Rebellion erupts on the "paradise" planet of Elysia, plunging the colony into chaos. In response, the all-powerful United Earth dispatches its elite corps of cyborg soldiers, led by Aaron "The Berber" Barber.
For a hero celebrated galaxy-wide for his acts of bravery against alien hordes, a ragtag group of colonized miners with antiquated weapons should be no challenge. But Barber and his soldiers are unprepaed to meet the most dangerous enemy yet—humans just like them. And on Elysia, the soldiers discover dangers that neither United Earth nor the Elysians themselves could have foreseen. The secrets Barber and his soldiers uncover lead them to question the true meaning of freedom in a world where nothing is what it seems.
Bill Campbell's Sunshine Patriots is more than multicultural space opera with gravity and real consequence. It's cyborg military sci fi with an ecological sensibility and humor. Enlist and see what happens when rebellion erupts on the paradise planet of Elysia, and an elite corps from United Earth arrives. – Tenea D. Johnson
"Rastafarian science fiction. This visionary work of our collective future maps that terrain. … Mr. Campbell writes with assured prose. It is at once inventive, funny, and poetic. There is a brilliant future in his imagined worlds."– Darius James
"Reads like an unlikely collision between William Burroughs, J.G. Ballard, and Robert Heinlein. Sunshine Patriots quickly reaches critical mass and shines with a furious, distinctive, and compelling energy all its own."– Tony Daniel
PFC Hank Kpa sat huddled over his .50-caliber Smith & Wesson Browning machine gun, trying not to think as the rain bounced off him. Cause thinking caused fear. The death of every good soldier. And that was the last thing the new recruit wanted—to show fear. Especially in front of the sergeant. But Kpa couldn't help himself. If only they would come, then he and his Browning could shoot his quivering nerves still.
What was taking the mongrels so darned long, anyway?
Kpa looked over the aqua forest into the burning embers of Demeter. Thousands of tons of steel had been reduced to crumbs. Whatever resistance there had been was leveled to plasma before the recruit's eyes. The show had indeed been spectacular. Those Phantasms! The anti-aircraft fire (too much for his liking, almost enough to make him think these stupid Elysians actually had a chance). Then, those amazing feather bombs, floating oh-so-leisurely through the rain, erupting in their own destruction. Kpa could barely contain himself.
What a show! The holos, though in 3-D, could never do real conflict resolution any justice. They could never boil the blood like the pop-pop-bang-bang of real bombs and bloodshed. Even Smell-A-Vision couldn't tantalize like the real perfume of carnage. The flowery stench even now still tingled his senses.
Though the holos were the original seductress that had lured the new private out of the comfort of his parents' Houston penthouse, had urged him to shed the privilege he had been breast-fed, to lie about his age, about everything… No, he was not the son of two powerful corporate attorneys, he was not in his junior year at Mitsubishi Friends Academy, a football star, linebacker, on the steamroll track to some rich-snob university. No, that was not t center. That Henry Kpa only existed in somebody else's dreams. This Hank Kpa, the Hank that was truly him, a soldier, humbly stumbled into the majesty of that office an urchin, tattered in rags and the Calvin Klein stench of the streets, Cardboard Chiq, he had bought at the mall.
He was now only fourteen—not sixteen—and was volunteering, doing his patriotic best to serve his proud planet, the one and only United Earth, like they always did in the Vikki B. Stanton holos.
The recruiting officer, a battle-scarred sergeant with commendations and ribbons sagging his pristine uniform, looked at Kpa's perfect English with obvious skepticism. The sniveling little bastard was obviously lying through his once-braced teeth and designer reek. But how many volunteers did a recruiter see in a lifetime? The sergeant simply shrugged his meaty shoulders, signed all the dotted lines, and shaved and shipped Kpa off to the School of Freedom.
Now, everything loomed ominous. The blue sun, aqua forest, the menacing mine entrance shadowing behind them, the drizzle and purple mud, his twelve-pound gun, the rainslick bandoleer with finger-length bullets. Kpa found himself with too much time to think morbidly. A dubious luxury not afforded him in the three quicksilver weeks from recruiting center to battlefield. Freedom School had run him ragged, drilling, marching, running, barely teaching him how to use this huge gun between his thighs, and, finally, teleporting him here to Elysia on a continent called… Ill-Isle? Ile-Ife?
Kpa had had no empty space in the Georgia (N.A.) Province heat to think of his own mortality before now. Even his sleep had been invaded by training, the neural tapes plugged into his temples, drilling his dreams into the perfect soldier. This was his first, true moment of peace, between the bloodsheds, the only time he had had to himself. And all he could think of was his own blood gushing.
Kpa could smell his own fear in the rain. This definitely was no garshdarn holo. When, no, if if if if if he died…if he died he would not blip into nonexistence. There would be blood or explosions or both, and a whole bunch of pain…
He definitely did not want to think about it.
Where were those darned mongrels?
"I don't think they're coming, Sarge," the teenager harrumphed, trying to rename his anxiety "enthusiasm." The last thing he wanted was to be branded a coward on his first day of actual combat. Or ever.
Kpa pulled out a pack of Yeska cigarettes. Something all the metalheads smoked, he'd always been told. He opened the pack beneath his poncho, trying to protect the marijuana stick from the thickening rain, and put one in his trembling lips. He took out his Zippo and watched his thumb dance along the rotor. Three sparks but no flames. He cursed himself.
A swack on the shoulder. The metallic sting of it reverberated through Kpa's perfect body, stinging his brand new tattoo he was afraid to show. The new recruit, "hymie," sighed in relief. Now, he could stop thinking about his own, gory death. He looked almost affectionately at the alloyed hand, which was gesturing at the Yeska. Kpa enthusiastically reached for the cigarette in his mouth. The arm's owner grunted negatively, Kpa guessed. The metal index finger inched toward Hank's cigarette. A tiny hole opened up on the tip and burped a small, blue flame. Kpa smiled and leaned the Yeska to the fiery tongue. He inhaled clumsily and erupted in coughs, almost dropping the cigarette into the fuchsia mud. He could hear the disgusted huff from the nostrils above. Darn it, he just made an ass out of himself in front of him. The private wanted to disappear.
The hand hit his shoulder again. The tattoo screamed once more. Kpa looked up with embarrassment crimsoning his baby-fat cheeks. The hand gestured for the Yeska. The recruit gladly handed the burning stick over.
The famous Sergeant Aaron Barber, "The Berber," took the cigarette, cupping it against the drizzle. Kpa tried not to look at his NCO for too long. He just couldn't manage the gaga out of his eyes. The Berber! for goodness' sake. His hero, everybody's hero, the real reason Hank had wanted to join the Freedom Forces in the first place. How many times had he marveled in the sight of this man while hooked up to the holo? He couldn't remember a moment he had not idolized the grand warrior (though there must've been one—Sarge was only twenty-two). How many pictures and clippings had he collected? And, now, here he was, a Marine! in the Venture Division, under the legend's command, the legendary Foxtrot Squad, First Platoon, Able Company, the Screechin' (Motherfather) Ospreys! After three long days under The Berber's shadow, it still took all Hank's will for him not to ask for an autograph.
After all, who in the U.E. did not worship this soldier? Everything he did was legend. On Westinghouse and Rockefeller and PRI and FCA and GTE and on and on and on and on. Every time you turned around, Barber was getting yet another medal for yet another act of heroism. The sergeant was the most decorated soldier in U.E. history. Kpa knew all the awards: fourteen Milken Hearts, two Carnegies of Honor, five Vanderbilts for Distinguished Service, eight Toshibas for Bravery, and seventeen campaign ribbons. Hell, The Berber was the only soldier in all the darned history of the Freedom and Peace Forces to ever be awarded the JP Morgan Medal of Valor.
"Are they ever coming, Sarge?" Kpa asked, again, looking down at the purple mud bubbling beneath the jungle's blue grass.
Barber stared at Kpa's childishness with slight revulsion. It was not as though he hated the kid—it was not even as though he were not accustomed to the adoration. He was sick of it. Not a moment went by that the man didn't receive the starry-eyed gaze or the green eyes of envy. (Only his Nigs and the old Chingones looked at him with honest eyes.) From privates old and hymie to lieutenants. Even generals. Even his enemies probably admired him against their wills. The scrutiny reddened his brown cheeks and made "The Berber" too uncomfortable in his own flesh. The simple truth was that Aaron Barber, simple gutter bwoy from Kingston, victim of the Peace sweeps, knew deep within that he did not deserve his own stardom.
He, too introspectively, inserted the smoldering Yeska into his tracheotomy tube and inhaled. He let the blue haze tantalize his DuraLungs and massage his troubled mind. The Phantasms and Prowlers were streaking across the darkening skies on their ways to bombing unseen targets. Distant explosions sounded beyond the hills surrounding them. The dusk flashed in dim blues off in the distance. The sloshy purple mud beneath the two soldiers rumbled faintly in the muffled cacophony.
Barber could not avoid taking it all in. He wanted to switch to Brain2, become all reflex, but knew it would never happen. The little plasma blob planted in his neck didn't work that way. It controlled his artificial self: his legs, left arm, eyes, and DuraOrgans. The Brain2 would not, could not, did not think for him, or allow him to not think himself. That was the Yeska's job. The Brain2 would only allow him to become a living, breathing arsenal, any weapon he dreamed, an amazing thing that could destroy an enemy faster and more accurately than any uncyborged human. If the enemy were his or her own thoughts… well, then, the grunt was shit out of luck.
With an oh-well sigh, he sat down next to Kpa on the wet, jungle floor. Barber grunted against the sudden cold, removed the Yeska from his throat, and handed it back to Kpa. The hymie took it with a glazed smile. He looked at the fused façade of The Berber—nose and mouth melded shut in a glassysmooth funhouse fleshslide to his chin by a Spido's acid blast on Shell a month earlier—and saw nothing but the glorious holo image of the man he'd admired growing up. Ingratiatingly, Hank asked, for the third time, "Do you think they're really coming, Sarge?"
Barber grunted absentmindedly, watching the rockets sonic boom across the sky to unload another payload. The rain ping!ing off his metallic, left arm.
Metal grated against metal below. A faint, imperceptible sound to anyone without DuraEars. Barber heard the tiny growl as an explosion. His mind blanked. Brain2 took over. Microscopic, alloy gears in his left arm whirred and spun. His metallic fingers collapsed in upon themselves. His entire arm disassembled and reconstituted itself with lightning efficiency. Before either soldier had a chance to realize, Barber's arm was one long muzzle. Kpa gasped in astonishment.
Barber spun to lie on his stomach. His right MultEye switched to infrared. The rain became tiny, grey fuzzies, the jungle foliage mere blobs, as he focused in the direction of the noise. Kpa snapped out of his reverie and clicked the safety off his gun. A surge of adrenaline overwhelmed the private, forcing a struggle within to wait, be patient, follow orders, and not fear his own death.