Author : Eric Flint

“It’s real simple, Butch. Just hold the button until you land.”

Butch wasn’t sure who said that, but it was important. Wait. He said that to himself just then. Damn, it was starting.

“Just hold the button. Hold the button.”

Butch whispered the mantra as he watched the Lobster’s control ship grow large in the shuttles window. The Lobsters, no one could pronounce their real name but they looked a lot like a lobster the size of an Abrams tank, had come four months ago. It hadn’t taken earth long to fall.

But then, when the enemy can control people’s minds, make them Virec, Slaves, it wasn’t a huge surprise that the fighting lasted a matter of weeks.

“Hold the button…” Butch could feel the gnawing presences of the Other Voice. It was always there, whispering, telling him to give in, to become Virec. “You are Virec. You will always be Virec. Fighting Virec is pointless. All will be Virec.” The Other Voice never stopped.

But then, Butch wasn’t known for being easily swayed.

His DI had bounced him out of his fifth run through Boot with the note in his record that “This recruits refusal to submit any form of self identity to the military makes him unfit for service. He is not able, nor will he ever be able, to submit to authority.”

Julia has said much the same thing, if in somewhat unkind words, during the divorce. And what could he say, they were right.

The Other Voice, though… it ate at him. It whisepered day in and day out. It invaded his dreams, pretending to be those who loved him.

“You are Virec.”

“Hold the Button.” Butch was rocking back and forth now, head pounding as the landing bay grew wide. He saw the cockpits lights twinkle as the autopilot was queried on the radioactive load. Bananas, it replied. Bananas were radioactive. But bananas were tasty. Bananas were good. And the Lobsters, for some reason, treated them like caviar. Butch would’ve thought they would want *real* caviar. Caviar would be Virec. All would be Virec… Shit.

“Hold the button. Easy as pie, Butch.”

He was sweating heavily now as the Other Voice grew louder and louder. It drowned out his mind, overriding his attempts to think about something else.


“Hold. The. Button.” He had expected this, to be honest. And he expect to die a slave… but his choice to die would be as a free man.

The ramp from the cockpit lowered as the shuttle settled to the deck. Butch slowly staggered down and faced the Lobster Intentant.

“Virec.” It’s arm translator said without tone.

Amazing. He could still think. The Other Voice was screaming now… but he could choose. Standing in front of one of the bastards, and he could fight.

“I. Am…” Butch’s voice shook with effort as he fought against the mental shackles.


The Lobster reached out to snip off the upstart humans head in anger, then paused as it saw a small transmitter with a giant red button where the thumb should rest tumble from Butch’s left hand.

The 40 megaton device was more then sufficient to send the control ship, and the fleet’s mental broadcasters, burning into the atmosphere.


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