This is And Not To Yield, a novella approaching completion, though it would be easier if half of hun-dom didn’t somehow end up in my room every day. It will (fingers crossed unless I mess it up very badly indeed) be in Worldfire’s five by five anthology of mil sf. It was a bit of a challenge, since as ya’ll know (but no one else seems to) I don’t write mil sf as such. This is first draft with all its typos upon it, and I’m sure I made a hash of military ranks, as usual (I’m worse with those than with digits which I transpose on a routine basis.) So, don’t jump on me. First this is not US military. Second the military it is is writing its rules as it goes, because well, revolution and war. Third, I’ll run this by military betas as soon as it’s done, sweartobunnies.
For those who haven’t read A Few Good Men, or even those who have, this is the same characters, ten years later.
And Not To Yield
Sarah A. Hoyt
The trial starts with a sad-eyed major sitting behind a desk. My desk. My office has been commandeered for my own martial court . We’re almost alone. The new laws require trial by jury – trial by twelve as the people call it – but that rule is not for military trials, where the autocratic rule prevails. Not as bad as under the regime we overthrew, the regime of the Good men, mind. You won’t get condemned and killed because one man, the sole, undisputed hereditary ruler of the Seacity is having a bad day. No. Though there are two privates by the door, both fully armed, ready to shoot me down if I should make a run for it, I’m not treated like a criminal.
Instead, I’m presumed innocent until proven guilty, and I stand in my full uniform, with the colonel insignia at shoulder and sleeve, above the patch showing the legendary mountain from which my land gets its name. And I have a defense council, a judge advocate. He’s not a lawyer but an old friend, Royce Allard, looking hot under the collar and a little afraid.
He should be afraid. The procedures might be impromptu, the courtroom an office, but the results of this procedure are full and binding and final. I stand accused of going AWOL in time of war, and of disobeying the direct orders of my superiors. Then comes the bagful of minor sins, including risking important information falling in the hands of the enemy and risking being taken hostage, and a few other things, possibly including, but not limited to using bad language and being seen in a ragged uniform. All together those are worth little. A few days in jail, a reduction in pay.
It doesn’t matter, because the major charges, if proven, will see me hanged by the neck till dead.
And they will be proven, because, you see, I am guilty.
War for me began ten years after revolution had freed Olympus Seacity; five years after I’d been made a colonel and head of our propaganda machine.
It is not war to pilot a desk. It’s not war to think up clever hollo-casts and methods to subvert the enemy’s carefully planted idea that their regime has given the Earth three hundred years of “peace and security”. It is not war to wait, to hope, to search the casualty lists every night, to pray to a God I wasn’t sure of believing in that his name wouldn’t be among the dead and missing.
Though we were both technically believers in the long forbidden Usaian religion, he was the believer, and I believed in him. And though both of us had been instrumental in the revolution that set the Seacity on the path of restoring the ancient principles of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, the truth was that Nat – Nathaniel Green Remy – fought. I stayed home and planned and waited.
Home had been reduced to a small part of what had been my ancestral palace.
My name is Lucius Dante Maximillian Keeva. I was born to one of the fifty men who between them ruled all the Earth – the Good Men, as they were called — and raised as heir to Olympus Seacity and its subject territories. Or not quite. It turned out the intolerable rule of the man whom I have to call father had other dimensions, other implications. Some of which had led me to solitary confinement for fourteen years and to the raw edge of what I must for lack of a better word call sanity.
Nat – and his family – had hauled me back to life and humanity, and if what it cost me was surrendering power and position I never wanted and helping them install their government based on the principles of the long vanished United States of America, I could do that.
Two rooms in the house and the use of an office were all that would have been truly mine, anyway, had I ascended to rule as the Good Man of Olympus. The absolute ruler of that kind of vast empire is no more free than a slave. Oh, his particular whims and his odder tastes might be catered to, but like a slave he is the prisoner of his role, occupied with it from morning to night, his every minute poured into that role.
So, I wasn’t any the worse off for my change in roles, from would-be heir to the territory to officer in the revolutionary army. And other people were happier. Probably. Almost certainly.
Only the Good Men had not let things go lightly. Authority and power are not surrendered willingly, unless it is meaningless and the rule of the Good Men was very meaningful indeed.
For ten years we’d been involved in a war; we’d lost countless people. Young people had been killed in the army, and people of all ages had been killed as the Good Men resorted to terror tactics on the territories; released bio-engineered viruses; destroyed crops and generally made the life of the citizens of Olympus and our allies hell. Against this Nat fought. Against this I composed a war of words, a concatenation of holograms to make it clear to the people under Good Men Rule that we were the better choice; that they should rebel and come to our side.
It worked. Sometimes. Entire cities and seacities had come to our side. But not enough to end the war.
Which meant Nat continued fighting, and I continued to check the casualty and missing list, every night, after a full day of work, and just before turning in.
Which brings me to that August night. It was hot, and I was asleep, uncovered, in my too-large bed. My room is at the top of what used to be the palace, and the door opens to a terrace which in turn looks down all the way to the sea. That door was open, to a smell of salt air, and at first I thought what I heard was the cry of seagulls.
“How do you plead?” the sad eyed major asks, after the litany of charges against me is read. “On the charges leveled against you?”
“Guil—” I start. And my judge advocate is there. Royce’s hand clasps around my upper arm so hard that he will leave bruises. Which takes effort, since I’m six seven and built like the proverbial brick shithouse, and though Royce is not a small man, his hand doesn’t even fully go around my arm.
“Sir,” he says, and I wasn’t sure if it was to me or the major. “Sir,” he says, and this time he looks fully at the major. “Sir, Colonel Keeva pleads not guilty due to extenuating circumstances.”
The Major opens his mouth. For a moment I think he’s going to say I’d pleaded guilty, but of course he doesn’t. Instead, he closes his mouth and looks at me, eyebrows raised. Royce’s hand is like an iron band around my forearm. “Yes,” I stammer. “Not guilty due to extenuating circumstances.”
The Major nods. “Very well,” he says. “Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?”
The judge gestures, and one of the privates by the door, a young man who looks too young to grow a beard and too innocent to be in any military, comes forward with a small, dark box, which he opens. Inside the box is my piece of flag. Not the flag of Olympus, which is a blue flag with the representation of the mythical mountain, but THE flag, the one sacred to every Usaian. At some time in the twenty first century, after the fall of the United States of America, and after the founding of the religion based on the founding documents of that lost country, someone had put all the flags they could find that had once flown over American territory before the fall into a climate-controlled room. Since then every member of the religion got a little piece of the flag. Some were inherited within families. Mine had three stars, and a blood stain. The stain had been acquired when a past owner had been martyred to the faith. Another past owner, martyred to the faith, was my only friend growing up, and Nat’s uncle, Benjamin Franklin Remy. Ben has been dead for twenty five years. Which is good because he might very well think I’d disgraced him and our shared scrap of flag.
The young man hands me the flag. I know what to do. Usaians have sealed all their oaths with a kiss on their piece of the flag, that visible symbol of their allegiance, for centuries.
I press my lips against the flag, and then it is set on the desk in front of me. I look at it and mentally I ask Ben’s forgiveness. “I never meant to sully the flag or the Usaians by association,” I tell him. “But you see, I had to save Nat.”