Collateral.

colonel_cov1upgraded-mockup5-600Daniel might like this. A couple of posts back (in a thread of comments I still haven’t had time to answer), he asked if I’d be willing to write military SF unconstrained by the limits of  video games.  As it turns out, I already have: “The Colonel“, upcoming from Tor.com, is sorta-military— although the only actual combat takes place at the top of the tale—  insofar as the protagonist is Siri Keeton’s dad, the career soldier. A more pure-blooded example, however, might be “Collateral”, from Neil Clarke’s upcoming cyborg-themed anthology Upgraded.  As you can tell from the table of contents, Neil has lined up some pretty impressive names.

 

Anyhow, it’s been a while since I posted a fiblet.  So here:

They got Becker out in eight minutes flat, left the bodies on the sand for whatever scavengers the Sixth Extinction hadn’t yet managed to take out. Munsin hauled her into the Sikorsky and tried to yank the augments manually, right on the spot; Wingman swung and locked and went hot in the pants-pissing half-second before its threat-recognition macros, booted late to the party, calmed it down. Someone jammed the plug-in home between Becker’s shoulders; wireless gates unlocked in her head and Blanch, way up in the cockpit, put her prosthetics to sleep from a safe distance. The miniguns sagged on her shoulders like anesthetized limbs, threads of smoke still wafting from the barrels.

“Corporal.” Fingers snapped in her face. “Corporal, you with me?”

Becker blinked. “They— they were human…” She thought they were, anyway. All she’d been able to see were the heat signatures: bright primary colors against the darkness. They’d started out with arms and legs but then they’d spread like dimming rainbows, like iridescent oil slicks.

Munson said nothing.

Abemama receded to stern, a strip of baked coral suffused in a glow of infrared: yesterday’s blackbodied sunshine bleeding back into the sky. Blanch hit a control and the halo vanished: night-eyes blinded, ears deafened to any wavelength past the range of human hearing, all senses crippled back down to flesh and blood.

The bearing, though. Before the darkness had closed in. It had seemed wrong.

“We’re not going to Bonriki?”

We are,” the Sergeant said. “You’re going home. We’re getting you out before this thing explodes.”

She could feel Blanch playing around in the back of her brain, draining the op logs from her head. She tried to access the stream but he’d locked her out. No telling what those machines were sucking out of her brain. No telling if any of it would still be there when he let her back in.

Not that it mattered. She wouldn’t have been able to scrub those images from her head if she tried.

“They had to be hostiles,” she muttered. “How could they have just been there, I mean—what else could they be?” And then, a moment later: “Did any of them…?”

“You wouldn’t be much of a superhuman killing machine if they had,” Okoro said from across the cabin. “They weren’t even armed.”

“Private Okoro,” the Sergeant said mildly. “Shut your fucking mouth.”

They were all sitting across the cabin from her, in defiance of optimal in-flight weight distribution: Okoro, Perry, Flannery, Cole. None of them augged yet. There weren’t enough Beckers to go around, one every three or four companies if the budget was up for it and the politics were hot enough. Becker was used to the bitching whenever the subject came up, everyone playing the hard-ass, rolling their eyes at the cosmic injustice that out of all of them it was the farmer’s daughter from fucking Red Deer who’d won the lottery. It had never really bothered her. For all their trash-talking bullshit, she’d never seen anything but good-natured envy in their eyes.

She wasn’t sure what she saw there now.

 

 

This entry was written by Peter Watts , posted on Thursday June 26 2014at 11:06 am , filed under fiblet . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

29 Responses to “Collateral.”

  1. This looks awesome.

  2. Is Colonel E-book only? That’s the only way I can find it on der webs…

  3. Fuck.

    Apparently everyone and their mother has read Echopraxia by now. Even people who shouldn’t like non-writer libertard goober ESR.

    Where the hell did he get an ARC?

  4. Seruko (Free Candy Inside Van):
    Is Colonel E-book only? That’s the only way I can find it on der webs…

    Considering its only 32 pages long I doubt anyone would print it. Some printers will release chap books that are pretty short… I have a few from Golden Gryphon Press that are around 50 pages or so long. But I would rather see it tucked into a short story collection.

  5. Seruko (Free Candy Inside Van):
    Is Colonel E-book only? That’s the only way I can find it on der webs…

    I actually didn’t realize it was coming out as an e-book. I thought it was just going to be showing up on Tor.com as one of their freebies.

    Y.:
    Apparently everyone and their mother has read Echopraxia by now. Even people who shouldn’t like non-writer libertard goober ESR.

    Where the hell did he get an ARC?

    Who are you talking about? This guy?

    I have no idea.

  6. “The Colonel“, upcoming from Tor.com, is sorta-military— although the only actual combat takes place at the top of the tale

    People forget that the only actual fighting that takes place in Starship Troopers is in the first chapter. The real meat of military scifi is the discussion of why we fight, what we go through when we do, and how it changes us. See Starship Troopers, Forever War, Old Man’s War, Armor, and All You Need Is Kill. Otherwise it is just a bunch of empty action sequences used to piece together another agenda, whether it be retelling another tale (Weber with Horatio Hornblower, Campbell with Xenophon’s Anabasis, etc), political ranting about how those they disagree with need to be destroyed (Ringo, Kratman, etc), or sometimes it is just empty action sequences to move product. Which is not to say those books using the general military narrative arc of recruit to combat veteran as a way to take care of the story while they focus on doing something else aren’t good (I even enjoy some of the empty action sequences, somethings you just want to read about stuff blowing up), but IMO they don’t get to the point of what really makes something a good piece of military science fiction, they deserve a different sort of category.

    Anyways, totally buying these. Thank you!

  7. Who are you talking about? This guy?

    I have no idea.

    He seems to be friends with some writers, so perhaps one of them passed it on. How many ARC’s are out there anyway?

  8. Daniel: People forget that the only actual fighting that takes place in Starship Troopers

    I call utter bullshit on that quote.
    Have you read the book? There’s at least several more chapters with actual fighting. Something like a third to half of the book is fighting.

  9. Y.: I call utter bullshit on that quote.
    Have you read the book? There’s at least several more chapters with actual fighting. Something like a third to half of the book is fighting.

    I call bullshit on your bullshit.
    While combat is mentioned a great deal in Starship Troopers, the only blow by blow “and then I flamed them, there’s nothing more predictable than the arc of a parabola, i sent the mini nuke on it’s way towards the water treatment plant” etc is in the opening sequence. There is some brief discussion of combat elsewhere, other people talking about being in combat, discussion of logistics and what not, and some very very general description “I saw him knock two guys heads together” but nothing substantive. Did you read the book or just watch the movie?

  10. As I recall there was a bit of a dust-up between Rico and his buds and some local yahoos outside a bar or something during the extended ain’t-the-army-life-grand interlude, but yeah; actual Bug-hunting was pretty much confined to the opening of the book.

  11. Er, no. There’s bug hunting all over. There are different drops described, with different commanders. Some of them go right, some not. There’s the one with the fried bacon thing that’s iirc more or less towards the end, with the psy guy who writes maps. There’s also that one where the female pilot does the impossible and manages to do a pickup late.

  12. Oh yeah, and the non-bug drop against the bug allies with the “I’m a 10-second bomb” things.

    Would have been interesting to have a drop against humans when the colonials inevitably got uppity, but alas, that wasn’t Heinlein’s thing so much.

  13. Huh. I stand corrected. Haven’t read the thing since high school, so my recollection’s pretty iffy.

  14. I love your writing. One respectful comment: I disabled all the italics on my e-reader. You use too many. Your writing is good enough that the emphases are fully implied. They don’t add anything.

  15. Oh y’all are in for a treat when Upgraded comes out. :)

  16. Well, I hope you are happy now. I slogged my way down to the nearest B&N and pre-ordered, and pre-paid for Echopraxia or whatever it is… Also pimped shamelessly for P.W. and rifters.com. Started a small Lit. war in the southeast corner of the store. Before I left there were quotes being lobbed about like the clatter of spent shell casings from mini guns, whole books being opened and read aloud, like unto an artillery bombardment. Much coffee was drank. Then general fog of enlightenment spread to the whole store before I was able to ex-filtrate from the engagement. Don’t ask about what happened at the kid’s leggo table, it is still to painful for me.
    Now all I got to do is survive until late August.

  17. Y.: I call utter bullshit on that quote.
    Have you read the book? There’s at least several more chapters with actual fighting. Something like a third to half of the book is fighting.

    I have read it. You should try it. The only time Johnny is in the thick of the fighting doing the standard big action sequence is the opening chapter. The rest is off screen. Heinlein was doing a story on libertarian virtues as they related to military service, not a series of battles. There is a reason that the book is described as “a series of lectures pretending to be science fiction”

    Peter Watts:
    As I recall there was a bit of a dust-up between Rico and his buds and some local yahoos outside a bar or something during the extended ain’t-the-army-life-grand interlude, but yeah; actual Bug-hunting was pretty much confined to the opening of the book.

    It is mentioned that there was a fight, the fight itself is skipped to focus on the policeman who deals with the aftermath and highlight the police as a veteran and frame that in the “service as a facet of society” thing. The whole of that fight is

    I gave my man a side-neck chop as I pivoted and let him fall past me, swung to help my mates. But it was over. Four in, four down . Kitten had handled two of them and Pat had sort of wrapped the other one around a lamppost from throwing him a little too hard.

    Heinlein, Robert A. (1987-05-15). Starship Troopers (Kindle Locations 1943-1944). Penguin Group US. Kindle Edition.

    David:
    Er, no. There’s bug hunting all over. There are different drops described, with different commanders. Some of them go right, some not. There’s the one with the fried bacon thing that’s iirc more or less towards the end, with the psy guy who writes maps. There’s also that one where the female pilot does the impossible and manages to do a pickup late.

    Johnny isn’t in the fight for the end, he’s an officer by then. He is hearing cries for help over the radio but isn’t in combat – he is explicitly ordered not to attack several times. That he hears his men fighting and dying without him able to do anything is incredibly creepy, highlights the senseless loss of life in war, and overall works very well, but it is not an action sequence where the square jawed hero fights for mom and apple pie. That’s what makes for the whole reveal that the winning sergeant is his DI from boot camp – he’s away from the action and that’s how the reader is surprised.

    And the risky pickup is the first chapter where they bring Dizzy back

    David:
    Oh yeah, and the non-bug drop against the bug allies with the “I’m a 10-second bomb” things.

    That was also the first chapter.

  18. dan l: You use too many.

    I know. Everyone tells me that. I’m trying to cut back.

    Maybe there’s a 12-step program or something…

    Ole WhatsizName: I slogged my way down to … Started a small Lit. war … Don’t ask about what happened at the kid’s leggo table, it is still to painful for me.

    You see, there’s at least as much battle scenery in that one comment as there was in all of Starship Troopers.

    Just kidding.

  19. @Daniel
    (groan)

    I guess the translator just made up several new chapters for the book, presumably to earn more money. The sneaky bastard!

    (facepalm)

  20. @ Ole Whats…

    That is awesome.

  21. I loved it. I just about laughed myself silly at the fabulous information density in the first two sentences and I think “booted late to the party” is *priceless*. This is probably just an artifact of typing, but is the character’s name Munsin or Munson?

    Thanks!!

  22. Re: Starship Troopers controversy:

    Goddamit, solved. Was originally Heinlein’s attempt as a teen book, later revised to be marketed to adults:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Starship_Troopers#Writing_of_the_novel

    Not really clear if revisions were Heinlein’s:

    Quoted by William H. Patterson, Jr.,
    Robert A. Heinlein in Dialogue with His
    Century, Volume 2, 1948-1988: The Man
    Who Learned Better (New York: Tor,
    2014), p. 173.

  23. Sounds like those with lucky genes get cloned, mindforked, and shipped out with their own unique line of modules. How very Jensen of them, minimising mind-body incompatibility in these early stages of transhumanism.

  24. Nowhere near the budget for that, I’m afraid. This is, after all, the Canadian Armed Forces.

  25. Prosthetics? Why would a soldier have prostetics and count themselves lucky, unless it’s meant that the soldier survived some crippling injury?

    Prosthetics make far less sense than exoskeletons, in almost every context.

    Also.. miniguns. Only useful for aerial combat and the like, when the opportunities to fire are fleeting. Too heavy, too high ammo consumption. Revolver or twin cannons are more common though.

  26. @Y
    I kind of assume prosthetics in that setting way outperform natural organs but cost like a fighter jet.
    Kinda like GITS.

  27. Well, but what would be the point? There’s no outrunning bullets or shockwaves and the best amount of prosthetics isn’t going to prevent someone’s brain leaking out through their nose if subjected to enough high explosive..

    Interfaces with weapons, pattern-matching, etc – makes perfect sense, but for military use I imagine biological tweaks to be more useful.

  28. There are both plug’n'play exoskeletal elements and internal augments to support them. From the story:

    “I mean,” Sabrie continued smoothly, “I thought the augments would be more conspicuous.”

    “They usually are. They come off.”

  29. OT: Anyone seen Sleep Dealer? Thoughts? 2008 Sundance winner, dystopian, scifi.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nbJGQl-dJ6c