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Not for Glory
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Not for Glory

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Author: Joel Rosenberg
Publisher: New American Library, 1988
Series: Metzada Mercenary Corps: Book 3
Book Type: Novel
Genre: Science-Fiction
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Synopsis

Metzada is an inhospitable planet of Epsilon Indi whose inhabitants - most descendants from refugees forced to leave Israel - can survive only because its men are highly skilled mercenaries, Metzada's one export that brings in revenue. When young Ari Hanavi freezes in combat twice, he has one last chance to survive and even become a "hero".

Scenes of battle, military command, and operations are expertly portrayed in this novel about a young man who must overcome his terror while dealing with his fellow soldiers and fighting an enemy force. Set in the same world as Not for Glory, which David Drake called "a swift-paced, brutal, excellent political novel about the soldier of the future".


Excerpt

CHAPTER ONE

The Wolf

Metzada, Central Warrens, Medical Section,
Reconstruction Division
Reconstructive Physical Therapy Department
12/20/43, 1057 local time

Each year it gets a little harder to put it all back together. That includes me, as well as everything else.

I was in a reconstructive therapy session when the deputy premier called.

"Again, Tetsuo, again," P'nina Borohov said, pushing down on my right leg as I tried to raise it.

P'nina was one of the ugliest women I've every seen. Well into her forties, she was easily seventy pounds overweight, thick-waisted with muscle, not fat. Pig-faced, mustached--and with fingers like steel clamps.

One of the ways we're taught to deal with pain is by concentrating on something extraneous. She had a mole below her mouth, right on the jawline, with three long, black hairs sticking out of it. I tried to focus my attention on how ugly it was, but that didn't help much.

I hurt.

Everything hurt: a side-effect of one of the drugs they give you when they have to regenerate certain kinds of damage quickly. They call it NoGain. It's expensive as all hell, and it doesn't work with valda oil. Anything more, I don't Need to Know.

Normally, after the aborted kneecapping I'd received in Eire, I could have looked forward to perhaps as much as a couple thousand hours of rest and gradual physical therapy, accompanied by whatever reconstruction and occupational therapy the fourth-best reconstructive surgeon on Metzada prescribed. Except for some of the occupational therapy, which I'd have enjoyed, it would have been a rough regimen, but I'd been through it before. But this wasn't normal.

The stainless steel therapy table was painfully cold against my back as I lay there, wearing nothing but a thin pair of cotton shorts. The light of the overhead glow hurt my eyes.

My heart thudded slowly in my chest, each dull beat a dismal, distant ache. That's the thing I hate most about NoGain; even when it doesn't put me through agony, it leaves me feeling exactly the way I do when somebody I love dies.

When I was a boy, I thought heartache was just an expression.

Boys can be such fools.

Her fingers hurt.

"Again, Tetsuo," she said, digging a knuckle into the back of my calf. That wasn't for therapy, not directly. It was just to force me to do what she wanted me to. "You will--"

"You will be telling us what you are doing here," he says.

He is the slightly larger, the fractionally older of a pair of big men in the black uniforms of Irish Republic guardsmen, politely wondering what somebody with no Sein ID is doing on the cobblestones of a Dublin back street. He rubs a large hand against his stubbled chin in curiosity while his partner sticks a spearpoint under my chin to push me up against the battered brick wall so they can comfortably inquire.

"Sooner or later," he says. "Sooner or later." He slaps his nightstick against his palm. It isn't as though he's threatening me with it. It's more like he's fine-tuning, either the stick or himself. "Sooner or later, you will be telling us. I say again--"

"Again. But harder this time. You're not scheduled for more NoGain sessions; we have to make this last one count."

I pushed up my leg, my knee setting up a scorching, ripping pain that made me think she was going to tear the leg right off.

The sadist responded by pushing down harder. There's supposed to be a point at which pain becomes so great that it overloads the mind; the mind blanks, and the victim smiles at his torturer. I don't believe in it, and I'm not sure P'nina did, but she was accelerating toward that point, like a ramscoop trying for lightspeed, knowing that it will never make it, but feeling that the effort is enough, will do enough, will result in--

"Enough!"

"Hardly. Push back."

I screamed.

Granted, I usually wear a soldier's uniform, but I'm a butcher, not a hero. I'm not downplaying my skills--

Long-practiced skills come into play when the more soft-hearted of the two Irishmen drops the spearpoint and lets me collapse to the ground.

I fall hard, limp, to the rough stones. It's a high art to fall hard without hurting yourself, but it's not art, not for me, not now. I'm just a man in agony.

But then I move.

Half-blind with pain, I brace myself on my hands, grit biting hard into my palms, making them bleed, but you need a tripod. Mine is two palms and a hip. I lash out with my good leg, steel-toed boot bites hard, deep into the soft muscle of his calf; on the backswing, heel catches him square on the shinbone. I fall to my shoulder while I slip my baby Fairbairn knife out of my left sleeve and into my right hand.

Fingers tighten on the grip; I slash upward into his partner's groin. Slash-twist-pull-and-recover, and his eyes widen first in surprise, then narrow in pain. His high-pitched, womanlike scream makes my ears ring as I pull away my blood-drenched hand, watching him clutch the dark stain spreading across his crotch.

I turn to finish off the soft-hearted guardsman.

His mouth works soundlessly as clumsy fingers try to block my knife.

But he can't do it. I may be a butcher, but--

--I was one of the best in the Section, and I'd been one of the old woman's favorite utility fixers for the better part of five years and two promotions, one of which even shows in the star I wear on each shoulder.

Still, I am definitely the kind of person who has to carry an exit-pill when he's carrying more knowledge in his head than is safe. I know a few iron men, several who can go through unbelievable agony without it showing on their faces. Dov is like that. The Sergeant, sure. Zev, sometimes. Benyamin was, too. I've seen pictures of Benyamin standing next to Dov, and I know that my brother wasn't as much of a giant, but that's not the way I remember him.

Benyamin was a hero.

I'm not. I threw back my head and screamed, until I thought my lungs were on fire.

The thing about physical therapists is that they just don't care. She pushed down, and I pushed back with my leg, until the chorus of agony reached a crescendo that made me think the whole universe was going to split open.

At that moment, the phone on the wall chimed twice, then three times.

"My signal! My signal!" I shrilled, suddenly a child excused from a spanking.

"Ten seconds." With a skill that came from years of practice in handling barely-compliant flesh, P'nina eased me back to the table with one hand and strapped my knee down tightly, while another snatched up a cotton ball and bottle of alcohol from the porcelain-topped stand at her side. She quickly cleaned and sterilized a spot near my knee, dropped the bottle back on the white table, tossed the cotton ball toward the recycler, brought up, readied, and stuck in a needle.

I know it was a sharp needle, expertly applied. But NoGain turned what should have been a brief pinch into an awful stabbing--

--knife rises and falls of its own volition, drinking blood, stabbing down into what had been a face, again and again, all concentration, all skill gone.

Skills come and go, when it's real. In the final analysis, everything fails us.

The knife falls from my hands; I crouch there in the blood and the mud and the shit, and weep.

Reflexively, I clean my knife on a dead man's shirt, then, using the kinder guardsman's spear as a crutch, I pull myself up. Balancing on my good leg, I hobble off into the night, not stopping for a moment to bid the corpses farewell.

Gestures don't belong in Section. We are what we are.

Sometimes, though, I just don't know what I am. Sometimes, it feels like the part of me that was little Tetsuo Hanavi has vanished--

--which quickly vanished, as a warm glow spread from the spot where the needle had gone in.

There are no nerves for pleasure, but I'll tell you what pleasure is: it's when pain goes away in a spreading cloud of warmth.

I basked in the glow as I snapped my fingers and pointed to the phone.

"You can get it yourself in a moment. Be good for you." She unstrapped me, then folded her ample arms over her ample bosom.

I glared once. It's called command presence, and something even an imitation general is expected to be able to produce upon demand.

Surprising both of us, it worked: she uncrossed her arms and tossed me the phone.

"Tetsuo Hanavi," I said, gesturing at P'nina to leave the room. "I'm not alone; wait a moment." If it was important enough to interrupt me in PT, it was something P'nina didn't have the need to know.

She slid the door shut behind her. In the waiting room outside, there were other patients. A lot of us need putting back together; four of them were waiting for their turn in P'nina's gentle hands.

"We're alone," I said, reaching over to the dressing table for my pants and struggling to get my bad leg in first.

"I need something done," the old woman's voice husked in my ear. "Are you fit to travel?"

Since she could have punched up the latest medical report on me--she'd probably just done so--the question wasn't whether or not I was in peak condition, but whether I thought I could travel on a cane and arrogance, at least for the time being.

"Yes." Although I wouldn't require the cane. You learn to give up crutches as soon as you can.

"How soon can you be here?"

I glanced at my thumbnail and then shrugged before remembering that this was voice-only; when I'm home, I sometimes let myself not pay enough attention to what's going on. It's a luxury. "In case you've forgotten, the Twentieth is only an hour or so out. If it can wait until then, let it. I want to meet the first shuttle."

My brother's, Ari's, regiment is the Twentieth.

I once had four brothers. Ari, Shlomo, Kiyoshi, and Benyamin; Ari the baby, Benyamin the oldest.

The line of dead stretches out past my vision. I can only make out a few of the closer faces, sometimes just my brothers'.

I see traces of Kiyoshi's face when I look in the mirror. It's not just that we were similar-looking; it's that the blond blandness of our faces is always belied by our Nipponese first names. I never liked Shlomo. I will always remember Benyamin.

Family Hanavi and clan Bar-El memorialize Shlomo, Kiyoshi, and Benyamin yearly, at the Yarzheit ceremony, along with all the others of the legions of the dead.

I remember them every day.

My brother, Ari....

Fingers clacked on keys in the background. "I'd rather see you now," she decided. "If I send you on this one, your team is leaving in a week, at the outside. You'd be going with Alon to Thellonee. Which doesn't give you long to put a team together."

If! I thought.

"If," she answered. She can't read minds--it just seems that way at times. "Pinhas's trust in you to the contrary, I'm not sure it's right for you. It involves your uncle."

"Your uncle." I had two living uncles. She wasn't talking about the Sergeant.

"We've gotten a note from him," she went on. "Quote: 'Freiheimers are rivetting their tanks. I know something else of use to you. But I am valuable where I am.' End of quote; and end of message. It was smuggled in via an Orogan trader. I'm having the first part researched, but I can already interpret the second part to mean either that he puts a high price on what he knows, or that he wants you to get him out of whatever mess he's into. Or, more likely, both."

Probably both. Since he was exiled, Shimon had found that other armies besides ours could make use of his mind, although he had worked only on a consulting basis, and only in wars where Metzada was not involved.

A very clever man. He knew full well that neither the government, clan, nor the family would tolerate him bucking Metzada.

Still, the old woman is the second most devious person I know, but maybe she was reading a bit too much into twenty words from the most devious person I know.

"It can wait." Putting together a team, even quickly, wouldn't be a problem. I'd have Zev as my second, and grab whoever in Section was around. Not a nice bunch of people, but niceness is not an important quality in headsmen.

"I'll have Levine here in fifteen minutes," she said, as though that ended the matter.

The old lady's background is Foreign Service, not Section. She's never really understood that chain-of-command doesn't really work when you're usually on your own. The kind of independence of action you get used to in the field tends to stick when you're home.

Sometimes it tends to push you too far out on a tangent, makes you act too independently. I once had a partner who did that. Once.

In any case, I wanted to see my brother. It was one thing to read the flash that said he was still alive, that his injuries were minor; it's another to touch, flesh to flesh.

"I'll see you after the shuttle touches down," I said, then set the phone down when she didn't answer.

Better finish getting dressed.

I limped over to the side of the wall for my shoes, and then stooped to pick up the khaki shirt with the star on each epaulet.

There were far too few campaign ribbons above the left pocket for such hardware on the shoulders. One thing about being inspector-general is that you are, officially, a noncombatant, and noncombatants don't earn campaign ribbons. The four ribbons are reminders of the days when I was a real soldier. The time when I was pretending to be something I wasn't, instead of pretending not to be what I am.

Whatever that is. A shochet, minus the ritual, at best.

I shrugged into the shirt and buttoned it before picking up my cane and heading for the door. I hung the cane on a hook by the door.

Eventually, you have to give up crutches, of all kinds.

Out in the waiting room, at the end of the row of four patients waiting for their turn with P'nina, Zev Aroni sat, waiting patiently, a briefcase on his lap, going through some paperwork. We have to actually do some IG things, to keep up appearances.

"I'm done, Sergeant," I said. "Let's go."

Zev's dark face was expressionless, as usual. Wordless, he accompanied me into the corridor as I limped toward the nearest tube entrance. Sergeant Zev Aroni was officially my aide--but as with most things in Section, appearances are true, but only part of the truth; Zev was my partner. Junior partner, usually. Not always.

I never really liked Zev, which wasn't a problem. You're not supposed to like your partner. I mentioned that once, to a new Section draftee I was training. He asked why. "Because it doesn't hurt so much when you have to shoot him for going lame on you," I said. He thought that was a figure of speech, until the first time he went offplanet on a Section assignment--and one cold, wet night in a forest in Thuringia, broke his leg.

"I heard your signal," Zev finally said, when there was nobody around to overhear us. "Rivka?"

"She wants to see me. Us." I nodded. "But we're going to meet Ari, first."

He frowned at that. "Not a good idea to buck the deputy, Tetsuo."

"You want to do something about it?"

"Not me." He smiled, a gap-toothed whiteness that seemed overly bright in a face the color of bitter coffee that's been lightened with only a hint of milk. "Not me. I'm your partner."

"Right."

Zev at my side, I limped my way out into the corridor and the warrens, toward the tube.

Copyright © 1988 by Joel Rosenberg


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