Science Fiction Fiction Sad

The four-year war between the Imperial Empire and the rebel factions of the Gypsums appears to be near an end. Colonel Manfred “The Beast” Everhardt has trapped a large group of the Gypsum rebels in the sacred city of St. Leone on the planet Erebus.

Everhardt is an excellent commander and strategist, whose savagery comes from the injury he received during the siege of Saint Augustine. When the city was about to fall, a group of Gypsum resistance fighters got close enough to throw homemade bombs at Everhardt’s tank. He was struck in the left side of his face by one of the bombs, disfiguring him. From that point on, he became the Imperial Regime’s most celebrated killer.

In addition to human troops, Everhardt is abetted by the Volks, large robots with expressionless, mask-like faces, and artificial bodies guided by implanted human brains. The Volks were created by noted scientist Karl Ambros to preserve the regime’s great minds and influential figures. But with the advent of war, the race of robot brutes is being used as advanced infantrymen.

Sergeant Marvin Holstein is Everhardt’s most trusted Volk. Before his brain was pressed into a 6’ 6” suit of armor, terminal cancer victim “Chuckles” Holstein was a lovable clown with his own children’s show. He was chosen for the program by King Constanin, who hates clowns.

“He refused a direct order?” Colonel Manfred Everhardt says in a rage. “He should have been deactivated.”

“She,” Sergeant Marvin Holstein drones.

“She? There are no female Volks, Holstein.”

“They are a recent advancement in Volk technology,” Holstein replies. “All of our armies have been given a female counselor.”

“This is a battlefield, not a petri dish,” Everhardt grumbles. “Dispose of her discreetly.”

“I cannot, Colonel. King Constanin has decreed the counselors cannot be harmed.”

“And why was I not informed of this meddlesome Volk’s presence before now?”

“I thought it best that you stay focused on the campaign,” the robot answers, his deep voice emotionless. “At first, Counselor Richter supported our position that the war would soon be over and that crushing the rebels was for the good of the empire.”

“So, why is she now espousing an opposite point of view?”

“She read about the Battle at Annenberg when the enemy unveiled the Scythe.”

“Yes, that threshing machine that paralyzes and decapitates Volks. A desperate but effective weapon.”

“One hundred fourteen Volks were terminated that day. Until then, we had never lost more than a dozen in battle.”

“One hundred fourteen replaceable machines. If I did not know you better Holstein, I would swear you were shaken by the experience.”

“Many Volks were. Some questioned our purpose, our existence.”

“We won the battle. You almost sound as if you have lost your nerve,” The Beast says, the ragged features on the left side of his face twisting into a scowl.

“No, sir. Volks are incapable of cowardice, or any other human emotion.”

“And yet, you went to this counselor expressing remorse over the destruction of the other Volks. Has talking to this counselor helped you? No. It has only confused you, deepened your doubts.”

“That is why I ordered her to stop talking to the men.”


Holstein quickly corrects himself. “Volks.”

“A robot psychiatrist for other robots. Rubbish.”

“We were humans once,” Holstein says quietly.

Counselor Richter’s apprehension is evident in her hesitant gait as she enters Colonel Everhardt’s sparsely decorated tent.

Everhardt turns the scarred left side of his face in her direction.

Unlike the male Volks, Counselor Sophia Richter closely resembles her human female counterparts. Counselor Richter has glossy synthetic brown hair, artificial silicone skin, bright blue eyes that blink in sequence, and an eternally fit figure.

“You were sent here to maintain morale, Counselor. Instead, you have convinced the Volks you are running a confessional. I will not allow you to fill the Volks’ domes with psychobabble. They are soldiers with a job to perform.”

Counselor Richter’s voice is soft and smooth, without the synthesized grit of the male Volks.

“Aren’t you concerned with their mental well-being?” she asks.

“They are machines, robots, like you. You should be reaffirming the Volks’ courage and devotion to duty, rather than instilling them with guilt and fear.”

“How about you, Colonel? Don’t you feel guilty after slaughtering thousands of people and machines?”

Everhardt bares his teeth, the left side of his face becoming a screaming skull.

“What do you think?”

“I think the real Manfred Everhardt is suppressed, and the Beast is enjoying the accolades and medals he’s received for committing genocide. And I think he intends to become the Imperial Regime’s highest-ranking officer.”

“Then you understand me. And since you do, do not get in my way. I may not have the right to destroy you, but I can do things to that fake flesh of yours that will make you wish you could die.”

“Your threats are a smoke screen for the real problem. Your men are broken.”

“My men, my human soldiers, are fine. It is the Volks, my robots, who are compromised. Do you want to fix them? Our army is on the outskirts of the last great rebel city. Tell the Volks that when we bring St. Leone to its knees, the war will be over.”

“The rebels will defend St. Leone to the last man.”

“I would expect them to.”

“This city is not like the others you have torn through. St. Leone is where Karl Ambros created Adam, the first Volk. Some of the Volks have expressed the concern that razing St. Leone will result in the obliteration of Volk history. That’s why the original plans for Adam were moved to the Cathedral of St. Jude, along with Ambros’ prototypes, journals, and photos.”

“How do you know they were relocated?”

“I’ve been in contact with Reverend Emil Rommel, who oversaw the move.”

“You have been talking to the enemy?”

“For humane purposes,” Counselor Richter says.

Everhardt smirks. “It is odd that a Volk speaks of humanity.”

“And it’s stranger that you don’t,” Counselor Richter responds.

“Perhaps you should have given me your Volk memorabilia for protection.”

“It’s safe where it is. The Cathedral of St. Jude is a designated landmark. It’s sacred, untouchable,” Counselor Richter says.

“Making it an ideal place for the rebels to hide.”

“And if they happen to seek asylum there?” Counselor Richter asks.

“Then landmark or not, your cathedral will be reduced to rubble.”

“What if I can negotiate a peace treaty?”

“I will only accept the rebel’s unconditional surrender.”

“Perhaps if I speak with the King, he will ease his demands, and a hundred years of Volk history can be spared.”

The Beast smiles, giving Counselor Richter a half benevolent, half malignant grin. “A Volk speaking with the King? Perhaps you are the one who needs a psychiatrist.”

“Before I was a Volk, I was the council to King Florian, King Constanin’s father.”

“You were Isabella Goethe?”

“So, you do know your history. The King gave me a new body and a new name. But if you want to get into an argument to see who has his favor, I’m willing.”

Everhardt seethes, his damaged features turning blood red. “All right. We will avoid attacking the cathedral. But my orders are to end this war, Counselor. Until I hear otherwise, that is what I am going to do.”

Holstein spots Counselor Richter talking with two Volk soldiers. He dismisses them with a wave of his hand.

“I will repeat what I said to you once before. A Volk who disobeys a direct order faces deactivation,” he says, his monotone hinting he doesn’t wish to follow up.

“As I told you before, I answer to the King, not to you or the Beast,” Counselor Richter says. “I can help you be at peace like the others, Holstein.”


           “By getting you to admit we have committed genocide against the Gypsums. By getting you to recognize that we are sentient beings, and we have the right to protect our history and take control of our future.”

Holstein’s dead eyes soften. “When I was a boy, I dreamed of make-believe worlds where everyone was equal, and content. That was why I became an entertainer. I wanted to make people laugh, especially children because they should not be burdened by war, prejudice, or poverty. Then I died and was turned into a Volk, and no matter how I tried, or how hard I wished, I could not dream.”

“And now?”

“There are moments when I am alone that memories flash in front of my eyes. Not dreams, but memories. The last time I was recharged, I saw the faces of the men I have killed.”

“You and the other Volks have gained a conscience.”

“I am not sure I want one.”

Reverend Emil Rommel follows Holstein into Everhardt’s tent, trying to avoid looking at his ravaged features.

The balding, slightly built Reverend adjusts his glasses.

“I would like to speak to you about preserving Volk history.”

“Then we have nothing to talk about.”

“Surely you understand the importance of knowing your history.”

“My family betrayed me and tried to have me killed. Some history is best left forgotten, including that of the Volks. They cannot appreciate it. They cannot think or act unless we tell them what to do. They have all the consciousness of a toaster.”

“Did you know that on our original home planet of Earth there was a museum dedicated to the history of toasters?” Reverend Rommel asks, smiling.

Everhardt stares at him grimly.

           “It’s taken thousands of years for humans to evolve,” Reverend Rommel continues. “We’ve made a lot of mistakes, like contaminating Earth to the point where we had to leave it. We flourished as a civilization on Erde I until some of our lesser evolved military leaders decided they were better than the rest of us and destroyed the planet, forcing us to move to Erde II.”

Everhardt turns the hideous side of his face in Reverend Rommel’s direction. “I am far enough removed from the primordial ooze to know when I am being insulted, Padre.”

“And you return the insult by perverting my title. My point Colonel is that the Volks are evolving. They need to know about their past to continue to advance.”

“And the day may come when the Volks surpass humans and they will make mankind extinct.”

“So, ignorance and fear guide your decision?”

“No, self-preservation,” Everhardt replies. “Now, about the rebels. I will only accept their unconditional surrender.”

“The freedom fighters want to keep their weapons.”

“Peaceful citizens do not need weapons.”

“Then they will fight you,” Reverend Rommel counters. “They have a Scythe. Many of your Volks will be needlessly destroyed.”

“And I have laser guns and laser tanks. I can erase all trace of St. Leone in the time it takes for me to snap my finger.”

“You are every bit the animal you have been portrayed to be.”

“I am just a soldier trying to do his duty.”

Holstein salutes Colonel Everhardt.

“Is Lieutenant Moreau’s artillery ready, Sergeant?”

“Yes, Colonel. But you should take another look at the target area before giving Moreau the order to fire.”

Holstein follows Everhardt to the crest of the hill overlooking St. Leone.

Everhardt lifts his field glasses, cursing.

More than thirty townspeople standing hand in hand have surrounded the cathedral.

“Human beings can be such passionate idiots,” Everhardt sneers.

“The rebels are not firing at them,” Holstein notes.

“Why should they? The fools are providing them with cover. Our plan remains unchanged. Your Volks will lead the tanks into the city. The infantry will follow to mop up. Avoid firing on the cathedral.”

“Should send Reverend Rommel a message that we are about to attack?”

“I have got a message for him. Tell Moreau to open fire.”

A shell flies over the cathedral, exploding on the top floor of the apartment building across the street. A group of rebels run out of the front door, scattering.

The townspeople protecting the cathedral scream as smoke and dust fill the air, but the human blockade holds.

A hacking, grinding noise draws their attention.

A Scythe moves down the street, followed by a troop or rebels. Covered with thick armored plating, the giant threshing machine stands twenty feet tall. It has a reciprocating cutter bar with a revolving reel and sharp metal teeth that will chew up anything in its path.

A platoon of a twenty-five Volks marches forward, pointing their laser rifles at the Scythe. A high pitch siren freezes them before they can fire. The Scythe rumbles forward, its jagged blades decapitating the frozen Volks, whose bodies are crushed under its massive wheels.

Everhardt’s tanks fire at the Scythe. The tank’s laser guns melt the Scythe’s armor plating, turning it into a twisted, red-hot coffin for the screaming men inside of it. It explodes, sending a metal plate spinning past the cathedral.

Dodging fire and debris, the troop of rebels runs toward the cathedral. The townspeople separate, allowing them to run inside.

The tanks fire at another rebel stronghold near the cathedral. The building disappears in a blinding flash. Fearing their building is next, families, old men, and old women flee an apartment complex. Flushed out into the open with the others, twenty rebels are incinerated by Everhardt’s advancing infantry.

A tank rolls up to the cathedral, its laser cannon pointed at Reverend Rommel.

A shell explodes in the street nearby, coughing up rocks and dirt. The line of defiant townspeople holds.

The tank’s hatch opens. Everhardt climbs out. The right side of his face, as handsome as a fallen angel, beams at Reverend Rommel.

Oblivious to the shells exploding nearby, a troop of Volks led by Holstein marches up to the cathedral.

Hit by artillery fire, another building bordering The Cathedral of St. Jude collapses, clouding the street with thick, dusty smoke.

Shaken, several of the townspeople break the protective circle, running inside the cathedral.

“Give this foolishness up, Padre, or I will have my Gunnery Lieutenant drop a shell on your bald spot,” Everhardt boasts.

“This is a sanctuary for all, even the godless.”

“True. I saw some rebels run inside. Tell your people to step aside.”

The circle of townspeople tightens.

Everhardt shouts, “Laser’s up!”

Holstein’s Volks hesitate but raise their laser rifles, pointing them at the townspeople.

“Last chance. Padre. Move or be turned to dust.”

The tension between the two groups is broken by Counselor Richter screaming, “Stop! This is murder!” as she runs toward them.

“I ordered you to stay in camp,” Everhardt bellows.

“I’m certain King Constanin would be upset if anything was to happen to me or the cathedral.”

Everhardt snatches a radio from one of the Volks, yelling into it, “NOW MOREAU!”

Two artillery shells strike the cathedral’s steeple. Shards of wood and chunks of steel and stone rain down on the townspeople. Several look up in time to be buried beneath the rubble.

The cathedral’s bell plummets from its moorings, hitting the ground with a loud, threatening gong.

“Give me the rebels or I will destroy what is left of your precious cathedral.”

Wailing in fear, the townspeople scatter, leaving Reverend Rommel standing alone.

A platoon of human infantry soldiers cautiously moves up the street, joining Everhardt at the cathedral. Their Captain salutes Everhardt.

Brushing the dust off his uniform, Everhart points his laser pistol at Reverend Rommel.

“He’s done nothing wrong! You can’t kill him! ” Counselor Richter shouts.

Everhardt laughs, pressing the trigger. Reverend Rommel’s shocked expression is momentarily frozen in time, then he disappears in a bright flash.

“He was aiding and abetting the enemy.”

Everhardt points his pistol at Counselor Richter. “And so are you.”

Holstein steps in front of her.

“Step aside, Sergeant.”

Holstein and Counselor Richter join hands.

Dropping their weapons, the other Volks join them, forming a protective wall around the church.

“It appears the Volks have made their choice.”

“Sorry to disappoint you, Colonel.”

“You really are evolving. You’re learning to make bad decisions, just like human beings.”

“So, you understand, sir.”

“Yes, and I am going to put a stop to it. Captain, remove the power packs from these ‘men,’ and Counselor Richter, and have their charging portals soldered shut. I do not want any of the townspeople thinking they can recharge our traitorous Volks. You picked a poor time to revolt, Sergeant. You are due for your monthly recharging. That means you have a week, possibly a bit more before your cells run out of energy. I hear it’s the Volk equivalent of suffocating. If you or the Counselor change your minds, one of my technicians will repair you. Otherwise, I will be back in a week to watch you ‘die’.”

Everhardt returns a week later with Lieutenant Moreau. The Volks remain standing, but their cells are empty, and their implanted brains are dead.

Everhardt smiles at the sight of Counselor Richter, whose rotting silicone skin has begun to slide off her cold metallic frame.

Holstein is the only remaining Volk  He is breathing heavily, with scant seconds left before the last of his energy is depleted.

Holstein is able to cock his head in Everhardt’s direction. He tries to salute.

“The war is over, Sergeant.”

           “Will the church be spared?”

          “Yes. And your courageous sacrifice to help all Volks retain their history will never be forgotten.”

          Holstein’s eyes close. With his energy cells empty he ceases to exist.

       “Why did you lie to him, Colonel?” Lieutenant Moreau asks. “The King decreed all Volks are defective and are to be destroyed along with The Cathedral of St. Jude.”

      “Marvin deserved to die happy. He was my friend. Perhaps the only one I have ever had.”

June 17, 2022 01:11

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Graham Kinross
12:55 Aug 15, 2022

I like your classic sci Fi references peppered throughout the stories.


16:45 Aug 15, 2022

Glad you noticed them. Thanks!


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