Saturday, July 16, 2016

What Price Humanity, by David VanDyke

This story published in There Will Be War Volume X, Castalia House, December 2015

Flight Lt. Vango Markis is a fighter pilot defending Earth and the solar system in a losing war against the invading Meme. (Yes, the invading Meme. One of his comrades in arms is a black man who goes by the nickname of "Token.") On his way back from a temporarily successful battle, Vango is in coldsleep.

When he wakes up, he finds he's in a very limited VR environment. He has to answer a series of increasingly annoying questions from a strangely formal doctor, and it soon becomes clear, or at least he concludes, that he was badly injured during that coldsleep journey home, and his body is being regenerated. When he's finally released into a wider VR environment, he finds he has twenty-three companions.

While all of them have served with some of the others, he's the only one who has served with all of them. He's also the senior in rank.

One of them is his most definitively dead former girlfriend, Stevie. He saw Stevie unambiguously dead of a drug overdose well before the battle that is the "last memory before coldsleep" for him and many of the others.

As they explore their virtual space, they find flight simulators, and it soon becomes clear they're being prepped for a mission of some kind.

But when do they get their regenerated bodies back, and why aren't they being allowed any outside communication at all, not even with their families?

Despite some clunky bits, it's an interesting and fairly well-done story. I did enjoy it, and you may too--as long as you don't go into it expecting a Hugo-quality story, despite its nomination.

I received the anthology including this story as part of the 2016 Hugo Award nominee packet.