Sins of Our Fathers [sci-fi; content warning]

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  1. #1

    Sins of Our Fathers [sci-fi; content warning]

    My grandfather used to tell me about the world before the Great War. A world of plenty. A world of unheard freedom and liberty. Also a world of unbelievable waste, indulgence, debauchery and corruption. A world I had difficulty picturing at times, one that was tempting with it's plentitude of everything including choice, yet repulsive for its lack of any semblance of true principles or ideals besides unrestrained indulgence.

    That world is now long gone, swept away by the nuclear fires of war as the decadent nations of old finally could keep pace with the rabid consumption of their denizens no longer. From the ashes of the old world and the chilling darkness of the Long Night the new world was born, forged from blood and steel, and the indomitable will of Mankind to survive. The world built by the real heroes of the 21st century. My world.

    ---

    The Baltic Union would likely be a popular tourist destination for rich folks from greater nations if only it had the infrastructure to accommodate them. Largely spared the direct ravages of the Great War three generations ago, it is greener than one would generally see anywhere in the world's great nations. There's grass and trees, some even surviving from before the war, only the occasional stretches of wasteland where only the hardiest weeds grow reminding one how blessed this country is among the less fortunate ones around. But it is a mixed blessing for its people, at times at least as much a curse as a boon. One would say everybody would dream to live in such an oasis in the middle of a post-apocalyptic wasteland, but that is exactly what makes life in such a place difficult - because everybody around indeed does, and will go to any length to try and claim this oasis for themselves.

    Which is why the people of the Union have become such a hardy bunch, partly by choice, but mostly by necessity. Their lifestyle leaves no room for the weak and the timid, everyone having to pull his own weight in the society of this new age. Yet for all its hardship, their lifestyle rewards its followers with more freedom than any of their neighbors could ever hope to have. Like everything, freedom has a price, oftentimes a steep one - something that our ancestors from before the War failed to acknowledge and had to learn the hard way. People of the Union have since seen to it that this mistake is not repeated in their society.

    People these days generally tend to view the Great War as the worst calamity to ever befall Mankind, and from an objective standpoint that view is indisputably true. The nuclear holocaust of 2054 has been the closest that Humanity has been to extinction since the speculative Toba volcanic super-eruption 78 000 years ago, if the pre-war researchers are to be believed. 700 million killed in just the first hour of the war, with billions more dying of disease, cold, starvation and violence in the following years of the Long Night, with the global population only stabilizing at pre-industrial levels. For all practical means and purposes an end of advanced civilization, or at least it ought to have been. Yet humans have again demonstrated their uncanny adaptability that enabled them to last through the Ice Age and other calamities before. Industrial civilization has gone nowhere, merely transformed radically to meet the challenges of the new world. So while no doubt disastrous, the Great War must be without doubt also recognized as an unprecedented opportunity - an opportunity to start anew and rectify all the flaws and wrongs of the stagnating civilizations of old.

    If you ask the average Balt, he will tell you that the Great War was without doubt more an opportunity than anything else. One that his ancestors used better than most.

    Outsiders tend to call all of us Balts, and nobody in the Union minds to be identified as such, but in truth this label does little to reveal the complexity of the diverse people under that name. Lithuanians, Latvians, Estonians who aren't even Baltic in an ethnic sense, Russians and other assorted Slavs, some Jews and even a diverse bunch of Westerners is what goes under the name these days. All these diverse peoples still identify by their respective ethnicity, but also by their citizenship - that of the Baltic Union - and the ideals that it represents. Yet to call our self-identity one of civic nationalism would also be an oversimplification - the diverse peoples of the Union identify both with their ethnic roots and the common struggle that brought them all together, and with the ideals that this strife brought into existence and elevated to prominence.

    ---

    A convoy of armored vehicles rolls down the meandering country road. A Strv 252 Thunder tank destroyer leads the way, a couple Iron Wolf tanks are dispersed evenly throughout the convoy, and around a dozen assorted trucks and APCs drive packed in between them. Many armed men sit outside on the tanks and APCs, enjoying the warm spring sun and a pleasant breeze over the cramped and shaky accomodations reeking of fuel and motor oil that the interiors of their vehicles can offer. Most are an assorted bunch of militia and regulars, but one group of men perched on the leading Iron Wolf tank stands out in particular, all of them wearing green bandanas and powered exoskeletons, with hi-tech weapons of latest Western make as opposed to the assortment of older pre-war Russian and Western arms found in the rest of the ranks. Every Balt, and every enemy of the Balts, knows what that green bandana means - it marks the wearer as a Tier One. The best sight in your life as a civilian or ally, and absolutely the last person in the world you'd want to meet as an enemy.

    I am one of those men. 35 years old, a captain of a Tier One outfit, going by the name of Hendriks Vanags. Happily married, with a boy to call mine and a family farm of some 250 hectares to my name. By the standards of my country, I've managed to set up quite well. In another 10 years, when I will be too old to serve on a combat team, I will be able to land just about any government job I'd want, perhaps even rise all the way to High Marshal if I try hard enough. Not that I ever would - rising that high in politics involves way too much ass-kissing for my taste, and regardless of the source ass, the shit that comes out from them tastes all the same. And I have had to eat that by the bucketful lately even in my humble position. So in 10 years I will definitely be done and try to do something else for a change. Such as finally work my farm by myself rather than have my beloved wife manage it for me.

    But that will be in 10 years. For now, I must stick with what I have, namely cleaning up the proverbial shit of our leadership, and occasionally crapping in someone else's bowl on their behalf.

    ---

    As the convoy meanders through the familiar countryside, my thoughts wander to to my family. The convoy will roll by my farm on the way back to Aizkraukle, stopping occasionally to drop off the lads, many of whom are my neighbors. The tankers in the leading TD know by heart where each of the men in the convoy live along the way. My turn will come, and I will hop off near the road leading to my house. It is flanked by rows of slender oaks, planted there by my grandfather just after the Long Night, the dry stumps of even greater oaks marking where similar rows of oaks stood before the Great War. Having heard the rumbling of engines and creaking of tracks, my beloved Gloria and our boy Marek will run out of the house. Marek will race towards me, eager to be the first to embrace his old man. Gloria will await more dignified for me to come before grasping me in her own embrace, showering my lips and cheeks with kisses and tears of joy. She will give the farmhands a day off, cook a fancy lunch while I get cleaned up, and we will have our first family lunch together in two and a half months. Then we will tell Marek to go and play with the neighbors' boys and see what can be done about meeting his request for a baby sister. He's been pretty insistent it must be a sister, so that he can be her big brother and protector.

    The guys probably all have the same ideas on their mind, each and every one of them having a wife or in the very least a betrothed sweetheart waiting at home. Such are the rules - a Tier One must be married or formally engaged, for only such a man will do his utmost to come back alive. But not every family will rejoice today, as this convoy returns a few men short. They almost always do, especially when Tier Ones accompany them, because whenever that happens, the job is never of the easy kind. Hunting down a minor gang of raiders or dispersing a nutjob cult that has set up shop within the Union's protected areas is the kind of job that 16-year-old kids still in E&T can handle. A larger gang with heavy equipment would be for town militas and the regulars to handle, but Tier One is only called upon against folks who really mean business. Naturally, that business comes with casualties, and even though that is something to be accepted, it never becomes any easier when it happens. Ours is, after all, not like the other militaries out there - we train and fight together literally from cradle to grave, and while that instills morale and cohesion that foreigners can only dream about, it also means that the road to every victory is paved with the gravestones of family members and friends. But such is the price of freedom.

    ---

    My thoughts drift back to the past two-and-a-half months. In his childlike innocence, my son will no doubt want to know all about my exploits, about how many raiders and other assorted "bad guys" I killed this time. Gloria will tell him to leave me be, much to his disappointment. Not that it will keep me from telling him later. Marek doesn't know what it's like to kill another human being yet. To him, it is just material for an exciting story of adventure and danger, and he is immensely proud that his father is a valiant hero who kills bad people for a living. But he will learn the true feeling soon enough. Like his father, grandfather and all their known predecessors, he will have to fight and possibly give up his life for his family, people and country. And he too will learn with bitter disappointment that there is no glory in taking a life, that once the first adrenaline rush from breaking the ultimate taboo is over, it becomes a routine no different from slaughtering chicken or rabbits, more disturbing with the ease it can be done. So I will not spoil it for my son. Better he thinks of what his old man does out in the wastes as an adventure and grows dissillusioned with it by himself in time than comes to see his father as a hypocrite, denouncing the very thing he's been doing all his life on his own volition. For better or worse, I am a killer, and a pretty damn good one too - and I cannot help being what I am anymore than a wolf can help being a predator. So I will tell my son all about what it means to be a wolf, a killer, sparing no details he might want to know, so that he may decide for himself if that is the life he wants to live. Not that he will have much choice about it, other than alternatively being a victim and a liability to his people. Certainly not in this age and place.

    To my beloved wife, on the other hand, I will tell nothing. She wouldn't want my hands touching her if only she knew half of the things that I have done with them. Thankfully, she never asks, but I think that deep down she knows. Tier Ones don't bring work home to their families, but we all live in a small community - word gets out anyway eventually. I've had to do a lot more bad things than just take lives, and not always to people who deserved it either. Sometimes, cutting the throat of a shepherd boy barely 10 years old is all that is keeping your position from being compromised. Sometimes, all that is keeping your men from starvation are the food stocks taken at gunpoint from a peasant family, and you know full well they won't last a week with what you leave them out of a sense of guilt. Sometimes you must smother your wounded comrade in arms of 15 years, who is also your neighbor and childhood friend, to keep him from giving away your position with his moaning because you have forgot to stock up on morphine before the mission, and then lie to his family with a straight face that he died quickly and painlessly in a glorious battle. There are other times when you must blow out the brains of a man moments after he's finished talking to his wife and kids on the phone, having heard the entire conversation, and look into the eyes of a boy who was hiding under the table while you shot his father, his only fault being a ranking enemy commander wanted dead by your government - after accidentally gunning down the boy's mother whom you held as a hostage to draw out her husband in the crossfire. I have done all of these things and more, the only atrocity absent from my long list of sins being rape - and that too probably only because I've never found myself in circumstances where rape would have served any better purpose than base indulgence. So I will not tell any of these things to my wife - because she already suspects as much, and because she won't ever understand, even if she says she does.

    But enough of these grim thoughts! I am going home to my family, which is better than a few other luckless bastards can say about themselves, and my conscience is clean. All the foul things that I have done, I have done for a purpose, to complete the mission and protect my men, not to indulge my base desires like some raider scum. And if there is such a thing as God who will judge me for my deeds, then he can go fuck himself, because the moral judgement of someone who's allowed the world to devolve to it's present state despite having divine powers to set things right ain't worth shit.

    ---

    "Hey, skipper! You hearin' this?" Corporal Liedskalniņ shouts from behind the turret, holding a small radio set close to his ear and apparently trying to listen to the news over the engine roar, "The border talks in Tallinn have broken down again, ambassador Bobrikov threatening "swift and drastic sanctions" to follow shortly!"

    "So?" I shrug, "Wouldn't be the first time the Mekhs impose "swift and drastic" sanctions on us..."

    "What do you make of this, skipper? Do you think there's going to be a war soon?" the Corporal asks.

    "I'd like to say - no, but the honest answer is - I have no fucking idea, because that's way above my paygrade," I answer, "Whatever happens, we'll be doing our job as usual."

    "But seriously, Captain," Liedskalniņ continues, "We all were there and saw it - the Mekhs wouldn't bring so much armor and artillery so close to the border if they weren't up to something!"

    "And we thank you for stating the obvious! Now either change the subject or stove it, Corporal!" Staff Sergeant Valdis Liepnieks, my neighbor, long-time friend and second-in-command, barks irately. Although we all try our best to dupe ourselves into thinking that what we saw on the other side of the border is just another attempt by the Russians to bully us into cooperation, the disconcerting truth loudly expressed by the Corporal is painfully obvious.

    "Yes, Staff Sergeant..." Liedskalniņ grumbles and turns back to listening the news. A very talented young lad, being accepted into Tier One at the age of 23, when the typical minimum age in Tier One units is 25. Smart, cunning, brave to the point of recklesness - only cannot keep his damn mouth shut, according to Sarge. My old friend has a point in scolding the Corporal - after what we saw on the Mecharussian side, the gloomy sense of a coming war has been grudging all of us, so the last thing this unit needs is someone further undermining morale by constantly yammering about it.

    "Think the potatoes will grow this year, Hendrik?" the Sergeant points to the recently-planted potato fields on both sides of the road. Like me, he owns a farm some two clicks from mine, becoming a farmer whenever free from his soldierly duties.

    "I hope they do. If this year is as dry as the last, we'll have to get by with our salaries over winter again," I respond.

    "We ought to be living as kings for the shit we do," my friend grumbles, the memories of our latest mission still all too fresh on his mind.

    "Look at it from the bright side - at least the clankers won't have any more use of what we have in those trucks," I grin.

    "Big deal! They can churn out enough gear from just one war factory to replace that in a day, while we have to risk our equipment and men to steal it every time. We're not even putting a dent in their military might with these cross-border raids, only just pissing them off more!"

    "They raid us, we raid them," I shrug, "Would you propose we just sit with our thumbs up our asses while their so-called "unaffiliated raider gangs" with Spetznaz training and brand-new guns from Tula State Arms pillage and rape our countryside in the East?"

    "You know very well I would not, Hendrik!" Valdis frowns at the mere suggestion, "If those coghead assholes come across the border looking for trouble, I'm all for granting each and every one of them the six feet of dirt they deserve, but going over and starting shit on their turf is a whole different matter. Especially now when things are already tense. If you ask me, ops like this one are just asking for more problems than we can handle."

    "Let's be honest," I argue, "Us and the Mekhs, our countries are already at war and have been that way long before either of us were even born - it's just whether the politicians in charge at any one time have had the decency to admit it and call war a war. If shit really hits the fan - and it will sooner or later - it will only be a natural continuation of what has already been going on for over 50 years. Whether it's us and our ops, or something else that will set it off, is completely irrelevant."

    "I suppose you're right, friend," the Sergeant concedes, "The clankers will never stop coveting this place just like the good old flesh-and-bone Ruskies didn't before the Great War. On the bright side, our people will always be the toughest and meanest sons of bitches there are with neighbors like them."

    "Indeed," I chuckle and change the subject to something more comfortable, "So, you ready to meet your newest family member?"

    "Damn bloody right I am!" Valdis smiles, "I wonder if it's a boy or girl..."

    "You don't know?" I'm somewhat surprised.

    "Didn't want to. Wanted to keep it a surprise for when I came back," the burly Sergeant speaks, trying hard to hide the tears of joy welling up in his eyes at the thought, "Figured it would keep me more motivated to do my best to come back. If you ask me, I hope it's a girl."

    "Why's that?" I ask.

    "You know... Because I already have five unruly rascals getting into trouble all the time at home. And because girls stay at home and take care of their fathers when they grow old rather than go off to fight wars like boys do," Valdis answers, loudly blowing his nose in an effort to hide his moment of emotion.

    "Ironic, don't you think? That men like ourselves complain about our sons doing exactly what we did."

    "We didn't have a choice. God willing, maybe our sons will. Maybe they won't have to pay for the sins of their fathers like we had to pay for the sins of ours."

    "Maybe... But until we know for sure, we're stuck with what we've got - a dirty and dangerous job, shit pay and sons who will have to follow in our footsteps. Which, if you ask me, ain't really such a bad thing. Not everybody can, after all, be a Tier Four civvie with a safe, comfortable and well-paid job who only attends military training one or two weekends a month."

    My friend responds to that with a laugh. Even though both of us might wish for our sons to have a choice in whether they want to be warriors, deep down both of us know that it would do us much prouder to see them carry on our flame. After all, wolves like ourselves cannot be expected to sire lambs.

  2. #2
    I noticed you wrote the 1st draft with a lot of exposition. It's seven pages long when I read it in Microsoft Word, but there is even a sentence with over twenty to thirty words. There are some words you repeated over and some spag. You need an event that is dramatic. I recently am investing in reading American newspapers, because they have human interest stories. Why mention this? Because you can read off an event that is mysterious and write a story if for example the drama or emotional tension or tragedy is in the journalist's work. Writers do it all the time. Or write about a situation from your personal life, or from a story. But that never gets solved. A story is IMO, a dramatic question, or a series of them. A plot answers a series of questions, and you the writer supply the answers. Because of the fact, there is little plot or conflict, or an event that has conflict. I think you need to look deeper into the narrative and find the meaning of these series of questions you create along the way. I recommend if you need dramatic material the Washington post is a good source for news stories and for the drama that happens in everyday life. The mystery of a situation always leads to imagination.


    To explore a narrative's potential ask what if, after a sentence that seems promising.

    "And we thank you for stating the obvious! Now either change the subject or stove it, Corporal!" Staff Sergeant Valdis Liepnieks, my neighbor, long-time friend and second-in-command, barks irately. Although we all try our best to dupe ourselves into thinking that what we saw on the other side of the border is just another attempt by the Russians to bully us into cooperation, the disconcerting truth loudly expressed by the Corporal is painfully obvious.
    What if the cooperation between the Russians is a ruse? Or what if they were offering a peace agreement for helping them discover who their friends and foes are? What if his friend is killed? Because of the Russians who wanted to make a peace agreement that could help them discover who their true friends and foes were? He happens to be friends with the mc, or his wife, which affects him and causes an effect on the plot. What if he doesn't care about death? What will happen to his property, and who did he bequeath it to? What are the consequences? Will his goal be to end the peace agreement, but how? Who opposes him? Why do they do so? What are their motivations?

    This is just an example of brainstorming. It's not a mandatory thing I am asking you to do. I am simply showing you what I do. Ponder what are the possibilities of a sentence, what are the implications or inferences of the situation. Then ask what if?

    Also world building I hope someone else talks about it, but Peter Clute and Nichols Encylopedia have some themes. Look over them, as the encyclopedia is free and can be read for free by visiting the official website.

    I hope this doesn't discourage you, and keep writing.
    I would follow as in believe in the words of good moral leaders. Rather than the beliefs of oneself.
    The most difficult thing for a writer to comprehend is to experience silence, so speak up. (quoted from a member)

  3. #3
    I found this intriguing and well-written. Some interesting worldbuilding. Liked the realistic portrayal of war atrocities. Some action with those exoskeletons would have been cool. Some of the sentences were a bit long for my taste, and whenever possible I prefer wording things absolutely, using "I will" instead of "I would," that kind of thing. For pacing reasons, you may want to start the project with dialogue and strategically drop info-dumps as mini-essays here and there. But opening with info is fine if it reads well.


    Got some ideas and suggestions:

    as the decadent nations of old finally could keep pace with the rabid consumption of their denizens no longer
    I'd move the "no longer" further back for clarity, right after, "finally could."

    than one would generally see anywhere in the world's great nations
    I'd chop this adverb.

    only the occasional stretches of wasteland where only the hardiest weeds grow
    Using "only" twice rather closely.

    Which is why the people of the Union have become such a hardy bunch strong
    at times at least as much a curse as a boon
    People of the Union have since seen to it that this mistake is will not be repeated in their society.
    A Strv 252 Thunder tank destroyer leads the way, a couple Iron Wolf tanks are dispersed evenly
    I'd consider a semicolon instead of the comma.

    Many armed men sit outside on the tanks and APCs, enjoying the warm spring sun and a pleasant breeze over the cramped and shaky accomodations reeking of fuel and motor oil that the interiors of their vehicles can offer.
    So in 10 years I will definitely be done and try to do something else for a change I'm done.
    Tier One is only called upon against folks who really mean business
    There's gotta be another way to put this, breaks the tone a bit. Maybe: "against serious shit."

    I've had to do a lot more bad things far worse than
    stove it, Corporal!" Staff Sergeant Valdis Liepnieks, my neighbor, long-time friend and second-in-command, barks irately.
    I'd put, "barks," immediately after the dialogue.

    "They raid us, we raid them," I shrug, "Would you propose
    I'd consider using a semicolon for the first comma and dropping, "I shrug," right out, letting the dialogue carry. I'm also not a big fan of using verbs other than dialogue verbs for dialogue.

    After all, wolves like ourselves cannot be expected to sire lambs. Wolves don't sire lambs.

  4. #4
    My penchant for long sentences is something that a lot of readers here point out. It is probably because of my native tongue which is somewhat notorious that way, English not being my first language. I intend to write this story as a longer series (with a lot more action), so stay tuned and keep up with good advice.

  5. #5
    Hi Cyberwar.

    I agree with Theglasshouse. Too much exposition. A large chunk was a history lesson followed by a lengthy biography of your protagonist. It took a long time to get to any dialog, and that was even less interesting than the exposition/introduction. Despite a horrific Great War that destroyed almost everything, nothing much has appeared o have changed in our politically divisive world.

    I haven't read anything that would pull me in to want to read more.

  6. #6
    Scene setting, dialogue, then exposition. I think that would have worked better. Still a good read. More impressive as English is not your primary language.

    We "grunts" had a saying, "Confidence is being cocky with the (stuff) to back it up". Your MC just comes off as over-confident. Maybe it's a translation thing, but to make Vangas more likeable, I think you need to make him more relatable. People in his world may be that "hard", but your average reader is not. The Heroic Struggle works when the MC has to overcome challenges. Right now, Vangas is in one of the best places on Earth, with a good job. family and a future. And even though he's a killer, he's got people to cover his back. Not very post-apocalyptic.

    And for what it's worth, I've studied a lot of survivalist / doomsday lit, and it's really hard to believe that The Baltic States would fare well after any major nuclear exchange. You are smack-dab between Minsk, St. Petersburg and Kaliningrad. The fallout from an attack on any one of those sites would poison the surrounding area (you). The saturation bombing of Moscow alone would irradiate most of east-central Europe. Sorry to bear the bad news. If it makes you feel any better, I'm one mile from a major US Naval installation. See you on the other side.

    "Now let's all agree, never to be creative again."




  7. #7
    Hey, nothing's quite like going out with a bang - especially if it's a whole megaton of thermonuclear bang!

    I based the relatively-favourable situation of the Baltic States on the fact that Western winds are strongly prevalent here, meaning that the worst fallout from Kaliningrad, Belarus and Russia could in theory be avoided if the winds are right on the nuclear doomsday. Since there is a lack of high-value targets here, direct effects of nuclear exchange could be limited to a handful of tactical-yield strikes with minimal local fallout along with later contamination from more distance sources in Western Europe. In this case, the really bad contamination would be limited to Southern Lithuania owing to its proximity to Kaliningrad and its abundance of targets, the rest of the region getting much lighter fallout blown in from the West.

    In any case, stay tuned, as there's more where this story came from.

  8. #8
    Member Bardling's Avatar
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    Apr 2019
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    I like the story so far, though it does seem a bit wordy. The characters were interesting and so were the setting, and there is a lot of room for action and adventure.

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