Can someone please explain this sci-fi short story by David Drake?

I’m currently reading through the book ‘Spacefighters’, a collection of short stories edited by Joe Haldeman, despite its rather lurid title and theme the stories have actually been pretty good and very readable (my favourite is ‘Wings out of Shadow’ by Fred Saberhagen) however the story I’ve just read has left me utterly confused.

The story is ‘Safe to Sea’ by David Drake, I found the writing style almost unreadable and I have absolutely no idea what the plot was supposed to be, it seemed to be a fairly straight-forward tale of lost soldiers trying to find their way home but the final scene seemed to have no connection at all to what went before.

I don’t know if a pdf of it exists online and I haven’t searched because of copyright issues, but if anyone has read it can they please enlighten me? :slight_smile:

Yes, it is part of a novel series - a royal and his bodyguard unit are forced down onto a planet like a third of the way around and in an area they know nothing about. They befriend some natives, and start slogging and fighting their way around the planet through a number of ‘tribes’ [think landing in California in 1300 and needing to get to New York] and eventually they make it to the starport, which is held by enemies. Obviously, they win everything though they lose lots of people … otherwise it would have been a novella instead of a series of books :smack: You can get the whole series from Baen as ebooks as I recall [I have all 4 books but to the best of my recollection I never saw the short story]

Read the whole series, incomplete though it is. It is very good.

That doesn’t sound like the short story I found.

It was on one of the Baen CD’s released with some of their book sales that included very permissive terms encouraging freely sharing while retaining their copyright. Since it’s still go that copyright I won’t directly link.

Drake wrote an afterword to the released version I saw. It was a very early story of his. He also had this to say:

He’s very terse in this compared to anything else I’ve read. I’ve read a lot of his work too. He’s still got his spin on military fiction. This shows more of the darkness than some. I assume that has to do with it being early when a lot of his work was very much exploring his demons from his service as a trooper with the 11th ACR in Vietnam.

The quick rundown in a squadron of small attack ships is entering hyperspace when their mothership (“tender”) is hit by the aliens humanity is at war with. That throws them far from anywhere they are expecting. They make a couple planetfalls, taking losses, as they try to find a way home. They seem to give up and hang out on one planet, till some local germ starts infecting them. They finally run into a race that knows humanity and the race we’re at war with. That third party won’t share the navigation data to go back home into the war though…till the squadron nukes a city and threatens to keep nuking them.

It ends with them dropping into the vicinity of a fleet action at least 3 years after they were lost. The admiral commanding that last human fleet has to order them to attack the alien fleet. They take heavy losses and expend most of their munitions. The remnants commit to a final suicidal attack on the alien fleet. “Follow me home, you silly mothers, this squadron’s going home.” Fade to admiral tearing up.

It’s a challenging read due to the brevity. The timeline jumps forward with little, if any, exposition. Some of the terms are easier if you’ve read a lot of Drake since he mostly doesn’t explain till after he’s used them - “Cop” is his synonym for “shit”, “redpill” is a nuke, “dampers” are a defensive field that prevent nuclear fission reactions. I liked it though. that’s more as an example of his different style with similar themes than it being a great story.

Thank you Aruvquan and DinoR, I think the one DinoR describes is the story I read and that plot outline does help me make sense of it. I think that it was so condensed and choppy is why I was having trouble, which the author himself seems to recognise.

Thanks Silenus, yes I’ve heard of David Drake although I’ve never read any of his books, he has a good reputation which is why I was so surprised by this short story.

I think you are remember David Weber’s Empire of Man Series:

Weber, Drake … I mix those two up all the damned time. Then if you add Ringo into the mix…sigh

That sounds more like Marching up country

These were good and I wish they would finish the series. Seems unlikely to happen now…