Grimmer Than Hell
This is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this book are fictional, and any resemblance to real people or incidents is purely coincidental.
Copyright ? 2003 by David Drake.
"Introduction: Coming Home By the Long Way" copyright ? 2003 by David Drake. "Rescue Mission" copyright ? 1988 by David Drake; first printed in The Fleet. "When the Devil Drives" copyright ? 1988 by David Drake; first printed in Counterattack. "Team Effort" copyright ? 1989 by
David Drake; first printed in Breakthrough. "The End" copyright ? 1990
by David Drake; first printed in Sword Allies. "Smash and Grab" copyright
? 1990 by David Drake; first printed in Total War. "Mission
Accomplished" copyright ? 1991 by David Drake; first printed in Crisis.
"Facing the Enemy" copyright ? 1992 by David Drake; first printed in Battlestation. "Failure Mode" copyright ? 1993 by David Drake; first printed in Vanguard. "The Tradesmen" copyright ? 2000 by David Drake; first printed in Drakas! "Coming Up Against It" copyright ? 2003 by
David Drake; original to this volume. "With the Sword He Must Be Slain" copyright ? 1998 by David Drake; first printed in Armageddon. "Nation
Without Walls" copyright ? 1977 by The Conde Nast Publications, Inc.; first printed in Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact, July 1977. "The
Predators" copyright ? 1979 by David Drake; first printed in Destinies,
Vol. 1, No. 5 (Oct.–Dec. 1979). "Underground" copyright ? 1980 by
David Drake; first printed in Destinies, Vol. 2, No. 1 (Feb.–March 1980).
All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form.
A Baen Books Original
Baen Publishing Enterprises
P.O. Box 1403
Riverdale, NY 10471
Cover art by Steve Hickman
First printing, February 2003
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Grimmer than hell / by David Drake.
1. Science fiction, American. 2. Life on other planets—Fiction. I.
PS3554.R196 G75 2003
Distributed by Simon & Schuster 1230 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020
Produced by Windhaven Press, Auburn, NH Printed in the United States of America
For Edmund D. Livingston, Sr.
Ed was proud to have served as a Marine rifleman on Okinawa and been part of the unit which landed in Yokosuka—without
ammunition—two days before the Japanese surrender.
I'm equally proud to have been his friend in later years.
BAEN BOOKS by DAVID DRAKE
The Tank Lords
Caught in the Crossfire
The Butcher's Bill
The Sharp End
Paying the Piper
With the Lightnings
Lt. Leary, Commanding
Independent Novels and Collections
Seas of Venus
Foreign Legions, edited by David Drake
Ranks of Bronze
Cross the Stars
The Dragon Lord
Birds of Prey
All the Way to the Gallows
Grimmer Than Hell
The Undesired Princess and The Enchanted Bunny
(with L. Sprague de Camp)
Lest Darkness Fall and To Bring the Light
(with L. Sprague de Camp)
(edited with Billie Sue Mosiman)
(with Karl Edward Wagner)
The General series:
Warlord, with S.M. Stirling (omnibus)
Conqueror, with S.M. Stirling (forthcoming)
The Forge, with S.M. Stirling
The Chosen, with S.M. Stirling
The Reformer, with S.M. Stirling The Tyrant, with Eric Flint
The Belisarius series:
(with Eric Flint)
An Oblique Approach In the Heart of Darkness
The Tide of Victory
Coming Home by the Long Way
A few years ago I collected my humorous stories in All the Way to the Gallows. In my
introduction I admitted that I wasn't best known for writing humor.
This is what I'm best known for writing.
The impetus for this book was a fan suggestion that with surveillance cameras becoming increasingly prevalent all over the world, it would be a good time to get the Lacey stories back in print. I thought about the notion.
I only did three stories in the series, in the late '70s. Lacey is a man with all the ordinary human feelings—which he suppresses ruthlessly, as he suppresses everything else that might prevent him from accomplishing his task. He has no goals, no dreams, no friends; but he's very, very good at his job.
A friend once suggested that the Lacey stories were even clearer descriptions of how I felt about Viet Nam and what I'd become there than the Hammer stories I was writing at the same time. She may have been right.
I don't want to get back into that mindset, but neither did I want to turn the setting into a shared universe. Lacey is, if you'll forgive me, a more personal Hell than that.
The original collection, Lacey and His Friends (with an absolutely wonderful Steve
Hickman cover, by the way), bound in a couple novellas which showed the kinder, gentler, David Drake. There is a kinder, gentler David Drake; but I'm not as defensive as I used to be about the other parts of me, and they're real too.
The remaining pieces in the present collection are close in tone to the Lacey stories. They're military SF of one sort or another, though "or another" covers a pretty wide range.
Three are odd-balls. Billie Sue Mosiman and I edited an original anthology titled (and about) Armageddon. I wrote "With the Sword He Must Be Slain" for that volume.
Steve Stirling's Draka series is set in an alternate universe in which Evil wins. Steve turned the setting into a shared universe with the volume Drakas! and asked me to
Evil doesn't win in my books (well, I'll admit it's sometimes hard to pick the good guys) and I was a little uncomfortable with the assignment, but Steve's a friend and has written stories for me. If I'd known he wasn't going to do a story for his own collection, I might have begged off; but I didn't, and "The Tradesmen" resulted. It has a very dense
structure, so much so that my outline amounted to 60% of the wordage of the finished story. As a piece of craftsmanship, I'm proud of it.
"Coming Up Against It" had a very strange genesis. Bill Fawcett got a deal for the two of us to consult on backgrounds for a computer game, for which we'd be paid an absurdly large amount of money. Part of the deal was that I would write a story in the game universe for binding in with the game. I wrote the story.
We did commentary on the initial background and sent it in. The new version came back to us, not a refinement but a totally new scenario. We did more commentary. The response was yet again a totally new scenario. I don't recall how many iterations we went through on this, but I do remember that I was getting steamed. (I later heard the rumor that somebody in the company was keeping the meter running as a favor to the outside contractor doing the scenarios, a buddy who'd fallen on hard times.)
My story, "Coming Up Against It," was based on a situation that was edited out of the game early in the process. I didn't even think I had a copy of the story (I'd tried to put the whole business out of my head; I was really angry about being dicked around), but it
showed up while I was searching for other things. It appears here for the first time.
And by the way, this is a prime example of a deal that was too good to be true turning out to be too good to be true.
Bill Fawcett sold the Battlestation shared universe with me as co-editor. I'd been doing a lot of work in shared universes by that time, and I decided that the two volumes of the original contract would be my last for a while. I wrote my two stories, "Facing the Enemy" and "Failure Mode," so that they'd give closure to the series. You don't ordinarily get that with life, but it's something I strive for in fiction.
And that brings me very directly to the six stories which open this volume. They come from a slightly earlier shared universe that Bill developed and I co-edited: The Fleet. They follow a special operations company in a future war against aliens. (Parenthetically, most of my Military SF doesn't involve aliens; possibly because I don't recall ever being shot at by an alien when I was in Viet Nam or Cambodia.) Each story is self-standing but they have a cumulative effect and are, I believe, some of the best Military SF I've written.
What the Fleet stories don't have is closure; that too, I think, has something to do with me and Southeast Asia. The series ended and I thought I'd walked away from it, just as I thought I'd walked away from a lot of other things back in 1971.
Then, years later, I wrote Redliners, a novel about a special operations company
fighting aliens until things went badly wrong . . . except that in Redliners they got a
second chance. They and their society got a second chance. They got closure, and in a
funny way so did I. Since Redliners I've been able to write adventure fiction that's a little less cynical, a little less bleak, than what I'd invariably done in the past when I wrote action stories.
I don't think I'd have been able to write Redliners if I hadn't previously written the
Fleet stories. I'm awfully glad I did write them.
A Story of The Fleet
"Is it true," demanded one of the First Platoon corporals in a voice that filled the echoing bay of the landing craft, "that this whole operation is so we can rescue Admiral Mayne's nephew from the Khalians?"
Captain Kowacs looked at the man. The corporal stared back at the company commander with a jaunty arrogance that said, Whatcha gonna do? Put me on point?
Which of course was the corporal's normal patrol position.
Kowacs took a deep breath, but you learned real fast in a Marine Reaction Company that you couldn't scare your troops with rear-echelon discipline. Trying to do that would guarantee you were the first casualty of the next firefight.
"No, Corporal Dodd," said Kowacs. "Admiral Mayne is planning coordinator for this mission, but neither he nor any nephews of his have anything behind-the-scenes to do with it."
He glared at his assembled company.
The behind-the-scenes order had come from Grand Admiral Forberry; and it was Forberry's son, not a nephew, who'd been snatched—no body recovered, at any
rate—when the Khalians raided the Pleasure Dome on Iknaton five years before.
Nobody else spoke up; even Dodd looked abashed.
Kowacs gazed at the hundred and three pairs of waiting eyes—wondered how many
of them would have any life behind them in twenty-four hours—
Sighed and thumbed the handset controlling the holo projector.
The image that formed above Kowacs' head was fuzzy. The unit was intended for use in a shielded environment, while the bay of the landing ship Bonnie Parker was alive
with circuits and charged metal.
stNo matter: this was the 121 Marine Reaction Company, not an architectural
congress. The projector would do for the job.
"Fleet Intelligence believes this site to be the Khalians' major holding facility for human prisoners on Target," Kowacs said, referencing the hologram with a nod. "Their