Tuesday, September 12, 2017

There Will Be War Vol. II

An excerpt from my favorite story in my favorite TWBW volume, Vol. II, which is free today. Those who have read my story in Forbidden Thoughts, "The Amazon Gambit", will no doubt recognize from whence the inspiration came. But don't worry about spoilers no matter which you read first. Although the setups are similar, the plot twists are entirely different.

"Cincinnatus" is an excellent mil-SF short story written by one of my early writing heroes, Joel Rosenburg. As it happens, my first attempt at a novel was an imitation of his Sword and Flame books. Spacebunny and I had the good fortune to go shooting with him and his wife one evening, after which we had dinner, and he roared with laughter when, after a few glasses of wine, I shamefacedly admitted as much to him.

The log cabin was drafty, and cold; I moved a bit closer to the open fireplace, and took a deep draught from the stone tankard. It was real Earth coffee, black and rich.

The old man chuckled, as though over some private joke.

“What the hell is so funny?” I didn’t bother to keep the irritation out of my voice. I’d travelled for over seven hundred hours to reach Thellonee and find Shimon Bar-El; and every time I’d try to bring up the reason I’d come from Metzada, the old bastard would just chuckle and change the subject, as though to tell me that we’d discuss business at his pleasure, not mine.

“You are what is so funny. Tetsuki. Nephew.” Bar-El sat back in his chair, shaking his head. He set his mug down, and rubbed at his eyes with arthritis-swollen knuckles. It’s kind of strange, that: I bear the first name of one of our Nipponese ancestors—Tetsuo Nakamura, my g’g’g’g’g’grandfather—but he has the epicanthic folds. Me, I look like a sabra.

“And why am I so funny? Uncle?” You traitor. There isn’t a nastier word in the language than that. Metzada is dependent on credits earned offworld by the Metzadan Mercenary Corps, the MMC, and that depends on our reputation. There hadn’t been any proof that Bar-El had taken a payoff on Oroga; if there had, he would have been hanged, not cashiered and exiled.

Although, the argument could be made that hanging would have been kinder—but, never mind that, the suspicion alone had been enough to strip him of rank and citizenship.

I would have given a lot if we didn’t need him now.

“Well,” he said, setting his mug down and rubbing at the knuckles of his right hand with the probably just-as-arthritic fingers of his left, “you’ve been here all day; and you haven’t asked me if I really did take that payoff.” He cocked his head to one side, his eyes going vague. “I can remember when that was of some importance to you, Inspector General.” The accent on Inspector was a dig. Unlike Bar-El, I’ve always been a staff officer; the only way I could get my stars was through the IG rank— there simply aren’t any other generals in the MMC that don’t command fighting forces.

“I… don’t really care. Not anymore.” I had trouble getting the next words out. “Because we’ve come up with a way for you to earn your way back home.”

He raised an eyebrow. “I doubt that. You’ve never understood me, Tetsuo Hanavi—but I can read you. Like a book. There’s a contract that’s come up, right?”

“Yes, and—

“Shut up while I’m speaking. I want to show you how well I know you—it’s a low-tech world, correct?”

I shrugged. “That’s your specialty, isn’t it?”

He smiled. “And why do I think I’m so smart? Let me tell you more about the contract. It’s high pay, and tough, and it looks like there’s no way to do whatever the locals are paying the MMC to do.”

I nodded. “Right. And we’re short of low-tech specializing general officers. Gevat is off on Schriftalt; Kinter and Cohen are bogged down on Oroga; and my brother’s still home, recovering from the Rand Campaign. So—”

Concern creased his face. “Ari’s hurt?”

“Not too badly. He took a Jecty arrow in the liver. It’s taking a while to regenerate, but he’ll make it.”
He nodded. “Good. He’s a good man. Too good to be wasted on quelling the peon revolts.” Bar-El snorted. “Did you know that Rand was settled by a bunch of idiots who wanted to get away from any kind of government?”

I didn’t, actually. I’d just assumed that the feudocracy there had always been there. Ancient history bores me. “No—but we’re getting off the subject.” I spread my hands. “The point is, that you’re the only one who’s ever generated a low-tech campaign who’s available.”

He pulled a tabstick out of a pocket, and puffed it to life. “If I’m available. What’s in it for me?”

I tapped at my chest pocket. “I’ve got a Writ of Citizenship here. If you can salvage the situation, you can go home.” I waved my hand around the room. “Unless you prefer this… squalor.”

He sat silently for a moment, puffing at his tabstick. “You’ve got my commission in another pocket?”

“A temporary one, yes.” I shook my head. “I’m not offering to have you permanently reinstated, traitor.”

Shimon Bar-El smiled. “Good. At least you’re being honest. Who’s the employer?”

“The lowlanders, on—”

“Indess. So, Rivka manipulated them into asking for me.”

“What do you mean?” He was absolutely right, of course, but there was no way that he should have known that. The Primier had kept the negotiations secret; outside of the lowlanders’ representatives, I am the only one who knew how Rivka Effron had suckered them into a payment under-all-contingencies contract, with Bar-El in command.

He shrugged. “I know how her mind works, too. If anyone else were to fail—regardless of what the contract says—it’d be bad for Metzada’s reputation. But, if they’d asked for Bar-El the Traitor, insisted on him—at least, that’s the way the transcript would read—it’d be on their own heads. Right?”

He was exactly right. “Of course not.” But my orders were specific; I wasn’t to admit anything of the sort. Shimon Bar-El was a sneaky bastard—it was entirely possible that our conversation was being taped, despite the poverty of the surroundings.

Bar-El drained the last of his coffee. “I’ll believe what my own mind tells me, not words from a staff officer.” He said that like a curse. “Of course, it’s out of the question. I’m sorry that you had to come such a long way, but I’m happy here. No intention of leaving; not to be the sacrificial lamb.” He set his tankard down. “I don’t bleat any too well.”

“You arrogant bastard.” I stood. “Think you’re unique, that I’ll offer you a permanent commission if you’ll take this one on.” I picked up my bag. “Well, we’re going to take this contract, anyway. The offer’s just too good to pass up—I’ll handle it myself, if I have to.”

He spat. “Don’t be silly. You don’t have the experience. A lot of soldiers would die, just because—”

“Shut your mouth, traitor. You’re wrong. Maybe I don’t have any field experience, but nobody does, not against cavalry. And—”

“Cavalry? As in horses?”

“No, cavalry as in giant mice—of course it’s horses.”

He chewed on his lower lip. “I don’t see the problem— you just set up your pikemen, let them impale their critters against your line. Take a bit of discipline, even for Metzadans, to hold the line, but—”

I sneered. “That’s fine for a meeting engagement, where they have to come to you—but how about a siege? All they have to do is use their cavalry to harass our flanks, and we can’t ever get the towers up. And we’ve got to use towers: there’s no deposits of sulfur available, so there’s no way we can make gunpowder. Not with what the Thousand Worlds will let us bring in. Low-tech world, remember?”

“You’ve got the tech reports in your bag?”

“Of course I—”

“Let me see them.” He held out a hand. “We’re both going to have to study them.”

“Both?” I didn’t understand. Then again, I’ve never understood my uncle.

“Both.” He smiled, not pleasantly. “Me, ’cause I’m taking this. And you, because you get to be my exec.” As I handed him my bag, he took the blue tech report folder out, and started spreading papers around on the floor. “We’re going to get you some field experience, we are.” He studied the sheets silently for a few moments. “I’ll want all the equipment special-ordered, make sure it gets through inspection. You got that, Colonel?”


“You just got demoted, nephew. I don’t like to see stars on anybody’s shoulders but mine.” He picked up a topographical map. “Cavalry, eh?



Anonymous Brick Hardslab September 12, 2017 8:03 PM  

I got to get this.

Anonymous Eduardo September 12, 2017 8:17 PM  

Epicanthic folds, haven't heard that since I was a kid. I happen to have that. Just not almond eyes though. Just those dead fish sort of asian but not really eyes. When I was a kid everybody called me japanese (I hated it, felt rejected)

Reading is really smooth, is like you could plow through a book in one night, it also drags you in as you read, but i really wanted an image to come with this talk, like a game...

Hmmm Vox have you ever thought of making your favorite Mil Sci-Fi into games? I bet lots of kids and teenagers today would love these stories in game format.

Blogger ((( bob kek mando ))) - ( i'm sorry you raped Andrea Dworkin and i disavow your Patriarchal Cisheteronormative Bourgeois Consciousness in shame ) September 12, 2017 9:06 PM  

Hultgreen-Curie OT:
Danica might be getting ejected before she can successfully commit suicide.

Anonymous Eduardo September 12, 2017 9:18 PM  

She never had a future on nascar, not good enough to rub shoulders with anyone at the front.

Blogger maniacprovost September 12, 2017 9:34 PM  

Vox have you ever thought of making your favorite Mil Sci-Fi into games? I bet lots of kids and teenagers today would love these stories in game format.

Somebody should make a game based on the Wing Commander books, that would be sweet...

Anonymous Sim1776 September 12, 2017 9:56 PM  

Vox, thanks for keeping the works of a great author available. I just ordered the hardback version of volumes 1 and 2. Reading this has made me eager for more. I just finished rereading the Falkenberg series. The short story seems to be a lost art with a few exceptions.

Anonymous Korbin Ransley September 12, 2017 10:33 PM  


"Hmmm Vox have you ever thought of making your favorite Mil Sci-Fi into games? I bet lots of kids and teenagers today would love these stories in game format."

Castalia House books as games, video, pen and paper, or table top miniatures sounds awesome. After reading the excerpt from Six Expressions of Death i started to imagine the scenes animated with the book being read in the background.

Also i've been encouraged to read more by exposing myself to Vox's content. I am thankful.

Blogger Kyle Kiernan September 12, 2017 10:34 PM  

Give a lot for more Joel Rosenberg stories. He spun universes like others put out single books. I wanted to see the children's crusade (get Drake or Stirling they can handle the blood). More D'Shai. More TW. of everything.

Blogger Mr Traumaboyy September 13, 2017 12:22 AM  

Thank you so much for offering this!!! Was reading Vol I last night at work and am really enjoying it!

Blogger weka September 13, 2017 1:01 AM  

Kyle Kiernan wrote:Give a lot for more Joel Rosenberg stories. He spun universes like others put out single books. I wanted to see the children's crusade (get Drake or Stirling they can handle the blood). More D'Shai. More TW. of everything.

Rosenberg, unfortunately, died. I am not sure who has the rights for the Metzada (thousand worlds) series, but it needs reissue.

I'm sure if they could be reprinted, they should be, like the Master Li series Barry Hugart (again, dead) wrote. Fortunately, I have the omnibus reprint of that

Blogger ((( bob kek mando ))) - ( i'm sorry you raped Andrea Dworkin and i disavow your Patriarchal Cisheteronormative Bourgeois Consciousness in shame ) September 13, 2017 8:49 AM  

weka September 13, 2017 1:01 AM
like the Master Li series Barry Hugart (again, dead) wrote

while i concur with the choice, how do you know Hughart is dead? wiki seems to be unaware of this news.

Blogger Lovekraft September 13, 2017 12:24 PM  

New article on Pournelle by Steve Sailer at takimag:

Anonymous Avalanche September 13, 2017 7:41 PM  

Kyle (get Drake or Stirling they can handle the blood)

Any y'all ever read Steve Sterling's Draka series? My husband made me read them before we married, so I would understand him. Fascinating and stirring; he'd've been a Draka if he could have -- and so would I have.... if only.... (Sign of good fiction, eh?)

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