Come on, you apes! You wanna live forever? -- Unknown platoon sergeant, 1918
I always get the shakes before a drop. I've had the injections, of course, and hypnotic preparation, and it stands to reason that I can't really be afraid. The ship's psychiatrist has checked my brain waves and asked me silly questions while I was asleep and he tells me that it isn't fear, it isn't anything important -- it's just like the trembling of an eager race horse in the starting gate. I couldn't say about that; I've never been a race horse. But the fact is: I'm scared silly, every time. At D-minus-thirty, after we had mustered in the drop room of the Rodger Young, our platoon leader inspected us. He wasn't our regular platoon leader, because Lieutenant Rasczak had bought it on our last drop; he was really the platoon sergeant, Career Ship's Sergeant Jelal. Jelly was a Finno-Turk from Iskander around Proxima -- a swarthy little man who looked like a clerk, but I've seen him tackle two berserk privates so big he had to reach up to grab them, crack their heads together like coconuts, step back out of the way while they fell. Off duty he wasn't bad -- for a sergeant. You could even call him "Jelly" to his face. Not recruits, of course, but anybody who had made at least one combat drop. But right now he was on duty. We had all each inspected our combat equipment (look, it's your own neck -- see?), the acting platoon sergeant had gone over us carefully after he mustered us, and now Jelly went over us again, his face mean, his eyes missing nothing. He stopped by the man in front of me, pressed the button on his belt that gave readings on his physicals. "Fall out!" "But, Sarge, it's just a cold. The Surgeon said -- " Jelly interrupted. " `But Sarge!' " he snapped. "The Surgeon ain't making no drop -- and neither are you, with a degree and a half of fever. You think I got time to chat with you, just before a drop? Fall out!" Jenkins left us, looking sad and mad -- and I felt bad, too. Because of the Lieutenant buying it, last drop, and people moving up, I was assistant section leader, second section, this drop, and now I was going to have a hole in my section and no way to fill it. That's not good; it means a man can run into something sticky, call for help and have nobody to help him. Jelly didn't downcheck anybody else. Presently he stepped out in front of us, looked us over and shook his head sadly. "What a gang of apes!" he growled. "Maybe if you'd all buy it this drop, they could start over and build the kind of outfit the Lieutenant expected you to be. But probably not -- with the sort of recruits we get these days. " He suddenly straightened up, shouted, "I just want to remind you apes that each and every one of you has cost the gov'ment, counting weapons, armor, ammo, instrumentation, and training, everything, including the way you overeat -- has cost, on the hoof, better'n half a million. Add in the thirty cents you are actually worth and that runs to quite a sum. " He glared at us. "So bring it back! We can spare you, but we can't spare that fancy suit you're wearing. I don't want any heroes in this outfit; the Lieutenant wouldn't like it. You got a job to do, you go down, you do it, you keep your ears open for recall, you show up for retrieval on the bounce and by the numbers. Get me?" He glared again. "You're supposed to know the plan. But some of you ain't got any minds to hypnotize so I'll sketch it out. You'll be dropped in two skirmish lines, calculated two-thousand-yard intervals. Get your bearing on me as soon as you hit, get your bearing and distance on your squad mates, both sides, while you take cover. You've wasted ten seconds already, so you smash-and-destroy whatever's at hand until the flankers hit dirt. " (He was talking about me -- as assistant section leader I was going to be left flanker, with nobody at my elbow. I began to tremble. ) "Once they hit -- straighten out those lines! -- equalize those intervals! Drop what you're doing and do it! Twelve seconds. Then advance by leapfrog, odd and even, assistant section leaders minding the count and guiding the envelopment. " He looked at me. "If you've done this properly -- which I doubt -- the flanks will make contact as recall sounds . . . At which time, home you go. Any questions?" There weren't any; there never were. He went on, "One more word -- This is just a raid, not a battle. It's a demonstration of firepower and frightfulness. Our mission is to let the enemy know that we could have destroyed their city -- but didn't -- but that they aren't safe even though we refrain from total bombing. You'll take no prisoners. You'll kill only when you can't help it. But the entire area we hit is to be smashed. I don't want to see any of you loafers back aboard here with unexpended bombs. Get me?" He glanced at the time. "Rasczak's Roughnecks have got a reputation to uphold. The Lieutenant told me before he bought it to tell you that he will always have his eye on you every minute . . . And that he expects your names to shine!" Jelly glanced over at Sergeant Migliaccio, first section leader. "Five minutes for the Padre, " he stated. Some of the boys dropped out of ranks, went over and knelt in front of Migliaccio, and not necessarily those of his creed, either -- Moslems, Christians, Gnostics, Jews, whoever wanted a word with him before a drop, he was there. I've heard tell that there used to be military outfits whose chaplains did not fight alongside the others, but I've never been able to see how that could work. I mean, how can a chaplain bless anything he's not willing to do himself? In any case, in the Mobile Infantry, everybody drops and everybody fights chaplain and cook and the Old Man's writer. Once we went down the tube there wouldn't be a Roughneck left aboard -- except Jenkins, of course, and that not his fault. I didn't go over. I was always afraid somebody would see me shake if I did, and, anyhow, the Padre could bless me just as handily from where he was. But he came over to me as the last stragglers stood up and pressed his helmet against mine to speak privately. "Johnnie, " he said quietly, "this is your first drop as a non-com. " "Yeah. " I wasn't really a non-com, any more than Jelly was really an officer. "Just this, Johnnie. Don't buy a farm. You know your job; do it. Just do it. Don't try to win a medal. " "Uh, thanks, Padre. I shan't. " He added something gently in a language I don't know, patted me on the shoulder, and hurried back to his section. Jelly called out, "Tenn . .. Shut!" and we all snapped to. "Platoon!" "Section!" Migliaccio and Johnson echoed. "By sections-port and starboard-prepare for drop!" "Section! Man your capsules! Move!" "Squad!" -- I had to wait while squads four and five manned their capsules and moved on down the firing tube before my capsule showed up on the port track and I could climb into it. I wondered if those old- timers got the shakes as they climbed into the Trojan Horse? Or was it just me? Jelly checked each man as he was sealed in and he sealed me in himself. As he did so, he leaned toward me and said, "Don't goof off, Johnnie. This is just like a drill. " The top closed on me and I was alone. "Just like a drill, " he says! I began to shake uncontrollably. Then, in my earphones, I heard Jelly from the center-line tube: "Bridge! Rasczak's Roughnecks . . . Ready for drop!" "Seventeen seconds, Lieutenant!" I heard the ship captain's cheerful contralto replying -- and resented her calling Jelly "Lieutenant. " To be sure, our lieutenant was dead and maybe Jelly would get his commission ... but we were still "Rasczak's Roughnecks. " She added, "Good luck, boys!" "Thanks, Captain. " "Brace yourselves! Five seconds. " I was strapped all over-belly, forehead, shins. But I shook worse than ever. It's better after you unload. Until you do, you sit there in total darkness, wrapped like a mummy against the accelerations, barely able to breathe -- and knowing that there is just nitrogen around you in the capsule even if you could get your helmet open, which you can't -- and knowing that the capsule is surrounded by the firing tube anyhow and if the ship gets hit before they fire you, you haven't got a prayer, you'll just die there, unable to move, helpless. It's that endless wait in the dark that causes the shakes -- thinking that they've forgotten you . . . The ship has been hulled and stayed in orbit, dead, and soon you'll buy it, too, unable to move, choking. Or it's a crash orbit and you'll buy it that way, if you don't roast on the way down. Then the ship's braking program hit us and I stopped shaking. Eight gees, I would say, or maybe ten. When a female pilot handles a ship there is nothing comfortable about it; you're going to have bruises every place you're strapped. Yes, yes, I know they make better pilots than men do; their reactions are faster and they can tolerate more gee. They can get in faster, get out faster, and thereby improve everybody's chances, yours as well as theirs. But that still doesn't make it fun to be slammed against your spine at ten times your proper weight. But I must admit that Captain Deladrier knows her trade. There was no fiddling around once the Rodger Young stopped braking. At once I heard her snap, "Center-line tube . . . Fire!" and there were two recoil bumps as Jelly and his acting platoon sergeant unloaded -- and immediately: "Port and starboard tubes -- automatic fire!" and the rest of us started to unload. Bump! and your capsule jerks ahead one place -- bump! and it jerks again, precisely like cartridges feeding into the chamber of an old- style automatic weapon. Well, that's just what we were . . . Only the barrels of the gun were twin launching tubes built into a spaceship troop carrier and each cartridge was a capsule big enough (just barely) to hold an infantryman with all field equipment. Bump! -- I was used to number three spot, out early; now I was Tail-End Charlie, last out after three squads. It makes a tedious wait, even with a capsule being fired every second; I tried to count the bumps -- bump! (twelve) bump! (thirteen) bump! (fourteen -- with an odd sound to it, the empty one Jenkins should have been in) bump! -- And clang! -- it's my turn as my capsule slams into the firing chamber -- then WHAMBO! the explosion hits with a force that makes the Captain's braking maneuver feel like a love tap. Then suddenly nothing. Nothing at all. No sound, no pressure, no weight. Floating in darkness . . . Free fall, maybe thirty miles up, above the effective atmosphere, falling weightlessly toward the surface of a planet you've never seen. But I'm not shaking now; it's the wait beforehand that wears. Once you unload, you can't get hurt -- because if anything goes wrong it will happen so fast that you'll buy it without noticing that you're dead, hardly. Almost at once I felt the capsule twist and sway, then steady down so that my weight was on my back . . . Weight that built up quickly until I was at my full weight (0. 87 gee, we had been told) for that planet as the capsule reached terminal velocity for the thin upper atmosphere. A pilot who is a real artist (and the Captain was) will approach and brake so that your launching speed as you shoot out of the tube places you just dead in space relative to the rotational speed of the planet at that latitude. The loaded capsules are heavy; t
hey punch through the high, thin winds of the upper atmosphere without being blown too far out of position -- but just the same a platoon is bound to disperse on the way down, lose some of the perfect formation in which it unloads. A sloppy pilot can make this still worse, scatter a strike group over so much terrain that it can't make rendezvous for retrieval, much less carry out its mission. An infantryman can fight only if somebody else delivers him to his zone; in a way I suppose pilots are just as essential as we are. I could tell from the gentle way my capsule entered the atmosphere that the Captain had laid us down with as near zero lateral vector as you could ask for. I felt happy -- not only a tight formation when we hit and no time wasted, but also a pilot who puts you down properly is a pilot who is smart and precise on retrieval. The outer shell burned away and sloughed off -- unevenly, for I tumbled. Then the rest of it went and I straightened out. The turbulence brakes of the second shell bit in and the ride got rough . . . And still rougher as they burned off one at a time and the second shell began to go to pieces. One of the things that helps a capsule trooper to live long enough to draw a pension is that the skins peeling off his capsule not only slow him down, they also fill the sky over the target area with so much junk that radar picks up reflections from dozens of targets for each man in the drop, any one of which could be a man, or a bomb, or anything. It's enough to give a ballistic computer nervous breakdowns -- and does. To add to the fun your ship lays a series of dummy eggs in the seconds immediately following your drop, dummies that will fall faster because they don't slough. They get under you, explode, throw out "window, " even operate as transponders, rocket sideways, and do other things to add to the confusion of your reception committee on the ground. In the meantime your ship is locked firmly on the directional beacon of your platoon leader, ignoring the radar "noise" it has created and following you in, computing your impact for future use. When the second shell was gone, the third shell automatically opened my first ribbon chute. It didn't last long but it wasn't expected to; one good, hard jerk at several gee and it went its way and I went mine. The second chute lasted a little bit longer and the third chute lasted quite a while; it began to be rather too warm inside the capsule and I started thinking about landing. The third shell peeled off when its last chute was gone and now I had nothing around me but my suit armor and a plastic egg. I was still strapped inside it, unable to move; it was time to decide how and where I was going to ground. Without moving my arms (I couldn't) I thumbed the switch for a proximity reading and read it when it flashed on in the instrument reflector inside my helmet in front of my forehead. A mile and eight-tenths -- A little closer than I liked, especially without company. The inner egg had reached steady speed, no more help to be gained by staying inside it, and its skin temperature indicated that it would not open automatically for a while yet -- so I flipped a switch with my other thumb and got rid of it. The first charge cut all the straps; the second charge exploded the plastic egg away from me in eight separate pieces -- and I was outdoors, sitting on air, and could see! Better still, the eight discarded pieces were metal-coated (except for the small bit I had taken proximity reading through) and would give back the same reflection as an armored man. Any radar viewer, alive or cybernetic, would now have a sad time sorting me out from the junk nearest me, not to mention the thousands of other bits and pieces for miles on each side, above, and below me. Part of a mobile infantryman's training is to let him see, from the ground and both by eye and by radar, just how confusing a drop is to the forces on the ground -- because you feel awful naked up there. It is easy to panic and either open a chute too soon and become a sitting duck (do ducks really sit? -- if so, why?) or fail to open it and break your ankles, likewise backbone and skull. So I stretched, getting the kinks out, and looked around . . . Then doubled up again and straightened out in a swan dive face down and took a good look. It was night down there, as planned, but infrared snoopers let you size up terrain quite well after you are used to them. The river that cut diagonally through the city was almost below me and coming up fast, shining out clearly with a higher temperature than the land. I didn't care which side of it I landed on but I didn't want to land in it; it would slow me down. I noticed a dash off to the right at about my altitude; some unfriendly native down below had burned what was probably a piece of my egg. So I fired my first chute at once, intending if possible to jerk myself right off his screen as he followed the targets down in closing range. I braced for the shock, rode it, then floated down for about twenty seconds before unloading the chute -- not wishing to call attention to myself in still another way by not falling at the speed of the other stuff around me. It must have worked; I wasn't burned. About six hundred feet up I shot the second chute . . . Saw very quickly that I was being carried over into the river, found that I was going to pass about a hundred feet up over a flat-roofed warehouse or some such by the river . . . Blew the chute free and came in for a good enough if rather bouncy landing on the roof by means of the suit's jump jets. I was scanning for Sergeant Jelal's beacon as I hit. And found that I was on the wrong side of the river; Jelly's star showed up on the compass ring inside my helmet far south of where it should have been -- I was too far north. I trotted toward the river side of the roof as I took a range and bearing on the squad leader next to me, found that he was over a mile out of position, called, "Ace! dress your line, " tossed a bomb behind me as I stepped off the building and across the river. Ace answered as I could have expected -- Ace should have had my spot but he didn't want to give up his squad; nevertheless he didn't fancy taking orders from me. The warehouse went up behind me and the blast hit me while I was still over the river, instead of being shielded by the buildings on the far side as I should have been. It darn near tumbled my gyros and I came close to tumbling myself. I had set that bomb for fifteen seconds . . . Or had I? I suddenly realized that I had let myself get excited, the worst thing you can do once you're on the ground. "Just like a drill, " that was the way, just as Jelly had warned me. Take your time and do it right, even if it takes another half second. As I hit I took another reading on Ace and told him again to realign his squad. He didn't answer but he was already doing it. I let it ride. As long as Ace did his job, I could afford to swallow his surliness -- for now. But back aboard ship (if Jelly kept me on as assistant section leader) we would eventually have to pick a quiet spot and find out who was boss. He was a career corporal and I was just a term lance acting as corporal, but he was under me and you can't afford to take any lip under those circumstances. Not permanently. But I didn't have time then to think about it; while I was jumping the river I had spotted a juicy target and I wanted to get it before somebody else noticed it -- a lovely big group of what looked like public buildings on a hill. Temples, maybe . . . Or a palace. They were miles outside the area we were sweeping, but one rule of a smash & run is to expend at least half your ammo outside your sweep area; that way the enemy is kept confused as to where you actually are -- that and keep moving, do everything fast. You're always heavily outnumbered; surprise and speed are what saves you. I was already loading my rocket launcher while I was checking on Ace and telling him for the second time to straighten up. Jelly's voice reached me right on top of that on the all-hands circuit: "Platoon! By leapfrog! Forward!" My boss, Sergeant Johnson, echoed, "By leapfrog! Odd numbers! Advance!" That left me with nothing to worry about for twenty seconds, so I jumped up on the building nearest me, raised the launcher to my shoulder, found the target and pulled the first trigger to let the rocket have a look at its target -- pulled the second trigger and kissed it on its way, jumped back to the ground. "Second section, even numbers!" I called out ... Waited for the count in my mind and ordered, "Advance!" And did so myself, hopping over the next row of buildings, and, while I was in the air, fanning the first row by the river front with a hand flamer. They seemed to be wood construction and it looked like time to start a good fire -- with luck, some of those warehouses would house oil products, or even explosives. As I hit, the Y-rack on my shoulders launched two small H. E. Bombs a couple of hundred yards each way to my right and left flanks but I never saw what they did as just then my first rocket hit -- that unmistakable (if you've ever seen one) brilliance of an atomic explosion. It was just a peewee, of course, less than two kilotons nominal yield, with tamper and implosion squeeze to produce results from a less-than- critical mass -- but then who wants to be bunk mates with a cosmic catastrophe? It was enough to clean off that hilltop and make everybody in the city take shelter against fallout. Better still, any of the local yokels who happened to be outdoors and looking that way wouldn't be seeing anything else for a couple of hours -- meaning me. The dash hadn't dazzled me, nor would it dazzle any of us; our face bowls are heavily leaded, we wear snoopers over our eyes -- and we're trained to duck and take it on the armor if we do happen to be looking the wrong way. So I merely blinked hard -- opened my eyes and stared straight at a local citizen just coming out of an opening in the building ahead of me. He looked at me, I looked at him, and he started to raise something -- a weapon, I suppose -- as Jelly called out, "Odd numbers! Advance!" I didn't have time to fool with him; I was a good five hundred yards short of where I should have been by then. I still had the hand flamer in my left hand; I toasted him and jumped over the building he had been coming out of, as I started to count. A hand flamer is primarily for incendiary work but it is a good defensive anti-personnel weapon in tight quarters; you don't have to aim it much. Between excitement and anxiety to catch up I jumped too high and too wide. It's always a temptation to get the most out of your jump gear - - but don't do it! It leaves you hanging in the air for seconds, a big fat target. The way to advance is to skim over each building as you come to it, barely clearing it, and taking full advantage of cover while you're down - - and never stay in one place more than a second or two, never give them time to target in on you. Be somewhere else, anywhere. Keep moving. This one I goofed -- too much for one row of buildings, too little for the row beyond it; I found myself coming down on a roof. But not a nice flat one where I might have tarried three seconds to launch another peewee A-rocket; this roof was a jungle of pipes and stanchions and assorted ironmongery -- a factory maybe, or some sort of chemical works. No place to land. Worse still, half a dozen natives were up there. These geezers are humanoid, eight or nine feet tall, much skinnier than we are and with a higher body temperature; they don't wear any clothes and they stand out in a set of snoopers like a neon sign. They look still funnier in daylight with your bare eyes but I would rather fight them than the arachnids -- those Bugs make me queezy. If these laddies were up there thirty seconds earlier when my rocket hit, then they couldn't see me, or anything. But I couldn't be certain and didn't want to tangle with them in any case; it wasn't that kind of a raid. So I jumped again while I was still in the air, scattering a handful of ten-second fire pills to keep them busy, grounded, jumped again at once, and called out, "Second section! Even numbers! . . . Advance!" and kept right on going to close the gap, while trying to spot, every time I jumped, something worth expending a rocket on. I had three more of the little A-rockets and I certainly didn't intend to take any back with me. But I had had pounded into me that you must get your money's worth with atomic weapons -- it was only the second time that I had been allowed to carry them. Right now I was trying to spot their waterworks; a direct hit on it could make the whole city uninhabitable, force them to evacuate it without directly killing anyone -- just the sort of nuisance we had been sent down to commit. It should -- according to the map we had studied under hypnosis -- be about three miles upstream from where I was. But I couldn't see it; my jumps didn't take me high enough, maybe. I was tempted to go higher but I remembered what Migliaccio had said about not trying for a medal, and stuck to doctrine. I set the Y-rack launcher on automatic and let it lob a couple of little bombs every time I hit. I set fire to things more or less at random in between, and tried to find the waterworks, or some other worth-while target. Well, there was something up there at the proper range -- waterworks or whatever, it was big. So I hopped on top of the tallest building near me, took a bead on it, and let fly. As I bounced down I heard Jelly: "Johnnie! Red! Start bending in the flanks. " I acknowledged and heard Red acknowledge and switched my beacon to blinker so that Red could pick me out for certain, took a range and bearing on his blinker while I called out, "Second Section! Curve in and envelop! Squad leaders acknowledge!" Fourth and Fifth squads answered, "Wilco"; Ace said, "We're already doin' it -- pick up your feet. " Red's beacon showed the right flank to be almost ahead of me and a good fifteen miles away. Golly! Ace was right; I would have to pick up my feet or I would never close the gap in time -- and me with a couple of hundredweight of ammo and sundry nastiness still on me that I just had to find time to use up. We had landed in a V formation, with Jelly at the bottom of the V and Red and myself at the ends of the two arms; now we had to close it into a circle around the retrieval rendezvous . . . Which meant that Red and I each had to cover more ground than the others and still do our full share of damage. At least the leapfrog advance was over with once we started to encircle; I could quit counting and concentrate on speed. It was getting to be less healthy to be anywhere, even moving fast. We had started with the enormous advantage of surprise, reached the ground without being hit (at least I hoped nobody had been hit coming in), and had been rampaging in among them in a fashion that let us fire at will without fear of hitting each other while they stood a big chance of hitting their own people in shooting at us -- if they could find us to shoot at, at all. (I'm no games-theory expert but I doubt if any computer could have analyzed what we were doing in time to predict where we would be next. ) Nevertheless the home defenses were beginning to fight back, co-ordinated or not. I took a couple of near misses with explosives, close enough to rattle my teeth even inside armor and once I was brushed by some sort of beam that made my hair stand on end and half paralyzed me for a moment -- as if I had hit my funny bone, but all over. If the suit hadn't already been told to jump, I guess I wouldn't have got out of there. Things like that make you pause to wonder why you ever took up soldiering -- only I was too busy to pause for anything. Twice, jumping blind over buildings, I landed right in the middle of a group of them -- jumped at once while fanning wildly around me with the hand flamer. Spurred on this way, I closed about half of my share of the gap, maybe four miles, in minimum time but without doing much more than casual damage. My Y-rack had gone empty two jumps back; finding myself alone in sort of a courtyard I stopped to put my reserve H. E. Bombs into it while I took a bearing on Ace -- found that I was far enough out in front of the flank squad to think about expending my last two A-rockets. I jumped to the top of the tallest building in the neighborhood. It was getting light enough to see; I flipped the snoopers up onto my forehead and made a fast scan with bare eyes, looking for anything behind us worth shooting at, anything at all; I had no time to be choosy. There was something on the horizon in the direction of their spaceport -- administration & control, maybe, or possibly even a starship. Almost in line and about half as far away was an enormous structure which I couldn't identify even that loosely. The range to the spaceport was extreme but I let the rocket see it, said, "Go find it, baby!" and twisted its tail -- slapped the last one in, sent it toward the nearer target, and jumped. That building took a direct hit just as I left it. Either a skinny had judged (correctly) that it was worth one of their buildings to try for one of us, or one of my own mates was getting mighty careless with fireworks. Either way, I didn't want to jump from that spot, even a skimmer; I decided to go through the next couple of buildings instead of over. So I grabbed the heavy flamer off my back as I hit and dipped the snoopers down over my eyes, tackled a wall in front of me with a knife beam at full power. A section of wall fell away and I charged in. And backed out even faster. I didn't know what it was I had cracked open. A congregation in church -- a skinny flophouse -- maybe even their defense headquarters. All I knew was that it was a very big room filled with more skinnies than I wanted to see in my whole life. Probably not a church, for somebody took a shot at me as I popped back out just a slug that bounced off my armor, made my ears ring, and staggered me without hurting me. But it reminded me that I wasn't supposed to leave without giving them a souvenir of my visit. I grabbed the first thing on my belt and lobbed it in -- and heard it start to squawk. As they keep telling you in Basic, doing something constructive at once is better than figuring out the best thing to do hours later. By sheer chance I had done the right thing. This was a special bomb, one each issued to us for this mission with instructions to use them if we found ways to make them effective. The squawking I heard as I threw it was the bomb shouting in skinny talk (free translation): "I'm a thirty- second bomb! I'm a thirty-second bomb! Twenty-nine! . . . Twenty-eight! ... Twenty-seven! -- " It was supposed to frazzle their nerves. Maybe it did; it certainly frazzled mine. Kinder to shoot a man. I didn't wait for the countdown; I jumped, while I wondered whether they would find enough doors and windows to swarm out in time. I got a bearing on Red's blinker at the top of the jump and one on Ace as I grounded. I was falling behind again -- time to hurry. But three minutes later we had closed the gap; I had Red on my left flank a half mile away. He reported it to Jelly. We heard Jelly's relaxed growl to the entire platoon: "Circle is closed, but the beacon is not down yet. Move forward slowly and mill around, make a little more trouble - - but mind the lad on each side of you; don't make trouble for him. Good job, so far -- don't spoil it. Platoon! By sections . . . Muster!" It looked like a good job to me, too; much of the city was burning and, although it was almost full light now, it was hard to tell whether bare eyes were better than snoopers, the smoke was so thick. Johnson, our section leader, sounded off: "Second section, call off!" I echoed, "Squads four, five, and six -- call off and report!" The assortment of safe circuits we had available in the new model comm units certainly speeded things up; Jelly could talk to anybody or to his section leaders; a section leader could call his whole section, or his non- coms; and the platoon could muster twice as fast, when seconds matter. I listened to the fourth squad call off while I inventoried my remaining firepower and lobbed one bomb toward a skinny who poked his head around a corner. He left and so did I -- "Mill around, " the boss man had said. The fourth squad bumbled the call off until the squad leader remembered to fill in with Jenkins' number; the fifth squad clicked off like an abacus and I began to feel good . . . When the call off stopped after number four in Ace's squad. I called out, "Ace, where's Dizzy?" "Shut up, " he said. "Number six! Call off!" "Six!" Smith answered. "Seven !" "Sixth squad, Flores missing, " Ace completed it. "Squad leader out for pickup. " "One man absent, " I reported to Johnson. "Flores, squad six. " "Missing or dead?" "I don't know. Squad leader and assistant section leader dropping out for pickup. " "Johnnie, you let Ace take it. " But I didn't hear him, so I didn't answer. I heard him report to Jelly and I heard Jelly cuss. Now look, I wasn't bucking for a medal -- it's the assistant section leader's business to make pickup; he's the chaser, the last man in, expendable. The squad leaders have other work to do. As you've no doubt gathered by now the assistant section leader isn't necessary as long as the section leader is alive. Right that moment I was feeling unusually expendable, almost expended, because I was hearing the sweetest sound in the universe, the beacon the retrieval boat would land on, sounding our recall. The beacon is a robot rocket, fired ahead of the retrieval boat, just a spike that buries itself in the ground and starts broadcasting that welcome, welcome music. The retrieval boat homes in on it automatically three minutes later and you had better be on hand, because the bus can't wait and there won't be another one along. But you don't walk away on another cap trooper, not while there's a chance he's still alive -- not in Rasczak's Roughnecks. Not in any outfit of the Mobile Infantry. You try to make pickup. I heard Jelly order: "Heads up, lads! Close to retrieval circle and interdict! On the bounce!" And I heard the beacon's sweet voice: " -- to the everlasting glory of the infantry, shines the name, shines the name of Rodger Young!" and I wanted to head for it so bad I could taste it. Instead I was headed the other way, closing on Ace's beacon and expending what I had left of bombs and fire pills and anything else that would weigh me down. "Ace! You got his beacon?" "Yes. Go back, Useless!" "I've got you by eye now. Where is he?" "Right ahead of me, maybe quarter mile. Scram! He's my man . " I didn't answer; I simply cut left oblique to reach Ace about where he said Dizzy was. And found Ace standing over him, a couple of skinnies flamed down and more running away. I lit beside him. "Let's get him out of his armor - - the boat'll be down any second!" "He's too bad hurt!" I looked and saw that it was true -- there was actually a hole in his armor and blood coming out. And I was stumped. To make a wounded pickup you get him out of his armor . . . Then you simply pick him up in your arms -- no trouble in a powered suit -- and bounce away from there. A bare man weighs less than the ammo and stuff you've expended. "What'll we do?" "We carry him, " Ace said grimly. "Grab ahold the left side of his belt. " He grabbed the right side, we manhandled Flores to his feet. "Lock on! Now . . . By the numbers, stand by to jump -- one -- two!" We jumped. Not far, not well. One man alone couldn't have gotten him off the ground; an armored suit is too heavy. But split it between two men and it can be done. We jumped -- and we jumped -- and again, and again, with Ace calling it and both of us steadying and catching Dizzy on each grounding. His gyros seemed to be out. We heard the beacon cut off as the retrieval boat landed on it -- I saw it land . . . And it was too far away. We heard the acting platoon sergeant call out: "In succession, prepare to embark!" And Jelly called out, "Belay that order!" We broke at last into the open and saw the boat standing on its tail, heard the ululation of its take-off warning -- saw the platoon still on the ground around it, in interdiction circle, crouching behind the shield they had formed. Heard Jelly shout, "In succession, man the boat -- move!" And we were still too far away! I could see them peel off from the first squad, swarm into the boat as the interdiction circle tightened. And a single figure broke out of the circle, came toward us at a speed possible only to a command suit. Jelly caught us while we were in the air, grabbed Flores by his Y-rack and helped us lift. Three jumps got us to the boat. Everybody else was inside but the door was still open. We got him in and closed it while the boat pilot screamed that we had made her miss rendezvous and now we had all bought it! Jelly paid no attention to her; we laid Flores down and lay down beside him. As the blast hit us Jelly was saying to himself, "All present, Lieutenant. Three men hurt -- but all present!" I'll say this for Captain Deladrier: they don't make any better pilots. A rendezvous, boat to ship in orbit, is precisely calculated. I don't know how, but it is, and you don't change it. You can't. Only she did. She saw in her scope that the boat had failed to blast on time; she braked back, picked up speed again -- and matched and took us in, just by eye and touch, no time to compute it. If the Almighty ever needs an assistant to keep the stars in their courses, I know where he can look. Flores died on the way up.
It scared me so, I hooked it off, Nor stopped as I remember, Nor turned about till I got home, Locked up in mother's chamber. Yankee Doodle, keep it up, Yankee Doodle dandy, Mind the music and the step, And with the girls be handy.
I never really intended to join up. And certainly not the infantry! Why, I would rather have taken ten lashes in the public square and have my father tell me that I was a disgrace to a proud name. Oh, I had mentioned to my father, late in my senior year in high school, that I was thinking over the idea of volunteering for Federal Service. I suppose every kid does, when his eighteenth birthday heaves into sight -- and mine was due the week I graduated. Of course most of them just think about it, toy with the idea a little, then go do something else -- go to college, or get a job, or something. I suppose it would have been that way with me . . . If my best chum had not, with dead seriousness, planned to join up. Carl and I had done everything together in high school -- eyed the girls together, double-dated together, been on the debate team together, pushed electrons together in his home lab. I wasn't much on electronic theory myself, but I'm a neat hand with a soldering gun; Carl supplied the skull sweat and I carried out his instructions. It was fun; anything we did together was fun. Carl's folks didn't have anything like the money that my father had, but it didn't matter between us. When my father bought me a Rolls copter for my fourteenth birthday, it was Carl's as much as it was mine; contrariwise, his basement lab was mine. So when Carl told me that he was not going straight on with school, but serve a term first, it gave me to pause. He really meant it; he seemed to think that it was natural and right and obvious. So I told him I was joining up, too. He gave me an odd look. "Your old man won't let you. " "Huh? How can he stop me?" And of course he couldn't, not legally. It's the first completely free choice anybody gets (and maybe his last); when a boy, or a girl, reaches his or her eighteenth birthday, he or she can volunteer and nobody else has any say in the matter. "You'll find out. " Carl changed the subject. So I took it up with my father, tentatively, edging into it sideways. He put down his newspaper and cigar and stared at me. "Son, are you out of your mind?" I muttered that I didn't think so. "Well, it certainly sounds like it. " He sighed. "Still . . . I should have been expecting it; it's a predictable stage in a boy's growing up. I remember when you learned to walk and weren't a baby any longer -- frankly you were a little hellion for quite a while. You broke one of your mother's Ming vases -- on purpose, I'm quite sure . . . But you were too young to know that it was valuable, so all you got was having your hand spatted. I recall the day you swiped one of my cigars, and how sick it made you. Your mother and I carefully avoided noticing that you couldn't eat dinner that night and I've never mentioned it to you until now -- boys have to try such things and discover for themselves that men's vices are not for them. We watched when you turned the corner on adolescence and started noticing that girls were different -- and wonderful. " He sighed again. "All normal stages. And the last one, right at the end of adolescence, is when a boy decides to join up and wear a pretty uniform. Or decides that he is in love, love such as no man ever experienced before, and that he just has to get married right away. Or both. " He smiled grimly. "With me it was both. But I got over each of them in time not to make a fool of myself and ruin my life. " "But, Father, I wouldn't ruin my life. Just a term of service - - not career. " "Let's table that, shall we? Listen, and let me tell you what you are going to do -- because you want to. In the first place this family has stayed out of politics and cultivated its own garden for over a hundred years -- I see no reason for you to break that fine record. I suppose it's the influence of that fellow at your high school -- what's his name? You know the one I mean. " He meant our instructor in History and Moral Philosophy -- a veteran, naturally. "Mr. Dubois. " "Hmmph, a silly name -- it suits him. Foreigner, no doubt. It ought to be against the law to use the schools as undercover recruiting stations. I think I'm going to write a pretty sharp letter about it -- a taxpayer has some rights!" "But, Father, he doesn't do that at all! He -- " I stopped, not knowing how to describe it. Mr. Dubois had a snotty, superior manner; he acted as if none of us was really good enough to volunteer for service. I didn't like him. "Uh, if anything, he discourages it. " "Hmmph! Do you know how to lead a pig? Never mind. When you graduate, you're going to study business at Harvard; you know that. After that, you will go on to the Sorbonne and you'll travel a bit along with it, meet some of our distributors, find out how business is done elsewhere. Then you'll come home and go to work. You'll start with the usual menial job, stock clerk or something, just for form's sake -- but you'll be an executive before you can catch your breath, because I'm not getting any younger and the quicker you can pick up the load, the better. As soon as you're able and willing, you'll be boss. There! How does that strike you as a program? As compared with wasting two years of your life?" I didn't say anything. None of it was news to me; I'd thought about it. Father stood up and put a hand on my shoulder. "Son, don't think I don't sympathize with you; I do. But look at the real facts. If there were a war, I'll be the first to cheer you on -- and to put the business on a war footing. But there isn't, and praise God there never will be again. We've outgrown wars. This planet is now peaceful and happy and we enjoy good enough relations with other planets. So what is this so called `Federal Service'? Parasitism, pure and simple. A functionless organ, utterly obsolete, living on the taxpayers. A decidedly expensive way for inferior people who otherwise would be unemployed to live at public expense for a term of years, then give themselves airs for the rest of their lives. Is that what you want to do?" "Carl isn't inferior!" "Sorry. No, he's a fine boy . . . But misguided. " He frowned, and then smiled. "Son, I had intended to keep something as a surprise for you -- a graduation present. But I'm going to tell you now so that you can put this nonsense out of your mind more easily. Not that I am afraid of what you might do; I have confidence in your basic good sense, even at your tender years. But you are troubled. I know -- and this will clear it away. Can you guess what it is?" "Uh, no. " He grinned. "A vacation trip to Mars. " I must have looked stunned. "Golly, Father, I had no idea -- " "I meant to surprise you and I see I did. I know how you kids feel about travel, though it beats me what anyone sees in it after the first time out. But this is a good time for you to do it -- by yourself; did I mention that? -- and get it out of your system . . . Because you'll be hard- pressed to get in even a week on Luna once you take up your responsibilities. " He picked up his paper. "No, don't thank me. Just run along and let me finish my paper -- I've got some gentlemen coming in this evening, shortly. Business. " I ran along. I guess he thought that settled it . . . And I suppose I did, too. Mars! And on my own! But I didn't tell Carl about it; I had a sneaking suspicion that he would regard it as a bribe. Well, maybe it was. Instead I simply told him that my father and I seemed to have different ideas about it. "Yeah, " he answered, "so does mine. But it's my life. " I thought about it during the last session of our class in History and Moral Philosophy. H. & M. P. Was different from other courses in that everybody had to take it but nobody had to pass it -- and Mr. Dubois never seemed to care whether he got through to us or not. He would just point at you with the stump of his left arm (he never bothered with names) and snap a question. Then the argument would start. But on the last day he seemed to be trying to find out what we had learned. One girl told him bluntly: "My mother says that violence never settles anything. " "So?" Mr. Dubois looked at her bleakly. "I'm sure the city fathers of Carthage would be glad to know that. Why doesn't your mother tell them so? Or why don't you?" They had tangled before -- since you couldn't flunk the course, it wasn't necessary to keep Mr. Dubois buttered up. She said shrilly, "You're making fun of me! Everybody knows that Carthage was destroyed!" "You seemed to be unaware of it, " he said grimly. "Since you do know it, wouldn't you say that violence had settled their destinies rather thoroughly? However, I was not making fun of you personally; I was heaping scorn on an inexcusably silly idea -- a practice I shall always follow. Anyone who clings to the historically untrue -- and thoroughly immoral -- doctrine that `violence never settles anything' I would advise to conjure up the ghosts of Napoleon Bonaparte and of the Duke of Wellington and let them debate it. The ghost of Hitler could referee, and the jury might well be the Dodo, the Great Auk, and the Passenger Pigeon. Violence, naked force, has settled more issues in history than has any other factor, and the contrary opinion is wishful thinking at its worst. Breeds that forget this basic truth have always paid for it with their lives and freedoms. " He sighed. "Another year, another class -- and, for me, another failure. One can lead a child to knowledge but one cannot make him think. " Suddenly he pointed his stump at me. "You. What is the moral difference, if any, between the soldier and the civilian?" "The difference, " I answered carefully, "lies in the field of civic virtue. A soldier accepts personal responsibility for the safety of the body politic of which he is a member, defending it, if need be, with his life. The civilian does not. " "The exact words of the book, " he said scornfully. "But do you understand it? Do you believe it?" "Uh, I don't know, sir. " "Of course you don't! I doubt if any of you here would recognize `civic virtue' if it came up and barked in your face!" He glanced at his watch. "And that is all, a final all. Perhaps we shall meet again under happier circumstances. Dismissed. " Graduation right after that and three days later my birthday, followed in less than a week by Carl's birthday -- and I still hadn't told Carl that I wasn't joining up. I'm sure he assumed that I would not, but we didn't discuss it out loud -- embarrassing. I simply arranged to meet him the day after his birthday and we went down to the recruiting office together. On the steps of the Federal Building we ran into Carmencita Ibanez, a classmate of ours and one of the nice things about being a member of a race with two sexes. Carmen wasn't my girl -- she wasn't anybody's girl; she never made two dates in a row with the same boy and treated all of us with equal sweetness and rather impersonally. But I knew her pretty well, as she often came over and used our swimming pool, because it was Olympic length -- sometimes with one boy, sometimes with another. Or alone, as Mother urged her to -- Mother considered her "a good influence. " For once she was right. She saw us and waited, dimpling. "Hi, fellows!" "Hello, Ochee Chyornya, " I answered. "What brings you here?" "Can't you guess? Today is my birthday. " "Huh? Happy returns!" "So I'm joining up. " "Oh . . . " I think Carl was as surprised as I was. But Carmencita was like that. She never gossiped and she kept her own affairs to herself. "No foolin'?" I added, brilliantly. "Why should I be fooling? I'm going to be a spaceship pilot -- at least I'm going to try for it. " "No reason why you shouldn't make it, " Carl said quickly. He was right -- I know now just how right he was. Carmen was small and neat, perfect health and perfect reflexes -- she could make a competitive diving routine look easy -- and she was quick at mathematics. Me, I tapered off with a "C" in algebra and a "B" in business arithmetic; she took all the math our school offered and a tutored advance course on the side. But it had never occurred to me to wonder why. Fact was, little Carmen was so ornamental that you just never thought about her being useful. "We -- Uh, I, " said Carl, "am here to join up, too. " "And me, " I agreed. "Both of us. " No, I hadn't made any decision; my mouth was leading its own life. "Oh, wonderful!" "And I'm going to buck for space pilot, too, " I added firmly. She didn't laugh. She answered very seriously, "Oh, how grand! Perhaps in training we'll run into each other. I hope. " "Collision courses?" asked Carl. "That's a no-good way to pilot. " "Don't be silly, Carl. On the ground, of course. Are you going to be a pilot, too?" "Me?" Carl answered. "I'm no truck driver. You know me -- Starside R & D, if they'll have me. Electronics. " " `Truck driver' indeed! I hope they stick you out on Pluto and let you freeze. No, I don't -- good luck! Let's go in, shall we?" The recruiting station was inside a railing in the rotunda. A fleet sergeant sat at a desk there, in dress uniform, gaudy as a circus. His chest was loaded with ribbons I couldn't read. But his right arm was off so short that his tunic had been tailored without any sleeve at all . . . And, when you came up to the rail, you could see that he had no legs. It didn't seem to bother him. Carl said, "Good morning. I want to join up. " "Me, too, " I added. He ignored us. He managed to bow while sitting down and said, "Good morning, young lady. What can I do for you?" "I want to join up, too. " He smiled. "Good girl! If you'll just scoot up to room 201 and ask for Major Rojas, she'll take care of you. " He looked her up and down. "Pilot?" "If possible. " "You look like one. Well, see Miss Rojas. " She left, with thanks to him and a see-you-later to us; he turned his attention to us, sized us up with a total absence of the pleasure he had shown in little Carmen. "So?" he said. "For what? Labor battalions?" "Oh, no!" I said. "I'm going to be a pilot. " He stared at me and simply turned his eyes away. "You?" "I'm interested in the Research and Development Corps, " Carl said soberly, "especially electronics. I understand the chances are pretty good. " "They are if you can cut it, " the Fleet Sergeant said grimly, "and not if you don't have what it takes, both in preparation and ability. Look, boys, have you any idea why they have me out here in front?" I didn't understand him. Carl said, "Why?" "Because the government doesn't care one bucket of swill whether you join or not! Because it has become stylish, with some people -- too many people -- to serve a term and earn a franchise and be able to wear a ribbon in your lapel which says that you're a vet'ran . . . Whether you've ever seen combat or not. But if you want to serve and I can't talk you out of it, then we have to take you, because that's your constitutional right. It says that everybody, male or female, shall have his born right to pay his service and assume full citizenship but the facts are that we are getting hard pushed to find things for all the volunteers to do that aren't just glorified K. P. You can't all be real military men; we don't need that many and most of the volunteers aren't number-one soldier material anyhow. Got any idea what it takes to make a soldier?" "No, " I admitted. "Most people think that all it takes is two hands and two feet and a stupid mind. Maybe so, for cannon fodder. Possibly that was all that Julius Caesar required. But a private soldier today is a specialist so highly skilled that he would rate `master' in any other trade; we can't afford stupid ones. So for those who insist on serving their term -- but haven't got what we want and must have -- we've had to think up a whole list of dirty, nasty, dangerous jobs that will either run `em home with their tails between their legs and their terms uncompleted . . . Or at the very least make them remember for the rest of their lives that their citizenship is valuable to them because they've paid a high price for it. Take that young lady who was here -- wants to be a pilot. I hope she makes it; we always need good pilots, not enough of `em. Maybe she will. But if she misses, she may wind up in Antarctica, her pretty eyes red from never seeing anything but artificial light and her knuckles callused from hard, dirty work. " I wanted to tell him that the least Carmencita could get was computer programmer for the sky watch; she really was a whiz at math. But he was talking. "So they put me out here to discourage you boys. Look at this. " He shoved his chair around to make sure that we could see that he was legless. "Let's assume that you don't wind up digging tunnels on Luna or playing human guinea pig for new diseases through sheer lack of talent; suppose we do make a fighting man out of you. Take a look at me -- this is what you may buy . . . If you don't buy the whole farm and cause your folks to receive a `deeply regret' telegram. Which is more likely, because these days, in training or in combat, there aren't many wounded. If you buy it at all, they likely throw in a coffin -- I'm the rare exception; I was lucky . . . Though maybe you wouldn't call it luck. " He paused, then added, "So why don't you boys go home, go to college, and then go be chemists or insurance brokers or whatever? A term of service isn't a kiddie camp; it's either real military service, rough and dangerous even in peacetime . . . Or a most unreasonable facsimile thereof. Not a vacation. Not a romantic adventure. Well?" Carl said, "I'm here to join up. " "Me, too. " "You realize that you aren't allowed to pick your service?" Carl said, "I thought we could state our preferences?" "Certainly. And that's the last choice you'll make until the end of your term. The placement officer pays attention to your choice, too. First thing he does is to check whether there's any demand for left-handed glass blowers this week -- that being what you think would make you happy. Having reluctantly conceded that there is a need for your choice -- probably at the bottom of the Pacific -- he then tests you for innate ability and preparation. About once in twenty times he is forced to admit that everything matches and you get the job . . . Until some practical joker gives you dispatch orders to do something very different. But the other nineteen times he turns you down and decides that you are just what they have been needing to field-test survival equipment on Titan. " He added meditatively, "It's chilly on Titan. And it's amazing how often experimental equipment fails to work. Have to have real field tests, though -- laboratories just never get all the answers. " "I can qualify for electronics, " Carl said firmly, "if there are jobs open in it. " "So? And how about you, bub?" I hesitated -- and suddenly realized that, if I didn't take a swing at it, I would wonder all my life whether I was anything but the boss's son. "I'm going to chance it. " "Well, you can't say I didn't try. Got your birth certificates with you? And let's see your I. D. 's. " Ten minutes later, still not sworn in, we were on the top floor being prodded and poked and fluoroscoped. I decided that the idea of a physical examination is that, if you aren't ill, then they do their darnedest to make you ill. If the attempt fails, you're in. I asked one of the doctors what percentage of the victims flunked the physical. He looked startled. "Why, we never fail anyone. The law doesn't permit us to. " "Huh? I mean, Excuse me, Doctor? Then what's the point of this goose-flesh parade?" "Why, the purpose is, " he answered, hauling off and hitting me in the knee with a hammer (I kicked him, but not hard), "to find out what duties you are physically able to perform. But if you came in here in a wheel chair and blind in both eyes and were silly enough to insist on enrolling, they would find something silly enough to match. Counting the fuzz on a caterpillar by touch, maybe. The only way you can fail is by having the psychiatrists decide that you are not able to understand the oath. " "Oh. Uh . . . Doctor, were you already a doctor when you joined up? Or did they decide you ought to be a doctor and send you to school?" "Me?" He seemed shocked. "Youngster, do I look that silly? I'm a civilian employee. " "Oh. Sorry, sir. " "No offense. But military service is for ants. Believe me. I see `em go, I see `em come back -- when they do come back. I see what it's done to them. And for what? A purely nominal political privilege that pays not one centavo and that most of them aren't competent to use wisely anyhow. Now if they would let medical men run things -- but never mind that; you might think I was talking treason, free speech or not. But, youngster, if you've got savvy enough to count ten, you'll back out while you still can. Here, take these papers back to the recruiting sergeant -- and remember what I said. " I went back to the rotunda. Carl was already there. The Fleet Sergeant looked over my papers and said glumly, "Apparently you both are almost insufferably healthy-except for holes in the head. One moment, while I get some witnesses. " He punched a button and two female clerks came out, one old battle-ax, one kind of cute. He pointed to our physical examination forms, our birth certificates, and our I. D. 's said formally: "I invite and require you, each and severally, to examine these exhibits, determine what they are and to determine, each independently, what relation, if any, each document bears to these two men standing here in your presence. " They treated it as a dull routine, which I'm sure it was; nevertheless they scrutinized every document, they took our fingerprints -- again! - - and the cute one put a jeweler's loupe in her eye and compared prints from birth to now. She did the same with signatures. I began to doubt if I was myself. The Fleet Sergeant added, "Did you find exhibits relating to their present competence to take the oath of enrollment? If so, what?" "We found, " the older one said, "appended to each record off physical examination a duly certified conclusion by an authorized and delegated board of psychiatrists stating that each of them is mentally competent to take the oath and that neither one is under the influence of alcohol, narcotics, other disabling drugs, nor of hypnosis. " "Very good. " He turned to us, "Repeat after me -- " "I, being of legal age, of my own free will -- " " `I, ' " we each echoed, " `being of legal age, of my own free will -- '" " -- without coercion, promise, or inducement of any sort, after having been duly advised and warned of the meaning and consequences of this oath -- " " -- do now enroll in the Federal Service of the Terran Federation for a term of not less than two years and as much longer as may be required by the needs of the Service -- " (I gulped a little over that part. I had always thought of a "term" as two years, even though I knew better, because that's the way people talk about it. Why, we were signing up for life. ) "I swear to uphold and defend the Constitution of the Federation against all its enemies on or off Terra, to protect and defend the Constitutional liberties and privileges of all citizens and lawful residents of the Federation, its associated states and territories, to perform, on or off Terra, such duties of any lawful nature as may be assigned to me by lawful direct or delegated authority -- " " -- and to obey all lawful orders of the Commander-in-Chief of the Terran Service and of all officers or delegated persons placed over me -- " " -- and to require such obedience from all members of the Service or other persons or non-human beings lawfully placed under my orders -- " " -- and, on being honorably discharged at the completion of my full term of active service or upon being placed on inactive retired status after having completed such full term, to carry out all duties and obligations and to enjoy all privileges of Federation citizenship including but not limited to the duty, obligation and privilege of exercising sovereign franchise for the rest of my natural life unless stripped of honor by verdict, finally sustained, of court of my sovereign peers. " (Whew!) Mr. Dubois had analyzed the Service oath for us in History and Moral Philosophy and had made us study it phrase by phrase -- but you don't really feel the size of the thing until it comes rolling over you, all in one ungainly piece, as heavy and unstoppable as Juggernaut's carriage. At least it made me realize that I was no longer a civilian, with my shirttail out and nothing on my mind. I didn't know yet what I was, but I knew what I wasn't. "So help me God!" we both ended and Carl crossed himself and so did the cute one. After that there were more signatures and fingerprints, all five of us, and flat colorgraphs of Carl and me were snapped then and there and embossed into our papers. The Fleet Sergeant finally looked up. "Why, it's `way past the break for lunch. Time for chow, lads. " I swallowed hard. Uh... Sergeant?" "Eh? Speak up. " "Could I flash my folks from here? Tell them what I -- Tell them how it came out?" "We can do better than that. " "Sir?" "You go on forty-eight hours leave now. " He grinned coldly. "Do you know what happens if you don't come back?" "Uh . . . Court-martial?" "Not a thing. Not a blessed thing. Except that your papers get marked, Term not completed satisfactorily, and you never, never, never get a second chance. This is our cooling-off period, during which we shake out the overgrown babies who didn't really mean it and should never have taken the oath. It saves the government money and it saves a power of grief for such kids and their parents -- the neighbors needn't guess. You don't even have to tell your parents. " He shoved his chair away from his desk. "So I'll see you at noon day after tomorrow. If I see you. Fetch your personal effects. " It was a crumby leave. Father stormed at me, then quit speaking to me; Mother took to her bed. When I finally left, an hour earlier than I had to, nobody saw me off but the morning cook and the houseboys. I stopped in front of the recruiting sergeant's desk, thought about saluting and decided I didn't know how. He looked up. "Oh. Here are your papers. Take them up to room 201; they'll start you through the mill. Knock and walk in. " Two days later I knew I was not going to be a pilot. Some of the things the examiners wrote about me were: insufficient intuitive grasp of spatial relationships . . . Insufficient mathematical talent . . . Deficient mathematical preparation . . . Reaction time adequate . . . Eyesight good. I'm glad they put in those last two; I was beginning to feel that counting on my fingers was my speed. The placement officer let me list my lesser preferences, in order, and I caught four more days of the wildest aptitude tests I've ever heard of. I mean to say, what do they find out when a stenographer jumps on her chair and screams, "Snakes!" There was no snake, just a harmless piece of plastic hose. The written and oral tests were mostly just as silly, but they seemed happy with them, so I took them. The thing I did most carefully was to list my preferences. Naturally I listed all of the Space Navy jobs (other than pilot) at the top; whether I went as power-room technician or as cook, I knew that I preferred any Navy job to any Army job -- I wanted to travel. Next I listed Intelligence -- a spy gets around, too, and I figured that it couldn't possibly be dull. (I was wrong, but never mind. ) After that came a long list: psychological warfare, chemical warfare, biological warfare, combat ecology (I didn't know what it was, but it sounded interesting), logistics corps (a simple mistake; I had studied logic for the debate team and "logistics" turns out to have two entirely separate meanings), and a dozen others. Clear at the bottom, with some hesitation, I put K-9 Corps, and Infantry. I didn't bother to list the various non-combatant auxiliary corps because, if I wasn't picked for a combat corps, I didn't care whether they used me as an experimental animal or sent me as a laborer in the Terranizing of Venus -- either one was a booby prize. Mr. Weiss, the placement officer, sent for me a week after I was sworn in. He was actually a retired psychological-warfare major, on active duty for procurement, but he wore mufti and insisted on being called just "Mister" and you could relax and take it easy with him. He had my list of preferences and the reports on all my tests and I saw that he was holding my high school transcript -- which pleased me, for I had done all right in school; I had stood high enough without standing so high as to be marked as a greasy grind, having never flunked any courses and dropped only one, and I had been rather a big man around school otherwise: swimming team, debate team, track squad, class treasurer, silver medal in the annual literary contest, chairman of the homecoming committee, stuff like that. A well-rounded record and it's all down in the transcript. He looked up as I came in, said, "Sit down, Johnnie, " and looked back at the transcript, then put it down. "You like dogs?" "Huh? Yes, sir" "How well do you like them? Did your dog sleep on your bed? By the way, where is your dog now?" "Why, I don't happen to have a dog just at present. But when I did -- well, no, he didn't sleep on my bed. You see, Mother didn't allow dogs in the house. " "But didn't you sneak him in?" "Uh -- " I thought of trying to explain Mother's not-angry-but-terribly-terribly-hurt routine when you tried to buck her on something she had her mind made up about. But I gave up. "No, sir. " "Mmm . . . Have you ever seen a neodog?" "Uh, once, sir. They exhibited one at the Macarthur Theater two years ago. But the S. P. C. A. Made trouble for them. " "Let me tell you how it is with a K-9 team. A neodog is not just a dog that talks. " "I couldn't understand that neo at the Macarthur. Do they really talk?" "They talk. You simply have to train your ear to their accent. Their mouths can't shape `b, ' `m, ' `p, ' or `v' and you have to get used to their equivalents -- something like the handicap of a split palate but with different letters. No matter, their speech is as clear as any human speech. But a neodog is not a talking dog; he is not a dog at all, he is an artificially mutated symbiote derived from dog stock. A neo, a trained Caleb, is about six times as bright as a dog, say about as intelligent as a human moron -- except that the comparison is not fair to the neo; a moron is a defective, whereas a neo is a stable genius in his own line of work. " Mr. Weiss scowled. "Provided, that is, that he has his symbiote. That's the rub. Mmm . . . You're too young ever to have been married but you've seen marriage, your own parents at least. Can you imagine being married to a Caleb?" "Huh? No. No, I can't. " "The emotional relationship between the dog-man and the man-dog in a K-9 team is a great deal closer and much more important than is the emotional relationship in most marriages. If the master is killed, we kill the neodog -- at once! It is all that we can do for the poor thing. A mercy killing. If the neodog is killed . . . Well, we can't kill the man even though it would be the simplest solution. Instead we restrain him and hospitalize him and slowly put him back together. " He picked up a pen, made a mark. "I don't think we can risk assigning a boy to K-9 who didn't outwit his mother to have his dog sleep with him. So let's consider something else. " It was not until then that I realized that I must have already flunked every choice on my list above K-9 Corps -- and now I had just flunked it, too. I was so startled that I almost missed his next remark. Major Weiss said meditatively, with no expression and as if he were talking about someone else, long dead and far away: "I was once half of a K-9 team. When my Caleb became a casualty, they kept me under sedation for six weeks, then rehabilitated me for other work. Johnnie, these courses you've taken -- why didn't you study something useful?" "Sir?" "Too late now. Forget it. Mmm . . . Your instructor in History and Moral Philosophy seems to think well of you. " "He does?" I was surprised. "What did he say?" Weiss smiled. "He says that you are not stupid, merely ignorant and prejudiced by your environment. From him that is high praise -- I know him. " It didn't sound like praise to me! That stuck-up stiff-necked old -- "And, " Weiss went on, "a boy who gets a `C-minus' in Appreciation of Television can't be all bad. I think we'll accept Mr. Dubois' recommendation. How would you like to be an infantryman?" I came out of the Federal Building feeling subdued yet not really unhappy. At least I was a soldier; I had papers in my pocket to prove it. I hadn't been classed as too dumb and useless for anything but make-work. It was a few minutes after the end of the working day and the building was empty save for a skeleton night staff and a few stragglers. I ran into a man in the rotunda who was just leaving; his face looked familiar but I couldn't place him. But he caught my eye and recognized me. "Evening!" he said briskly. "You haven't shipped out yet?" And then I recognized him -- the Fleet Sergeant who had sworn us in. I guess my chin dropped; this man was in civilian clothes, was walking around on two legs and had two arms. "Uh, good evening, Sergeant, " I mumbled. He understood my expression perfectly, glanced down at himself and smiled easily. "Relax, lad. I don't have to put on my horror show after working hours -- and I don't. You haven't been placed yet?" "I just got my orders. " "For what?" "Mobile Infantry. " His face broke in a big grin of delight and he shoved out his hand. "My outfit! Shake, son! We'll make a man of you -- or kill you trying. Maybe both. " "It's a good choice?" I said doubtfully. " `A good choice'? Son, it's the only choice. The Mobile Infantry is the Army. All the others are either button pushers or professors, along merely to hand us the saw; we do the work. " He shook hands again and added, "Drop me a card -- `Fleet Sergeant Ho, Federal Building, ' that'll reach me. Good luck! And he was off, shoulders back, heels clicking, head up. I looked at my hand. The hand he had offered me was the one that wasn't there -- his right hand. Yet it had felt like flesh and had shaken mine firmly. I had read about these powered prosthetics, but it is startling when you first run across them. I went back to the hotel where recruits were temporarily billeted during placement -- we didn't even have uniforms yet, just plain coveralls we wore during the day and our own clothes after hours. I went to my room and started packing, as I was shipping out early in the morning -- packing to send stuff home, I mean; Weiss had cautioned me not to take along anything but family photographs and possibly a musical instrument if I played one (which I didn't). Carl had shipped out three days earlier, having gotten the R & D assignment he wanted. I was just as glad, as he would have been just too confounded understanding about the billet I had drawn. Little Carmen had shipped out, too, with the rank of cadet midshipman (probationary) -- she was going to be a pilot, all right, if she could cut it . . . And I suspected that she could. My temporary roomie came in while I was packing. "Got your orders?" he asked. "Yup. " "What?" "Mobile Infantry. " "The Infantry? Oh, you poor stupid clown! I feel sorry for you, I really do. " I straightened up and said angrily, "Shut up! The Mobile Infantry is the best outfit in the Army -- it is the Army! The rest of you jerks are just along to hand us the saw -- we do the work. " He laughed. "You'll find out!" "You want a mouthful of knuckles?"
He shall rule them with a rod of iron. -- Revelations II:25
I did Basic at Camp Arthur Currie on the northern prairies, along with a couple of thousand other victims -- and I do mean "Camp, " as the only permanent buildings there were to shelter equipment. We slept and ate in tents; we lived outdoors -- if you call that "living, " which I didn't, at the time. I was used to a warm climate; it seemed to me that the North Pole was just five miles north of camp and getting closer. Ice Age returning, no doubt. But exercise will keep you warm and they saw to it that we got plenty of that. The first morning we were there they woke us up before daybreak. I had had trouble adjusting to the change in time zones and it seemed to me that I had just got to sleep; I couldn't believe that anyone seriously intended that I should get up in the middle of the night. But they did mean it. A speaker somewhere was blaring out a military march, fit to wake the dead, and a hairy nuisance who had come charging down the company street yelling, "Everybody out! Show a leg! On the bounce!" came marauding back again just as I had pulled the covers over my head, tipped over my cot and dumped me on the cold hard ground. It was an impersonal attention; he didn't even wait to see if I hit. Ten minutes later, dressed in trousers, undershirt, and shoes, I was lined up with the others in ragged ranks for setting-up exercises just as the Sun looked over the eastern horizon. Facing us was a big broad-shouldered, mean-looking man, dressed just as we were -- except that while I looked and felt like a poor job of embalming, his chin was shaved blue, his trousers were sharply creased, you could have used his shoes for mirrors, and his manner was alert, wide-awake, relaxed, and rested. You got the impression that he never needed to sleep -- just ten- thousand-mile checkups and dust him off occasionally. He bellowed, "C'pnee! Atten . . . Shut! I am Career Ship's Sergeant Zim, your company commander. When you speak to me, you will salute and say, `Sir' -- you will salute and `sir' anyone who carries an instructor's baton -- " He was carrying a swagger cane and now made a quick reverse moulinet with it to show what he meant by an instructor's baton; I had noticed men carrying them when we had arrived the night before and had intended to get one myself -- they looked smart. Now I changed my mind. " -- because we don't have enough officers around here for you to practice on. You'll practice on us. Who sneezed?" No answer -- "WHO SNEEZED?" "I did, " a voice answered. " `I did' what?" "I sneezed. " " `I sneezed, ' SIR!" "I sneezed, sir. I'm cold, sir. " "Oho!" Zim strode up to the man who had sneezed, shoved the ferrule of the swagger cane an inch under his nose and demanded, "Name?" "Jenkins . . . Sir. " "Jenkins . . . " Zim repeated as if the word were somehow distasteful, even shameful. "I suppose some night on patrol you're going to sneeze just because you've got a runny nose. Eh?" "I hope not, sir. " "So do I. But you're cold. Hmm . . . We'll fix that. " He pointed with his stick. "See that armory over there?" I looked and could see nothing but prairie except for one building that seemed to be almost on the skyline. "Fall out. Run around it. Run, I said. Fast! Bronski! Pace him. " "Right, Sarge. " One of the five or six other baton carriers took out after Jenkins, caught up with him easily, cracked him across the tight of his pants with the baton. Zim turned back to the rest of us, still shivering at attention. He walked up and down, looked us over, and seemed awfully unhappy. At last he stepped out in front of us, shook his head, and said, apparently to himself but he had a voice that carried: "To think that this had to happen to me!" He looked at us. "You apes -- No, not `apes'; you don't rate that much. You pitiful mob of sickly monkeys . . . You sunken-chested, slack- bellied, drooling refugees from apron strings. In my whole life I never saw such a disgraceful huddle of momma's spoiled little darlings in -- you, there! Suck up the gut! Eyes front! I'm talking to you!" I pulled in my belly, even though I was not sure he had addressed me. He went on and on and I began to forget my goose flesh in hearing him storm. He never once repeated himself and he never used either profanity or obscenity. (I learned later that he saved those for very special occasions, which this wasn't. ) But he described our shortcomings, physical, mental, moral, and genetic, in great and insulting detail. But somehow I was not insulted; I became greatly interested in studying his command of language. I wished that we had had him on our debate team. At last he stopped and seemed about to cry. "I can't stand it, " he said bitterly. "I've just got to work some of it off -- I had a better set of wooden soldiers when I was six ALL RIGHT! Is there any one of you jungle lice who thinks he can whip me? Is there a man in the crowd? Speak up !" There was a short silence to which I contributed. I didn't have any doubt at all that he could whip me; I was convinced. I heard a voice far down the line, the tall end. "Ah reckon ah can . . . Suh. " Zim looked happy. "Good! Step out here where I can see you. " The recruit did so and he was impressive, at least three inches taller than Sergeant Zim and broader across the shoulders. "What's your name, soldier?" "Breckinridge, suh -- and ah weigh two hundred and ten pounds an' theah ain't any of it `slack-bellied. ' " "Any particular way you'd like to fight?" "Suh, you jus' pick youah own method of dyin'. Ah'm not fussy. " "Okay, no rules. Start whenever you like. " Zim tossed his baton aside. It started -- and it was over. The big recruit was sitting on the ground, holding his left wrist in his right hand. He didn't say anything. Zim bent over him. "Broken?" "Reckon it might he . . . Suh. " "I'm sorry. You hurried me a little. Do you know where the dispensary is? Never mind -- Jones! Take Breckinridge over to the dispensary. " As they left Zim slapped him on the right shoulder and said quietly, "Let's try it again in a month or so. I'll show you what happened. " I think it was meant to be a private remark but they were standing about six feet in front of where I was slowly freezing solid. Zim stepped back and called out, "Okay, we've got one man in this company, at least. I feel better. Do we have another one? Do we have two more? Any two of you scrofulous toads think you can stand up to me?" He looked back and forth along our ranks. "Chicken-livered, spineless - - oh, oh! Yes? Step out. " Two men who had been side by side in ranks stepped out together; I suppose they had arranged it in whispers right there, but they also were far down the tall end, so I didn't hear. Zim smiled at them. "Names, for your next of kin, please. " "Heinrich. " "Heinrich what?" "Heinrich, sir. Bitte. " He spoke rapidly to the other recruit and added politely, "He doesn't speak much Standard English yet, sir. " "Meyer, mein Herr, " the second man supplied. "That's okay, lots of `em don't speak much of it when they get here -- I didn't myself. Tell Meyer not to worry, he'll pick it up. But he understands what we are going to do?" "Jawohl, " agreed Meyer. "Certainly, sir. He understands Standard, he just can't speak it fluently. " "All right. Where did you two pick up those face scars? Heidelberg?" "Nein -- no, sir. Ko:nigsberg. " "Same thing. " Zim had picked up his baton after fighting Breekinridge; he twirled it and asked, "Perhaps you would each like to borrow one of these?" "It would not be fair to you, sir, " Heinrich answered carefully. "Bare hands, if you please. " "Suit yourself. Though I might fool you. Ko:nigsberg, eh? Rules?" "How can there be rules, sir, with three?" "An interesting point. Well, let's agree that if eyes are gouged out they must be handed back when it's over. And tell your Korpsbruder that I'm ready now. Start when you like. " Zim tossed his baton away; someone caught it. "You joke, sir. We will not gouge eyes. " "No eye gouging, agreed. `Fire when ready, Gridley. ' " "Please?" "Come on and fight! Or get back into ranks!" Now I am not sure that I saw it happen this way; I may have learned part of it later, in training. But here is what I think happened: The two moved out on each side of our company commander until they had him completely flanked but well out of contact. From this position there is a choice of four basic moves for the man working alone, moves that take advantage of his own mobility and of the superior co-ordination of one man as compared with two -- Sergeant Zim says (correctly) that any group is weaker than a man alone unless they are perfectly trained to work together. For example, Zim could have feinted at one of them, bounced fast to the other with a disabler, such as a broken kneecap then finished off the first at his leisure. Instead he let them attack. Meyer came at him fast, intending to body check and knock him to the ground, I think, while Heinrich would follow through from above, maybe with his boots. That's the way it appeared to start. And here's what I think I saw. Meyer never reached him with that body check. Sergeant Zim whirled to face him, while kicking out and getting Heinrich in the belly -- and then Meyer was sailing through the air, his lunge helped along with a hearty assist from Zim. But all I am sure of is that the fight started and then there were two German boys sleeping peacefully, almost end to end, one face down and one face up, and Zim was standing over them, not even breathing hard. "Jones, " he said. "No, Jones left, didn't he? Mahmud! Let's have the water bucket, then stick them back into their sockets. Who's got my toothpick?" A few moments later the two were conscious, wet, and back in ranks. Zim looked at us and inquired gently, "Anybody else? Or shall we get on with setting-up exercises?" I didn't expect anybody else and I doubt if he did. But from down on the left flank, where the shorties hung out, a boy stepped out of ranks, came front and center. Zim looked down at him. "Just you? Or do you want to pick a partner?" "Just myself, sir. " "As you say. Name?" "Shujumi, sir. " Zim's eyes widened. "Any relation to Colonel Shujumi?" "I have the honor to be his son, sir. " "Ah so! Well! Black Belt?" "No, sir. Not yet. " "I'm glad you qualified that. Well, Shujumi, are we going to use contest rules, or shall I send for the ambulance?" "As you wish, sir. But I think, if I may be permitted an opinion, that contest rules would be more prudent. " "I don't know just how you mean that, but I agree. " Zim tossed his badge of authority aside, then, so help me, they backed off, faced each other, and bowed. After that they circled around each other in a half crouch, making tentative passes with their hands, and looking like a couple of roosters. Suddenly they touched -- and the little chap was down on the ground and Sergeant Zim was flying through the air over his head. But he didn't land with the dull, breath-paralyzing thud that Meyer had; he lit rolling and was on his feet as fast as Shujumi was and facing him. "Banzai!" Zim yelled and grinned. "Arigato, " Shujumi answered and grinned back. They touched again almost without a pause and I thought the Sergeant was going to fly again. He didn't; he slithered straight in, there was a confusion of arms and legs and when the motion slowed down you could see that Zim was tucking Shujumi's left foot in his right ear -- a poor fit. Shujumi slapped the ground with a free hand; Zim let him up at once. They again bowed to each other. "Another fall, sir?" "Sorry. We've got work to do. Some other time, eh? For fun . . . And honor. Perhaps I should have told you; your honorable father trained me. " "So I had already surmised, sir. Another time it is. " Zim slapped him hard on the shoulder. "Back in ranks, soldier. C'pnee!" Then, for twenty minutes, we went through calisthenics that left me as dripping hot as I had been shivering cold. Zim led it himself, doing it all with us and shouting the count. He hadn't been mussed that I could see; he wasn't breathing hard as we finished. He never led the exercises after that morning (we never saw him again before breakfast; rank hath its privileges), but he did that morning, and when it was over and we were all bushed, he led us at a trot to the mess tent, shouting at us the whole way to "Step it up! On the bounce! You're dragging your tails!" We always trotted everywhere at Camp Arthur Currie. I never did find out who Currie was, but he must have been a trackman. Breckinridge was already in the mess tent, with a cast on his wrist but thumb and fingers showing. I heard him say, "Naw, just a greenstick fractchuh -- ah've played a whole quahtuh with wuss. But you wait -- ah'll fix him. " I had my doubts. Shujumi, maybe -- but not that big ape. He simply didn't know when he was outclassed. I disliked Zim from the first moment I laid eyes on him. But he had style. Breakfast was all right -- all the meals were all right; there was none of that nonsense some boarding schools have of making your life miserable at the table. If you wanted to slump down and shovel it in with both hands, nobody bothered you -- which was good, as meals were practically the only time somebody wasn't riding you. The menu for breakfast wasn't anything like what I had been used to at home and the civilians that waited on us slapped the food around in a fashion that would have made Mother grow pale and leave for her room -- but it was hot and it was plentiful and the cooking was okay if plain. I ate about four times what I normally do and washed it down with mug after mug of coffee with cream and lots of sugar -- I would have eaten a shark without stopping to skin him. Jenkins showed up with Corporal Bronski behind him as I was starting on seconds. They stopped for a moment at a table where Zim was eating alone, then Jenkins slumped onto a vacant stool by mine. He looked mighty seedy-pale, exhausted, and his breath rasping. I said, "Here, let me pour you some coffee. " He shook his head. "You better eat, " I insisted. "Some scrambled eggs -- they'll go down easily. " "Can't eat. Oh, that dirty, dirty so-and-so. " He began cussing out Zim in a low, almost expressionless monotone. "All I asked him was to let me go lie down and skip breakfast. Bronski wouldn't let me -- said I had to see the company commander. So I did and I told him I was sick, I told him. He just felt my cheek and counted my pulse and told me sick call was nine o'clock. Wouldn't let me go back to my tent. Oh, that rat! I'll catch him on a dark night, I will. " I spooned out some eggs for him anyway and poured coffee. Presently he began to eat. Sergeant Zim got up to leave while most of us were still eating, and stopped by our table. "Jenkins. " "Uh? Yes, sir. " "At oh-nine-hundred muster for sick call and see the doctor. " Jenkins' jaw muscles twitched. He answered slowly, "I don't need any pills -- sir. I'll get by. " "Oh-nine-hundred. That's an order. " He left. Jenkins started his monotonous chant again. Finally he slowed down, took a bite of eggs and said somewhat more loudly, "I can't help wondering what kind of a mother produced that. I'd just like to have a look at her, that's all. Did he ever have a mother?" It was a rhetorical question but it got answered. At the head of our table, several stools away, was one of the instructor-corporals. He had finished eating and was smoking and picking his teeth, simultaneously; he had evidently been listening. "Jenkins -- " "Uh -- sir?" "Don't you know about sergeants?" "Well . . . I'm learning. " "They don't have mothers. Just ask any trained private. " He blew smoke toward us. "They reproduce by fission . . . Like all bacteria. "
And the LORD said unto Gideon, The people that are with thee are too many . . . Now therefore go to, proclaim in the ears of the people, saying, Whosoever is fearful and afraid, let him return . . . And there returned of the people twenty and two thousand; and there remained ten thousand. And the LORD said unto Gideon, The people are yet too many; bring them down unto the water, and I will try them for thee there . . . So he brought down the people unto the water: and the LORD said unto Gideon, Every one that lappeth of the water with his tongue, as a dog lappeth, him shalt thou set by himself; likewise everyone that boweth down upon his knees to drink. And the number of them that drank, putting their hand to their mouth, were three hundred men . . . And the LORD said unto Gideon, By the three hundred . . . Will I save you . . . Let all the other people go . . . -- Judges VII:2-7 Two weeks after we got there they took our cots away from us. That is to say that we had the dubious pleasure of folding them, carrying them four miles, and stowing them in a warehouse. By then it didn't matter; the ground seemed much warmer and quite soft -- especially when the alert sounded in the middle of the night and we had to scramble out and play soldier. Which it did about three times a week. But I could get back to sleep after one of those mock exercises at once; I had learned to sleep any place, any time -- sitting up, standing up, even marching in ranks. Why, I could even sleep through evening parade standing at attention, enjoy the music without being waked by it -- and wake instantly at the command to pass in review. I made a very important discovery at Camp Currie. Happiness consists in getting enough sleep. Just that, nothing more. All the wealthy, unhappy people you've ever met take sleeping pills; Mobile Infantrymen don't need them. Give a cap trooper a bunk and time to sack out in it and he's as happy as a worm in an apple -- asleep. Theoretically you were given eight full hours of sack time every night and about an hour and a half after evening chow for your own use. But in fact your night sack time was subject to alerts, to night duty, to field marches, and to acts of God and the whims of those over you, and your evenings, if not ruined by awkward squad or extra duty for minor offenses, were likely to be taken up by shining shoes, doing laundry, swapping haircuts (some of us got to be pretty fair barbers but a clean sweep like a billiard ball was acceptable and anybody can do that) -- not to mention a thousand other chores having to do with equipment, person, and the demands of sergeants. For example we learned to answer morning roll call with: "Bathed!" meaning you had taken at least one bath since last reveille. A man might lie about it and get away with it (I did, a couple of times) but at least one in our company who pulled that dodge in the face of convincing evidence that he was not recently bathed got scrubbed with stiff brushes and floor soap by his squad mates while a corporal-instructor chaperoned and made helpful suggestions. But if you didn't have more urgent things to do after supper, you could write a letter, loaf, gossip, discuss the myriad mental and moral shortcomings of sergeants and, dearest of all, talk about the female of the species (we became convinced that there were no such creatures, just mythology created by inflamed imaginations one boy in our company claimed to have seen a girl, over at regimental headquarters; he was unanimously judged a liar and a braggart). Or you could play cards. I learned, the hard way, not to draw to an inside straight and I've never done it since. In fact I haven't played cards since. Or, if you actually did have twenty minutes of your very own, you could sleep. This was a choice very highly thought of; we were always several weeks minus on sleep. I may have given the impression that boot camp was made harder than necessary. This is not correct. It was made as hard as possible and on purpose. It was the firm opinion of every recruit that this was sheer meanness, calculated sadism, fiendish delight of witless morons in making other people suffer. It was not. It was too scheduled, too intellectual, too efficiently and impersonally organized to be cruelty for the sick pleasure of cruelty; it was planned like surgery for purposes as unimpassioned as those of a surgeon. Oh, I admit that some of the instructors may have enjoyed it but I don't know that they did -- and I do know (now) that the psych officers tried to weed out any bullies in selecting instructors. They looked for skilled and dedicated craftsmen to follow the art of making things as tough as possible for a recruit; a bully is too stupid, himself too emotionally involved, and too likely to grow tired of his fun and slack off, to be efficient. Still, there may have been bullies among them. But I've heard that some surgeons (and not necessarily bad ones) enjoy the cutting and the blood which accompanies the humane art of surgery. That's what it was: surgery. Its immediate purpose was to get rid of, run right out of the outfit, those recruits who were too soft or too babyish ever to make Mobile Infantrymen. It accomplished that, in droves. (They darn near ran me out. ) Our company shrank to platoon size in the first six weeks. Some of them were dropped without prejudice and allowed, if they wished, to sweat out their terms in the non-combatant services; others got Bad Conduct Discharges, or Unsatisfactory Performance Discharges, or Medical Discharges. Usually you didn't know why a man left unless you saw him leave and he volunteered the information. But some of them got fed up, said so loudly, and resigned, forfeiting forever their chances of franchise. Some, especially the older men, simply couldn't stand the pace physically no matter how hard they tried. I remember one, a nice old geezer named Carruthers, must have been thirty-five; they carried him away in a stretcher while he was still shouting feebly that it wasn't fair! -- and that he would be back. It was sort of sad, because we liked Carruthers and he did try -- so we looked the other way and figured we would never see him again, that he was a cinch for a medical discharge and civilian clothes. Only I did see him again, long after. He had refused discharge (you don't have to accept a medical) and wound up as third cook in a troop transport. He remembered me and wanted to talk old times, as proud of being an alumnus of Camp Currie as Father is of his Harvard accent -- he felt that he was a little bit better than the ordinary Navy man. Well, maybe he was. But, much more important than the purpose of carving away the fat quickly and saving the government the training costs of those who would never cut it, was the prime purpose of making as sure as was humanly possible that no cap trooper ever climbed into a capsule for a combat drop unless he was prepared for it -- fit, resolute, disciplined, and skilled. If he is not, it's not fair to the Federation, it's certainly not fair to his teammates, and worst of all it's not fair to him. But was boot camp more cruelly hard than was necessary? All I can say to that is this: The next time I have to make a combat drop, I want the men on my flanks to be graduates of Camp Currie or its Siberian equivalent. Otherwise I'll refuse to enter the capsule. But I certainly thought it was a bunch of crumby, vicious nonsense at the time. Little things -- When we were there a week, we were issued undress maroons for parade to supplement the fatigues we had been wearing. (Dress and full-dress uniforms came much later. ) I took my tunic back to the issue shed and complained to the supply sergeant. Since he was only a supply sergeant and rather fatherly in manner I thought of him as a semi- civilian -- I didn't know how, as of then, to read the ribbons on his chest or I wouldn't have dared speak to him. "Sergeant, this tunic is too large. My company commander says it fits like a tent. " He looked at the garment, didn't touch it. "Really?" "Yeah. I want one that fits. " He still didn't stir. "Let me wise you up, sonny boy. There are just two sizes in this army -- too large and too small. " "But my company commander -- " "No doubt. " "But what am I going to do?" "Oh, it's a choice you want! Well, I've got that in stock -- new issue, just today. Mmm . . . Tell you what I'll do. Here's a needle and I'll even give you a spool of thread. You won't need a pair of scissors; a razor blade is better. Now you tight `em plenty across the hips but leave cloth to loose `em again across the shoulders; you'll need it later. " Sergeant Zim's only comment on my tailoring was: "You can do better than that. Two hours extra duty. " So I did better than that by next parade. Those first six weeks were all hardening up and hazing, with lots of parade drill and lots of route march. Eventually, as files dropped out and went home or elsewhere, we reached the point where we could do fifty miles in ten hours on the level -- which is good mileage for a good horse in case you've never used your legs. We rested, not by stopping, but by changing pace, slow march, quick march, and trot. Sometimes we went out the full distance, bivouacked and ate field rations, slept in sleeping bags and marched back the next day. One day we started out on an ordinary day's march, no bed bags on our shoulders, no rations. When we didn't stop for lunch, I wasn't surprised, as I had already learned to sneak sugar and hard bread and such out of the mess tent and conceal it about my person, but when we kept on marching away from camp in the afternoon I began to wonder. But I had learned not to ask silly questions. We halted shortly before dark, three companies, now somewhat abbreviated. We formed a battalion parade and marched through it, without music, guards were mounted, and we were dismissed. I immediately looked up Corporal-Instructor Bronski because he was a little easier to deal with than the others . . . And because I felt a certain amount of responsibility; I happened to be, at the time, a recruit-corporal myself. These boot chevrons didn't mean much -- mostly the privilege of being chewed out for whatever your squad did as well as for what you did yourself -- and they could vanish as quickly as they appeared. Zim had tried out all of the older men as temporary non-coms first and I had inherited a brassard with chevrons on it a couple of days before when our squad leader had folded up and gone to hospital. I said, "Corporal Bronski, what's the straight word? When is chow call?" He grinned at me. "I've got a couple of crackers on me. Want me to split `em with you?" "Huh? Oh, no, sir. Thank you. " (I had considerably more than a couple of crackers; I was learning. ) "No chow call?" "They didn't tell me either, sonny. But I don't see any copters approaching. Now if I was you, I'd round up my squad and figure things out. Maybe one of you can hit a jack rabbit with a rock. " "Yes, sir. But -- Well, are we staying here all night? We don't have our bedrolls. " His eye brows shot up. "No bedrolls? Well, I do declare!" He seemed to think it over. "Mmm . . . Ever see sheep huddle together in a snowstorm?" "Uh, no, sir. " "Try it. They don't freeze, maybe you won't. Or, if you don't care for company, you might walk around all night. Nobody'll bother you, as long as you stay inside the posted guards. You won't freeze if you keep moving. Of course you may be a little tired tomorrow. " He grinned again. I saluted and went back to my squad. We divvied up, share and share alike -- and I came out with less food than I had started; some of those idiots either hadn't sneaked out anything to eat, or had eaten all they had while we marched. But a few crackers and a couple of prunes will do a lot to quiet your stomach's sounding alert. The sheep trick works, too; our whole section, three squads, did it together. I don't recommend it as a way to sleep; you are either in the outer layer, frozen on one side and trying to worm your way inside, or you are inside, fairly warm but with everybody else trying to shove his elbows, feet, and halitosis on you. You migrate from one condition to the other all night long in sort of a Brownian movement, never quite waking up and never really sound asleep. All this makes a night about a hundred years long. We turned out at dawn to the familiar shout of: "Up you come! On the bounce!" encouraged by instructors' batons applied smartly on fundaments sticking out of the piles . . . And then we did setting-up exercises. I felt like a corpse and didn't see how I could touch my toes. But I did, though it hurt, and twenty minutes later when we hit the trail I merely felt elderly. Sergeant Zim wasn't even mussed and somehow the scoundrel had managed to shave. The Sun warmed our backs as we marched and Zim started us singing, oldies at first, like "Le Regiment de Sambre et Meuse" and "Caissons" and "Halls of Montezuma" and then our own "Cap Trooper's Polka" which moves you into quickstep and pulls you on into a trot. Sergeant Zim couldn't carry a tune in a sack; all he had was a loud voice. But Breckinridge had a sure, strong lead and could hold the rest of us in the teeth of Zim's terrible false notes. We all felt cocky and covered with spines. But we didn't feel cocky fifty miles later. It had been a long night; it was an endless day -- and Zim chewed us out for the way we looked on parade and several boots got gigged for failing to shave in the nine whole minutes between the time we fell out after the march and fell back in again for parade. Several recruits resigned that evening and I thought about it but didn't because I had those silly boot chevrons and hadn't been busted yet. That night there was a two-hour alert. But eventually I learned to appreciate the homey luxury of two or three dozen warm bodies to snuggle up to, because twelve weeks later they dumped me down raw naked in a primitive area of the Canadian Rockies and I had to make my way forty miles through mountains. I made it -- and hated the Army every inch of the way. I wasn't in too bad shape when I checked in, though. A couple of rabbits had failed to stay as alert as I was, so I didn't go entirely hungry . . . Nor entirely naked; I had a nice warm thick coat of rabbit fat and dirt on my body and moccasins on my feet -- the rabbits having no further use for their skins. It's amazing what you can do with a flake of rock if you have to -- I guess our cave-man ancestors weren't such dummies as we usually think. The others made it, too, those who were still around to try and didn't resign rather than take the test -- all except two boys who died trying. Then we all went back into the mountains and spent thirteen days finding them, working with copters overhead to direct us and all the best communication gear to help us and our instructors in powered command suits to supervise and to check rumors -- because the Mobile Infantry doesn't abandon its own while there is any thin shred of hope. Then we buried them with full honors to the strains of "This Land Is Ours" and with the posthumous rank of PFC, the first of our boot regiment to go that high -- because a cap trooper isn't necessarily expected to stay alive (dying is part of his trade) . . . But they care a lot about how you die. It has to be heads up, on the bounce, and still trying. Breckinridge was one of them; the other was an Aussie boy I didn't know. They weren't the first to die in training; they weren't the last.
He's bound to be guilty `r he wouldn't be here! Starboard gun . . . FIRE!
Shooting's too good for `im, kick the louse out! Port gun . . . FIRE! -- Ancient chanty used to time saluting guns But that was after we had left Camp Currie and a lot had happened in between. Combat training, mostly -- combat drill and combat exercises and combat maneuvers, using everything from bare hands to simulated nuclear weapons. I hadn't known there were so many different ways to fight. Hands and feet to start with -- and if you think those aren't weapons you haven't seen Sergeant Zim and Captain Frankel, our battalion commander, demonstrate la savate, or had little Shujumi work you over with just his hands and a toothy grin -- Zim made Shujumi an instructor for that purpose at once and required us to take his orders, although we didn't have to salute him and say "sir. " As our ranks thinned down Zim quit bothering with formations himself, except parade, and spent more and more time in personal instruction, supplementing the corporal-instructors. He was sudden death with anything but he loved knives, and made and balanced his own, instead of using the perfectly good general-issue ones. He mellowed quite a bit as a personal teacher, too, becoming merely unbearable instead of downright disgusting -- he could be quite patient with silly questions. Once, during one of the two-minute rest periods that were scattered sparsely through each day's work, one of the boys -- a kid named Ted Hendrick -- asked, "Sergeant? I guess this knife throwing is fun . . . But why do we have to learn it? What possible use is it?" "Well, " answered Zim, "suppose all you have is a knife? Or maybe not even a knife? What do you do? Just say your prayers and die? Or wade in and make him buy it anyhow? Son, this is real -- it's not a checker game you can concede if you find yourself too far behind. " "But that's just what I mean, sir. Suppose you aren't armed at all? Or just one of these toadstickers, say? And the man you're up against has all sorts of dangerous weapons? There's nothing you can do about it; he's got you licked on showdown. " Zim said almost gently, "You've got it all wrong, son. There's no such thing as a `dangerous weapon. ' " "Huh? Sir?" "There are no dangerous weapons; there are only dangerous men. We're trying to teach you to be dangerous -- to the enemy. Dangerous even without a knife. Deadly as long as you still have one hand or one foot and are still alive. If you don't know what I mean, go read `Horatius at the Bridge' or `The Death of the Bon Homme Richard'; they're both in the Camp library. But take the case you first mentioned; I'm you and all you have is a knife. That target behind me -- the one you've been missing, number three -- is a sentry, armed with everything but an H-bomb. You've got to get him . .. Quietly, at once, and without letting him call for help. " Zim turned slightly -- thunk! -- a knife he hadn't even had in his hand was quivering in the center of target number three. "You see? Best to carry two knives -- but get him you must, even barehanded. " "Uh -- " "Something still troubling you? Speak up. That's what I'm here for, to answer your questions. " "Uh, yes, sir. You said the sentry didn't have any H-bomb. But he does have an H-bomb; that's just the point. Well, at least we have, if we're the sentry . . . And any sentry we're up against is likely to have them, too. I don't mean the sentry, I mean the side he's on. " "I understood you. " "Well . . . You see, sir? If we can use an H-bomb -- and, as you said, it's no checker game; it's real, it's war and nobody is fooling around -- isn't it sort of ridiculous to go crawling around in the weeds, throwing knives and maybe getting yourself killed . . . And even losing the war ... When you've got a real weapon you can use to win? What's the point in a whole lot of men risking their lives with obsolete weapons when one professor type can do so much more just by pushing a button?" Zim didn't answer at once, which wasn't like him at all. Then he said softly, "Are you happy in the Infantry, Hendrick? You can resign, you know. " Hendrick muttered something; Zim said, "Speak up!" "I'm not itching to resign, sir. I'm going to sweat out my term. " "I see. Well, the question you asked is one that a sergeant isn't really qualified to answer . . . And one that you shouldn't ask me. You're supposed to know the answer before you join up. Or you should. Did your school have a course in History and Moral Philosophy?" "What? Sure -- yes, sir. " "Then you've heard the answer. But I'll give you my own -- unofficial -- views on it. If you wanted to teach a baby a lesson, would you cut its head off?" "Why . . . No, sir!" "Of course not. You'd paddle it. There can be circumstances when it's just as foolish to hit an enemy city with an H-bomb as it would be to spank a baby with an ax. War is not violence and killing, pure and simple; war is controlled violence, for a purpose. The purpose of war is to support your government's decisions by force. The purpose is never to kill the enemy just to be killing him . . . But to make him do what you want him to do. Not killing . . . But controlled and purposeful violence. But it's not your business or mine to decide the purpose or the control. It's never a soldier's business to decide when or where or how -- or why -- he fights; that belongs to the statesmen and the generals. The statesmen decide why and how much; the generals take it from there and tell us where and when and how. We supply the violence; other people -- `older and wiser heads, ' as they say -- supply the control. Which is as it should be. That's the best answer I can give you. If it doesn't satisfy you, I'll get you a chit to go talk to the regimental commander. If he can't convince you -- then go home and be a civilian! Because in that case you will certainly never make a soldier. " Zim bounced to his feet. "I think you've kept me talking just to goldbrick. Up you come, soldiers! On the bounce! Man stations, on target -- Hendrick, you first. This time I want you to throw that knife south of you. South, get it? Not north. That target is due south of you and I want that knife to go in a general southerly direction, at least. I know you won't hit the target but see if you can't scare it a little. Don't slice your ear off, don't let go of it and cut somebody behind you -- just keep what tiny mind you have fixed on the idea of `south'! Ready on target! Let fly!" Hendrick missed it again. We trained with sticks and we trained with wire (lots of nasty things you can improvise with a piece of wire) and we learned what can be done with really modern weapons and how to do it and how to service and maintain the equipment -- simulated nuclear weapons and infantry rockets and various sorts of gas and poison and incendiary and demolition. As well as other things maybe best not discussed. But we learned a lot of "obsolete" weapons, too. Bayonets on dummy guns for example, and guns that weren't dummies, too, but were almost identical with the infantry rifle of the XXth century -- much like the sporting rifles used in hunting game, except that we fired nothing but solid slugs, alloyjacketed lead bullets, both at targets on measured ranges and at surprise targets on booby-trapped skirmish runs. This was supposed to prepare us to learn to use any aimed weapon and to train us to be on the bounce, alert, ready for anything. Well. I suppose it did. I'm pretty sure it did. We used these rifles in field exercises to simulate a lot of deadlier and nastier aimed weapons, too. We used a lot of simulation; we had to. An "explosive" bomb or grenade, against materiel or personnel, would explode just enough to put out a lot of black smoke; another sort of gave off a gas that would make you sneeze and weep that told you that you were dead or paralyzed . . . And was nasty enough to make you careful about anti-gas precautions, to say nothing of the chewing out you got if you were caught by it. We got still less sleep; more than half the exercises were held at night, with snoopers and radar and audio gear and such. The rifles used to simulate aimed weapons were loaded with blanks except one in five hundred rounds at random, which was a real bullet. Dangerous? Yes and no. It's dangerous just to be alive . . . And a nonexplosive bullet probably won't kill you unless it hits you in the head or the heart and maybe not then. What that one-in-five-hundred "for real" did was to give us a deep interest in taking cover, especially as we knew that some of the rifles were being fired by instructors who were crack shots and actually trying their best to hit you -- if the round happened not to be a blank. They assured us that they would not intentionally shoot a man in the head . . . But accidents do happen. This friendly assurance wasn't very reassuring. That 500th bullet turned tedious exercises into large-scale Russian roulette; you stop being bored the very first time you hear a slug go wheet! past your ear before you hear the crack of the rifle. But we did slack down anyhow and word came down from the top that if we didn't get on the bounce, the incidence of real ones would be changed to one in a hundred . . . And if that didn't work, to one in fifty. I don't know whether a change was made or not -- no way to tell -- but I do know we tightened up again, because a boy in the next company got creased across his buttocks with a live one, producing an amazing scar and a lot of half- witty comments and a renewed interest by all hands in taking cover. We laughed at this kid for getting shot where he did . . . But we all knew it could have been his head or our own heads. The instructors who were not firing rifles did not take cover. They put on white shirts and walked around upright with their silly canes, apparently calmly certain that even a recruit would not intentionally shoot an instructor -- which may have been overconfidence on the part of some of them. Still, the chances were five hundred to one that even a shot aimed with murderous intent would not be live and the safety factor increased still higher because the recruit probably couldn't shoot that well anyhow. A rifle is not an easy weapon; it's got no target-seeking qualities at all -- I understand that even back in the days when wars were fought and decided with just such rifles it used to take several thousand fired shots to average killing one man. This seems impossible but the military histories agree that it is true -- apparently most shots weren't really aimed but simply acted to force the enemy to keep his head down and interfere with his shooting. In any case we had no instructors wounded or killed by rifle fire. No trainees were killed, either, by rifle bullets; the deaths were all from other weapons or things -- some of which could turn around and bite you if you didn't do things by the book. Well, one boy did manage to break his neck taking cover too enthusiastically when they first started shooting at him -- but no bullet touched him. However, by a chain reaction, this matter of rifle bullets and taking cover brought me to my lowest ebb at Camp Currie. In the first place I had been busted out of my boot chevrons, not over what I did but over something one of my squad did when I wasn't even around . . . Which I pointed out. Bronski told me to button my lip. So I went to see Zim about it. He told me coldly that I was responsible for what my men did, regardless . . . And tacked on six hours of extra duty besides busting me for having spoken to him about it without Bronski's permission. Then I got a letter that upset me a lot; my mother finally wrote to me. Then I sprained a shoulder in my first drill with powered armor (they've got those practice suits rigged so that the instructor can cause casualties in the suit at will, by radio control; I got dumped and hurt my shoulder) and this put me on light duty with too much time to think at a time when I had many reasons, it seemed to me, to feel sorry for myself. Because of "light duty" I was orderly that day in the battalion commander's office. I was eager at first, for I had never been there before and wanted to make a good impression. I discovered that Captain Frankel didn't want zeal; he wanted me to sit still, say nothing, and not bother him. This left me time to sympathize with myself, for I didn't dare go to sleep. Then suddenly, shortly after lunch, I wasn't a bit sleepy; Sergeant Zim came in, followed by three men. Zim was smart and neat as usual but the expression on his face made him look like Death on a pale horse and he had a mark on his right eye that looked as if it might be shaping up into a shiner -- which was impossible, of course. Of the other three, the one in the middle was Ted Hendrick. He was dirty -- well, the company had been on a field exercise; they don't scrub those prairies and you spend a lot of your time snuggling up to the dirt. But his lip was split and there was blood on his chin and on his shirt and his cap was missing. He looked wild-eyed. The men on each side of him were boots. They each had rifles; Hendrick did not. One of them was from my squad, a kid named Leivy. He seemed excited and pleased, and slipped me a wink when nobody was looking. Captain Frankel looked surprised. "What is this, Sergeant?" Zim stood frozen straight and spoke as if he were reciting something by rote. "Sir, H Company Commander reports to the Battalion Commander. Discipline. Article nine-one-oh-seven. Disregard of tactical command and doctrine, the team being in simulated combat. Article nine-one- two-oh. Disobedience of orders, same conditions. " Captain Frankel looked puzzled. "You are bringing this to me, Sergeant? Officially?" I don't see how a man can manage to look as embarrassed as Zim looked and still have no expression of any sort in his face or voice. "Sir. If the Captain pleases. The man refused administrative discipline. He insisted on seeing the Battalion Commander. " "I see. A bedroll lawyer. Well, I still don't understand it, Sergeant, but technically that's his privilege. What was the tactical command and doctrine?" "A `freeze, ' sir. " I glanced at Hendrick, thinking: Oh, oh, he's going to catch it. In a "freeze" you hit dirt, taking any cover you can, fast, and then freeze don't move at all, not even twitch an eyebrow, until released. Or you can freeze when you're already in cover. They tell stories about men who had been hit while in freeze . . . And had died slowly but without ever making a sound or a move. Frankel's brows shot up. "Second part?" "Same thing, sir. After breaking freeze, failing to return to it on being so ordered. " Captain Frankel looked grim. "Name?" Zim answered. "Hendrick, T. C. , sir. Recruit Private R-P-seven-nine-six-oh-nine-two-four. " "Very well. Hendrick, you are deprived of all privileges for thirty days and restricted to your tent when not on duty or at meals, subject only to sanitary necessities. You will serve three hours extra duty each day under the Corporal of the Guard, one hour to be served just before taps, one hour just before reveille, one hour at the time of the noonday meal and in place of it. Your evening meal will be bread and water -- as much bread as you can eat. You will serve ten hours extra duty each Sunday, the time to be adjusted to permit you to attend divine services if you so elect. " (I thought: Oh my! He threw the book. ) Captain Frankel went on: "Hendrick, the only reason you are getting off so lightly is that I am not permitted to give you any more than that without convening a court-martial . . . And I don't want to spoil your company's record. Dismissed. " He dropped his eyes back to the papers on his desk, the incident already forgotten -- -- and Hendrick yelled, "You didn't hear my side of it!" The Captain looked up. "Oh. Sorry. You have a side?" "You darn right I do! Sergeant Zim's got it in for me! He's been riding me, riding me, riding me, all day long from the time I got here! He -- " "That's his job, " the Captain said coldly. "Do you deny the two charges against you?" "No, but -- He didn't tell you I was lying on an anthill!" Frankel looked disgusted. "Oh. So you would get yourself killed and perhaps your teammates as well because of a few little ants?" "Not `just a few' -- there were hundreds of `em. Stingers. " "So? Young man, let me put you straight. Had it been a nest of rattlesnakes you would still have been expected -- and required - - to freeze. " Frankel paused. "Have you anything at all to say in your own defense?" Hendrick's mouth was open. "I certainly do! He hit me! He laid hands on me! The whole bunch of `em are always strutting around with those silly batons, whackin' you across the fanny, punchin' you between the shoulders and tellin' you to brace up and I put up with it. But he hit me with his hands -- he knocked me down to the ground and yelled, `Freeze! you stupid jackass!' How about that?" Captain Frankel looked down at his hands, looked up again at Hendrick. "Young man, you are under a misapprehension very common among civilians. You think that your superior officers are not permitted to `lay hands on you, ' as you put it. Under purely social conditions, that is true -- say if we happened to run across each other in a theater or a shop, I would have no more right, as long as you treated me with the respect due my rank, to slap your face than you have to slap mine. But in line of duty the rule is entirely different -- " The Captain swung around in his chair and pointed at some loose-leaf books. "There are the laws under which you live. You can search every article in those books, every court-martial case which has arisen under them, and you will not find one word which says, or implies, that your superior officer may not `lay hands on you' or strike you in any other manner in line of duty. Hendrick, I could break your jaw . . . And I simply would be responsible to my own superior officers as to the appropriate necessity of the act. But I would not be responsible to you. I could do more than that. There are circumstances under which a superior officer, commissioned or not, is not only permitted but required to kill an officer or a man under him, without delay and perhaps without warning -- and, far from being punished, be commended. To put a stop to pusillanimous conduct in the face of the enemy, for example. " The Captain tapped on his desk. "Now about those batons -- They have two uses. First, they mark the men in authority. Second, we expect them to be used on you, to touch you up and keep you on the bounce. You can't possibly be hurt with one, not the way they are used; at most they sting a little. But they save thousands of words. Say you don't turn out on the bounce at reveille. No doubt the duty corporal could wheedle you, say `pretty please with sugar on it, ' inquire if you'd like breakfast in bed this morning -- if we could spare one career corporal just to nursemaid you. We can't, so he gives your bedroll a whack and trots on down the line, applying the spur where needed. Of course he could simply kick you, which would be just as legal and nearly as effective. But the general in charge of training and discipline thinks that it is more dignified, both for the duty corporal and for you, to snap a late sleeper out of his fog with the impersonal rod of authority. And so do I. Not that it matters what you or I think about it; this is the way we do it. " Captain Frankel sighed. "Hendrick, I have explained these matters to you because it is useless to punish a man unless he knows why he is being punished. You've been a bad boy -- I say `boy' because you quite evidently aren't a man yet, although we'll keep trying -- a surprisingly bad boy in view of the stage of your training. Nothing you have said is any defense, nor even any mitigation; you don't seem to know the score nor have any idea of your duty as a soldier. So tell me in your own words why you feel mistreated; I want to get you straightened out. There might even be something in your favor, though I confess that I cannot imagine what it could be. " I had sneaked a look or two at Hendrick's face while the Captain was chewing him out -- somehow his quiet, mild words were a worse chewing-out than any Zim had ever given us. Hendrick's expression had gone from indignation to blank astonishment to sullenness. "Speak up!" Frankel added sharply. "Uh . . . Well, we were ordered to freeze and I hit the dirt and I found I was on this anthill. So I got to my knees, to move over a couple of feet, and I was hit from behind and knocked flat and he yelled at me - - and I bounced up and popped him one and he -- " "STOP!" Captain Frankel was out of his chair and stand -- ten feet tall, though he's hardly taller than I am. He stared at Hendrick. "You . . . Struck . . . Your . . . Company commander?" "Huh? I said so. But he hit me first. From behind, I didn't even see him. I don't take that off of anybody. I popped him and then he hit me again and then -- " "Silence!" Hendrick stopped. Then he added, "I just want out of this lousy outfit. " "I think we can accommodate you, " Frankel said icily. "And quickly, too. " "Just gimme a piece of paper, I'm resigning. " "One moment. Sergeant Zim. " "Yes, sir. " Zim hadn't said a word for a long time. He just stood, eyes front and rigid as a statue, nothing moving but his twitching jaw muscles. I looked at him now and saw that it certainly was a shiner -- a beaut. Hendrick must have caught him just right. But he hadn't said anything about it and Captain Frankel hadn't asked -- maybe he had just assumed Zim had run into a door and would explain it if he felt like it, later. "Have the pertinent articles been published to your company, as required?" "Yes, sir. Published and logged, every Sunday morning" "I know they have. I asked simply for the record. " Just before church call every Sunday they lined us up and read aloud the disciplinary articles out of the Laws and Regulations of the Military Forces. They were posted on the bulletin board, too, outside the orderly tent. Nobody paid them much mind -- it was just another drill; you could stand still and sleep through it. About the only thing we noticed, if we noticed anything, was what we called "the thirty-one ways to crash land. " After all, the instructors see to it that you soak up all the regulations you need to know, through your skin. The "crash landings" were a worn-out joke, like "reveille oil" and "tent jacks" . . . They were the thirty-one capital offenses. Now and then somebody boasted, or accused somebody else, of having found a thirty-second way -- always something preposterous and usually obscene. "Striking a Superior Officer -- !" It suddenly wasn't amusing any longer. Popping Zim? Hang a man for that? Why, almost everybody in the company had taken a swing at Sergeant Zim and some of us had even landed . . . When he was instructing us in hand-to-hand combat. He would take us on after the other instructors had worked us over and we were beginning to feel cocky and pretty good at it -- then he would put the polish on. Why, shucks, I once saw Shujumi knock him unconscious. Bronski threw water on him and Zim got up and grinned and shook hands -- and threw Shujumi right over the horizon. Captain Frankel looked around, motioned at me. "You. Flash regimental headquarters. " I did it, all thumbs, stepped back when an officer's face came on and let the Captain take the call. "Adjutant, " the face said. Frankel said crisply, "Second Battalion Commander's respects to the Regimental Commander. I request and require an officer to sit as a court. " The face said, "When do you need him, Ian?" "As quickly as you can get him here. " "Right away. I'm pretty sure Jake is in his HQ. Article and name?" Captain Frankel identified Hendrick and quoted an article number. The face in the screen whistled and looked grim. "On the bounce, Ian. If I can't get Jake, I'll be over myself -- just as soon as I tell the Old Man. " Captain Frankel turned to Zim. "This escort -- are they witnesses?" "Yes, sir. " "Did his section leader see it?" Zim barely hesitated. "I think so, sir. " "Get him. Anybody out that way in a powered suit?" "Yes, sir. " Zim used the phone while Frankel said to Hendrick, "What witnesses do you wish to call in your defense?" "Huh? I don't need any witnesses, he knows what he did! Just hand me a piece of paper -- I'm getting out of here. " "All in good time. " In very fast time, it seemed to me. Less than five minutes later Corporal Jones came bouncing up in a command suit, carrying Corporal Mahmud in his arms. He dropped Mahmud and bounced away just as Lieutenant Spieksma came in. He said, "Afternoon, Cap'n. Accused and witnesses here?" "All set. Take it, Jake. " "Recorder on?" "It is now. " "Very well. Hendrick, step forward. " Hendrick did so, looking puzzled and as if his nerve was beginning to crack. Lieutenant Spieksma said briskly: "Field Court-Martial, convened by order of Major F. X. Malloy, commanding Third Training Regiment, Camp Arthur Currie, under General Order Number Four, issued by the Commanding General, Training and Discipline Command, pursuant to the Laws and Regulations of the Military Forces, Terran Federation. Remanding officer: Captain Ian Frankel, M. I. , assigned to and commanding Second Battalion, Third Regiment. The Court: Lieutenant Jacques Spieksma, M. I. , assigned to and commanding First Battalion, Third Regiment. Accused: Hendrick, Theodore C. , Recruit Private RP7960924. Article 9080. Charge: Striking his superior officer, the Terran Federation then being in a state of emergency. " The thing that got me was how fast it went. I found myself suddenly appointed an "officer of the court" and directed to "remove" the witnesses and have them ready. I didn't know how I would "remove" Sergeant Zim if he didn't feel like it, but he gathered Mahmud and the two boots up by eye and they all went outside, out of earshot. Zim separated himself from the others and simply waited; Mahmud sat down on the ground and rolled a cigarette -- which he had to put out; he was the first one called. In less than twenty minutes all three of them had testified, all telling much the same story Hendrick had. Zim wasn't called at all. Lieutenant Spieksma said to Hendrick, "Do you wish to cross- examine the witnesses? The Court will assist you, if you so wish. " "No. " "Stand at attention and say `sir' when you address the Court. " "No, sir. " He added, "I want a lawyer. " "The Law does not permit counsel in field courts-martial. Do you wish to testify in your own defense? You are not required to do so and, in view of the evidence thus far, the Court will take no judicial notice if you choose not to do so. But you are warned that any testimony that you give may be used against you and that you will be subject to cross-examination. " Hendrick shrugged. "I haven't anything to say. What good would it do me?" "The Court repeats: Will you testify in your own defense?" "Uh, no, sir. " "The Court must demand of you one technical question. Was the article under which you are charged published to you before the time of the alleged offense of which you stand accused? You may answer yes, or no, or stand mute -- but you are responsible for your answer under Article 9167 which relates to perjury. " The accused stood mute. "Very well, the Court will reread the article of the charge aloud to you and again ask you that question. `Article 9080: Any person in the Military Forces who strikes or assaults, or attempts to strike or assault -- " "Oh, I suppose they did. They read a lot of that stuff, every Sunday morning -- a whole long list of things you couldn't do. " "Was or was not that particular article read to you?" "Uh . . . Yes, sir. It was. " "Very well. Having declined to testify, do you have any statement to make in mitigation or extenuation?" "Sir?" "Do you want to tell the Court anything about it? Any circumstance which you think might possibly affect the evidence already given? Or anything which might lessen the alleged offense? Such things as being ill, or under drugs or medication. You are not under oath at this point; you may say anything at all which you think may help you. What the Court is trying to find out is this: Does anything about this matter strike you as being unfair? If so, why?" "Huh? Of course it is! Everything about it is unfair! He hit me first! You heard `em! -- he hit me first!" "Anything more?" "Huh? No, sir. Isn't that enough?" "The trial is completed. Recruit Private Theodore C. Hendrick, stand forth!" Lieutenant Spieksma had been standing at attention the whole time; now Captain Frankel stood up. The place suddenly felt chilly. "Private Hendrick, you are found guilty as charged. " My stomach did a flip-flop. They were going to do it to him . . . They were going to do the "Danny Deever" to Ted Hendrick. And I had eaten breakfast beside him just this morning. "The Court sentences you, " he went on, while I felt sick, "to ten lashes and Bad Conduct Discharge. " Hendrick gulped. "I want to resign!" "The Court will not permit you to resign. The Court wishes to add that your punishment is light simply because this Court possesses no jurisdiction to assign greater punishment. The authority which remanded you specified a field court-martial -- why it so chose, this Court will not speculate. But had you been remanded for general court-martial, it seems certain that the evidence before this Court would have caused a general court to sentence you to hang by the neck until dead. You are very lucky -- and the remanding authority has been most merciful. " Lieutenant Spieksma paused, then went on, "The sentence will be carried out at the earliest hour after the convening authority has reviewed and approved the record, if it does so approve. Court is adjourned. Remove and confine him. " The last was addressed to me, but I didn't actually have to do anything about it, other than phone the guard tent and then get a receipt for him when they took him away. At afternoon sick call Captain Frankel took me off orderly and sent me to see the doctor, who sent me back to duty. I got back to my company just in time to dress and fall in for parade -- and to get gigged by Zim for "spots on uniform. " Well, he had a bigger spot over one eye but I didn't mention it. Somebody had set up a big post in the parade ground just back of where the adjutant stood. When it came time to publish the orders, instead of "routine order of the day" or other trivia, they published Hendrick's court-martial. Then they marched him out, between two armed guards, with his hands cuffed together in front of him. I had never seen a flogging. Back home, while they do it in public of course, they do it back of the Federal Building -- and Father had given me strict orders to stay away from there. I tried disobeying him on it once. . . But it was postponed and I never tried to see one again. Once is too many. The guards lifted his arms and hooked the manacles over a big hook high up on the post. Then they took his shirt off and it turned out that it was fixed so that it could come off and he didn't have an undershirt. The adjutant said crisply, "Carry out the sentence of the Court. " A corporal-instructor from some other battalion stepped forward with the whip. The Sergeant of the Guard made the count. It's a slow count, five seconds between each one and it seems much longer. Ted didn't let out a peep until the third, then he sobbed. The next thing I knew I was staring up at Corporal Bronski. He was slapping me and looking intently at me. He stopped and asked, "Okay now? All right, back in ranks. On the bounce; we're about to pass in review. " We did so and marched back to our company areas. I didn't eat much dinner but neither did a lot of them. Nobody said a word to me about fainting. I found out later that I wasn't the only one -- a couple of dozen of us had passed out.
What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly . . . It would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated. -- Thomas Paine
It was the night after Hendrick was kicked out that I reached my lowest slump at Camp Currie. I couldn't sleep -- and you have to have been through boot camp to understand just how far down a recruit has to sink before that can happen. But I hadn't had any real exercise all day so I wasn't physically tired, and my shoulder still hurt even though I had been marked "duty, " and I had that letter from my mother preying on my mind, and every time I closed my eyes I would hear that crack! and see Ted slump against the whipping post. I wasn't fretted about losing my boot chevrons. That no longer mattered at all because I was ready to resign, determined to. If it hadn't been the middle of the night and no pen and paper handy, I would have done so right then. Ted had made a bad mistake, one that lasted all of half a second. And it really had been just a mistake, too, because, while he hated the outfit (who liked it?), he had been trying to sweat it out and win his franchise; he meant to go into politics -- he talked a lot about how, when he got his citizenship, "There will be some changes made -- you wait and see. " Well, he would never be in public office now; he had taken his finger off his number for a single instant and he was through. If it could happen to him, it could happen to me. Suppose I slipped? Next day or next week? Not even allowed to resign . . . But drummed out with my back striped. Time to admit that I was wrong and Father was right, time to put in that little piece of paper and slink home and tell Father that I was ready to go to Harvard and then go to work in the business -- if he would still let me. Time to see Sergeant Zim, first thing in the morning, and tell him that I had had it. But not until morning, because you don't wake Sergeant Zim except for something you're certain that he will class as an emergency -- believe me, you don't! Not Sergeant Zim. Sergeant Zim -- He worried me as much as Ted's case did. After the court- martial was over and Ted had been taken away, he stayed behind and said to Captain Frankel, "May I speak with the Battalion Commander, sir?" "Certainly. I was intending to ask you to stay behind for a word. Sit down. " Zim flicked his eyes my way and the Captain looked at me and I didn't have to be told to get out; I faded. There was nobody in the outer office, just a couple of civilian clerks. I didn't dare go outside because the Captain might want me; I found a chair back of a row of files and sat down. I could hear them talking, through the partition I had my head against. BHQ was a building rather than a tent, since it housed permanent communication and recording equipment, but it was a "minimum field building, " a shack; the inner partitions weren't much. I doubt if the civilians could hear as they each were wearing transcriber phones and were bent over typers -- besides, they didn't matter. I didn't mean to eavesdrop. Uh, well, maybe I did. Zim said: "Sir, I request transfer to a combat team. " Frankel answered: "I can't hear you, Charlie. My tin ear is bothering me again. " Zim: "I'm quite serious, sir. This isn't my sort of duty. " Frankel said testily, "Quit bellyaching your troubles to me, Sergeant. At least wait until we've disposed of duty matters. What in the world happened?" Zim said stiffly, "Captain, that boy doesn't rate ten lashes. " Frankel answered, "Of course he doesn't. You know who goofed -- and so do I. " "Yes, sir. I know. " "Well? You know even better than I do that these kids are wild animals at this stage. You know when it's safe to turn your back on them and when it isn't. You know the doctrine and the standing orders about article nine-oh-eight-oh -- you must never give them a chance to violate it. Of course some of them are going to try it -- if they weren't aggressive they wouldn't be material for the M. I. They're docile in ranks; it's safe enough to turn your back when they're eating, or sleeping, or sitting on their tails and being lectured. But get them out in the field in a combat exercise, or anything that gets them keyed up and full of adrenaline, and they're as explosive as a hatful of mercury fulminate. You know that, all you instructors know that; you're trained -- trained to watch for it, trained to snuff it out before it happens. Explain to me how it was possible for an untrained recruit to hang a mouse on your eye? He should never have laid a hand on you; you should have knocked him cold when you saw what he was up to. So why weren't you on the bounce? Are you slowing down?" "I don't know, " Zim answered slowly. "I guess I must be. " "Hmm! If true, a combat team is the last place for you. But it's not true. Or wasn't true the last time you and I worked out together, three days ago. So what slipped?" Zim was slow in answering. "I think I had him tagged in my mind as one of the safe ones. " "There are no such. " "Yes, sir. But he was so earnest, so doggedly determined to sweat it out -- he didn't have any aptitude but he kept on trying -- that I must have done that, subconsciously. " Zim was silent, then added, "I guess it was because I liked him. " Frankel snorted. "An instructor can't afford to like a man. " "I know it, sir. But I do. They're a nice bunch of kids. We've dumped all the real twerps by now -- Hendrick's only shortcoming, aside from being clumsy, was that he thought he knew all the answers. I didn't mind that; I knew it all at that age myself. The twerps have gone home and those that are left are eager, anxious to please, and on the bounce -- as cute as a litter of collie pups. A lot of them will make soldiers. " "So that was the soft spot. You liked him . . . So you failed to clip him in time. So he winds up with a court and the whip and a B. C. D. Sweet. " Zim said earnestly, "I wish to heaven there were some way for me to take that flogging myself, sir. " "You'd have to take your turn, I outrank you. What do you think I've been wishing the past hour? What do you think I was afraid of from the moment I saw you come in here sporting a shiner? I did my best to brush it off with administrative punishment and the young fool wouldn't let well enough alone. But I never thought he would be crazy enough to blurt out that he had hung one on you -- he's stupid; you should have eased him out of the outfit weeks ago . . . Instead of nursing him along until he got into trouble. But blurt it out he did, to me, in front of witnesses, forcing me to take of official notice of it -- and that licked us. No way to get it off the record, no way to avoid a court . . . Just go through the whole dreary mess and take our medicine, and wind up with one more civilian who'll be against us the rest of his days. Because he has to be flogged; neither you nor I can take it for him, even though the fault was ours. Because the regiment has to see what happens when nine-oh-eight-oh is violated. Our fault . . . But his lumps. " "My fault, Captain. That's why I want to be transferred. Uh, sir, I think it's best for the outfit. " "You do, eh? But I decide what's best for my battalion, not you, Sergeant. Charlie, who do you think pulled your name out of the hat? And why? Think back twelve years. You were a corporal, remember? Where were you?" "Here, as you know quite well, Captain. Right here on this same godforsaken prairie -- and I wish I had never come back to it!" "Don't we all. But it happens to be the most important and the most delicate work in the Army -- turning unspanked young cubs into soldiers. Who was the worst unspanked young cub in your section?" "Mmm . . . " Zim answered slowly. "I wouldn't go so far as to say you were the worst, Captain. " "You wouldn't, eh? But you'd have to think hard to name another candidate. I hated your guts, `Corporal' Zim. " Zim sounded surprised, and a little hurt. "You did, Captain? I didn't hate you -- I rather liked you. " "So? Well, `hate' is the other luxury an instructor can never afford. We must not hate them, we must not like them; we must teach them. But if you liked me then -- mmm, it seemed to me that you had very strange ways of showing it. Do you still like me? Don't answer that; I don't care whether you do or not -- or, rather, I don't want to know, whichever it is. Never mind; I despised you then and I used to dream about ways to get you. But you were always on the bounce and never gave me a chance to buy a nine-oh-eight-oh court of my own. So here I am, thanks to you. Now to handle your request: You used to have one order that you gave to me over and over again when I was a boot. I got so that I loathed it almost more than anything else you did or said. Do you remember it? I do and now I'll give it back to you: `Soldier, shut up and soldier!' " "Yes, sir. " "Don't go yet. This weary mess isn't all loss; any regiment of boots needs a stern lesson in the meaning of nine-oh-eight-oh, as we both know. They haven't yet learned to think, they won't read, and they rarely listen -- but they can see . . . And young Hendrick's misfortune may save one of his mates, some day, from swinging by the neck until he's dead, dead, dead. But I'm sorry the object lesson had to come from my battalion and I certainly don't intend to let this battalion supply another one. You get your instructors together and warn them. For about twenty-four hours those kids will be in a state of shock. Then they'll turn sullen and the tension will build. Along about Thursday or Friday some boy who is about to flunk out anyhow will start thinking over the fact that Hendrick didn't get so very much, not even the number of lashes for drunken driving . . . And he's going to start brooding that it might be worth it, to take a swing at the instructor he hates worst. Sergeant -- that blow must never land! Understand me?" "Yes, sir. " "I want them to be eight times as cautious as they have been. I want them to keep their distance, I want them to have eyes in the backs of their heads. I want them to be as alert as a mouse at a cat show. Bronski - - you have a special word with Bronski; he has a tendency to fraternize. " "I'll straighten Bronski out, sir. " "See that you do. Because when the next kid starts swinging, it's got to be stop-punched -- not muffed, like today. The boy has got to be knocked cold and the instructor must do so without ever being touched himself or I'll damned well break him for incompetence. Let them know that. They've got to teach those kids that it's not merely expensive but impossible to violate nine-oh-eight-oh . . . That even trying it wins a short nap, a bucket of water in the face, and a very sore jaw -- and nothing else. " "Yes, sir. It'll be done. " "It had better be done. I will not only break the instructor who slips, I will personally take him `way out on the prairie and give him lumps ... Because I will not have another one of my boys strung up to that whipping post through sloppiness on the part of his teachers. Dismissed. " "Yes, sir. Good afternoon, Captain. " "What's good about it? Charlie -- " "Yes, sir?" "If you're not too busy this evening, why don't you bring your soft shoes and your pads over to officers' row and we'll go waltzing Matilda? Say about eight o'clock. " "Yes, sir. " "That's not an order, that's an invitation. If you really are slowing down, maybe I'll be able to kick your shoulder blades off. " "Uh, would the Captain care to put a small bet on it?" "Huh? With me sitting here at this desk getting swivel-chair spread? I will not! Not unless you agree to fight with one foot in a bucket of cement. Seriously, Charlie, we've had a miserable day and it's going to be worse before it gets better. If you and I work up a good sweat and swap a few lumps, maybe we'll be able to sleep tonight despite all of mother's little darlings. " "I'll be there, Captain. Don't eat too much dinner -- I need to work off a couple of matters myself. " "I'm not going to dinner; I'm going to sit right here and sweat out this quarterly report . . . Which the Regimental Commander is graciously pleased to see right after his dinner . . . And which somebody whose name I won't mention has put me two hours behind on. So I may be a few minutes late for our waltz. Go `way now, Charlie, and don't bother me. See you later. " Sergeant Zim left so abruptly that I barely had time to lean over and tie my shoe and thereby be out of sight behind the file cases as he passed through the outer office. Captain Frankel was already shouting, "Orderly! Orderly! ORDERLY! -- do I have to call you three times? What's your name? Put yourself down for an hour's extra duty, full kit. Find the company commanders of E, F, and G, my compliments and I'll be pleased to see them before parade. Then bounce over to my tent and fetch me a clean dress uniform, cap, side arms, shoes, ribbons -- no medals. Lay it out for me here. Then make afternoon sick call -- if you can scratch with that arm, as I've seen you doing, your shoulder can't be too sore. You've got thirteen minutes until sick call on the bounce, soldier!" I made it . . . By catching two of them in the senior instructors -- showers (an orderly can go anywhere) and the third at his desk; the orders you get aren't impossible, they merely seem so because they nearly are. I was laying out Captain Frankel's uniform for parade as sick call sounded. Without looking up he growled, "Belay that extra duty. Dismissed. " So I got home just in time to catch extra duty for "Uniform, Untidy in, Two Particulars" and see the sickening end of Ted Hendrick's time in the M. I. So I had plenty to think about as I lay awake that night. I had known that Sergeant Zim worked hard, but it had never occurred to me that he could possibly be other than completely and smugly self-satisfied with what he did. He looked so smug, so self-assured, so at peace with the world and with himself. The idea that this invincible robot could feel that he had failed, could feel so deeply and personally disgraced that he wanted to run away, hide his face among strangers, and offer the excuse that his leaving would be "best for the outfit, " shook me up as much, and in a way even more, than seeing Ted flogged. To have Captain Frankel agree with him -- as to the seriousness of the failure, I mean -- and then rub his nose in it, chew him out. Well! I mean really. Sergeants don't get chewed out; sergeants do the chewing. A law of nature. But I had to admit that what Sergeant Zim had taken, and swallowed, was so completely humiliating and withering as to make the worst I had ever heard or overhead from a sergeant sound like a love song. And yet the Captain hadn't even raised his voice. The whole incident was so preposterously unlikely that I was never even tempted to mention it to anyone else. And Captain Frankel himself -- Officers we didn't see very often. They showed up for evening parade, sauntering over at the last moment and doing nothing that would work up a sweat; they inspected once a week, making private comments to sergeants, comments that invariably meant grief for somebody else, not them; and they decided each week what company had won the honor of guarding the regimental colors. Aside from that, they popped up occasionally on surprise inspections, creased, immaculate, remote, and smelling faintly of cologne -- and went away again. Oh, one or more of them did always accompany us on route marches and twice Captain Frankel had demonstrated his virtuosity at la savate. But officers didn't work, not real work, and they had no worries because sergeants were under them, not over them. But it appeared that Captain Frankel worked so hard that he skipped meals, was kept so busy with something or other that he complained of lack of exercise and would waste his own free time just to work up a sweat. As for worries, he had honestly seemed to be even more upset at what had happened to Hendrick than Zim had been. And yet he hadn't even known Hendrick by sight; he had been forced to ask his name. I had an unsettling feeling that I had been completely mistaken as to the very nature of the world I was in, as if every part of it was something wildly different from what it appeared to be -- like discovering that your own mother isn't anyone you've ever seen before, but a stranger in a rubber mask. But I was sure of one thing: I didn't even want to find out what the M. I. Really was. If it was so tough that even the gods-that-be -- sergeants and officers -- were made unhappy by it, it was certainly too tough for Johnnie! How could you keep from making mistakes in an outfit you didn't understand? I didn't want to swing by my neck till I was dead, dead, dead! I didn't even want to risk being flogged . . . Even though the doctor stands by to make certain that it doesn't do you any permanent injury. Nobody in our family had ever been flogged (except paddlings in school, of course, which isn't at all the same thing). There were no criminals in our family on either side, none who had even been accused of crime. We were a proud family; the only thing we lacked was citizenship and Father regarded that as no real honor, a vain and useless thing. But if I were flogged -- Well, he'd probably have a stroke. And yet Hendrick hadn't done anything that I hadn't thought about doing a thousand times. Why hadn't I? Timid, I guess. I knew that those instructors, any one of them, could beat the tar out of me, so I had buttoned my lip and hadn't tried it. No guts, Johnnie. At least Ted Hendrick had had guts. I didn't have . . . And a man with no guts has no business in the Army in the first place. Besides that, Captain Frankel hadn't even considered it to be Ted's fault. Even if I didn't buy a 9080, through lack of guts, what day would I do something other than a 9080 something not my fault -- and wind up slumped against the whipping post anyhow? Time to get out, Johnnie, while you're still ahead. My mother's letter simply confirmed my decision. I had been able to harden my heart to my parents as long as they were refusing me -- but when they softened, I couldn't stand it. Or when Mother softened, at least. She had written:
The young recruit is silly -- `e thinks o' suicide. `E's lost `is gutter-devil; `e `asin't got `is pride; But day by day they kicks `im, which `elps `im on a bit, Till `e finds `isself one mornin' with a full an' proper kit. Gettin' clear o' dirtiness, gettin' done with mess, Gettin' shut o' doin' things rather-more-or-less. -- Rudyard Kipling I'm not going to talk much more about my boot training. Mostly it was simply work, but I was squared away -- enough said. But I do want to mention a little about powered suits, partly because I was fascinated by them and also because that was what led me into trouble. No complaints -- I rated what I got. An M. I. Lives by his suit the way a K-9 man lives by and with and on his doggie partner. Powered armor is one-half the reason we call ourselves "mobile infantry" instead of just "infantry. " (The other half are the spaceships that drop us and the capsules we drop in. ) Our suits give us better eyes, better ears, stronger backs (to carry heavier weapons and more ammo), better legs, more intelligence ("intelligence" in the military meaning; a man in a suit can be just as stupid as anybody else only he had better not be), more firepower, greater endurance, less vulnerability. A suit isn't a space suit -- although it can serve as one. It is not primarily armor -- although the Knights of the Round Table were not armored as well as we are. It isn't a tank -- but a single M. I. Private could take on a squadron of those things and knock them off unassisted if anybody was silly enough to put tanks against M. I. A suit is not a ship but it can fly, a little on the other hand neither spaceships nor atmosphere craft can fight against a man in a suit except by saturation bombing of the area he is in (like burning down a house to get one flea!). Contrariwise we can do many things that no ship -- air, submersible, or space -- can do. "There are a dozen different ways of delivering destruction in impersonal wholesale, via ships and missiles of one sort or another, catastrophes so widespread, so unselective, that the war is over because that nation or planet has ceased to exist. What we do is entirely different. We make war as personal as a punch in the nose. We can be selective, applying precisely the required amount of pressure at the specified point at a designated time -- we've never been told to go down and kill or capture all left-handed redheads in a particular area, but if they tell us to, we can. We will. We are the boys who go to a particular place, at H-hour, occupy a designated terrain, stand on it, dig the enemy out of their holes, force them then and there to surrender or die. We're the bloody infantry, the doughboy, the duckfoot, the foot soldier who goes where the enemy is and takes him on in person. We've been doing it, with changes in weapons but very little change in our trade, at least since the time five thousand years ago when the foot sloggers of Sargon the Great forced the Sumerians to cry "Uncle!" Maybe they'll be able to do without us someday. Maybe some mad genius with myopia, a bulging forehead, and a cybernetic mind will devise a weapon that can go down a hole, pick out the opposition, and force it to surrender or die -- without killing that gang of your own people they've got imprisoned down there. I wouldn't know; I'm not a genius, I'm an M. I. In the meantime, until they build a machine to replace us, my mates can handle that job and I might be some help on it, too. Maybe someday they'll get everything nice and tidy and we'll have that thing we sing about, when "we ain't a-gonna study war no more. " Maybe. Maybe the same day the leopard will take off his spots and get a job as a Jersey cow, too. But again, I wouldn't know; I am not a professor of cosmo-politics; I'm an M. I. When the government sends me, I go. In between, I catch a lot of sack time. But, while they have not yet built a machine to replace us, they've surely thought up some honeys to help us. The suit, in particular. No need to describe what it looks like, since it has been pictured so often. Suited up, you look like a big steel gorilla, armed with gorilla-sized weapons. (This may be why a sergeant generally opens his remarks with "You apes -- " However, it seems more likely that Caesar's sergeants used the same honorific. ) But the suits are considerably stronger than a gorilla. If an M. I. In a suit swapped hugs with a gorilla, the gorilla would be dead, crushed; the M. I. And the suit wouldn't be mussed. The "muscles, " the pseudo-musculature, get all the publicity but it's the control of all that power which merits it. The real genius in the design is that you don't have to control the suit; you just wear it, like your clothes, like skin. Any sort of ship you have to learn to pilot; it takes a long time, a new full set of reflexes, a different and artificial way of thinking. Even riding a bicycle demands an acquired skill, very different from walking, whereas a spaceship oh, brother! I won't live that long. Spaceships are for acrobats who are also mathematicians. But a suit you just wear. Two thousand pounds of it, maybe, in full kit -- yet the very first time you are fitted into one you can immediately walk, run, jump, lie down, pick up an egg without breaking it (that takes a trifle of practice, but anything improves with practice), dance a jig (if you can dance a jig, that is, without a suit) -- and jump right over the house next door and come down to a feather landing. The secret lies in negative feedback and amplification. Don't ask me to sketch the circuitry of a suit; I can't. But I understand that some very good concert violinists can't build a violin, either. I can do field maintenance and field repairs and check off the three hundred and forty-seven items from "cold" to ready to wear, and that's all a dumb M. I. Is expected to do. But if my suit gets really sick, I call the doctor -- a doctor of science (electromechanical engineering) who is a staff Naval officer, usually a lieutenant (read "captain" for our ranks), and is part of the ship's company of the troop transport -- or who is reluctantly assigned to a regimental headquarters at Camp Currie, a fate-worse-than-death to a Navy man. But if you really are interested in the prints and stereos and schematics of a suit's physiology, you can find most of it, the unclassified part, in any fairly large public library. For the small amount that is classified you must look up a reliable enemy agent -- "reliable" I say, because spies are a tricky lot; he's likely to sell you the parts you could get free from the public library. But here is how it works, minus the diagrams. The inside of the suit is a mass of pressure receptors, hundreds of them. You push with the heel of your hand; the suit feels it, amplifies it, pushes with you to take the pressure off the receptors that gave the order to push. That's confusing, but negative feedback is always a confusing idea the first time, even though your body has been doing it ever since you quit kicking helplessly as a baby. Young children are still learning it; that's why they are clumsy. Adolescents and adults do it without knowing they ever learned it -- and a man with Parkinson's disease has damaged his circuits for it. The suit has feedback which causes it to match any motion you make, exactly -- but with great force. Controlled force . . . Force controlled without your having to think about it. You jump, that heavy suit jumps, but higher than you can jump in your skin. Jump really hard and the suit's jets cut in, amplifying what the suit's leg "muscles" did, giving you a three-jet shove, the axis of pressure of which passes through your center of mass. So you jump over that house next door. Which makes you come down as fast as you went up . . . Which the suit notes through your proximity & closing gear (a sort of simple- minded radar resembling a proximity fuse) and therefore cuts in the jets again just the right amount to cushion your landing without your having to think about it. And that is the beauty of a powered suit: you don't have to think about it. You don't have to drive it, fly it, conn it, operate it; you just wear it and it takes its orders directly from your muscles and does for you what your muscles are trying to do. This leaves you with your whole mind free to handle your weapons and notice what is going on around you . . . Which is supremely important to an infantryman who wants to die in bed. If you load a mud foot down with a lot of gadgets that he has to watch, somebody a lot more simply equipped -- say with a stone ax -- will sneak up and bash his head in while he is trying to read a vernier. Your "eyes" and your "ears" are rigged to help you without cluttering up your attention, too. Say you have three audio circuits, common in a marauder suit. The frequency control to maintain tactical security is very complex, at least two frequencies for each circuit both of which are necessary for any signal at all and each of which wobbles under the control of a cesium clock timed to a micromicrosecond with the other end -- but all this is no problem of yours. You want circuit A to your squad leader, you bite down once -- for circuit B, bite down twice -- and so on. The mike is taped to your throat, the plugs are in your ears and can't be jarred out; just talk. Besides that, outside mikes on each side of your helmet give you binaural hearing for your immediate surroundings just as if your head were bare -- or you can suppress any noisy neighbors and not miss what your platoon leader is saying simply by turning your head. Since your head is the one part of your body not involved in the pressure receptors controlling the suit's muscles, you use your head -- your jaw muscles, your chin, your neck -- to switch things for you and thereby leave your hands free to fight. A chin plate handles all visual displays the way the jaw switch handles the audios. All displays are thrown on a mirror in front of your forehead from where the work is actually going on above and back of your head. All this helmet gear makes you look like a hydrocephalic gorilla but, with luck, the enemy won't live long enough to be offended by your appearance, and it is a very convenient arrangement; you can flip through your several types of radar displays quicker than you can change channels to avoid a commercial -- catch a range & bearing, locate your boss, check your flank men, whatever. If you toss your head like a horse bothered by a fly, your infrared snoopers go up on your forehead -- toss it again, they come down. If you let go of your rocket launcher, the suit snaps it back until you need it again. No point in discussing water nipples, air supply, gyros, etc. -- the point to all the arrangements is the same: to leave you free to follow your trade, slaughter. Of course these things do require practice and you do practice until picking the right circuit is as automatic as brushing your teeth, and so on. But simply wearing the suit, moving in it, requires almost no practice. You practice jumping because, while you do it with a completely natural motion, you jump higher, faster, farther, and stay up longer. The last alone calls for a new orientation; those seconds in the air can be used -- seconds are jewels beyond price in combat. While off the ground in a jump, you can get a range & bearing, pick a target, talk & receive, fire a weapon, reload, decide to jump again without landing and override your automatics to cut in the jets again. You can do all of these things in one bounce, with practice. But, in general, powered armor doesn't require practice; it simply does it for you, just the way you were doing it, only better. All but one thing -- you can't scratch where it itches. If I ever find a suit that will let me scratch between my shoulder blades, I'll marry it. There are three main types of M. I. Armor: marauder, command, and scout. Scout suits are very fast and very long-range, but lightly armed. Command suits are heavy on go juice and jump juice, are fast and can jump high; they have three times as much comm & radar gear as other suits, and a dead-reckoning tracker, inertial. Marauders are for those guys in ranks with the sleepy look -- the executioners. As I may have said, I fell in love with powered armor, even though my first crack at it gave me a strained shoulder. Any day thereafter that my section was allowed to practice in suits was a big day for me. The day I goofed I had simulated sergeant's chevrons as a simulated section leader and was armed with simulated A-bomb rockets to use in simulated darkness against a simulated enemy. That was the trouble everything was simulated -- but you are required to behave as if it is all real. We were retreating -- "advancing toward the rear, " I mean -- and one of the instructors cut the power on one of my men by radio control, making him a helpless casualty. Per M. I. Doctrine, I ordered the pickup, felt rather cocky that I had managed to get the order out before my number two cut out to do it anyhow, turned to do the next thing I had to do, which was to lay down a simulated atomic ruckus to discourage the simulated enemy overtaking us. Our flank was swinging; I was supposed to fire it sort of diagonally but with the required spacing to protect my own men from blast while still putting it in close enough to trouble the bandits. On the bounce, of course. The movement over the terrain and the problem itself had been discussed ahead of time; we were still green -- the only variations supposed to be left in were casualties. Doctrine required me to locate exactly, by radar beacon, my own men who could be affected by the blast. But this all had to be done fast and I wasn't too sharp at reading those little radar displays anyhow. I cheated just a touch -- flipped my snoopers up and looked, bare eyes in broad daylight. I left plenty of room. Shucks, I could see the only man affected, half a mile away, and all I had was just a little bitty H. E. Rocket, intended to make a lot of smoke and not much else. So I picked a spot by eye, took the rocket launcher and let fly. Then I bounced away, feeling smug -- no seconds lost. And had my power cut in the air. This doesn't hurt you; it's a delayed action, executed by your landing. I grounded and there I stuck, squatting, held upright by gyros but unable to move. You do not repeat not move when surrounded by a ton of metal with your power dead. Instead I cussed to myself -- I hadn't thought that they would make me a casualty when I was supposed to be leading the problem. Shucks and other comments. I should have known that Sergeant Zim would be monitoring the section leader. He bounced over to me, spoke to me privately on the face to face. He suggested that I might be able to get a job sweeping floors since I was too stupid, clumsy, and careless to handle dirty dishes. He discussed my past and probable future and several other things that I did not want to hear about. He ended by saying tonelessly, "How would you like to have Colonel Dubois see what you've done?" Then he left me. I waited there, crouched over, for two hours until the drill was over. The suit, which had been feather-light, real seven- league boots, felt like an Iron Maiden. At last he returned for me, restored power, and we bounced together at top speed to BHQ. Captain Frankel said less but it cut more. Then he paused and added in that flat voice officers use when quoting regulations: "You may demand trial by court-martial if such be your choice. How say you?" I gulped and said, "No, sir!" Until that moment I hadn't fully realized just how much trouble I was in. Captain Frankel seemed to relax slightly. "Then we'll see what the Regimental Commander has to say. Sergeant, escort the prisoner. " We walked rapidly over to RHQ and for the first time I met the Regimental Commander face to face -- and by then I was sure that I was going to catch a court no matter what. But I remembered sharply how Ted Hendrick had talked himself into one; I said nothing. Major Malloy said a total of five words to me. After hearing Sergeant Zim, he said three of them: "Is that correct?" I said, "Yes, sir, " which ended my part of it. Major Malloy said, to Captain Frankel: "Is there any possibility of salvaging this man?" Captain Frankel answered, "I believe so, sir. " Major Malloy said, "Then we'll try administrative punishment, " turned to me and said: "Five lashes. " Well, they certainly didn't keep me dangling. Fifteen minutes later the doctor had completed checking my heart and the Sergeant of the Guard was outfitting me with that special shirt which comes off without having to be pulled over the hands -- zippered from the neck down the arms. Assembly for parade had just sounded. I was feeling detached, unreal . . . Which I have learned is one way of being scared right out of your senses. The nightmare hallucination -- Zim came into the guard tent just as the call ended. He glanced at the Sergeant of the Guard -- Corporal Jones -- and Jones went out. Zim stepped up to me, slipped something into my hand. "Bite on that, " he said quietly. "It helps. I know. " It was a rubber mouthpiece such as we used to avoid broken teeth in hand-to-hand combat drill. Zim left. I put it in my mouth. Then they handcuffed me and marched me out. The order read: " -- in simulated combat, gross negligence which would in action have caused the death of a teammate. " Then they peeled off my shirt and strung me up. Now here is a very odd thing: A flogging isn't as hard to take as it is to watch. I don't mean it's a picnic. It hurts worse than anything else I've ever had happen to me, and the waits between strokes are worse than the strokes themselves. But the mouthpiece did help and the only yelp I let out never got past it. Here's the second odd thing: Nobody ever mentioned it to me, not even other boots. So far as I could see, Zim and the instructors treated me exactly the same afterwards as they had before. From the instant the doctor painted the marks and told me to go back to duty it was all done with, completely. I even managed to eat a little at dinner that night and pretend to take part in the jawing at the table. Another thing about administrative punishment: There is no permanent black mark. Those records are destroyed at the end of boot training and you start clean. The only record is one where it counts most. You don't forget it.
Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old he will not depart from it. -- Proverbs XXII:6 There were other floggings but darn few. Hendrick was the only man in our regiment to be flogged by sentence of court-martial; the others were administrative punishment, like mine, and for lashes it was necessary to go all the way up to the Regimental Commander -- which a subordinate commander finds distasteful, to put it faintly. Even then, Major Malloy was much more likely to kick the man out, "Undesirable Discharge, " than to have the whipping post erected. In a way, an administrative flogging is the mildest sort of a compliment; it means that your superiors think that there is a faint possibility that you just might have the character eventually to make a soldier and a citizen, unlikely as it seems at the moment. I was the only one to get the maximum administrative punishment; none of the others got more than three lashes. Nobody else came as close as I did to putting on civilian clothes but still squeaked by. This is a social distinction of sorts. I don't recommend it. But we had another case, much worse than mine or Ted Hendrick's -- a really sick-making one. Once they erected gallows. Now, look, get this straight. This case didn't really have anything to do with the Army. The crime didn't take place at Camp Currie and the placement officer who accepted this boy for M. I. Should turn in his suit. He deserted, only two days after we arrived at Currie. Ridiculous, of course, but nothing about the case made sense -- why didn't he resign? Desertion, naturally, is one of the "thirty-one crash landings" but the Army doesn't invoke the death penalty for it unless there are special circumstances, such as "in the face of the enemy" or something else that turns it from a highly informal way of resigning into something that can't be ignored. The Army makes no effort to find deserters and bring them back. This makes the hardest kind of sense. We're all volunteers; we're M. I. Because we want to be, we're proud to be M. I. And the M. I. Is proud of us. If a man doesn't feel that way about it, from his callused feet to his hairy ears, I don't want him on my flank when trouble starts. If I buy a piece of it, I want men around me who will pick me up because they're M. I. And I'm M. I. And my skin means as much to them as their own. I don't want any ersatz soldiers, dragging their tails and ducking out when the party gets rough. It's a whole lot safer to have a blank file on your flank than to have an alleged soldier who is nursing the "conscript" syndrome. So if they run, let `em run; it's a waste of time and money to fetch them back. Of course most of them do come back, though it may take them years -- in which case the Army tiredly lets them have their fifty lashes instead of hanging them, and turns them loose. I suppose it must wear on a man's nerves to be a fugitive when everybody else is either a citizen or a legal resident, even when the police aren't trying to find him. "The wicked flee when no man pursueth. " The temptation to turn yourself in, take your lumps, and breathe easily again must get to be overpowering. But this boy didn't turn himself in. He was gone four months and I doubt if his own company remembered him, since he had been with them only a couple of days; he was probably just a name without a face, the "Dillinger, N. L. " who had to be reported, day after day, as absent without leave on the morning muster. Then he killed a baby girl. He was tried and convicted by a local tribunal but identity check showed that he was an undischarged soldier; the Department had to be notified and our commanding general at once intervened. He was returned to us, since military law and jurisdiction take precedence over civil code. Why did the general bother? Why didn't he let the local sheriff do the job? In order to "teach us a lesson"? Not at all. I'm quite sure that our general did not think that any of his boys needed to be nauseated in order not to kill any baby girls. By now I believe that he would have spared us the sight -- had it been possible. We did learn a lesson, though nobody mentioned it at the time and it is one that takes a long time to sink in until it becomes second nature: The M. I. Take care of their own -- no matter what. Dillinger belonged to us, he was still on our rolls. Even though we didn't want him, even though we should never have had him, even though we would have been happy to disclaim him, he was a member of our regiment. We couldn't brush him off and let a sheriff a thousand miles away handle it. If it has to be done, a man -- a real man -- shoots his own dog himself; he doesn't hire a proxy who may bungle it. The regimental records said that Dillinger was ours, so taking care of him was our duty. That evening we marched to the parade grounds at slow march, sixty beats to the minute (hard to keep step, when you're used to a hundred and forty), while the band played "Dirge for the Unmourned. " Then Dillinger was marched out, dressed in M. I. Full dress just as we were, and the band played "Danny Deever" while they stripped off every trace of insignia, even buttons and cap, leaving him in a maroon and light blue suit that was no longer a uniform. The drums held a sustained roll and it was all over. We passed in review and on home at a fast trot I don't think anybody fainted and I don't think anybody quite got sick, even though most of us didn't eat much dinner that night and I've never heard the mess tent so quiet. But, grisly as it was (it was the first time I had seen death, first time for most of us), it was not the shock that Ted Hendrick's flogging was -- I mean, you couldn't put yourself in Dillinger's place; you didn't have any feeling of: "It could have been me. " Not counting the technical matter of desertion, Dillinger had committed at least four capital crimes; if his victim had lived, he still would have danced Danny Deever for any one of the other three -- kidnapping, demand of ransom, criminal neglect, etc. I had no sympathy for him and still haven't. That old saw about "To understand all is to forgive all" is a lot of tripe. Some things, the more you understand the more you loathe them. My sympathy is reserved for Barbara Anne Enthwaite whom I had never seen, and for her parents, who would never again see their little girl. As the band put away their instruments that night we started thirty days of mourning for Barbara and of disgrace for us, with our colors draped in black, no music at parade, no singing on route march. Only once did I hear anybody complain and another boot promptly asked him how he would like a full set of lumps? Certainly, it hadn't been our fault -- but our business was to guard little girls, not kill them. Our regiment had been dishonored; we had to clean it. We were disgraced and we felt disgraced. That night I tried to figure out how such things could be kept from happening. Of course, they hardly ever do nowadays -- but even once is `way too many. I never did reach an answer that satisfied me. This Dillinger -- he looked like anybody else, and his behavior and record couldn't have been too odd or he would never have reached Camp Currie in the first place. I suppose he was one of those pathological personalities you read about -- no way to spot them. Well, if there was no way to keep it from happening once, there was only one sure way to keep it from happening twice. Which we had used. If Dillinger had understood what he was doing (which seemed incredible) then he got what was coming to him . . . Except that it seemed a shame that he hadn't suffered as much as had little Barbara Anne -- he practically hadn't suffered at all. But suppose, as seemed more likely, that he was so crazy that he had never been aware that he was doing anything wrong? What then? Well, we shoot mad dogs, don't we? Yes, but being crazy that way is a sickness -- I couldn't see but two possibilities. Either he couldn't be made well -- in which case he was better dead for his own sake and for the safety of others -- or he could be treated and made sane. In which case (it seemed to me) if he ever became sane enough for civilized society . . . And thought over what he had done while he was "sick" -- what could be left for him but suicide? How could he live with himself? And suppose he escaped before he was cured and did the same thing again? And maybe again? How do you explain that to bereaved parents? In view of his record? I couldn't see but one answer. I found myself mulling over a discussion in our class in History and Moral Philosophy. Mr. Dubois was talking about the disorders that preceded the breakup of the North American republic, back in the XXth century. According to him, there was a time just before they went down the drain when such crimes as Dillinger's were as common as dogfights. The Terror had not been just in North America -- Russia and the British Isles had it, too, as well as other places. But it reached its peak in North America shortly before things went to pieces. "Law-abiding people, " Dubois had told us, "hardly dared go into a public park at night. To do so was to risk attack by wolf packs of children, armed with chains, knives, homemade guns, bludgeons . . . To be hurt at least, robbed most certainly, injured for life probably -- or even killed. This went on for years, right up to the war between the Russo-Anglo- American Alliance and the Chinese Hegemony. Murder, drug addiction, larceny, assault, and vandalism were commonplace. Nor were parks the only places -- these things happened also on the streets in daylight, on school grounds, even inside school buildings. But parks were so notoriously unsafe that honest people stayed clear of them after dark. " I had tried to imagine such things happening in our schools. I simply couldn't. Nor in our parks. A park was a place for fun, not for getting hurt. As for getting killed in one -- "Mr. Dubois, didn't they have police? Or courts?" "They had many more police than we have. And more courts. All overworked. " "I guess I don't get it. " If a boy in our city had done anything half that bad . . . Well, he and his father would have been flogged side by side. But such things just didn't happen. Mr. Dubois then demanded of me, "Define a `juvenile delinquent. ' " "Uh, one of those kids -- the ones who used to beat up people. " "Wrong. " "Huh? But the book said -- " "My apologies. Your textbook does so state. But calling a tail a leg does not make the name fit `Juvenile delinquent' is a contradiction in terms, one which gives a clue to their problem and their failure to solve it. Have you ever raised a puppy?" "Yes, sir. " "Did you housebreak him?" "Err . . . Yes, sir. Eventually. " It was my slowness in this that caused my mother to rule that dogs must stay out of the house. "Ah, yes. When your puppy made mistakes, were you angry?" "What? Why, he didn't know any better; he was just a puppy. "What did you do?" "Why, I scolded him and rubbed his nose in it and paddled him. " "Surely he could not understand your words?" "No, but he could tell I was sore at him!" "But you just said that you were not angry. " Mr. Dubois had an infuriating way of getting a person mixed up. "No, but I had to make him think I was. He had to learn, didn't he?" "Conceded. But, having made it clear to him that you disapproved, how could you be so cruel as to spank him as well? You said the poor beastie didn't know that he was doing wrong. Yet you indicted pain. Justify yourself! Or are you a sadist?" I didn't then know what a sadist was -- but I knew pups. "Mr. Dubois, you have to! You scold him so that he knows he's in trouble, you rub his nose in it so that he will know what trouble you mean, you paddle him so that he darn well won't do it again -- and you have to do it right away! It doesn't do a bit of good to punish him later; you'll just confuse him. Even so, he won't learn from one lesson, so you watch and catch him again and paddle him still harder. Pretty soon he learns. But it's a waste of breath just to scold him. " Then I added, "I guess you've never raised pups. " "Many. I'm raising a dachshund now -- by your methods. Let's get back to those juvenile criminals. The most vicious averaged somewhat younger than you here in this class . . . And they often started their lawless careers much younger. Let us never forget that puppy. These children were often caught; police arrested batches each day. Were they scolded? Yes, often scathingly. Were their noses rubbed in it? Rarely. News organs and officials usually kept their names secret -- in many places the law so required for criminals under eighteen. Were they spanked? Indeed not! Many had never been spanked even as small children; there was a widespread belief that spanking, or any punishment involving pain, did a child permanent psychic damage. " (I had reflected that my father must never have heard of that theory. ) "Corporal punishment in schools was forbidden by law, " he had gone on. "Flogging was lawful as sentence of court only in one small province, Delaware, and there only for a few crimes and was rarely invoked; it was regarded as `cruel and unusual punishment. ' " Dubois had mused aloud, "I do not understand objections to `cruel and unusual' punishment. While a judge should be benevolent in purpose, his awards should cause the criminal to suffer, else there is no punishment -- and pain is the basic mechanism built into us by millions of years of evolution which safeguards us by warning when something threatens our survival. Why should society refuse to use such a highly perfected survival mechanism? However, that period was loaded with pre-scientific pseudo-psychological nonsense. "As for `unusual, ' punishment must be unusual or it serves no purpose. " He then pointed his stump at another boy. "What would happen if a puppy were spanked every hour?" "Uh . . . Probably drive him crazy!" "Probably. It certainly will not teach him anything. How long has it been since the principal of this school last had to switch a pupil?" "Uh, I'm not sure. About two years. The kid that swiped -- " "Never mind. Long enough. It means that such punishment is so unusual as to be significant, to deter, to instruct. Back to these young criminals -- They probably were not spanked as babies; they certainly were not flogged for their crimes. The usual sequence was: for a first offense, a warning -- a scolding, often without trial. After several offenses a sentence of confinement but with sentence suspended and the youngster placed on probation. A boy might be arrested many times and convicted several times before he was punished -- and then it would be merely confinement, with others like him from whom he learned still more criminal habits. If he kept out of major trouble while confined, he could usually evade most of even that mild punishment, be given probation -- `paroled' in the jargon of the times. "This incredible sequence could go on for years while his crimes increased in frequency and viciousness, with no punishment whatever save rare dull-but-comfortable confinements. Then suddenly, usually by law on his eighteenth birthday, this so-called `juvenile delinquent' becomes an adult criminal -- and sometimes wound up in only weeks or months in a death cell awaiting execution for murder. You -- " He had singled me out again. "Suppose you merely scolded your puppy, never punished him, let him go on making messes in the house . . . And occasionally locked him up in an outbuilding but soon let him back into the house with a warning not to do it again. Then one day you notice that he is now a grown dog and still not housebroken -- whereupon you whip out a gun and shoot him dead. Comment, please?" "Why . . . That's the craziest way to raise a dog I ever heard of!" "I agree. Or a child. Whose fault would it be?" "Uh . . . Why, mine, I guess. " "Again I agree. But I'm not guessing. " "Mr. Dubois, " a girl blurted out, "but why? Why didn't they spank little kids when they needed it and use a good dose of the strap on any older ones who deserved it -- the sort of lesson they wouldn't forget! I mean ones who did things really bad. Why not?" "I don't know, " he had answered grimly, "except that the time- tested method of instilling social virtue and respect for law in the minds of the young did not appeal to a pre-scientific pseudo-professional class who called themselves `social workers' or sometimes `child psychologists. ' It was too simple for them, apparently, since anybody could do it, using only the patience and firmness needed in training a puppy. I have sometimes wondered if they cherished a vested interest in disorder -- but that is unlikely; adults almost always act from conscious `highest motives' no matter what their behavior. " "But -- good heavens!" the girl answered. "I didn't like being spanked any more than any kid does, but when I needed it, my mama delivered. The only time I ever got a switching in school I got another one when I got home and that was years and years ago. I don't ever expect to be hauled up in front of a judge and sentenced to a flogging; you behave yourself and such things don't happen. I don't see anything wrong with our system; it's a lot better than not being able to walk outdoors for fear of your life -- why, that's horrible!" "I agree. Young lady, the tragic wrongness of what those well- meaning people did, contrasted with what they thought they were doing, goes very deep. They had no scientific theory of morals. They did have a theory of morals and they tried to live by it (I should not have sneered at their motives) but their theory was wrong -- half of it fuzzy-headed wishful thinking, half of it rationalized charlatanry. The more earnest they were, the farther it led them astray. You see, they assumed that Man has a moral instinct. " "Sir? But I thought -- But he does! I have. " "No, my dear, you have a cultivated conscience, a most carefully trained one. Man has no moral instinct. He is not born with moral sense. You were not born with it, I was not -- and a puppy has none. We acquire moral sense, when we do, through training, experience, and hard sweat of the mind. These unfortunate juvenile criminals were born with none, even as you and I, and they had no chance to acquire any; their experiences did not permit it. What is `moral sense'? It is an elaboration of the instinct to survive. The instinct to survive is human nature itself, and every aspect of our personalities derives from it. Anything that conflicts with the survival instinct acts sooner or later to eliminate the individual and thereby fails to show up in future generations. This truth is mathematically demonstrable, everywhere verifiable; it is the single eternal imperative controlling everything we do. " "But the instinct to survive, " he had gone on, "can be cultivated into motivations more subtle and much more complex than the blind, brute urge of the individual to stay alive. Young lady, what you miscalled your `moral instinct' was the instilling in you by your elders of the truth that survival can have stronger imperatives than that of your own personal survival. Survival of your family, for example. Of your children, when you have them. Of your nation, if you struggle that high up the scale. And so on up. A scientifically verifiable theory of morals must be rooted in the individual's instinct to survive -- and nowhere else! -- and must correctly describe the hierarchy of survival, note the motivations at each level, and resolve all conflicts. " "We have such a theory now; we can solve any moral problem, on any level. Self-interest, love of family, duty to country, responsibility toward the human race -- we are even developing an exact ethic for extra- human relations. But all moral problems can be illustrated by one misquotation: `Greater love hath no man than a mother cat dying to defend her kittens. ' Once you understand the problem facing that cat and how she solved it, you will then be ready to examine yourself and learn how high up the moral ladder you are capable of climbing. "These juvenile criminals hit a low level. Born with only the instinct for survival, the highest morality they achieved was a shaky loyalty to a peer group, a street gang. But the do-gooders attempted to `appeal to their better natures, ' to `reach them, ' to `spark their moral sense. ' Tosh! They had no `better natures'; experience taught them that what they were doing was the way to survive. The puppy never got his spanking; therefore what he did with pleasure and success must be `moral. ' "The basis of all morality is duty, a concept with the same relation to group that self-interest has to individual. Nobody preached duty to these kids in a way they could understand -- that is, with a spanking. But the society they were in told them endlessly about their `rights. ' " "The results should have been predictable, since a human being has no natural rights of any nature. " Mr. Dubois had paused. Somebody took the bait. "Sir? How about `life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness'?" "Ah, yes, the `unalienable rights. ' Each year someone quotes that magnificent poetry. Life? What `right' to life has a man who is drowning in the Pacific? The ocean will not hearken to his cries. What `right' to life has a man who must die if he is to save his children? If he chooses to save his own life, does he do so as a matter of `right'? If two men are starving and cannibalism is the only alternative to death, which man's right is `unalienable'? And is it `right'? As to liberty, the heroes who signed that great document pledged themselves to buy liberty with their lives. Liberty is never unalienable; it must be redeemed regularly with the blood of patriots or it always vanishes. Of all the so-called `natural human rights' that have ever been invented, liberty is least likely to be cheap and is never free of cost. "The third `right'? -- the `pursuit of happiness'? It is indeed unalienable but it is not a right; it is simply a universal condition which tyrants cannot take away nor patriots restore. Cast me into a dungeon, burn me at the stake, crown me king of kings, I can `pursue happiness' as long as my brain lives -- but neither gods nor saints, wise men nor subtle drugs, can insure that I will catch it. " Mr. Dubois then turned to me. "I told you that `juvenile delinquent' is a contradiction in terms. `Delinquent' means `failing in duty. ' But duty is an adult virtue -- indeed a juvenile becomes an adult when, and only when, he acquires a knowledge of duty and embraces it as dearer than the self-love he was born with. There never was, there cannot be a `juvenile delinquent. ' But for every juvenile criminal there are always one or more adult delinquents -- people of mature years who either do not know their duty, or who, knowing it, fail. " "And that was the soft spot which destroyed what was in many ways an admirable culture. The junior hoodlums who roamed their streets were symptoms of a greater sickness; their citizens (all of them counted as such) glorified their mythology of `rights' . . . And lost track of their duties. No nation, so constituted, can endure. " I wondered how Colonel Dubois would have classed Dillinger. Was he a juvenile criminal who merited pity even though you had to get rid of him? Or was he an adult delinquent who deserved nothing but contempt? I didn't know, I would never know. The one thing I was sure of was that he would never again kill any little girls. That suited me. I went to sleep.
We've got no place in this outfit for good losers. We want tough hombres who will go in there and win! -- Admiral Jonas Ingram, 1926 When we had done all that a mud foot can do in flat country, we moved into some rough mountains to do still rougher things -- the Canadian Rockies between Good Hope Mountain and Mount Waddington. Camp Sergeant Spooky Smith was much like Camp Currie (aside from its rugged setting) but it was much smaller. Well, the Third Regiment was much smaller now, too less than four hundred whereas we had started out with more than two thousand. H Company was now organized as a single platoon and the battalion paraded as if it were a company. But we were still called "H Company" and Zim was "Company Commander, " not platoon leader. What the sweat-down meant, really, was much more personal instruction; we had more corporal-instructors than we had squads and Sergeant Zim, with only fifty men on his mind instead of the two hundred and sixty he had started with, kept his Argus eyes on each one of us all the time -- even when he wasn't there. At least, if you goofed, it turned out he was standing right behind you. However, the chewing-out you got had almost a friendly quality, in a horrid sort of way, because we had changed, too, as well as the regiment -- the one-in-five who was left was almost a soldier and Zim seemed to be trying to make him into one, instead of running him over the hill. We saw a lot more of Captain Frankel, too; he now spent most of his time teaching us, instead of behind a desk, and he knew all of us by name and face and seemed to have a card file in his mind of exactly what progress each man had made on every weapon, every piece of equipment -- not to mention your extra-duty status, medical record, and whether you had had a letter from home lately. He wasn't as severe with us as Zim was; his words were milder and it took a really stupid stunt to take that friendly grin off his face - - but don't let that fool you; there was beryl armor under the grin. I never did figure out which one was the better soldier, Zim or Captain Frankel -- I mean, if you took away the insignia and thought of them as privates. Unquestionably they were both better soldiers than any of the other instructors -- but which was best? Zim did everything with precision and style, as if he were on parade; Captain Frankel did the same thing with dash and gusto, as if it were a game. The results were about the same and it never turned out to be as easy as Captain Frankel made it look. We needed the abundance of instructors. Jumping a suit (as I have said) was easy on flat ground. Well, the suit jumps just as high and just as easily in the mountains -- but it makes a lot of difference when you have to jump up a vertical granite wall, between two close-set fir trees, and override your jet control at the last instant. We had three major casualties in suit practice in broken country, two dead and one medical retirement. But that rock wall is even tougher without a suit, tackled with lines and pitons. I didn't really see what use alpine drill was to a cap trooper but I had learned to keep my mouth shut and try to learn what they shoved at us. I learned it and it wasn't too hard. If anybody had told me, a year earlier, that I could go up a solid chunk of rock, as flat and as perpendicular as a blank wall of a building, using only a hammer, some silly little steel pins, and a chunk of clothesline, I would have laughed in his face; I'm a sea-level type. Correction: I was a sea-level type. There had been some changes made. Just how much I had changed I began to find out. At Camp Sergeant Spooky Smith we had liberty-to go to town, I mean. Oh, we had "liberty" after the first month at Camp Currie, too. This meant that, on a Sunday afternoon, if you weren't in the duty platoon, you could check out at the orderly tent and walk just as far away from camp as you wished, bearing in mind that you had to be back for evening muster. But there was nothing within walking distance, if you don't count jack rabbits -- no girls, no theaters, no dance halls, et cetera. Nevertheless, liberty, even at Camp Currie, was no mean privilege; sometimes it can be very important indeed to be able to go so far away that you can't see a tent, a sergeant, nor even the ugly faces of your best friends among the boots . . . Not have to be on the bounce about anything, have time to take out your soul and look at it. You could lose that privilege in several degrees; you could be restricted to camp . . . Or you could be restricted to your own company street, which meant that you couldn't go to the library nor to what was misleadingly called the "recreation" tent (mostly some Parcheesi sets and similar wild excitements) . . . Or you could be under close restriction, required to stay in your tent when your presence was not required elsewhere. This last sort didn't mean much in itself since it was usually added to extra duty so demanding that you didn't have any time in your tent other than for sleep anyhow; it was a decoration added like a cherry on top of a dish of ice cream to notify you and the world that you had pulled not some everyday goof-off but something unbecoming of a member of the M. I. And were thereby unfit to associate with other troopers until you had washed away the stain. But at Camp Spooky we could go into town -- duty status, conduct status, etc. , permitting. Shuttles ran to Vancouver every Sunday morning, right after divine services (which were moved up to thirty minutes after breakfast) and came back again just before supper and again just before taps. The instructors could even spend Saturday night in town, or cop a three-day pass, duty permitting. I had no more than stepped out of the shuttle, my first pass, than I realized in part that I had changed. Johnnie didn't fit in any longer. Civilian life, I mean. It all seemed amazingly complex and unbelievably untidy. I'm not running down Vancouver. It's a beautiful city in a lovely setting; the people are charming and they are used to having the M. I. In town and they make a trooper welcome. There is a social center for us downtown, where they have dances for us every week and see to it that junior hostesses are on hand to dance with, and senior hostesses to make sure that a shy boy (me, to my amazement -- but you try a few months with nothing female around but lady jack rabbits) gets introduced and has a partner's feet to step on. But I didn't go to the social center that first pass. Mostly I stood around and gawked -- at beautiful buildings, at display windows filled with all manner of unnecessary things (and not a weapon among them), at all those people running around, or even strolling, doing exactly as they pleased and no two of them dressed alike -- and at girls. Especially at girls. I hadn't realized just how wonderful they were. Look, I've approved of girls from the time I first noticed that the difference was more than just that they dress differently. So far as I remember I never did go through that period boys are supposed to go through when they know that girls are different but dislike them; I've always liked girls. But that day I realized that I had long been taking them for granted. Girls are simply wonderful. Just to stand on a corner and watch them going past is delightful. They don't walk. At least not what we do when we walk. I don't know how to describe it, but it's much more complex and utterly delightful. They don't move just their feet; everything moves and in different directions . . . And all of it graceful. I might have been standing there yet if a policeman hadn't come by. He sized us up and said, "Howdy, boys. Enjoying yourselves?" I quickly read the ribbons on his chest and was impressed. "Yes, sir!" "You don't have to say `sir' to me. Not much to do here. Why don't you go to the hospitality center?" He gave us the address, pointed the direction and we started that way -- Pat Leivy, "Kitten" Smith, and myself. He called after us, "Have a good time, boys . . . And stay out of trouble. " Which was exactly what Sergeant Zim had said to us as we climbed into the shuttle. But we didn't go there. Pat Leivy had lived in Seattle when he was a small boy and wanted to take a look at his old home town. He had money and offered to pay our shuttle fares if we would go with him. I didn't mind and it was all right; shuttles ran every twenty minutes and our passes were not restricted to Vancouver. Smith decided to go along, too. Seattle wasn't so very different from Vancouver and the girls were just as plentiful; I enjoyed it. But Seattle wasn't quite as used to having M. I. Around in droves and we picked a poor spot to eat dinner, one where we weren't quite so welcome a bar-restaurant, down by the docks. Now, look, we weren't drinking. Well, Kitten Smith had had one repeat one beer with his dinner but he was never anything but friendly and nice. That is how he got his name; the first time we had hand-to-hand combat drill Corporal Jones had said to him disgustedly: "A kitten would have hit me harder than that!" The nickname stuck. We were the only uniforms in the place; most of the other customers were merchant marine sailors -- Seattle handles an awful lot of surface tonnage. I hadn't known it at the time but merchant sailors don't like us. Part of it has to do with the fact that their guilds have tried and tried to get their trade classed as equivalent to Federal Service, without success -- but I understand that some of it goes way back in history, centuries. There were some young fellows there, too, about our age the right age to serve a term, only they weren't -- long-haired and sloppy and kind of dirty looking. Well, say about the way I looked, I suppose, before I joined up. Presently we started noticing that at the table behind us, two of these young twerps and two merchant sailors (to judge by clothes) were passing remarks that were intended for us to overhear. I won't try to repeat them. We didn't say anything. Presently, when the remarks were even more personal and the laughs louder and everybody else in the place was keeping quiet and listening, Kitten whispered to me, "Let's get out of here. " I caught Pat Leivy's eye; he nodded. We had no score to settle; it was one of those pay-as-you-get-it places. We got up and left. They followed us out. Pat whispered to me, "Watch it. " We kept on walking, didn't look back. They charged us. 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. Somebody, the proprietor I guess, must have called the police as soon as we stood up to leave, since they arrived almost at once while we were still standing around wondering what to do with the meat -- two policemen; it was that sort of a neighborhood. The senior of them wanted us to prefer charges, but none of us was willing -- Zim had told us to "stay out of trouble. " Kitten looked blank and about fifteen years old and said, "I guess they stumbled. " "So I see, " agreed the police officer and toed a knife away from the outflung hand of my man, put it against the curb and broke the blade. "Well, you boys had better run along . . . Farther uptown. " We left. I was glad that neither Pat nor Kitten wanted to make anything of it. It's a mighty serious thing, a civilian assaulting a member of the Armed Forces, but what the deuce? -- the books balanced. They jumped us, they got their lumps. All even. But it's a good thing we never go on pass armed . . . And have been trained to disable without killing. Because every bit of it happened by reflex. I didn't believe that they would jump us until they already had, and I didn't do any thinking at all until it was over. But that's how I learned for the first time just how much I had changed. We walked back to the station and caught a shuttle to Vancouver. We started practice drops as soon as we moved to Camp Spooky -- a platoon at a time, in rotation (a full platoon, that is -- a company), would shuttle down to the field north of Walla Walla, go aboard, space, make a drop, go through an exercise, and home on a beacon. A day's work. With eight companies that gave us not quite a drop each week, and then it gave us a little more than a drop each week as attrition continued, whereupon the drops got tougher -- over mountains, into the arctic ice, into the Australian desert, and, before we graduated, onto the face of the Moon, where your capsule is placed only a hundred feet up and explodes as it ejects -- and you have to look sharp and land with only your suit (no air, no parachute) and a bad landing can spill your air and kill you. Some of the attrition was from casualties, deaths or injuries, and some of it was just from refusing to enter the capsule -- which some did, and that was that; they weren't even chewed out; they were just motioned aside and that night they were paid off. Even a man who had made several drops might get the panic and refuse . . . And the instructors were just gentle with him, treated him the way you do a friend who is ill and won't get well. I never quite refused to enter the capsule -- but I certainly learned about the shakes. I always got them, I was scared silly every time. I still am. But you're not a cap trooper unless you drop. They tell a story, probably not true, about a cap trooper who was sight-seeing in Paris. He visited Les Invalides, looked down at Napoleon's coffin and said to a French guard there: "Who's he?" The Frenchman was properly scandalized. "Monsieur does not know? This is the tomb of Napoleon! Napoleon Bonaparte -- the greatest soldier who ever lived!" The cap trooper thought about it. Then he asked, "So? Where were his drops?" It is almost certainly not true, because there is a big sign outside there that tells you exactly who Napoleon was. But that is how cap troopers feel about it. Eventually we graduated. I can see that I've left out almost everything. Not a word about most of our weapons, nothing about the time we dropped everything and fought a forest fire for three days, no mention of the practice alert that was a real one, only we didn't know it until it was over, nor about the day the cook tent blew away -- in fact not any mention of weather and, believe me, weather is important to a doughboy, rain and mud especially. But though weather is important while it happens it seems to me to be pretty dull to look back on. You can take descriptions of most any sort of weather out of an almanac and stick them in just anywhere; they'll probably fit. The regiment had started with 2009 men; we graduated 187 -- of the others, fourteen were dead (one executed and his name struck) and the rest resigned, dropped, transferred, medical discharge, etc. Major Malloy made a short speech, we each got a certificate, we passed in review for the last time, and the regiment was disbanded, its colors to be cased until they would be needed (three weeks later) to tell another couple of thousand civilians that they were an outfit, not a mob. I was a "trained soldier, " entitled to put "TP" in front of my serial number instead of "RP. " Big day. The biggest I ever had.
The Tree of Liberty must be re- freshed from time to time with the blood of patriots . . . -- Thomas Jefferson, 1787 That is, I thought I was a "trained soldier" until I reported to my ship. Any law against having a wrong opinion? I see that I didn't make any mention of how the Terran Federation moved from "peace" to a "state of emergency" and then on into "war. " I didn't notice it too closely myself. When I enrolled, it was "peace, " the normal condition, at least so people think (who ever expects anything else?). Then, while I was at Currie, it became a "state of emergency" but I still didn't notice it, as what Corporal Bronski thought about my haircut, uniform, combat drill, and kit was much more important -- and what Sergeant Zim thought about such matters was overwhelmingly important. In any case, "emergency" is still "peace. " "Peace" is a condition in which no civilian pays any attention to military casualties which do not achieve page-one, lead- story prominence-unless that civilian is a close relative of one of the casualties. But, if there ever was a time in history when "peace" meant that there was no fighting going on, I have been unable to find out about it. When I reported to my first outfit, "Willie's Wildcats, " sometimes known as Company K, Third Regiment, First M. I. Division, and shipped with them in the Valley Forge (with that misleading certificate in my kit) the fighting had already been going on for several years. The historians can't seem to settle whether to call this one "The Third Space War" (or the "Fourth"), or whether "The First Interstellar War" fits it better. We just call it "The Bug War" if we call it anything, which we usually don't, and in any case the historians date the beginning of "war" after the time I joined my first outfit and ship. Everything up to then and still later were "incidents, " "patrols, " or "police actions. " However, you are just as dead if you buy a farm in an "incident" as you are if you buy it in a declared war. But, to tell the truth, a soldier doesn't notice a war much more than a civilian does, except his own tiny piece of it and that just on the days it is happening. The rest of the time he is much more concerned with sack time, the vagaries of sergeants, and the chances of wheedling the cook between meals. However, when Kitten Smith and Al Jenkins and I joined them at Luna Base, each of Willie's Wildcats had made more than one combat drop; they were soldiers and we were not. We weren't hazed for it -- at least I was not -- and the sergeants and corporals were amazingly easy to deal with after the calculated frightfulness of instructors. It took a little while to discover that this comparatively gentle treatment simply meant that we were nobody, hardly worth chewing out, until we had proved in a drop -- a real drop -- that we might possibly replace real Wildcats who had fought and bought it and whose bunks we now occupied. Let me tell you how green I was. While the Valley Forg was still at Luna Base, I happened to come across my section leader just as he was about to hit dirt, all slicked up in dress uniform. He was wearing in his left ear lobe a rather small earring, a tiny gold skull beautifully made and under it, in stead of the conventional crossed bones of the ancient Jolly Roger design, was a whole bundle of little gold bones, almost too small to see. Back home, I had always worn earrings and other jewelry when I went out on a date -- I had some beautiful ear clips, rubies as big as the end of my little finger which had belonged to my mother's grandfather. I like jewelry and had rather resented being required to leave it all behind when I went to Basic . . . But here was a type of jewelry which was apparently okay to wear with uniform. My ears weren't pierced -- my mother didn't approve of it, for boys -- but I could have the jeweler mount it on a clip . . . And I still had some money left from pay call at graduation and was anxious to spend it before it mildewed. "Unh, Sergeant? Where do you get earrings like that one? Pretty neat. " He didn't look scornful, he didn't even smile. He just said, "You like it?" "I certainly do!" The plain raw gold pointed up the gold braid and piping of the uniform even better than gems would have done. I was thinking that a pair would be still handsomer, with just crossbones instead of all that confusion at the bottom. "Does the base PX carry them?" "No, the PX here never sells them. " He added, "At least I don't think you'll ever be able to buy one here -- I hope. But I tell you what -- when we reach a place where you can buy one of your own, I'll see to it you know about it. That's a promise. " "Uh, thanks!" "Don't mention it. " I saw several of the tiny skulls thereafter, some with more "bones, " some with fewer; my guess had been correct, this was jewelry permitted with uniform, when on pass at least. Then I got my own chance to "buy" one almost immediately thereafter and discovered that the prices were unreasonably high, for such plain ornaments. It was Operation Bughouse, the First Battle of Klendathu in the history books, soon after Buenos Aires was smeared. It took the loss of B. A. To make the groundhogs realize that anything was going on, because people who haven't been out don't really believe in other planets, not down deep where it counts. I know I hadn't and I had been space-happy since I was a pup. But B. A. Really stirred up the civilians and inspired loud screams to bring all our forces home, from everywhere -- orbit them around the planet practically shoulder to shoulder and interdict the space Terra occupies. This is silly, of course; you don't win a war by defense but by attack -- no "Department of Defense" ever won a war; see the histories. But is seems to be a standard civilian reaction to scream for defensive tactics as soon as they do notice a war. They then want to run the war -- like a passenger trying to grab the controls away from the pilot in an emergency. However, nobody asked my opinion at the time; I was told. Quite aside from the impossibility of dragging the troops home in view of our treaty obligations and what it would do to the colony planets in the Federation and to our allies, we were awfully busy doing something else, to wit: carrying the war to the Bugs. I suppose I noticed the destruction of B. A. Much less than most civilians did. We were already a couple of parsecs away under Cherenkov drive and the news didn't reach us until we got it from another ship after we came out of drive. I remember thinking, "Gosh, that's terrible!" and feeling sorry for the one Porteno in the ship. But B. A. Wasn't my home and Terra was a long way off and I was very busy, as the attack on Klendathu, the Bugs' home planet, was mounted immediately after that and we spent the time to rendezvous strapped in our bunks, doped and unconscious, with the internal- gravity field of the Valley Forge off, to save power and give greater speed. The loss of Buenos Aires did mean a great deal to me; it changed my life enormously, but this I did not know until many months later. When it came time to drop onto Klendathu, I was assigned to PFC Dutch Bamburger as a supernumerary. He managed to conceal his pleasure at the news and as soon as the platoon sergeant was out of earshot, he said, "Listen, boot, you stick close behind me and stay out of my way. You go slowing me down, I break your silly neck. " I just nodded. I was beginning to realize that this was not a practice drop. Then I had the shakes for a while and then we were down -- Operation Bughouse should have been called "Operation Madhouse. " Everything went wrong. It had been planned as an all-out move to bring the enemy to their knees, occupy their capital and the key points of their home planet, and end the war. Instead it darn near lost the war. I am not criticizing General Diennes. I don't know whether it's true that he demanded more troops and more support and allowed himself to be overruled by the Sky Marshal-in-Chief -- or not. Nor was it any of my business. Furthermore I doubt if some of the smart second-guessers know all the facts. What I do know is that the General dropped with us and commanded us on the ground and, when the situation became impossible, he personally led the diversionary attack that allowed quite a few of us (including me) to be retrieved -- and, in so doing, bought his farm. He's radioactive debris on Klendathu and it's much too late to court-martial him, so why talk about it? I do have one comment to make to any armchair strategist who has never made a drop. Yes, I agree that the Bugs' planet possibly could have been plastered with H-bombs until it was surfaced with radioactive glass. But would that have won the war? The Bugs are not like us. The Pseudo- Arachnids aren't even like spiders. They are arthropods who happen to look like a madman's conception of a giant, intelligent spider, but their organization, psychological and economic, is more like that of ants or termites; they are communal entities, the ultimate dictatorship of the hive. Blasting the surface of their planet would have killed soldiers and workers; it would not have killed the brain caste and the queens -- I doubt if anybody can be certain that even a direct hit with a burrowing H-rocket would kill a queen; we don't know how far down they are. Nor am I anxious to find out; none of the boys who went down those holes came up again. So suppose we did ruin the productive surface of Klendathu? They still would have ships and colonies and other planets, same as we have, and their HQ is still intact -- so unless they surrender, the war isn't over. We didn't have nova bombs at that time; we couldn't crack Klendathu open. If they absorbed the punishment and didn't surrender, the war was still on. If they can surrender -- Their soldiers can't. Their workers can't fight (and you can waste a lot of time and ammo shooting up workers who wouldn't say boo!) and their soldier caste can't surrender. But don't make the mistake of thinking that the Bugs are just stupid insects because they look the way they do and don't know how to surrender. Their warriors are smart, skilled, and aggressive -- smarter than you are, by the only universal rule, if the Bug shoots first. You can burn off one leg, two legs, three legs, and he just keeps on coming; burn off four on one side and he topples over -- but keeps on shooting. You have to spot the nerve case and get it . . . Whereupon he will trot right on past you, shooting at nothing, until he crashes into a wall or something. The drop was a shambles from the start. Fifty ships were in our piece of it and they were supposed to come out of Cherenkov drive and into reaction drive so perfectly co-ordinated that they could hit orbit and drop us, in formation and where we were supposed to hit, without even making one planet circuit to dress up their own formation. I suppose this is difficult. Shucks, I know it is. But when it slips, it leaves the M. I. Holding the sack. We were lucky at that, because the Valley Forge and every Navy file in her bought it before we ever hit the ground. In that tight, fast formation (4. 7 miles/sec. Orbital speed is not a stroll) she collided with the Ypres and both ships were destroyed. We were lucky to get out of her tubes --