The Collar Wars
As the news spread as to a lieutenant being spared from execution there was immediate clamoring for further information. As soon as it was made known what had happened I started being heralded as a hero. There were even calls for my collar to be removed as I was apparently now being considered to be an Evolved myself. I didn’t know how to respond to it. As far as I was concerned I was just being a decent person. It was only at that time did I truly realized just how badly the Evolved had been treated, and I thought I had understood that before.
When I was brought to the stockade I saw most of the senior officers huddled in the corners of their cells whimpering. Some were raging at the Evolved through the bars, foaming at the mouth. When the door for my cell was opened, which the Evolveds had thoughtfully made sure I was alone in, I sat quietly down on the bed and tried to ignore the other Humans. Truthfully I was sick of the Marines, and these wretches were supposed to represent the higher levels of the profession. Pathetic.
One of the colonels, Colonel Ramirez, had noticed that I had been just been brought in. “Well Archer, seems like you ended up just like the rest of us. See what your kid gloves treatment of ‘brids got us. A damn uprising. That’s what you brought down upon us.”
I barked out a laugh. “Sorry to disappoint you Colonel, but you can’t blame this one on me. It wasn’t my unit that figured out how to remove the collars without them blowing. Anyways in case you hadn’t noticed, but I’m the only lieutenant here. All the other lower rank officers from ground, mechanized, and technical are dead. They were all executed where they stood.”
Ramirez snarled without saying anything. General Lynn who had also been raging glared at me. “How is it then that you didn’t suffer the same fate?”
“You really don’t get it do you, General?” I started laughing when I caught the look of pure rage he directed at me. I continued once I had regained my composure. “It’s really simple, but I guess I’ll have to use small words so you can understand.”
“Lieutenant I’m warning you, one more crack like that and I’ll have you executed.”
“Well I guess I’ll have to make a few points clear to you. First as to why I survived. It’s simple really; I treated the Evolveds under me with respect. I didn’t need to use the stick since I know how to use the carrot. My Evolveds apparently love me so they did everything they could to spare my life, and it almost didn’t work.”
The general looked like he was going to have a fit. “You don’t treat ‘brids with respect! If you do they won’t follow orders!”
I shrugged. “My unit is the best on the colony so I guess you must be wrong. Now for the next point. You’re not getting out of here until the Evolveds say you can.”
“We’ll be rescued!” It was Ramirez screaming this time.
I shook my head sadly. “You really are that dumb aren’t you? The vast majority of ground troops in the military today are Evolveds. Do you really think they’ll fight other Evolveds who hold the secret to their own freedom? Also consider this: we have cloning tanks that’ll allow the Evolveds to clone up another two units every three weeks. Plus we already have enough Evolveds in cold storage for another four units. Another thing you forget is that even if the Marines could cobble together enough Human ground and mechanized troops for a land fight, the Evolveds have a psychological edge. They have nothing to lose by dying. If they surrender they’re just as dead as if they’re killed in combat. The most dangerous person is one who has nothing left to lose and everything to gain.”
I looked around at the senior officers all of whom were now at the bars listening intently to what I had to say. “The only way this revolution will be stopped is by orbital bombardment. Which means you’ll die along with everyone else, including the colonists. I’m sure that Sky Patrol won’t want to give themselves that kind of black eye by wiping out an entire colony of innocent civilians. Even if Sky Patrol wanted to bombard the planet I’m sure the Evolveds have restarted the defense satellite factory by now. That means they can soon flood the sky with enough satellites to make the Sky Patrol think twice before coming within a hundred-thousand kilometers of this planet.”
“Are you saying we’re at the mercy of the ‘brids?” This time it was a colonel from mechanized whom I didn’t know. I sighed; apparently these idiots were slow on the uptake. “The Evolveds hold the entire colony. From what I gather you’re fairly safe. You’re the hostages that’ll keep the military from doing something rash. Of course the Terran Federation could see you and the rest of the colony as expendable. So it could very well be that we’ll all die, but it won’t be at the hands of the Evolveds.”
“And what about you? What happens to you?” The voice came from a cell next to me so I couldn’t see who was asking.
“As soon as things settle down and a regular government is established, a tribunal will be called to decide my fate. With any luck I’ll have my collar removed. Since I’ll be seen as a traitor by the Terran Federation I’ll have to stay here or be executed for treason. Truthfully I’m more than happy to stay since I’ll be able to live on a planet where everyone can be free.”
“You bastard traitor.” Ramirez was snarling again. “As soon as I get out of here I’ll kill you myself.”
“I really doubt you’ll be getting out of here anytime soon. You’ll be stuck on a transport as soon as the Evolveds can fly the Sky Patrol ships. Once they learn how to fly the ships, as well as run and maintain the terraforming equipment, they’ll start letting people go. Until then, all Humans are considered to be prisoners.”
“Except you of course,” said General Lynn, who seemed to be coming to grips with the situation. “You’ll be the Human that proves ‘brids and Humans can live as equals.”
I smiled. This was getting funny. “You always suspected me of being an anti-collar sympathizer. Well I am, and so far it’s let me keep my breathing privileges and it’ll probably grant me my freedom. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Evolveds did a wide spectrum transmission signal with instruction on how to remove a military collar. Soon every Evolved in the military will have their collar off. If the collars are blown and the military kills all of the current Evolved they’ll have to do something to keep the Evolveds here from broadcasting again. Either the collar design will have to change, or the military will have to rethink the use and/or treatment of Evolveds.”
I heard several hard swallows. Then General Lynn spoke up, the fear evident in his voice. “Everything is going to change, isn’t it?”
My smile was malevolent, and my voice slick as black ice. “Now you’ve got it General. The Human race has just gone through one of the biggest changes since we discovered faster-than-light travel back in the twenty-first. With the set up here the Evolved can produce everything they need for an army. They can build production facilities for the manufacture of anything, and this planet was picked specifically for its abundant resources.”
At that point Sergeant Drake entered the stockade. “How are you doing Lieutenant?”
“Not too bad,” I replied. “Could you do me the favor of getting me a computer? I need to get something written.”
“Your letter of resignation?”
“Yes,” I said with a nod, “that’s it precisely. I’m sick of being connected with these idiots in anyway. Also I’d like a knife to cut off all signs of rank.”
There was a smile on my former sergeant’s face. “I can arrange the computer but I’m not so sure about the knife. Wouldn’t it just be easier if I just brought you an unadorned uniform?”
“Since you’ve probably never seen an officer get court-martialed I should probably explain that they strip him of all insignia while he’s wearing the uniform. By letting me cut off the insignia myself it effectively shows my cutting of all ties to the Marines in such a way as to show disdain for the institution.”
Drake nodded in comprehension. “That makes sense. I’ll explain that to the officer in charge and see what I can do. Is there anything else you’d like?”
I thought about it for a second. “Can you see if Chelsea could be allowed to come onto base to see me? I have a feeling she’ll be here fairly soon.”
“I’ll see what I can do regarding her.” There was something odd in his voice when he said that. “I can’t promise you anything, but I’ll see.”
Drake left briefly and returned with two more Evolveds who were both armed, a small computer, and a knife. “Here you go Lieutenant. We’re going to let you use the knife to cut off the insignia but you’ll be under heavy guard the entire time you have it.”
“I told you, just call me Sam. I’m resigning my commission. Besides even if I wasn’t, there’s been a revolution. So I’m no longer your lieutenant.”
“As you say Lewie,” he said with a large grin. “I had a talk with the rest of the unit. As far as we’re concerned you’re still our lieutenant until such time as the tribunal decides your fate. We’re loyal to you until the bitter end. We’ll be at the tribunal giving testimony to your treatment of us. Especially Tanker since it was he and I who saw that you had removed Chelsea’s collar. When we told the unit about that they wanted, as a Human would put it, to storm the stockade to grant you your freedom.”
I had to smile. There was nothing else that would have been appropriate. “You tell them from me, that I’ll kick the ass of every one of them who doesn’t let things take their course with the tribunal. I’ll have my collar removed properly.”
“You damned traitor!” Ramirez screamed. “How dare you remove a ‘brids collar.”
Drake pulled a small collar remote from his pocket, calibrated it to Ramirez’s collar, and then hit a button. Ramirez dropped screaming, his body convulsing as electricity ripped through it. Drake released the button, and Ramirez stopped screaming and just lay there looking lifeless, though it was obvious that he was still breathing.
“Anyone else want to feel their collar being used?” Drake snarled as he scanned the rest of the cells. “Do you want to find out how it feels to be an Evolved being punished by one of your, late, junior officers?”
There was some slight muttering among the officers but none of them actually spoke up. Once Drake was satisfied that none of the others were going to say anything he put the remote back in his pocket. “I thought not.”
“How did that feel?” I asked Drake in a whisper.
“Not as satisfying as I thought it would.” He whispered back. “In fact I feel a little nauseated. The lieutenant that was my CO before you loved doing that. Makes me damn glad that you’re nothing like him.”
I took my jacket of and started cutting the ribbons and insignia off. Each snapping of thread making me feel better. As each piece fell to the ground I heard officers begin to growl in anger. My showing of distain bringing them to sounding more animalistic then the Evolved looked.
“I’ll make you eat every last one of those.” Ramirez snarled. I simply ignored him, knowing that my lack of acknowledgement would further enrage him.
“Thanks my friend.” I said as I handed the knife back over to Drake. “Now about…”
“I’ll see what I can do about letting Chelsea come to visit you.” Drake said before I could finish.
“No thanks necessary Lieutenant, you’ve earned it.” So saying he left.
Even after Drake had left, the officers stayed pretty quiet. It was obvious that seeing the electrical shock of a collar being used on Colonel Ramirez made them truly realize what kind of situation they were in. I’m sure that in their time all of them had used that feature of a collar on quite of few evolved. To see it used on a fellow Human was scary for them, especially the knowledge that they could be the next one that got the shock treatment. I hadn’t liked the sight much myself, but I figured Ramirez probably deserved it for past treatment of Evolveds.
Ramirez started moving again rolling from his back onto his front. Every muscle in his body seemed to hurt as he slowly started standing up. “I’m going to get that damn ‘brid if it’s the last thing I do.”
“Face it Colonel, we’re in no position to do anything.” It was General Lynn speaking. “Don’t do anything stupid that’ll cause them to blow your collar. That’s an order.”
“It’s the duty of every captured soldier to try to escape,” Ramirez commented unnecessarily. “We need to figure out a way to get out of here.”
“Ramirez,” I called out, “you’re an idiot. The stockade has both visual and audio surveillance. They’ll know what you are planning before you have chance to act. Keep acting like an idiot and I’m sure they’ll blow your collar as a warning to the others.”
“Shut up traitor! I’m going to get out of here one way or another and I’ll make that ‘brid friend of yours pay for shocking me!”
“You should have listened to Lieutenant Archer,” came a voice from the speakers.
Ramirez started screaming and convulsing again, the lights on the collar indicating that he was definitely being shocked again. The rest of the officers quickly backed away from the bars of their cells, not willing to risk doing anything that might provoke the Evolved who was remotely monitoring the cells.
After about fifteen seconds of Ramirez’s screaming, I looked up at one of the cameras. “I think you’ve made your point.” The screaming stopped and once again Ramirez lay on the ground curled up in pain, but still obviously alive. The other officers in the same cell as Ramirez didn’t approach him, probably worrying that it might provoke a similar fate. I could easily tell that the true nature of their position had easily sunken in now. They all knew that they were no longer in a position of power. They were now being imprisoned by the very ones that they had oppressed for so long.
Less than an hour after the nasty business with Colonel Ramirez, I had finished my letter of resignation from the Marines, and had already stripped all symbols of rank and loyalty to the Marines from my uniform. I was no longer a Marine in the Federation military. I even had one of the jailers print up my letter so I could sign it and compounded the insult by having it delivered to General Lynn who was in the cell just across from mine. There had been some swearing from Ramirez about me being a traitor, but not enough from him to get another shock. General Lynn on the other hand had calmly received the letter, looked it over, and told me that he accepted my resignation. He was clearly in control of himself. I guessed that he had decided that the best thing he could do for the rest of the Marines under his command was to show them that they just had to keep their heads held high and accept their fate as prisoners of war.
I had to admire him a little; he was keeping all of the other officers calm, with the notable exception of Ramirez who was still swearing up a storm. The general had several times told Ramirez to be quiet, but Ramirez seemed to be beyond rational thought. I was sort of surprised that he hadn’t been shocked again.
“You’re dealing with this well General,” I said matter-of-factly.
Lynn shrugged noncommittally. “We have been captured by Hybrids during their revolution against us, that makes us prisoners of war. When escape is not an option, the only way to behave in this sort of situation is to stay calm and try to keep your morale up. Since I see no way of escape I intend to stay calm and make the best of it.”
I had at this point become the unofficial negotiator on behalf of the officers with the Evolveds. With my help the officers had been provided with a few decks of playing cards and some book readers so that they would have something to keep them occupied. I had done this mostly to keep them from doing anything that would get them shocked so I wouldn’t have to listen to their screams of pain.
I, on the other hand, was getting much better treatment. Not only had I been provided with my own book reader so I had my whole library, I had also been given a better dinner. I had seen what the senior officers had gotten, and while it fulfilled all dietary requirements it had tasted lousy from what I gathered from the sounds they made. The stuff looked like canned dog food and probably tasted like it as well. One of the jailers had told me that it was the typical rations for an Evolved. I had gotten much better treatment and had gotten the kind of food they served higher officers on a regular basis. It oddly enough came not at the insistence of my own unit, but compliments of one of the leaders of the revolution. That was a surprise to me; I had figured that they would have been the last ones to want to seem biased when the tribunal was called.
Half an hour after I had finished dinner an Evolved that I didn’t know came in to see me. “I have someone with me who wants to see you, that is if you’re up to it.”
“I’m up to seeing anyone. Who is it?”
“You’ll see.” He opened the door to my cell. “Wait right here.”
The jailer walked out of the room leaving me wondering what was going on. The next thing I knew Chelsea was coming in at a dead run. She hit me like a fuzzy canon ball she was so enthusiastic in her greeting. “Sam! You’re all right! I’ve been so worried. No one has been telling me what’s been going on with you. Are you okay? Have they been treating you well?”
My arms were wrapped around the raccoon as I tried to comfort her. “Don’t worry Chels, I’m doing just fine. They’re treating me better than the rest of the officers.”
“You took that whore’s collar off?! I’ll kill...” Ramirez started screaming again as the Evolved who had brought Chelsea in hit a collar remote. The jailer went up to the cell Ramirez was in and crouched down to look at the colonel and released the button on the remote. “Keep it up Colonel and I’ll blow your collar like you had Lieutenant Jacobsen do to my friend Caleb. You had him killed to set an example for the rest of the Evolveds in our unit; turn about could be fair play. We may have to kill you as an example to the rest of your fellow officers.”
I swallowed hard, I had no desire to see Ramirez’s collar blown. I had seen my fair share of Evolveds killed when their collars were blown. It’s a messy death. “If you don’t mind, but can Chelsea and I go somewhere to have a little privacy? I don’t want Chelsea to be around if you blow Ramirez’s collar, it would be more than a little upsetting for her.”
The Evolved took his eyes off of Ramirez to look at me. “I’m sorry but you have to stay here. But I promise that as long as Chelsea’s here that no collars will be blown.”
I nodded, it was not as good as I had hoped for, but at least Chelsea wasn’t going to have to witness a death by collar. “Thank you.”
Chelsea took a step back from me, and held up the small box I had told her to take out of the pocket of my jacket when I had been taken prisoner. “What’s this?”
“You haven’t opened it then?”
“No,” she said shaking her head; “I wanted you to be with me when I opened it.”
“Good. That lets me do this properly.” I took the box out of her hand and got down on one knee. I then opened the box and held it out to her. “Chelsea? Will you marry me?”
“You want me to what?” Chelsea asked confusion clearly written across her face as she looked at the diamond ring in the box.
“I want you to marry me. I love you. I want for us to be together forever.”
“As soon as I get out of here I’m going to ring your damn neck you traitorous bastard!!!” Ramirez was screaming from the floor, not yet having gotten up from his most recent shock treatment.
“That’s it!” Came a voice from the speakers. “Tyler, take Archer and Chelsea to interrogation room one, and stand guard.”
With the promise Tyler had made me I knew what was about to happen, and I was glad that I wasn’t going to be anywhere near the cells that moment. Tyler escorted us to the interrogation room, and let us enter by ourselves.
“If you need anything, knock,” he said in a polite voice. “I’ll knock before I come in to get you.”
I thanked the German Sheppard before having Chelsea proceed me. Five seconds after the door closed we heard a muffled pop, and I knew Ramirez was dead. I swallowed a couple of times to keep my dinner from coming up. I was trying to get the mental image of the colonel’s head being blown off, spraying blood and brains all over his cellmates, out of my mind. I was glad we were in here when it happened and not out there. I don’t think Chelsea could have taken it.
Once I had regained my composure I went back to what I had started in the cell. I dropped back on to one knee. “Chelsea will you marry me?”
“I... I don’t know what to say.” She was of course confused. Evolveds don’t marry. What’s the point, they’re slaves, meaning that they can be separated for any number of reasons. Plus most female Evolveds are in brothels so they can’t remain faithful to another Evolved even if they wanted to.
“Do you love me?”
“I... I think so. I know I’ve never felt the same way about another person. You make me feel special, like I’m the most important person in your life. But you said you wanted to marry Carol, I don’t want to replace her.”
I shook my head. “Carol still has a place in my heart and she always will, but I’m not asking you to replace her. I love you for you. I want you to always be with me. Please say yes.”
Chelsea dropped down so that she was at my level. “Then yes! I’d love to marry you.”
We stood up together holding on to each other tightly. I had never felt this way before. I had dreamt about asking Chelsea to marry me for several weeks now, but now it had actually happened. We just held each other for probably ten or fifteen minutes before I knocked on the door to let the guard know he could come in. When the guard opened the door I found that he was talking with Sergeant Drake and another Evolved, a Tiger, who seemed to be in charge.
“Lieutenant Archer,” the new Evolved said, “my name is General Daniel. I’m one of the leaders of the revolution. I’ve been talking with several of my fellow officers. It has been decided that you may go back to your own room in the barracks, under guard of course. You will have full privacy so you and your lady friend can spend your time together doing… ahem… whatever you want to without being watched by others.”
I was slightly shocked I hadn’t thought that I’d be able to return to my own quarters until after the tribunal had decided my fate. “Thank you General. May I ask the reason you are giving me such a privilege?”
The revolutionary general patted me on the shoulder. “You’re not seen as a threat to the revolution, and your presence among the other prisoners seems to be having adverse effects. If you hadn’t been around we may have not needed to blow Ramirez’s collar, but that was not your fault. For now though be happy that you’ll have privacy with your lady friend here.”
“Again, thank you General.”
The general turned to Sergeant Drake. “Lieutenant Drake, please escort the prisoner and his friend back to his quarters and stand guard.”
As we were walking to the barracks Drake gave me an odd look. “This is kind of quick isn’t it, Lieutenant.”
“How do you mean?” I was genuinely surprised by his comment. “I’ve been visiting Chelsea for almost a year now, there is nothing quick about it.”
“Well what I mean is that the revolution is less than a day old and already you want to marry an Evolved. It just seems a little strange is all since we have no real concept of marriage.”
I thought about this for several minutes as we walked back to the barracks, until something struck me. “I think there is something you may want to think of suggesting to your leaders. We have a lot of incubation tanks on this colony, enough to raise an army of Evolveds. Maybe for the next few batches you should raise female Evolveds. As the number of females begins to match the number of males it may be possible that eventually you’d be able to have lasting relationships like marriage.”
Drake’s brow furrowed in thought, it seemed that the idea was a truly alien thought to him. Maybe since all his contact with female Evolveds had been at the brothel he had a hard time thinking of any relationship lasting for more than an hour at a time. Now that I thought about it, I think that the only reason why Chelsea had such a relatively easy time with the idea of getting married was that we had watched all those old movies together.
“What would be the benefit of us marrying?” Drake finally asked after having given the idea a good ten minutes of thought. “I mean it would be nice to have more female Evolveds around so that there would be less of a possibility of us fighting over time at the brothels. But why marriage?”
“In the wars before there were Evolveds, before Humans even started to colonize other planets, people often fought to protect their homeland. They were protecting their families. If you had your own family to fight for, wouldn’t it make you fight even harder than you already do? Right now if the Terran Federation were to bring a military force here to put the revolution down, you’d be fighting for your own lives. Now imagine fighting for the life of someone you cared about more than anything else. Fighting even harder because it was their life that was in jeopardy.”
Drake pondered this question for a while. “What about you? Would you fight to protect Chelsea? What would you do to protect her?”
I stopped to look at him levelly, my voice flat. “I’d bring the fight to anyone who tried to hurt her. If the Earth Federation sends a military force here, I’ll meet them ready to kill anyone who’d attack the colony. There is nothing I wouldn’t be willing to do to protect Chelsea which means protecting the colony, even if it meant my own, sure death.”
“Your own death?” Chelsea asked, a slight tremble in her silky voice.
“My own death. As long as it meant keeping you safe I’d be more than willing to die.”
Drake gave me a side long look. “Lieutenant, now I know why we all feel so loyal to you. You are truly one remarkable Human.”
I simply nodded, there was nothing left to be said upon the topic, and then started off towards the barracks again. Two steps later Chelsea had her fingers intertwined with mine.