Weston Ochse is the author of more than twenty books, most recently SEAL Team 666 and its sequels Age of Blood and Reign of Evil, which the New York Post called ‘required reading’ and USA Today placed on their ‘New and Notable Lists.’ His first novel, Scarecrow Gods, won the Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in First Novel and his short fiction has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. His work has appeared in comic books, and magazines such as Cemetery Dance and Soldier of Fortune. He lives in the Arizona desert within rock throwing distance of Mexico. He is a military veteran with 30 years of military service and currently returned from a deployment to Afghanistan.
David Gerrold, no stranger to military SF (War with the Chtorr series) had this to say about the series:
“Grunt Life was a major achieve- ment in military SF! A real page- turner! This new chapter in the series is even better!” – David Gerrold, Hugo and Nebula Award Winner of The Martain Child
Note from the author: I chose this excerpt as a juxtaposition from my essay about there being no hope against the aliens. Try telling a squad of grunts there’s no hope. There’s always hope, they’d say, you just have to know where to find it. In this section you’ll see the leader trying to improve his unit’s morale. Whether he does a good job or not doesn’t really matter. There’s something about small unit cohesion that’s been the same since the dawn of the first war and you can see it working perfectly here. (You can read Weston’s essay here.)
It was as dark as I’d ever seen it outside. The moon was hidden by clouds. Except for the illuminated displays inside the EXO helmets, there wasn’t a single man-made light for miles. I turned back to the team. Even though they towered over me, I was still the boss, and as such, I felt the need to say a few words before the final push.
“So this is my Saint Crispin’s Day speech,” I began, gazing at each one in turn.
I opened my mouth to speak, but before I could utter a word, Stranz asked, “Who’s St. Crispin?”
I paused; I actually had no idea. I just remembered the speech. I looked plaintively at Ohirra, who thankfully spoke up.
“Who St. Crispin was isn’t as important as the speech,” she said. I nodded for her to continue as she glanced at me. “King Henry V gave his men a speech on the eve of the Battle of Agincourt. England was outnumbered five to one. The French had thirty-six thousand troops while the English only numbered about eight thousand.”
“Jesus,” Stranz said. “Talk about walking into a slaughter.”
“Into the Valley of Death rode the six hundred,” Sula murmured.
“Kipling,” I noted.
But Sula corrected me. “Tennyson,” she said.
Ohirra nodded. “‘The Charge of the Light Brigade.’ England didn’t fare so well there. Six hundred light cavalry were sent against more than twenty thousand Russians during the Crimean War.”
“So far this is a sucky speech,” Stranz said. “We know we’re outnumbered. You don’t have to rub it in.”
I couldn’t help a grin. Stranz was right. I needed to see if I could save it. “Shakespeare commemorated the speech in the play Henry V,” I said. “I saw the movie version and every time I see it again, the speech gives me chills. Sure, it talks about being outnumbered, but it also talks about pride. What was it the King said, Ohirra—the fewer the men, the greater the share of honor?”
She nodded. “It was the idea that the English didn’t need as many men as the French because they were intrinsically better. Don’t forget this was the first large-scale battle in which the English longbow was used. The French didn’t know what to do. The arrows crippled them.”
The French lost something like ten thousand men while the English lost less than two hundred,” I added.
“Seriously?” Stranz seemed stunned.
Sula let out a low whistle.
“They had better weapons, just like we do,” I said.
“So what does St. Cripsin’s Day have to do with it?” Stranz asked.
“It was used as a touch point, a date to mark their destined victory. I actually memorized this one stanza: He that shall live this day and see old age, will yearly on the vigil say to his neighbors that ‘To-morrow is Saint Crispin.’ Then he will strip his sleeve and show his scars, And say ‘These wounds I had on Crispin’s day.’ It’s the idea that they’d survive, and that everyone who wasn’t part of the battle would wish they had been.”
“And it worked?” Stranz asked.
“The English won pretty convincingly,” Ohirra commented.
“Then again, it could be the more advanced weapons they were using,” I said
“How many Cray do you think there are?” Sula asked.
I shrugged. “Hundreds. Maybe thousands.”
“How do we know this isn’t more like the Charge of the Light Brigade?” Stranz asked.
I looked to Ohirra to answer that one and she immediately jumped in. “The Charge was against several battalions of artillery, and many thousands of rifles. It was really a hopeless gesture.”
Sula closed her eyes and spoke. “Cannon to right of them. Cannon to left of them. Cannon behind them. Volleyed and thundered. Stormed at with shot and shell. While horse and hero fell. They that had fought so well.” When she opened her eyes again, she saw we were all staring at her. “One of the poems we had to memorize in English Lit. I also had to memorize ‘The Raven.’ Want to hear that?”
I chuckled. “No thanks. I just didn’t know I was in the midst of so many literary grunts.” I glanced at Stranz.
“Don’t look at me. I peaked at Green Eggs and Ham.”
“I will not eat them with the Cray. I will not eat them any day. I do not like green eggs and ham. I do not like them, Sam I am.”
Stranz grinned. “Hey, that’s good.”
Sula nodded and added, “Quoth the Raven, ‘Nevermore.’”
Stranz shook his head. “I’ve always thought that’s a stupid name for a raven. Never understood why there had to be a poem about it either.”
I stared at Stranz for a long moment, then broke into laughter. Sula joined. Stranz did too, even though he didn’t know why. Even Ohirra joined in. When I was done, I wiped tears from my eyes.
I surveyed my team of grunts. I couldn’t have been more proud. “You ready to go kill some Cray?”
All three grunts shouted, “Huah!”
I turned to head out the door and heard Stranz say, “Turned out to be a pretty good speech after all.”
I grinned as I slipped into the Los Angeles night.
EXCERPT from GRUNT TRAITOR
Written by Weston Ochse © 2015
Published by Solaris Books, July 2015