s feet. The steel doors part and slide away, shaking off years of rust. Alex doubles over laughing at his own cleverness. “They’re just letting us in!” He chortles.
The doors clang to a halt. Lights flicker to life, illuminating a path into the mountainside. Hanson recognizes Alex’s insight. They might be the first visitors to ever show up at the vault’s doorstep. If so, the people inside may not recognize the danger of welcoming strangers.
“Keep your rifle slung on your back and look friendly,” Alex says, leading the way inside.
The two wanderers find a welcoming party of sorts. Three men and a woman wearing faded jumpsuits are standing by a control panel on an elevated platform near the steel doors.
“Identify yourself and state your business.” One of the men says, hand hovering over the pistol at his side. “Are you traders?”
“I am not a trader.” Alex corrects him. He takes a deep breath and extends his arms. “I am your new king!” Alex declares. “Take me to your leader!”
The shelter people stare in disbelief. The men look at each other and crack up. “You’re welcome here, there’s no need to talk like that.” The woman says. “We have food and shelter, if that’s something you would desire. You’re welcome in our community.”
She looks to be in her early 20s. Her blonde hair is restrained in a slick bun behind her head and her plain face devoid of makeup. But she makes up for it with a lush figure straining against the baggy jumpsuit. Hanson isn’t sure why she’s here. The men have armbands. Though the woman has a pistol belt like them, she has no armband. Probably not a guard, just a curious onlooker.
Four people aren’t enough security. They should have brought more before opening the entrance. It’s a careless attitude they will regret soon enough.
The largest of the men steps down from the platform and approaches Alex. He’s well over six feet tall and has the physique of a bodybuilder. A man with a healthy diet who passed the time in the gym. He stops a few inches from Alex’s nose, looking down at him with a smirk. “I don’t think we need a king.” The man sneers. “But we could use someone to clean the toilets.” He looks back at his friends for comedic effect. Maybe he’s trying to impress the girl. Or maybe this is just how he always is. “Or if you would prefer, I could take you two by the ears and toss you outside.”
“Thomas, don’t be like that.” The woman says. “Be hospitable. They’ve been out there a long time. They might not remember civil society. Just be nice to them.”
“Oh, fuck off, Claire.” The giant barks at her. “What do you want to do, invite them to your little church thing?”
“Church would do them no harm,” Claire says. “Or you for that matter.”
Thomas grabs Alex by the collar. Alex looks up at him in amusement.
Claire comes down from the platform and puts her hand on Thomas’s shoulder. “Please, this is unnecessary. There’s no need for violence. Please stop it. Let’s all just get along.”
“Shut your mouth.” Thomas laughs. “If these strangers are going to talk shit, that’s what they’re going to get.” His grip pops the buttons of Alex’s old overcoat, showing the black uniform of the Venusian Defense Corps underneath. Hanson looks for a reaction from Thomas; he either doesn’t recognize what it means or is too focused on Alex’s face to notice.
Claire does recognize the uniform and her eyes widen in alarm. She doesn’t try to warn Thomas or the men behind her. Maybe she’s afraid of how Alex and Hanson might react. Instead, Claire tries to deescalate the situation. “We’re sorry!” She apologizes. “Thomas is protective of us, that’s all. Let’s just settle down. We can be friends.”
“I said shut up with your Bible-thumping ‘turn the other cheek’ bullshit.” Thomas snaps back at her. “They’re getting an ass-whooping.”
Alex is scrawny from his hard life in the wilderness. He’s much smaller and weaker than the man towering over him. But Alex has something Thomas doesn’t. Ultra-violence. It’s not training or a combat doctrine. It’s something much worse. Ultra-violence is the most advanced brain-washing technique ever created, replacing all sense of morality or restraint with pure killing instinct.
“Please,” Claire begs. Thomas ignores her. He grins, revealing a full set of perfect, pearly-white teeth. Alex smiles back – his teeth are worn and yellow.
“I like your teeth,” Alex says. “I want them.” He grabs Thomas’s own pistol from its belt and bashes him across the jaw. The giant collapses and his pretty white teeth clatter across the floor. The remaining men reach for their guns. Hanson already has his own pistol out and fires a warning shot. A warning shot into a guard’s head. The best kind of warning shot. Hanson’s victim drops dead.
Claire stumbles backward and trips over the platform, screaming her head off. Alex’s blood boils. Why do women scream so much? Why won’t she shut up? Alex grabs his knife. She can’t scream if he cuts out her tongue.
“Ahem,” Hanson interjects.
Alex whirls around to face him.
“These people are your loyal subjects. You need to be nice to them.”
He’s right. Alex scoops up the teeth and returns them to their owner, mumbling an apology. Thomas, on the floor with blood still streaming from his mouth, just stares back in bewilderment.
“Drop your weapons in the corner over there,” Hanson says. “Nice and careful-like. Keep your hands where I can see them.”
They obey. Claire sniffs back tears as she disarms herself, but at least she’s not screaming anymore. Hanson takes the corpse’s gun and tosses it into the pile. Hanson sizes up the prisoners. Thomas is recovered enough to stand. The second guard has a sullen look on his face but is cooperative. So far. They’re both emasculated, and not happy about it. They’ll jump at the first opportunity to overpower their captors.
Hanson looks over at the girl. Claire is a different story. Her eyes are wet, but she’s calm now. She’s already made up her mind. She’s not acting out of emotion; she’s being practical. Out of the three, Claire wants to live the most. She’s not going to fight back. “Is everyone feeling cooperative now?” Hanson asks.
“Yes, we surrender,” Claire says, putting her hands up. “We won’t resist. Please don’t kill anyone else.”
Hanson pulls a roll of utility tape from his bag. “Tie them up.” He says to her, pushing the roll against her stomach.
The men are angry, but there’s nothing they can do under Hanson’s gun. Thomas is still stunned from losing his teeth and gives Claire no difficulty when she’s binding his hands behind his back. She moves on to the second guard, but he’s less cooperative. He’s trying to tense up his wrists so he can slip out later. Claire isn’t strong enough to stop him from doing it. He was hoping she would play along with his scheme.
“Don, please.” She whispers. “Don’t try anything. They’re killers. Like the others.”
Hanson wonders who she’s referring to. “You’re not doing good things to your life expectancy.” He says. “Don.”
The man scowls but relaxes. That’s fortunate for him, because Alex is growing impatient. The woman finishes with Don and returns to Hanson.
“Well, I guess it’s my turn, then,” Claire says with a sigh, surrendering the tape. She turns around and puts her arms behind her back. She goes limp, not fighting back at all. Hanson only needs a small amount of tape to lock her tiny wrists together.
“I know what you are,” Claire says in a low voice Alex can’t hear. “I know what you’re capable of. Please don’t.”
“Just keep doing what you’re doing, and nobody will get hurt,” Hanson says, pushing her back toward the men.
“Now kneel before your king,” Alex commands.
Claire falls to her knees at Alex’s feet. Don doesn’t like it but follows her lead. Alex looks down at them with satisfaction. Thomas hasn’t moved. “Are you dead?” Alex asks.
Thomas shakes his head.
“Do you want me to make you dead?”
He shambles over and kneels beside the others.
“Do not be afraid, for I am a generous king,” Alex says. “Serve me faithfully, and you will be rewarded for your loyalty. Up until now, your lives have been meaningless and insignificant. But now you can be a part of something larger than yourselves. You can be the first generation of a new world!”
“Fuck you.” Thomas snarls, blood spurting from his broken mouth.
“I’m sorry, what was that?” Alex kicks him in the chin, snapping his neck.
Claire cries, but chokes it back in time. She’s figured out Alex doesn’t like it when she makes a racket.
Hanson sidesteps to an open hatch in the back of the room. It leads to a vast atrium with multiple levels lined with catwalks. He sees a few people scurrying away in fear. That’s it. No alarms. No security forces. No defenses at all as far as he can tell.
Alex looks over at his friend. Hanson shakes his head. They expected to be up to their balls in the firefight of their lives by now. They’ve spent years hoarding weapons, ammunition and even grenades for this occasion. But so far, nothing. Why no organized resistance? Alex suspects trickery.
“I swear to God.”
He pushes the muzzle of his gun between Claire’s eyes, forcing her head back as far as it’ll go. She whimpers, biting her tongue to keep quiet.
“I’ll blow her fucking head off!” Alex screams. “Do you have no soldiers? Where the fuck are they? Tell me!”
“We will tell you nothing!” Don shouts defiantly.
Hanson wonders if everyone in this vault is as stupid as the people they’ve encountered so far.
“I’m going to count to three,” Alex says. “If neither of you starts talking, then I’m going to paint the wall with her brains!”
Claire’s closes her eyes and starts moving her lips. No words come out. She’s praying. Don is refusing to budge, and Claire is making peace with her creator. Further violence is pointless and will leave a bad impression on the community Alex wants to rule.
“Patience my king, patience,” Hanson says. “We’re in a good defensive position,” Hanson advises. “Let’s just wait and see what happens. I’m sure the leader of this place will contact us shortly.”
Alex relents. He lowers the gun. “Sorry.” He mutters to Claire, not looking her in the eyes.
“You’re kind and merciful, my king.” She stammers, head bowed. She’s playing the game like Hanson is. Alex lets her talk. “If we tell you what you want to know, will you stop hurting people?” Claire asks.
“Claire, what are you doing?” Don protests. She ignores him.
“It’s hard to rule you if I have to kill you all,” Alex says. “Yes, I’ll stop killing when you when you start obeying.”
“You’re right, the administrator does have soldiers,” Claire admits.
Alex shudders at her voice. This is the longest conversation he’s had with a woman in ages. The last woman he talked to for this long, he put a pencil through her hand. But he listens. She has valuable information. “So, he does have soldiers then?”
“Yes, sir. And they’re not amateurs. They’re real soldiers, like you and your companion.”
“Claire!” Don says again.
Alex pistol-whips him, splattering brain matter on Claire’s arm. She shudders but maintains her composure. Out of the original four, she’s the only one left alive. Alex almost finds her amusing. For a woman. “What exactly is it you do around here?” Alex asks.
“I’m a librarian.”
“Ah, a librarian. Tell me, librarian, about this administrator. I take it he’s in charge?”
“That is correct!” A voice blares from an intercom at the control panel. Alex turns to face it. Someone’s been listening in.
Alex picks up the handset. “You’re the administrator then.” He says.
“Yes, I am.” The voice answers. “Administrator O’Malley. Since Claire decided to run her mouth, I might as well introduce myself.”
“I take it you’re calling to offer your unconditional surrender,” Alex says. “I accept.”
Administrator O’Malley laughs at the intruder’s impertinence. “You’re dead! You’re fucking dead! Claire’s right, I do have soldiers. But they’re not just any soldiers. They’re the very, very best. It’s too late to run, ‘king.’ Even if you flee, they’ll just hunt you down.”
Hanson looks out into the atrium. He hears something. Barely audible at first but getting louder. The sound of marching feet. A whole column of combat boots stomping in perfect unison against the deck.
“We have visitors,” Hanson warns.
“Behold my army, the most vicious killing machines in all of history!” O’Malley proclaims. “Soldiers of the Venusian Defense Corps!”
“Hhm, is that right?” Alex says. “Very interesting.”
Hanson realizes these soldiers are the “other” killers Claire was talking about. Alex leaves the control panel to join him at the doorway.
“Please don’t hurt my parents.” Claire blurts out. She flinches, expecting Alex to hit her for speaking out of turn. He doesn’t.
“Librarian, as I said before, I am a merciful king,” Alex says. “I will not harm anyone else today, provided they do not attempt to resist me.”
His answer puts her at ease. There’s something else she wants to tell him about the soldiers without O’Malley hearing it. A secret the administrator would kill her for sharing. The reason she knows Alex will win. “He’s afraid of them,” Claire whispers.
Administrator O’Malley sits in his office, tapping the mahogany desk with growing impatience. Well over fifteen minutes have passed since he deployed the soldiers. They haven’t reported in. What’s taking so long?
The sudden attack threw the shelter’s thousand inhabitants into a panic, but O’Malley was prepared for it. After receiving his appointment as administrator, he knew he had to think ahead. He had to assume a nuclear war would destroy any semblance of law and order. There might not be an external authority he could rely on for protection.
O’Malley took matters into his own hands. He sought out former soldiers of the Venusian Defense Corps. Not veterans of the Polar Uprising. The first generation of Ultra-violence was too dangerous. The following generations after the war were less powerful, but easier to control. They only got a taste of Ultra-violence. With those men, O’Malley assembled his elite security detail, fifty soldiers strong. When the worst happened, the world ended and people fled to this vault, O’Malley effectively squashed any thought of a rebellion against him. He ruled with undisputed authority over this underground community.
The system seemed perfect. O’Malley’s troops maintained law and order. They abstained from the drunkenness and disorderly conduct that has plagued armies throughout history. There were no rapes or quarrels over a woman. All was well. At first.
Security came at a price. O’Malley’s mercenaries became bored, then agitated. There’s nothing for them to do down here. They have no interest in being gardeners or mechanics. They only want to fight, and there are no enemies to fight. The soldiers ignore the rationing system, eating as much as they please. They hog the gymnasium. They bully and harass the other residents. Almost everyone hates them. The soldiers stopped listening to O’Malley years ago. He fears giving them orders. They might ignore him, destroying the little pretense of authority he has left. He regrets hiring them at all. They’ve become loose cannons.
He’s considered killing the veterans. Maybe fill their barracks with poison gas. But they’re too careful. Too disciplined. They declined individual dorm rooms, instead sleeping on bunks in an open bay. The soldiers never go to sleep without posting sentries. They always travel in groups, never alone.
If O’Malley tries to kill them and fails, their retaliation would be dire. Ultra-violence. They would kill him. Maybe his family too. Maybe every man, woman, and child in the whole compound. Yes, O’Malley’s doctors gave each soldier a complete psychological evaluation. They can function in normal society. But O’Malley knows Ultra-violence can only be contained – never reversed. It’s a dormant virus in the back of each of those men’s minds. They’re ticking time bombs. The second and third generations of Ultra-violence aren’t as unstable as the first generation that rampaged across the South Pole, but they’re still dangerous. Any small trigger could set them off.
A year ago, a soldier and a vault resident got into a petty squabble. It’s unknown who started the fight, but the soldier finished it. He beat the man to death. The murder sparked public outrage. O’Malley placated the vault’s governing body, the citizens’ council. He personally apologized to the victim’s family and gave them a generous increase in rations and living space.
The soldiers begrudgingly put their teammate in confinement with bread and water for sixty days, but the damage was done. The violence and light punishment for it infuriated people. Another incident like that could spark a full-scale civil war.
It’s no secret the surface above is starting to stabilize. People could go out safely now. Many vaults opened up months or even years ago. The soldiers are itching to send out patrols. O’Malley refuses to let any of them out. He knows if the soldiers see the outside world, he’ll lose control of them altogether.
To prevent unauthorized excursions, O’Malley commissioned the citizens’ council to recruit a volunteer militia to stand guard at the entrance, the ark, and several other key facilities. Equipped with firearms and distinguished with red armbands, the militia’s main purpose is to keep the soldiers in check.
O’Malley’s plan backfired. The militia spiraled out of control. Militiamen have committed dozens of assaults and rapes. The commander of the militia interpreted his position as a license to do whatever he wants. The militia is causing more grief than the soldiers they were supposed to contain. How can O’Malley or the citizens’ council give a militiaman any meaningful punishment after a soldier got away with murder?
There are almost daily incidents of soldiers provoking militia, daring them to do something about it. Fortunately, there have been no violent confrontations. Yet. The militia outnumbers the soldiers almost two to one. It isn’t enough. If a fight breaks out, the soldiers would massacre them all. After the Ultra-violence starts and the soldiers taste blood, it might be impossible to stop them from killing everyone else.
As if things weren’t bad enough already, the vault itself is falling apart. It was supposed to function smoothly for twenty years. Come to find out, government contractors tend to exaggerate the quality of their products. Critical system failure could happen at any time, forcing O’Malley to open the doors and let people out.
Worse still, if the vault dies, the Ark dies with it. If the power goes out, all the preserved animal specimens will die. Not only would people be forced outside, but they would also go hungry. God only knows what would happen then. The soldiers might decide to kill O’Malley for the fun of it. The militia might turn on him. The vault citizens themselves might depose him.
The two strangers’ intrusion could be a blessing in disguise. It gives the soldiers a taste of excitement they’ve been starving for. Better still, the intruders appear to be competent fighters themselves. In a strong defensive position, they might hold out for a prolonged battle. The Venusian Defense Corps has always favored full-frontal assaults, with no regard for casualties. The intruders might kill 10 or even 20 soldiers, whittling them down to a more manageable number.
O’Malley’s militia is on high alert. All of them mustered and armed. Distracted by their bloodlust, the soldiers might put their whole force in a chokepoint at the entry chamber. If the odds are good, O’Malley will give the order for his militia to attack from behind.
The administrator can’t wait any longer. He has to find out what’s going on. He calls his mechanics. There’s an old surveillance system. It’s gone unused for years, too demanding on the shelter’s finite supply of electronics and replacement parts. But this is an emergency. O’Malley doesn’t need all the cameras online, just one.
He switches on the monitor screen behind his desk. An image flickers to life. O’Malley stares into the projection, and the blood drains from his face. There’s no fighting. No stand-off. No conflict whatsoever. The soldiers are sitting Indian style around Alex. He’s regaling them with stories of his many adventures in the apocalyptic wastes on the surface world.
“I don’t get it,” Alex says. “Why haven’t any of you gone out? It’s perfectly safe. The radiation levels are low outside the cities.”
“O’Malley is a fucking pussy.” Samson, one of the soldiers, growls. “He doesn’t let us do jack-shit except rot in here with our thumbs up our asses.”
Hanson is pleased Alex is enjoying himself, but he needs to think ahead. The vault isn’t taken yet. The soldiers have been here since The Fall, but they lacked the imagination to learn anything about the vault beside the parts they like. Hanson needs to know this place inside and out. He looks at Claire, kneeling close by. She’s been sticking tight to him and avoiding Alex. That was a good call. She’s the only one Hanson’s met here so far with any common sense.
“Do you know the layout of this place?” He asks her. “Can you draw me a map?”
“Alright, here’s paper. Do it.”
“That’ll be a little hard unless you untie me,” Claire says.
Hanson cuts Claire loose and watches her draw on his notepad. “How did you know O’Malley’s soldiers would join us?” He asks her.
“You’re wearing the same uniforms as them.”
It seems a little obvious in hindsight. “Why are you helping us?” Hanson asks.
“Do I have a choice? I don’t want people to get hurt.”
“What about your friends?” Hanson says, referring to the dead militiamen.
“They’re not my friends.” She answers flatly.
“Then why were you in the entry chamber?”
“I listen in on the intercom,” Claire explains. “I wanted to be ready if anyone new arrived. You were visible on the camera up front a while before you reached the door.”
“Wouldn’t more people be curious about us showing up?”
“Yes, but O’Malley only lets his guards in here,” Claire says. “The guards let me in here because, well, you can probably guess why.”
“I’m no good at guessing,” Hanson tells her. “Why’d they let you in?”
Claire furrows her eyebrows. She’s scared and upset, not in the mood for sarcasm. Then she realizes he isn’t being sarcastic. He legitimately has no idea. Hanson isn’t the brains behind this operation. “Because I’m a girl.”
“Oh, right. That makes sense. So, if you’re not a guard, why did you have a pistol?”
“I made up a pretense to be issued one. It’s not as safe here as you might think. Especially for a woman.” Claire finishes the map and offers it to him. “Please don’t let Alex kill anyone who isn’t trying to fight him.” She says.
“Alex meant what he said, we aren’t going to kill anyone else if it can be helped.” Hanson accepts the map from her hand.
“Well, I’m officially a traitor now.” Claire sighs. This wasn’t an easy decision for her.
There’s a growing excitement among the men. Alex is stirring them into a frenzy.
“Why haven’t you taken this place for yourselves?” He demands. “Who’s stopping you? O’Malley?
The soldiers go quiet. One of them finally speaks up. “Alex, we have no officers.”
“That’s it? No officers?” Alex berates them. “What about Landfall? I don’t remember seeing any officers, except the one in front of me who died three minutes into the invasion.”
Landfall. Though none of these soldiers were there for it, they all know what Landfall is. In the Polar Uprising, the conscripts and their Ultra-violence became unknowing guinea pigs. Eric Stromm, Defense Minister of Venus, wanted to know if a ground invasion of Mars was possible. Rather than destroying Mars, could it be conquered? Even if the Martian fleet could be destroyed, the entire surface of the Red Planet was protected by overlapping laser and missile batteries.
Stromm decided the mutinous colonies of the Venusian South Pole would make the perfect testing ground. Instead of landing at a safe location, the government armada deployed directly on top of the communist’s strongest positions. A flotilla of battle barges skimmed the upper atmosphere and scattered thousands of pods. Each pod contained a gyrocopter. Each gyrocopter contained platoons of soldiers, vehicles, and weapons. Some of the pods opened and correctly deployed a gyrocopter. Some of them didn’t. They plunged straight into the ground. Clouds of missiles streamed up from the jungle, decimating the surviving gyrocopters.
Of the troops who made it out of the gyrocopters alive, many perished within the first few steps. Most of the first wave died, their chain of command all but annihilated. Bands of surviving troopers organized themselves and continued the mission. Despite the terrible cost, the Venusian Defense Corps emerged triumphant. They scattered rebel forces, establishing a foothold for reinforcements. After that, the uprising was no longer a war. It was a genocide.
In the end, Stromm dismissed the idea of invading other planets. Martian defense batteries were far superior to the smuggled weapons available to the communist rebels on Venus. But the war fulfilled a secondary purpose. Stromm distanced himself from the disaster and court martialed the commanding admiral. He then blamed the massive losses on communist spies. With the Venusian public galvanized by a hundred thousand dead soldiers, Stromm published a list of alleged sympathizers to be purged. A list that conveniently included his political opponents.
None of these soldiers were at Landfall, but they revere the men who were.
Someone is clanging on the hatch. Looks like O’Malley sent his militia to put a stop to Alex’s revolution.
“We had no place in the old world,” Alex says. “We were nothing but trash to them. They threw us in the gutter.”
The clanging gets louder.
“But that world is gone. This is a new world. And that new world belongs to us. Who here will claim it with me?”
The soldiers jump up as one. Alex is not just one of the most dangerous men infected with Ultra-violence, he’s a contagious carrier of it. He reactivates it in the minds of formerly docile veterans. He’s the last piece of the puzzle. He’s the leader this group has been missing. Now the killing machine is complete and ready for battle. Ready for Ultra-violence.
“Looks like O’Malley’s boys are here,” Samson says. “What should we do?”
“Why, let them in of course.” Alex grins.
His army splits into four groups. Two groups take cover on the left and right sides of the room. The remaining groups stack up with Samson on either side of the hatch.
“Don’t move,” Hanson says to Claire, taking her by the arm and sitting her behind the control panel. “And you might want to cover your ears.” He leaves Claire in her safe spot and steps in front of the stack opposite Samson.
“Ultra-violence!” Alex shouts.
“Ultra-violence!” His followers shout back.
One of the troopers unlocks the hatch and several surprised militiamen tumble in. Alex’s men stab them to death and push their bodies out of the way. Samson tosses a grenade through the hatch and slams it shut. Screams echo from the other side, followed by an explosion.
Hanson and Samson lead their stacks out of the room shooting into a mass of stunned militiamen. Alex’s men cut down the enemies on the opposite side of the atrium first, sweeping their fire left and right across the catwalk. One soldier gets clipped in the leg as he runs through the hatch, but the rest make it to the corners of the atrium.
From here they shoot into the surviving militiamen – many of whom are blocked by their own teammates and can’t return fire at all. The whole top level is cleared in seconds, with troopers on all sides looking down. Alex steps out behind his men to survey the scene.
A torrent of lead shoots up, sparking off the handrails and the walls, showering Alex’s men with bits of concrete. He sweeps his arms outward and the troopers step back out of harm’s way. Hanson points down and holds up his fingers. Alex understands the message. O’Malley sent almost all his men in here. The fool. With the top level secure, Alex has a height advantage. The rest will be easy.
The militiamen’s fire eventually dies down. They have no targets to hit. They’re probably confused why no one is firing back. Alex puts up two fingers, splitting the rest of his army into two forces. He points to the ceiling. Soldiers open fire, shattering all the fluorescent lights humming overhead. Glass tinkles across the floor and the atrium plunges into darkness. Neither side can see each other. Hanson takes his team and exits unnoticed.
“The time for surrender has passed,” Alex announces. “You’re all going to die now.
Another torrent of gunfire sprays wildly into the wall above Alex’s head. They could hear his voice, but he’s nowhere near where they could hit him. He was baiting them. Alex wanted them all to look his direction. He ignites a red flare and throws it off the catwalk. The militia stare right into it and are blinded. One half of Alex’s troops step forward and pick their targets in the dim glow of the falling flare. Guns flash and men scream. Alex’s flare hits the bottom of the atrium, still burning. Several bodies hit the floor a few seconds later. The soldiers step back, avoiding return fire.
The second group steps forward, this time aiming for the exits, which are still illuminated by lights outside the atrium. Silhouettes attempting to flee are cut down. Like the first, the second group retreats before anyone can shoot back. Someone hands Alex a second flare and he throws it toward a different area of the room. His first group steps forward and gun down more militiamen. Wash, rinse and repeat.
This should have been enough time for Hanson to get to his new position.
North side door, bottom level, keep it open.” Alex whispers to the man on his right. The man nods and passes the message down the line. “Second level, go!” Alex whispers to the man on his left. Half the men make their way down the stairwells, occupying the level immediately below. The few survivors there die quickly.
More flares drop. More men die. More bodies tumble to the deck below. But no one shoots the hatchway Alex dictated to be left open. A militiaman flees through it unscathed. Several more follow. More and more. At least a couple dozen enemies seize the opportunity to escape.
Alex’s men fire several more volleys. It’s been a while since anyone shot back. Alex signals for the remaining levels to be captured. There are a few militiamen left. Some wounded, some too scared to fight anymore. Unfortunately for them, Alex isn’t taking prisoners today.
The din of battle gives way to a grim silence. Alex reaches the bottom floor. He’s won.
Claire emerges from the stairwell, trying to not step on the corpses strewn everywhere. She disobeyed Hanson’s instructions and left her hiding place. She saw the whole battle. She saw everything. Her face is white as a sheet.
“Don’t shoot, it’s Hanson!” A voice rings out from the exit the fleeing militia escaped through.
“How was it?” Alex asks.
“We got them all with no trouble,” Hanson says. “I let one escape so he could share what happened here. Then there’s this guy.”
His men push a survivor to the floor. His eyes are wide with terror, and his jumpsuit drenched in blood.
“Any particular reason you didn’t kill that one?” Alex asks.
“He’s their commander. In case you wanted to talk to him.”
“Alright.” Alex shrugs. He drags the man to his knees and shoves a gun in his mouth. “Any particular reason I shouldn’t kill you?”
The commander makes a muffled plea for mercy. Alex puts the gun away and shows him Claire’s map. “Ah well how about this. I will let you live if you tell how many men you have left and where they are. So I can kill them.”
The man frantically points out several locations.
“Very good,” Alex says. “How many are there would you say?”
“Only fifteen!” The man whines. “You should have no trouble.”
Claire approaches and looks down at the commander. She’s scared, but there’s a stronger emotion overruling her fear. There’s hatred in her eyes.
Alex dislikes Claire being this close to him but enjoys how uncomfortable she’s making the cowering little man. He watches with amusement as she approaches the prisoner.
“Mr. Sinclair.” She greets the militia leader. “I am not a man of God. I am only a woman, not fit to be a priest even if I desired to be one. But I am all you have right now. Confess your sins to me, and I will pray for your soul.”
“Are you insane?” The commander yells at her. “Get away from me, you crazy bitch!”
“Your salvation is between you and God then. If it brings you any small comfort, I will pray for you regardless. Goodbye, Mr. Sinclair.” She walks away. Claire hates the man but doesn’t want to see what’s coming.
“I detest women,” Alex says. “They’re horrid creatures, useful for breeding and nothing else.”
“A thousand apologies for Claire’s behavior, please pay her no mind,” Sinclair tells him. “She’s a foolish little girl, full of gossip and always rambling about her superstitious nonsense. If you find her annoying, you can kill her. No one will object.”
“I already found the librarian annoying and was going to kill her earlier,” Alex replies. “First I was going to cut her with my knife. Then I was going to shoot her. Both times a divine force stayed my hand. Like when he struck Zechariah mute, the Archangel Michael reached into my body and paralyzed me. I couldn’t slay the librarian.”
“Please, I meant no offense,” Sinclair says in alarm.
If a great king can’t strike this woman down, I doubt any man in all the universe could harm a hair on her head. She’s a daughter of God, favored by him and under his protection. And you call her superstitious? How interesting.”
“You will let me leave now, your majesty, as promised?” Sinclair sobs.
“I did not say you may leave.” Alex corrects him. “I said you may live. I do not recall specifying for how long.”
“No please, I will do anything you say.” The commander whines, tears streaming down his face. “I will serve you, great king.”
Alex wraps his hands around Sinclair’s head. “Are you also under God’s protection? Let’s find out.” He sinks his thumbs into the commander’s eye sockets. Alex’s men watch with approval. Hanson looks over at Claire on the other side of the atrium. She’s shivering with her eyes closed and hands clamped over her ears, trying to shut out Sinclair’s screams as he’s slowly lobotomized.
“I guess not,” Alex says.
The soldiers howl with laughter.
“This maggot’s blood is on my hands, and it annoys me.”
A trooper hands the king a handkerchief. Claire shuffles toward him, her knees wobbling.
“Umm, your majesty sir, may I make a suggestion?” She says.
“And what the fuck would that be, Librarian?” Alex snaps, throwing away the bloody cloth.
“Tell everyone to stay in their quarters.” Claire stammers. “So they don’t get hurt. If that pleases you, my king.”
“Mmm, no, I don’t think I will. If they get in the way and die that’s their fucking problem.”
Claire can’t take this anymore. “You promised you wouldn’t kill anyone else!” She screams at him.
Alex glares at her. Claire is pretty sure she’s going to die now and doesn’t care.
“You did promise.” Hanson reminds him. “The battle’s over. We won. You’re king.”
“I suppose the librarian is right.” Alex concedes. “If she says something, it must be the will of God.” He walks over to a telephone by the stairwell. “Attention citizens, this vault is now under martial law. Return to your quarters immediately. Anyone caught in the common areas will be considered an enemy combatant and killed. We await further instructions.”
O’Malley is in a panic. He heard the broadcast. It sounded like that lunatic he was talking to earlier. But it has to be a bluff. O’Malley sent a hundred men to deal with the threat a little while ago. They can’t all be dead. Planning for the worst, he calls back all remaining militia. If the intruders try to attack here, there will be defenses in place. Or there will be soon. No guards have shown up yet, but there’s a plausible explanation. It’s a big vault, they must be on the way. They’re loyal, they wouldn’t run and hide.
O’Malley looks up to see Alex standing in the doorway, Claire’s map clutched in one hand, a canvas bag in the other.
“How did you get in here? My men…”
“Yes, your men.” Alex ponders. “What did I do with them? Oh, I remember.” He pulls Sinclair’s head from the bag and tosses it. The head lands on the O’Malley’s desk with a thud.
“Impossible.” The administrator gasps, his face turning a sickly green.
“Fear not, Claire the librarian and child of God, begged me to spare your life,” Alex assures him. “And spare your life I shall. You will be exiled, but not doomed to death. You will be given a weapon and three days provisions. If you have a family, they can come with you. If you choose to leave them here, I give you my word they will be treated well.”
As quietly as he can, O’Malley fumbles a drawer open in his desk. “That is a most generous offer.” O’Malley says. “But I’m afraid…” His fingers close around the gun. “I cannot accept!”
Alex is across the room in an instant, grabbing a heavy bronze bookend on the way. He flies over O’Malley’s desk and bashes the old man’s skull in. O’Malley falls backwards in his chair, the gun dropping from his hand. Alex batters the administrator’s head to mush. Satisfied, Alex stands up. He looks down at the bookend. It’s the bust of a man. A man with a regal face and a crown on his head.
“Heh, that looks kind of like me.” Alex smiles, his imagination running wild. There’s an inscription at the base of the bust. Alex wipes away the blood so he can see it: “Alexius I.” Of course. A great emperor back on Earth. Another sign. An omen of Alex’s future. Just like the oracle predicted all those months ago.
Alex, that poor broken boy, is dead. From this day forth, he will be Alexius. A king for now. But some day, he will be an emperor.
Come back next Sunday for Chapter 12:
“The Angel and the Badman.”
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 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.
- Sources of inspiration for America’s renewal.
- Why don’t our dreams of a better world inspire us to act? — Visions of a better world in science fiction.
- The horrifying list of inspirational films about humanity building a better future.
- How science fiction shows us the limits of science.
Science fiction more violent than Ultra Violence