Spawn and Die

Excerpt from the novel Infiltrator icon-external-link-12x12 icon-search-12x12 by S.M. Stirling icon-external-link-12x12 icon-search-12x12

S.M. Stirling's "Infiltrator" book cover. [Formatted]

     “I’m sorry about that scene the other night,” George said.
     Ronald stopped spraying the soap mixture and looked down at him. The fresh spring air and the scent of blossom wafted by, unnoticed. Birds hopped and cheeped, and something small and furry scurried through a row of blackberry bushes not far away, intent on its own affairs.
     “That wasn’t a scene,” Ron said, “that was an assassination attempt.”
     George curled up his lips and looked down at his work boots. “No one is trying to kill you, Ron,” the older man said.
     Labane climbed down the ladder so that he could look him in the eye.
     “You have all lost your focus,” he said. “You now want nothing more than to have a nice peaceful life with slippers and babies and apple pie and screw the revolution. Let the kids take care of it, I’m tired,” he mimicked. “When we were kids we were going to do it. Now you want the ones you were going to do it for to do it for you!”
     George shrugged and rubbed the back of his neck. “Maybe we’re older and we’ve got a better sense of perspective,” he offered. “We know what a giant job it is and that maybe it’s too much for just us to do.”
     “You know what, George? The only people who ever accomplish anything in this world are the ones who are prepared to risk everything. People who try to hold on to what they’ve got and play by the rules just get old and die and a generation later nobody even knows they ever lived at all. They don’t get rich, they don’t change anything, the just spawn and die.”
     He moved a little closer, standing in George’s space.
     “But I haven’t lost my focus. I am willing to risk everything and there isn’t one of you that doesn’t scare easy. You resent it, too. And that’s what that ‘scene’ the other night was really about. It was about fear and knowing that you’ll never accomplish your goals because you’ve lost the will. And envy that I haven’t given up.”
     George stepped back a couple of paces and frowned. “You keep using these violent words, man. ‘Assassination’ and ‘revolution’ and ‘fear.’ Just what do you mean when you say stuff like that?”
     Ron looked at him in mild exasperation. Sometimes he thought George was a bit dim. He was a wonderful agriculturist, the most valuable member of the commune in that respect. But sometime he came on so dumb!
     “When I said ‘assassination’ I was speaking metaphorically. When I talk about fear I’m talking about financial risk and losing the good opinion of the neighbors. When I say ‘revolution’ I’m talking about a grass-roots movement, maybe something like a religious conversion, where we finally get people to realize the danger this whole planet is in! You used to say ‘revolution’ all the time, and you knew what it meant then.” He looked at his onetime friend and shook his head. “It wasn’t all that long ago, George.” He leaned down and picked up the sprayer. “I feel sorry for you.”
     Labane turned and walked away, a little smile playing on his lips. That had felt good.

     The next morning he slapped a manuscript down on the table and announced, “I’m going in to town. Does anyone need anything?”
     Every eye was on the pile of paper.
     “What’s that?” Branwyn asked, coming over from the sink to look at it.
     “That,” Ron said, putting on his jacket, “is my book. Which I am shipping off to New York today.”
     “The New Luddite Manifesto,” Lisa read. “Congratulations, honey.” She put her hand on his neck and reached up to kiss his cheek.
     Ron simply stared at her blankly. Since the big meeting he’d been sleeping on the cot in his office. As far as he was concerned there was no longer anything between them. The sooner she got used to that, the better for both of them.
     “So no one needs anything?” he said to the group at large.
     They shook their heads, silenced by his coldness to Lisa.
     “Okay, bye.”
     It wasn’t until he was actually in the van that he realized he wasn’t coming back. He was going to drive his manuscript to New York. He was going to hand-deliver it to the editor and make that man or woman listen to him. Because giving up on your dreams meant you were ready to lie down and die and he was a long, long way from that.
     As far as Ron was concerned he was leaving behind a house full of the walking dead. It was time to cut his losses and look to the future. As he drove past the house the baby began to cry.

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