FICTION / FANTASY /GODS
The Later Tales
BERSERKER is a registered trademark of JSS Literary Productions and can not be used without permission.
Long ago, in a distant part of the galaxy, two alien races met--and fought a war of mutual extinction. The sole legacy of that war was the weapon that ended it: the death machines, the BERSERKERS. Guided by self-aware computers more intelligent than any human, these world-sized battlecraft carved a swath of death through the galaxy--until they arrived at the outskirts of the fledgling Empire of Man.
These are the stories of the frail creatures who must meet this monstrous and implacable enemy--and who, by fighting it to a standstill, become the saviors of all living things.
excerpt from :
The Third Historian Of The Carmpan Race
The universe has given life its own arsenal of weapons, and I am no longer surprised that even tenderness may sometimes by counted among them. Even the most gentle and humble of living things may demonstrate surprising strength…
The ship had been a human transport once, and it still transported humans, but now they rode like well-cared-for cattle on the road to market. Control of their passage and destiny had been vested in the electronic brain and auxiliary devices built into the New England after its capture in space by a berserker machine.
Gilberto Klee, latest captive to be thrust aboard, was more frightened than ever before in his young life, and trying not to show it. Why the berserker had kept him alive at all he did not know, and he was afraid to think about it. Like everyone else he had heard the horror stories—of human brains, still half-alive, built into berserker computers as auxiliary circuits; of human bodies used in the berserkers’ experiments intended to produce convincing artificial men; of humans kept as test-targets for new berserker death-rays, toxins, ways to drive men mad.
After the raid Gil and the handful of others who had been taken with him—for all they knew, the only survivors of their planet—had been separated and kept in solitary compartments aboard the great machine in space. And now the same berserker devices that had captured him, or others like them, had taken him from his cell and led him to an interior dock aboard the planetoid-sized berserker; and before they put him aboard this ship that had been a human transport once, he had time to see the name New England on her hull. Once aboard, he was put into a chamber about twenty paces wide, perhaps fifty long, twelve or fifteen feet high. Evidently all interior decks and paneling, everything non-essential, had been ripped out. There was left the inner hull, some plumbing, some light, artificial gravity and air at a good level.
There were eight other people in the chamber, standing together and talking among themselves. They fell silent as the machines opened the door and thrust Gil among them.
“How do,” said one man to Gil, as the door closed behind the machines again. The speaker was a thin guy who wore some kind of spaceman’s uniform that bagged loosely on his frame. As he spoke he took a cautious step forward and nodded. Everyone was watching Gil alertly—in case he should turn out to be violently crazy, Gil supposed. Well, it wasn’t the first time in his life he’d been thrown in with a group of prisoners who looked at him like that.
“My name is Rom,” the thin guy was saying. “Ensign Rom, United Planets Space Force.”
Everyone relaxed just slightly, seeing that he at least sounded normal.
“This is Mr. Hudak,” said Ensign Rom, indicating another young, once-authoritative man. Then he went on to name the others, but Gil couldn’t remember all their names at once. Three of them were women, one of them young enough to make Gil look at her with some interest. Then he saw how she kept half-crouching behind the other people, staring smiling at nothing, fingers playing unceasingly with her long and unkempt hair.
Mr. Hudak had started to ask Gil questions, his voice gradually taking on the tone used by people-in-charge conducting an examination. In school, Youth Bureau, police station, Resettlement, always there was a certain tone of voice used by the processors when speaking to the processed—though Gil had never put the thought in just those words.
Hudak was asking him: “Were you on another ship, or what?” On a ship. You were not a spaceman, of course, said the tone of authority. You were just a boy being processed somewhere, we see that by looking at you. Not that the tone of authority was intentionally nasty. It usually wasn’t.
“I was on a planet,” said Gil. “Bella Coola.”
“My God, they hit that too?”
“They sure hit the part where I was, anyway.” Gil hadn’t seen anything to make him hopeful about the rest of the planet. At the Resettlement Station where he was they had had just a few minutes’ warning from the military, and then the radios had gone silent. When the berserker launch came down, Gil had been out in the fields just watching. There wasn’t much the people at the Station could do with the little warning they had been given; already they could see the berserker heat-rays and dust-machines playing over the woods, which was the only concealment they might have run to.
Still, some of the kids had been trying to run when the silvery, poisonous-looking dart that was the berserker’s launch had appeared descending overhead. The Old Man had come tearing out of the compound into the fields on his scooter—maybe to tell his young people to run, maybe to tell them to stand still. It didn’t seem to make much difference. The ones who ran were rayed down by the enemy and the ones who didn’t were rounded up. What Gil recalled most clearly about the other kids dying was the look of agony on the Old Man’s face—that one face of authority that had never seemed to be looking at Gil from the other side of a glass wall.
When all the survivors of the Station had been herded together, standing in a little crowd under the bright sky in the middle of a vine-grown field, the machines singled out the Old Man.
Some of the machines that had landed were in the shape of metal men, some looked more like giant steel ants. “Thus to all life, save that which serves the cause of Death,” said a twanging metal voice. And a steel hand picked a squash from a vine, and held the fruit up and squeezed through it so it fell away in broken pulpy halves. And then the same hand, with squash-pulp still clinging to the bright fingers, reached to take the Old Man by the wrist.
The twanging voice said: “You are in control of these other life-units. You will now order them to cooperate willingly with us.”
The Old Man only shook his head, no. Muttered something.
The bright hand squeezed, slowly.
The Old Man screamed, but did not fall. Neither did he give any order for cooperation. Gil was standing rigid, and silent, but screaming in his own mind for the Old Man to give in, to fall down and pass out, anything to make it stop…
But the Old Man would not fall, or pass out, or give the order that was wanted. Not even when the berserker’s big hand came up to clamp around his skull, and the pressure was once more applied, slowly as before.