05 October 2011

FWS flash fiction: Empty Places Part: 3 "The Courage"

Seemingly hanging above Mars was the potato-shaped moon of Deimos; the colonial transport docked with the bulbous profile space station, and began the work of off-loading its cargo. Sandoval was still sealed in his tube, snowed-under via an artificial coma, totally unaware of the process that was about to start.

Few humans were involved in the processing of the recruits, allowing for more bodies to be on the frontlines, not back in the nearly abandoned Sol system. However, not all the humans were gone from Deimos. Above the conveyor lines that feed the encapsulate recruits through various medical machinery, were two of the medical staff for Swift Depot observing in their control booth. The smell of old coffee and fresh cigarettes hung heavily, causing the air scrubbers to work harder. Doctor Selena Martinez finished her cigarette, took a seat next to her med-tech, and was immediately bombarded by holo-screens, she deeply rubbed her eyes. “Which batch number are these again, Sparks?”

“This is number four, and these are marked as front-line material.”

“Okay…: The doctor shook her head, trying to wake up from the long day. “Spool up the R-MRI, let’s see what these Earthers are like on the inside.”

“Spinning them up, doc.” The rapid-MRI, along with the battery of other tests, labs, and injections were designed to restore these abused bodies to near mint.

“I wish for once the recruiters Earth-side would pay closer attention to these recruits!” She had venom under words; because that was only reason Dr. Martinez was assigned to Deimos, the backwaters of colonial space was to be a watch-dog for the medical computers and double check the recruiters for the final sign off on the recruits. Both of them in the booth, as well command back on Janus, knew that the recruiters took basically anyone to fill the quota. This only made her job harder. Her eyes darted back and forth from screen to screen, assessing each recruit to see if their frontline grading was valid. Martinez sighed; assigning the worker-grade down to Mars for work in the war materiel factories was one thing, they would never be shot at, but the frontline-grade recruits were being sent directly to the front, Abaddon, and everyone in the colonies associated that world with the grave.

“Well, doc, there hasn’t been any cases of the plague yet.” She shook her head and laughed.

“Those damn bedbugs were worse! Remember Sparks?” He itched his scalp just thinking about.

“Yeah, only opening this place up to space worked in flushing out the buggers.” Doctor Martinez scratched at her head too while monitoring the holo-screens for anything that the AI wouldn’t pick up. “Whoa! Look at this one!” Martinez rolled her eyes, Sparks had issues with being too casual during the scans.

“Sparks, I swear to Hubbard, if that’s a girl with big boobs, you’re going on report!”

“No, doc, read his file and see the scans.” She peered over the banks of floating screens, of someone named Sandoval, read the text the med-tech was pointing at, and then turned her attention to his R-MRI report.

“Goddamn…”she murmured, Sparks nodded.

“Yep, are those enough broken bones for ya?”

“At 13, is that right?” Selena shook her head at his file. “Earth must more of a mess than I thought.”

“Nuclear war will do that.”

“But a child soldier?” She countered, “killing the first time at thirteen is loco. And this poor bastard as more of a combat veteran than most! “The mere thought of her fourteen year-old daughter killing revolted her to the point of nausea.

“That’s why they’re here, doc.” She made a face, and shoved her hands deep in her lab coat. Earth was a shithole, it had been about hundred years since the nuclear war and they still were living off of garage. It was pedantic, Dr. Martinez sneered, we terraformed worlds in less time. But, she was all too aware of their current war, and the colonial soldiers were nothing compared with these marauders from the first world. This Sandoval was a living example…a killer before he could shave. She took out a cigarette, offered one to Sparks, and lit both. Thanking whatever gods there were, that the original colonial settlers had transplanted tobacco plants to the stars. Nasty habits shouldn’t just be the property of the first world. Dr. Martinez mused, as a key card emerged from her lab coat. With a gently push into a secure portion of the sweeping control panels, she unlocked a glowing red button, Sparks paid it no mind.

“The first batches of transplanted were executed when they ran wild, like children with no parental supervision.” She paced back from the controls, “that’s how we lost Aquila,” with that, the doctor hit the SUBMIT button surging the first dose of the Courage into the recruits’ bloodstream, forging an unimaginable habit of peril and pleasure. “That’s not happening on my watch, not ever again.” Martinez whispered, justifying her actions, but Sparks did not care, all everyone wanted back on the colonies was victory…no matter the cost.

“They’re lives suck anyways,” Sparks added to the doctors’ dark statements. She raised an eyebrow, and he raised one in response. “Have you seen the holos of that burned up world, if there is a hell,” Sparks paused and recalled of all those imagines of the wasteland Old-Earth had become, “they’ve already been to it.” The med-tech pointed to the industrial conveyors of freshly minted soldiers.

“I think Abaddon is worse, Sparks.”

“If you say so.” He returned to his boards and readied the next batch, but in a rare moment of compassion, he turned back to Martinez. “Hey, Selena,” she perked up when Ray Sparks used her first name. “The computer’s telling me that these next recruits are either going to the Steyr-Phoenix arms factory or the Hopper plant.” He hinted, and Martinez picked up, loud and clear.

“No, Ray,” she looked back at Sandoval’s file, “he’s a soldier; the kind we need there.” He nodded and input the commands that propelled the unconscious Sandoval down the line to the automated Singularity Jump capable transport. “We’d better win on that damn planet.” She signed and flumed around for her pay-card, put out the cancer-stick, “want anything from the caffeine dispenser?”

“Yes, long black, light on the cream and sugar.”

“War’s hell, eh?”

“If the caffeine dispenser goes down, it will be.” When the doctor disappeared down the hallway, relatively below them, Recruit Sandoval moved down the line, still blissfully unaware of everything around him. The next time he opened his eyes, he would feel the light of Sigma Draconis, some eighteen Lightyears from Earth, and his eyes would be open to the battlefields of Abaddon.


  1. The first reference to Steyr-Phoenix Arms... I look forward to seeing how the Steyr-Phoenix lasers perform in battle.

    I notice that the colonists use some sort of subliminal training, drugs, and medical machines to prepare troops- I have not heard of this idea before. Wouldn't you want to train your troops in real life, so they would be physically fit and used to handling weapons?

    I can see the advantages of some sort of virtual reality. Soldiers would be able to fight realistic battle scenarios in the virtual world- a sort of perfect war game- and learn things you can't unless you are in a real fight, but without putting their lives at risk. Processing troops with machines and packing them off like that- I wouldn't train my troops like that. Then again, the colonists seem to treat the soldiers like dangerous animals you don't want to get too close to.

    My troops would be trained in the physical world, while awake. They would also undergo highly realistic training scenarios in virtual reality- the military is already studying this technology. If fighter pilots can use simulators, why can't ground forces? I would want highly-trained soldiers who have formed bonds with their team mates during training, not expendable recruits that I plugged into the computer and sent through a processing plant.

    I'd guess the colonists don't value the lives of their new troops and are simply throwing as many expendable recruits at the aliens as they can. In history, some societies believed in throwing a large number of poorly trained recruits into battle. The use of mind-programming technology allows the colonists to treat the recruits like expendable pawns while still giving them a thorough training, but obviously the soldiers don't mean much to the colonists...

    I speculate the colonists were raised in a peaceful environment and are unused to violence. Perhaps the colonies actually taught children the violence and wars are bad and no one should study the arts of war. This wouldn't be surprising- a society that witnessed a nuclear war on Earth would likely have an aversion to conflict and warfare. Now that aliens are attacking, the colonists don't have the stomach to fight back hard enough. "Ain't going to study war no more" just doesn't work when you are facing an implacable alien foe...

    The colonists are probably unwilling to expose their citizens to the violence and warfare on Abaddon. If anyone survive and comes back home, they could bring their experiences of war with them back to the colonies, which might affect their peaceful society.

    Lets say you have a society that created peaceful worlds. The education systems on these colonies teaches children that warfare is not a good thing, and shows them pictures of ruined Earth, creating an aversion to warfare. Then take some citizens out of this society, send them to a battle with aliens, and take the ones who survive back home- their experiences will have disillusioned them. They won't believe in a world where violence is nonexistent, they will bring back tales of horror. Ordinary citizens might be a little afraid of anyone who would be able to win the war on Abaddon.

    Of course, the colonists offered a home on a colony planet to the recruits. However, the recruits only get their reward after the war is won. The colonists seem to associate "Abaddon" with "grave", so they don't expect the recruits to come back.

    Christopher Phoenix

  2. More will be revealed about the colonials and their society, but because of the nuclear war, they were slower to response to the alien invasion. But you correct, the colonials think of the Earthers as cannonfodder, like the Soviet infantry of WWII.
    The idea of implanting soldiers with their military training is idea I had for another book, which is the book I've ever writing, but its under some rewrites at the moment, and I moved on with Endangered Species.
    The drug angle is from the first espoide of ST:TNG, I always wanted to write some on that angle.
    I'm glad your enjoying Empty Places...more soon!

  3. I look forward to the next installment- LET'S ROCK!!!! Okay, enough with the Aliens references already.

    It is interesting to read a MSF with an army similar to the Soviet infantry in WW2. Being American, I'm used to the idea of an all-volunteer military force composed of highly trained and motivated soldiers, like the US Army or the Mobile Infantry from Starship Troopers. Since this is obviously the best sort of military- form an American's point of view that is- I project future militaries as being highly trained all-volunteer forces as well.

    However, depending on the future society you are writing about, this may not be what happens. Some dystopian societies may use poorly trained conscripts as cannon fodder while the governing bodies keep a highly trained, well payed secret police force to quell dissent. Other even more barbaric societies may use child soldiers.

    The type of military, the quality of the troops, the attitudes of the soldiers and societies attitude towards them depends entirely on the nature of the society. In the United States, we think of soldiers as the defenders of our freedom. In other societies, however, the soldiers are viewed as oppressors. It all depends on the society you live in. I think some SF writers spend to much time on the "futuristic" elements like future guns and spaceships instead of considering what kind of society exists in their story, and what kind of military- William S. Frisbee talks about this on his pages discussing designing future militaries.

    I'm looking forward to finding out more about the Colonials- but I can already see you are drawing parallels between the Colonial army some historical forces. That is a strange military the colonials have- an all-volunteer force of highly trained cannon fodder. If I was in charge of the colonials, I would have run things a bit differently. You need to take better care of your troops.

    Christopher Phoenix

  4. New news on the FTL neutrino problem....

    The relativistic motion of clocks aboard GPS satellites causes a slight change in the flight time of radio signals between the satellite and the ground based OPERA experiment. This small effect must be factored in to the measurements, but the OPERA team did not do so because they think of the satellites as being on the ground. According the physicist who put this solution forward, the corrections cause the neutrinos to arrive 64 nanoseconds before the OPERA team estimated their arrival- exactly the effect that was observed.

    Ironically, if this explanation holds up, then the OPERA experiments will turn out to be another confirmation of General Relativity, instead of breaking Einstein's famous theory. Sometimes I think subatomic particles are laughing at us...

    However, the problem is far from done and dusted. Peer review is an essential part of the scientific process, and this result must hold its own under scrutiny form the scientific community and the OPERA team in particular. Whenever an extraordinary result comes along, all the simple explanations relating to equipment failures or the scientists being dumb must be considered first.

    Here is a link to the article:

    Anyway, plenty of unexplained problems remain in physics even if Einstein's famous theory remains intact. And as far as FTL drives go, there is still the possibility of apparent FTL travel, wormholes and space warps, etc. In fact, if I could just find some means of accelerating a spacecraft without expending propellent, the stars would be a lot closer.

    A gravity control space drive would make near light speed travel like Planet of the Apes possible- and I would definitely bring a case of Class-3 Pulse Rifles that fire hyper-velocity EM-compressed plasma bolts along.

    It seems there is a practical way to use plasma weapons in reality and SF- a plasma particle beam. Particle beams can fire subatomic particles like electrons or muons, protons and ionized atoms, neutral atoms (for use in space), plasmoids, or macroscopic particles. In the case of plasmoid firing weapons, note that the weapon would be more of a particle beam weapon since it relies on the kinetic energy of the plasma shot, not the internal thermal energy of the plasmoid, to cause damage. The article at Stardestroyer.net was not wrong- they mentioned plasma particle beam weapons, but noted that the "plasma weapons" in SF really didn't behave like plasma particle beam weapons.

    Christopher Phoenix