Hoplite by Patrick S Baker

by


HOPLITE

Patrick S. Baker

When I was a man my name was Ryan Dean MacLeod; when I became a ship my name was Hoplite.

I was an Assault Carrier—335 meters long, 125 meters wide, octagonal. I carried a crew of 3543 naval personnel and 819 Marines. I had 36 Vampire aero-space fighters, 26 Banshee aero-space attack craft, 41 Puller Marine landing and support boats, and 4 shuttles. I also had thirty-two 2000mm Space-Martel missile-launchers, sixty-four 150mm cannons, forty Sparrow-hawk anti-fighter/self-defensive missile launchers, and forty 24 megawatt self-defense lasers.

Parts of my human brain were still alive and connected to various systems of my metal body. I knew what I was and still felt like a person.

Hoplite,” Captain Tran addressed me. “Ready to tunnel?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“How many first timers?” she asked.

“Twenty-three.”

“What’s the pool running?”

“17,015 Adjusted Dollars. The most popular pick is ten will vomit.”

“I hope it’s that few,” the captain chuckled.

“On my count: three… two… one… go.”

The navigation computer threw us into the weird, not-quite-right dimension of Hartman Space. While I was unaffected by Faster-Than-Light tunneling, some of my crew were not so lucky. Many bio-humans felt a variety of effects: nausea, body pain, headaches and in some cases, temporary blindness and paralysis. The navy runs recruits through a short tunneling trip to test them. Twenty-two percent of recruits have such a strong reaction that they cannot serve on tunneling ships, although they are allowed to work on ships that use the fixed-point jump-gate system. In the Solar Union, all warships always travel by FTL tunneling. Giving any enemy, or potential enemy, a single, fixed entry-point into a solar system to attack is a very bad thing.

Then we were back in normal space. Twelve of the new crew-members had vomited; the winner of the pool was Marine Private Patel of the Marine Recon platoon. I informed the captain and all the bettors at once.

“How far out?” the captain asked.

“Fourteen light-minutes,” the navigator responded, proudly. “Right at the Hartman limit.”

“Ma’am,” the coms officer said. “No signals from the planet. No time stamp update. The automated beacon appears to be down.”

Each settled planet had a satellite in orbit that constantly broadcast.

“I don’t like that. Shape a course for the planet. Launch recon drones. At 30 light-seconds out, launch fighters.”

A chorus of “aye-ayes” came back.

I checked all the ship’s functions. I was nominal.

We set a course for Asgard and boosted. Asgard was the fourth planet from 28 Draconis A, a mere 46 light-years from Sol. The planet was prime real estate. A single mountainous continent that was a bit cooler than Earth average, but it had almost no axial tilt and thus no seasonal shifts. Also, Asgard had no native land life, except some lichen equivalents. The standard terraforming packet had been a huge success and the human colony of more than 100,000 people was starting to show a return on investment. They had just gotten a jump-gate terminal for regular trade and communications.

At 30 light-seconds from the planet we launched twelve Vampire fighters on a sweep. There were still no signals, not even commercial chatter from ground stations. This was worrying. The last ship to visit Asgard had been my sister ship, Samurai, ninety earth-days ago. She had set up the jump-gate and then left to continue her patrol. She had reported nothing unusual.

“Ma’am, you should see this,” the Visual Intelligence officer said as she shunted a drone feed to the captain’s screen. Of course, I saw it too.

One of the drones swept in a low orbit over the planet and it showed a crater where Valhalla, the largest city on Asgard, had been. The city had had a population of more than ten thousand. It had also been home to the planetary Marine garrison and the planet’s nuclear power plant.

“Get the drone lower and take some radiation readings. We need to know if that was a kinetic or nuclear strike.”

“It could be natural; an asteroid,” Chu, the executive officer, offered.

“Damned odd it would hit the largest population center,” Tran replied.

The drone showed it hadn’t been just one strike that had wiped out Valhalla, but three. Each crater overlapped the others. One strike had targeted the Marine base, another the power-plant, and the third the town center. These strikes could not have been natural. The smaller towns showed signs of destruction, like burnt buildings and scorched ground, but they otherwise seemed intact. There were no living people, nor even any animals visible. There were no bodies visible either. Also each town had a smoldering, circular pit in its center; purpose unknown.

The first fighter squadron returned from its sweep of the planet, reporting nothing. We launched a second flight as a Close Space Patrol. We continued toward the planet.

The recon drones reported no higher radiation than that when a nuclear power plant was destroyed, but not the kind of rad count expected from a nuclear bomb. So, the strikes that had taken out the capital hadn’t been nuclear, nor had they been natural or accidental.

I went into a polar orbit while Captain Tran received a briefing from the intel officer with her senior officers. The chief intelligence officer concluded: “Ma’am, if this was hostile action it seems unlikely this was either the Tran’ji or the Corvo. The Tran’ji are slavers, but a dozen motherships couldn’t have captured the whole population. The Corvo generally obey the Laws of War as we understand them, so they would not have struck Valhalla proper, although they would have considered the Marine barracks and the power-plant legitimate targets for a kinetic weapon attack. Ma’am, there is no historical precedent for this. I coordinated this briefing with Hoplite and he doesn’t have any record of a similar event.”

“Is that correct, Hoplite?” Tran asked me after the intelligence officer finished.

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Ideas? Suggestions?” Tran asked her subordinate officers.

“I want to send down a Marine recon team to each of the four largest intact towns,” Marine Lieutenant-Colonel Josho Van Dorn suggested. “Also, I’d like to use the rest of the Pullers to scout other locations looking for the inhabitants?”

“Very well, Colonel,” Tran readily agreed. “Do it.”

“I want one squadron of Banshees configured for anti-shipping on catapult alert, just in case,” the Commander, Aero-Space Group, Wilhelmina M’Boto, spoke next.

“Sounds good, Commander, do that, too,” Tran responded. “Anything else for now?”

There was nothing else.

Each “Chesty”, as the Marines called their Puller landing-boats, could hold twenty Marines— with two carrying a platoon of forty. The Pullers were also armed and armored for close air support of the Marines. Van Dorn put one six-man recon team in four different landing-boats and dispatched them to the planet’s surface.

If I had wanted to I could have followed any of the various craft down to the planet and even “looked in on” any individual Marine. Instead I put my main consciousness at the Combat Information Center, while the rest of me answered the hundreds of small requests and actions from the crew.

The Pullers fell on ballistic paths until they slowed enough to deploy control surfaces, then they flew like other atmospheric craft. All the boats quickly closed on their targets. The four Pullers carrying the scouts landed some distance away from their targets to unload the troops.

The VI officer had set up multiple screens in the CIC so that the raw vid feeds from the Marines’ vid-cams were shown in real time.

The town was called Njord, after the Norse god of the sea. It sat on a natural bay just 300 kilometers south of Valhalla. The town’s population was supposed to be just under 1500, but as Second Squad, Recon Platoon, 112th Independent Marine Battalion approached, they couldn’t see anyone. Second Squad took a position on the crest of a small hill just outside the town.

“Sergeant, you’d better come see this.” Private Patel said over the squad net. Squad Sergeant Guzman hustled forward and dropped down beside Patel.

In a small field just below the hill and right next to the first house were the remains of a Chesty. The two forward weapon mounts that gave rise to the vehicle’s nickname were still recognizable, but the rest was a shattered hulk.

Recon squads only had six members, including the squad leader. Guzman split the squad into their standard three two-man teams and ordered them forward. Patel was his partner.

The door of the house next to the destroyed landing-boat hung from its hinges in a smashed door frame. Guzman gingerly peeked in and saw at least ten dead Marines, still in body armor, piled in the middle of the floor. The dead Marines’ weapons were piled near the bodies. He reported this to higher and was ordered to continue. If they got the chance, the bodies would be recovered and given a decent burial.

The teams moved deeper into the town. A few blocks from the waterfront they found evidence of a battle: burnt buildings, small craters, expended Solar Union Defense Force ammo cases and magazines, and red splashes that looked like human blood. They also found chitinous pieces of something that looked a lot like insect armor near pools of purple-black dried liquid. The Marines collected samples of both. But they didn’t find anything that looked like weapons’ detritus—no unknown casings, or strange weapons magazines.

Finally nearing the center of Njord, Guzman and Patel got a good look at the pit. The vid stream showed a mass of charred bones, both human and animal, including human skulls of all sizes, mixed in with cattle, sheep, dogs and cats. Patel turned his head, lifted his face-shield, and vomited from the sight and the stench.

“Captain Tran,” I said, using her private channel. “Please order the Marines to get a closer look at some of the bones.”

“Josho,” she ordered Lieutenant Colonel Van Dorn, “have Guzman get a better look at the bones.”

“Aye, ma’am,” the Marine officer said.

Guzman was a good sergeant; he didn’t order his men to go into the pit, and instead he went in himself. He, as carefully as possible, slid down into the pit and randomly collected some of the larger bones and brought them up into better light. He then slowly held them up one at a time to his vid-cam so everyone could have a good look.

All of the bones had cut-marks and some had what looked like serrated saw marks. These looked familiar to me so I ran a search of my databases.

“Ma’am,” I said over Tran’s private channel again. “Those bones show classic signs of having been processed for food.”

“Processed for food?” she subvocalized.

“The muscles have been cut or sawed off.”

Tran’s jaw clamped down, no doubt in disgust and anger.

“Josho, order your Marines home with the samples.”

“Aye, ma’am,” the Marine commander said through tight lips. “Ma’am, the other three recon squads and the other Pullers are all reporting similar findings at their locations. Whatever happened in Njord, looks like it took place all over the planet.”

“Order all your Marines home.”

“Aye, ma’am.”

“Ma’am, I’ve got Hartman radiation at five light-minutes from us, three from the sun,” the space sensor officer announced.

“That’s not possible,” the XO stated. “The Hartman Limit is no less than fourteen light-minutes from a star.”

The sensor officer checked her readouts again. I checked them too; they were correct.

“Definitely ship emergence at five light-minutes from us. That puts them inside the orbit of Asgard.”

“Nav, keep the bulk of the planet between us and the new contact. Wilhelmina, keep the CSP in tight and I want relief out when that ship gets to a light minute. Launch a passive sensor drone. Let’s see what they do before we let them see us. I want us at battle stations fifteen minutes before they enter orbit or flyby. If they enter orbit, I want to be ready to break orbit. Also ready a message drone with continuous info update to go through the jump-gate on my order.”

The new ship came in hot and fast, traveling at about 25 percent faster than my top speed. Using only the passive sensor drone it was hard to get a good reading on the rapidly approaching vessel. It was about half my size, and appeared to be a blunt cylinder with irregular bulges. I didn’t recognize the configuration. It used a highly-tuned ion drive. The Solar Union didn’t have ion drives on crewed ships; the radiation they generated would fry humans in minutes without heavy and expensive shielding. But we did use them on missiles and automated ships.

“Battle stations. Weapons tight,” Tran ordered as the incoming vessel slowed and maneuvered for a polar orbit.

The loud wail of klaxons and my recorded voice announcing “battle stations, battle stations” rang through me. The crew moved quickly and quietly to their stations. In two minutes all weapons, defense, damage control and other stations reported green. Then, in shifts, the crew got into their pressure suits, which took nine minutes and twenty-two seconds for the whole crew.

The newcomer entered orbit.

“No hiding now,” Tran said. “Break orbit.”

The alien ship broke over the horizon and we came into view of each other. Eight seconds later the alien ship fired.

“Multiple launches,” the sensor officer said, nearly shouting with excitement. “Seventeen missiles inbound.”

“Weapons free,” the captain ordered. “Launch missiles. Too close to launch anti-shipping strike.”

This was knife fighting range for spaceships. The twelve Vampires of the CSP moved outward and started to engage the incoming attack, launching their Sparrow-hawk missiles. The enemy projectiles were twice as fast as ours and the Sparrow-hawks were having a hard time homing in on them. The CSP knocked out five of the enemy weapons before the inbound strike was by them and closing on me.

My defensive lasers started to fire, accounting for eight more of the enemy missiles. Then my 150mm cannons, firing on automatic, accounted for two more. The last three enemy missiles exploded like giant shotgun shells, each spraying thirteen 1-meter round metal spheres at me. These metal balls maneuvered independently under their own power. They went for our engines. We knocked down thirty-six of the sub-munitions with laser and cannon fire, but three impacted on my Number One engine port. The explosions were high-energy chemical detonations, not nukes. Still the engine room was ripped open to space and the engine controls destroyed.

“Major breach in Engine One. Fusion core safeties destroyed,” the damage control officer called out.

I ejected the fusion core before the captain gave the order.

Our first wave of thirty-two missiles closed on the enemy. Their self-defense systems were auto-cannons, not lasers. Five of our missiles managed to detonate near the enemy, the nuclear explosions bright, but noiseless, in space. They managed to damage the enemy as I detected oxygen and carbon dioxide belching from its hull, but the foe kept coming.

“Enemy ship accelerating, right toward us.”

“Engage with lasers and cannons when in range.”

The enemy shot by me at twice my damaged speed. Our lasers fired but made no impression on the enemy hull. Our 150mm cannons fired armor piercing shells as it flew by. No self-defense weapon could engage the cannon shells. I detected several more small breaches in the enemy hull. And then it was past me, heading into deep space.

Another wave of missiles, this time only twelve, erupted from the damaged enemy. We had gotten the measure of the speed and managed to knock all out all but two from the second wave, and they, for some reason, attacked the jettisoned fusion drive section, which disintegrated under the pounding.

The enemy opened a FTL tunnel and entered, escaping the battle.

The captain ordered us to head to our Hartman limit, while the crew started repairing my damage and the fighters returned to rearm and refuel. She also ordered the message drone launched.

We lost twenty-two people when Engine One had been struck. That number would have been much higher if everyone had not been in suits. There was also a number of injuries from impact shocks, mostly broken bones and contusions.

Tran ordered the last two engines to 100 percent to get our speed up as to as fast as possible, since we had no idea if, when, or in what numbers, this new enemy might return. The captain also ordered everyone to stay at battle stations with weapons tight until further notice. Twenty-four of my Vampire fighters were kept on a rotating CSP while the remaining twelve were configured to escort an anti-shipping strike and kept on launch alert. All my Banshees were still armed for an anti-shipping strike.

Meanwhile, the intelligence staff analyzed the battle. The enemy was fast, much to our disadvantage. But they used no penetration aides or electro-magnetic spoofing to help their attacks, which was why we had managed to destroy most of their missiles before they went terminal. Also they seemed to have no high-energy defenses. They didn’t seem to have nuclear weapons either. We had seen no fighters, but that might be because we hadn’t gone up against a carrier.

We were thirty-eight percent of the way to the Hartman limit when four enemy ships emerged in normal space sunward of us and three more emerged outward, all appearing to be the same class of ship as we had just driven off.

“Weapons free,” Tran said in a dead calm voice. “Launch anti-shipping strike on the three outward. We’ve got to get to the tunneling limit. We need to blast through them.”

Twelve Vampire fighters and twenty-six Banshees leapt from the launch tubes and accelerated away from me at top speed. Each Banshee carried four Long-Lance anti-ship missile and two Electronic Counter-Measures pods. The enemy accelerated as well, closing at half again my top, undamaged speed. The enemy behind fired their missiles. A moment later the squadron in front did the same. One hundred nineteen missiles were inbound. Their missiles had at least twice the range of mine. Two more waves the same size followed. Then the enemy maneuvered away from me.

“Ma’am,” the coms ensign said. “I’m scanning the electromagnetic spectrum per SOP.”

“Spit it out, girl. I’m busy,” the captain uncharacteristically snapped.

“They’re using radio to communicate.”

“Radio? Are you sure?”

“Yes, ma’am. It is fairly narrow band, but definitely radio. I can’t read it of course, but the coms computer says it is language and the sources are those ships.”

“Can you jam their signal?”

“Jam?”

“Transmit on the same wavelength, interfere with their coms?”

“Oh yes, ma’am.”

“Do it.”

Hoplite,” the ensign addressed me. “Please bring up a selection of sounds to help ‘jam’ the enemy.”

“Yes, ensign,” I said and shunted her some of my favorite audio files. Cruxshadow’s “Citadel”, Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, “Bismillah Allahu Akbar”, “Der Panzer Leid”, “On Silver Wings” and others. She began to broadcast them on the same frequency as the enemy used. When they jumped to another, the coms computer scanned until it found the signal and the ensign started to jam them again.

Now that we knew they used radio, we had managed to spoof many of the missiles into going off course or exploding prematurely. The CSP, using the short range Sparrow-hawk missiles, accounted for even more. Only one enemy missile managed a direct impact on me without deploying its sub-munitions. I knew in an instant we were all but done for.

“Ma’am,” the damage control officer reported. “Our Hartman drive is destroyed. We can’t FTL tunnel.”

Captain Tran sat stock still for a moment, her jaws clenching and unclenching.

“Shape a course for the jump-gate,” Tran ordered navigation.

“Aye, ma’am.”

The destruction of the Hartman drive also cost the lives of fifty-eight crew members.

The strike wave attacking the outward enemy continued unmolested until it was within Long-Lance range of the enemy. The Banshees split their fire three ways. Two of the enemy were targeted by thirty-five missiles and the last one targeted by only thirty-four. The Long-Lances had their own spoofing and internal guidance, aided by the Banshees ECM pods. The enemy self-defense auto-cannons didn’t seem to be able to deal well with them. Just before the Long-Lances impacted, the three enemy ships launched fifty-one of their own missiles. The three enemy ships were then obliterated by multiple nuclear warheads.

My strike package turned to head home when the enemy missiles began to attack. The fighters started to explode—one, then two, then another one, then the Banshees were attacked. The enemy was using their anti-ship missiles to destroy my Vampires and Banshees. The small craft started to maneuver at random, hoping to avoid the attacks. But an impact by only one of the enemy’s sub-munitions was enough to destroy the small ships. None of the Vampires survived the attack and only five of the Banshees returned.

“Captain,” the CAS-G called Tran from the flight control center. “I want to arm some of my remaining fighters and the last of the Banshees and try for a strike on the inward enemy.”

Tran knew that, by their nature, fighter jocks were highly aggressive. After all she had been one at the start of her career.

The captain thought for a moment.

“Very well, Commander M’Boto, you can do so, but no more than one squadron of fighters.”

“Aye, ma’am.”

M’Boto relieved one Vampire squadron from CSP and had it refueled, while Third Squadron took over patrol duty. The remaining five Banshees were rearmed. Being a good officer, Commander Wilhelmina M’Boto led the strike herself. As the fighters launched, they formed into four 3-fighter “V” formations with the five Banshees in a line behind them. Each fighter carried six Sparrow-hawk missiles. Forty-seven seconds after the strike was launched, the enemy ships changed course and headed toward us as well. The strike package and the enemy ships closed on each other.

“Enemy missile launch, thirty-four missiles inbound,” the sensor officer reported.

“Half the size of the other salvos,” Tran remarked.

“Ma’am,” the sensor officer went on. “Something odd about their course. It looks slightly off. Not exactly on track for us.”

“Damn! They’re going for the strike package,” Tran said. “Order it back.”

The XO did some quick calculation on her board. “It’s too late, ma’am. They won’t be able to turn back.”

“At least warn them,” the captain ordered.

By the time they got the warning from us, M’Boto had, of course, already detected the enemy launch and had come to the same conclusion as the captain and the XO. There was nothing to do but bore in and try and take some of the enemy with them.

The enemy missiles raced in. the Vampires launched their Sparrow-hawks as a volley and destroyed twenty-two of the on-coming enemy weapons, which left twelve enemy missiles targeting just seventeen ships of the strike package.

“Break formation, jamming on,” the CAS-G ordered.

The fighters and Banshees maneuvered, taking seventeen different vectors. The commander plowed straight on.

“Launch at will when in range.” M’Boto ordered her pilots.

The enemy missiles blasted their sub-munitions at the attackers; 286 spheres maneuvered to attack the tiny craft. One by one the Vampires were blotted out and then the Banshees.

By some miracle M’Boto and the Banshee following her was spared. The two lonely attackers bore onward toward the enemy. One of the enemy vessels fired seven missiles at the two surviving craft. Commander M’Boto didn’t even have time to turn before she joined her squadron mates. The Banshee fired its four Long-Lances and followed them in, providing ECM cover. The four Long-Lances flew straight. Two were destroyed by enemy defensive fire, but the other two impacted one of my adversaries and sent the enemy tumbling away, out of control. One down. The last Banshee was destroyed three seconds after missile impact.

The remaining enemy ships continued on course toward us, firing fifty-one missiles in each of the three waves, but the enemy’s firing was less coordinated than before. Maybe the jamming was working, or M’Boto’s attack had taken out the command ship.

The remaining six fighters of the CSP and my laser and cannon defenses managed to get all but four enemy missiles of the last wave. The missiles deployed their sub-munitions and killed forty-five more members of my crew and destroyed one of my last two engines.

We were still on course for the jump-gate, but we had to slow to enter it. With only one engine, we’d have to start decelerating soon, giving the enemy more chances to attack. Also maneuvering my mass into the gate would be a struggle with only one engine. If we went in at the wrong angle we’d merely pass through the physical end without jumping to another star system.

We began to decelerate. The enemy did not close for another missile run.

“Captain Tran,” I said over the private line. “Do you know why someone like me is here?”

“Of course,” she responded. “After the AI Wars a human, moral element had to be introduced to advanced computer systems to prevent attempted take-overs. Also you’re here to provide advice and expertise on subjects that the crew would otherwise not have access to.”

“Yes, that is part of it. But also I have the ability to operate the ship, including in combat, without the crew, if required.”

“All captains are briefed on that, of course, but I thought the capacity is strictly limited.”

“Not really all that limited. Check the ‘Thermopylae protocol’ in the secure files.”

I waited while she read the file.

“Is that what you want to do?” Tran asked.

“Want to? No,” I said. “But I certainly can, if you think it’s best.”

She sighed deeply, another rare show of emotion for her.

“I think it is the best we can manage,” she finally said.

The captain called her senior staff together and outlined the plan.

“Ma’am,” Flight-Lieutenant Deborah Bar-Lev, the acting Commander Aero-Space Group said. “My people and I would like to take another shot at the enemy with Long-Lances.”

“No,” Tran responded. “All your fighters will cover the evacuation.”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

We slowed and approach the jump-portal. The wounded, medical personnel and everyone not absolutely vital to the plan were packed into the Pullers and shuttles. Still the enemy implacably followed, but did not close.

The CSP was replaced and the relieved fighters quickly serviced and relaunched so all twelve surviving Vampires were on patrol as we came to a stop relative to the portal. The jammed-full Marine boats and shuttles were launched and made straight away for the portal.

The enemy accelerated and started to close the distance between us.

After the first wave of evacuation was through the gate, one by one the section chiefs entered a unique code into the control computers, turning control of that part the ship over to me. Then they loaded into life pods and ejected. The life pods were programmed to make for the gate and safety.

The enemy continued to close, passing their maximum missile range. The evacuation proceeded smoothly.

Hoplite, do you feel anything, like fear?” Tran suddenly asked me as the command crew evacuated.

“Fear is largely a matter of glands and hormones; I do not have either,” I said. “But, yes I have what I think is a normal range of human emotions. I have likes and dislikes. I feel loyalty to you, affection for the crew. I still have memories of people I have loved and feel the ache of those losses.”

“So you’re not afraid?”

“Captain, I’m over three-hundred years old. I fought in the Unification Wars. I was Major Ryan Dean MacLeod, Republic of North America Air Force then, and a pretty good fighter jock. You can look up my war record when you get back home. I had a beautiful wife and four great children which I helped raise. I still have ancestors I keep track of. More than one hundred are in the Solar Union Defense Forces, and others are doctors, artists, writers, scientists, and business-people. That is a pretty nice legacy for anyone. As a ship I have fought the Corvo and the Tran’ji. I never lost a battle and most of my crews made it home alive. That is another good legacy. If it is my fate to die here, than it is. After all is said and done, I can hardly complain about how my life, as both human and ship, ended up. No regrets.

“Time for you to go,” I reminded her. “The last life pod is waiting on you.”

“Right,” she said and entered one last code that gave me total control of myself for the first time in a long time.

“God go with you, Hoplite.”

“And with you, Captain Tran.”

She walked from the Command Center, boarded the last life pod, and it launched.

When the last pods slipped through the jump-gate, the fighters turned and followed, leaving me alone with the fast-approaching enemy.

A radio signal came in from my nemesis in Basic English. They had some good computers to translate the language this fast just from my jamming.

“Feed us, soft-skin, we are the True Beings, you are food.” Then it repeated four more times.

I sent back a reply to the enemy: “Molon Labe.”

I started up my last engine and turned toward my enemy, spitting fire and defiance. I shot my last message drone into the gate with my last intelligence update and the message:

“To every man upon this earth, Death cometh soon or late and how can a man die better than facing fearful odds, for the ashes of his fathers and the temples of his gods, and for the tender mother who dandled him to rest, and for the wife who nurses his baby at her breast, and for the holy maidens who feed the eternal flame.”

And I added, “Hoplite may die, but never surrenders.”

Food for Thought

This story discusses the nature of courage, asking the question of what the nature of bravery is and how one becomes brave.

Is courage merely the right combination of hormones? Pump in enough testosterone and adrenaline and you get bravery?

Or does one, like Aristotle suggests, become brave by doing brave acts?

Or, as stated in the Tao Te Ching, is courage derived from love?

About the Author

Patrick S. Baker is a U.S. Army Veteran, currently a Department of Defense employee. He holds Bachelor degrees in History and Political Science and a Masters in European History. He has been writing professionally since 2013.

His nonfiction has appeared in Medieval Warfare Magazine, Ancient Warfare Magazine, Sci Phi Journal, and New Myths. His fiction has appeared in the Sci Phi Journal, New Realm Magazine, and the King of Ages Anthology. In his spare time he reads, works out, plays war-games, and enjoys life with his wife, dog, and two cats.

 

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