Short Story #98: Cease Fire by Frank Herbert

Title:  Cease Fire

Author:  Frank Herbert


A Century of Science Fiction, edited by Damon Knight
While sheltered away in an observation post in the arctic, Larry Hulser cowers as he tries to determine if he is under attack and from where.  He was not really meant for war but unfortunately, wars continue raging and the technology has gotten trickier.  Once he realizes that he is under attack, he scrambles to figure out what to do since his command already believe he is a coward.  However, while contemplating the equipment of the enemy, he comes to a realization of how to destroy the enemy.  Once he is saved, he attempts to explain to his Sergeant what he has realized but the Sergeant sees him simply as a coward.  Hulser reacts aggressively and is punched.  He goes before Corporal and meets a similar end but now ends up in jail.  At this point, word that he has an idea has traveled through the soldiers and he comes to meet a general who he walks through the process.  Seeing that the idea is viable, they move forward with it and eventually, are successful in creating a powerful weapon.  Upon completion though, the general is a bit disappointed because as he points out, the introduction of this weapon will win this war but it means that future wars will return to swords, arrows, and catapaults because others will figure out this secret as well.  Hulser sees this as great and that it will slow or cease war entirely but the general knows enough about war and humans to be doubtful.  The story ends with Hulser being sent home to his family to come up with the next idea to prepare for what comes next.


The story's end provides an interesting question to ponder about the arms race and where does it lead us as we come up with more and more ways to not only attack but disarm the enemy.  Hulser's plight as both hero and coward is pretty well developed in the sense that he is offered to us as a coward but does something that will in fact change the way war can be fought.

Short Story #98 out of 365
Rating: 3 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  4/6/2014
Source:  A Century of Science Fiction, edited by Damon Knight. Simon & Schuster, 1962.

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.

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