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Midnight Pub

The First Fiction I've Written Since January


(this originally appeared at starbreaker.org)

I had brought my AlphaSmart 3000 with me while taking my wife to the doctor, and ended up writing this. It's probably crap for the following reasons:

1. I'm laying on the antiwar stuff too thick.

2. I haven't named the recruiter.

3. Would anybody actually believe that a recruiter would try to turn away people looking to enlist unless they were obvious 4F rejects?

(see "US Selective Service System: Classifications")

Also, the first paragraph reads like Jane Austen with the serial numbers filed off. I probably can't use this as is, but I don't want to throw it away.


Everybody knows that a healthy young man needs, above all else, a noble cause for which to murder. Once blooded, he will continue his bloody spree until cut down by another young man in need of a good cause. Nobody will ask the young man if he wants to take up arms. His feelings and opinions matter no more to his elders than his life. His life is not his own but the property of whatever higher cause cares to claim him.

Whether the cause is God, country, democracy, or the common good is immaterial. None of these causes is the real cause. To find the real cause, one need only follow the money because war is a racket. In any racket, there are only two kinds of people: racketeers and marks. The former prey upon the latter.

Morgan Cooper was well aware of this when he walked into the recruiting office. He had turned eighteen, with a boot in the ass to launch him from his parents' house as his only birthday present. He possessed few illusions about his prospects. His only possessions were his clothes, his wallet, and an old guitar missing two strings. The wallet was empty save for identification and a business card. He had gotten the latter from somebody who claimed to hold an important position in the Phoenix Society.

Taking out the business card, Morgan approached the recruiter's desk. "I'm Morgan Cooper. Saul Rosenbaum told me I should see him if I needed a job."

The recruiter straightened her collar before leaning back and glaring up at Morgan. "Saul Rosenbaum doesn't handle recruitment. Nor does he have time to chat with every asshole who swaggers in here because they have more pride or testosterone than sense."

"Is this a test of how much abuse I'm willing to take for my ideals?"

"Not for nothing, kid, but you don't look rich enough to have ideals. Turn around."

"What for?"

"I want to check out your ass."

"Then get yours out of that chair and come take a look." Since Morgan had not yet signed an enlistment form, let alone taken an oath, he felt no obligation to let this officious bureaucrat order him about.

To his surprise, the recruiter got up and circled him with an appraising eye. "You've still got a footprint where your dad's boot connected on your way out of the house. What happened? You tell them you converted to Christianity? Or did they tell you to get a real job because nobody gives a damn for yet another long-haired prettyboy who can string together a chord progression?"

"I turned eighteen today."

"Well, happy fuckin' birthday to you, kid." A sudden sting radiated from his hip as the recruiter's hand came down. "There's one for good luck."

"I did not consent to that."

"Yeah? What are you going to do about it?"

"I'd be within my rights to file a complaint. The Phoenix Society would assign an Adversary to the case. They would pull your Witness Protocol records, see through your own eyes that you decided to swat my ass without my consent, and get all the evidence they needed to court-martial you for sexual assault. Since you're on the job, a tyranny charge would follow to cover the abuse of power angle."

The recruiter nodded, as if pleased by Morgan's knowledge of the Society's standard procedures. "Is that what you want to be? An Adversary? One of those heroic attorneys at war who defend individual rights with diplomacy and force of arms?"

Morgan shook his head. "No. I was more interested in the arms control division. You need Peacemakers, too."

"What we need are people who aren't here because they think risking their asses for a cause they've bought after exposure to years of propaganda is a good way to make a living because they don't think they have any other option. I've known kids like you. I've been kids like you. You know what we used to call it when kids like you joined up? Economic conscription." The recruiter sat down, smoothed her skirt, and adjusted her glasses before continuing. "I've seen people like you before. No cash, no credentials, and no connections. So you think joining a paramilitary organization is a viable option. If the City-State of New York had a standing army, you'd already be getting a buzz cut while they measured you for your uniform, and with hair like yours that would be a cryin' shame."

"Why do you care about my looks?" Though Morgan suspected he knew why, he did not want to admit it or voice his suspicion, lest he offend the recruiter and ruin his chances of a better life through service.

"Because you could make more money faster as a sex worker, and be safer as well if you signed with a reputable establishment. You don't have to be some low-class rent boy; you're pretty for a guy, you've got a decent body, you're personable, and you're not stupid. Anybody with half a brain would make sure you got a decent education so you could eat out lonely trophy wives after escorting them to charity events instead of working a glory hole and worrying about not making your hourly cock quota."

"Hourly cock quota?" Morgan echoed the phrase, unable to believe what he had heard. "Is this the spiel you use on everybody who comes to enlist? Are you trying to turn recruits away? What the hell is your deal?"

"I told you. I've been in your position. I took up arms for a cause that didn't mean shit to me because it paid better than flipping burgers and was more respectable than the alternative. And, yes, I do this to every schmuck who comes through that door looking to enlist. Those are my orders."

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~clinquant wrote (thread):

I'm intrigued by the hints of the world this is set in! The Phoenix Society? Adversaries and Peacekeepers, and the City-State of New York??

I didn't really feel point 2 was an issue in this short excerpt. And the fact of point 3 makes it even more interesting!

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