Authors: Joel Rosenberg
Tags: #Science Fiction; American, #Fantasy, #General, #Science Fiction, #Fantasy Fiction; American, #Fiction
Not For Glory
for Bob Adams
NOT FOR GLORY
Copyright © 1988 by Joel Rosenberg
All rights reserved. For information address New American Library.
Not for Glory
previously appeared in an NAL BOOKS edition published by New American Library and published simultaneously in Canada by The New American Library Limited.
SIGNET TRADEMARK REG. U.S. PAT OFF. AND FOREIGN COUNTRIES REGISTERED TRADEMARK—MARCA REGISTRADA HECHO EN CHICAGO. U.S.A.
Signet, Signet Classic, Mentor, Onyx, Plume, Meridian and NAL Books are published by NAL PENGUIN INC., 1633 Broadway, New York, New York 10019
First Signet Printing, March, 1989
PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Electronic Version by Baen Ebooks
I'm indebted to the people who helped me both with and through the writing of this one: my wife, Felicia, for reasons obvious and obscure; John M. Ford, for the title; John F. Carr, who encouraged me to continue the Metzada stories; Harry F. Leonard, Second Lieutenant, Connecticut National Guard (Retired), for his usual quibbling as well as invaluable help with the military aspects of the book; my editor, John Silbersack; and, most particularly, my new agent, Eleanor Wood.
A special mention is due my copyeditor, Mark J. McGarry, whose efforts and suggestions went above and beyond what's normally expected of a copyeditor, much to the betterment of the work.
Thellonee, New Britain
Bentinck County, Ripon Township
04/25/40, 1745 local time
The log cabin was drafty and cold; I moved a bit closer to the stove, and took a deep draft from the stone tankard. It was real Earth coffee, black and rich.
The old man chuckled, as though over some private joke.
"What the hell is so funny?" I didn't bother to keep the irritation out of my voice. It had taken me more than seven hundred hours to reach Thellonee and then to travel west from New Portsmouth first by rail, then skimmer, and finally on foot to reach Shimon Bar-El's cabin, and every time I'd try to bring up the reason I'd come from Metzada, the old bastard would just chuckle and change the subject, ask me about my wives, or about a cousin, or about how Dov was doing, as though to tell me we'd discuss business at his pleasure, not mine.
"You are what is so funny, Tetsuo. Tetsuki. Nephew." Bar-El sat back in his chair, shaking his head. He set his mug down, and then rubbed at his eyes with arthritis-swollen knuckles.
"Damn these hands," he said. He picked up his mug and drained it. "May have to go back to civilization to have them treated." He set the mug down on the rough-hewn table, and rubbed his eyes again. It's always seemed to me to be kind of strange: I bear the name of one of our Nipponese ancestors—Tetsuo Imaoka, my many-times-great grandfather—but Shimon has the epicanthic folds. Me, I look almost Aryan.
"And why am I so funny, Uncle?"
You traitorous bastard.
There isn't a nastier word in the language than "traitor." Metzada relies on credits we earn offworld, and that depends in large part on our reputation. No, that's too cold, too complicated. Simply: if nobody will pay Metzada to fight, my children will not eat.
There hadn't been proof that Shimon Bar-El had taken a payoff on Oroga; had there been, he would have been hanged in disgrace, not merely cashiered and exiled.
Although . . . the argument could be made that hanging would have been kinder—but never mind that. The suspicion, combined with what little evidence I could put together, had been enough to strip him of rank and citizenship.
I would have given a lot if we didn't need him now.
"Well," he said, "you've been here all day and you haven't asked me if I really did take that payoff."
He cocked his head to one side, his eyes going vague. "I can remember when that was of some importance to you,
." The accent on "inspector" was a dig. Unlike Shimon Bar-El, I've always been a staff officer; the only way I could get stars was to become the IG—there simply isn't another general in Metzada who doesn't command fighting forces.
"I . . . don't really care. Not anymore," I lied. I had trouble getting the next words out. But I did. It was my job. I'm very good at doing my job. "Because we've come up with a way for you to earn your way home."
He raised an eyebrow. "I doubt that. You've never understood me, Tetsuo Hanavi, have you?"
I shrugged. "Maybe not."
"I can read you like a book," he said. "There's a contract that's come up, right?"
"Yes, and shut up while I'm speaking. I'm still your uncle, boy. I want to show you how well I know you. It's on a low-tech world, correct?"
I shrugged. Not impressive. "That's your specialty, isn't it?"
"One of them." He smiled. "So why do I think I'm so smart, eh? Let me tell you more about the contract. It's high pay, and it's tough, and it looks like there's no way to do whatever the locals are paying Metzada to do."
I nodded. "Right. Right now we're short of low-tech specializing generals. Gevat is off on Schriftalt; Abromovitz, Alon, and Cohen are bogged down on Rand."
He shrugged. "If it was up to me, I'd just give your brother his stars and let him take it."
"Not possible. He only got his second leaf last year, and, besides, he got hurt on Rand."
Concern creased his face. "Ari's hurt? How bad?"
"Not too. He took a Jecty arrow in the liver. It's taking a while to regenerate, but he'll make it."
He nodded. "Good. A good man, your brother. Too good to be wasted on a useless MG exercise like putting down the peon revolts." Bar-El snorted. "Did you know that Rand was settled by a bunch of idiots who wanted to get away from any kind of government?"
I didn't, actually. I'd just assumed that the feodacracy there had always been there. Ancient history bores me, unless it's my people's history. "No. But we're getting off the subject." I spread my hands. "The point is, you're the only one who's ever generated this low-tech a campaign who's available."
He pulled a pack of tabsticks from his pocket, and offered one to me before thumbing one to life himself. "
I thumbed mine, and waited for the flame to die before I took a deep pull of the rich Thellonee tobacco. They grow some fine tobacco in the New Britain colony. We don't have such things in Metzada; it's one of my guilty pleasures when I'm offworld.
"What's in it for me?" he asked.
I tapped my chest pocket. "I've got a Writ of Citizenship here. If you can salvage the situation, you can go home." I waved my hand around the room. "Unless you like it here better." A battered iron stove stood in the corner, stove-lengths of rough wood piled next to it; next to it was the sleeping area on the dirty, unfinished wood floor. Beyond the sleeping area was the pantry, where a leg of some smoked beast, sliced to white bone on one side, hung from a hook.
By the door a flintlock rifle stood, waiting. You find a lot of flintlock rifles when you get away from civilization. Black powder is cheaper than smokeless powder, and flints, while not easy to find and chip into a useful form, are something you can make yourself—not so for cartridge ammunition, or even percussion caps.
It was kind of sad, really. Shimon Bar-El, who had once commanded armies, reduced to using a muzzle-loader to hunt for his supper.
He sat silently for a long moment, sipping at his coffee, pulling at his tabstick. "You got my commission in another pocket?"
"A temporary commission, yes. I'm not offering to have you permanently reinstated,
"Ah. Good." Shimon Bar-El smiled. "Good. At last you're being honest. Who's the employer?"
"The lowlanders on—"
"Indess. Son of a
Rivka manipulated them into asking for me, eh?"
"What do you mean?" He was absolutely right, of course, but there was no way that he could have known that. The deputy premier had kept the negotiations secret; outside of the lowlanders' representatives and my boss, Pinhas Levine, I was the only one who knew how Rivka Effron had suckered them into a payment-under-all-contingencies clause in the contract, conditional only on Shimon Bar-El being in command.
He shrugged. "I know how her mind works. If anyone else were to fail—regardless of what the contract says—it'd be bad for Metzada's reputation. But if they'd asked for Bar-El the Traitor, demanded him, insisted on him, it'd be on their own heads. Right?"
That was exactly right.
"Of course not," I said.
My orders were specific. Rivka had been sure that he'd work this part of it out, but I wasn't to admit anything. Shimon Bar-El was a sneaky bastard—it was entirely possible that our conversation was being taped, despite the poverty of the surroundings, despite any assurances to the contrary.
Bar-El rose, going to the battered pot on the cast-iron stove, pouring himself another cup of coffee.
"I'll believe what my own mind tells me," he said as he stirred a heaping tablespoon of sugar into the rich black brew, then returned to his seat, sipping. "Good coffee—you want more? No? As I was saying, it's out of the question. I've been thinking of moving back to New Portsmouth and trying to get some more consulting work. But I've no intention of being set up as the sacrificial lamb."
He drained the cup and set it down on the table. "I don't bleat any too well."
"You arrogant bastard." I stood. "You think you're unique, you think that we'll give you a permanent commission if you agree to take this one on?" I picked up my bag. "We're going to take this contract anyway. The offer's just too good to pass up. I'll handle it myself, if I have to."
He snickered at that. "Don't be such an idiot, Tetsuo. Old Rivka wouldn't let you. You don't have any field experience, not in command. A lot of good boys would die, just because—"
"You shut your mouth, traitor. Maybe I don't have any command experience, but almost nobody does, not against cavalry. There hasn't been—"
"Cavalry. You want me to spell it for you?"
There was a strange smile at the edges of his lips, only. "Cavalry. As in horses. On Indess. Only one part of the continent matters; and horses don't swim in the World Sea. Lowlanders trying to take the highlands. Hill country."
He closed his eyes for a moment, then opened them and shook his head. "I don't see the problem. You just set up your pikemen, let them impale the critters against your line. Even if they're using black powder, you stick to bows. Take a bit of discipline, even for Metzadan line troops, to hold the line . . ."
He shrugged. "What am I missing?"
"We're not the good guys, is what you're missing. We're supposed to take a village on Mount Cibo, right smack in the middle of oal country—not that there are a lot of oals left. No meeting engagements—we're going to have to siege. All they have to do is use their cavalry to harass our flanks and we can't get the towers up. Got to use towers—there're no deposits of sulfur available, so there's no gunpowder. Not with what the Commerce Department will let us bring in. Low-tech world, remember?"
"You've got all the tech reports in your bag?"
"Of course I do."
"Then let me see them." He held out a hand. "We're both going to have to study them."
"Both?" I didn't understand. Then again, I've never really understood my uncle.
"Both." He smiled, not pleasantly. "Me, because I'm taking this. And you, because you get to be my aide." He took my bag from me, removed the blue tech report folder, and started spreading papers around on the floor. "We're going to get you some field experience, we are." He studied the sheets silently for a few minutes. "I'd want all the equipment special-ordered, make sure it gets through inspection. You got that, Colonel?"
"You just got yourself a negative brevet, nephew. I don't like to see stars on anyone else's shoulders but mine." He picked up a topographical map and spread it out on the floor, then took up a stylus and some paper. "Go take a walk for a few hours, so I can get some work done. I'll have the specs on the equipment in the morning. We're leaving then." He squatted over the topo map. "Cavalry, eh?"
6/18/40, 0915 local time
I hadn't gotten used to the three oak leaves of a colonel on my shoulders. Which was kind of silly, really; I'd only been the IG for six months, but I'd put in fifteen years of hard, dirty service earning the IG's stars, and the negative brevet rankled.
The trouble was, of course, that we needed Bar-El, and that meant that I had to put up with whatever indignities he cared to inflict.
For the time being.
I shouldn't complain. Real soldiers risk their lives all too often, openly bearing arms against armed enemies. All I had to do was put up with the sneering of a Thousand Worlds Commerce Department inspector who clearly had no use for Metzada, or for me.
And I had to do it by myself.
Bar-El was with the men.
She dumped the contents of the backpack onto the flat black surface of her durlyn desk, the messkit, Fairbairn knife, utility knife, and other items of clothing and equipment falling in agonizing slowness. "This doesn't look standard," she said, gathering it all into a pile, then picking up the Fairbairn knife, unsheathing it. "I've seen the gear you killers carry before." Inspector Celia von du Mark tested the edge of the blade with her thumbnail. "Molysteel?"
I shook my head. "No, just high-carbon—and no better than they could make down there. The . . . General had everything special-ordered—that's a Fairbairn assault knife. Really more of a dagger. The blade's thin, slips between ribs—"
"Spare me the details, please," she said, tossing her head, sending her shortish black hair whipping around her thin face. "Just as long as you don't violate tech import regs, I don't give a damn what toys you're carrying." Brow furrowed, she cocked her head to one side. "Are you going to claim this is a typical pack?"
I shrugged. "Why not? Check for yourself. We posted bond; we're not going to sacrifice that, not for the sake of having a rustproof knife or two." I sat back in the chair. "But go ahead, have your men—"
"—you can have your
check it out for all I care. Except for the medician's kits, the bows, arrows, maps, and the siege-tower cables and hardware, you won't find anything on any of the two thousand men in the regiment that doesn't precisely duplicate what you've got in front of you." I spotted a piece of fur on the corner of her desk, and picked it up. It wasn't prepossessing: just a smooth brown swatch of soft fur, almost the size of my palm. "This is what all the fuss is about?" I sighed. "Doesn't look all that special."
"Try dipping it in a weak solution of acetic acid, and let it dry." She sat down and rummaged in a desk drawer. "Then it looks like this."
A twinkling shape flew toward me; I snatched it out of the air.
Now, this was nice: the swatch was white and shiny, gathering and shattering the light of the overhead glow, a spectrum of color washing over its surface.
"Pretty." I'd never seen a piece of treated oal-fur before; it's strictly a luxury item, and Metzada is a poor world. We have to import all too much; we don't import fur coats. Luxury would be reducing the number of young boys we send offworld to die in other people's wars, not a fur coat for either of my wives.
"What's this?" She held up a folded, triangular piece of fabric, opening it only partway.
"Called a shelter half. It's half a tent; you pitch two of these things face-to-face and you've got room for two soldiers to sleep." I'd asked Shimon why we were taking special-ordered shelter halves, cut and sewn to his design, instead of the usual six-man minitents, and he'd pointed out another use for them.
You can wrap a corpse in one, and bury it deeply,
But don't tell the men. Might make them nervous.
And then he smiled.
I've got one just for you, Tetsuki.
I fondled the piece of fur. It was nice, certainly, but hardly worth dying for. And, of course, nobody was going to die for fur. The lowlanders were paying us to chase the mountain people out of their walled village halfway up the slopes of Mount Cibo, right in the middle of what was left of oal country, the only remaining area on the planet's single continent where the chipmunk-like creature hadn't been hunted to extinction.
Certainly, some would die. But not for fur. For the credits that keep Metzada alive.
The distinction is important. The distinction is everything.
"And this?" She held up a metal cylinder, flat and half the size of my head.
"That's a messkit, a one-man pressure-cooker. It seals airtight; you put food in, a little water, just chuck it in a fire, leave it for a few minutes, then pull it out with a stick. Then you use the point of your knife to flick that little lever open, releasing the steam. Then open, and eat." I smiled.
She returned my smile. "I've got another use for it. Say, you fill it full of water, bury it in a fire you've built next to a wall—say, a wall around a village on the slopes of Cibo. And then you wait until it builds up enough internal pressure to blow itself apart, and, incidentally, shatter the wall." She tossed the messkit to one side. "Denied. The 'messkits' stay aboard; you and your regiment can skipshuttle down."
I figured a bit of false outrage might go over reasonably. "Inspector, I'll have you know—"
"Enough of that. The Commerce charter provides that offplanet mercenary soldiers can be brought in. Less bloodshed that way, supposedly; I'm not sure. Maybe it's better than letting the locals hack each other to ribbons. But there are limits, and while I'm inspector here they are going to be enforced. Understood?"
I wiped my hand across my forehead. "I know. No import of military—"
"—technology beyond whatever the locals already possess. They don't have bombs like that. They can't make bombs like that. And you can't bring them in. Understood?"
Of course I understood. Shimon should have understood. I'd told him they'd never let us get the messkits by.