Ok, so this is a project I’ve been working on for about two and a half years now. I decided one day to write fiction when I wasn’t working on a non-fiction project to improve my non-fiction writing. It spiraled from there. It’s a trilogy, called Afterlife, about a guy who is a very successful military leader in our time. Because of this, he’s chosen by a secret government program to be cryogenic frozen until such a time as the government has need of him again. The book starts out at that time, the year 2150. Yeah, I know, but this is a site that talks about Clausewitz alongside Chewbacca. Book 1, Awakening, was first read by Kelsey and Caitlin and then copy edited by Caitlin (Thank you thank you thank you.) Both Book 2 and 3 are both in complete but in rough draft form. If you like it, I’ll be publishing the full book in the next few weeks through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing program and for the first few days, it’ll be free. Watch this space and, of course, Twitter. NOTE: When I copied and pasted from the manuscript into WordPress the formatting was lost and I had to redo it in WordPress. If I missed something I apologize.
The first document they handed me was my eulogy. They said it might help bring closure to my previous life. It didn’t. I know what I had done in my life, and thought that it was all I would ever do.
Victor Martin was a public servant almost his entire life. He first enlisted when he was seventeen….
1999. Forever ago. Before the wars started. There was nothing to worry about entering the military in that idyllic time between the fall of the Soviet Union and the start of the “Global War on Terrorism.” That’s why my parents had no problem giving me permission to join up. Russia, although it was in disarray, was a democracy now. Who was left to fight? Then came the terrorist attacks on 9/11 and we chased our tails and insurgents in Afghanistan and Iraq. Just when we pulled out of those two shitholes, with said tail firmly between our legs, Mexico collapsed and the resulting refugee crisis left the US government no choice but to put our new-found nation building prowess close to home. That distraction led Iran’s missile-firing fingers to get itchy, and it was back to the Middle East. At least the food had been good in Mexico.
In the midst of deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq, he managed to earn a degree and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in 2006. He then deployed once more to Iraq and twice more to Afghanistan by the time he was a Major.
Those were the days. Going to college as a United States Marine was a booze cruise more than anything else. Going to war as a young NCO or officer convinced of his own invincibility and infallibility was more fun than it should have been. There were bad times, of course. But the bad times were so bad that they made the good times so much better. I lost myself in the work and never married. I was not unhappy, just too focused to settle down.
That is, until I commanded the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit in Venezuela as a Colonel. Venezuela had been under the thumb of a succession of neocommunist dictators since the turn of the century. Each one employed the standard tinpot dictator playbook: stir up anti-Americanism to distract the people from their own problems and your corruption. After a wave of narco-terrorist attacks on the Southern border that could be tied directly to Caracas, Washington acted. My orders were to establish a beachhead on the shore of the Gulf of Venezuela in the sparsely populated Venezuelan state of Falcón. Once established, I was to fend off any attacks and wait for the Army to land enough forces to take Caracas. I was never one to sit on my haunches though. I met light resistance in Falcón and Columbia, smelling blood on their border, sent forces into Venezuela to offer their assistance. I had worked with the Columbian commander before so we combined forces and headed towards Caracas. The poorly led Venezuelan forces were so badly outmaneuvered that by the time the first US Army units rolled onto the sand in Falcón, I had my feet up on the Venezuelen President’s desk while I smoked one of his cigars.
The President and Secretary of Defense were immensely pleased. Marine Corps leadership, uncomfortable with initiative and loose interpretations of the rules, were displeased. Army leadership, denied even the opportunity to participate, were furious and openly calling for my head. Instead, the Commandant of the Marine Corps made it clear that I would never get promoted beyond my current rank and that retirement would be the best option. Never a politician, I bowed out and went back to school. I studied history and strategy and eventually ended up teaching at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island. I published a few books and spent the rest of my life in academia. When I could no longer care for myself, I checked into a nursing home and waited.
The last thing I remembered was a young man with a sly grin from the government sitting across the table from me. Bureaucrat, no doubt. Can you sign something, Colonel? We just want to ensure your legacy is assured, Colonel. Then darkness. Now, I was sitting in a sparse room somewhere in Virginia, reading my own eulogy.
Coming back to life had been a confusing process, to say the least. I awoke to the consciousness of being on my back and extremely cold. Eyes open. Hazy, lifeless light. Bland white patterned ceiling. I was definitely in a public building, but it could not possibly be my nursing home. The cold was the feeling of the metal slab I was lying on. I found that I was clothed, if only in a pair of thin shorts, and unrestrained. So I sat up, groaning as I lifted my old bones off the slab.
That smile again. Standing in front of me was the Bureaucrat, and he grinned at me as I became aware of him. On second thought, no, not the same guy. Same lifeless eyes and stagnant expression though.
“Good morning, Colonel.”
“Where the fuck am I? Is this Twin Pines Nursing Home?”
“You’re in a government medical facility in Northern Virginia. You were moved here from your place of residence.”
“Why? I’m retired.”
“We understand that, Colonel. You will be briefed shortly on the reason for your presence here. In the meantime, I have been sent to inform you that you need to rest.”
“I’ve been asleep. Why would I rest?”
“A bed is provided against the wall behind you. Your body needs to rest, sir.”
My body. I touched my wrinkled forearm. My skin was about as cold as the metal table, but wet like I had been sweating. I already felt fatigued, despite the sleep. I decided to take his suggestion. I waved him off, at which point he hesitated and then left the room through a door that was the same white color as the rest of the room. A small nightstand stood beside the bed, supporting a glass of water. On the opposite wall from the bed was a sink and a toilet, prison style. The rest of the room was bare. The walls were not padded though, so that was a good sign.
When I awoke, Grinning Bureaucrat was standing near the door, waiting.
“Colonel, when you’re ready I will take you to the Director’s office. I will wait outside your door until then.”
I washed and relieved myself before finding that there were no clothes provided besides medical scrubs. When I was ready I walked, a little unsteadily, behind Bureaucrat. I had felt my years for quite some, but since waking up in that room I felt particularly brittle and weak.
The corridors were lined with faux wood paneling, as many public buildings tend to be decorated. The endless lines stretching into the distance broken only by cheap fluorescent lighting gave the impression of distance. The halls seem to be empty. Many government offices are a bustle of activity. This one was clearly not.
We reached an office which was more of an atrium for the larger office located behind the door opposite the entrance, and Bureaucrat nodded to a middle aged woman who looked to be an assistant. She pressed a button on her desk, waited for just a second, and then opened the door to the inner office. I passed through the door behind Bureaucrat, who took up position next to the entrance. Inside was an older gentlemen in a white lab coat and a man in a suit standing behind a large, simple, mahogany desk whom I presumed to be the Director.
“Good morning, Colonel. Welcome. How do you feel?”
Aside from the desk, the office contained some tan leather chairs and a sofa. White Lab Coat took a seat on the sofa running perpendicular to the desk. The Director motioned to one of the leather chairs when I ignored his pleasantries. I lowered myself into it, at which point he took his chair. A steaming cup of coffee was sitting on the small end table next to me.
“Pardon my lack of conversation thus far.” I replied. “When you get to be my age you tire of social rituals. You also despise wasting time, so if you’ll kindly tell me exactly where we are and what I’m doing here, I’d appreciate it.”
Being both firm and polite was an art, an art best mastered if you serve in the military. The fact that the Director rose when I entered his office and only sat once I had, not to mention that Grinning Bureaucrat referred to me by the title I held when I retired, meant that wherever I was, I was no prisoner and that I had some pull, if no authority.
The Director’s grin did not waiver. “Certainly. My name’s George Halleck. I’m Director of Project 594, a joint Department of Defense/DARPA program begun by the McMillan administration. The program uses a combination of advanced technologies to preserve the expertise and knowledge of the best and brightest individuals, mostly of public servants. This is accomplished by putting the subject into a state of suspended animation during their senior years and then, when the country faces a particularly challenging situation where their knowledge can be useful, awakening them. Since the program began we have developed a number of technologies that rejuvenate and….
I had seen where he was going but only now decided to cut him off.
“I’m not doing it. Take me back to the home.” I had heard rumors of cryogenic technology being developed by DARPA to the point that animals could be preserved, flash frozen really, and stored to be “woken up” later.
The grin never left. “Colonel, I’m not asking you to participate.”
“Then why are you telling me this?”
“I’m not asking you to participate because you have already participated. This is your “Welcome Awake” meeting and your briefing on the next steps we will take. The year is 2150.”
My first reaction was disbelief, but that faded quickly because somehow I instinctively knew that it was true. The clammy skin, the extreme fatigue, something had happened to me. The doctor, who thus far had seemed to just be observing me, began scribbling furiously on his pad. Once the realization sank in, anger rose like a fire. How could they? I had never agreed to this. I don’t even remember how I got to… wherever the hell I was. My anger must have been written on my face.
“There’s no use in being angry, Colonel. Everyone who did this to you is long dead. Public servants who are chosen for the program were not asked for their consent…”
The full weight settled on me and the sound of his voice disappeared beyond the scope of thoughts. 2150. The last thing I remembered was the strange visitor in the nursing home in what must have been… Christ, 2060. I had been… what, frozen?…. for ninety years.
“Why me?” I asked as I snapped out of my internal processing, interrupting whatever the hell Halleck was saying in the process.
“Your exploits in Venezuela were legendary in the military amongst those who did not have a political interest in what you did. Once everyone who had pushed you out left the military, no one was concerned that you went so far beyond the mission. As you’re well aware, your writing was very well received. In short, you impressed someone important.”
“Why am I…awake now?”
“The President has declared a state of emergency due to some events. The country faces grave dangers, all of which you will be briefed on in time. The first step, however, is your rejuvenation procedures, which Dr. Franco will tell you about. Dr. Franco?”
“Hmm? Yes. Colonel,” Labcoat began, “The de-aging process is rather different from any procedure conducted in your time. First, your current blood will be entirely drained and replaced with an organic/synthetic hybrid blood. Contained within this blood are nanomachines designed to rebuild your body from the inside out. These machines will exercise muscles, rebuild bones, replace any imperfect or old cells with entirely new ones, and destroy diseased cells. The process involves some discomfort over the course of three or four days, but at the end of this process your body will be roughly that of a thirty-year old man, only stronger and more agile than any normal man. Additionally, once this process is complete, your blood will be drained for a second time and replaced with an entirely synthetic blood that contains a different set of nanomachines.”
“Blood replacement? Is this a common procedure?”
“No, not really common. The process itself is routine, but only the extremely rich can afford the treatments. The only reason the government is providing it to you is because of your advanced age. This treatment is the only way to extend the normal life cycle.”
“So how long will I live after the treatment?”
“Like I said, your body will be the equivalent of an extremely athletic thirty-year old man, albeit with grey hair. Cosmetic nanomachines are expensive and only used in some cases. It will essentially turn your biological clock back to thirty. The nanomachines will continue to keep you extremely healthy and you will not know sickness. But even they will break down in time. A man who gets the same treatment at thirty years of age, for example, can expect to live to be about 200 years old. Of course, since you will be getting the treatment at seventy-eight years old, ignoring the ninety years you’ve been in suspended animation, you should still live beyond 200 years total.”
Two hundred years. “You said diseases. Am I sick?”
He looked at a file that he held in his lap. “Oh, um, yes. It says here you’ve got stage four throat cancer. Can’t have that can we? The nanomachines should take care of it in a day or two,” the doctor said, as nonchalantly as if we were discussing sports scores.
“While you are not undergoing treatments, you will be brought up to date on the state of the world and human society.” The Director broke in. “If you are wondering where you are, you are below ground in Northern Virginia, just South of D.C., in an office left over from the Cold War that very few people know about. Over the next couple of weeks, you will be meeting with the current Secretary of Defense, the Joint Chiefs, and the President. There are other people who have recently been awakened as well, so you will probably see them around the quarters. Everything you need is contained on this floor: a gym, a library, a locker room, a briefing room. Please make yourself at home. However, the elevator is secure and access only given to my employees. You will not be able to leave this floor, aside from being escorted to meetings, until the President authorizes it. Mr. Wood here is your escort and assistant.”
I initially thought to challenge him on this, but to what end? I knew no one, had nowhere to go, and probably no longer knew how to get anywhere, especially at a rickety seventy-eight years old. There’s no way I could understand the world I now found myself in, I would need some assistance. I decided to let it stand.
“Doc, let’s see what you can do.”